Sara Paretsky’s Blog

Playing through the Pain
April 7, 2009, 2:25 pm
Filed under: reading

Passover starts at sundown on April 8.  We’re supposed to “leave the House of Bondage.”  I think about the things/feelings I’m in bondage to–my fears, my obsessions–and wonder how I can leave them and enter the House of Freedom.  

I just attended a concert by Leon Fleischer.images  Fleischer, who’s 80 now, lost the use of his right hand when he was about 35, and spent the next 30 years performing the left-handed repertoire, conducting and teaching.  When he was almost 70, a cure was found for the neurological disorder that afflicted him, and he’s now back to performing with two hands, and playing more passionately and beautifully than anyone else I’ve heard recently.

He says he never was bitter, and I wonder if that’s true.  I wonder what the process was.  I imagine panic, followed by some years of agony, and then moving to a new place in his career.

I have a friend in Houston, a poet and a woman, who was diagnosed with late-onset MS.  Her first two years with the condition, she tried to work out in psycho-therapy what fears made her fall over.  I wonder if a psychiatrist suggested to Mr. Fleischer that he was afraid of appearing in public and so had lost the use of his right hand.  Or do those suggestions only get made to women?

Every time I sit down to write, it’s with a renewed sense of inadequacy.  I just read D T Max’s portrait of David Foster Wallace in the March 9 New Yorker.  Do only great writers get to be depressed about the quality of their work?  Should someone like me just put on my big-girl underpants and move on?  What is the exit from the House of Bondage?


13 Comments so far
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Wish I could give an answer. Leon Fleischer did what we have to do – he tried to defuse his bitterness and handled his life. That’s the most difficult thing to do, I think. Some seem to be naturals at it – to others, it’s a struggle.

Comment by ab

I’d like to write a long intelligent comment on how you shouldn’t feel inadequate, but the baby is on my lap so you’re lucky you’re getting punctuation. The short version is “don’t”. (feel inadequate)

Comment by bani

Dear Sara – I don’t want to complain since I know you have lots to do – but it would be great fun if you’d participate a little more in the commentary field!

Comment by ab

Great suggestion, ab! When I started blogging I didn’t join in very much, but realised after a while that it helps the conversation along. On the other hand, I don’t do what some bloggers do, and reply every single time. You have to learn to shut up, occasionally, and leave some of the arguing to your ‘customers’.

Comment by bookwitch

I really hope that you get to work through whatever it is that’s weighing you down. Keep trying, keep breathing, keep going is all I know. Good luck.

Comment by corkhead

Thanks, corkhead. I do understand that real misery exists in the world, and we should all do w hat we can to alleviate suffering. But–back to the hobby horse post–how about some fun, too?

Comment by saraparetsky

Sorry. Obviously I wasn’t of much help.

Comment by ab

Ummm, did someone say that you aren’t a great writer?
Everyone is allowed to get a little depressed once in awhile, but eventually you do have to put on your “big-girl undies” (are those “Depends”, like mine? *snort*) and get on with things.
That little pep talk was directed mostly at myself, I’m afraid…. why am I using your comment section to give myself a dressing down?…. Sorry – I’ll go back to lurking now. 🙂

Comment by the Bag Lady

AB, –I appreciate your constant involvement with this blog

Comment by saraparetsky

I am reminded of a biography of Dorothy Parker than I read many years ago. As I recall, her editor at “Esquire” said that she seem to truly detested writing. She was quoted as saying: “I never met a deadline I coudn’t miss”

She was also incredible involved in the political issues of her time. She had to deal with Joe McCarthy and being black-listed. When she died her estate went to the Martin Luther King Jr foundation.

She certainly had a tremendous impact through both her writings and her social consciousness.

Not having the incredible talent you have as a writer, I wonder if it’s both a blessing and a curse?

Comment by genny

I just re-read my earlier post. I should probably do that before I hit “Say it” since there are a number of typos. Sorry for that.

Comment by genny

Most of us have fears and obsessions. We just don’t mention them very much. But since not all of us make our problems public, it’s easy to assume others are perfectly fine. It’d be very easy for me to think you have no or few problems, Sara, except that I’ve come to realise we all have something we’d want to be different.

As to your writing; you are a great writer. And I believe it’s the better writers who have the most doubts.

The exit from the house of bondage is usually to just continue doing whatever it is that’s bothering you. If necessary, do it a little bit less, for a while, without giving up or giving in, and it may get easier again after some time.

I’ll now go off and look at my own phobias…

Comment by bookwitch

These are such helpful comments, and I thank you all for your support, but I see I’ve been whining in public–never attractive! Next week I will move on to a new post. This week–a little too much to do on the domestic front. I hope whatever way you celebrate the spring holidays that they bring you joy and comfort.

Comment by saraparetsky

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