Last night I stayed up late, read for awhile, turned out the lights, and about the second time I tossed (or turned—who keeps track?), I remembered that I had not written a blog post. When the day is over, the day is over—no pre-dating a blog post. That would be cheating. So I confess: I forgot. Moving on now.
The most fun I had with blog posts this month was drafting off of the letters and diaries, letting them pull me forward into areas I didn’t know I would go. I was surprised to see how uninterested I was in a lot of the short story collections I read many years ago. Our lives change, our inner lives change, our experiences accumulate, pile up, topple over—and we begin anew—sort of. Some I still love, like Bernard Cooper and Sandra Cisneros, Alice Munro. I loved revisiting Woolf and O’Connor in their letters, got excited about reading the Woolf biography by Hermione Lee. And I’m ready for what’s next.
Shakespeare. I loved studying Shakespeare’s plays in college, and when famous lines would come up—like “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”—my breath would catch, as if I had spotted a favorite writer having tea at the local coffee shop. When I read Hamlet’s soliloquy—“To be or not to be”—oh be still my heart! Hamlet was my first Shakespearean love, the first I studied and the one I’ve seen on stage many times and in many ways. My friend Kate could quote eloquent lines from the play, but the best I could come up with was, “Oh Hamlet! Thou hast cleft my heart in twain!” or my other favorite, “Don’t drink, Gertrude!” Neither of these is useful when you’re trapped in a group of literary intellectuals and you want to be taken seriously. By the time I entered graduate school, I had given up being taken seriously—seriously! It’s overrated and impossible to keep up and besides, I was too much in love with reading the primary texts to care at all about what the critics had to say.
So starting tomorrow I'll be indulging myself in the plays that thrilled me or confused me or made me think I would never understand Shakespeare—but I didn’t need to understand in order to fall in love with the language. And I promise you—I don't take any of this seriously.