Far From the White Tablecloth



My blog buddy Dannie Hill recently published a touching post, Heart Words, about writing that make us feel a real connection between characters, and in turn ourselves. His post made me think about what I admire in writers and what kinds of words are difficult for me to write.

I have a high regard for authoritative writing: Gore Vidal’s unwavering confidence, Camille Pagilla’s erudite swagger, Chris Hedge’s revelatory bravery. But in my own writing I lean toward another of my favorite writers, Joan Didion’s, methods “ it seems…perhaps… I think…” Because, as she quotes Lionel Trilling, I too believe, “Some paradox of our nature leads us, when once we have made our fellow man the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.”

This week’s recitation, Rice, by Mary Oliver is an ideal example of authoritative writing. She affirms my belief that poetry is the most effective arena in which to make our demands on society, and, the best language for effecting change. Hear it here, then walk out into the fields



Carry On

This one’s for you Kitty

I thought you might be sick of poetry, so here’s a little post about how an expat keeps herself in reading material.

Thankfully, most airlines still allow one free 50 pd. checked bag on international flights. This is how I keep myself in books; I stuff a bag full for my return trip pray it doesn’t exceed 50 pounds, and they’ll last me six months. If not I read whatever is available. Before I left for the U.S. last time I read, In Search of Noah’s Ark, and The Idiots Guide to Communicating with Spirits, not books I would normally have chosen, but I ended up being happy I read them. This is a bonus of not having the option to choose; often you gain something you would otherwise have missed.

I have only seen two bookstores since moving to México (almost like Chicago since Borders demise!) both were lovely shops over an hour away from where I live, carried some books in English, but had very limited selections(in both languages) and were very expensive.

The photo is my reading selection for the summer. It is a mix of Nonfiction (heavy on the memoirs), novels (to keep me sane), poetry, metaphysics, and politics (to drive me crazy). The majority of what I am reading now is research for my memoir: the memoirs, Wendell Barry’s, The Unsettling of America, Gore Vidal’s, The Decline and Fall of the American Empire.

All of my books are used, most gifted to me by friends and family. If I have books I can part with after reading, I trade them at Myopic Bookstore in Chicago (yep, I shlep them back) for more.

I am always certain to bring at least one fat novel to hide in case of tragedy or melancholy, this time it’s The World According to Garp, which amazingly I have never read. I think John Irving is wonderfully funny and smart. I admire his writing, often stopping to reread  a sentence or paragraph, awed by his subtle brilliance.  A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite books, I’ve read it three times and it still makes me laugh aloud.

I am very excited to possess the novel Swimming by my friend Nicola Keegan with whom I have recently reconnected (gotta love Facebook). I’m saving it to read on my birthday.

I also have the first of a historical fiction series,(my favorite genre) The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland, I can’t wait to indulge in. But I will wait until September because I could only bring the first one this time and I don’t want to have to wait too long to read the others, if I fall in love with it.

I have already read six of the books in my cache, these were the highlights. Fat Girl by Judith Moore. Wow, this woman can write. It’s emotion stripped clean, it is like watching heart surgery. Jane Smiley’s first novel, Barn Blind was also impressive. Her character development is flawless, and there are horses , que mas quieras? Planet of the Blind a memoir by Steven Kuusisto, was a spectacular poetic vision of blindness, beautiful, illuminating, and horrible. Salvation is granted by a yellow Labrador retriever named Corky. Please read this book. It’s stunning.

My consumption will slow to 1-2 books a week once I am back in my writing schedule, the first of May. Hopefully my stash will last until the end of September and I won’t end up reading my mouse chewed copies of Dianetics and Oh, Jerusalem the last of a bag of  orphaned books, for which I have been very grateful regardless of their weird subjects, given to me by my dear friend Larry Prater.

Many thanks to Alexa, Paul and Julie, David and Mama for feeding my addiction!

So what are you reading this summer?

P.S. you may notice some of the photos in my posts are missing, I am remedying the problem, though it may take some time. Please bear with me, thanks, paz, Abby