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What We Keep

Other people's business

I am inordinately set up about having (after several tries) got a piece in the Readers Write column of The Sun magazine. Every month they publish a list of topics and upcoming deadlines for submitting a short personal essay on each subject. Mine was “Cars,” a paean to my long-ago 1961 red convertible bug, in which I learned how to navigate the L.A. freeways and did many things my mother didn’t know about. My father bought it for me in the course of an evening’s poker game.

Readers Write is always the first thing I read when the new issue arrives. They are mini-novels, tiny memoirs of a moment or a person or, often, a trauma of some kind. But almost as often of a moment of joy, or understanding, on topics like Privacy, Trying Again, The Refrigerator, or Fire. Some are signed. Others are “Name Withheld.” Writers are instinctively interested in other people’s business, so small wonder it’s my favorite.

Years ago we spent the night at a favorite inn, Deetjen’s in Big Sur, where there are no telephones in the rooms, no television, just a fireplace and a journal for guests to write something in. I sat up most of the night reading the one in our room. There is something about anonymity, about knowing that the next guest is someone you will never set eyes on, that frees the tongue, or the pen. The one that I remember best was the entry by a woman who had come to the inn to break up with her lover, written as he slept beside her. I’ve always wondered what happened to them, written their story in varying ways in my head. Maybe she is someone I have read in The Sun.
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We Twee

Hollins campus buzzards observing the death of the English language
For some reason I am driven absolutely batty by the fashion for shortening words cutely: nutrish, delish, merch...

I don’t know why this irritates me so much, but it absolutely does. It’s just so adorable and twee you half expect it to blow you kisses. Gack. I am sure there are other examples but these three are the ones I see everywhere, as if every copywriter in the country has suddenly had the same attack of Traumatic Cuteness Overload, rendering them tragically incapable of writing a dignified sentence.

Waste not, want not, however, so there is apparently also a corresponding urge to add the missing bits to something else: bootylicious, pinkalicious, and others no doubt even more revolting. When my doctor starts discussing my condish with me, I am taking whatever condition my condition is in to someone else. Read More 
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Rocks

We have been stealing rocks. Since we live in an old riverbed, this is not hard. The alleys abound with them, and every time it rains, enough to build a chimney with wash onto the road that goes through the park. I feel a bit furtive with my sack of rocks, stealthily putting promising ones in as we walk the dogs. But a load of the things costs a mint, and I need flower bed borders, so we embark on a life of crime.

It’s very satisfactory setting the day’s haul in a line next to yesterday’s, slowly encircling the columbine and the hydrangeas, like coming to the end of a story and knowing you’ll have the ending in your pocket tomorrow.

Rocks can’t be rushed, any more than stories can. They takes eons to form (so alas do my stories) and they are particular who they will sit next to. They are heavy and you can’t swipe too many at a time in the same way that it is inadvisable to steal too much of your neighbor’s personal life for your fiction. A small bit here and there, then a chunk or two from a different person is safest.
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