Saturday, August 19, 2006

Doom & Gloom From Anna Kavan

In an effort to depress myself, I'm reading another one of Anna Kavan's early books: "Change the Name" from 1941, written before she really DID change her name from "Helen Ferguson" to "Anna Kavan." (Anna's sad childhood, depression, heroin addiction, and coping methods are fascinating reading...get her biography if you can).

What amazes me is that, as incredible a writer as she was even in her pre-surrealism period, she got away with writing essentially the same novel over and over again. It doesn't take a discerning reader to notice this.

Here's how the plots go: selfish parents bring up a promising daughter in a stilted, loveless environment. Daughter marries a man who works in India. Daughter moves to India, hates living there, and becomes hard and selfish when she gives birth to a child that she doesn't want. Child grows up in a stilted, loveless environment and becomes just as selfish as everybody else in her family. Tragedy ensues. Everybody would cry, except none of them know how to show any emotion whatsoever. When they DO cry, it's just so another character can be callous and horrible in response.

The fact that Anna Kavan is, over and over again, writing about her life makes the repetition just's interesting to see her rework and rewrite her tragic life. Anybody who feels distant from other human beings can find a deadly solace by reading any of her novels...Anna articulates all the things you'd say if you weren't afraid of sounding horrible. But my GOD it's depressing. Here's the protagonist when she first sees her newborn child:
Celia distantly observed the inchoate features, the quivering, stick-like arms. This was the thing that had torn itself out of her body, that had weighed her down for so many tedious months. She groped feebly in her heart and in her mind for some sort of response. There was none. She felt absolutely nothing about it.
I wonder: was Anna Kavan's own, real-life son happy to read, over and over again in Kavan's books, about moms who disliked and resented their children?

All this makes me think about writers who perhaps get TOO personal, and hurt the people in their environment. Or bloggers who write about close friends as though their friends didn't read their blogs. Dangerous? Shouldn't we keep our journals locked away?

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