Friday, June 08, 2012

Tucked In

This recent spate of writing was triggered by what I was reading and a stir up of thought about inner life. The books seemed to talk to each other. It's been a long time since I've felt like I've been in an vigorous relationship with my inner life. That might seem odd since I spend so much time alone but I've been numb and zoned out. I always wonder when the outside world feels so connected and juicy if it's something that's always true and I don't notice. I almost always enjoy what I'm reading but it doesn't always connect the way it has been.
Blood, Bones and Butter is maintaining the trend although somewhat differently. She and have lots of similar experience. We both came to cooking because we needed a job. We both washed dishes, waited tables and worked in less than glamorous restaurants.
There are also differences. She had a French mother who raised a lot of what they ate and taught her how to forage and develop a palate. I had a mother who is afraid to try something because she might not like it. To this day she says she doesn't like curry despite the fact that a friend once served a "delicious" chicken salad, which turned out to be curried. My palate is limited despite my effort to grow it. I'm not fond of the more pungent end of the spectrum.
She struggled in her Masters in Writing Program with the theory, overwrought poetry and a general lack of humor. I struggle in my MFA program for sort of opposite reasons. No theory, a narrow band of style preference legitimatized by attitude.
She was sort of abandoned at a fairly young age. Dad was still there and an older brother but she was digging around in the kitchen trying to figure out how to eat. I was not abandoned but I was a latch key kid waiting for Mom to come home and make dinner. I wish I would have tried to cook more but Mom wasn't that open to it and the few times I did weren't well received.
The book is a good read and the things we have in common are making me smile. There is a way in which her story seems to have led her to be the famous chef and writer that she is and mine led me ... well.
Random and unrelated memories from my life are stirred up after I read. It's a bit of a tumble.
It's been an odd week.
I'm going to tuck in tonight.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


I should have known I wasn't ready to sleep last night. I was wound up from too much coverage of the nightmare in Wisconsin. First the thrill of an engaged electorate and record turnout and then the gut punch. I kept trying to turn it off but hoping for a miracle.
The New Yorker is a Science Fiction edition. I was flipping through it and found a fun piece by Colson Whitehead on his love of horror movies. I do not like horror movies but I do like Colson Whitehead. I had to skim through some of the descriptive detail. Then a short piece by Ursula Le Guin. I started a story by Junot Diaz but had to quit. People were dying of some kind of something. I do not like horror.
So I turned off the light, closed my eyes and imagined myself standing on the steps of the Supreme Court screaming and then imagined my own horror movie in which Emma and the Haymarket martyrs rose up out of their graves and went to the Wisconsin statehouse to wipe that smug, obsequious smile off the Governor.
Yeah. Not sleeping.
I started Bones, Blood and Butter, which might sound like horror but isn't. The story of her family's yearly goat roast mellowed me out enough to try again but I had a bad night. Woke up numerous times to go to the bathroom and once  because of a bad dream. I can't even think about horror movies and not have bad dreams. Woke up in pain. Knew I wasn't even going to try and go to the pool but felt weepy about it.
Made walnut pancakes for breakfast. Made a huge mess and made them too thick so they were hard to cook all the way through. Ate them with raspberries. Good but shoulda been better.
Sulked and pouted.
Eventually cleaned up the pancake mess and mopped the bathroom floor.
Cleaning is good therapy.     

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


I went to sleep fairly early last night, slept for an hour and a half. My dinner (pasta with pieces of left over steak, peas, artichoke, hearts and feta) ( really good) had stalled somewhere in the digestive process and was making me miserable. That combined with assorted aches and pains, a wound up brain and I was wide awake.
I started reading The Men in My Life the other day because when I put Emma on the shelf I saw it and realized I'd never read it. And I thought it might be good to read about some men having just read about so many women in a row. I stopped long enough to read a New Yorker and last night got back to the book. It's a bit problematic because she's adding to my book list. The first essay is about someone I've never heard about and a book I'm not sure I'll read. But maybe. Gornick reread the book every six months for years. The second essay is about someone I've never been interested in reading and a book she rereads every year. She makes both books sound intriguing.
Rereading worries me. There are so many books I still want to read. I never feel I have a enough time to reread. I do know it's a valuable thing to do.
The first time I read In Cold Blood was during a summer in Texas visiting my Dad and stepmother. All there was to read was what was on the shelves. No book store or library in walking distance. I think I might have also read Valley of the Dolls that summer. Not books I would have chosen. The second time I read In Cold Blood was in a class on literary non fiction at New College. The third time was in my MFA program. When I saw the opening scene in the movie Capote I felt like I'd never get away from that story. It's a great book. I'm glad I read it and I'm glad I reread it with an eye for craft but of all the books I might choose to reread it is not even in the top 100.
One year I was staying at a friends house. She had every book Herman Hesse had ever written in bright yellow paper backs all in a row. That kind of thing makes me so happy. I'd read them in high school and loved them particularly Narcissus and Goldmund.  I thought I'd reread them for the same reason I read I.C.B. the first time. They were there. I don't remember which one I picked but I remember thinking it was terrible. I don't remember why. I would actually like to try them again some day.
I set my self the task to reread a bunch of Toni Morrison once. That was good. I had grown as a reader and got so much more from them. I recommended My Family and Other Animals once because I'd loved it so and when the person didn't share my enthusiasm I reread it. He was right. It wasn't great but it was kind of fun. I reread The Color Purple for a class after I'd seen the movie. That was interesting. Three different experiences.
Eventually I got to sleep. Slept a nice big chunk and two shorter chunks.
I left off after her essay on Loren Eiseley, another writer I have not read. Well I think I may have read some essays and a poem or an interview but nothing that stuck with me. In the last few paragraphs she talks about his life long depression and the act of will he exerted to get up every morning and begin to work where "in the widening ring of human choice chaos and order renew their struggle" (Gornick quoting Eiseley) She says it was an act of self creation.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Spoiler Alert

I've been watching The Big C. It's not really driven by suspense or surprise so I don't think I'll be giving anything away. I didn't really like it much at first. I particularly didn't like things involving the Gabourey Sidibe character some of which has evened out. It could be said that the show asks the question: how would you live if you didn't have long to live and in some ways the answers were: spend money. However, it was funny enough and smart enough and the acting was good so I got through the first season and will watch more.
I think another reason I didn't like it was because the main character doesn't tell the people close to her about her illness because she doesn't want to deal with their response. She is surrounded by some particularly self absorbed people, mostly men and the few times she tries to tell them don't go well.
Thing have changed since I turned fifty. I love talking to my friends and for years I had great friends and lots of great conversations. But then my life seemed to stop working. And people stopped calling. I pretty sure I've mentioned that at least one friend said in pretty much these words that my life was too hard for her. It was one of the most hurtful things that ever happened to me and I have not really and truly recovered. Eventually I stopped talking about how I was. If someone asks I say fine.
And for the most part I am fine.
By the end of the first season she's come to realize that she needs to let the people in her life help her and even when that help isn't even close to what she really needs and wants she lets it happen.
I miss talking. There was a time when I was someone who people wanted to talk to and called often. I remember once, years ago, being extremely depressed. A friend called with her own depression and I sort of turned down the volume on my own stuff, talked to her and the minute I hung up went right back into my own depression.
Of all the post fifty changes, the increase in disability, the decrease in ability to digest sugar, the under and unemployment. the anhedonia, of all these things the loss of conversation has been the hardest to accept.
It's not that I never talk. I still have a talk or two. But the impulse to call someone has been squelched. When someone asks me how I am I don't have much to say. I have a place to live. I have food. I have books. I have movies. I'm extremely lucky.
When I was commuting I met a woman who lived a block and and a half away. We'd lived that close for many years and never met until we were on the same bus and train. From the minute we met we talked and talked and talked. Sometimes on Fridays she'd say something about getting together and we'd both be up for the idea but then almost simultaneously we'd say but not this weekend. We knew we'd enjoy getting together but we valued our time off and time alone. Most of my friends have jobs and families and life is a constant to do list. I know that many people love me and may even think about calling but the day goes by and it falls off the list. It's not about me. I know that in my head. But it feels like I'm just not as compelling as I once was. And, in truth, I also still value time alone.
So that part of the show rankled. I feel like it's an imbalance in my life and I need to sort it out a bit more. I'm just not sure how.
Just before I turned off the television last night I saw that Crystal Palin has a show coming up. Nothing should be surprising about reality TV but it hit me in some weird way.
And then I was reading a short story by Lorrie Moore in The New Yorker in which one of the characters says: do you ever wonder why so many people have things they don't deserve but how absurd all those things are to begin with?
Yes. Yes I do.