Los Angeles in springtime

It is weekends like this that make Los Angeles all worth it.  It’s warm, but not too warm. We have the windows and doors open and the roses keep blooming one after another.  The cats love this weather; they love nothing more than sitting on the windowsill breathing the outside air.  They dream of birds and squirrels although neither of them has the skill or cunning to catch anything particularly not Thomas who is so close to thirty pounds.  They love the wind against their fur.  The orange tree has many baby oranges, and the mint is growing thickly.  But what you mostly smell is jasmine and honeysuckle.

 

Our chickens are laying nearly a dozen eggs a day; they are happiest in this weather. How many eggs can we possibly eat a day? Even though I’ve been ill part of the weekend, I love this cool perfect air.  Tomorrow we have an Easter party we are going to and today, I bought party baskets for the kids which were actually party buckets.

I like the way the light pours in through the trees.  Our Empress tree is a glory in the back yard which is muted shades of green.  The front yard is roses and lavender.  You can still take a walk at two in the morning in the afternoon as we did today, walking to the park, up the hidden stairs, Tobi’s dog Zooey dreaming of squirrels and rabbits.  But it won’t last.  Heat will come in, a furnace of thick heat will descend on the Valley by July.  But for now, we breathe.  The cats love the open windows.

Published in: on April 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Train, Georges Simenon, translated by Robert Baldick.

 

I jammed through this book. I felt like I was moving through jam.  I wanted to enjoy the book and get through it as quickly as possible.  The train moved slowly and there were sandwiches; chocolate, sex, sometimes in that order, the universe kept turning around and the Germans kept coming until there were—finally—Germans all around them. The nature of war in Europe over the last century—one is eventually surrounded by Germans.  The thrust and pivot of this book is the dark girl and you can’t take your eyes off her.  Why aren’t there more books like this?

Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sin

Sin

 

When I was growing up, there was a lot of conversation about sin.  I had sin on the brain.  Avoiding sin. Thinking about sin. Regretting sin. Wondering whether something was a sin. The subject of sin occupied much of my waking thoughts.

 

Catholics like the idea of sin. They repent from sin, confess sin.  They have lists of sins, types of sin.

 

I never mentioned sin to my kids. There was no mention of sin.  I never told them to watch out for sin.  They were light, full of light.  They did not have anything heavy like sin to pull them down into the dark. We can live our whole life without sin.  We can wake without sin and sleep without sin.

 

I don’t miss it.  I don’t  miss the way the sky seemed darker with the sin hanging from the trees, darkening the sky. I’m glad my kids grew up free of sin.   Sin is only real if you believe in it.

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Creating a celebration for women writers

 

I attended the Pasadena Festival of Women Authors this weekend, an amazing organization that creates a celebratory space for women authors.  The event was completely sold out, and the organization is continuing to grow.  The event had a hum to it.  I loved hearing the women talk about their lives.  Vendela Vida, Yaa Gyasi, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and Amy Stewart.  Afterward I went to Lisa See’s reading at Chevalier Books.

http://www.pasadenafestivalofwomenauthors.org/

Published in: on April 9, 2017 at 6:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

La Femme De Gilles, Madeleine Bourdouxhe

La Femme De Gilles, Madeleine Bourdouxhe, translated by Faith Evans, published by Melville House in 2016, was first published in 1937 in French.  It’s a devastating book about a woman being treated with flagrant disrespect by her husband.  The emotional brutality forces its way into you when you read and you want to take the wife’s hands and take her and her children as far away from her husband as possible.  The book you think of the most while reading it is The Awakening was published in 1899, although in Kate Chopin’s book, the woman’s grief is created by society not specifically by her husband.  In La Femme de Gilles, our wife’s grief is caused by her husband, Gilles.  No matter how badly her husband treats her, telling the stories of his love relationship with her vacuous sister, giving her a play by play of their adulterous meetings, she continues cooking, washing, even making her body available as necessary.  In The Days of Abandonment published in 2005 a wife is consumed by the love of her husband until she cannot see herself clearly.  La Femme gives our poor wife no room to create her own happiness.  We are tied into her frame of mind which is bitterly tied to her husband.  The writing has the elegance of Duras and Colette.  Women have come a long ways but nearly far enough.  Who do we live for?

Published in: on April 7, 2017 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Silence and Snow Child

Silence by Shusaku Endo, first published in 1966.  I read it a long time ago when I was reading Yukio Mishima.  Now, I read it again and I feel it all running over me.  The Catholics marching into Japan to deliver the word of god to the “godless Japanese.” The shogun culture of the Japanese fought back, and decided to expel the Jesuits.  Two priests came to Japan looking for their teacher, and one found him with a Japanese name having turned his back on the church because he could not stop the suffering of the Japanese Christians who were hung over the pits and bled to death.  The surreal sadness of the book followed me around on the train, like a throbbing darkness.

 

I read Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and really loved it.  The darkness in it was palpable by sort of a cool blue.  You feel the Alaskan wilderness, and the community building with each other, helping one another, you feel the desire for children.  The snow child is about the way we all desire home and where we find it.  But, the best parts invite you into Alaska, invite you into being in the wilderness yourself, growing potatoes, killing a moose.  And then the magical child comes.  We want the mother to be happy.  We follow her into the woods, we follow her into the dark forest of her heart.  This is a magical book about longing.

Published in: on April 3, 2017 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Too much travel

 

Too much of a good thing. I’m on a Delta flight beside a couple of Trump supporters.  Somehow they leaped to that so quickly after we sat down in our seats.  The context was their disappointments about California vs. Tennessee where they plan to move and live in a modular house.

 

March madness, I have been in New York three times, London, San Francisco, Nashville. Too much travel. Ending with cozying up in the tiny seats next to the Trump supporters who hopefully will tumble over to Tennessee.  California is too blue for some people.  It’s blue all right.

 

In the movies, when people travel through airports, it always seems kind of romantic, like people are floating through air and getting ready to ride a sky chariot.  In actual airports, there is a grind and whistle of badly dressed people (sometimes sweatpants, sometimes pajamas) often smelling dirty and wasted, wandering, rushing, looking discombobulated, frustrated; the maw of humanity at its least organized.  I’ve been part of it all, running in my bare feet in my boots, in my flip flops, in sandals and high heels, I have run past people drinking beer at 10 in the morning.

 

In April, I’m home all month.  I plan to garden, plant, read, think, write, run, work and Mark and I will celebrate our birthdays.

 

Published in: on March 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

“In the end—I must believe it—just like a salmon, I will know how to die, and though I die, though I lose my life, nature wins. Nature endures. It is strange, and it is hard, but it’s comfort, and I’ll take it.” Eva Saulitis

Pen America Awards

As I walked into the awards there was a man ahead of me and I knew that he was a writer.  He had a certain walk as though he lived inside his head, as though doors would open for him, his face held big ideas.  He turned out to be the winner of the lifetime achievement award for sports writing, William Nack and when he got up to speak, you could feel that he loves the kind of writing he does, the game, the horses.  He’s ridden horses, he knows horses, but he’s also spent a lot of time with his fingers on the keys.

High points of the evening:  When Suzan-Lori Parks spoke and when the actors did part of her play Topdog/Underdog.  She loves theatre and she holds court like she’s making worlds all the time.  She famously said, “Difficulty creates the opportunity for self reflection and compassion,” a phrase I like to repeat to myself.

Aasif Mandvi as MC was fantastic; he thrums along with a joy in being present, and hearing him made me sure our fight back will succeed.  I was excited that Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal was listed for the PEN Open Book Award.  She is reading on April 25th at the Red Hen Press Annenberg event.  Latina winners included Natalie Scenters-Zapico and Angela Morales; I was very excited to hear about their books.

When Colson Whitehead spoke, I was thrilled.  I love his book, the threads of Invisible Man, the story which looks forward and backward and leads us to the present. When I stood outside afterward, Colson Whitehead walked out. I nodded at him, smiled.  Other people surrounded him right away.

A quiet mist was falling in the street, and I remember being here in New York with Eva Saulitis and the way her laughter rang through the streets, the way she moved down the street with a buoyancy and grace.  Eva, I miss you.

I went to the awards for Eva Saulitis, finalist for the Pen/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the art of the essay.  Eva, we celebrate you.

https://orionmagazine.org/2016/01/41954/

 

https://orionmagazine.org/2016/01/41954/

Published in: on March 28, 2017 at 4:23 am  Leave a Comment  

The mist is a riddle of water on leaves.

Los Angeles in spring is all jasmine and wisteria  blooming, dripping purple over the garden. Our tea garden is growing well, but the herbs are few and the salsa garden has only slender sprigs.  When we arrived at the house, the mist was falling on the wisteria and the whole house smelled like jasmine, the bloom of it thick on the night air, the mint damp and smelling thick and green.  I was glad to see the chickens, laying their eggs, the dogs running through the night air.  My own bed felt so good.  Travel opens the mind, but home is where you lay down and feel content.  When you sleep in other beds, your sleep is imperfect.

 

The mist is a riddle of water on leaves.  Everything is growing now in the fields and on the mountains.  Tomorrow I go to the PEN awards in New York and then to Nashville for our sales conference.  The orange tree is in full blossom.  The flowers fall to the ground slowly and make little flips before they land on the garden.  A dance of orange blossoms in the tangle of mint mist.

Published in: on March 26, 2017 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Vegetarian

 

I read this book on the Tube in London and then back in my room. What a great book!  I loved it, the description of Korean food, the feeling of being in the family .  I loved the echoes of Kafka by the Shore  and Norwegian Wood.  I loved the exquisite pain and beauty of each chapter, the lilting swift leaps from one family member to another, that is part of the web of how families love each other, ignore each other and judge each other based on our pain, strengths, weaknesses.  Late at night, after a hard day of work at the London Book Fair, I huddled in my threatening to be a tent, excuse for a hotel room and read The Vegetarian, hungrily.  We have a main character refusing to eat, but I could not put her down.  In America, I’ve met some plump vegetarians.  It’s all about the cheese. But in Korea, you eat noodles, rice, vegetables.  You struggle with your husband in the night and shoulder your world at dawn while the sky lightens.  This book is utterly compelling. What do you do with the weakest member of the family? Nurture? Care? Lock ‘em up?  How are we wounded? How do we heal?

Published in: on March 21, 2017 at 6:32 pm  Leave a Comment