more like a pen being used

March 31, 2019

Another favourite writer, Jean Rhys, based much of her writing on a turbulent life defined by failed marriages, depression, cruel men and even a period of prostitution. Would she have been the same writer without these experiences? Could she have produced Good Morning, Midnight in a more orthodox environment?

“I want more of this feeling – fire and wings,” Rhys once wrote. When she was working on her autobiography Rhys said she sometimes felt “more like a pen being used than like a person using a pen”. Rhys loved to drink, and obnoxious, opportunistic men who expected gratification in return usually paid for her habit. In Paris she had an affair with Ford Madox Ford (who, it should be noted, encouraged her to write), and he was part of a pattern of lovers who used her up and then tossed her aside, although some continued to give her money afterwards; Rhys did not turn it down. (She got her own back on Ford somewhat by featuring the unhappy relationship in her novel Quartet.)

“I want more of this feeling – fire and wings,” Rhys once wrote. When she was working on her autobiography Rhys said she sometimes felt “more like a pen being used than like a person using a pen”. Rhys loved to drink, and obnoxious, opportunistic men who expected gratification in return usually paid for her habit. In Paris she had an affair with Ford Madox Ford (who, it should be noted, encouraged her to write), and he was part of a pattern of lovers who used her up and then tossed her aside, although some continued to give her money afterwards; Rhys did not turn it down. (She got her own back on Ford somewhat by featuring the unhappy relationship in her novel Quartet.)

NJ McGarrigle

Famous writers and their vices

The Irish Times July 21st 2018

 

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