“At some point I began to value ‘truth,’ that elusive thing, more as I grew older—not only story. I recall lying on a bed, looking at a manuscript on the floor as I reached to turn pages, and thinking to myself, I must mean everything I say, every word, and feeling it as a profound moment in my writing life. When my son was little he went to a convent school for the first year. They’re very good schools, and the public schools were very bad where we lived, around Columbia University. One day when I went to get Gabe, who was five or six, I heard a woman talking to her child. She was a nice woman, I’m sure. She was talking to her eight- or nine-year-old child on the way home up the slope of the hill, and she was saying, ‘When it’s this time of year’—it was autumn—’I think of the leaves in New England, and I think how beautiful they are.’ And I thought, That’s false what she said. I could hear the falsity. She wanted to make her child feel that she was an appreciator of beauty so the child would appreciate the beauty of the leaves turning. I thought, Why doesn’t she really talk to her? I mean, it’s obvious that she had good intentions, but also I realized that good intentions are part of the whole problem. You know? Even in virtuous people, falseness can corrupt their virtue.” — Paula Fox in The Paris Review
I’m going to be honest for a moment. I know you thought my nerdy tendencies stopped at collecting manual typewriters, reading lots of books, listening to chicks with guitars and indulging in tofu scrambles. But there’s something else. I heart The Venture Brothers. Kevin got the DVD set for Christmas, and, well, they’re like animated crack.
So my little nerd-heart soared when I found this blog, by one of the animators, with storyboards and sketches and such.
Sometimes Chicago holds little vortexes of goodness, pockets of peace that you can slip into if you’re very lucky: homemade tacos, Andrew Bird, ginger beer and rum drinks with names like “warm and dark” or “dark and stormy,” candles, Walt Disney movies that make us cry about little Scottish dogs that never, ever leave their master’s side. Even after the master dies and is buried in the kirkyard.
Coudal Partners curates the Museum of Online Museums. Grocery lists? Vermeer? Squished pennies? Absinthe? Soviet radios? Yes. Yes.
Last night my friend Ross and I went to a reading by one of my very favorite authors, Amy Bloom. Bethy, one of my closest high school friends, gave me one of her books when I was 17, and I quickly devoured Bloom’s soulful, delicate, psychologically rich short stories. I had wanted to see her read in New York when I was 19, interning at Newsweek, but my editor wanted me to stay late and find errant commas and spacing errors in that week’s proofs.
Basically I’d been waiting like 8 years to see this woman. So I was psyched, and soaked up several quick lessons from her talk:
1) Past the age of ten, our experiences reveal things about us rather than shape us. Characters can reveal themselves via their reactions to their experiences.
2) There’s a book called 36 Dramatic Situations. It’s a good book.
3) Dialogue shouldn’t read like normal conversation. It’s conversation’s greatest hits.
4) You’re either resilient, or you fall asleep in the snow and die.
5) Her path: Submit to a journal. Then another. Then another.
The crowd was mostly Jewish middle-aged women, for some reason, perhaps because this talk was sponsored by a Jewish literature nonprofit. I was a little surprised — Amy’s material is sometimes a little racy, and my biological clock shuddered a little as a petite 50-something woman with thinning hair asked about a story wherein the protagonist finds both a passionate lover and an understanding husband, and the whole triangle gets along swimmingly. Amy called this “a fairy tale for adults.”
I went up and talked to her after the reading because she also professed a love of theater. Since I happen to run a theater, I thought to myself: Self, go talk to this woman. It will be awkward and seemingly purposeless, but do it anyways. And I did. And she was gracious and lovely and said she truly wanted to stop by next time she’s in town. So maybe.
Afterwards, I downed a couple pints of Guinness and some awesome mac and cheese with Ross at a dive-y pub where the bartender sported a black eye, and all was right with the world.
I spent the weekend with my sister Lisa and my mother, who both flew in from Buffalo to visit for a few days. Hanging out for too long with the origins of my DNA is a little hazardous to the health. To decompress after dropping them at the airport at 7am, I spent today with: pad thai; Live Free or Die Hard; Kevin; and my good friends, the pajamas. Now pale dusky sunlight slips over the bare branches outside my window. Everything’s quiet.
This article explains why I was cut after 6 weeks at Hirsh in ’05: Each school’s budget relies on projected student attendance figures, thanks to CPS’s convoluted, archane policies. Schools should not have to rely on psychic powers in order to properly structure their staffs. Call me crazy.
I serve as the managing director of The Neo-Futurists, a theater company that’s all about the personal, the political, the interactive, the absurdly hilarious and the quietly mind-bending. People come to see these shows. They line up around the corner and down the block for them. But we’re still, constantly, struggling for cash. A group of theater bloggers has decided to tackle the question: What is the value of theater? And their responses are worth reading. Here’s Don’s, which links to several others.
Vim, Shayna and I were once members of a hypothetical girl rock band called “Mad Chaos”. This kept us sane as we dashed around Washington, D.C. attempting to run under-staffed and under-funded parent education and arts programs for public schools.
I often wonder what it takes to sustain oneself on art alone. Here’s a theory.
The long post and longer list of comments is a worthwhile back-and-forth that is currently cycling through my brain like Kool-Aid through a curly straw.
For one year, I did not have any margin of time to call my own. I woke up, drove to work, taught all day, went to a meeting or a class, drove home, lesson-planned, maybe ate, graded, maybe showered, maybe slept five or six hours. I began to go to a therapist for depression, and she would ask me about my life and how I’d spent my time since we last talked. I would say, “Well, last week I turned in a final for grad school…” and then, slowly, as she asked me more questions about it, I would remember that this only happened two days ago. Or I’d think something that happened this afternoon had happened yesterday. My notion of time had become impossibly skewed, and my appointment book looked like a Bic massacre, covered in scrawls and cross-outs, every hour of the day filled.
I have margins now, and with them, a margin of sanity even if I’m not constantly throwing rose petals off my Ecstatically Happy Float in the Joy Parade. They are small, these hours to myself, but I have them — and I can watch Lost or read a book or do some laundry without sacrificing basic responsibilities.
Apparently there’s a book about this concept, of creating time margins. (Next I’d like a financial margin. Nothin’ like seeing that bank balance sink down to zero the day before you get paid.)
You know how I know? ‘Cause there’s a magazine called Sheep!
Note that the exclamation mark is theirs. Even though I’m not unexcited.
Makes me remember why I should practice the guitar harder… if listening feels good, playing must be even better.
So I’ve debated about grad school. But here’s my quandry: I’ve done everything I’ve ever really wanted to do with just my trusty bachelor’s. It’s the nature of what I’m drawn to, I think. In the world of journalism (at least, in my experience), your clips are your medals of honor. If you can write, you’re in. If you can’t write but you have a shiny degree, you’re useless. In the world of nonprofit administration, your experience is key. Nonprofit grad programs are relatively new, relatively few, and each nonprofit is so different that coursework won’t necessarily teach you how to wrangle through the internal politics and diverse personalities of a fringe theater company.
I’d want an MFA in creative writing, though. I’d want time and space and smart people around me who are all in love with the written word. Unfortunately an MFA is not eminently practical, career-wise, and it seems bizarre to sink myself into debt for something that’s not a must-have.
So I’m trying something new. I’m trying to surround myself with smart people who love writing (i.e., writing groups, Gapers Block and Second Story), and use my time and space more effectively. Like I’ve been waking up at 8:30 and working for an hour before I head to work.
I’m also trying to read more and find some heroes. I bought a book called Cult Fiction, which details some of the literary world’s underground beloved. I just read about a woman named Tove Jansson who apparently created a quirky bunch of children’s characters called The Moomins that were also saying something to adults, (a la the original text of Winnie the Pooh). I’m totally searching her books out, in part because of a character described as “the philosopher Muskrat who lies in a hammock eating ice cream and reading a book called The Uselessness of Everything.” (This evening, after a particularly stressful day, I went to Kopi for pie and ice cream, and threw my hands up at the universe.)
In 2003, the war seemed front-and-center all the time. Here are some posts from then:
Monday, March 17, 2003
Vim: We’re going to war, aren’t we?
Me: We’re all going to die, aren’t we?
Vim (shuffling papers): But look at all this work we’re doing.
Me: Just more paper to fly out the windows of the building when it explodes.
Vim: Maybe I shouldn’t staple these then. For greater effect.
I went to a peace vigil at the Lincoln Memorial last night… beautiful…. hundreds of candles lit like stars around me, I sat on the edge of the Reflecting Pool with the Washington Monument glowing white behind me and the Lincoln Memorial glowing white in front of me. The silent crowd held dripping white candles in the misty rain while Peter, Paul and Mary played the gentle acoustic peace songs that I learned in elementary school. This land is your land….