minions, or perhaps henchpeople

From Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes:

We choose the dead because of our tie to them, our identification with them. Their helplessness, passivity, vulnerability is our own. We all yearn toward the state of inanition, the condition of harmlessness, where we are perforce lovable and fragile. It is only by a great effort that we rouse ourselves to act, to fight, to struggle, to be heard above the wind, to crush flowers as we walk. To behave like live people.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my zombies. When the dead are rising out of their graves and coming after me to eat my brain, the only way I can get them to lie down again is by making up a new story (I notice that this is the plot of ParaNorman, which I watched with the girls; this pleases me.)

Writing as a way to defy death is a major theme of Lawrence Wright’s wonderful Going Clear, a book I urge upon all my fellow Scient-trocity enthusiasts. I once met Jerry Pournelle and asked him about Hubbard. Pournelle said that there were days when L. Ron knew that the people around him were deluded, and days when he shared their delusions, and both kinds of days were the worst. I guess L. Ron’s real innovation was to use stories to turn living people into zombies which, mixed blessing at best. And he died in the end anyway (sorry, spoilers.)

Look. I need to write, to keep my graveyards neatly landscaped and my grey matter intracranial and off the menu. And I want to write, because books are awesome and I would like to make one. But even the effort of making up new stories to reframe bad things that happened to me, even in therapy with a good therapist, wipes me out. And when I read the acknowledgements sections of books like these two beauties, or Katherine Boo or Peter Hessler or or or, the authors thank the entire editorial and fact-checking departments of the New Yorker. It’s exhausting.

My would-be-creative girlfriends and I used to joke that we needed wives. What we actually need? Is staff. Maybe we should take a note from L. Ron and train up our zombies.

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