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I'd prefer not to

Tag: attar

No thanks I don’t need you to be the nun for me

I had a conversation with my father once about what his life as a painter was like, and he said he could never truly be an artist because he has a family. The idea being that art requires a true sacrifice, “often of sanity,” as he put it. I wanted to call bullshit on him, not just because I’m implicated. The idea of the ivory tower artist, of Jackson Pollock or Van Gogh vibing out on colour in his studio while his life falls to pieces outside, is pretty stale these days (also pretty sexist if you consider its history of valuing works by “intense” “genius” dudes, who were supported mainly by women). But I feel like I can’t dismiss this idea of worldly rejection the way I once did. I don’t deny that artists live in the world, and need it – “he fits himself to the paint”- but at what point does the world – the worldly world – become the only domain in which you exist?

My dad has this image of Pollock up in his studio.

I write this at a period in my life where I am considering what it would mean to relinquish “the world” in order to be a writer. I find myself preoccupied with things that feel at the moment like schoolyard concerns – love, relationships, self-worth, jealousy, getting laid. Of course, these are the very concerns of literature. I think, in fact, that the original jacket copy of Anna Karenina read “A Tale of Love, Relationships, Self-Worth, Jealousy, and Getting Laid.” I wonder if perhaps I have enough of this raw material – what I called at another point attar – to sustain another fifty years of writing without having to engage in any more of it.

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On December 29th there was a hawk in the tree outside my window. I had been awake for about ten minutes and was standing next to my bed, kind of deciding if I should make coffee and check my email or the other way around, but still 80 percent in the dreamworld and only having a really vague idea of who or what I was. I saw movement through the window, which I was not really looking at, but it focused me enough to see it, the hawk, which had just landed on a branch of the fir tree and was still bobbing a little, and with a small animal pinned in its talons.

It was a Cooper’s hawk. I checked on the internet. Someone later suggested that it might have been an osprey. I took this suggestion with some odd offense, considering. It was a hawk, I said. A Cooper’s hawk. For some reason this struck me as a crucial detail, that it be a hawk. I don’t know about birds, so I don’t know if it’s true that an osprey is kind of like a discount version of a hawk, like a fake Versace bag, or the less-pretty Olson twin. It’s hard to pinpoint why it makes a difference. I mean, seeing an osprey in the tree outside my window, in Little Italy, in urban Montreal, would be a pretty special event, a once-in-a-lifetime occurance, if I hadn’t already seen a hawk. I imagine if I ever see an osprey now it will feel a little overdone.
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