Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Cover Recycle.

There is rarely a time to be glad for flight delays and cooling your heels in an airport.

This travel purgatory can, however, be eased if you are able to kick back in an annoyingly precious but very comfortable airport-supplied rocking chair with an amazing collection like No one belongs here more than you. Stories by Miranda July.

I'm in total lit crush for it.

Smart without being overly intellectual, crafty without being too smart for their own good. July's stories are quick, sharp and just substantial enough to feel like a meal and not pure dessert.

Better, I bought it in the most fantastic bookstore I have ever been in.

And why is that?

Because they mix new and used books.

It's the fourth "R." Reduce, re-use, recycle, re-read.

The next time you're in Portland, ME (1) grab lunch at the Dry Dock (2), window shop at Abacus American Crafts and buy many, many fantastic books at Longfellow Books where...wait for it...the folks that work there?

Actually read. Books (3).

1. You never know.
2. If you look it up you're only going to find reviews from folks that hate it. I'm chalking this up to them being "from away"...because I can.
3. Yeah. I'm still not done with that.


How is it that the decision that you've made over and over again can suddenly freeze you in your tracks?

How is it that, even as the people around you say that you have to do what's best for you and give you as much blessing as a person could ask for in a non-religious situation, there is still that little voice inside that says, "Really?"

Anyone that knows me knows that I do not like change. The selection of new colors for our house transforms into an extended negotiation as Leopold breaks it down into the most diplomatic and non-threatening thread possible for someone not professionally trained by a team from the United Nations.

And he does all this knowing that, even with this careful preparation, I will experience some level of panic attack on the day paint begins to go on the wall. And he'll keep painting because it needs to be done.

When I was 7-years old I became hysterical when my parents brought our broken down floral couch to the dump.

I did not believe it could talk. It was not my imaginary friend. It was a piece of furniture that I did nothing more than sit on to watch Electric Company and Zoom and reruns of The Odd Couple.

But I was undone by the idea of it not being there because, for as long as I could remember, it had been there.

I am not good with change.

Almost without fail I begin to cry when Leopold and I drive south over the bridge that separates Maine from New Hampshire. I have not lived in Maine for 20 years and still, leaving unnerves me. A feeling in my gut like I will never be back.

But sometimes it is simply time for things to change and sometimes there is never going to be a good time to change them. And sometimes the things that become the most cherished, like Leopold, are only possible because you took a chance and drove south over the bridge.

So you stop looking. You stop dipping your toe in the water. You stop waiting for the light to turn green.

And you leap.

And you just trust that, just like that freshly painted living room wall, your world will look just a bit brighter when all is said and done.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dance, dance, dance.

The Attorney, Mr. Attorney, Mr. Attorney's Sidekick and I are in the car on our way to the reunion.

Sidekick and Mr. Attorney are in the front seat.

Sidekick: I need to stop at the bank to get some cash for the bar.

Mr. Attorney: I didn't even think of that. Attorney, do you have any cash on you?

The Attorney: [Reaches into her purse and checks her wallet.] I have...ten $1.00 bills. Apparently, I thought there were going to be strippers.

Lines like that are why this girl has been one of my best friends for nearly 25 years.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

You know, like you do.

After reading a blurb about Tim Thornton's book The Alternative Hero I realized that I really liked the cover.

Yeah. Didn't really do all that much for me.

But then, because you know how you go out and read more about books that you're pretty sure you have no interest in at all beyond the quirky cover, I found a Q&A with Thornton on the Knopf Doubleday Web site.

Specifically, I found this question:

What sparked the idea for this book?
The Alternative Hero actually started life as a song: I was going to do a mashup version of LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” replacing all the too-cool-for-school New York City DJ references with rainswept British indie ones, so: “I was there at the first Can show in Cologne” would become “I was there when Blur supported Ned’s Atomic Dustbin at Kilburn National,” and “I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988” would transform into “I had my first E in a clapped out Vauxhall Chevette in a traffic jam on the way back from Spike Island in 1990”— and so on.

No offense at all intended to the cover designer, but I think someone should have just slapped this response on the cover.

And so on.

Stop children, what's that sound.

That sound is buzz.

This morning I flipped open the tiny remnants of what was once a brilliant newspaper book section only to find another rave review of Maile Meloy's (1) new collection of short stories.

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It (2) is comprised of 11 stories about folks trying to find a way to have their cake and eat it too. Or, have no cake at all and starve to death waiting for someone to bring them bread.

What's interesting to me is not only how much attention the book is getting (3) but the fact that critics are so excited about a short story collection.

Throughout graduate school I sweated over tiny little short stories while everyone around me worked on, talked about or longed to finish their first novel.

Yes, there is something of a lit jock factor to writing a novel. It's showy. It sounds good at dinner parties: "I'm finishing my first novel." And, the sad reality is, most agents and publishers will tell you that getting a collection of short stories published as your first work is as likely as...well...the prospects of the sun coming out again in New England (4).

But I can't help myself. I love a good short story and a good collection of short stories?


Now to find the shelf space.

1. Ms. Meloy is not my nemesis.
2. Go ahead. Yes. You in the back. Go ahead, let's get the giggling out of the way.
3. Seriously, it feels like everywhere I turn someone is talking about it. And the book has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, Michael Jackson or North Korea. So, wow.
4. A little inside shout out to the New England crew where it has rained virtually every day all summer long. June? 3 days of sun.

Do you know who I am?

Last night was the reunion.

When all was said and done what the evening really became was a chance for me and my best friend The Attorney to stand in various corners and continue any of the dozens of conversations we've been having with each other for the last twenty-four years (1).

But the other great sport of the evening was issuing huge smiles and big hugs and then, safely off to the side, looking at each other and trying to figure out who the heck that was (2) we were just talking to.

Not everyone mind you. Between the two of us we made pretty short work of the room.

Some folks looked like the day we graduated (3) while others were people I've known since we were all in kindergarten. There was just something about them that I would recognize anywhere.

But then there were the others.

The folks who were so excited to see everyone and isn't this great and I can't believe how great you look and...and...and...nothing. No idea. No scrap. No glimmer. No memory of who this person was or idea of who they are.

The irony of all this is that these were never the people who would open the conversation by saying, "You don't remember me, do you?" At least five people said this to me and, in every case, I knew exactly who they were.

If I were a different kind of writer I would assign this all some much greater meaning. Some deep philosophical message about the passage of time and the fact that, even for those of us who spent a good deal of time in school living on the edges, there were others still further out.

But I'm not.

So instead I will just direct folks who make name tags for reunion events to footnote #2. Arial Bold. A nice 48-point. Something for the folks in the back row.

1. Seriously, on walking in the front door the first person we encountered was the girl we started fighting with about 3 months into freshman year. She hated us. We hated her. Strange thing? I don't think any of us know exactly why. Stranger thing? We both made a point of avoiding her all evening. We don't mess around.
2. Note to all individuals charged with making badges for high school reunions: Those curly script fonts on your computer are lovely and you should use them to make "Most Changed" and "Farthest Traveled" certificates. Not for name badges that people will be trying to read in a dimly lit lodge hall. Arial Bold my friends. Arial Bold. 48-point. Help a brother out.
3. I heard this a lot.