Saturday, April 30, 2011

Linda Gray Sexton's "Half in Love"

It's late, and I'm not up for an in-depth, thoughtful review, but here's the core of the thing:

From the LGS memoir (p. 145, chatting with a lesbian while in a psych ward after a suicide attempt):

"Are you a cutter?" she asked, gesturing to the soft gauze bandages on my wrists.

"A cutter?" I was mystified, and drew hard on my cigarette, down until the ember glowed.

"You cut yourself?"

As I thought about her question I realized that there must be a whole group of people who cut themselves all the time, maybe not for suicide, but just to cut.


It gets boring. Here, on the other hand, is The Mother, on "Cutting":

My tongue is slit.
It cannot eat.
Even if I were a king,
with a whole tongue,
I would be put to death with a shovel.

See the difference?

We read Anne Sexton because of her intimate connection to the Otherworld. That's what the brilliant poets and painters are for. To reveal something profoundly bizarre and scary to us, something that we're too afraid to explore for ourselves. Once these seers have channelled it, it's slightly watered down and safe for us general readers to perhaps attempt to be in touch with -- but that otherworldly contact is usually ONLY via their channelling.

The Daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, isn't a poet or scary visionary like her mother. She's an emotionally hurt, upper-middle-class girl who had a painful upbringing as the daughter of a Scary Mother and can't get over her fixation with her mother.

LGS has a general talent for writing. This book is a well-written and thoughtful account of a middle-class woman's half-hearted attempts at trying to kill herself and then being committed a few times to a very liberal sanitarium. She later feels guilty for her kids' sake; she's depressed that her husband of 25 years left her; and then she later finds love with a man named Brad.

It's all relatively polite. Lots of lying around in darkened bedrooms, "forced" to order take-out for the teenaged kids instead of making the 19-year-olds' dinner. (Then paragraphs of bemoaning being a Bad Mom. She later gets together with the Step-Mom. All is OK. Who the hell cares?)

Today, as at the time, we read Anne Sexton's poetry for the beautiful, tight language combined with the magical and mystical. And, today, many of us read her daughter solely for insight into Anne Sexton. This book is about the daughter; no insight into Anne Sexton. Not to be mean, but... who cares about the kid? As a person, of course there's care from family and friends. But I'm just saying: There's magical and there's not. We care in 2011 about the poet Anne Sexton because she was a profound, mystical poet. All honor to that. And thanks to any of her kids for helping promote that. But... Being born from Genius doesn't automatically make you great yourself. See Julian Lennon.

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