Monday, August 02, 2010

Fire Season: Thinking about Janet Fitch

I can tell you why I think about Janet Fitch this time of year. It's because of White Oleander. In that novel Fitch so eloquently describes California's fifth season, fire season.

Summer in California is short. It lasts maybe a month, between the solstice and the ides of July. Then comes fire season that runs through the dog days of summer into late October. The California fire season forms a backdrop for much of her novel, White Oleander. It's when the Santa Anas blow. That's where we are now. Fitch captures the brutal heart of this season:

The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I.
— Janet Fitch (White Oleander)

Janet Fitch is an intense writer who wields worlds with amazing efficiency. Sometimes, I get the feeling she is a writer possessed by a thinking, creative and hungry demon. Her demon can only be satiated by writing. Getting paid for writing for Fitch, I suspect, is a side benefit. Her passion for writing seems so intense to me. I think she would write no matter the compensation.

I suspect if intelligence were (formally) recognized in this country as being evil, if intelligence was made illegal, if thinking writers were being burned at the stake along with intellectuals and other enemies of the state for practicing their witchcraft, if Fitch survived the first pogrom; she would still be writing.

I can see Janet Fitch working midnights at Denny's and writing on the back of napkins. By day she would post her writing on public bathroom mirrors, if she had to; to feed the demon.

Fitch wrote:

I regret nothing. No woman with any self-respect would have done less. The question of good and evil will always be one of philosophy's most intriguing problems, up there with the problem of existence itself. I'm not quarreling with your choice of issues, only with your intellectually diminished approach. If evil means to be self-motivated, to live on one's own terms, then every artist, every thinker, every original mind, is evil. Because we dare to look through our own eyes rather than mouth cliches lent us from the so-called Fathers. To dare to see is to steal fire from the Gods. This is mankind's destiny, the engine which fuels us as a race.
— Janet Fitch (White Oleander)
[More quotes by Janet Fitch.]

I am glad Fitch is blogging and we can read her blog as well as her books. It is good Janet Fitch has to feed her demon.

White Oleander and Paint It Black are powerful books. If you want to read some of the best contemporary fiction writing there is. Start there!

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