Dodie Bellamy is a force to be reckoned with: an experimental feminist writer and poet whose work pushes against boundaries of genre, form, and literary and social conventions. The author of the acclaimed The Letters of Mina Harker and numerous other works, Bellamy recently gained a passel of new admirers (including me) with the publication of her confessional memoir the buddhist.
the buddhist draws from Bellamy’s blog Belladodie to explore the emotional aftermath of her relationship with an unnamed, and perhaps unknowable, man. Writing about the memoir for Emily Books, Sady Doyle describes it as an effort “to reconcile the person you thought you knew with the damage you know you’ve suffered — to ‘integrate the trauma into acknowledged memory,’ as they say.” This effort, Doyle says, “can, under some circumstances, be a struggle to live.”
The vitality of the buddhist comes from the struggle that unfolds as Bellamy questions, fights, assures, and arm-wrestles herself and her memories. Not wanting the story that refuses to end to end for me as a reader — at least not just yet — I reached out to Bellamy to see if she would answer a few questions for Girls Like Giants. Happily, she obliged. Read on for Bellamy’s thoughts on blogging, boldness, and Charlotte Brontë.
One of the things I love about the buddhist is how you document your resistance to telling your story as you tell it. What was the value, for you, in pushing back against that resistance?
Beyond technical prowess, what makes writing compelling is the energy behind it, the tension, the charge. I often write about material I feel resistance to, material that makes me uncomfortable, because that creates a charge for me, a sort of erotics of disclosure.
You’re one of the originators of the New Narrative movement [Ed: this is inaccurate! See below]. What relationship you see between the New Narrative and personal blogging—particularly in terms of writing about other people?
I’m not one of the originators of New Narrative, though I was a student of those originators when I was a young writer. New Narrative was very much about using the personal in writing, and about forefronting the position of the writer, rather than he/she hiding like the Wizard of Oz behind a screen, pulling all the switches and levers. New Narrative was also very interested in writing communities, how we’re not writing alone but among a community of peers, as well as historical communities of previous texts. So, this emphasis on the personal and community make New Narrative highly compatible with personal blogging. But there also was a focus on various experimental strategies in the work that’s more akin to poetry than what you see in most personal blogs. It’s been a long hard road for me to feel okay about the sort of straightforwardness I perform in the buddhist.
Do you know if the buddhist himself has read your blog or book, or if he knew that you were writing about him? Does that matter to you?
Approximately four months before I finished the book, I told him in an email that I’d been blogging about him and was writing the book. He said he hadn’t read the blog and that our worlds were so different, he was fine with my writing about him. This was a brief exchange that surprised me, his permission, but it was very helpful for me, psychologically, in finishing the project. To my knowledge, he hasn’t read the blog or the book, but I don’t really know. When I was writing the blog, at first there was the fantasy of him reading it, that I was somehow communicating to him. Now, no, it does not matter to me if he’s read any of this. In an odd way, the project no longer feels about him, there have been so many layers of mediation in the writing of it. Read the rest of this entry »