I recently said, “Eventually all is pentimento and palimpsest; truth is in the muddle.” The sentiment was prompted by feeling the too familiar sting of having been misunderstood, my words taken the wrong way, having given offense. Too, I am living many lives at once, layers of me, disconnected, what people know of me at wild variance, much divergent pieces of me out in much divergent worlds, and I wonder if there is a whole picture, an entire Charlie, somewhere. If I wrote his story, told the story that made me all these layers, how many people would have cavils and disagreements with it? Quite a few, I know, just from my recent history during which I have been surprised, horrified, delighted, appalled, shocked, comforted, terrified, elated, saddened, and gobsmacked by the stories I have heard have been told about me (which is another issue entirely, that “friends” feel the need to tell one these horrors, which is why I stay in my batcave most of the time, contenting myself with Twitter-folk and books), by the things people have felt free to say and do to me. And I am but a small, unknown person here in the hinterlands. What if I had been someone famous? Someone published? Which gave me to think of those books that introduced me to the words pentimento and palimpsest. Thus, this.
I was in my early teens when first I read Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento. I do not remember what made me need the book, but there definitely was a compelling reason for its acquisition, because, back then, I did not yet have the luxury of stacks of to-be-read nor regular access to a reasonably stocked library. I had only a small allowance from which could be acquired one paperback every two weeks if I bought nothing else — near impossible for an early teen, even one as reading obsessed as was I — and my aunt, Sissie, who bought me books whenever we managed to reach a bookseller together, which was less than one (this one) would have liked as neither of us drove and the nearest bookstore was in Frederick, an impossible fifteen miles away.
I suspect the purchase had to do with Hellman’s as yet unsullied reputation as defender of free speech and heroine of the HUAC-revolt. I fancied myself a revolutionary at the time because I was secretly (or, undeclared – it wasn’t, in retrospect, much of a secret) homosexual but planned to rise up and change the world. Mind you, those changes had nothing to do with gay marriage or equal rights, but, rather, an amorphous, gender-free ever-after in which it would be possible for me to play Fanny Brice in the revival of Funny Girl. In the end (and please, let the end come sooner rather than later) my revolution has been Continue reading