Best Opening Lines Ever...

O visions of salmon tremendous,
Of trout of unusual weight...

-- from Andrew Lang, Books & Bookmen, 1886


Mama-School, Day One: Anthropomorphic

"You be the mama kitty."

"Okay. I'm the mama kitty. Meow!"

"I'll be the baby kitty. Meow!"

This goes on for a while. Then: "You're an anthropomorphic kitty."

"What does that mean?"

"You're a kitty shaped like a person."

"What if I were a person shaped like a kitty?"




In California earlier this week, I had an odd experience: I heard a raven croaking, looked up to find it on a low branch, and stepped toward it. The bird watched me but did not move. It was huge, almost two feet tall, with a large, slightly curvy beak and yellow eyes. I'd never seen anything like it. I came closer, but the bird didn't really care - it just kept croaking, and listening as another raven, in a nearby tree, croaked back. I had the feeling I was in the presence of some kind of intelligence -- not just another bird.

Turns out, ravens are as smart as two-year-olds. They are flexible, strategic thinkers. They'll even try to make a bested rival feel better. Wow.

Pet Peeve

Oh, how I dislike the sort of writing that asks you to love it, to approve of it, while pushing you away - humorless stories about self-destruction in the service of rebellion, of telling it to the Man. The writer forgets the basic instability of the reader's position, how easy it is to go from sympathy for the narrator to identification with the very thing that oppresses her. I do not understand why people bang on about, for instance, Baudelaire, who whines quite a bit about being -- get this! -- unlucky in love. Which happens to everyone, and certainly is not a cause for whining.

Often, when reading Baudelaire, part of me wishes I had lived in nineteenth-century Paris & had the opportunity to dump him. Imp of the perverse and all that.

When this happens, I reject everything, hating to be made complicit in a story that I came to all opened up and vulnerable and ready to listen.

This post is not meaningfully linked, it accuses without pointing a finger, it whines and complains. Fittingly, I suppose.


Oh, shucks, I'm IT.

Cathy just tagged me. My assignment: to confess eight random facts about ... myself. Good heavens. I guess there's a reason VANITY figures so prominently in the title of this (non)blog.

Caveat lector: I make things up for a living.

1. I have been on an anti-depressant for the past year. I don't like taking the little pill, and sometimes will avoid or reject it. (This, too, is part of depression.) I used to be opposed to medication for mood "disorders," because I think sometimes people are sad because their lives are saddening, and that's what needs to be changed. Then I read Peter Kramer's Against Depression and reconsidered. Mostly, the medication works astonishingly well.

2. My left foot is a little larger than my right.

3. I am allergic to guava and ragweed. For a long time I thought I was allergic to goldenrod, but this was a mistake - goldenrod is not allergenic, it just flowers at the same time (and more prominently) as ragweed, leading people to blame the wrong plant.

A tropical drink in a late summer field might kill me.

4. I applied to exactly one university. Good thing they let me in.

5. I was in a "gifted" education program in elementary school, one of ten kids who were swept out of our local grammar schools and brought to another school where we were separated from the rest of our grade level for most of the day.

There is nothing like being separated from one's peers and labeled "gifted" for creating the conditions for constant teasing and humiliation.

While in our "gifted" class, we took part in various "enrichment" activities, one of which involved me pouring a bottle of peroxide all over the classroom woodwork because I was curious about what would happen. "Enrichment" must have meant "not too well supervised." As far as I know, none of us wound up in jail.

6. I used to be a cocktail waitress. One night, the former of mayor of Providence, Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, stiffed me for a seven-dollar tip on two cognacs he ordered, one for him and one for the very attractive torch singer at the bar.

7. I really do have a PhD from MIT.

8. I speak four languages in addition to English -- Italian, German, French, and Russian.

9. When I was eight or nine, I shoplifted a rhinestone button. I don't know why I did it. Maybe just because it was shiny.

If you hold (as I do) that this thing called literature is a dense network of writers' allusions to (not to mention appropriations of) other writers, then this is probably the first indication of what I was going to become. No wonder my parents worried so much.

As a friend -- another writer -- once told me, "We're all just magpies, aren't we."

10. Doubtless to the disappointment of both my parents, my first word was not "mama" or "daddy" but "butter." Or, more precisely, "budda." This utterance marked the flowering, also, of my Rhode Island accent, which has softened over the years but is still present (just ask me to say "carburetor" -- "caaahbuhraytahh")...

Now I need to tag eight other people. Good lord, this make take some time.


How to Catch a Glimpse of the Perseids

A how-to guide. Doesn't sound hard.


This schedule might work:

6-8: Writing time for DG

8-8:15: Outdoor karate time
8:15-8:45: Breakfast
8:45-9: Clean up
9-9:30 or 9:45 Free play
9:45-10: Snack
10-11:30: Two 45-minute structured activities (art, patterns, cooking etc) OR field trip
11:30-12: Lunch
12-12:30: Reading time
12:30-1:30 Nap, quiet time
1:30-1:45 Snack
1:45-2:30 Free play
2:30-3:30 Playground
3:30-5 Play date, unstructured play, whatever

5-6: Dinner (probably take-out)
6-9: Bedtime (writing time for DG)

If I can actually write in the mornings and evenings, this could work. Cooking and cleaning will definitely fall by the wayside for two weeks. On Tuesdays & Thursdays, I need an hour and half to visit my mother. So, things to think about...


Not-So-Big House

The NYT looks at tiny homes.

A big landscape -- lots of sky, plains, etc. -- may demand a small house. With big windows.

(Where do you put the books? Oh, right - on your iPod.)