The Importance of Being Eileen
Eileen Myles, my favorite writer in the whole world living or dead, read at Modern Times bookstore Wednesday night. It’s now Friday and I haven’t gotten around to writing about it because I keep being paranoid that I have swine flu and taking to my bed at embarrassing hours. I think I am just exhausted from those tours I was on. Eileen has been traveling the entire world reading from her newest book, The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art. Wednesday night she read from the title essay, which recounts her visit to the Iceland, a country she really loves, and her adventures staying in Roni Horn’s water library, where water from Iceland’s 12 melting glaciers are displayed in tubes I imagine to look like really expensive mineral water bottles. Eileen gets mud and grass all over the tranquil space and that is what is the best about Eileen, her writing is like that, it trails the mud and grass of her boots all over everything, calling everyone’s attention to what is missing from pristine environments metaphorical, literal and literary – bodies, her body, probably your body, certainly my body. Eileen’s writing makes a mess, and nothing is hidden. I mean her process is transparent, she leaps from thought to emotion and all the way back around, taking you for a ride on her tangents, like her mind is the most excellent roller coaster and lucky you, you get to belt yourself in and come along. Eileen considers and mucks up the water library, she rolls her luggage through gravel pondering the way she travels — like a very young person or an unprotected old person? She hitches a ride with a farmer through the rolling Icelandic countryside, she details the Icelandic tradition of epic poetry, and her reports come to us strained through the whole of her, detailed by a New Englander, a poet, a New Yorker, a dyke, the scramble of her altering the landscape as she delivers it to us.
I trust Eileen Myles’ writing more than anyone’s. She’s just so honest, she’s not afraid to make a goon of herself so she is utterly unafraid to call bullshit on any number of things, to recount moments painful or triumphant. She has a great piece about coming up against menopause and her car starts fritzing out like it too is having hot flashes and they’re in it together. She pitched it to all these magazine and no one wanted it but thank god she wrote it anyway, she just trusted it would find a home and it did, this collection I’m telling you about. Other pieces have been published, like the narrative about flossing her teeth, it’s about class, that one, because teeth are absolutely a class thing. Whether or not you have them, the shape they’re in, etc. You know, how dreams of losing your teeth are supposedly about money, they totally are, right, and this is really Eileen’s terrain. One of many of her terrains. She wrote about sleeping in a cardboard box designed for homeless people, that was in Nest, that great interiors magazine that went under, RIP. She writes a bunch about the filmmaker Sadie Benning, there are a ton of art pieces in the collection, though my favorite are the section titled Talks. I love listening to Eileen talk, period, just ruminate on anything and then when they get shaped into deliberate essays like these, part essay part dharma talk part philosophy part wandering total poetry – amazing. Eileen is so cool, the band Japanther just had her come into the studio and record one of her poems so they can wrap their sound all around it. Basically, I think you should buy this book immediately. You’ll feel smarter by the end of it, smarter and like a better person actually, like your heart got opened up alongside your mind. Yeah.