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Posts Tagged ‘dodie bellamy’

An Interview with Dodie Bellamy

In activism, gender on April 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

Sarah T.

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 »

True Confessions; Dangerous Minds

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

Sarah T.

Ex-boyfriends and ugly feelings, family skeletons and panic attacks, choking self-doubt mingled with soaring grandiosity: this is the bread and wine of confessional blogging.

At xoJane, Cat Marnell describes her pettiness toward her co-workers at the website and details her struggle to kick her addiction to Adderall in real time. In a personal blog that eventually became an e-book, Dodie Bellamy draws on art and theory to explore the emotional aftermath of a romantic affair with a Buddhist teacher. And on Tumblr, writer and PhD student Kara Jesella archives the detritus of her relationship and breakup, including a miscarriage and a stay in a psychiatric ward—and analyzes the feminist underpinnings of the entire endeavor.

For me, this is a gift. All I have ever wanted is for interesting people to tell me their stories – the messy, honest ones that normally come along only after a few drinks. That’s why I love memoirs and Sylvia Plath and Audre Lorde and PostSecret and Joni Mitchell. The confessional voice, done with attention to craft, is one of the best antidotes I know to isolation. Not coincidentally, as far as I can tell the majority of the bloggers currently practicing it are women. Also not coincidentally, the confessional voice—both historically and in the present—has haters without end.

I believe that women writers are drawn to the confessional voice because they are not supposed to speak their pain. The same goes for people who are nonwhite or GLBTQ or disabled or otherwise on societal margins.

Confession is only necessary where there is repression, where it serves the interests of those in power to persuade those who aren’t to maintain their silence. And so confessional blogging, like confessional poetry and confessional novels before it, is a political act. Lorde expounds on the necessity of personal disclosure, writing, “Your silences will not protect you [. . .] What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.” Lorde’s criticism applies to the personal just as much as the political, because the two are inseparable in her life and in everyone’s.

Enter the ex-boyfriends.

Bellamy’s blog and book The Buddhist is rife with the embarrassment of personal disclosure. It is embarrassing for her to admit how often she thinks of her former lover, a Buddhist teacher. She tries to stop writing about him over and over again: “So, I’m saying goodbye to the buddhist vein here,” she says, with half her book still to go. “I already said that, but I mean it this time.” (She doesn’t.) It’s embarrassing for her to continue mourning the relationship long past its expiration date, and even more embarrassing to blog about it. Whereas the mantle of what she calls Real Writing might lend her heartbreak cultural credibility and make writing about it more acceptable, blogging won’t protect her from judgment. In fact, it exposes her further. Yet she grows committed to documenting the relationship and breakup when she considers who and what culturally-imposed silence on personal drama serves. Bellamy writes, Read the rest of this entry »