Thursday, 15 March 2012

Can you no more refuse him than the earth can refuse the rain?

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, by Elizabeth Smart along with By Heart: Elizabeth Smart - A Life, by Rosemary Sullivan
Have you ever been engulfed by a romance so passionionate that you lose yourself, and then he goes and dumps you?  In Elizabeth Smart’s  classic novella, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, the young woman describes her loss of self when the poet takes her under a waterfall: she “could no more refuse than the earth can refuse the rain".   How romantic is that?
From the moment she finds his book of poetry she is so smitten that she dedicates herself to finding him, and bringing him to her.  She finances his trip to North America, lays herself down at his feet, has ‘welcome’ tattooed onto her forehead and finally gets dumped at the train station in New York, pregnant, penniless and alone.
This beautiful piece of writing was not fiction in Smart’s mind.  She saw it as autobiography.  If you are reading this for literature therapy, or bibliotherapy,  you must read Rosemary Sullivan’s  By Heart: Elizabeth Smart - A Life because it objectively picks up where Smart dropped herself off on the train platform.  We find out the extent to which the smitten Smart follows this man, goes on to have his numerous children, and is ruthlessly exploited by the cad.  Even so, you can’t help but wistfully wish you were her, because she does live her life so vividly.  No half measures, no hand wringing!  But these two books combined can bring on a more lucid understanding of how romantic love can blind one, and clarity is always a good cure for finding your way to you.  If you only read Smart's novella, you could be led down quite the garden path.  If it's healing you want, read Smart's first, then Sullivan's.

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