In Bed with Doris Grumbach

I had no idea what to expect from the book the moment I picked it up. All the title read was “Fifty Days of Solitude” and could mean any number of things with a title like that.

The cover was beautifully minimalistic. A predominantly white image with only hints at a forest of snow in the background. The clean style lead me to believe there must be some kind of beauty within those pages if such beauty was cause to be on the outside. I often attribute the taste of the author in deciding a book cover artists or work, to be directly in correlation to their taste in writing style. If they have good taste in visual, then they must be good writers after all. Isn’t writing also a kind of visual art, capturing the imagination and influencing it to visualize more than just an image, but a tone and feel as well?

That was not my only reason for picking up the book. As much as my design degree wants me to think I purely buy books for their covers, I am not soulfully visual. I bought it because it was 25 cents at our local thrift store. Cheap, and if it did end up sucking, it was worth its price for the look and feel it gave my bookshelf, which isn’t much, considering it is a crappy piece of plywood construct covered in a fake wood sticker. Something I picked up in high school to make up for the fact that I was sick of keeping books in boxes and felt the need to pay for it in funds and crappy construction.

When I got the book home it sat on the shelf for a while. I was working my way through Lois Lowery’s “The Giver” series, and had been dragging my feet through the final book “Son” which had taken me far too long to finish. I have a fear of finishing a series of books. It means things are over. I don’t like them to end. Thankfully I had been able to complete the series and find my emotions in tact. But, directly afterward I found myself reading the book “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, a recommendation from my boyfriend, who tends to be very picky about his literature.

After complete both “Son” and “The Outsiders” I found my heart desperate for something a little less heavy. A book with the term “solitude” in it’s title might be something to be cautious of. Then again, I was so emotionally exhausted by those books I wondered if it would matter so much to be exhausted again by just one more. What was the harm? It was just a book. Like all the other books before I had emotionally recovered from. I gave myself about a week of nothing to read but magazine articles and the blog posts I wrote myself.

The writing style of this particular work is interesting, because the author talks about writing another work, giving the names of the characters, and the imaginary conversations she has had with those characters in her solitude. I like when authors write about writing. I feel as though it gives me a kind of affirmation that it’s normal to go through the feelings and internal dialog that I go through writing journal entries and the fictional short stories I put down on occasion. I also like that she can describe those moments as she struggles and embraces her combination of Loneliness and Solitude (which have very different meanings to her and the many authors she quotes as she discovers this new situation).

She romanticizes her Solitude (I sue a capital “S” because she seems to give it a sense of more than just alone time). She speaks of it with a great sense of accomplishment and discipline. She wonders about the effect it has on herself and others. She worries a great deal. She feels a great deal. She reminisces here and there, but more importantly, she finds herself (or perhaps only perceives herself) being improved as an author by the experience she is having. Proud that she is taking this step after she learns that what many authors have said about Solitude as a means to self improvement.

This is not the first time I have heard this about any artists really. Most artists are very introspective, and therefore, spend a great deal of time alone with their thoughts. Or they are easily distracted and need to be kept away from all things shiny or sharp. I myself close the door to my room so as to take time to understand who I am, and often to understand what that means for any design project or blog post/writing I happen to be working on at the time. It clears away the noise of the world, and helps me get to the message within.

As I read I wonder the same of her. Is she seeking the message within herself? Trying to understand why she is doing what she is doing? It is my understanding that she is not young. She could be 60 or older judging by the back cover images she had put by her biography. She speak about writing letters instead of phone calls, and perhaps as a writer she simply chooses to write letters because her passion is writing. I cannot say. I do not know her. But I wonder if I do know her? Am I not reading the very personal thoughts written daily as she discovers new things about such Solitude as the kind she has found? OR do I kid myself? Do I believe in a fiction written as a biography? Does she do nothing but tell stories as too many writers do? Does she merely look to make a book, and not to actually experience what she is doing?

All I do know is there is a great sense within me that desire to take some time away for myself. To do more than just close the door of my room and be left alone, but to leave the very confines of my own space for a place much more tranquil than this. I want to take a summer away. An entire season. From the last snow fall to the first snow fall. Or from the First snow fall to the last snowfall. I cannot decide. I just imagine I want there to be snow where I go, so the excuse to hide within the wall of a place that is unfamiliar and uninteresting and have it seem socially acceptable to not go anywhere.

But here I am. In bed with Doris. Door closed. House quiet. Just us in our own versions of Solitude.

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