This’ll explain it, perhaps well enough. Last night I sent Bojana a note, a few hours before the curtain went up on her M.M. play down in Melbourne. It began:
Twenty-six years ago, I opened a book, skimmed the first page, turned the second, read a few words, then felt it: I’d put my finger into an electrical socket. I went back and read every word I’d skimmed, and felt a personality of a kind I’d never felt, as it rose up from the page before me, confronting me with its unrepeatable pure electric light. I knew very soon thereafter that I had to bring her back.
Tonight, you go out and premiere your possession of that same woman – and your possession by her.
In those twenty-six years, Mary MacLane has never been very far from me. As when I wrote She and I, I would often pretend to do other things – I would even sit about and talk like other people, visit with them, sip coffee. I even wrote the said book, pretending to be there. But really, there was always the Presence, on my shoulder, in my gut or will or what-have-you, wanting doing. Wanting – needing – calling – insisting. Patient, and yet demanding the moment.
Such Presences, in short, want everything. And, as with other relationships, it can be the making of one’s life to give them all.
And now my book is coming out, the book that returns M.M.’s writing to the world, for the first time the vast majority of it gathered together along with introductions that sketch out her life. It’s a long distance, from that afternoon in 1985, to now, and yet no time at all. And the Presence is still with me.
I ended my note thus:
Give her a toast for me, tonight, after. There’s no one I’d rather see doing this than you.
And now the reviews begin to come in – of the play, not the book yet, though a limited set is for sale at the theatre – and the Herald-Sun reviewer says: “She is in vogue again a century later.” For a quarter-century, she’s been my shoulder-friend – and is by no means gone yet.