autobugography

February 6th, 2007 | The Artistic Condition, Wild Kingdom

I’m sorry I’ve been absent from the blog recently. It’s not because of anything anyone said! I’ve just been really overwhelmed with stuff. I haven’t even had a chance to read the Salon article about author blogs yet. I’ve been trying to get some important work done, and dealing with all the backlog of administrative things that built up while I was in France for a week. Not to mention the backlog of same that’s been building up over the past year and is threatening to completely immobilize me.

But it’s not just because I’m busy that I haven’t been posting as much. There are a couple reasons, and if I wait to write them out in a coherent essay I’ll never do it, so here goes. (It’s a blog, after all.) Mainly, I’ve been feeling disturbed by my own need for attention. It’s incredibly seductive to post a cartoon about my life, and start getting almost instant responses to it. But the gratification that I get from it is fleeting and insubstantial. And related to that, I feel like the blog siphons off some vital autobiographical energy that I could be using more productively, or at least in a more considered way.

So that’s what’s going on. I feel bad about it, too, because it’s like we’re in a conversation, and it seems rude to just disappear. But I had to for a while. And I expect I’ll have to disappear more in the future if I ever want to write another book. Which I do.

But here, in the meantime, is a movie I made about another bug in my bathroom. I’ve been reading a book of Virginia Woolf’s autobiographical writing, and in the introduction there’s a discussion about the autobiographical roots of her fiction, with a list of examples. Then comes this passage: “The extent to which the most minor details in Virginia Woolf’s fiction were drawn from specific experiences is perhaps less well known. The story of her father throwing the flower pot at his mother, whether apocryphal or not, is clearly the prototype for the incident in which Mr Ramsay ‘finding an earwig in his milk at breakfast had sent the whole thing flying through the air on to the terrace outside.’”

45 Responses to “autobugography”

  1. Rebecca B. says:

    I was wondering if this would happen, because you didn’t seem to post much and then were suddenly posting very frequently! Which of course was very much enjoyed, but one can also waste a lot of productive energies on the internet that would otherwise be poured into a more lasting medium. You know we all love your work, so I think you should really not worry about your blog readers, and take the time you need to get it done (and rest/relax as well).

  2. reed_maker says:

    The experience of posting on blogs reminds me of this passage from Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out: To feel anything strongly was to create an abyss between oneself and others who feel strongly perhaps but differently.

    We’re in a conversation with you, and with each other (there are lots of us here now), but it’s all false, in a way, and ultimately, inevitably, non-gratifying and distancing. I love this blog, but there is real life, too.

    It’s the conundrum of the internet. Seems to bring people closer, but then you realize there is a huge, unbridgeable chasm…

    However much you are able to be here, you will be appreciated!

  3. Ovidia says:

    It’s great that you didn’t sabbatical yourself because of Salon article/something posted here–that means we can take off our hairshirts & stop flagellating ourselves…

    And please don’t mistake our (us readers/posters) great need for attention for your own–suspect you would go on writing / drawing/ filming bugs even if no responses came in. We’ll go on writing/talking (to each other if you’re off writing your next book which I at least hope you will!) commenting on your work, picking on each other and being bratty… all we really ask of you is that you keep being yourself & keep producing the stuff that made us realise we had a community. Yes, the blog is going to drain your autobioenergy–if becomes something that has to be a certain shape to please us vociferous demanding voices… can you see us instead as worms in your compost heap where you toss scraps/thoughts/rescued earwigs even… (I don’t mean this in a negative way, people–I have a worm farm & love it)… worms multiply when fed more, don’t when aren’t fed & can survive for long periods without food. Also they turn out great compost, recycling stuff that would otherwise be chucked out. Maybe some day your writings here will get published as ‘Moments of Blogging’!
    (sorry this is so long)

  4. Maggie Jochild says:

    I hear ya, Alison. Save yr best for the art you prefer; we (wormbloggers) are just fine. I swear it on my common womon’s head.

    And I fucking LOVE this movie, don’t ya’ll? The juxtaposition of “which tool can I use” with “how I love the little bugs”, the tone of voice ranging from deep concern to wonder to being perplexed — this is my favorite of all the Alison video product.

  5. Rohmie says:

    Blogging is addictive. I’m in a similar boat, so here’s the oversimplified advice I’m actually giving myself: If it comes down to a choice between four panel vignettes vs. the strip or another graphic novel, your choice is clear. Quick & easy things add up fast and consume more time than you think.

  6. Deb says:

    I am completed enthralled with the loving care given to a generally thought of……….creepy bug. I am reminded once again to honor even the smallest of things.

    I have thought about what it would feel like if I were Alison and people were spending time and money on me……talking about me and all. I suppose I might feel rather embarrassed, like I might not deserve it or sometimes freaked out that everything I said and did was under a microscope with a searchlight poised on the lens. I too might find that I would enjoy the attention and fame but would question it’s voracious hunger as well. Sometimes it’s just simple……….like having a hard time with being loved by so many for so many different reasons. Anyway, Alison, I hope you continue to share with us on the levels that make you the most comfortable.

  7. Ellen Orleans says:

    So, you start with thought-provoking, introspective words about fleeting and insubstantial gratification and how blogs can siphon off vital autobiographical energy and just as I’m thinking, yeah, yeah, contemplating what draws off my own creative energy, you write…

    “But here, in the meantime, is a movie I made about another bug in my bathroom.”

    And then I laugh at how seriously I take my writing and my life, and click on the youtube link. I smile at the awl and the earwig and the sink drainer and what we can do with our digital cameras these days, all goofy and light, until the last 30 seconds, when your words turn on themselves again, and I am reminded once more of the delicate frailty of life, the preciousness of time.

  8. Lydia says:

    Did you know that earwigs typically care for their eggs and young until they are fully grown?

    I think Ovidia hit it right on the head. We’re the one’s seeking attention. Don’t worry about us, Alison. Blog if you feel it is right, don’t blog if it ain’t.

  9. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    To take the attention away from Alison directly for a while (and I suppose to show off my own erudition), isn’t there quite a legacy of writers/philosophers pontificating about the discovery of insects in their homes?

    I’m thinking of the moth in Marguerite Duras’s “Ecrire” and the scarab of Carl Jung’s psychoanalysis here…

  10. Maggie Jochild says:

    You’re so right, Ng Yi-Sheng. Annie Dillard always comes to mind (the spider who cast a web over a just-washed cup, the giant water beetle being sucked dry by a frog, the butterfly left too long in a jar).

  11. Cheryl says:

    I have been a lurker for a long time. My response to this post is this:Alison belongs to Alison, not to “us” and Alison’s first responsibility is to be true to herself, not to supply whatever it is that we all are seeking from her.

  12. Mame says:

    It’s hard to cyber-date us all at once, isn’t it? It would be daunting even for Lois.

  13. D.F. says:

    Oh my god Alison you must have been Jain in your last birth. That’s all i could think of. I’m born & raised vegetarian, we took the spiders outside (well my dad did), but this outdoes pretty much anything I’ve ever done for a bug.

    Elegant antennae, no?

  14. --MC says:

    I have never found an earwig in my milk, but I did find one on my elbow once.
    Is there a concordance that lists bugs in English Lit? There’s Woolf’s earwig, and the “earwigs on the Green” song in “Finnegan’s Wake”, and .. er ..

  15. Aunt Soozie says:

    Alison,

    Wow. I’ll never look at an earwig the same way again. They’re on the list of bugs that I have especially disliked. They scurry about and pop up so unexpectedly in the teeny tiniest places and that scares me. They also have those ominous looking pincher thingies on their butts. What purpose do those thingies serve?

    Anyway, yeah, so many things can suck away that creative energy. The internet is rife with seductive fodder that provides a temporary fix…I’ve gotten stuck there…it’s like a chocolate bar bandaid on low blood sugar.

    When my daughter was born I stopped doing visual art of any kind. I was interested in and delighted with caring for her and busy with same. When I found myself spending a few hours one afternoon (a few HOURS!) designing and creating the gift wrap for a present for one of her pre-school classmates I realized that I wanted a conscious outlet for my creative desires. They were lurking around and poking out willy nilly like those creepy… I mean… sweetie-pie earwigs… whether I planned on it or not.

    Alison, you seem to have found a way to harness your creativity and provide yourself with the structure to produce some phenomenal work. So…maybe…all in moderation… with the exception of the more useful obsessions and compulsions? zen balance?

    I just gave my paramour the lecture about how we never really change. how we can accept where we are, who we are, what we are, embrace it fully… then tweak it a bit, perhaps? that we can use our existing strengths and work with, not against, our deficits?

    Know that we will feel warm and cozy towards you and relish your work whether you are here once a day, once a month or once a year…do what works for you with our respect and blessings.

    Auntie

  16. bean says:

    ok, i’m gonna take the low road here and say what i know a lot of you are thinking…

    eeewwweeuuwww!!!

    i have a fairly high tolerance for many bugs, i think, but yes, i agree, earwigs are ESPECIALLY creepy!

    and another thing; if i lived in vermont, and everything was all pretty all the time and the air smelled good, then maybe i’d have a different attitude. but here in nyc, we have cockroaches. which, frankly, i mind a whole lot more than the cute little mice that pop out of my stove every once in a while.

    so, even though i thought the video was really cool for a whole lot of different reasons, if there had been an earwig in my bathroom, well, let’s just say it might have met a different fate.

  17. BamfChyck says:

    BTW, Alison, really nice interview at Nerve.com
    It’s nice they’re doing a “comics” issue, and wonderful that they included you and Fun Home. But really, how could they not have included you? Your work is crucial to the genre.
    Nice bug movie, too.

  18. ryan says:

    the best things in life are fleeting…and I’d rather have more books than more blog!

  19. kolbester says:

    what salon article?

  20. Cheesethug says:

    Sometimes in the absence of editors, including ourselves, thoughts and beliefs are conveyed with out having meant to be and quick and dirty blog postings can be more honest than other more permanent mediums. Then again with no one holding your words to task blogging really lends itself to boldfaced lying. Whatever,it’s fun.

  21. Jaibe says:

    Figure out a schedule that works for you. It saves us time too :-) (PS not really — I spent the last couple evenings watching Steve Colbert & Jon Stewart videos before they all got pulled off youtube.)

  22. Jaibe says:

    Sorry, another thought — you remind me of a friend I was talking to a long time ago, about my partner when we first met, who had another partner at the time, and my friend said “you don’t know what it’s like to be in that place — you feel terrible, but you can’t leave the comfort of being loved by two people. I couldn’t leave until they both dumped me, then I figured out which one I missed most.”

    PS your bug may not have been too well off to start with if it got stuck!

  23. Josiah says:

    Kolbester, follow the link in Alison’s post for the Salon article we keep talking about.

    I think that the care Alison shows for the earwig and the challenge of disentangling herself from the blog are kind of the same thing — someone who cared less in general would have killed the bug, and let us blog addicts fend for ourselves. And frankly we’re about as unimportant as the earwig. If Alison wants to spend the time getting us out of the drain catcher, that’s great — but if she were to decide that we’re not worth the effort, and that she’s got better things to do than rescue us bugs, that’s fine too.

  24. kate says:

    Alison, if you eliminated the comments on your blog, you might find that you have more time and headspace. The journal itself is invaluable, to both you and your fans, and I don’t think that the work of writing it is peripheral to your focus. Paying attention to the endless feedback loops, however, is a timesucker. And you really DO have to pay attention to your comments in this format, because they represent your website.

    The inclusion (the distraction) of the words and thoughts of thousands of other people is optional. There are plenty of use- and news- groups that can fill the void for the people who want to discuss you, offer plot suggestions, and post cake recipes and secondary posts correcting their spelling. (So tempting, the correction, so painful, the spelling error. But a second or a third post? It takes up space on the Information Superhighway and we should all fly light.)

    If you wanted to give links to those sites, then people who came to yours could easily find a suitable place to congregate, outside of your personal domain.

    And we would still get our AB journal fix.

  25. Jana C.H. says:

    There’s always the DTWOF Journal, which is still alive. It has never been as much fun as this blog has become, but if we all moved over there we could make it more fun. (Not that it wasn’t good, but somehow this has become better.)

    So let’s everybody pledge that if AB decides she needs to cut us off, we’ll all migrate to LiveJournal as a group and join the folks there.

    And they have icons!

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  26. Librarian Grrl says:

    Alison’s awl averts an awful accident. My the winters must get long up there … You’re the patron saint of earwigs, Alison!

  27. Angi says:

    Going back to something Bean said — I grew up in Vermont, our bulkhead every spring and summer was FILLED with earwigs (we called them pincher bugs) and let me tell you, the fresh air DID NOT make me more inclined to be charitable toward them. They are harmelss, unlike my grandmother’s old wives’ tale insisted (allegedly they pinch and like to lay eggs in your ears), but they are creepy and poop all over the place nonetheless. Alison, you are a really good person for saving the little guy, I’d’ve just washed him down the drain!

  28. carol p says:

    You gals rock!! just got back from my very first trip to the U.S. of A. Vermont. We here in dark Africa suffer from Alison B starvation so imagine my delight to walk into an exhibition! Not sure which took me more: original Alison B work or snow which I’ve never seen before.
    Hey Ovidia, I have a worm farm too … and four foot leeks. Those worms cick butt!
    Thanks for Fun Home.

  29. leighisflying says:

    I can’t help but save bugs, even the icky scary ones. I had a spider the size of your hand crawl in my truck while driving to work with the windows down (in Grand Cayman) and myself and my roommate (a guy) completely freaked out it was SO HUGE. Anyhow, we made it to work with this “thing” lurking somewhere in the truck and after being unsuccessful in locating it; I left it sealed in the hot truck for 3 hours. When I came back to check it was sitting on the driver’s side floor and I brushed it out with my hand. Forever burned in my memory will be the site of Don driving (I was now in the back of the truck looking at him through the window) holding a shoe in his hand and dividing his time between watching the road and looking for the spider.

  30. little gator says:

    Earwigs do pinch. I sat on one on the side of the bathtub once and it pinced my butt.

  31. judybusy says:

    Librarian Grrl, your “Alison’s awl averts an awful accident.” alliteration cracked me up. And AB, love the title pun of this thread! Leigh–very funny story! And lastly, carol p I am so envious of your four-foot leeks. They are so yummy to cook–just read an article in a back issue of Saveur about braising them in stock and then sprinkling them with vinegraitte (too lazy to look that spelling up.) Oh, for our wonderful farmer’s market. Summer never seemed so far away!

  32. leighisflying says:

    judybusy, you sure hit the nail on the head re: farmer’s markets. I spent the summer in Seattle which has lovely farmer’s markets and I have become very spoiled after a dearth of fresh produce in Cayman. Now I’m back in Canada and watching it snow and fresh berries seem further away than ever before. Perhaps we will need a food blog to meet in as well?

  33. leighisflying says:

    ps. bean, about the cockroaches…my company’s plane in Cayman was infested with them and on a night flight (when they always came out) I spotted a 2inch long behemoth crawling up the back of the newly arrived Governor of the Cayman Islands. I didn’t know what to do, so I just turned around and resumed flying and let him sort it out. EWWWWWWW! I still can’t kill them though.

  34. judybusy says:

    Leigh–why on earth was there a dearth of produce in Cayman? Isn’t it warm there all the time? You think you’d be up to your elbows in avocados! Reading your sentence more carefully, did you maybe mean a surplus? I double-checked and dearth means lack of, or insufficient amount.

  35. leighisflying says:

    Ok, yes, there were the most gigantic, gorgeous avocados and many more varieties of bananas that come from Jamaica. My complaint was that the fruit I love, berries in particular, was so expensive and scarce that the only way I ever got it was off charter aircraft coming from Europe or the USA. The trouble with Cayman is that it doesn’t really grow anything. They have to import everything and the cost and freshness totally reflects that. Even local fruit like mango, papaya and plums were unavailable for purchase and had to be imported. I used to go to the local market in Havana, Cuba once a month to buy guava and fresh tomatoes (much to the surprise of my cab drivers). When I got to Seattle and bought raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries and 3 varieties of peaches in the first 10 minutes of being at the market, I thought I’d died and gone to fruit heaven! Guess that just shows how spoiled I am coming from North America.

  36. leighisflying says:

    Well, southern North America. I’ve been up north and I have to tell you in all honesty that it was much much worse. I once walked 5 miles in a snowstorm (was grounded because of the weather) to try and find tomatoes for a sandwich in a place called Big Trout Lake in northern Ontario. There was nothing else to do so the walk was a welcome distraction. Of course there weren’t any to be found. The produce is always in a very sad and dire state: expensive and half dead. There is no mystery to me why there is an epidemic of diabetes and other nutrition related diseases on Reserves in northern Canada.

  37. TeratoMarty says:

    Ms Bechdel, you have a beautiful voice and a gentle soul, but you *seriously* need better pets. Ones without pincers or feelers.

  38. judybusy says:

    Leigh,
    Thanks for the explanation! I remember when I went to Hawaii a few years ago expecting a fresh produce bonanza and being surprised to see stuff “imported” from California, just like we have in MN. Who woulda thunk that iceberg lettuce had a place even there?

    There was a great article in the New York Times last week by Michael Pollack called Unhappy Meals that talks about how the reductionism in food nutrition science has affected how we try to eat healthily. Only periphally related to this discussion, but his opening line was “Eat food. Less of it. Mostly plants.” I often wonder what would happen if a critical mass of people stopped eating food with no food in it—all the junk food, frozen entrees, etc, etc.

  39. leighisflying says:

    Also worth reading is Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation”; and Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” will really get you thinking about corn (among other things).

  40. leighisflying says:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28701
    Giant Cockroach In Bathroom ‘A Harrowing,Kafkaesque Experience,’ Grad Student Says

  41. Pam I says:

    Link to the “Eat Food” article:
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/28/healthscience/web.0128foodMAGAZINE.php?page=1
    I’ve been sending it to just everyone. Then the world as we know it would come to an end – thankfully.

  42. leighisflying says:

    “But who knows what the hell else is going on deep in the soul of a carrot?”
    Thanks for the link Pam I! A most excellent essay.

  43. Pam I says:

    Damn they have taken down that “Eat food” link as a free read after seven days. I saved it so email me for a copy, pamisherwood@aol.com

  44. Pam I says:

    Now the Food link is back up. I’m confused.

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