Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Very Own Critic

by Wendy Ralicoff

He said I always put too much of myself in my work. I never paid much attention, because, after all, his past was academic, Canadian academic, not one of those who came up from the States, or from exotic backgrounds abroad, so that put him automatically among the third-rate. He was, before he took the job at The Caribou (that glossy pretentious as Ignatieff, its ad spaces all status watches and high-end cars and big-buck liquor) nothing more than a small-town text-book tout, an Aylmer PhuD.

But his three-line dismissal in The Yearly Review of Recent Canadian Publications, Literary and Otherwise of the book I’d worked on for a decade (Miss Lamia is one of those women who sees her life as so important that she can’t forgo retelling it again and again in each tiring, tired novel.), well, that was too much.

If he thought I wrote myself so thoroughly into my stories, I’d give him how. And I did, carefully, weighing each word, developing each clause and period to draw him in. I’d put his name, and his position at the magazine, on the title page, to assure that it would be delivered to him. I knew, once my body’d been discovered, he’d read it greedily. It wasn’t a long story, but by the last few pages, I was becoming thin, sparse, evacuate. It was a struggle to finish. The last few words, and the space about me grew blear. Then the final period, and darkness.

I came back a bit at a time. He’d been a careful reader since the stale graduate school he’d paid for, and I trusted he’d not skip a word. Two-thirds of the way through, I began to feel renewed. I had enough vitality to understand that all his romances had been failures of his egoism, and that he was nowise as big as he’d bragged.

By the end, of course, I had complete presence in his body, and pinched the last of him, already an empty carapace, last winter’s upturned beetle on the windowsill, out.

I enjoy the new me. My fellows at The Caribou are of course thoroughly snobs, and that renders them far too shallow to have caught on, even though for the last two issues, I’ve been praising my own work lavishly.

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