Tuesday, February 07, 2006

sometimes people have to go

The regular writing has taken over and by the time I get home from my office, aka the library, I don't feel much like blogging. Today I came up with the genius idea of blogging before I head for home. So, here I am. Back on the blog. I wrote this entry last week and have decided to post it today. Imagine it's still Monday, January 30th:

Today I am deeply saddened by the death of playwright Wendy Wasserstein. I logged on to the New York Times this morning like I always do when I want to make sure the world is still standing, and found a picture of Ms. Wasserstein on the homepage, with the caption "Wendy Wasserstein, Chronicler of Women's Identity Crises, Dies." She was 55.

I've been an admirer of Wendy Wasserstein's work since I picked up her book of essays, Shiksa Goddess (Or, How I Spent My Forties) from the library several years ago. I read it. Loved it. Tried to understand where she was coming from. One of the essays details her quest to have a child, which, at 48 after having undergone numerous painful and disappointing procedures, she did. It's difficult for me to comprehend this kind of longing for motherhood (see "I had Schmin at 18," below) since I have spent my entire adult life trying to avoid the having of more children, but Wasserstein wrote of her experience with such clarity (I want a baby), candor (This is how and where it hurts in doing this at my age), and wit (The baby's here. We'd both better live through this) that my understanding and compassion for women in her situation squeaked open. I'll never be able to relate on an experiential level, but I know what it's like to want. When I consider Wasserstein's journey, I can see the joy that happens when this aspect of a person's life vision is fulfilled.

I did the book and then, as a new playwright, wanted to find out what her dialogue was all about. I haven't had an opportunity to see her work performed but I have a very, very deep appreciation of it. My favorite is The Sisters Rosensweig for its humor and spirit. I've read the Pulitzer Prize winning The Heidi Chronicles and found it problematic. Okay, I borderline hated it. I felt that the eponymous heroine gets lost in a shuffle of ideas, didacticism, and stronger, more colorful characters. Even still, I applaud the play's thoughtful exploration of what it means to be the last feminist standing in a post-feminist world. As a woman of color from the modest side of the tracks, not every one of Wasserstein's concerns resonates for me (her family includes a brother who owns New York Magazine, for crying out loud) but the conviction with which she depicts them does. One of the smartest playwrights I've read, her bold intellectualism and fierce humor will be missed. Her death, along with that of August Wilson's last October, has left me a little weepy for American theater, replete as it is with Disney adapations and star chasing. Wasserstein and Wilson were original voices, both dogged in their determination to open up the doors and stages of the theater for a more expansive view of American life.

I'm glad I went to church yesterday, where the Rev discussed his "team," the group of people he imagines surrounding him and cheering him on while he meditates and prays. They include Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, the Buddha, and Jesus. Hearing this, I thought, Some nerve! How does he have the balls to deem himself worthy of such company? As he kept talking about striving for excellence and doing things that have no precedence, I realized that if you want to be into derring-do, you'd better get the best help your meditation can buy. That said, the next time I can stop chasing my thoughts around long enough to imagine my own team, I'm going with Wendy and August.

By the way, the picture of Wendy Wasserstein was taken by Jill Krementz, whose book The Writer's Desk is my favorite photo book. If you're a writer or you like writers or photography or even desks -- Pablo Neruda's is particularly stately, Eudora Welty's, most imposing -- check it out.


jessie said...

I KNEW that was a Jill Krementz photo as soon as I saw it. My stepmother gave me The Writer's Desk several years ago as a way to inspire me in my writing and to think of myself as A Writer. It's a wonderful book.

I do write now (besides the blog!), and though it's for very little money, it's still a regular gig. I still look at that book all the time and try to picture myself like Susan Sontag or E.B. White. Somehow, I think I need Jill Krementz to come take my picture and make me look writerly. (Fat chance, but a girl can dream!)

sahara said...

Wow! Your post on her was excellent! I find it interesting that she would want so badly to have a child at such a late age, only to die in what is a short time later.

I believe that God sees our future, and we should abide by it and not impose our desires upon it. Sometimes, what you want is not necessarily what you should have.

sappmama said...

Me, too! I keep dreaming that once I publish a book or have a play produced (on Broadway, of course) Jill will notice me and want to take my picture. She has a way of crystallizing a vision of what being a writer looks like. It's all a fantasy through her lens, but I love it. Congrats on your regular writing gig and may you earn more and more money doing what you love.

Thank you for the compliment! I'm telling you, the baby at 48 thing kept me doing the math, thinking "You'll be 60 when that kid hits puberty, and that's if you're lucky." She wasn't, and that's why it's difficult for me to comprehend the willingness to take the risk. I'm down with the Stones, You can't always get what you want. But reading Shiksa Goddess did help me understand a little better. Still, it's sad.