I’ve decided to subscribe to The Sun because I wouldn’t want to miss a single issue. All my friends are here — Ram Dass, Robert Bly, Wavy Gravy — and, more important, a voice which consistently expresses, from page to page, who I am and how I feel about being in the world. I greatly appreciated your “Legacy” [Issue 146] — the images, the insights, and the ultimate feeling of love for and acceptance of not only your father but also who you are yourself. My father, too, was a “frustrated writer” who wrote the story of his life in ten notebooks — my legacy — and never got out a single line of his work in fifty years. I would like to be able to get it out, my story, which is also his, ours, the Earth’s — the history of evolution from the simplest cell division down a helix coil of DNA to a black hole in the middle of the Milky Way. Here we are again! What a long, strange trip it’s been.
In “Legacy” you quote an old gypsy saying: “You have to dig deep to bury your Daddy.”
I suggest we must dig deep to free poor Daddy from the inner prison in which we force him to live. It is because we believe Daddy “died” that we keep him imprisoned and alive within self; the fact is that “Daddy” is alive and well and moving on/in those new experiences that are specific to “him,” or “her,” depending on the nature of the new experiences.
You write: “But he never gave up imagining he had something to teach me; in nearly everything I wrote, he found fault.”
And so you have revealed to yourself the source of his problems, for it is glorious to seek perfection, but it is paralyzing to sit and bemoan the fact that perfection has not been achieved. Producing a perfect wheel is better than producing an imperfect wheel; producing an imperfect wheel is better than not producing a wheel. Your father preferred to walk rather than ride on imperfect wheels, and so he was limited by his own judgements.
You write: “When I tell myself the words aren’t good enough — which is my harsh judgement about nearly everything I write — is that my voice, or his?” When you no longer judge your father you will release him from your inner prison, and in so doing stop using the same judgements against yourself — and your work.
I have been receiving The Sun for the past few issues. I had decided to subscribe because of some advertising I received — I was impressed with the wisdom of some of the messages. I remember how beautiful were the words you wrote which began: “What have I ever craved more than a woman’s arms?” I thought this statement was very romantic and sensual. Then I received the February issue [Issue 147] and was offended by the graphic, mechanical type of sex in David Guy’s “When Work Is Play.” For this I could have picked up a flesh magazine. Somehow I expected something more — and different — from The Sun.
I don’t consider myself a prude and believe lovemaking between two mated souls is one of the greatest wonders of the world. Casual sex, on the other hand, which contains no more depth than a fast-food meal contains nutrition, seems rather empty to me.
David Guy’s essay, “When Work Is Play,” resonated with me. I, too, am a writer, and I have struggled (and still struggle) to turn my back on the external and internal organization that says you must work, you must make money, you must do what doesn’t come naturally. Until age thirty-four, I tried to make a deal: I would do whatever it took to gain status and an upwardly mobile lifestyle. I would get a Ph.D. (in the related left-brain field of linguistics), teach college, do electronics research. With the rest of my time (what little there was after I had a child), I would write. It didn’t work. Playing, serious playing, takes a lot more time and a lot more space than I ever imagined.
Watching my daughter grow, I have learned a lot. Like David Guy, I had a sense of recognition, hearing her in the next room playing dress-up while I was in my study, dressing myself up in the guise of different characters. The connection between sex and creativity resonates too. But I wonder — what about women? A lot of women I know have a much harder time playing than men. Fathers play easily with their children, but women, locked earlier into a greater sense of responsibility for child-rearing, are often stuck in other, less flexible roles.
Women sometimes have greater latitude (although less and less these days) to sit home and not account for their time. But I felt this as an extra burden. I had a good professional job before I gave it up to chase an elusive muse around my study. The way I dealt with some of my fear when I quit my job was to tell people I was now just a housewife. I had avoided this at all costs previously; anything was preferable to being compared to those angry, unfulfilled drudges of my childhood.
But more and more I see myself as just a person, learning how to live. As I learn to play in my writing, I learn to play in other things, too. It helps to satisfy the craving I have for intensity, for meaning, for wholeness in my life. Thank you, David Guy, for illuminating that.
I loved Dana Branscum’s “What It’s Like” [Issue 146]. It was lyrical and captivating and honest and ambivalent, and dealt with things I’ve been thinking and feeling over the years. The editor Gordon Lish says there are three criteria in judging writing (and I’m paraphrasing): Do you wish you’d written it? (Yes.) Does it change the way you see the world? (Not so much, only strengthens my commitment to honesty.) Did you want it to keep going? (Yes. Yes.)
Coming up soon in a philosophy class on ethics is the subject of homosexuality, and I have been looking for something special to fulfill part of my reading requirements. I had frankly despaired of finding anything that touched me.
When I curled up with the January issue of The Sun, I wasn’t prepared for “What It’s Like.”
That was the most powerful, sensitive, and intuitive piece I have ever read about lesbianism. Not only did it open floodgates of recognition, leaving me feeling not quite so confused and alone, but Dana Branscum’s treatment of it was a masterpiece of progression and discovery. I applaud you for having the courage to print it.
I was very impressed by “What It’s Like.” Rarely does one find the literary ambiguities of such writing, in the wake of Anais Nin or Henry Miller, coming off so well. It is an exploration of consciousness that startles the reader with personal comparisons; at the same time it is a story with development and climax. And I thought the ending — endings being most difficult — witty and provocative. And, then, because one cannot tell if the author and the persona are the same, how much is supposed to be fact, how much true, the erotic admissions to and stimulations of the reader are dreamily enhanced.
As a hetero male, married, four children, with homo friends from way back, I know what it is to ask myself why and how I am not homosexual or bisexual, how I would feel if, don’t I really want to ever, why am I afraid, etc. It’s something I have never been able to discuss well with hetero friends, if only because no one ever knows what anyone else really does except the person he or she does it with. It’s always been easier for me to talk to gay friends about why and how people are sexually oriented. But as with religious belief, the subject can be fully discussable only if one doesn’t take it too seriously. What I like especially about “What It’s Like” is the easy way it slips from seriousness to play.