I’m no angel.
Hold yourself with care.
I’m old enough to be your mother. But I’m no one. Lidia Yuknavitch, Rachel Resnick, Cheryl Strayed, Chelsea G. Summers, Antonia Crane, Susie Bright, Kerry Cohen, Sue William Silverman, Ethel Rohan, and Dylan Landis aren’t writing you this letter. It’s possible they wouldn’t bother. But I imagine them writing you letters anyway and get choked up. I want to put my ear to everything they’d say. As if to me, could be. Twenty-one-year-old me, I kept it all in notebooks.
What a dangerous profession, to be dying for attention.Â Now we have the Internet to make us, undo us.
I thought about your father. If he read “Adrien Brody.”
Even as daughters, we can’t pretend we’re not sexual. My father doesn’t read my erotica. But he could. I don’t use a pen name.
I wrote a story called “Underground” in graduate school. I told this story from the perspective of Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler’s fourteen-year mistress, and in it Eva says, “I’ve no idea when glory by proxy became so important, or why I felt I existed because he fucked me.”
My best friend Judy once observed, “You dream about famous men a lot.” It’s true. Two nights ago it was Colin Farrel. Five nights ago it was George Clooney. Eight nights ago it was Gordon Ramsay. I reach far back for the first man who was larger than life, unattainable, out of the question for me.
It’s a slippery slope. Something close to an Electra Complex. Maybe.
Woman. Writing. Sexually. I didn’t see the picture of you with “Adrien Brody’s” come on your face. I want to see it metaphorically. My Kiefer Sutherland is your “Adrien Brody.” Actually the actor, his real name. He didn’t come on me.
Like you, I orchestrated a meeting. He didn’t know I was on my way. Literally and metaphorically.
I was twenty-one and drove my 1977 VW Beetle through the mountains to a space that opened up. A movie set snuggled between trees. Kiefer Sutherland sat on the steps of a trailer holding a guitar and wearing a suede jacket. I passed out. Or fell down. My knees buckled. This would not happen to me again in the presence of famous men. Lots of them. Dirt on my shorts, dirt on my hands. He teased me. Took my hand. Sang “Operator” by Jim Croce. In 1995, I wrote the first of many versions of my Kiefer Sutherland story. A college journal published it that same year then subsequently entered it in a contest,Â category “creative non-fiction.” It won an honorable mention.
Never mind why we want to fuck famous men, sort of famous men, men with notoriety, authority, years on us, power or celebrity.
Why do we want to write about these encounters?
I used to love that book by Pamela Des Barres. I’m With the Band. My potential calling. Glory by proxy.
I’ve read everything now. This is no surprise. You can write. Now you’re all these things. “Feminist.” “Fame Whore.” “Literary Seductress.” “Internet “It” Girl.”
You can write. Keep it close, like a bird under your jacket, your heartbeat.Â The online literary world is alight. You’re so pretty.
Yesterday in a mass email, Stephen Elliott announced he was interviewing you for The Rumpus, so I thought, “Marie Calloway has arrived.” Then I walked around my trailer house, because my living conditions aren’t so glamorous, until I finally stopped at the washing machine. I asked myself, “What the fuck does that mean?”
I’ve abandoned money and fame. Now it’s a spiritual calling for me. Still celebrity-celebrity-celebrity. Some scandal, gimmick, or hoax. JT Leroy taught me that, except he was actually Laura Albert, and she achieved everything I wanted by lying.
Am I jealous? I asked myself if I was jealous Stephen Elliott wanted to talk with you. I had this chance once to see Stephen Elliott at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, but I didn’t have a car because I’d sold it so I could pay some bills, like rent. It was important at the time. To see this guy, Stephen Elliott, maybe talk to him.
Yesterday, I thought Stephen Elliott should talk to you as a man of his wisdom, because he’s old enough to be your father. I decided he should take you under his wing and protect you, care about you as a person, then I realized I was a hypocritical asshole. I don’t care about you. That’s impossible. Who are you? The girl who wrote “Adrien Brody.” Now people take you apart. Everybody has an opinion. If I tell my female students to read “Adrien Brody” will they interpret it as art?
I mean, empowering. That’s what I mean.
This is how we get it.
Do you consider yourself part of a larger something?
Roxane Gay wrote about “Adrien Brody” for HTMLGiant, “The Price of Revelation” she called it. Her take on your story hit me. She wrote, “We are in the age of Internet confession. Have blog, will reveal, memoir, pixilated for a hundred random strangers to read. Or more. I wonder about the cost of confession these days, and the reach.”
I liken “confessional writing” to stripping. Same thing. My willingness to bare both body and soul indistinguishable. Here I am. Isn’t she sad, isn’t she lovely?
After the first time, it’s easy. Sadness, public nudity. There’s this illusion of power in it. And if it’s art, we’re lucky.
I know this: when we reveal ourselves as writers, we reveal others, or at the very least risk causing someone we love—or don’t—discomfort even embarrassment; writing our real lives isn’t an isolated act separate from other people who live here with us; thus our writing raises questions about moral responsibility.
“Dislike being watched” you wrote at the now empty Marie Calloway Magazine. Meanwhile, “Adrien Brody’s” girlfriend is nail polish.
Wondering about it, symbolically.
In “The Price of Revelation,” Roxane Gay expressed concern for “Adrien Brody’s” girlfriend, who I heard had a hard time with it. Maybe hearsay. She saw it, before you took it down, the picture of yourself wearing her boyfriend’s come, before you changed his name, before Tao Lin republished the encounter as fiction at MuuMuu House.
I imagine myself her;Â just a minute, because art is empathy; it’s also ambiguity. I see your picture, how pretty you are, and how you’ve crafted this smart, explicit narrative. Me, on the periphery. If it were really me, Marie, comeuppance. I’m a writer. I haven’t always been careful. I’m not always gentle. Or tactful. I can be mean.
We’re vulnerable. Criticism hurts me. It gets sticky.
At twenty-one, I was pissed. There was this sense of entitlement.Â And a need to take risks. Maybe I was self destructive. Cyberspace wasn’t there yet. My ability to wreck havoc on myself, my lovers, and my father was limited. I should at least feel grateful for this.
We’ve no idea how powerful it is to write until we start a fire with it, the online literary world alight now; someone burns alive. You, maybe.
I began blogging in 2004, after I’d earned my MFA.Â Susie Bright suggested “Blog or perish.” She was also the first writer I admired who began to “tweet.”
Once a blogger, I blogged my guts out. In earnest. It meant something. Expression, perspective, blood. I’ve no power without writing, this is how it feels for me.
Since 2004, I’ve deleted four blogs although I can’t delete this one because it doesn’t belong to me. I just write here. But I’ve stopped writing here because I was scared. Ashamed of myself. Artistic crisis. I forever negotiate this fine line between self serving crap and narrating my life in a way that’s useful, and I’m not always successful. Sometimes, I’m just dumb. Some acts of creation, more accurately described in this case as “confessional writing,” involve a degree of mental illness. When I’m not on my meds, I’m obsessive-compulsive. Carried away with it. Hive-scarlet. Impassioned. My inner censor sometimes sits at a bar with Marguerite Duras doing shots and doesn’t tell me when to stop. In the blogosphere we hit “publish.” That easy.
There’s always a consequence.
Like, I’m an “anal slut.” How a man once described me for my son, here.
Lets hold ourselves with care.
I cling to this conviction: I’m a better mother because I’m a writer, and I’m a better writer because I’m a mother. I’m an artist. Still. Second guess everything. I should. This even. What does it mean?
I went for a walk carrying my I-pod Shuffle, ear buds screwed in, and the song “Le Disko” came on and reminded me of a former lover because he played the song for me our first night together. My “Broke Back Boy” is your “Adrien Brody.” I blogged our affair on a now long-dead blog. Later, I put some of those blog posts together and presented them as a fictional story eventually published both online and in print.Â Memoir as fiction. Stephen Elliott.
Why write it?
The longest time, I thought I was born for Playboy Magazine. But my grandmother made me promise I wouldn’t do it. Something I couldn’t take back.
I followed Kiefer Sutherland into his trailer convinced I was alive now and living, in existence, not sad at all how important it was. Instead of setting out immediately to seduce me, which would have been easy, he said he had to get back to work. He asked, “Will you wait for me?” I would have waited all day, except somebody’s personal assistant chased me away. She said, “You’re distracting the actors.”Â This was her job, to keep me from making an ass of myself.Â Not really.
For the longest time, I wasn’t grateful.