Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Joan Didion On Writing As Scultpture

I just got a copy of her Year Of Magical Thinking and have been perusing some online interviews. Just came across this old interview with a fascinating comment:

"Before I started working on a computer," Didion tells Dave Eggers, "writing a piece would be like making something up every day, taking the material and never quite knowing where you were going to go next with the material. With a computer it was less like painting and more like sculpture, where you start with a block of something and then start shaping it."

She's right, of course. Who hasn't been transformed by the wonders of Cut and Paste?


State Of The Economy: More Bush Hypocrisy?

M, my SF friend-poet-ITguru (yes! All those things!), turned me onto this AP story that’s working its way across the newswires about Bush’s speech earlier today. In his State of the Economy speech Bush asked companies to link CEO salaries and bonuses with performances.

Bush is quick to point out, of course, that he’s not asking for our government to necessarily play a role in scaling down the lavish pay, but for companies to find the right path themselves via new federal rules.


I’m not necessarily opposed to this—I mean salaries in excess of several million seem a bit off to me, but this coming from Bush? A man who makes $400,000 a year doing what has to be the worst job ever as president? (Have you noticed even his Dad has been keeping low to the ground lately. Out shame, methinks.)

So who’s to blame for the economic state of this country—overpaid executives who grow fat off the blood of their employees or incompetent old men who lead us into wars that are draining our pockets and wounding or killing our young… wars with no real exit strategy in sight?

As M. asks: “My question: can we do this with our presidential compensation?

If so: Does Bush have enough money to pay America back for his incompetence (since so far his performance was bad enough to warrant a negative salary)?”

I don't know, M. But I think its pretty fucking hilarious that at the end of said article, AP author Ben Feller aptly reports:

"President Bush can deliver all the economic pep talks he wants, but the fact remains that his failed leadership has led to the worst job recovery on record, stagnating household incomes, a rise in poverty and record deficits," said Stacie Paxton, spokeswoman for the
Democratic National Committee.

Since Bush took office in 2001, the country has seen one in five manufacturing jobs disappear, a total of 2.96 million lost jobs. The U.S. trade deficit is expected to climb to a fifth consecutive record when final 2006 figures are totaled next month.”

Yeah. Let’s start with linking the country’s CEO with performance. We’ll work down from there, no?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jessie's Brooklyn Kitchen!

No relation. But cool, huh?


Spiders On Alcohol And Drugs

Watch the whole thing. Even funnier than the SF chicken video I just posted.

This one comes to me via my friend LMF in suburban Maryland.


Chickens In The City

Those of you who know me in real-time will understand why I laughed my ass off when I saw this entry in an online Indie Short Film fest.

(Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: well, that's another post for another day.)


My Newest Girl-Writer Crush

Her name is Miranda July.

She's a short story writer, screenwriter/actor/director, performance artist and all-around funky chick. (Check out "How To Tell Stories To Children" in the current Zoetrope: All-Story and her film, Me & You & Everyone We Know.)

She was born in Barre, VT, grew up in Berkeley and is only a year younger than I am. Oh: and Timothy Leary was her godfather.

Her first short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, is due out in May.

I'm so there.


Is It Me Or Is The World Getting Creepier By The Hour?

CNN reported yesterday that:

"In a precedent-setting decision, an Israeli court has ruled that a dead soldier's family can have his sperm impregnated into the body of a woman he never met....

Keivan Cohen, 20, was shot dead in 2002 by a Palestinian sniper in the Gaza Strip. He was single and left no will. But at the urging of his parents, a sample of his sperm was taken two hours after his death and has been stored in a hospital since.

When the family tried to gain access to the sperm, however, the hospital refused, on the ground that only a spouse could make such a request.

Arguing that their son yearned to raise a family, his parents challenged that decision in court. On January 15, after a four-year legal battle, a Tel Aviv court granted the family's wish and ruled the sperm could be injected into a woman selected by Cohen's family."

Read the article here.


Monday, January 29, 2007

I've Been Quoted!

Okay, granted it was on the Vocal Area Network, but still: a sign of good things to come.

In the words of book critic Jessica Myers Schecter the work "is a curious amalgamation of music and drama interwoven with pre-recorded poetry, soundscape, film footage, and projected images. The poetry on which the work is constructed was inspired by the discovery of an abandoned shoebox poet Anna Rabinowitz found on a shelf in her parents' house. Filled with old photographs and letters, the contents of the box were all that remained of two families killed in the Holocaust. In an effort to give these absent ancestors voice, Rabinowitz wrote a book-length poem entitled Darkling.


People In Brooklyn Are Weird

It snowed last night. Not a lot, but the roads are slippery and the air icy. Still, as I passed the local starbucks on my way to the trendier tea lounge I saw a woman emerge ensconsed in wool carrying a frappucino. Weird.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The New Story

I'm working on a new one, of course. And I think the main character is going to be this woman named Stella, who appeared in a story I finished before Thanksgiving. (Now being shopped to various lit mags. Which all take about 4 months (no kidding! 4... And sometimes they don't even bother to respond at all!) to get back to you.) Stella's a bitch, but then I think I kind of like that about her. In fact, I think I'm going to play that bitchiness up, dig right down into the core of it.
I Joined A Writing Group

You'd think, being married to another writer and living in NYC, I wouldn't feel such a yearning for a writing community. But I'm a shy woman at heart (I know! Who'd've thought?! I'm such a loudmouth in writing) and so in year and a half since R and I moved up here from the South I haven't made a single literary friend.

Granted, I haven't really put myself out there.

And it's not like I don't have writing friends scattered across the globe: M. and my sister, both in San Francisco; P in Washington, DC; S and W, both in Charlottesville; and now Martha in Fort Worth. But my relationships with most of them are now conducted over the internet and I've found more and more that I really miss just hanging out other writers. Quirky and often outrageously freakish lot that they are.

So. Over the Winter holidays when I saw an ad on craigslist for a female writer, I answered it. And went to meet with the group leader. And audited a session last night. I even got to submit something! I workshopped the opening chapters of my novel, The Jar-Born Sage. (I finished the fucking thing two years ago but continue to struggle with the opening 50 pages... And believe that the sluggish and awkward opening is what's kept the book from being picked up by an agent, honestly. I decided on New Year's that I'd give it one more go-round before tossing the thing into my desk drawer and taking a four year hiatus. ) And god did it feel good to be a part of a workshop again. To have my stuff read and critiqued and--well. I just didn't realize how much I'd missed it is all.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Site For The Idiot In Me

Thye tell you all about how various stuff around the house works.... Makes me miss my 3 bedroom in Charlottesville, frankly. Not that the apartment here isn't nice--just there's less opportunities for nesting...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Please do not bring un-entered dogs... They will not be admitted to the Cow Palace.

If you're in San Francisco and into such things, this Saturday and Sunday you should head on over to the Golden Gate Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show. Because really, you gotta love a city that has a venue called the "cow" palace...


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Friday, January 19, 2007

Vinotherapy Comes to NYC

Soaking in wine is apparently good for your skin.


Vermont Bound

We're off to Vermont for the weekend, to revel in the wintery wonderland that is the Okemo resort where our friend K's parents have a vacation condo.

Since we don't have any skiing gear--R's never been and all my stuff is still in boxes back at my parents' farm in Virginia--we're just going to go snowshoeing... maybe cuddle by the fire, too.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dining With The Starz: Peter Hamill & Minerva Jane

Last night we went to dinner at Blue Hill NYC with another couple to celebrate our collective birthdays. (All four fall within one month of eachother so we decided to splurge!)

All night I kept thinking that the guy sitting next to me was a famous writer. (This being Manhattan, such an assumption isn't as crazy as it sounds.) But I couldn't think of the guy's name so I didn't say anything to R or our companions, just ate my Stone Barns greens and grass-fed lamb and apple crumble with cinnamon ice cream. (I'll admit I missed some of our conversation as I eavesdropped on his conversation in an attempt to solve the mystery...)

And I continued to wrack my brain today trying to figure it out. Just moments ago I realized who it was... Peter Hamill, author of the much-lauded "New York" memoir Downtown.

May my brush with literary success bring me good writing luck.... Next on the chopping block is a new short story about a bridal shower on the Upper West Side.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I So Want One...

Available from, my newest blog-crush.

Fight Like A Girl!

This is possibly one of the coolest things ever, except possibly for the amateur jello wrestling league my friend M discovered.

Bringing pillow fighting to the next level for grrls everywhere....

Personally, I'm rooting for Chloe, aka "Digit Jones"--so much cooler than Boozy Suzy.... But y'all take your pick.


I did nothing yesterday. I mean: I cleaned a little, ate a lot, and painted my toenails. Well, my fingernails, too.

Lazy days are sooo nice, no?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Did anybody else see this?

BBC reports:

UK scientists have developed genetically modified chickens capable of laying eggs containing proteins needed to make cancer-fighting drugs.

GM chicken (Roslin)


Friday, January 12, 2007

I Know I've Posted This Before...

... but I can't resist. While I was writing my first novel, I had this taped to the wall above my desk.

"For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are delighted amd how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness." -- James Baldwin


Writing Friends Are The Coolest Friends

One of the guys R. and I were friends with back at the American University MFA writing program, P, just sent me his copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. So excited. I've been dying to read this thing, but, well, the stack of others awaiting my attention prevented me from buying my own yet. That makes the third book I've received this week: others include Brookland by Emily Barton (who we're going to hear read tonight as part of the One Story reading series) and Doris Lessing's The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot, and The Snow Dog. (The Cleft hasn't been released in the US yet.)

Right now I'm smack in the middle of Hyperion, a Sci-fi novel my friend D, a retired astrophysicist married to my poet-friend S, gave me over a year ago. But once I'm done? Let the winter hibernation/reading begin!
Cacio e Pepe

Last night my mother-in-law took me, R., and R.'s sister out to eat at Cacio e Pepe, a little lower east side pasta joint to celebrate my birthday.

The best part? The pumpkin tiramisu.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Morningside Writers

So last night I met with the leader of the Morningside Writers group at the Saurin Park Cafe in Harlem. Kendall seemed nice enough--the most thoroughly organized group of nonprofessional writers I think I've ever seen--but it turns out there's a $100 yearly membership fee to join. (He said there was a notice on the site, and of course after looking today I see that there is, but I seem to have overlooked it before I headed on up there.) I'm really craving a group of dedicated writer-readers to share my work with, but to actually pay for it? I dunno. Am I too cheap for my own good? I'll certainly take the committment more seriously if I have to pay for it... I think I'll audit a session first to see if the other writers are people I'd get along with well in a group setting.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

We went to see Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth last night in the Lower East Side. Incredible and haunting, albeit a bit violent.

Set against the backdrop of Franco's Spain, Pan's Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, her pregnant mother and evil stepfather. Ofelia, it seems, is a long long princess who must complete three tasks before she is permitted to return to her underground kingdom, accessible only through a labyrinth at the back of the old mill where she, along with her makeshift family and a ton of cruel soldiers, live. Pan, or el fauna, guards the entrance and instructs her as to what she should do.

I, of course, loved all the goddess references--from the labyrinth itself to the mandrake root that supposed to cure her mother's pregnancy-related illness-to the final re-visioning of the Mother/child, God and Christ trinity in female form--but, as R pointed out, the metaphor of blind obedience mirrored in the girl's tale and the political "reality" of the film felt a little forced.

Still. See the film. Del Toro's the real deal.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oh. And Today's My Birthday.

R's taking me out for sushi. Yum.
Meditating In A Cold Church

So I have problems with anxiety/insomnia and meditation really helps. For a while last year I was going to the weekly dharma classes at the NY Insight Meditation Center, but for some reason I got out of the habit and stopped going. Insight meditation, or vipassana is simple: you just observe your own breath. It's actually a form of theravada buddhism which is nontheistic and tells its practitioners not to rely on blind faith but their own experience. In other words: don't just believe that meditation is going to help you, try it and see if it makes a difference in your life. Which it did and does. The nontheism appeals to me as well. It's not that I don't believe in a god it's that I don't think there's anyway any of us can actually know if there's a god or not... An adamant agnostic, if you will. More pressing matters than whether there's a god or not, as far as I'm concerned, are how to lead a moral life filled with compassion and some level of inner peace.

But over the weekend I saw a sign for a meditation class right here in Brooklyn Heights at the Unitarian Church led by a group of Kadampa Buddhists and I thought I might as well try. I'd never been to a Mahayana Buddhism group before and was a little curious. (Mahayana, as opposed to Theravada, promotes the idea of salvation through the belief in Buddha as a theistic figure. Not really my thing, but one of my resolutions this year was to keep an open mind about new experiences.) R was out and about visiting friends and I had the night to myself so I took a yoga class, showered, and headed on over.

Big mistake. First of all, the church was FREEZING. (My hair was still a little wet from the shower, which meant the whole time all I could feel was this ring of cold wrapped around my head.) And the talk, led by Kelsang Demo, was one of the more simpistic things I've heard. The topic was "Enjoying Other People" but for the first five minutes all she kept saying over and over again was "We have a lot of reasons why we can't enjoy other people. We say--I can't enjoy him because he's too stupid or I can't enjoy her because she's irritating. We all have a hard time enjoying peole." Etc. Etc. At the end of the 45 minute talk I thought I was going to keel over if I heard the word enjoy one more time. Our homework assignment for the coming week: Enjoy others and think of ourselves as a friend.

It just doesn't seem as--and jeez I can't believe I'm saying this--as insightful as the vipassana folks. I just felt like it was a bunch of psychobabble.

The bottom line is next week I'll return the the Chelsea-based Insight folks for my meditation/dharma fix.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Colon Of Joy

A few days ago Mighty Girl posted a picture of an enema lapel pin for sale on Luna Parc, cyber home of self proclaimed "artistic genius" Ricky Boscarino. But she neglected to point out other lovely items on the site, such as the myterious Colon Of Joy.


Doris Lessing's New Book

The Cleft was released in the UK and available for pre-order here via

I'm excited because it seems to offer the same blend of feminism and sci-fi I've always found so intruiging in her work. (Not so much with The Golden Notebook, but certainly with the Canopus in Argos series and definitely The Fifth Child. If you haven't read FC yet, go do so now. Short but damn did it blow me away.

Her website describes The Cleft as such:

An old Roman senator, contemplative at his late stage of life, embarks on what will likely be his last endeavour: the retelling of the story of human creation. He recounts the history of the Clefts, an ancient community of women living in an Edenic, coastal wilderness, confined within the valley of an overshadowing mountain. The Clefts have no need nor knowledge of men - childbirth is controlled, like the tides that lap around their feet, through the cycles of the moon, and their children are always female. But with the unheralded birth of a strange, new child - a boy - the harmony of their community is suddenly thrown into jeopardy. In this fascinating and beguiling novel, Lessing confronts head-on the themes that inspired much of her early writing: how men and women, two similar and yet thoroughly distinct creatures, manage to live side by side in the world, and how the specifics of gender affect every aspect of our existence.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

It turns out they were right about global warming

It's 70 degrees here in New York and it's only January 6.

And here I thought I'd turned my back on good weather by choosing NYC over SF.

Nah. Well, they do have nicer beaches.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Getting My Dad Addicted To Lost: Check

We got my Dad the first season of Lost on DVD for Christmas. And this morning I got my first excited call.

"I just finished watching Walkabout," he said.
"I'm hooked."
"Well, yeah. It's a great show."
"I mean when you find out he was in a wheelchair. Whoa---"
And the day came...

... when the risk [it took] to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

- Anais Nin
Family Branches Emerge

I just found out that a few days after my grandfather's funeral, a distant relative gave my grandmother a copy of her family tree that had been floating around for years. I can't wait to get my hands on it--it traces her family all the way back to Wales, Holland, and England. Which is funny, because my grandfather, towards the end of his life, was obsessed with geneology and even wrote a book length study of one of his relatives, Thomas Bennett. (I mentioned this before, when I first wrote about his death.) But we never really talked much about Grandma's people. Perhaps because of this: her parents divorced when she was 5 and her father, a wealthy Welsh emigrant, ignored her for the rest of his life. She and her mother went to live with her grandparents (a couple who represented a genetic mix of Dutch, French and English ancestors), where she stayed until she went to nursing school and met my grandfather. She was an only child of an only child but Grandpa was the oldest of four exuberant brothers whose family roots reached down deep into the history of northeastern Pennsylvania.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jane Hirshfield On Poetry

You all have to listen to this. She talks about poetry and zen buddhism and the Way of the Writer.

At one point she says she often thinks of poems as little pebbles that you can carry around in your pocket and take out whenever you need them. (I've always called them little bits of seaglass, and I include passages in novels and short stories as well, but the idea is the same and it was astonishing to hear someone else voice what I've always felt.)

Free until January 15, so get on over there ASAP!


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

When Bloggers Meet

Big news. One of my blogger friends, Martha of Notions on Being, and I met at a Midtown Starbucks this morning. (I know, corporate behemoths suck, but they’re on just about every corner here in Manhattan and so make uber-convenient meeting spots.)

First off, I have to say that this is one cool-looking chick. Funky scarf, thick beautiful hair, and swanky glasses. She was so effervescent and personable I immediately felt at ease. Because yeah: I was a little nervous about crossing the cyber-line. Sometimes a person’s online personality bears little resemblance to who they are in the real world. And I include myself in that category. I’m much bolder and more articulate online than I am in real life. (As a character in one of my husband’s short stories says: “Wow, you look nothing like your e-mail address.”)

We had coffee and talked about writing and the freelance life. (Although technically, I’m not really a freelancer. R. and I formed an LLP for tax reasons and all our work is under that umbrella.) We talked about fiction and poetry and essays. (We both loved Ann Lamott’s Bird By Bird. I recommended Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg.)

It was strange because even though I’d never actually met her, I felt like I knew her so well—all from a blog. It’s a weird sort of intimacy, but perfect, really, for a writer. (I think we’re even going to exchange our fiction/essays in an informal writing group! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve been craving this kind of mutual feedback. I even answered a craigslist ad this week about a group that meets bimonthly in Midtown. More on that next week when I have an informal interview with one of the group leaders.)

But here’s the thing I realized as I was walking toward the 59th Street subway after we’d finished talking. (It’s something I first started to think about on New Year’s Day at the Poetry Marathon, actually.) For the last few months I’ve been going through a hard time, feeling isolated and alone here in New York, stressed about not succeeding at some things, nervous about how well other things were going. Feeling unconnected from my writer self yet again. Just look back at the archives on this site and you’ll see that I was struck silent from about end of October. But the whole time I’ve been feeling alone there was actually this whole community, this whole network of writing folks right there at my fingertips—online; at readings.

Funny how just when you’re feeling at your lowest the universe sends you a sign. A big blinking neon one.

Final note: When I was in Charlottesville a poet friend of mine and I were talking about how discouraged I’d become about not finding an agent for my novel and about how that disappointment had stalled my writing—both fiction and blog. And she said this: Why do we do what we do? Do we only write because of some sort of tangible reward—ie publication, or our colleague’s adulation--or is it because of who we become in the process of the writing?

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the doing itself that’s worthwhile, not the product.

So: onward and upward, my friends.

And check out Martha's blog if you aren't already familiar with it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Car Accidents In Brooklyn

So I got into a car accident immediately after dropping my sister off at LaGuardia this morning. It was clearly the other guy's fault: several bystanders were quick to speak up. But the guy came at me like a bulldog. Yelling and getting up in my face. He has a thick Brooklyn accent.

And for the first time since I moved here I wasn't freaked out by what I call the Brooklyn bravado--a way of intimidating people by speaking more aggressively than usual.

This time I just said calmly: you can't bully me, sir. I'm calling the police so we can fill out a report.

And even though I was sort of freaked out and nervous (I've never been in an accident before) I stood my ground.
Poetry On New Year's Day

Yesterday, after sleeping until about 2 and going on a brief New Year's Day run in the pouring rain, my sister and I headed on over to the Poetry Project's New Year's Day Marathon Poetry reading.

Poor R stayed in bed, dragging with a flu he picked up somewhere along the way during our travels through Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York these last few weeks.


A New York New Years Eve

So, my sister was in town, and we all decided that we were still too tired from our Saturday night venture (to see The Sword in Williamsburg) to go all out, so we tried to hit two comedy nights in Manhattan. We got to the first venue--Beauty Bar--only to discover the comedy was cancelled because of New Years. (Which is kind of stupid: what a better way to ring in the new year than laughing??) So we hopped in a cab to hit the second. That too was closed. Completely discouraged and at a loss as to what to do, we wandered the deserted streets of Chelsea before ducking into a restaurant/bar that was, despite the festive decorations, weirdly empty. We each had a glass of wine, hiked over to Union Square before calling our friends D & J. They luckily knew about a party in the Flatiron so, after the vodka red bulls we'd all ordered, we again cabbed it over to this odd apartment at Astor & lafayette. Why was it weird? Well, the apartment itself was gorgeous: high ornate ceilings with real gold leaf detailing, marble fireplace and wide mantels on which were displayed oversized paintings. But it turns out that the guy who lived there actually didn't even pay rent: he was a squatter. For fifteen years now. And none of the other people in the building paid rent either. They were all squatters. I'd overheard two of the other guests saying that there's been somesort of court case a few years back but that the building's owner didn't show up so it was dismissed. Weird.

And yes, at midnight I kissed R.