In the late 90s, after my parents died, I had a long time when I could not write. Nor could I read. But I could flip through books. It was like a physical thing I was used to. I got a bunch of free or cheap old books from junk shops or waste sites and began to go through and mark them up. This was ages before they were called “erasures”; I just called them “cut n paste,” like, from childhood.
I had one book called The Mortal Storm and I turned it into The Mortal S and made it about my mortal dead parents.
In the early 2000s I wrote a two-act play called The Toaster which was about a dead mother and her two adult kids. The play was produced once in Seattle and it was great—great acting and clean, spare, beautiful production by New City Theater. I had all these draft pages of the play around and I wanted to make them alive again somehow so I painted on them. Did I hope, when I made them, they would help me get passed grief? Surely I couldn’t have been that naive or hopeful?
I notice now that the word “never” is pinked over a bunch in The Toaster page, as if like, never never never never never oh when.
Rebecca Brown is a novelist, essayist, playwright, artist, and professor. Her books include The Haunted House (Picador, 1994), The Terrible Girls (Picador, 1990), The Gifts of the Body (HarperCollins, 1995), The End of Youth (City Lights, 2003), American Romances (City Lights, 2009), and Not Heaven, Somewhere Else (Tarpaulin Sky, 2018), amongst others. Forthcoming in March 2022 from Chatwin Books is You Tell the Stories You Need to Believe. She lives in Seattle.