This has been an absurd week of endless (and exhilarating) blog-touring, interviews, and reviews. Emlyn Chand, who runs Novel Publicity, is a wonderful gal and I encourage those who want a seriously fun way to increase their book’s profile to hit her up with questions about availability. I would not recommend her unless I was convinced of her excellence. I am recommending her, and Novel Publicity in general.
Friday, the tenth of August, 2012, is the final stretch of this weeklong insanity. And what Emlyn usually sets up is a kind of contest. It’s where she gets people involved in a small but meaningful way — they enter the contest, and if they get picked as the winners, they get Amazon gift cards for Kindle books or whatever. Promote a book, get new books, seems the be the mindset.
In all honesty, I was uncomfortable with the idea of contests from the start, because I didn’t want to make a joke out of my mother’s death and the book that came from it. But Emlyn understood that, and we’ve tailored things in a way that suits me, suits the contestants, and stays true to the way Novel Publicity does things.
So here’s the contest. Anyone — including you, and your neighbors, and even the bin Laden family — can participate. The point is to share, in the comments section on this page, a story about your mother, or the woman who helped raise you if you didn’t get to grow up with your mother. What we’re looking for is stories that reveal how you, in your personal circumstances, discovered in your mother that old universal truth: even the grownups make mistakes. Even your parents are capable of being wrong, of being sad.
In short: Please share a story about your mother that lets us know something about her as a person in her own right.
Something she did that you admire. Something she did that ended up being a big mistake. Whatever you think conveys the fragility of the person wearing the mask of Mother.
I believe the way we’re doing this is that the most “touching” or “moving” story will win its author a $100 Amazon gift card. There will also be a randomly selected second winner; that’s a $50 Amazon gift card.
If you feel like reading a bit more from me, I just dug up an older version of Praise of Motherhood, and thought I’d share the original ending, the last full page of the “second version” of the book. It’s different in tone, it’s less polished, it’s ultimately less “good” but I think it might interest a few of the people who loved the final verison…
We probably all know the special kind of person who exposes herself so much that nobody can inform her of her flaws, because she already knows about them. She has spent her life dissecting herself, letting her wounds fester and urging people to stare at her scars; she doesn’t do it out of narcissism, but as an escape from the horror of having to hide things, the shock of having one’s failures pointed out. For if she gets there first, if she reveals everything there is to her before anyone else can discover it, then she can remain a purely empty being, transparent and irreproachable despite her morbidity. Since our only substance is what we keep hidden, a person like this can be without any defining features, and so infinitely interpretable. I do not want to be this person. I want to feel allowed to express only what I want to express. I can say much more about my mother — I can say more about myself, about my insecurities and my failings, but enough is enough.
I don’t want to turn the disappearance of my mother into a metaphysical tragedy, when in fact it was nothing more than the tragedy of the physical, the impermanent, the sickness that devours life merely because life gets so crowded in itself. There is simply so much of it there: so much noise, so many brutal quarrels and partnerships and achievements. There is no end to the insanity of the living, and it breeds so many possibilities for the great humbling of mankind that to think of it feels like staring into the abyss. Better not to go there; better never to be born.
The night my mother stopped being there, I saw myself rendered into a thing incapable of distinguishing life from death, unable even to register her absence. There was no opposition between here and not-here, no difference between alive and forever gone: at all times my mother was both there and nowhere, still a visible body but not something with which anyone could communicate. I can admit to having felt a pleasant thrill when I realized she was gone: the thrill of life, of being awakened after many somnambulistic wanderings through the world, my mother’s hand steering me clear of pitfalls and puddles. Better never to be born? Not that day. It was the first time I felt entirely removed from my own consciousness. The liberating potential of your most cherished one’s death should not be kept a secret. It forces you to behave according to new standards, to live as though only through you could that person continue to exist, to act as though you alone can bring them back to life through your good and your evil.
It terrifies me, but there is nothing like being left behind when the next destination is a ravenous nothing.