Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ada Ludenow

Where do I start? As you may have read, Ada has her own opinions about me, and so in all fairness I told her that I should be posting her general description. She begrudgingly agreed, but remarked:

"Self-description walks a razor's edge between offensive narcissism and boring modesty, so perhaps you should do it."

As mentioned elsewhere, I met Ada at Richard Hugo House, back in the old building in the Alice Classroom. (Don't bother asking her about the Old Hugo House, you'll just get a recitation of Shelley's "Ozymandias" and some quote from Heraclitus or Lao-Tzu). We were taking a prose poetry class together and one night after class we started discussing books and writing. We seemed to have a natural affinity for one another, but no, it definitely isn't like that.

First, imagine you're an only child, and then you find out you have a sibling you've never met. More importantly, this sibling is almost exactly the same age and even grew up in the same city. Now imagine that this sibling is a little older (by minutes) than you and is a lot smarter and better looking. You realize you've met the bossy older sister you always didn't know you had.

It's like that.

Getting the real story out of her takes some work. If you've read The Nightingale's Stone you'd think she was born in Northern Germany in some Hanseatic City. No, she was born in Sacramento, like me, and went to El Camino High School.

Ada's family heritage is rich and mysterious. Her mother's side she knows fairly well. In the last version I heard, her grandfather had emigrated from Germany to work in a brewery in Mexico. He met her grandmother there and the two eloped to the United States. They had three children. Ada's mother, her beloved Uncle and a problematic Aunt. The family was Catholic, nominally, because, as she puts it "a great deal of German Pietism had crept in under cover of darkness. I was raised in believing that God's will was expressed in the Categorical Imperative."

Ada's father is something of a mystery though. Her mother met him as a student in Europe, and Ada has never gotten the full story of who he is. Wherever he was from, he got her mother pregnant and then disappeared as soon as that became evident. Ada's mother returned to Sacramento and Ada popped into the world in Sutter General Hospital on June 6th, 1970. "So I share a birthday with Thomas Mann and Aleksandr Pushkin. Literature has saturated my life since my conception since my mother supposedly named me after Vladimir Nabokov's Ada, or Ardor which was sitting on my father's bedroom bookshelf. I suspect he never read it but had it there to appear impressive. But please, I prefer the American pronunciation."

One thing you'll notice straight away with her is a precociousness for language. She speaks German and knows enough Spanish and Latin to get into trouble. She majored in Philosophy at the University of California at Davis and graduated with a BA. Her thesis was a convoluted screed interpreting Wittgenstein and Heidegger through a Hegelian dialectical framework. The less said about that the better, but it still seems to inform her work.

She left California to attend the University of Washington and wound up getting her MA in English with a Critical Theory emphasis. At that point something happened that derailed her academic career. I won't reveal too much now, since she tackles some of it in our Hagengard Studio's newer work 34 Views of Hyperborea. Suffice to say there was some sort of scandal with a tenured professor. I suspect this event prompted her getting her tattoos.

Ada hasn't said much about the years immediately afterward. "You'll get the text in due time." But I do know at 27 she went on a long trip to Europe. She met someone in Germany who I think you will find in a heavily "fictionalized and coincidental" form in the person of Modran from The Nightingale's Stone. I'll leave it at that, since the book is obliquely frank about the outcomes of that affair. She then traveled through France and Italy before going to Japan for a while to teach English. Afterwards she returned to Seattle and settled down into the typically quotidian and uncertain existence of a temp and administrative professional. It was toward the end of this period when I met her. She was tired of writing the words of others and finally wanted to write her own.

Ada's taste in literature is wide and you can see the effects of this in her work. Fortunately, she has learned not to overwrite it as much as she did in the past. You'll never get her to say she's a Poet, although poetry informs much of her work, especially that of the T'ang Dynasty. She's spoken highly of H.D., Jorge Luis Borges, Angela Carter, Anne Carson, Louise Erdrich, and Haruki Murakami, which I know is true since I've seen their books on her shelf. But she is widely read so that's just a very brief scratch on the surface. And, for better or worse, that love of German Philosophy still colors (taints, may be a better word) much of her writing. She likes electronica and modal jazz, but also has a taste for Ranchero music, Chopin and especially Belle and Sebastian.

Physically, she's pretty much what you see in the artwork. As far as I can tell, she's one of those people who never saw the need to change hairstyles. Ada might seem a bit on the thin side, part of which is because she's six feet tall. But let me tell you, she's very strong and usually starts her day with a long run and some sort of yoga/pilates thing which she lamely calls her "stretch toning for the body and the mind." I know she could break my fat ass like a toothpick so I usually let her call the shots insofar as… well, everything concerning this enterprise of ours.

(if you want to drop her a line, feel free to do so: ada dot ludenow at gmail dot com)

David Mecklenburg

David is my amanuensis, illustrator and most annoyingly, my editor.

As Samuel Marchbanks once said of editors:

"Editors are at best disagreeable fellows, professional contradicters and sassers back. An editor of any degree of experience becomes incapable of complete agreement with anyone, and he reads the dictionary so much that he always knows more nasty names for any particular offence than the man who has committed it."

It was David who excised many of the interesting anecdotes, piercing observations and necessary explanations that once graced my rough drafts. When I argued that such informative and entertaining pieces should not be relegated to the rubbish-heap, he rudely suggested that perhaps I should put my commentaries in an unmentionable place. I, on the other hand, being of a more practical mind and forbearing temperament, suggested that we find some other place to put the divers writings that rounded out the world I live in.

You are browsing the results of my sagacity.

To give him some credit, David assists me with many of the translations and research that appear in this Webtraption. A fair to middling writer himself, he never really amounted to very much until we formed our partnership.

Nevertheless, he is relentlessly competent, useful at need, and ferociously adequate. He is a fairly good cook and passable when it comes to helping me out with the technical aspects of our endeavors. By day, David works as a mid-level bureaucrat in a Certain Local Government, and as such bears many similarities to the Hallwards that work and toil away to make sure the Free and Hanseatic City of Hagen continues to be a place where a few others make much more money than he does. I believe the term he uses is Project Manager.

He has a website, which you can look at, although I am not entirely in agreement with his presentation of me or my works.