Repost: Lessons from Two Masters

I just finished helping a student finish his 10 page term paper on how Edith Wharton’s and Tennessee Williams’ lives inspired Ethan Frome and The Glass Menagerie. The truth is that both of their lives are right there on those pages, disguised as other people dealing with problems of guilt, abandonment, thwarted dreams and societal pressures.

Edith Wharton wrote of a loveless marriage just as she was experiencing her own loveless marriage. Tennessee Williams wrote of the abandonment of an emotionally fragile sister after he felt as if he had abandoned his own.

I am aware that much of the fiction I write has common themes from my life. I am intrigued by addiction, family dysfunction, feelings of abandonment and the importance of naming the truth at least from one perspective. What does that tell you about my life? Probably all you need to know. I have spent most of my adult life dealing with my childhood experiences with all the above. I suspect most of us have a variation of that list, depending on how healthy versus unhealthy our people were. In my case, they were good people with a tendency to drown their sorrows, which lead to a propensity to be more comfortable with surface appearances and not tackle underlying feelings that might cause a fuss. I have had to learn to get comfortable with the messiness of honesty and the accompanying discomfort that often comes from looking squarely at a problem and not pretending it doesn’t exist. Alas…I am still working on all of that.

The gist is that I learn a lot from helping my high school AP English students with their papers. I learn that very famous writers often don’t stray too far from their own backyards when chronicling the pain and uncertainty of life. That is a great lesson to learn for anyone who aspires to write anything from a good email to a novel.

On that note, I believe I’ll bid you all adieu. All that analysis has made me a little tired. Time to head upstairs, get ready for bed and spend some quality time doing nothing but staring at television.

I hope your day went well and your evening is going even better.

See you tomorrow, my friends. Rest well.


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