“I have never been able to keep a paper journal to save
my life. I start a hundred of them, I never finish. They are
like failed marriages. The pressure of exhibitionism keeps
this one alive—it, in fact, saved my writing career.
Without the feeling that I had to keep writing because others
saw it, I would likely have gotten lazy and this marriage would
have ended like the others, in adultery and abandonment.”
It was also through the Internet that she learned about NaNoWriMo
(short for National Novel Writing Month), an annual contest
for writers of every persuasion who can do a 50,000-word novella
by midnight Nov. 30.
Valente thought 30 days was excessive, and set out to write
her novel in a week. (It would eventually become The Labyrinth.)
I would have done it. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and
where I wanted to go,” she said. “If my Mac hadn’t
crashed, I would have finished it by Sunday. But it did, and
the setback cost me three days.”
The final version of The Labyrinth is not much different
from the draft of Valente’s original 10-day binge. “There
were a few minor edits,” she said. “That was how
it was supposed to be, from the start. That’s how it
comes, too, even in my diary. It really feels like vomiting
to me, in an aesthetic way. I am on my knees, holding back
my hair, clutching my belly, pushing everything I am out of
my mouth in a flood. There is no end.”
Anäis Nin, famed writer and diarist, once said that writing
in her diary was like breathing. But for Valente, the self-exegesis
is thicker than breathing.
There is a kind of body-imagery, visceral and wet,” she
said. “The imagery of the body always seems to seize
one at a deeper level. My writing is full of breasts and bellies,
thighs, and throats. And the fluids, blood and spit and semen—and
never-forgetting bile. What begins in the body is true. Perhaps
I think this because I live so much in my head. The grass is
greener on the other side of the Cartesian split.”
References to mathematicians and philosophers are not unusual
with Valente. Her newest novel, The Book of Dreams, due
out next year, is centered on the ever-merging concepts
mysticism and quantum physics. Likewise, The Labyrinth
explores existence through the metaphors and allusions
Greek and Latin works.
I was a history major until I took a class, from a retired
poetry professor, on The Iliad and The Odyssey. I’d read
them before, and I had loved Greek mythology since I was a
child. D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Mythology in my
elementary school library, has my little name in it 20 times.
But this professor taught them as poetry.
That summer, we held a night long reading of The Iliad, the
first 15 lines of each book in ancient Greek. There were bonfires,
a whole roasting lamb on a spit, wine, drums. When I heard
the Greek, the rhythm of it meant to sound like a war drum,
I knew I had to know it; I had to devour the language so that
I could devour Homer.”
So I spent three years learning Greek and Latin. It was incredibly
difficult, and I have moved on to English literature. But I’ll
always go back to the Greek. It’s like an abusive boyfriend.
You always go back, even though you know he will beat you black
and blue. One sidelong glance and you’re back in his
arms. One omega, one chi, and I can’t not touch the letters,
can’t keep from trilling the words.”
Her hunger for knowledge and her way with words make
novels into journeys. So is she going to keep writing online
now that she has had her big break?
Yes!” she exclaimed. “This is where it all begins.”
For more info: ghanima.diaryland.com