Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Smoking Is For Sissies.

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I quit smoking.

That's an embarrassing confession. Mostly because I had to accept that I had started again. I had quit for a year and a half, and in November I started again while spending a month in New York performing in my play, Spain.

An interesting thing happened for me when I revisited an earlier work (SPAIN). I found the experience quite painful. I find the play painful and mediocre, and the role I was playing felt trite and insignificant. I feel equally clear about the psychology behind these reasons, but the actual experience of forcibly asking myself to have empathy with my past-self, to exist within a former context of myself, drove me towards a mild-insanity. To cope, I began smoking again. It was a difficult time. Very complicated. Bad because I was aware that I had been slowly destroying myself again with cigarettes, and also because I was consistently aware of how many parts there are of myself that I still have yet to accept and love. And now, here I am, day three of being a non-smoker, and I am once again fighting with my former-self to make way for the present and the future.

My chest is burning, and I feel like I'm coughing up angry blood and guts and bones. Somewhere in there are floodgates that are trying to de-frag. I can feel that too.

It is fascinating to recognize that because of reading Camus, I've been thrust into an existential version of myself ... and that version could not longer, in good faith, smoke cigarettes without an absolute self-loathing and fear. And so, really, I have Camus to thanks for this. Too much consciousness. Each cigarette lit and smoked became a manifestation of everything unhealthy in my subconscious that I am trying not to provoke. When really, I should be doing the exact opposite? Shouldn't I? Isn't that where the art comes from?

Where DOES the art come from?

I'm not actually going to explore than question, though I would love your responses. I will, however, say that I had a very nice Passover. It made me wonder why I/WE/PEOPLE don't have more structured dinner-parties. Wouldn't it be fabulous to invite a group of people together for a dinner party and read and novel together? Or perhaps a play? I'd love to know what the most creative dinner parties you've been to were. I was really inspired by the first Seder I was at this year. There were some great questions flying around the table, and I've been thinking a lot about freedom.

What is Freedom, and why do we value it so much? Do people really want to be free, or do we just THINK they do? A friend recently talked to me of his belief that humans are an evolution of the pack animal. We speak of individuality, etc, etc, but really, we are habitualized to move in packs. Find a strong enough leader who speaks with enough conviction, and we'll have a tendency to listen and follow. Why? Is it relief? "Ah. Thank-God. Finally there is someone to tell us what to do."

Alright. That is all for now.

Anybody got a good story about Freedom or Slavery?


The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Michael Rubenfeld

Michael Rubenfeld is a writer, director, actor and producer. His plays include Present Tense, Spain and My Fellow Creatures.

Go to Michael Rubenfeld’s Author Page