Friday, 14 December 2012


Vivienne Eliot 

Extract from Kate Zambreno, Heroines:

Chicago now our pilgrimage, which we once wanted to desperately escape. In Chicago, New York was our Moscow, like in Chekhov’s Three Sisters. It is our pattern: we forget so soon what made us want to flee, we cover it over with nostalgia, Zelda writing her novelist-husband wistfully of their honeymoon days while in the asylum. This shrine we build to our own shared origins. Viv’s shrine to Tom, once he had abandoned her, next to her framed picture of Sir Oswald Mosely, head of the British Union of Fascists. (Does every woman, really, love a fascist?)

I’ve tried to block out the local uproar dealing with Akron native LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’ve always found it pernicious, how those in the Midwest criminalize those who leave, like it is some rejection of their own lives. Unlike the ambivalence towards their now-prodigal son, rock musician Chrissie Hynde of the 80s group The Pretenders is a much loved celebrity here. “Chrissie” this. “Chrissie” that. The vegan Italian comfort food restaurant she owns in town has become our culinary sanctuary.

As a girl I remember reading an interview with Chrissie Hynde in Rolling Stone about how she left this city in Ohio when she was young and moved to London. I remember thinking of her as this example of what I could do myself one day. That I could leave Chicago, leave the family, leave the Midwest. And I did. For a little bit. But now I am back here. The eternal return. (To write, perhaps, is to always return.)

So many of the gods of modernism hailed from the Midwest. Scott Fitzgerald from St. Paul. Ezra Pound fired from the college in Indiana. Tom Eliot of the lofty Eliots of St. Louis. And they all escaped, to Europe—they became expatriate, cosmopolitan. They managed to shed their origins, their Midwestern skin. Hemingway years earlier attended the same high school in Oak Park, Illinois as my father and his siblings. God, I idolized Hemingway when I was in journalism school. Now I hate his guts because of how he demonized Zelda in his memoir A Moveable Feast. And for how he treated his wife Hadley. She, summarily dismissed.

(I am now in another union. It is a union of forgotten or erased wives. I pay my dues daily.)

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