irenegro (irenegro) wrote,

hermetic seal on my marriage

While researching this piece, I got to know some of my old heroes, including Don DeLillo, and I became aware of belonging not just to the two-person team of me and my wife but to a much larger and still-vital community of readers and writers. To whom, as I discovered, crucially, I also had responsibilities and owed loyalty.

Once the hermetic seal on my marriage had been broken in these ways, things fell apart quickly. By the end of 1994, we each had our own apartment in New York and were finally leading the single lives we probably should have had in our twenties. This ought to have been fun and a liberation, but I was still feeling nightmarishly guilty. Loyalty, especially to family, is a foundational value for me. Loyalty unto death had always given meaning to my life. I suspect that people less encumbered by loyalty have an easier time being fiction writers, but all serious writers struggle, to some extent, at some point in their lives, with the conflicting demands of good art and good personhood.

As long as I was married, I’d tried to avoid this conflict by remaining technically antiautobiographical—there’s not a single scene drawn from life in either of my first two novels—and by constructing plots that were preoccupied with intellectual and social concerns.

Jonathan Franzen - Farther Away
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