Living Between Danger and Love
Writing is one way to understand something that seems almost impossible to understand. Vivian Gornick calls the “something,” or event, we are writing about “the situation.” The “writing about” is the creation of story.
“Every work of literature has both a situation and a story. The situation is the context or circumstance that preoccupies the writer; sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer; the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say,” writes Gornick (The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative, FSG, 2001, p. 13).
When Andrea was killed I understood the situation. It took me a much longer time to figure out the story.
As I began to write this book I discovered the narrator's voice I would need to tell the story. It was a voice that had to be a little more hesitant, less self-assured than the professorial voice I expressed in the classroom. Gornick again: “We pull from ourselves the narrator who will shape better than we alone can the inchoate flow of event into which we are continually being plunged.” (p. 24). This narrator took me places I had not expected or even wanted to go. And so as I wrote I began to dream stories from my childhood, stories I thought long ago buried, along with my parents who had been the protagonists in them.
The book I was writing began to wrap itself around a story of loss and mourning and the ways we search to make sense of the separations that wound us.
More recently, this book has had a second life. I wrote The Origin of the Seasons, a play based on Living Between Danger and Love. Largely fictionalized dramatization of a daughter's unsettled relationship with her mother and events that lead her to finally confront the truths in her past, it had its first production in Flagstaff, Arizona, under the direction of Mike Levin of Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, a performing arts high school.