On planes

Travelling is a bit of smash into a seat next to a window that doesn’t open.  I want to do big things but I’m often wearing the wrong dress.  Why are people so mean? I think walking around NY.  I’m not envious of a city that brings out the mean in people, but I miss the city as soon as I’m gone, the hurl and thick of it.  The light slanting down through the buildings the women who look like they are walking on stilts. And the literary world with its boxes and socks of taste so much better than your taste, so much more delicious. Who are you if you haven’t read so and so? It’s as if the unread book gives someone the right to look down on that person, way down because they haven’t read what you read.  Oh shut up, I think, eat your sausage and bread, your cheese and bananas.  But I like the peculiar world of books.  I’m a kid obsessed with the crackerjack box and the toy at the center. The toy is story.

Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Life is a mess

Life is messier than you expect it to be.  Maybe we all watch too many movies, In the movies, life is less messy, but things get sorted.  I’m writing this on a plane back from China, and I’m thinking about the messy parts.  If I could straighten out all the dirty muddy parts, would life be boring?  I think not.  I could sustain a life of boring for a few minutes now and then.

Even when I’m out walking Jasper, there is some drama.  Jasper gets all up on his game when he hears yappy dogs.  Jasper wants to put a stop to the yapping.  Jasper likes having an egg in the morning, shell and all.  He sucks the egg.  He taps it with is paw a bit and then finally breaks it.  There is egg all over the pavement and shells.  That’s the kind of mess that gets cleaned up.  “Eggs is easy,” we used to say meaning that when you broke them, you could clean them up.

Other parts of a life when they get messy just won’t clean up.  You still got the mess.  My house isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be.  But it could be.  I could clean up; but that’s a house.  It’s not a life.  Life is more like a forest that’s been growing for a long time and a lot of trees have fallen down; there are stumps all over the place.  A lot of ferns growing and hand size white fungi growing from the trees.  Then you decide to clean up the forest; but it’s a big beautiful mess of leaves, trees, sometimes there’s even an old car or a pair of shoes half covered with the leaves.  You can’t clean up a forest, and you don’t really want to.  A house sure.  My one beautiful life is a bit of a mess, a tangle in there.  You look through the wet and trees, you see the ferns, and the wet stumble of branches.  I can’t remember when.  When everything was untangled.

Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still thinking about China

Do you think I’ll make something of myself? I asked the adults at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen. “Not for all the tea in China,” they said. I wondered how much tea I was up against.

I remember digging pits in the sand.  “What are you doing?” the adults said.  “Trying to dig to China?”

I wanted to visit China, see the wall, the Forbidden City, see if I could sell some books at the Beijing Book Fair.  Off to China. The publishers smart and funny.  The Chinese very friendly and warm.  The book fair was lovely.

Then the Wall.  Which did not keep anybody out.  There is even a Traitor’s Gate where the traitor opened the door to the barbarians.  Hadrian’s Wall didn’t keep out the Scotts and the Great Wall didn’t keep out the invaders from the north.  Barbarians will batter down the gates, you can count on it.  What they say about the wall.  “It wasn’t a complete failure.  It did keep the Mexicans out of China.”

The climb to the wall at Mutinanyu took about thirty minutes.  The stairs going straight up.  Then we walked to where the wall was blocked off, the last part of the climb was staggering, a fierce 45 degree angle climb forever. Two of our party didn’t make it.  I’m pleased to say that I successfully made the climb.  By the end of the day, I couldn’t even eat dinner.  I would have liked a hot tub.  My legs felt like jellyfish.  The wall is a monument to human arrogance, but still a thread of beauty through the trees.

Then the Forbidden City, vast and crouching in the middle of Beijing.  You don’t  get a sense of what it was like to live there because it’s so massive.  The garden with hits huge piles of rock between the trees, the elaborate ceilings.  A fantastical palace for a series of emperors ending with one strange child who never got a chance to rule, but practiced cruelty on the eunuchs who served him, flogging them, making them eat dirt.

The wrapped duck, the fiery fish, the food was amazing.  China was worth digging for.  Next time I’m on a beach, I’ll make a castle.  Not like the Forbidden City, where one unhappy cruel child lived.  My castle will be for everyone.

China is fascinating.  Is it the most powerful country in the world?  Not yet.




Published in: on September 17, 2018 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Books and wild

Circe by Madeline Miller is a stunning book. I couldn’t stop reading the story of Circe.  Everyone should read this book; it’s the dawn of civilization. The beginning of religion.

And then I read Michael Ondatjee’s Warlight.  Of abandoned children; of war and life, of death and winter. Of water and the things we move on the water.  Of dogs and blood and mothers who go away.

And then we watched Annihilation with its brilliance and summer, thick wet and strong light, the ferns and strange creatures, of the girl who wanted. The movie was like the opening of a door into a platform of that transcends everything that’s dull about our world.

Published in: on August 5, 2018 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ashland, Ohio

Ashland is wet, there are fireflies, in the morning the dew waits on the grass.  I’m walking in the woods every day and the clouds come in.  The students here are open like the sky.  I am eating avocados every day.  Writing is a kind of long dive, like a peregrine falcon dives and then you find the earth staring back at you.

Published in: on July 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bad Movies on long plane rides

Nights in Rodanthe—Diane Lane seems to have a knack for romantic comedies.  In this one, she has a thing with Richard Gere.  Stuff I liked:  she puts her kids first.  Once she falls in love, the kids are still the top of her brain, she knows it only works with her new lover if it works for her kids.  I don’t like it when people fall in love, and the kids become secondary.  Also the daughter was a great character.  Mostly the movie was predictable.  Wanker ex. New lover comes into picture predictably rich and best friend who is a person of color.


A Little Something on Your Birthday…

Sharon Stone falls in love with the actor who played the bad guy in Ghost, Tony Goldwyn.  I didn’t even know that guy was still acting.  He is.  Sharon plays a single over the top fashion designer who can’t manage to figure out how to plan a wedding once they are finally together and engaged.  Also in this one, a best friend who is a person of color. Hubby-to-be says that she didn’t want to get married at the Chateau Marmont.  Are you kidding me? Or the Bel Air Club, I’ve been to a wedding there, it’s fancy.  The movie is so exaggerated, so over the top.  Sharon looks great in a bikini, let me emphasize that.  She is in ridiculously good shape.  But the movie slipped off the reality train.  I’d like to see Sharon in a movie about Amelia Earhart.  If I were writing a movie with her as the as the main character, I’d make her the hero.


Published in: on July 24, 2018 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Private Property, Mary Ruefle

In the squash and longing, Ruefle’s language steams up the windows.  I remember being in a car, kissing so long that the heat pushed back.  It’s like that.  Her brain and ideas sizzling along the floor and tendrils coming up the stoop of your house and into the front door and the back.  “When I wander in the forest, I am drawn toward language,” she writes.  The fissures into elegance are everywhere in this book.  A rain of wild.  The only part that confused the owl part of my brain which flies at night and can see the difference between a bat and a bird was the description of menopause which made universal the personal.  I cannot tell you what childbirth will be like for you, but for me, it was quick and painful and the second child, my boy, was born after twenty minutes at the hospital.  It was 8:20 am.  I was home for lunch at noon.  His father brought me bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions and capers just like I liked my bagels back when I allowed myself to eat bagels which was a long time ago.  But that was me, maybe your birth experience will be different, maybe you’d prefer donuts to bagels.  Maybe you find smoked salmon fishy and capers annoying, their little green selves sliding about the plate.  But Ruefle is in the smoky char of thingness with this book, into the project of sadness and shrunken heads.  I’d follow

Published in: on July 19, 2018 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Jasper loves eggs.

Elizabeth Warren has a dog named Bailey, who, like Jasper looks like he will be big.  She resisted the name Scarapooche suggested by a voter and went with Bailey.  Jasper is larger than expected.  We wonder about his final weight.  Already, it is clear that he could pull a small sled.  In case of the zombie apocalypse (and what other kind of apocalypse is there?) he could pull us to safety.  I want Jasper to see snow this winter, to feel himself bounding through drifts.  I can see his webbed paws floating over huge mounds of white.  Right now his great loves are eggs and digging.  His second loves are shoes and socks.  So far, we always get them out of his mouth in time.  It’s a big mouth. I miss him right now. And my husband too.

Published in: on July 17, 2018 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment  

New York

Speaking at Columbia University at Pulitzer Hall on publishing today.  I never thought I would write those words.  After New York, back to Nebraska, then Kentucky, then Fresno, then Ohio. I like the lilt of travel, treading the footbridges that connect airplanes to airports.  In the airports, there is a flow of human travel and much unpleasant expensive food and some good food which is often hard to find. I strive not to eat in the airports. I don’t want my stomach to become a stockpile of sugary carb goodies.  When you travel, you are surrounded by people and yet are completely alone, as if you were a inside your own egg.  You and your seatmates stay in the chalk lines of your tiny pod.  I am going from one lily pad to the next but today is New York.

Published in: on July 16, 2018 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Julian Barnes, The Only Story

Julian Barnes, The Only Story is a love story, a young man’s love story.  Spoiler alert. He loves the woman his mother’s age, and they start an affair over tennis that moves into their living together in a flat.  What they don’t do is create a life together.  He lives there and goes to college.  She just lives there.  When she was married to her abusive husband with her two daughters, she played tennis, ignored the abuse as best she could and survived.  But without anything to do, she becomes an alcoholic and eventually he dumps her back to one of her two daughters and goes abroad. He manages to live a boring uneventful life never finding love again because the fleeting shadow of love he once scrambled to find eludes him.  Considering how strange human beings are, it’s amazing any of us ever find big love.  A lot of people fell in love, got married, fell out of love but manage to keep a strange coexistence together indefinitely.  I know a few couples who are inside a happy love affair, I wish all of us luck on the boat of love, the big love affairs are not easy.  This book didn’t quite do it for me.  Julian Barnes is a fantastic writer, I’ll keep thinking about it, I think it will keep haunting me, and that’s something. What if you made the wrong turn in your life and couldn’t find a good way out until it was too late?  That’s the question of this book, and that is a good question.

Published in: on June 30, 2018 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment