Well…That Worked Out Alright…

Early last month I made a commitment to writing a blog post every day for “the rest of the year” – 23 days/23 blog posts.  Although I fell short (I produced 16 posts in 23 days), the end result was exactly what I was looking for.  I have formed a writing habit.

Not as interesting as, say, forming a coke habit or as healthy and inspiring as running 5 miles a day…but to a writer, it’s the difference between life and death (or, at the very least, it’s the difference between being a writer and being someone who just calls themselves a writer).

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Revival of the Blue Stockings Society, Part II

Ironically, I did run in to novelist Tom Franklin in the chips and beverages aisle of our local Kroger the other day.  Unfortunately, he was alone and not surrounded by other thinkers and artists of our community, and he didn’t have time to engage in a political discussion.  Alas.  Kroger is probably not the best location for the revival of the Blue Stockings Society.  And so I left thinking that someone should really write a how-to on starting and running a modern-day version of the 18th century salon.  Finding no one in the meat department, I’ve opted to attempt it myself.

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Reviving the Blue Stockings Society in the Postmodern Era, or
How to Have an Intellectual Conversation, In Person and On a Regular Basis, with a Group of Interesting and Witty Individuals
1.  You must first be interesting and witty yourself. Continue reading

Revival of the Blue Stockings Society

When is the last time you remember a woman gracing the cover of Time Magazine for little else than her ability to throw a really great party?

Perle Mesta, from the cover of the March 14, 1949 issue of Time, is credited with being “the capital’s No. 1 hostess, a position she had inherited, almost by default, from a long line of free-spending, haughty, and sometimes charming dowagers.”

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2010 Wrap-Up

I have a very good friend who does this little “wrap-up” every year and thought it was a nice tradition and way to keep tabs on a life that goes by much, much too quickly.  The questions are borrowed (with permission) from All & Sundry – I deleted some of the original questions that didn’t seem to pertain to me, in particular, this year and added some that I’d like to keep track of in the future.

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1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

It Was Called Mail

JOE: You wrote her letters? SCHUYLER: Mail.  It was called mail. NELSON: (fondly nostalgic and kidding it slightly)  Stamps. Envelopes. JOE: Wait.  I’ve heard of it.  It was a means of communication before I was born.


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Technology is taking over the world.  Not really news, I know, but I believe those of us who can still remember a time before cell phones and the internet have a certain responsibility to occasionally point out the fact that we are in the midst of the slickest coup ever known in history.  And I am it’s number one casualty.

It (Finally) Feels Like Christmas

I’m giving thanks that we don’t have to go through this for another year. Except we do, because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us.”     –Home for the Holidays

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Let’s be honest.  The holidays, for the most part, suck.
It all starts with Thanksgiving – a day of gross overindulgence that requires days of planning, preparing, cooking and not a little money.  Families that don’t normally see each other on a day-to-day basis are suddenly thrown into someone’s inevitably too-small house where the children are grumpy and insistent, the adults are working on getting drunk or bickering, and the pets are consistently in the way and under foot.  The sink piles up with dishes.  The men are shouting at the television.  The women busy themselves with family gossip and eating cake.  If you’re lucky, everyone gets out alive with their relationships still intact.
But maybe that’s just my experience.  Maybe everyone else has a Leave It To Beaver holiday experience.  But even in that family, the Beav was forced to deal with Wally, and I have strong suspicions that Mrs. Cleaver was a closet alcoholic.
Unfortunately, it’s not only Thanksgiving that we have to survive.  If it were, well then, hell…that could be doable.  One day?  I can do that in my sleep.  But no, we are not so lucky.  Because, as Adele in Home for the Holidays so aptly puts it, “those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to punish us.”  Punish us, indeed.  Every year, I hear people complain about how commercial it’s all becoming, how the stores start playing that dreaded Christmas music too early, how stressed out they are.  People have been complaining about the same things for years.  Maybe even since the first Christmas.  I mean, it had to be stressful for those three wise men to find just the right gifts, travel to an inevitably too-small house, and spend time with people they barely knew.  And here we are, thousands of years later, suffering the same fate.  Only we get the added annoyance of being forced to listen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer five hundred times in three weeks.
Still…I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach.  It’s the 22nd of December, just three days till Christmas.  And even though the decorations have been up since Thanksgiving and the presents have been wrapped and under the tree for a week, it wasn’t until this morning that I began to feel a little excited about the holiday.  Oddly enough, today is the day that I have a zillion things to do.  Most of it cooking.  And for reasons I can’t explain, it is the cooking itself that makes the season joyful.  The decorating is fun and looks nice, the present buying and wrapping is fun too, but there’s something about cooking for my family that feels like true giving.  It’s true that I could save myself some time by going to the grocery store and buying cakes surrounded by molded plastic and loaves of bread in plastic sleeves.  But there is something grand about flour on the floor and the smell of things made from scratch in the oven.
In this age of made-up families, those consisting primarily of friends and partners who know us better than our actual families ever will, it is especially important to give something of ourselves.  Not just presents carefully selected or time spent in front of the television rooting on a common favorite team, but something that says, “Hey.  I have history with you. And even though I don’t really know you, really know you, you are important to me.”  Maybe spaghetti sauce and meatballs made from scratch or bread rolled by my hands is not enough.  The kids will still be grumpy and insistent, the adults will still be working on getting drunk and bickering, and the pets will still be underfoot.  But, for me, the food I place on the table for my family speaks volumes.  And I know that, for a few moments at least, their enjoyment of it will erase the stress and tension of the season.

Promises Are Hard To Keep

The much anticipated (for book geeks like me) publication of the first volume of Samuel Clemens’ autobiography has been given as a “powerful argument for writers’ burning their papers” according to Garrison Keillor’s scathing review in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review.  Keillor, much like Clemens’ himself, notes a score of missteps in this autobiography – forcing the reader of his review to suffer the tedium of his reading of the damned book.  The review is, in fact, so tedious with tedious quotes, that, rather than eliciting even a morbid curiosity about the “fraud” that is The Autobiography of Mark Twain, I now have absolutely no desire to read it.  In fact, I have a strange and sudden urge to instigate a book burning.

It just so happens that writers get caught in their own papers all the time.  It’s the problem with print.  It tends to stick around, and what might be interesting or of note or even good one day, may in fact be pure crap 100 years from now.  Many writers, those with foresight perhaps, do, in fact, burn their papers.  Willa Cather did it.  And then she went a step further by putting a provision in her will that forbids her letters from being published.  Ever.  This fine print has made researching her, if not difficult, at the very least inconvenient for scholars.  But after reading Keillor’s review of Twain’s papers, I have to give the lady props.

Of course, Mr. Clemens has only himself to blame.  Had he allowed the book to be published in his lifetime (or even shortly after his death), he might have been forgiven.  But to put so much pressure on a piece of writing – to require it not be published for 100 years and to subtitle the thing “The Complete Authentic Unexpurgated Edition, Nothing Has Been Omitted, Not Even Scandalous Passages Likely to Cause Grown Men to Gasp and Women to Collapse in Tears — No Children Under 7 Allowed to Read This Book Under Any Circumstance”…well…

It would seem he was asking for it.

Even so, I can’t help but feel a little bad for the man. I mean, 100-year-old promises are hard to keep. Especially when one promises a blockbuster of a book that won’t be read for a century. Still, even with Keillor’s review, the book is doing well and no doubt stuffing the coffers of Mr. Clemens’ benefactors. And let’s face it – who among us doesn’t want something we’ve written to be on the New York Times’ Best Seller List for seven weeks straight (and counting) a century after we’re gone? Of course, if we aim for that, we’ll no doubt find ourselves in the same embarrassing predicament as Mr. Clemens.