The Making of a Writer, Volume 2
The second installment of Gail Godwin’s journals traces her life and career from London to Iowa.
My college writing professor, Blanche McCrary Boyd, would tell us that she had big plans for her journals, involving kerosene and a match. She maintained that (a) writers need a place to be completely uncensored, and (b) the only way to be sure that your private writing stayed that way was to torch the lot of it before shuffling off this mortal coil. (The recently published novel that Nabokov never wanted to have see the light of day and the ongoing court cases involving Kafka’s writings would seem to back her up.)Skip to next paragraph
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Three-time National Book Award nominee Gail Godwin has gone a different route, releasing two volumes of her journals and allowing readers an unbelievably generous look at the decade of her life before she published her first novel, “The Perfectionists,” at age 32.
I say unbelievably generous, because in the journals Godwin isn’t afraid to let her fans see her youthful self at her most insecure and selfish.
Volume 1, which was published in 2007, opens with her being fired from The Miami Herald, apparently for being too ambitious; carries her through a brief marriage and waitressing jobs in North Carolina to raise money to travel; and leaves her in Europe, where she travels to both London and Copenhagen, Denmark, determined to become a great writer.
The Making of a Writer, Volume 2 opens where Volume 1 left off, with Godwin still living in London and working at the US Travel Service. “I have been places I lusted to be in. I have had the job I wanted, the independence, the money to spend, the glamour, the change, the complete freedom to be as selfish as I like. I look slightly less young, more drawn in the face, but better groomed. I have read a lot more books much more thoroughly. I have still not become a great writer.”
The first part of Volume 2 shows her playing it safe with a job she disliked (“I thought I should no more be doing this job than raising skunks”) while continuing to distract herself from her goal with a wide variety of men (also a theme in Volume 1). “I used to say: Just let me get this man in the bag, then I’ll write. It doesn’t work that way,” she writes, while still hopping from man to man.
She has affairs with, among others, a Wrigley heir and an Australian, dates a policeman, and gets engaged to a British rugby player before abruptly marrying a psychoanalyst.
(Godwin was also reading a lot of Jung, so there are many descriptions of her dreams. Sadly, unless you are Nostradamus, the only people who are going to find replays of your dreams anything other than tedious are yourself and your psychotherapist.)