Mary Gordon

I’ll begin with Mary Gordon because I love her writing so much!

Mary Gordon
The Shadow Man: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father

Here, Mary Gordon shares one of her own journal entries with the New York Times.  Amazing stuff!

This week: Mary Gordon, the author most recently of the novel “Pearl” and the memoir “Circling My Mother.”

The Morandi show at the Met. My eyes fill with tears, and why? Why these renderings of ordinary household objects, the same few done over and over again … why should they be so intensely moving? It is, I think, the quality of the attention, the attentiveness. I feel, considering him, my failures of attentiveness and patience. The tenderness of the paint. The dimness, dimness seen as entirely valuable, the color of dream, of memory, of that which is already receding or has already receded, seen through — what — the fog of a past so thick definiteness is lost, colors of resignation, of humility, of tentativeness. We have learned to find humility a synonym for weakness: he forces us to rethink this. In many ways, he is the anti-Picasso … Picasso always trying something new, becoming someone different, seeing the world in different terms.

The different meanings of white.

The shadows that are not real … impossible shadows.

On his deathbed: “I have new ideas that I wish to develop.”

The objects exist differently in space and are different essentially when arranged differently in relation to each other or looked at from a different perspective. It would be right to say, “It is different.” But what is the “it”?

While Mussolini is raging around the country, destroying all those in his path, Morandi is in his studio painting bottles. In his very absorption in his work, refusing his responsibility of witness. Of the great painters — Matisse, Bonnard, for example — none risked his life for witness. Am I glad of that? It makes a mockery of the ethical, the belief that is and is not mine, that silence in the face of outrage is worth it for paintings of bottles, beautiful squares of yellow, gray, peach, ocher, brown.

I don’t agree with him that the objects don’t have any meaning. He could be painting entirely abstractly, as his contemporaries did. What is interesting is the dialogue between the domestic and the abstract. No woman could have got away with it.

When he is doing his last paintings of these ordinary objects, Warhol is painting soup cans. Teaching us to see the ordinary in a new way, but without tenderness. For Warhol tenderness is the enemy. Attachment is to be avoided. The domestic is to be parodied: the only weapon against its suffocating pull.

I get off the bus on Broadway and a man is standing in the middle of the road raving. Raving like an animal. Weaving in and out of traffic, raving unintelligibly. He is wearing a distressingly festive sky-blue or robin’s egg blue parka. I call 911. I stand on the corner watching, waiting for the cops. No one comes for 10 minutes. Then I see a friend. This gives me the courage to approach the raving man. I say: “You must get out of the street, you need help. I’ve called someone to help you.” He looks at me with hatred. “Why did you do that, why did you do that?” he says, and he runs into the subway. I want to tell him: “I didn’t want you to be killed by a car.” But I have no idea what he might want. Or if I finally approached him because I wanted to be seen by my friend as a compassionate and courageous person. The police arrive. They approach him. I turn down the hill and go home.

The Love of My Life:


“She stands before the spotted mirror. A dime sized pool of expensive moisturizer spreads in the heat of her palm. Miranda wonders what Adam looks like. She tries on a long black skirt, throws it impatiently on the bed, then Nile green silk pants with wide legs. She tries on the black skirt again. Then a violet knit top, which she rejects because it emphasizes her breasts. Once a vexation to her on account of their smallness, her breasts had done all right with age. She’s glad he won’t be seeing her naked. Or in a bathing suit. Well, she is nearly sixty now and her body shows the marks of bearing two strong healthy sons. Her legs which, he had said, caused him a desire that was painful in its intensity when he saw them in her first miniskirt—September 1965—but which she’d always thought too thick, too straight, these had gone flabby. She’s tried—swimming, running, yoga—but nothing really helps. Most of the time she doesn’t think of it, she doesn’t really care. It’s one of the benefits of age; such things have lost their power to scald. She looks at the lines around her eyes, her mouth. Her face has not ceased to please her, but it could never be the face that he had loved.”

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