Girlfriends Book Club and Li-Young Lee

Today Susan Cushman, a lovely writer friend of mine, introduced me via Facebook to a blog called the Girlfriends Book Club. Yesterday’s post, “Girlfriends dish on encounters with famous authors,” initially threw me off, thinking that it would be filled with dirt and gossip about authors who behaved badly in a public setting (let’s face it, this happens). But imagine my pleasant surprise when I found post after post of inspiring tales of authors taking the time to help out young writers.

As I read, I was reminded of my own little encounter with a famous author and thought I’d share it here with you.

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I’ve Always Wanted a Rooster

It’s funny.  But if you have the time to actually read all the stuff you ask to be sent to your inbox, you’ll discover there’s a whole world of literary activity taking place out there.  I have, for years now, been getting the Times in my inbox.  Unless the headline was really something spectacular, the vast majority of those emails went directly into the trash, unread.  Lately, I’ve been reading it instead.  And, surprise of all surprises, there’s interesting stuff going on in the world.  Imagine that.  Since I have a little more time than usual these days, I’ve also been reading The Millions pretty religiously.  And I’ve discovered that I’m a new convert to a very old, very established movement.  Okay.  So I’m late to the party.  What of it?  Just in case some of you are also late the party (or missed the party altogether), I like to include some of the more interesting information gleaned from my reading here.  Today’s tidbit involves a rooster.

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Notes from a Neophyte

“The best work Hemingway ever did was with that shotgun,” says the only Dean sitting amongst us.  You can literally hear the intake of air as I gasp, choke and laugh at the same time. “You did NOT just say that,” I say as I watch the Dean’s face glimmer with an evil pleasure at having shocked me.  A group of us are sitting at a newish and hip Chinese/Japanese fusion restaurant in frigid Omaha, Nebraska.  After sitting through an eight-hour board meeting for a literary foundation on which four of the five of us sit, the mood is jovial and light.  There are three scholars at the table and a married couple who give an extraordinary amount of time and money to the cause simply because they believe in it.   Continue reading

The Adventures of Huck Finn, revisited

For the record, I completely agree with Kathleen Parker’s stance on Alan Gribben’s new edition of Twain’s novel in which Gribben changes every instance of the word “nigger” to “slave.”  The way I see it, literature chronicles society – past and present.  Ideas change.  Language evolves.  It’s not our job to do “something constructive by simply eliminating a word that’s a clear barrier for many people.”

Sorry, Mr. Gribben, there’s nothing “constructive” or “simple” about it.

Still, Tim Rutten says it best when he remarks, “The offensive idiocy of vandalism masquerading as sensitivity need not be belabored here.”   Continue reading

2011, Presence

You may have noticed…things look a little different around here.  I blame it all on the new year and those frakkin resolutions.

You see, every year for about the last decade, my partner and I (and sometimes his sisters or close friends) name the new year.  Most people think of a new year as a time to look back, and we do that too.  But this little tradition that I inherited when I met him (he’s been doing it for many, many years) asks us to look ahead.  It’s different for everyone.  But for me, I like to name my new years based on where I think my life is headed and what I want to accomplish or achieve over the course of the next twelve months.

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Books That Look Like You Might Actually Read Them Someday

I want Thatcher Wine’s job.

In case you haven’t heard, Thatcher Wine is the owner of Juniper Books – a one-man show responsible for beautifying “many of the world’s finest homes, yachts, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, spas, common areas of high end residences, and other locations” that was highlighted in the January 6th edition of the New York Times.  How does he do this?  With books, of course.

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TV Dinners Again?

I don’t remember when or where I was when I picked up a very used, very worn edition of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.  But I do remember opening the book to find a news clipping inside.

Much more than the book, this clipping, yellowed and wrinkled with more than 35 years of age, has had an impact on me that, until today, I’ve been unable to put into words.  The clipping comes from the May 5, 1975 edition of Newsweek from an article titled, “Sex and the Woman Writer” in which Erica Jong “typifies a new breed of women novelists who are describing their own experience in an unprecedented outpouring of books.”

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Modern Science (and the New York Times) Needs Your Help

We expect the front page of the New York Times to inform us of breaking news.  Obviously.  But today’s front page contains an article at which, I’m sorry, I just have to laugh.

“In Women’s Tears, a Chemical That Says, ‘Not Tonight, Dear'”

Even better, the description tag:  “Researchers studying the effects of women’s emotional crying found it to dampen arousal in men.”

Really?  You don’t say?  And all this time I’ve been sobbing into my cosmo at the local bar wondering why men aren’t flocking to my side to ask me for a roll in the hay.  Hmmm.  These researchers might just be on to something…

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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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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.


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.