In a million years, I would never have picked the book off the shelf. Not because I don't like Allende. I adore her. But this is not fiction. It's about Chile, a country and its people. [Note to the mildly curious: I had once considered moving to Chile because I had a handsome Spanish teacher in college from Chile. He taught my hubby and I how to samba and drink espresso. But that's another story.]
Back to Allende's book. Like all Allende writing, this book is fresh and provocative in its prose. This woman can evoke. But it's what she says about writers early in the book that made me scratch notes in the margins.
Once I heard a famous Afro-American writer say that from the time she was a little girl she felt like a stranger in her family and her hometown. She added that nearly all writers have experienced that feeling, even if they have never left their native city. It's a condition inherent in that profession, she suggested; without the anxiety of feeling different, she wouldn't have been driven to write. (xiv)
Sigh of relief! It isn't just me! Whether made by the death of my father and the subsequent search for the perfect place to land or that God molded me as an outsider looking in, I so get this feeling of the stranger. Even with my family. Even with my best friends. Even with my church family. Especially with my dog but not with my husband.
Is it detachment or that I am observing, affectionately so, those around me?
I don't know.
Do you experience this sense of being a stranger in your milieu? Perhaps in some situations but not others? Here's the rest of the paragraph:
Writing, when all is said and done, is an attempt to understand one's own circumstance and to clarify the confusion of existence, including insecurities that do not torment normal people, only chronic nonconformist, many of whom end up as writers after having failed in other undertakings.
I don't see myself as a chronic nonconformist, but I do squint down hard on just about everything before saying yea or nay. And failure? Well, I've found myself terribly out of step in some situations and felt compelled to step--or collapse--aside. I suppose that is a sort of failure to adapt, a strangeness where others felt at home.
I'm relieved that at least two other writers--the original speaker and Isabel Allende--feel like strangers as I do. Weirdness loves company.
And you? Do you sense this feeling of being a stranger who wrestles with their circumstances to find understanding? Does this camaraderie bring you any comfort? Care to make it four writers on the outside?