I've been asked by one of my favorite women, the writer, Kathleen Maher, to list my fifteen or twenty five favorite writers. That's a hard one for me, since I've been reading gluttonously for a very long time and I tend to have categories of writers I love, so though all the writers I love in a single category might not be my favorites, I'm not able to discard them as "lesser writers." There are writers I love who are long out of print, so will seem very obscure. There are writers I love who are loathed by others for the brutality of their honesty, which isn't always pretty, but I prefer emotional truth to pretty or popular, though popular isn't necessarily a disqualifier. I also have favorite writers who didn't write novels. But that's another post.
For some reason the first writer to pop into my head is one of the Russians, and one of those who changed the course of the novel: Dostoyevsky is my favorite of the Russians, and my favorite of his books are Crime and Punishment, The Idiot. The rest of his body of work position him as the leading edge of a group of writers to follow. They aren't an easy read, but they're worth it. Many of you would no doubt argue with me concerning my linking Dostoyevsky to this particular group of writers: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Albert Camus, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Violette LeDuc, Andre Gide... I could go on and on with this list. And to make matters worse I'm not sure I can tell you exactly why I see this grouping of writers related. I've left out a lot of writers in this group and some of them are poets.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez led me to Mikhail Bulgakov, then Isabelle Allende. Can you see how this goes? Is it starting to make sense to you? I could give the groups a name but they have a beginning much earlier and they have influenced so many others. And I leave out so many other clues as to the logic of my groupings. Or if not the logic, the emotion.
I love Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (as it was translated when I read it in the 70s) and Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy for the same reasons, though they wrote in different eras and come from very different cultures and religious traditions. I also love Gustave Flaubert for one book: Madame Bovery, perhaps the perfect novel and ground breaking in its sensitive and brutally honest examination of a woman of spirit and beauty caught in the narrow grip of her bad marriage and the constraints of her time. This is one of many books I've read over and over. The writing is perfection.
I loved Thomas Hardy. And its hard to mention Hardy without including the Bronte sisters. Great reading for a broody adolescent girl.
I love Colette much more than Anais Nin. I loved Henry Miller. I think I read everything he ever wrote and found him perhaps the greatest of his generation. He was a marvelous painter as well. I have a small set of numbered prints.
I have a love/hate relationship with Vladimir Nabokov. If you've read my memoir/fiction you will understand. I believe Lolita is "The Great American Novel," and the only really great book he wrote. but that's all it takes to make a writer a great writer. I'm sure there are those who would argue with that...
I've read all the great Southern Writers and love them all, but these are some of the women who all seem to have something in common and part of it is their emotional honesty, their sense of history, their beautiful use of language, the ground breaking nature of their work: Carson McCullers (mostly for Ballad of the Sad Cafe), Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, who only wrote one novel, but what a novel, she, the childhood friend of Truman Capote... There are so many more.
So far I think we're up to 20 or so. It's a start.
That brings my list up to the 1950s. And though it seems I might be something of a modern classicist, I assure you I'm not. But I read very little that isn't considered literature. My only literary vice is the occasional fondness for the good detective novel. But even there, I have my standards. So before you recommend Stephen King, he represents everything I hate about the horror genre. I'm not a fan of Romance, or SciFi, either, though I have read a good sampling. I did like Ray Bradbury when I was a kid. I also liked Somerset Maugham when I was a kid. I read whatever was around.
I've barely scratched the surface and barely made it in to the middle of the last century. So, to be continued...
Yesterday I got the news about my gas heater out here in the little house. It's died and can't be resuscitated.
It doesn't take much to heat this room, and since the beginning I've had more heater than I needed. First it was an Army camp stove. I got up early, stoked the fire and got back in bed. I didn't have a kitchen then so cooking was done on the flat surface of the camp stove. I could make coffee. I kept milk, butter, eggs in a cooler on the front steps. I had a chopping block and cut kindling, morning and night. I was working at Nordstrom as the manager of the Personal Shoppers. I had to look like I was a walking ad for Nordstrom at all times. If only they could have seen me in my down parka with my jammies tucked into well worn Wellingtons out chopping wood in the dark of early morning before I started the morning transformation from winter camper to fashion maven. I drove to work in a '67 Chevy short bed pickup with an extra heavy transmission with no syncromesh so I had to double clutch in and out of every gear. It was cherry. Teen aged boys always wanted to buy it. They were dismayed by the incongruity of me in it. I loved that truck.
The second incarnation in heat was a bulky oblong brown metal box with a tall silver chimney that vents at the edge of the ceiling. I'll be happy to have the silver pipe gone since it completely ruins the look of the longest wall in the house. It is the only ugly element. Good riddance. And the cheap brown metal box with a grill on top and a grill in the front occupies primo real estate on that one long wall. I'll be glad it's gone. But the getting it out, and the place it stood repaired and repainted, is another thing. I'll have to go shopping for concrete paint. I'll probably have to repaint the wall and that particular triangle of ceiling. This will begin early Monday morning and take all day. And in the end I'll have a smaller quieter wall mounted gas heater. And my bank account will be greatly depleted.
We know where all this cleaning and painting leads, don't we? And now I have no one to help me paint the whole place. Bummer. That's what happens when you offend and alienate all the men in your life. If you're a youngish woman and you're reading this, take heed. Men have their place in your life. Male friends are good to keep. Otherwise learn how to do all this shit and have the proper tools. Last time Tom was asked to paint my ceiling he turned his face on the pillow and said, "Where's your scaffolding?" Tom was the best painter I ever knew. I didn't think he was terribly funny though. I hear his eldest son is a master painter as well. Both men are musicians.
This weekend I will be moving furniture around again. It wasn't more than a month ago I moved it all for the first time in three years. But until the new heater is in, I'll have no idea what to do with the arrangement in the room. For now I need to move things away from the most crowed wall. Paintings stacked in a safe corner. My two favorite bookcases are against that wall. They are heavy and packed. I will have to unload them to muscle them into another position. Everything will have to be draped and protected. I just got my computer back.
It's supposed to start raining tomorrow and turn to snow Monday. We'll have a freezing night and I'll need to make sure the Eastern Boys get their swamp cooler winterized from the inside out. This involves making a trip to Lowes. Bummer. Better get a new hammer and a few filters for the boys furnace while I'm there getting a strip of insulation for the swamp cooler. See how easily costs multiply?
And just to crowd time a bit more, I have to empty and store hoses, turn off outside water and bring all houseplants inside. Today's the day for that because the weather's taking a sharp turn toward winter. Even if I felt full of cheerful energy this would be a lot of work. But I woke up tired. And I can't perk up. Time to quit whining and muscle through it.
I just got the property tax bill. Shorter days, longer nights. Value down, taxes up. Has to be paid by the end of November. Merry Xmas.
I think it all began with my computer slowing down. Then it started acting wonky in other ways. And this seemed to coincide with my body going wonky as well. I had gut pain. I can't remember exactly when this all started but I imagine it began just after that horrible hospitalization for an abscess in my colon. I don't really think the abscess was half so bad as the actual hospital stay. I'm now hospital phobic. Thanks Salt Lake Regional Medical Center. Your dreadful care has made me prefer death to another visit to your ER.
I lose time. So does my computer. I have gut pain and my computer freezes up. This panics me so I finally schedule a colonoscopy and the prep nearly kills me. I ruin clothes with that horrible purge. No one warms you that you'll shit the bed, so fast comes the liquefied contents of your colon. I strip and deposit my clothing into a hefty bag and then the trash. Oddly enough, the photo of my colon looks like a pink and perfect babies butt. And for a week after the colonoscopy my bowel seems paralyzed. This worries me. My computer seizes up. I have to force quit every time I try to tweet. Why is my computer mimicking my body?
Next comes an episode of violent illness that scares me into scheduling a complete physical that is happening in stages, so thorough is it. This illness stricks in the middle of the night. I awaken from a sound sleep at roughly 3:00 AM. It is the shits. Not to gross you out, but so violent is this bout of liquified shit that I ruin two more sets of newish jammies. And as soon as I plop myself down on the toilet I strip the fouled clothing off my body and then the vomiting starts. There is no time to find a better place to vomit since I'm still emptying my gut into the toilet, so I lean over the tub and barf. This puking and shitting goes on for eleven hours. For three days I can keep nothing down. My neighbor thinks I should go to the ER. Fat fucking chance! No way in hell! I'd rather die at home.
And as soon as I think those thoughts my computer dies. Has my Imac become a modern day Hal? I dither about what to do. Phillip, the wonderful Sitenoise, runs some diagnostic tests and at first it seems to say that there is hope. But still my computer doesn't work. It seems to be saying, "I prefer not." like my favorite Melville character, Bartleby, the Scrivener. I seem to have a too close relationship with my computer. My own projections are infecting it. How odd.
So, now I'm starting to feel better but my computer seems to have died in my place. Could death been stalking me and the computer was generous enough to go in my place? I'm about ready to believe anything. Phillip and I have consulted over my options. Seems I will have to take my big honking Imac to the Mac Store in the Gateway Mall. I have been to that Mall three times since it opened and it was one man or another that force marched me into that hell hole. I swore I'd never return. Seems that's the only authorized Mac Store. Motherfucker!
I procrastinate. To be continued with less references to shit. And I have a new wardrobe. Happy Ending (if shopping is your idea of a happy ending).
Peggy seems to have worn the thing out. Damn iMac just couldn't take the beating. It needs to go to the shop, which is a major chore in itself, before final diagnosis and decisions are made: fix it or get a new one. Just so ya'll know. Could be a couple days or a couple weeks before we get her back online.
Here's the deal with questions like this. I think maybe ten of them are worth going into detail to answer, but my answers don't interest me much, so I don't feel like giving them in much detail. I have answered lists of questions before and at one time or another I was grateful for the list because I was stumped for something to write about. I'm not stumped about what to write about, I'm just not feeling well enough to write and I have chores to do. Real work, the kind that makes you sweat and tired. I'm starting out tired. I haven't been feeling tip top.
If you're a certain kind of person, you'll probably know just what I need to make me feel better and you'll be willing to tell me. I won't take your advise, so save your breath. I got a lifetime of good advise from people who supposedly loved me and it lead me away from listening to my own body, my own mind. It lead me to ignore my intuition, to put off my pleasure to pleasure someone else. Well, fuck that my dears. I'm listening to myself. And myself tells me I don't want to answer these questions. But never let it be said I wasn't a good sport. Just remember this about me. I'm not that nice.
1.How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Answer: I'd feel really fucking old.
2.Which is worse, failing or never trying? Answer: Oh give me a break!
3.If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? Answer: Is this a trick question? My life has been twice as long as I thought it would be and I've done most everything except get a book published and a movie deal for it. I didn't have a child, but that was my choice. I wasn't good at love, but I think I'm the kind of person who needs to live alone. I didn't make a lot of money because I wasn't ambitious for money; I always valued time more than money. Oh, and though I have been to Paris, I haven't lived there. But the why and how of other people and the things they do and don't do is a mystery to me.
4.When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Answer: I will have done more than I should have, and said less than I wanted.
5.What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? Answer: War? Religion?
6.If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? Answer: Riding horses, having chickens, rabbits, a sunny garden. I don't want much. I'd like to see my writing in print and on the big and/or little screen. That's as big as it gets for me.
7.Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? Answer: Yes.
8.If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? Answer: I probably wouldn't change a thing but the parents I had.
9.To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? Answer: To very little degree. My life led me around by the nose.
10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Answer: I'd like to know I could do a few things right, and I don't give a shit about doing the right things. No, I have to modify that a little. I'd like to write a good enough query letter to find my way into print and then onto the big and/or little screen. I've written a number of things I'm damn sure would make good cinema or a good television series. Having to write the ad copy to sell my writing has brought me to a screeching halt. Oh did you mean some altruistic thing?
11.You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do? Answer: I'd let them finish trashing my friend then tell them she/he is my friend. Then I'd watch to see how they react.
12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Answer: I give advise to no one.
13.Would you break the law to save a loved one? Answer: Yes. I'd break some laws just for fun. I'll let you figure that one out.
14.Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Answer: I see my own insanity almost every day. It is probably why I'm creative.
15.What’s something you know you do differently than most people? Answer: I live in my garage. Do you? I didn't think so.
16.How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? Viva le differance! Answer: seems to me you answered your own question.
17.What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back? Answer: See question #10
18.Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? Answer: I've always been able to turn my back and walk away from everything but my mother. I was advised by two very good therapists to get away from her and never look back, but I waited to long. Then as her only living relative, I was legally responsible for her. Now I'm just living my life day by day. Most of the time it's pretty good. I even say to myself now and then, "I love my life."
19.If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? Answer: Maybe live in France or Denmark.
20.Do you push the elevator button more than once? . Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? Answer. Yes. No.
21.Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton? Answer I'd rather be a mostly happy person of above average intelligence.
22.Why are you, you? Answer: Nature/Lack of nurture/too much abuse and stress early on/the genes for bipolar disorder/the kind of looks that made me prey when I was young and made choosing a career modeling very seductive and easy/the shame that I made my living by my looks/marrying the wrong men/loving the wrong man.
23.Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend? Answer: I think I'm basically a pretty shitty friend. So no, I don't think I'd want myself as a friend. I can be entertaining and fun now and then, but I don't take crap from anyone and I call bullshit on those I love. I hate most parties, I don't drink so bars no longer interest me, and I'd rather stay home so I you want to see me you have to come to me. I'm unsentimental about death. This horrifies most of my friends. But my lack of sentimentality has led me to leave my body to the U of Utah Med School when I die and to plan to have a way out if I need it. I have a friend who has told me he'll come here to be with me when I decided to take my life. I know he won't and I wouldn't want him to. No matter how many people are around the bed of the dying, we all die alone. And when we're gone life moves on, as it should.
24.Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you? Answer: Losing touch with a good friend who lives close by. I have one of those three houses away. It was her choice. I honor her decision.
25.What are you most grateful for? Answer: That I lived long enough to survive my awful parents. Knowing that my father suffered a horrible death. See what I mean when I say I'm not that nice? I'm not willing to pretend. I have no shame.
26.Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones? Answer: I'd rather keep the old memories. It's been great material. And I don't plan to have a bunch of new memories. My short term memory sucks but my recall of distant events is clear and sharp.
27. Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first? Answer: Yes. Fire burns! Unless you're on acid. Then anything is possible.
28. Has your greatest fear ever come true? Answer: Yes. It was having to care for my mother when she became the same old bitch only demented and incontinent. She got meaner with each passing day. I became her prisoner and slave.
29.Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now? Answer: Which time?
30.What is your happiest childhood memory? Answer: Riding horses. What makes it so special? Answer: My parents didn't ride.
31.At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive? Answer: When I was flirting with Darkblack.
32.If not now, then when? Answer: Oh bother. I'll think about that tomorrow.
33.If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose? Answer: Everything. Nothing.
34.Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever? Answer: Probably. I was probably stoned, too.
35.Why do religions that support love cause so many wars? Answer: that is the question of the ages. I'd love to take that Pulitzer Peace Prize and then the Nobel that's sure to follow, but I haven't a clue why anyone believes in a religion, let alone why they are willing to kill in its name.
36.Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil? Answer: No. And only a simpleton like George Bush talks in those terms. The axis of evil my ass. Call someone part of the axis of evil and you've got nowhere to go but to war.
37.If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? Answer: No, I like my job since I'm my boss. I'd give myself a raise and go to Paris.
38.Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing? Answer: With that million I won, I'd contribute to improving the economy of a window washer, a gardener, a contractor and crew to remodel both houses. And in so doing change the work I do from laborer to supervisor on my own project.
39.Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before? Answer: No. Everything changes even if it seems to stay the same.
40.When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in? Answer: A month or so ago when I was forced by this economy to get a reverse mortgage.
41.If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today? Answer: I'd be enjoying my last day alive as quietly as possible.
42.Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous? Answer: No.
43.What is the difference between being alive and truly living? Answer: I don't know but I'm truly alive.
44.When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right? Answer: I have seldom calculated risk and rewards. I've done what I felt I had to most of the time. I wasn't always right. I probably won't be in the future either.
45.If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake? Answer: Probably because we know how costly some of our mistakes have been. There are endless opportunities to make more mistakes in the future and no way to avoid them all. The constant nature of change makes it a certainty there will be new experiences where the past isn't exactly a road map for the future.
46.What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? Answer: I'm finally doing what I would have done if I'd known I had any other options than the ones that presented themselves at the time.
47.When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing? Answer: At my last doctor appointment when I was asked to breathe this way and then that way. My lungs are clear. I have huge lungs. I don't live with the constant stress and tension I did in the days when I was living with men or in my mother's presence. So I no longer hold my breath in order to keep from feeling my real feelings.
48.What do you love? Answer: Writing, when it flows. Dreams, when I have them. Sleep, when it comes. Dogs, cats, horses, the occasional person.
49.In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that? Answer: Check my answer to question #39. The only certainty is change. No day is ever exactly the same as another. I might remember this day in almost every detail, but I won't remember that it was five years ago. I will probably think it was two or three years ago. Time flies when you get this old.
50.Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you? Answer: I do what I can to influence outcomes. For instance, I donate what I can and I vote. I sign petitions, I express my opinions. I write about the things that matter to me when I can write. I do what I can but I'm not that fucking powerful. No one person is. I make decisions every day but they won't matter much except in small ways and mostly to my cat and dog.
Upon reading through this I find I lost interest about half way through. So I haven't proof read these answers.