Friday, May 28, 2010

GK is Four

Happy birthday to the one and only GK.

Four years ago today you showed up to become the 4th child. Things have never been quite the same.

I love you, baby girl.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You Just Made The List

Dinner time can get out of control over here. I know the experts say it's good to have family time at the dinner table, but the experts don't have to listen to the complaining, the whining and the chewing. The experts don't have to eat their own food while the rest of the table wiggles and bounces up and down on knees and butts. The whole table pitches and heaves, inducing seasickness in any stationary adult. The experts don't have to buy the food, and cook the meal, only hear the children complain about their dinner.

And then there's the time. I like nothing better than a long, leisurely dinner over appetizers, salads, main courses, dessert, wine, coffee, Sambuca ... but this is different. This is dinner spent with kids complaining about what they have to eat, how much they have to eat, instead of actually eating. And that takes time. All that chatter takes up an enormous amount of the evening.

Part of the chatter, ironically, is about what they can eat. Can I have dessert? What's for dessert? How much of this do I have to eat to get that?

So last night I implemented The List. To find your way onto The List of Those Who Will Have Dessert is simple. All you have to do is eat your dinner. All of your dinner. The only possible catch is, you have to eat your dinner within a reasonable amount of time. That's all.

Last night, the first night of The List, the only one's left off of it were C, which surprised me, and Mr. Baby, which didn't - he never eats. JP and Miss M made it on The List over my protestations. Neither finished their meal, but were exempted by The Commissioners, Kristy and SAM. The integrity of The List was weakened on night one. I did put asterisks by their names so they will have a difficult time getting in the Dessert Hall of Fame.

We'll see how things go tonight. Whether or not The List has struck fear in the hearts and stomachs of all of these children. I can only imagine that they are spending all of today wondering what's for dinner and might they be able to choke it down within 60 minutes.

Or whether or not they can break down The Commissioners' resolve again with sweet talk ... and talk ... and talk ... and talk ...

Monday, May 17, 2010


I love books.

More than just reading, I like to hold them, leaf through them, smell them. Before I begin a new book, I read the dust jacket, front and back flaps, all the information on copyrights and the title page. I need to know who an author dedicated that book to. And, if possible, why.

I want to go over to your house right now and look over your book shelves. No matter that you're not there, though I will ask later why your Scott Fitzgerald is next to your Lee Smith, why there are a series of biographies with a slim volume of poetry spliced into the center. How, in the ordering of things, did you go from Vonnegut to Cheever, Maugham to Chernow, Conan Doyle to Roddy Doyle?

It's not judgment, just curiosity.

I don't borrow books. I don't sell books. I like to keep the books that I read. Occasionally, I will give away a book because one of the greatest gifts, I believe, is to give something someone that has brought you such joy.

I read slowly and that's a handicap. There are so many books I want to read, and I'm sure I'll get to most of them, but how many more could I devour if I could read more quickly? Instead, I read slow and steady. I pace myself.

I didn't become a reader in the proper sense until my early 20s, but have done pretty well for the past 20 years. I can remember some, though not all, of what I've consumed. Not so much of characters or details, or even plots, I'm afraid.

But some do stick with me like friends.

Because Elizabeth did it. And because SAM did it. And because a list is the simplest form of blog post, both in the writing and the reading, here is my list of my all-time 23 books. In no order.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  6. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  7. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  8. Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  9. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  10. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  11. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  12. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  13. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  14. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
  15. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  16. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  17. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  18. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  19. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by Maxwell Perkins
  20. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  21. The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
  22. Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
  23. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Am I forgetting some? Probably. Am I assigning a loftier status to books that may not deserve the distinction? Probably so. But these are the ones I think of right now, at this moment, when I think of the books that have shaped me as a person, as a reader and as a writer.

I think I'll go read now.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Across The River And Into ...

I've been writing a lot lately.

Not here, obviously, but for work - for them - and then that other thing. That as-of-yet-unnamed-project I've been working on for some time now that, well, I finished.

It comes in at a fighting weight of 73,215 words. It's a big, beautiful thing.

Just last weekend I typed -30- and put it down. And then I picked it back up, and then I put it down again. And I've been doing so all week. I leaf through it, read a passage, decide that passage needs to be reworked. Much of it needs to be gone through, scraped, picked over and sanded down with a 60-grit thesaurus.

So, it's not finished. But there is a beginning and there is an end. Actually, I've already changed up the beginning. So now there's a new beginning that is better. There are bookends for all the stuff in the middle to lean against.

I'm not sure how you know when a project like this is finished. When it's sporting its best dust jacket and on someone else's shelf, I suppose. Someone you don't know. Or when you're so tired of looking at it and reading through it - again - that you finally shove it into the bottom drawer of your desk, on top of all those rejection letters from agents and publishers, like the softest down pillow.

But I have no right to complain yet about that process because I haven't been through it yet. I haven't dipped my toe into those waters to see just how icy cold they can be.

I've been trying to get through this other process, the one that takes place about 80% in your head and 20% on paper. To help me get through it I've been reading about writers and how they do what they do, about Paul Auster and about Ernest Hemingway. I'm reading a biography of the last years of Papa's life by his good friend A.E. Hotchner now, that great writer who wrote his own biography once, King of the Hill.

In Papa Hemingway, he writes: He owned one decent jacket, made for him in Hong Kong, two pairs of pants, one pair of shoes and no underwear. And I think to myself, maybe that's good enough to aspire to. Not to be able to write like Hemingway because that's a losing proposition, but to that simplicity. Parse it all down and see what I'm left with, see where so little will take me.

For now, though, I have a lot. 73,215. I'm not sure that'll be all, I'm not so sure how you know when you're at the end, the final end. But I do know that I'm exhausted, and it's one of the best feelings I've ever had.