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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Like Julie Powell to Julia Child, I am going to ride the coattails of Donna Tartt off into the wordy, smooth posting of a flighty blog entry. After all, when you can’t write yourself, writing about what someone else has written is, well, material. She’ll understand—we’re BFF’s after all.

 

Truth be told, there was no decision on my part to join a Book Club. I was dragged by the neck, warned there would be much wine-drinking and minimal book-talking and that I’d just have to suffer through because I simply had less than no choice in the matter.

 

And I’ll admit that I didn’t decline their multiple demands, err, invitations too loudly, for any more than six months, because, to be honest, I was in need of a reminder that reading is not a device designed to torture me for my failure to produce anything of substance.

 

Or, just anything.

 

At all.

 

And because I’d forgotten that reading can be done for the simple fact that it brings immense pleasure. Because I’d lost sight of the light it spreads and the inspirational notion that anything, whether observing or creating a world of fiction, is possible.

 

Infinite anythings.

 

How could I have forgotten?

 

Not to fret. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt brought it all back.

 

I don’t review books. I have trouble being that presumptuous. But I do like to share things I learn from, things that entice me to reach for more, things that make me entertain possibility—things that make me forget how envious I am, long enough to merely bask in their bewitchment. This book was that. Bound by incredibly long sentences and crisp with incomplete fragments, it proves that just because Word underlines it in red, you don’t have to correct it. Full of undisguised emotion and weighty character, words I had to look up and succinct sentiment. I nearly phoned Ms. Tartt to ask if she has ever actually been a thirteen-year-old boy at any point in her lifetime.

 

It was a truly gratifying read, but my reasons may differ from yours. I was seeking to be both grounded and lifted. Shaken and stirred. Simultaneously tamed and teased. Oh, and I needed something to not discuss at Book Club.

 

It took Donna Tartt eleven years to write The Goldfinch. I’ve got at least that left in me, wouldn’t you say?

Donna Tartt in her Paris hotel room, promoting her book , The Goldfinch (Photo courtesy of theguardian.com)

Donna Tartt in a Paris hotel room, promoting her book, The Goldfinch (Photo courtesy of theguardian.com)

 

 

 

 

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You’ll notice this is not a morning post.

 

I am currently trying to drink a cup of boiled water mixed with half a lemon, a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and a dash of Cayenne. This is supposed to cleanse my system, protect me against bacteria and boost my metabolism. It’s also supposed to taste so refreshingly healthy that I will soon crave this in replace of my morning coffee. While the first three points may happen, I can promise you that the fourth will not. I have in fact not had my morning coffee yet today, but only because I’ve been procrastinating about making and drinking this concoction since I woke up six hours ago.

Eush

Eush

It’s really tough going. I’m not even sure I can describe the taste, but being the stalwart scribe I tell myself I am, I will try.

 

It’s a bit like falling into a hot, dirty pond and trying desperately to get out before any of the sour, stagnant water makes its way into your mouth. But of course you can’t escape it in time and end up with a big gulp singeing your tongue and raking its way roughly down your gullet. And as it does, you feel like you might cease to exist if you have to experience that sickly, searing taste even just one more time.

 

Amazingly, there are people that live like this on a daily basis, people who don’t even think of living any other way, people who ingest only organic, (and I mean that in the rootiest sense of the word) made-from-scratch, sustenance. There are actually people who forgo a morning brew for this kind of torture. It boggles the mind. Well, my mind anyway. I am simply not wired that way. Oh, I believe in healthy choices, but sometimes I don’t…make them, that is. I like moderation. I like fruit…dipped in chocolate. I like my attainable to be sustainable. I like food that doesn’t hurt.

 

A lot.

 

Well, while writing this post has helped me get to the bottom of this pond, I mean mug, and I’m grateful, I do have to leave you. Now that my metabolism is buzzing and the bacteria in my body has most definitely been thwarted, it’s time to go rinse out this nastiness because my coffee pot is finally beeping.

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No surprise, but I’m a daydreamer. It’s not an easy thing to hide. My school reports often cited that I tended to wander off without actually leaving the classroom, and seeing as I’m confessing it all, I may as well admit that I probably still wander off about a hundred and sixteen times a day.

 

But there was a period of time in my life where I was able to focus. You see I used to be this really good housewife. I was even, in fact, once accused of mirroring the likes of June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver. I admit I didn’t see the resemblance back then, but I will say that I took my daily chores very seriously. They were always completed in a timely, organized fashion and no cupboard or corner was ever left unturned. The kids smelled good, unmentionables were folded, floors gleamed, toilet rolls were always miraculously placed on the holder and there was something fairly edible to eat at all the right times. The least of which is not that I somehow managed to perform all of these things with barely an eyelash bat.

 

So, why not now?

 

Now everything is Everest, its trails littered with obstacles and me, always looking to tunnel through the middle rather than suffering the long way ‘round. You know the drill. The perfectionist holds out—Oh, if I just give this a swipe and that a wipe I can hold off another week until I can do it…properly. These are the tall tales I tell myself. They are the bungees that bounce me up just before hitting the hard bottom of that long dark rabbit hole—It looks fine. It’ll do for now. No one notices anyway. But I notice. And I’m held in a state of unrest.

 

So, why don’t I just buck up?

 

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. And, it’s starting to sink in. There are just too many balls to buck. I can’t focus because I don’t know what my focus is anymore. Now that the kids are older, my plate is piled even higher with outside responsibilities that go beyond vacuuming and changing the bed sheets. Back when I was a young housewife with three small children, my role wasn’t in question. It was simply to serve and protect. And although serving and protecting will always be my heart’s work, the kids are vying for independence and with me on the precipice of 45, it seems only natural that I start to question whether there might be more to the meaning of my existence.

 

So back to my daydream. I was imagining what it would be like to step off the front stoop every morning to follow my fiction. To have nothing on my mind for the first eight hours of every day but fostering what it is I want to achieve. To write without distraction. To have someone running my family and my home, allowing me to work on making a success of myself. To be one of the chosen few who gets to concentrate solely on my goals and aspirations.

 

But daydreams aren’t always realistic. To truly triumph I must achieve whatever it is I want while living the life I’ve already made.

 

That’s victory. That’s genuine success.

 

That’s being a mom.

june-cleaver

 

 

 

 

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The corner store is peeling, its peach paint rolling down toward the dirt, dodging a lifetime of being stuck in one place. Where, she wonders, will the wind take it once it’s free?

 

She sits in the front seat of her car, grappling a family size bag of Ruffles, her only company the small sprouts of green budding through the dryness of the earthy lot. Alone, but for the weeds, she needlessly slumps below the driver’s window and listens to the hum of the wheels bumping through on the small town road behind her. The content of the bag is finally released with one more pull and she closes her eyes, breathing in through her nose, savoring the first crack of salty chip.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

She twists at her ring, normally a mindless habit, but her fingertips are oily and she’s forced to be conscious of the now slick metal. Her thoughts slip with the ring, back to long ago. Long ago when his photos and the few things he’d left behind had scorched through the night. Roaring flames shot from her mother’s bonfire as she had watched in fear, her legs extended and toes sinking deep into the mattress on which she’d stood, her pudgy hands gripping the windowsill with all her might. The back yard, lit only by the blaze, looked scarier than she’d ever seen it and she was relieved a week later, when she and her mother were forced to move to a studio apartment with no back yard.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

Her graduation ring, the one whisper from her father in all the years that have passed since that fiery night, marks her finger like the black circle left on the grass at the old house. She wears it anyway. It’s what she has—the ring, the pale pink box, the envelope he’d scribbled over in seeping blue ink and the outline of his face as he’d said good-bye to her in the low glow of her bedside lamp one last time.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

She could’ve walked. The store was close enough to home but she refuses to be caught in the streets clutching a bag of grease. No, relaxed in her car, shielded by its metallic shell, she’s safe from judgment. She knows it’s not right. The eating with reckless abandon, and often recites the many reasons she shouldn’t, but the crunch between her teeth, the crackle of fragments lining her cheeks and paving her tongue, bring her a sense of comfort she can, only in this moment, grasp. It is as simple, and as complex, as that.

 

But for a split second, she knows that she is, in more ways than one, like the chip—simultaneously curved and flat, plain and sparingly seasoned. One clench away from cracking and crumbling, breaking, but most of all, consumed by the lost, the disappointed and the dismissed.

 

She thinks of her mother, run off her feet at the deli, calling out Next! to the numbers that will reach into the hundreds today. She pictures her standing on the crowded bus, smelling like meat, her feet and aching back making the trek uphill from the stop to the small studio apartment they still call home. She knows she will pour herself a glass of wine and a bath and sit in the too small tub, knees exposed, pretending she’s anywhere but here.

 

She imagines her father’s image slithering down the peach wall facing her and sees him being lifted by the wind. To where, she does not know, but envisions it to be, of course, anywhere but here.

 

May bites into another chip and wonders what it must be like to dodge a lifetime of being stuck in one place. Her thoughts are as simple, and as complex as that.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

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Driving this morning, contemplating my woes—plenty of material for long journeys—I hear the radio DJ’s talking about the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker. And it got me thinking. Where will they go from there? Where can they go? Well, being a woman of almost forty-five years, the only answer to that is; The Darkest Shades of Fifty. (I swear if EL James & Co. use this title I will sue. You are my witnesses)

 

I’ve never read the book. I’m not against steamy subject matter, but there are far too many titles ahead of that one on my To Read list. However, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. In fact, it keeps me awake at night. You probably want me to say the content is what’s stimulating my brain’s core to the point of distraction, so, I will.

 

It’s the content.

 

There’s been so much talk about how poorly written this book is. About how it’s written like a high school student—someone who just found out how babies are made and takes it to a whole other level to prove they didn’t just find out how babies are made.

 

This book has been criticized by many people. People who do not have a published novel sitting on a shelf…anywhere…or a blockbuster on a screen…be it big, small or silver.

 

I could be bitter about EL James’ success. I could be angry that her apparent grade nine scribbles didn’t slip to the bottom of the pile of slush, where most people (who gobbled up her prose) say they should be. I could be sad that such writing has a place in the literary world at all.

 

But, I’m not.

 

I’m jealous. I’m envious. And I’m spurred.

 

She had something to offer. She wrote it down. She believed in her work. She got it published. She completed her mission. And then some. Good for her, I say. After all, she’s not fretting over putting food on the table or making her minimum Visa payment.

 

We’re all we’ve got. There is no other us. We have only our take on things, our thoughts, our originality. Our idea of what makes a story good. This is what we have to use to win in this game. We have to plug our ears, put on our blindfolds and handcuff the haters to a bedpost.

50-Shades-of-Grey-Poster

 

 

 

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You will eventually have had enough of my grieving process I’m sure, but for the moment you may be finding comfort in walking alongside me. This is what keeps me going. Perhaps you’ve lost someone or perhaps that hasn’t happened for you yet and you’re trying to understand what to expect.

 

Expect nothing.

 

I can safely say that although the journey will hold similar jumps for all of us, the method and speed with which we get through (not over) them, will not be the same whatsoever. Emotions and reactions are dependent on so many things—age, proximity and support for example, come immediately to my mind.

 

I tried to tell you a story today, but couldn’t find the words. Everything else seems trivial right now and even though I know that’s far from the truth, I can’t seem to muster the creative backbone needed to spin a tale.

 

But I did visit my girlfriend this weekend. I’ve known her for twenty years and she moved to what I’d call far away a couple of years ago. I miss her terribly, but it’s also nice to be able to make an excursion out of seeing her now.

 

So off we went, my daughter and I, painlessly driving the three-hour jaunt, stopping only for cheap gas and cheerful wine. (The wine was for me. My daughter is not allowed to get cheerful just yet.) Once settled and after eating (a delicious Thai meal courtesy of Leslie’s hubby) we sat on the couch and the dreaded reared its inevitable head. We hadn’t, of course, seen each other since my Papa’s passing and she asked how things were going and how everyone was doing. We talked for some time…well into the night, and as we headed off to bed we were still pondering what happens on the other side.

 

I told her that as much as the idea of a guardian angel seems comforting, I don’t like the idea of them having to watch over us. After all, what kind of torture would it be to see our children but be unable to touch or talk to them?

 

“No,” I said. “I like to believe they take a version of us along for the ride and that way, for them, not a thing has changed.”

Cool-memes-living-life-in-the-clouds

 

 

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This article.

 

 

This article winks at me from across the room, then leaves with someone else. It asks me out to dinner and dodges the check. It promises tickets to a show that isn’t playing. It snatches my last Rolo and while we huddle side by side in a muddy, war-torn trench, it tells me we don’t stand a chance.

 

In a shell, I’m the nut and it’s the cracker and it splintered my little blog-bound heart into a million tiny pieces.

 

I admit going through a similar process to what Carol describes. Writing has always been in my life, but I felt that putting my work out there was the next step. In fact, I believed I’d be hiding in the dark ages by not leaping into the light. That’s how I came to birth my blog and as is human nature, I continue to nurture it despite the pain it causes me.

 

Next, they fall in love with the blog, and then spend way too much time on it.”

 

It’s almost three years old now, and yes I’m in love. Not because—“…it’s so empowering, pushing that ‘publish’ button on whatever you want to say…that it becomes addictive.”—but because I don’t feel alone. It’s not just me anymore. I went from what was, in my mind, selfish, to sharing, hopeful my words would entertain and inspire. At times, I even dare to believe I’d be letting you down should I vanish into thin air.

 

“It’s a dying niche because semi-literate, half-baked posts you dash off in 15 minutes for search robots to index don’t work any more.”

 

Piercing music screams in my head, reaching its crescendo as the shards of my heart are flattened and ground into a fine dust by this suggestion. Half-baked…dashed off in 15 minutes…I’m writing for robots?

 

Ouch.

 

But, I read Carol’s article through several times, washing it down with a tall glass of cool coherence. And you might be surprised to know that once I’d swallowed the pulp and circumstance, I concurred—If you want to write articles, you should of course, write articles.

 

But if you, like me, simply want to write of myth and whimsy to see where the wind takes you, there’s no need for a plummeting spirit. Tice’s advice doesn’t apply to you. Just keep doing what you’re doing because well, it makes you so darn extraordinary.

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All bolded quotes taken from “Why You Should Stop Writing Blog Posts (and What to Do Instead) by Carol Tice at makealivingwriting.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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