Posts Tagged ‘books’

The Famous Writer

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

famous writer

Late in 2012, I became Facebook friends with a famous writer. I considered him one of the most talented writers around, a truly unique and brilliant voice. His novels are dark and disturbing but also hilarious.

He not only accepted my friend request, but he sent me a message to say he liked my blog. It was like being blessed by the Pope, only better.

We started to write messages back and forth and exchanged email addresses, We shared a depressed but cynically amused world view and had many of the same literary heroes. We even shared a love/hate relationship with weightlifting.

We decided to talk on the phone. I loved his deep voice and I loved his ideas. Here he was, a living god, and he seemed to really enjoy talking to me.

Our conversations weren’t sexual or even suggestive, but it was like a love affair based on a mutual sensibility. That’s how I saw it.

We talked about suicide and his experience helping a deeply depressed friend. I told him that I was struggling, and his insights were comforting and useful.

He told me about a crazy girlfriend who had shattered his belief in his own judgement. She had bailed on him without warning and married some other guy. I agreed with his diagnosis of her and we spent many hours going over the awfulness of dealing with Borderline Personality Disorders.

We talked about the reasons I haven’t tried to tackle a serious writing project. He encouraged me to take the plunge despite my fear of failure and all the usual bullshit that people who can’t write a novel like to use as excuses for their lack of effort or talent.

Then, he offered to be my writing mentor.

It was like a beautiful dream where everything you ever wanted plots right into your lap! I was beside myself with excitement. And even hope. Now I would write something long, something that needed to be expressed in words, in order to both ensure my sanity and justify my worthless existence.

I started to write the story of Max.

I started with the end and worked backwards. I recounted every detail, trying to capture everything. the terror and shock and grief and remorse and most of all the love.

I sent him the six pages and he was supportive, although not exactly bowled over. He reminded me that you can’t just report things, even in a memoir. You have to create a whole world.

And then he disappeared.

He didn’t respond to my phone messages or emails. There was only silence.

I began to worry that he thought I was a stalker, that’s how many messages I left. I became paranoid, wondering if someone had turned him against me. I regretted writing the six pages of complete shit. How dare I have such an inflated opinion of myself to try to write something that mattered!

Then he reappeared. He was sorry about the long silence but things had been rough. However, now he had exciting news. He was deliriously in love with a much younger women but everything was perfect. She was incredibly talented and beautiful and was about to move in with him. They had only just become lovers but they were picking out name for their children. He would support her while she wrote her masterpiece. I think he even gave her a diamond ring.

I was stunned by his story, especially after the long silence. I tried to be happy for him even though I was pretty sure the romance would end badly for him. After another long silence, he called me to let me know that she’d disappeared. She left the ring but took the high-end clothes he bought for her.

We laughed about the clothes. I felt terrible for him. Two crazy girlfriends in a row, and I mean crazy.

Then he disappeared again. And I decided to forget about him. Maybe he was like my own crazy girlfriend, the one whose red flags I refused to notice.

I didn’t try to finish the Max story. I guess it’s a story to carry in my heart until I see him again.

The Joy Of Trying To Tidy Up

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

SnowWhiteClapping

In my continuing effort to make life livable, I’ve sunk to self-help books. It’s a poignant conundrum. The more you succumb to self-help books, the more of a loser you are, by definition.

Still. I have high hopes for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. a worldwide best seller that makes a bold promise:

In this book, I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.

The book is slim, like The Prophet, and similarly filled with wisdom, only more useful wisdom. I vaguely recall stuff from The Prophet, like your children are arrows and sadness is a well or something. Great.

But compare that to the revelation that everything you own should spark joy. If you pick something up and you don’t feel any joy, YOU DON’T KEEP IT!

It’s such a huge but simple concept. All the shit you’ve acquired is shit that you have to put somewhere and there’s just too much of it. Duh, you know that. But you don’t know how to cull your stuff, and you’ve tried so many times. You can’t get rid of stuff because you paid good money for it, you might need it, you might lose weight. it’s a memento, it was a gift, it isn’t broken, one day you’ll give it to someone.

Anyway, the first brilliant edict from the author, Marie Kondo, that shook me to the core was this:

Don’t demote clothing to ‘lounge-wear.’

Right?!? Even my husband admitted to this practice. If something is too ugly or worn out to wear in public, you put it with your PJ’s.  Ms. Kondo insists that even when you’re at home, you should be wearing something that sparks your joy. Right now I’m wearing a green tank top that I’m going to throw away later tonight, because the color and cut bring me NO FUCKING JOY, none.

It’s that simple.

So, I’m not following Kondo’s instructions to the letter but I’m making a start. I emptied each drawer of my dresser and picked up each item. If there was a distinct No Joy feeling, I made a contemptuous face and threw it on the floor. If there was a ‘meh’ feeling, I hesitated.

But I did collect two bags of shit to throw away. I have to go around the house and do this with everything. It will be exhausting but I think I can eliminate tons of stuff from my amassed belongings, which have become burdensome.

I also got a book for parents whose adult children hate them. It is somewhat comforting.

Throwing shit out is the way to go, the road to harmony and contentment. Maybe the less I need, the less needy I will seem. I will be spartan, disciplined, and self-contained. I will accept no nonsense from green tank tops.

And throwing shit out puts you in a position of power, which is good. Like George Bush said about Donald Rumsfeld, I am The Decider.

Dumbing Down

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

big-ass library

We are packing our shit and preparing to leave our house, the house where nobody likes to throw anything away.

I like the idea of a fresh start, in terms of starting over in a clean empty house and pretending that we’ll learn to not pile things on every available surface. We’ll want to keep things tidy because we’ll be motivated by the nice empty canvass of the nice empty house.

Ha.

But still, I am trying. I’m giving shit away and getting rid of stuff I can live without. So I started getting rid of old books, the kind that are really yellowed with tiny print and smell really musty. Eventually, I had boxes of books to take to the thrift store.

I realized that now when someone visits me, they won’t know I was once smart. They won’t have any idea of how well-read I am! Most of the fiction I bought over the years was in the form of cheap paperbacks, with a few rare exceptions when I felt justified in splurging on a hardback edition. I packed up dozens of wonderful moldy books that I would still recommend to anyone who likes to read.

All that Balzac, Zola, Bronte sisters, Goethe, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Nabokov, Iris Murdoch, Hermann Hesse, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Doris Lessing, Camus, all those great books that helped me to understand human nature while escaping the awfulness of being me.

If you know you’re not going to read those yellowed pages again, why should you keep them? Do people keep enormous ‘libraries’ of books just to remind themselves how much they’ve read? Or because books are too sacred to throw away? I really don’t know the answer. I will still have tons of books that are in good shape, because they’re newer or because they’re big art books made from high quality paper.

But people who meet me now will think I’m some idiot who just reads dictionaries and books about street gangs and mental disorders.

Meanwhile, my mind is now preoccupied with stuff I’ve never thought about in my entire life. Toilet seats! Kitchen cabinets! Media consoles! Wicker porch chairs!

It’s pathetic, these new preoccupations. We even discovered this TV channel where ALL THEY DO is buy houses, knock down walls, and argue about tile! It’s a whole new world, a world I never thought I’d relate to.

And it’s brought me and my husband a new kind of intimacy as we mock those losers who always talk about ‘natural light’ and always, always manage to say the word ‘granite.’

The Steinbeck Overalls

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Steinbeck Overalls APC

“Overalls are back this season.” (I’m just quoting net-a-porter, personally I hate them except on toddlers.)

The Steinbeck overalls in chambray, by A.P.C., are ‘a breathable cotton and linen blend.’  $365

I know this is exactly what Steinbeck had in mind when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath


Charlotte’s Web

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Magnum Opus - Garth Williams

 

Recently, some words from ‘Charlotte’s Web‘ surfaced from my unconscious. (If you’ve never read Charlotte’s Web, I don’t know what you’re doing here. We are probably from different planets.)

When Wilbur sees Charlotte’s egg sac, he asks if it’s a plaything. Charlotte replies:

“It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.” “I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur. “That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte. “It means ‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work – the finest thing I have ever made.”

This is how I feel about my children, how I imagine all mothers must feel about their children. They were my gift to the world. And they are gone, one from the world and one from the nest.

At least Charlotte got to go first. That is the natural order of things. There is no consolation for me, but there is art.

What a wonderful book! It is so full of wisdom. I always thought it was about friendship, but it is also about death. I guess it’s about everything. When I read it to my kids, I remember feeling upset by Wilbur’s panic when he thinks that Charlotte’s children are leaving him.  It triggers my fear of abandonment.

Wilbur was frantic. 'Come back, children!' he cried.

Watching the last season of ‘The Wire’ the other night, I wondered if Templeton, the unscrupulous reporter, was an homage to E.B. White’s Templeton, a rat. Maybe all roads lead to Charlotte’s web.

Here is an excerpt from Eudora Welty‘s review of Charlotte’s Web, written in 1952 (which I found here)

What the book is about is friendship on earth, affection and protection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, pleasure and pain, and the passing of time. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done. What it all proves–in the words of the minister in the story which he hands down to his congregation after Charlotte writes “Some Pig” in her web–is “that human beings must always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.” Dr. Dorian says in another place, “Oh, no, I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.” The author will only say, “Charlotte was in a class by herself.”

~

*illustrations by Garth Williams

An Artist to Love

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Matjames art

 

Matjames Metson is a self-taught artist whose work needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

Each piece is complicated but deliberate, and full of hidden delights. His art is personal but resonates with wonder and mystery.

I met him at his studio and fell in love with him, as did my companions. Matjames is fucking adorable. He told us about his experience of Hurricane Katrina, and showed us the graphic novel he is working on. Each page is a mini-masterpiece of emotion, beautifully crafted with a black Sharpie. He told us about the Sharpies he acquired in the chaos of Katina, when he walked through a looted store where everything was gone but the school supplies.

I can’t wait for his book to be published. Meanwhile, his art is available for sale right now, and will be on exhibit next year at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.

Here is a video where you can see Matjames in his studio. Here is an album of his work on Facebook. Here is his website.

If you collect art or know someone who does, a piece by Matjames Metson will be something to treasure. I really believe that art elevates the soul. My soul was enriched by the radiant sweetness of this talented artist and yours can be too!

avoidance small

 

(c) Matjames Metson

Flannery O’Connor

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Years ago, I read the story A good Man is Hard to Find at the recommendation of a friend. I remember staying up late to finish it, and fighting the urge to call my friend to berate her for failing to warn me about the story’s brutal impact.

Now I’ve just read Flannery O’Connor’s second novel,The Violent Bear it Away with no prompting from anyone and no one to blame for my distress except for the writer’s merciless vision and brilliant prose. Her writing is peculiar, terrifying, and exhilarating. (If you’re thinking about writing fiction, it will certainly take the wind out of your sails.)

Flannery O’Connor is now officially my idol. She is fearless in going after her characters and relentless in probing their twisted relationships with god and/or morality.

Here’s what the poet Robert Lowell says: ”Much savagery, compassion, farce, art, and truth have gone into these stories. O’Connor’s characters are wholeheartedly horrible, and almost better than life. I find it hard to think of a funnier or more frightening writer.” 

I could not agree more. If you’re looking for a book to remove you from your everyday reality and you’re not afraid to explore the dark Southern Gothic heart of the heart of darkness, you could not do better than “The Violent Bear it Away.”  

Let me know if you read it, or if you have any recommendations for me.

Gifts For Him II

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

If you’re shopping for a poseur, this is the best coffee table book ever (not counting the billion dollar Mohammed Ali enterprise by Taschen, of course.) At $1,450, it is a lavish waste of money, the better to showcase his pretensions to coolness.

How awesome is it to add a studded leather cover to this book about leather motorcycle jackets? The only thing better would be to add the word “Moto,” which has somehow been overlooked. Oh well, you can’t have everything, even for $1,450.

Would you like to hear these two douches talk about their book? The one on the left reminds me of Bruno, and the other one is a classically annoying and self-important Brit with a fetish for punk. Go here.

Isn’t it funny how the harder you try to be cool, the uncooler you are?

 

Naomi Wolf’s Vagina

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Poor Naomi Wolf. Once, she was a respected feminist thinker, her book The Beauty Myth staking a place in the second wave feminist pantheon. She was never a radical but she was a person to take seriously. Her recent support of Julian Assange against his female adversaries who accused him of rape was a weird moment, incurring the wrath of many of her peers. I felt sorry for her. But not as sorry as I feel for her now that she’s written a ridiculous love letter to her vagina. Okay, not a love letter; she calls it a biography.

Given the powers she has attributed to her vagina, it should have insisted on writing an autobiography. Maybe the chore of writing is beneath her vagina. It is too exalted, what with being the repository of  her strength, her wellbeing, her life-force and her very soul. Everything necessary for an effective life of a women can be found, not to mention celebrated and worshiped, right there in her vagina!

Naomi Wolf is like a schoolgirl with her first crush, according to reviews of her book, and her crush is her vagina. She seeks affirmation from a vagina guru with  a funny name, who gazes into her eyes and says something like “I see you, I honor you, and I honor your vagina.” But he calls it a yoni, recognizing  its Eastern, mystical essence. Then he calls it a “Goddess.”

FINALLY! A word I can use to describe my female area! I informed my husband that we would now refer to my Goddess as my Goddess. He is on board.

I’m sure Naomi had more than money in mind, ahem, when she came up with the title for her book But my clitoris would like to take issue with her, even though it’s in no mood to write a whole book.  I believe that the clitoris is the one to speak to, the one to revere, the CEO, as it were. Ignore the clitoris and you end up looking for gurus who have funny names and have to gaze into your eyes.

While we wrestle with our shame over poor Naomi’s book, lets keep things in perspective by considering Myrtle Corbin.

Born in 1868, Myrtle married and, possessing two vaginas, she apparently produced 5 children using both sets of organs.  Now what, Naomi?

Stuck

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

I’m thinking of getting a version of this tattoo, just because it makes me smile. I can’t think of anything else to do with myself.

I am almost a vegetable. I stay up all night doing nothing. When I wake up, I do some more nothing. At 3 a.m. I like to watch a TV show called “Morning Joe,” where a loud Republican guy and a nice blonde woman sip coffee and bicker about politics. At this point, I think of them as friends.

I’m reading a book called “Seven Choices: Taking the Steps to a New Life After Losing Someone You love.” I don’t like any of the choices. I’m nearly at the end, at the part where you commit to being a new person with a future you care about.

Easter was difficult. I used to love making baskets for my boys. Max believed in the Easter Bunny for an  unusually  long time. This year, I   forced everyone to listen to my story about driving Max somewhere with his friends, who were impressed with his new Motley Crue   record.   One of them asked where he got it, and he answered: “The Easter Bunny.” No one challenged this. It was such a funny and sweet moment.

When I don’t write, it’s because I can’t stand to think or feel. I can still waste time at Tumblr though. Have a look, if you like. And get back to me about the tattoo.