October 1, 2013
The night before I had to give my first reading from Accusation, the book newly in my hands, I had a dream in which I was walking naked through the streetscape of my adolescence. The dream itself felt clear in its self-revelation. Bringing a novel to the world is pleasurable — and yet also, oddly, shameful. There’s an inevitable vulnerability in the risk of self-exposure, or in the risky self-exposure. Humiliation rises among a sea of other emotions. We don’t talk much about the place of shame in publication but I’d wager most writers touch it to some degree. We long to disown what we’ve written, to cast it off in case it embarrasses us, or because it embarrasses us, because we’ve put everything of ourselves into it and that’s embarrassing, because the disowning is necessary in order to move on. We don’t know what we’ve done. We don’t know how to think or speak about what we’ve done. Writer Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer has written a paper about it — well, about the relationship between publishing and shitting, and the weird commingling of pleasure and shame as something … comes out of us. After having been turned so far inward, it’s strange to face outward. All our actions on the page become visible. Moments before, in the same dream, I was clambering over a ladder stretched across the depths of a vast, dilapidated building, trying to navigate a tricky journey. No more disappearing into the text, it’s time to slip on a vulnerable body and hit the streets, the book itself a form of nakedness whatever I’m wearing.