Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book #42: In the Waiting Room

"I can't imagine anyone becoming a writer who wasn't a voracious reader as an adolescent.  A true reader understands that books are a world unto themselves - and that that world is richer and more interesting than any one we've traveled in before."
                                                          -Paul Auster, The Paris Review Interviews, Volume IV

Revising my book has been a curious activity.  It's a bit like looking in the mirror and trying to remember how I looked a year and a half ago (when I first began writing my memoir) or better still, three years ago (when I was still trapped in the dreary life of an English professor and having a meltdown in tandem with my father's - our twin breakdowns forming the subject matter of my three hundred pages).  But now, as I look back on that time in my life, I feel weirdly distant from the neurotic, panic-stricken woman I was back then (well, still a little neurotic, I guess).  Such is the editing process.

My publisher's main criticism was that in certain sections, she wanted "more Leslie."  In a few areas, she feels the prose is still a bit too intellectual (the very mousy self I'd come to loathe!)  So that's what I've been working on for the past two weeks - injecting more of my authentic, unfiltered voice.  And the experience has been therapeutic, to say the least.

There's also been a certain amount of traipsing around the city involved in the final stretch of writing my book.  One of the scenes I was reworking is set in the hospital waiting room where I sat for so many hours as a young teenager, chewing my fingernails and awaiting the next round of medieval treatments in store for my scoliosis.  Reading over the scene, I was suddenly overwhelmed by this fear that I'd described the waiting room all wrong - that wasn't at all how I remembered the plastic benches and hyper sanitized surfaces and lame murals of dragons and rainbows.  The feeling lingered, sharp and disorienting, and later that day I couldn't resist my desire to return to that very place, that very waiting room.  I wanted to examine the tiles and breathe the vaguely sweet, antiseptic air and search - once again - for vestiges of my old self.  But it was the end of the day, and the waiting room was completely empty.   

Still, it was oddly moving to be back there and I found myself wandering around the ortho ward for some time.  I paused outside an exam room where I caught a glimpse of a surly, stringy haired girl slouching down in her chair, her arms crossed like her stomach hurt, while a white-haired doctor prattled on.  Ah, yes.  I had her number.  I stood in the shadows of the door, mesmerized. 

It must have been around that time in my life that I turned to the solitary, inward compensations of reading.

Photo from: here


Mimi said...

I like your blog! How did your father do after his "meltdown"? I'm looking forward to your memoir.

Leslie Shimotakahara said...

Over the course of the year long period I write about in my memoir, my relationship with my father did eventually improve, but not until we had both confronted certain demons in our pasts.... Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog!

B.H. said...

I was icing a cake yesterday, and it began to fall apart in chunks, and I had to use way too much icing to keep it together. Suddenly I was a child again.

Keep up the thoughtful posts. I enjoy reading them!

Leslie Shimotakahara said...

I love those Proustian moments, when the simplest things in everyday life can evoke the most vivid memories....


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About Me

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Toronto, ON, Canada
Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Leslie's writing has been published in WRITE, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.