“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.