Friday, January 27, 2012

Report from Cripland

Wikipedia.org image
An essay, "For Jessica" by Jennifer Lawler, has been circulating recently, and it is a powerful piece, full of anger, full of existential rage, full of resolve, full of love.

A writing study group of which I'm a part discussed the piece, in fact. I chose to post the link for a discussion topic, primarily because I believe the utter concentration upon the naked self needed by a writer to maintain the focus required to write such an essay is somewhere beyond difficult. 

Especially if a person was raised in a household where stoicism was declared a virtue, which isn't relevant to the theme herein but is a personal comment from the point of view of a writer.

As the author of a memoir in which disability is both protagonist and antagonist, I have reached the point where the more I've written about disability, the more I recognize, truly know there is more to say, because you don't understand this foreign terrain, because the world needs to know, that people need to comprehend, that disability is simply another color in the human rainbow, a color that almost surely will splash on your walls sooner or later. 

On the other hand, as a writer, I often find myself too bored to report from Cripland. What's new? Not much. Patronization is rampant. If people with disabilities need assistance, the government thinks it is better to warehouse them than to support assistance within the community. Medical marijuana might make things easier, but we all know marijuana is bad. Take a drink instead. And yes, we should consider assisted suicide if things get too rough. 

But that's life, really, and it is mere routine, and all that's necessary to survive is getting up each morning, stealing a little happiness somewhere, and taking a joyride through the day.

I've also come to feel that I cannot write about disability without indulging in what might appear as a plea for sympathy. Take the news items listed above. I am in no danger. Sure, my fanny rides a wheelchair, but truth told, I have it good, at least compared to many of my fellow citizens of Cripland, and surely far better than those who live under terror, famine, and assorted other evils, whether they're physically capable of running for their lives or not. Being a crip in the USA ain't no walk in the park. Being a crip in Somalia or the Sudan is, I'd guess, pretty damn close to fatal. 

But that's not what Lawler is talking about. Neither is what I want to focus on here or elsewhere as a crip who is a writer, or as I prefer to think of it, "As a writer who happens to be a crip."

I think I want to know, "Is there a consistent audience, granted not a Stephen-King-John-Grisham audience, but an audience for writing that provokes sympathy, a consistent audience for this sort of illness/injury/death experience genre?"

And that's not to say, I want sympathy. I'll settle for empathy at a level that reminds you that my reports from Cripland are fair and balanced. I don't want your pity. I want you to be interested, to learn something, to understand that your world may be broader, wider than you think.

As for tear-jerkers, I know there's an audience, even though I am not sure that disability writing should be part of it, at least in a fundamental sense. Dickens proved it with Oliver Twist. Frank McCourt proved it with Angela's Ashes. That's what makes one rumination on Lawler's writing, Rebekah Denn's piece in The Christian Science Monitor, so intriguing, especially because it ends with the question "Have you ever loved a book that had no happy ending?"

First, who is to say Lawler's book will have no happy ending? I can't. There may be some sort of spiritual resolution, and I'm not talking about physical miracles here, a Rise up, take you bed and walk moment. But there comes a time when resentment, anger, rage begins to sputter, and things become clearer, and things become less important, and even in Cripland, a citizen begins to realize that other things matter more. 

And so, I'll modify Denn's question: Have you ever loved a book that had no happy ending, and yet it didn't seem to matter?

That's the kind of reports I'm trying to send from Cripland.

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