Joyce did her master's thesis on Virginia Woolf back in the early 1970s, so that's when I became acquainted with Woolf's works (though I'd read Mrs. Dalloway in college). To be able to talk with her, I read some of them (read others later on), and I remember seeing around our apartment Joyce's copy of Woolf's 1929 A Room of One's Own. (Link to electronic text of the little book.)
Early in the volume, Woolf writes this: a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Or ... to do much else, for that matter. The space to be who you are. To do what you are meant to do. Simple requirements--and very complex ones, too, given our nasty cultural and gender history.
Anyway, I don't know why I got to thinking about this the other day--about having a room of my own. Until I was about twelve, I shared a bedroom with a brother. My older brother, Richard, terrified me when I was little by telling me there was a Man in the Closet. So ... I had to make sure that closet door was shut and fastened before I could fall into a tentative, timorous sleep.
Later, a second and third grader in Amarillo, I shared a room with my younger brother, Davi (rhymes with Davy). Our house was a little brick ranch house, and our room was in the back. Advantage? When we were there for our required nap time, we could coax to the window--then pull inside--our dog Sooner, who always seemed far more nervous about being in the house than I thought he ought to be. Anyway, we would return him to the yard as the end of "nap time" drew nigh. (I wonder if we fooled our parents at all? Probably not.)
I did not have a room of my own until I was in ninth grade, and we were living in Hiram, Ohio, in a century home that looked (and smelled) every second of it. My room was upstairs, in the front, a tiny room with a dormer window, a closet, a little bookshelf, a desk, a bed, and a foul adolescent who wanted nothing more than to sleep, play baseball, and ... you know. The room had one problem, though (beyond its odious occupant): It had no heating vent. So if I wanted warmth in the winter (who doesn't?), I had to keep my door open (what's the point of a room!) and rely on the largesse of Richard (hah!), whose room lay right next door and had a very fine vent, thank you. When he kept his door open, I was somewhat comfortable; when he kept it closed, I froze.
Little brother Davi's room was the biggest one upstairs. (No comment.) Lots of heat and light and space. (No comment.) We also shared a bathroom (no shower--just a tub), and I offer you this rhetorical question: Is there anything more foul than a bathroom shared by three adolescent boys? (Not in my experience.)
Once I was off on my own (I began teaching in the fall of 1966), I had rooms of my own. Lonely rooms, if you want the truth. I had few dates, no lovers, and lots of homework to grade. Depression was my most frequent guest.
When Joyce and I married (Dec. 1969), our first little apartment had a living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, bath--all dollhouse tiny. We both had little desks in the dining room, though Joyce would often write her papers sitting on the bed, surrounded by her reference books and other resources. (Actually, I thought it was kind of sexy.)
Once Steve was born, though (July 16, 1972), we put his crib in the dining room, so we knew it was time to find a larger place. Which we soon did, over on S. Willow St. in Kent, Ohio--a house that has since been razed to accommodate the new "Esplanade." Sad loss of a landmark! Anyway, in that house Joyce and I both had a room of one's own--and so it has gone in our every subsequent house. Joyce likes an upstairs room with a nice view (currently, she looks out over the funeral home next door), and I like downstairs with a street view. Joyce is much neater than I, though when she is really cooking on a project, her space quickly grows to resemble mine, which doesn't look much different from, oh, my 1959 space--except there are a lot more books. I would post a picture here, but I'm too ashamed. Okay, I'll share it--just part of my room, mind you (on the screen of my laptop is this very blog in the process of composition!). You can imagine the clutter behind me ... I'll admit it's even worse than what you see. But that's my room; it's my own. And I feel profoundly lucky to have it--and to realize that, just upstairs, sits Joyce in her room, weaving magical words.
|May 24, 2014, 9:53 a.m.|