Dear Peter Carey,
I’m suddenly stricken with shyness at the act of writing you a letter. I imagine you get lots of letters from adoring fans and why should I bother you? The thing is – that I gave this as an assignment to my readers on my blog, Crazy Jane, and I feel that I need to always do my own assignments or what the fugh am I about…etc…and so on.
I asked my readers to write to a hero, either living or dead, real or fictitious – describing why they had chosen that person and what they were involved with that they might need to be hearing from their hero about. Roughly as I’m a rather somewhat person so this is an approximation.
Then I had to choose a hero and I chose you. I’d like to give you the list if you don’t mind – no point in winning this honour if you don’t know who you were up against. First off was Boudaccea and I cannot even approach why I persist in believing that this warrior queen is a heroine to me. A book I read many years ago is the culprit – The Eagle and The Raven by Pauline Gedge it was and it came into my life during a very heavy and strange period of my life. I read it with a friend and we were swept up into that world of a tribal and wild England. It was easy because we were living in the wild and primitive world of a British Columbia logging town and we were involved with the tribal politics of the place and well there – that is enough.
Another heroine up for this spot was Louisa May Alcott of Little Women fame. I always liked her – she seemed to struggle as a both a writer and a feminist in a likeable way. And Michael Ondaatje has long been a hero. Yep, most of my heroes are writers. I’m mad for writers – mad for books, insatiable for more and more. Ondaatje because he is Canadian, because he writes both poetry and novels (and plays and screenplays and…) and because I get lost in his worlds, his words, his rhythm. Graham Greene is on this list and Margaret Atwood, Thomas Wyatt, Caravaggio, Elizabeth the first, Choygam Trungpa – who really can’t be a hero because he is too much more, Leonard Cohen, and those friends and clients who survived what seemed to be the worst sorts of childhoods – survived and came out as lovely inspiring and dare I say – happy individuals.
But you were my first thought and, for this time in my life, the one I want to connect to – if only in my mind. I want to have a drink with you and ask you a million questions – or just be quiet and let you talk or the two of us just sit in companionable silence. The reason you are my hero is that you make a story transcend its boundaries. You take ordinary or even banal people or losers or crazies or fanatics or god forbid – artists – and on the page they transcend their lives, their stories, their circumstances. Yes, they do and we get to witness it. Thank you so much for that.
And as for the word hero – I’m sorry – we don’t have a better word right now and I know it is leached of all meaning and it isn’t what I meant – I meant teacher or mentor or inspirator or role model or magnetizing one or something else. When I was an awkward gawky teenager – tall, skinny with red hair and freckles – my heroine was Barbara Streisand – I thought if I emulated her I could rise above my physicality – what I’d been given and be seen as unique and wonderful – as she was. And when I’m struggling with my awkward story line – my won’t behave characters and too muchness drama – then I think of you and your absolute grace with material that might not always be thought of as worthy of a novel and I say to myself – ‘there! I will go there – I will start true and remember this.’
So thank you so much for that.
I hope that you are not too busy in your life to answer this letter with some encouraging words.
then I printed it, put it in an envelope, let it sit around a bit and read it. My inner Peter Carey answered this way:
Somewhere in NYC
Sorry if I can’t take too long with this but I can’t. I will get right to the point – if I’m to take on any role in your life as a hero or – hmmm…what did you call it – yes, inspirator – then there is little I need to say. Here goes:
Sit down, write, repeat. Find your people and see what they tell you. Listen to them and not to those naysayers that take up space in your head. You haven’t time for that.
I’m wondering about a drinking session with the other nominees. Think it would be an interesting bunch. A Buddhist teacher and a 16th century Queen and then Margaret Atwood who I have had the pleasure to meet. Now there’s a novel idea…