If you stop and think

What if aliens are watching us and laughing that on this beautiful planet we spend so much time tapping keys.

Why do we have wars?

This 45th president is an outrage.

Why don’t we read more good books?

I need more sleep.

It’s my family that matters and creative work.

Not all of this work stuff really matters.

Why are so many people angry?

Why do I feel small when I could feel grand?

These trees, these clouds, these actual friends, how did I get so lucky?

If you stop and think

Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 11:37 am  Comments (1)  

The Nest Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney


I met Cynthia at the Pasadena Festival of Women’s books and she had the dynamic energy of a five year old, she’s like a dancer/trapeze artist.  Stuff I liked:  The description of New York, I liked the Grand Central description including the Campbell Apartment bar there, and I liked the feeling of walking around Brooklyn in the book.  The writing is wonderful, such spiff and polish of language, the story of the twins, one gay, one straight, the gay uncles, but the thrust of the story, the arc, is the “nest.”  The kids are waiting for an inheritance.  At first I was annoyed with the nest. I didn’t care whether these well off New Yorkers inherited more money. But the story grew on me, I began to realize that the point was if you know something was going to change your life, you’d wait all the time for it and that anticipation changes everything. It’s really a story about how we wait and why we can’t move beyond waiting.  We live in a culture where we don’t like to wait.  We pause to play with our phones in the line at Starbucks; we can’t stand any moments when we are alone. Anticipation changes the Plumbs’ lives.  They glorify the one of the siblings who is a shiny person. In many families, the family member who is glorified is not the one with the most compassion and integrity.  I like the ending of the book, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Published in: on April 24, 2017 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Answer 2

My grandfather said don’t tell me anything bad, just tell me the good.
Left me hovering over corpses in the yard like a seagull.
Waiting for someone who had a story covering the past, making it new.

Then Joseph, the Mexican kid who wouldn’t go by Jose, cast off the coat
of many colors to be American with a blond girlfriend, me.
He wanted to woo me and every one else from his Chippendale perch.

He wanted to chip away at the idea that the American cowboy had to be white.
I wanted to try for a dream where I was on the sill of success
taking off into the sky. Circling the wagons from the air.

Joseph and I went out on the town, rewrote our stories in the clouds.
I wasn’t poor. He wasn’t Mexican. We weren’t infidels from our faiths.
We were born again somebodies, soon to be discovered like sunshine.

You open the window, and there we are, so welcome, so lovely.
So everywhere you want to be. So California, so shining.
So catalog perfect, so gleaming and golden and glittering.

America is where you can bury your story corpse, till the soil,
plant new beans and come up singing with a new music.
We danced to the fancy dance music on the sawdust floors.

In Mexico, rich kids broke the law, smoked weed in the streets and cantinas.
Joseph and I broke no laws. We’re just into tequila, we said. Go ahead.
Do what you do. Hiding the true story. There was no one to rescue us.

We could rot in Mexican jails till the cops come home from the whorehouses,
And still we’d be there. No one rapping on the windows, no one offering bail.
All of you have an escape hatch. We admitted to no one our hatchless condition.

When I left him next to the taco stand to move to California, the sun was setting.
I could see it shining through his hair. I left him with a wet kiss.
We said, I will see you again. We said, I will call you in the morning.

In California, there were heaps of riches for somebody else.
Elegant houses for other people. Dresses, cars, streets, shops and bellhops
for people born into the right families. Jobs and suits and funny shoes.

My fist shaking days are past. Fistfuls of hair. Now I breathe in smog and run.
You breathe. You don’t have to keep up. If you were born without legs.
You learn to fly. Your dark parts touch the sky. Your dark parts matter only

In that they define your reason to fly. Oh California, I’m on to you.

– Kate Gale



Published in: on April 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hanif Kureishi, Intimacy

Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy takes you inside a man’s head, a man who lives with a wife he despises.  “Your arms are tongs,” his wife complains, Touch me with your hands.” But he cannot touch, he cannot love.  He wants intimacy but he doesn’t have the ability to love.  He’s a terrible father as well.  He admits that he put brandy in his baby’s bottle.  “I booted him hard up the nappy before he was even walking,” he says.  He threw the baby into his bed backwards hitting the baby’s head.  He isn’t much better to his mistress or his girlfriends.  Love, as it happens in this story, can’t heap up and nest and flourish in a hollow man.  It needs a moist home, and that moisture is the ability to love.  If you cannot love, you wouldn’t feel love.  “It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.”  That is the first line of our book on intimacy.  Sadness is a closed fist, a closed heart.

Published in: on April 17, 2017 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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  




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.


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