A co-worker gave me an aesthetically pleasing "Halloween" treat: a small, plastic, stemmed drink glass filled with candy corn, a package of peanut M & Ms, whoppers, Milk Duds, and some foil-wrapped items with thematic decorations on them, such as eyeballs...(Scary!).
All wrapped up in crisp, crackly, clear cellophane, tied at the top with wide orange and black ribbon, decorated / spiders & spider webs, as well as slimmer orange ribbon, dangling in curls.
Dolores is artistic and creative, and good at crafts and cooking. She works in a Supply Room in a meat-packing plant.
When I see her creations, I sometimes think of the fact -- or, phenomenon, or, unhappy fact -- that some people have wonderful talent but it isn't a possibility for them to make a living using that talent.
A person can imagine opening a flower shop, gift shop, craft store, restaurant, or what have you, and for most people who have always worked for a salary or wage, the thought of "starting my own business" is like this great thing that sparkles in our imaginations like the ultimate precious gem.
But in truth, from what I observe, talent, vision, and being Good At something are a far cry from what you need to have a successful business and make enough money to pay bills and exist, let alone achieve the economic security and wealth which people would like to have.
On the other hand, maybe it isn't so sad, to not create wealth or even make a living using what you are good at and what you love most.
Maybe if you make it into a business, you take the fun out of it, in some cases.
I guess everybody just does what they can.
And was thinking, the other day -- Trying Again. A lot of what we do in Life, whether it's something we very much want to do, or something we are forced by circumstances to do, is just -- simply -- trying again.
Since I don't need candy myself, I started trying to figure out who I could give this to -- there's a big, tough-looking man who came from someplace out of state to work here; he does some of the hardest, messiest work in this plant. I've seen his family -- a woman (wife or girlfriend), soft-spoken, with a gentle face, and two beautiful toddlers, boy and girl a year or two apart.
I'm going to send this attractive Halloween arrangement / treat home with Cymon when he comes out, in about an hour and a half.
You hear the word "disenfranchised" -- people who do not have money or security.
It occurred to me today that some people are not so much disenfranchised as they are nonenfranchised.
It's like -- they've never been enfranchised in the first place.
Maybe these are not words; neither is conflictatory, but I use it anyway. (Maybe it is a word.) Dictionary time. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The older I get, the more idealistic I become. That's the opposite of how it's supposed to be, I think, or anyway how it usually is.
And, I observed a few posts ago -- I had an epiphany one evening and realized that the more negative things happened, the more I believed in Good.
> > > > > "The blue-collar family became the shock absorber of the broken deal. On top of this, Americans of every class found themselves less and less secure about their jobs, pensions and health insurance." < < < < < (--NYTimes) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "MONEY DOESN'T TALK, IT SWEARS." (--Bob Dylan)
A couple of days ago the New York Times had an article titled "The State of Families, Class and Culture" -- saved this paragraph because was trying to Figure Out things -- success accomplishment money etc.
Here is the paragraph: > > > > > Why is this happening? As the economist Richard Wolff tells the story in his book "Capitalism Hits the Fan," for a century before 1970 most American companies paid wages that slowly rose decade by decade, so that a male worker could feel better off than his dad and trust that his son would be better off than he was. But by the 1970s, the deal was off; corporate profits continued to rise while workers' real wages stagnated. Scrambling to make up for this fact, fathers worked longer hours. Mothers got jobs -- and this in a society without paid child care or parental leave. Families went into debt. The blue-collar family became the shock absorber of the broken deal. On top of this, Americans of every class found themselves less and less secure about their jobs, pensions and health insurance. For as Jacob S. Hacker, the Yale political scientist and Democratic adviser, argues in "The Great Risk Shift," over the last 30 years, companies and government have offloaded risk onto the shoulders of individuals. < < < < < --------------------------------------------------- Phrases jump out at me and stay in my mind:
"...by the 1970s the deal was off"
"The blue-collar family became the shock absorber...."
"...Companies and government have offloaded risk...."
----------------------------------------------------------------- Why was the deal off? Whose idea was that?
I always enjoy reading about food and wine and fashion / style, though I pretend to be an expert on none of these.
I'm like the typical midwesterner in the 50s who would go to an art museum and say, "I'm no art expert, but I know what I like!" And reading about the food and wine adds no calories to one's intake; reading about high fashion -- couture -- doesn't cost me a small fortune, as it would if I shopped for it.
I'm currently in a job where I wear a uniform shirt with black slacks every day but Friday, when I am allowed to wear jeans. Comfortable shoes, daily. Having already had a couple of careers in which I wore skirts, suits, & high heels, I find it liberating, in an unexpected way, to wear the same thing every day; removing daily outfit-planning from my "plate" frees time and energy to write my book.
Am thinking my affinity for food writing may have begun when my mother read the "Winnie The Pooh" stories to me when I was a tiny child. Pooh was often ready for a snack, which he referred to as "a little smackerel of something."
(Though, to be sure, these sophisticated food writers (and bloggers) don't spend much space on the concept of eating honey straight out of the jar -- they are a few steps ahead of Pooh....)
Other things I like to read besides historical studies of past events that have already been resolved and therefore I find less brain-exploding pressure when studying them than I would if I studied something currently happening now:
The New York Times Review of Books, every Monday. It's just FUN.
Two items I want to recommend to anyone reading this, one from Review of Books & one from New York Times itself:
from review-books: "The Terroirist," by Jim Holt. It's a review of a book entitled Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters, by Jonathan Nossiter, [Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
quotes from the review:
> > > > > What is terroir? That is not easy to say. It is a French word, and everyone agrees that it is untranslatable. The disagreement is over whether it exists. To its defenders -- notably the Old World winemakers of France, Italy and Germany -- terroir refers to the ineffable way that soil, light, topography and microclimate conspire, over generations of human stewardship, to endow a wine with its unique soul. It's a sense of place you can taste. To its detractors -- especially the New World winemakers of the Americas and Australia -- terroir is a marketing slogan dressed up as a poetic reverie. In other words, it's a hoax.... ...Disdaining "winespeak," [the author, Nossiter] uses literary and historical metaphors. A Bordeaux wine, for instance, is structured like "a hefty novel," whereas a Burgundy has the "staccato lyricism" of a poem. < < < < < --------------------------------------------------- Cool.
The other article want to recommend today: in New York Times, in a category titled "Choice Tables" an article: 'Singapore's Culinary Melting Pot'
Writer Gisela Williams describes the food in such an exciting way, it's just fun to read:
> > > > > ...A small group of chefs is reinventing the city's traditional food culture, finding a balancing point between the city's cheap but hard to navigate street food and the expensive white-tablecloth spots. ...I wanted to taste what the food bloggers rave about most often: spicy pastas and Peranakan dishes. We ordered the anchovy pasta..., crabmeat linguine and sambal buah keluak, a Peranakan dish made with finely minced pork and ground buah keluak, an Indonesian nut with pitch-black meat with an earthy, rich flavor; it has been called the truffle of Asia. < < < < < -------------------------------------------------------------------
(First of all, as a prologue, may I say, The "economic downturn" is welcome to kiss my ass.)
NARRATIVE, NARRATIVE, NARRATIVE What gets said about something is perhaps as important as the thing itself, maybe MORE important.
The narrative, the story-line, the thing that people believe. Or the things that people KNOW, once perspective is gained and you can look back on it.
Those being two different things.
Narrative as propaganda, on the one hand; on the other hand -- narrative as events seen in perspective, i.e., hindsight being 20-20....
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I had been thinking a lot lately about something I realized about myself: I enjoy reading history, particularly recent history, within my lifetime, but also earlier....whereas, News And Current Events, I often have limited capacity to take in; just don't want it.
Too negative, too horrifying, too depressing, too skewed, too much bullshit. (May we say that on the internet?)
I find myself unplugging from the health care debate; only listen / read in very small doses -- but I want to consider assassination of Pres. Kennedy in conjunction with U.S. accelerating involvement in Vietnam conflict.
I guess because those issues are in the past, so they're somewhat laid to rest. I can listen, learn, read, study, and consider and analyze and use what I learn to apply perspective, precedent, and context to current events -- about which I still only want to hear a little bit.
Am I weird? It's probably some kind of "disorder." For which I will NOT be taking medication. Another topic for another day -- surely I'm not the only person who believes Americans are over-medicated these days.
Back to narrative.
Interesting story in New York Times "Talking Business" section:
> > > > > In January 1931, a lawyer named Benjamin Roth, 38 years old, solidly Republican, a solo practitioner in Youngstown, Ohio, decided to start a diary. Realizing that he was "living through an historic thing that will long be remembered"...he wanted to keep a record for posterity. ...What particularly struck me was watching Mr. Roth, in his diaries, grope from day to day, and year to year, searching for an answer that wouldn't be clear until long afterward. He's like the proverbial blind man who feels an elephant's trunk and thinks elephants look like a rope. Not unlike the way we are today, as we grope our way through our own financial crisis. ...When you are living through a financial crisis, all you can do is wait and see. Governments take action they hope will have the desired effect -- but who knows if they really will? It only becomes clear much later, and far too late for those of us living through it. < < < < < There's the answer to my "disorder" -- I like reading about it as history better than hearing about it as news, because it's "clear" -- or at least more clear than it was.
The author of that NYTimes article is Joe Nocera. Mr. Roth's diaries are published in book form, titled The Great Depression: A Diary A diary -- kind of like a blog.
I started keeping a Project Journal during the writing of my novel (current project).
> > > > > Friday, September 18, 2009. This is the beginning of my Project Journal, kept during the writing of [my first novel -- title withheld, because, don't know for sure yet].
(The pages in these K-Mart notebooks -- Carolina Pad & Paper; Carolina Pad & Paper, 100% recycled; Notebound -- have a small and pleasant amount of traction. With the more expensive Clairfontaine notebooks, what I enjoy is the smoothness of the pages; now with these down-market notebooks with their lower-quality paper, I find I also enjoy the traction, the writing only on every other line, the using page-fronts only.
When I do not flip the notebook over to write on the back of each sheet, I find there's a "flow" and momentum--just going forward, forward, forward...!)
In current novel segment I'm writing about the power and influence, the role, of Story. Narrative. Quoting Tina Brown, from The Diana Chronicles.
Excellent power-writing, she does.
9/19/09 All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. One of my favorite books of all time. Sometimes it's a jumble--it ain't Stephanie Plum putting on her make-up or having sex. It digresses. And it just goes. Rolls forward, like a train.
Like Dylan -- "I'm goin' back to New York City; I do believe I've had enough."
9/20/09 My novel doesn't have descriptions of scenery.
Maybe that is OK, since I pretty much always skip over descriptions of scenery, flora & fauna, when I'm reading.
I'm like Alice: pictures and conversations.
9/21/09 Sue Grafton's descriptions of bougainvillea (sp?)). Blah.
Disgusting details is another component my novels will be short on.
I don't like to read 'em; I don't wanna write 'em.
9Woody Allen. Bob Dylan. Stevie Nicks.
Some of my influences.
I want to tell my stories in my version of these people's styles, so that my audience will not say, Oh, I've got to get around to reading that.
Instead they will just want to be in it. They will simply be happy to be in my stories.
I keep my readers company, and entertain them, and make them happy.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The intimacy of reading. I feel like writing a novel makes us nervous in modern times because we think there should be pictures and sound -- like TV & movies are the only way to tell a story.
What the book-form lacks in external buzz & interpretation it makes up for by capitalizing on the current craze for "Interactive," and reading -- i.e., texts. And reading a story is interactive because the audience devours it at their own pace & create their own pictures in their minds, on a personal basis. Interactive. < < < < <
I've got entries done for every day up to today -- the exercise helps me think and get some story-flow going on for the day's work-time.
movies -- TOP 20 (These are not in order from greatest down to least great; they're all equally Top 20.)
The Wizard Of Oz Gone With The Wind Casablanca Manhattan (Woody Allen) Annie Hall Body Heat Witness (Harrison Ford) The Last Waltz Woodstock (1970) Gaslight (Ingrid Bergman) The Sound Of Music The Sting All The President's Men Notorious North By Northwest His Girl Friday Sweet Smell Of Success Chicago When Harry Met Sally Shag (The Movie)
singers / bands: Top 20
Bob Dylan The Rolling Stones Willie Nelson Patsy Cline Muddy Waters Tina Turner The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Fleetwood Mac Janis Joplin Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Wynton Marsalis Joni Mitchell Chuck Berry Eric Clapton The Beatles James Brown Jerry Lee Lewis Peter, Paul and Mary Destiny's Child Marvin Gaye
Last Friday a 19-year-old person I work with named Cassy got enthusiastic talking to me about good movies and music.
She likes Woody Allen movies and knows the music that I know!!
She said her dad has been an important cultural influence.
She suggested we both make a list of our Top 20 movies, and Top 20 bands (or singers) and bring it for this Friday (10/16), the next time we change shifts together.
Now that I think about it, I don't know whether the purpose of these lists is so that she & I can exchange Top 20s, or if she wants to discuss them.
It doesn't matter; I don't care. If a 19-year-old person looks away from their cell phone and texting long enough to propose that I make a list of the best movies & music -- well -- I'll do what I'm told!
Some would probably say this is NOT a "brush with fame" -- that it does not qualify. But it felt like it, to me.
Daily, as an exercise in the process of learning to be a better writer, entertainer, and story-teller, I do some reading and note-taking. Finished Betsy Lerner's The Forest For The Trees, and so was prepared to select another book.
From my bookshelf in my studio I selected The Films Of Woody Allen, by Sam B. Girgus. It's a scholarly study; I've had it for years, found it at Barnes & Noble in the 90s.
499 times out of 500, I would not read the "Acknowledgments" page, but this time I did. I like names -- (yes, I'm a bit weird; why am I fascinated by people's names? -- I like the different spellings of them -- "Madeleine"; "Madelyn"...what can I say? I'm easily amused -- and I am in the odd habit of reading a name and trying to imagine what kind of person that is...)
On the Acknowledgments page, first I was "sucked in" when I spotted the name "Schulz" spelled the same as a guy I work with -- Rick Schulz. So I start reading the Acknowledgments right from the top, and I encounter a name I know - ! Cecelia Tichi: I took a creative writing class from her at BU a few presidential administrations ago.
It was just weird -- in a good way. I never expect to read acknowledgments in a book and see the name of someone I knew personally. And if I may reiterate -- I would typically NOT read the acknowledgments page at all. Coincidence! Oooooooh!
Upon reading her name and being Very Surprised, I remembered three things about Mrs. Tichi: 1. taking her class 2. typing a novel for her 3. she encouraged me: she said, "I really think you've got what it takes" (to be a writer).
Good night, Mrs. Tichi, wherever you are.
(..."Wherever you are" being just an expression -- I know where she is; according to internet, she's at Vanderbilt, and has published a body of work which I'm now excited to read....)
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life, by Donald Spoto
JackieStyle, by Pamela Clarke Keogh
Mrs. Kennedy: The Missing History Of The Kennedy Years, by Barbara Leaming
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- GRACE AND POWER tells about the years of the administration, almost exclusively, and concentrates more on public life and issues than some Kennedy biographies. It talks about Pres. and Mrs. Kennedy, both equally and when you read it you become re-fascinated by the issues and problems of the early 1960s -- a time which seems at once a thousand years ago, and -- last week. Spoto's book, JBKO: A LIFE, is very personal, about Jackie, birth to passing, and her family's background. This book gives the reader a very strong sense of an individual's journey and struggle to live productively and in the way she wanted to live -- the effort, impediments, and successes. This book tells us more about Jackie's publishing career than most biographies of her. More years of her life were spent in publishing than with either of her husbands, but these years are not often emphasized by popular media because there's no flamboyant spousal behavior or projected shopping fantasies which are easily hooked into by the shallow imagination.
JACKIESTYLE is about the -- well, it's about the stuff. The clothes, the jewelry, the restored historical White House, the Manhattan apartment, the designers, the hair, make-up, style evolution, and influences. And it's about Jackie Kennedy the person, as well. Very instructive.
And Barbara Leaming's book, MRS. KENNEDY, is about mostly the White House years, though there's pre-1960 background, and it approaches the story of Jackie K. with a specific thesis about the Kennedy marriage. It's interesting, thick with emotional detail, and practical detail gleaned from Secret Service logs which were opened after years of being off-limits. Along with the intense emotional, personal components, there are exciting, multi-faceted descriptions of public events and crises during JFK administration: Cuban missile crisis, Bay-Pigs, civil rights -- a riot on a Southern college campus. The decision-making process, the arguments, difficulties, and the way they found direction, at the time, are detailed in a play-by-play fashion which anyone could enjoy reading.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Part of my enjoyment of reading about Jackie Kennedy Onassis' publishing career -- from late 1970s to her passing in '94 -- is that it took place in New York City, one of my favorite places. A friend of mine said it was "an iconic place" and I cannot put that any better.
Some of my favorite movies which I saw at an impressionable age were Woody Allen's Annie Hall and Manhattan -- they heavily influenced my view of a lot of things and even the way I experienced life, no matter where I was -- and I was rarely IN New York City, at all. (I guess you call that a "New York state of mind"...?)
I think of the New York City of Woody Allen; and I think of the New York City of Jackie Kennedy. Were they the same? Was one less funny than the other? Was one more glamorous than the other?
I think they are more similar than different: populated by cozy, fabulous book stores; interesting, purposeful walks all over the city's sidewalks; excellent restaurants, like Elaine's, Russian Tea Room, and miscellaneous diners with overstuffed booth-seats, where one can order pastrami with mayonnaise on white bread if one wants to.
[From Mrs. Kennedy: The Missing History Of The Kennedy Years, by Barbara Leaming]
> > > > Power, it has been argued, was the single theme in the life of Charles de Gaulle. From young manhood he studied, contemplated, and actively sought power, not simply for himself but for a nation whose destiny he identified with his own. For two days, starting with the motorcade to Paris and continuing through the meals and meetings at the Elysée Palace, de Gaulle had staged a vast pageant of power that made a tremendous impression on both Kennedys.
People excited Jack, as a friend once observed, but it was color and form that thrilled his wife.
In the sheer extravagance of its effects Thursday night's spectacle, conceived by de Gaulle as the visit's climax, would dwarf everything that had gone before. The dinner in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles would also be an episode of signal importance in the Kennedys' marriage, as well as one of the great nights of Mrs. Kennedy's life.
It was 8:15 when, with flags fluttering, the eleven-car Kennedy Motorcade arrived at the palace of the Sun King, which someone once described as
"the greatest expression of absolute monarchy in the world."
Jackie, who had come to lunch the previous day in the guise of a child, then to dinner as a sexy woman of the world, had saved the ultimate seduction for this evening. When she emerged from her car, she was a Frenchwoman. Though Jackie had vowed to wear American clothes as First Lady, tonight she was the embodiment of French fashion. In homage to her hosts, she wore a beaded and embroidered white satin evening gown and matching coat designed by Givenchy, her favorite Paris couturier. Her hair was swept up with leaf-shaped diamond clips to create the glittering suggestion of a small tiara, and her Palm Beach tan, in evidence the previous day, had vanished under pale and beautiful makeup.
Minister of State for Cultural Affairs André Malraux, a well-known romantic adventurer, dashing war hero, and prize-winning novelist whom Jackie had long idolized, escorted the President and First Lady inside. Minutes later, de Gaulle himself, courtly and elegant in white tie, led Jackie up the famous, richly decorated Queen's Staircase to the second floor. As he walked her through the chateau, Jackie was transported to the terrain of her daydreams. France, emblem of
a larger world that both attracted and frightened her,
had long been a focal point of her fantasy life. These were the very rooms she had read and dreamed about. These were the scenes pictured and described in the cherished books where she had sought escape from reality. Since childhood, she had been an observer. Tonight, as her reveries of France's illustrious past sprang to life, she was the star of the spectacle.
[from JackieStyle, by Pamela Clarke Keogh, Copyright, HarperCollins, 2001]
> > > > > A few weeks before their trip to Paris, Jackie gave an interview, in French, to a French television station. Seated at a small table under the trees on the White House lawn, while kitchen staff carrying trays of champagne glasses scurry in the background (it seems they are preparing for a state dinner), Jackie turns on the charm full blast. The interviewer is slim and suave, a continental on the Cassini model. He hangs on Jackie's every word, transfixed.
Jackie is wearing a favorite cream dress with a fringe-edged self-tie -- the same one she wore for the first official campaign photo Mark Shaw took of her in Georgetown, as well as on the cover of the issue of Lifein which she discusses the White House restoration. Her voice is low and modulated. She is assured as she speaks in simple, impeccable French, adroitly mixing in French-accented English when she cannot think of the correct word. (She charmingly describes "Voici le diplomatic reception room" and "un petit peu de punch.")
...She especially charmed [Charles de Gaulle,] the self-centered general and World War II leader ("There are moments in history," he famously quipped, "and I am one of them."). Socialites tittered that he was so taken with the Cassini pink evening gown Jackie wore at the Elysée Palace that he even put his glasses on to survey her visage.
At one point, she told him, "My grandparents were French," to which he replied,
[From JackieStyle, by Pamela Clarke Keogh. HarperCollins. Copyright 2001.]
> > > > France was a perfect stage on which to present President and Mrs. Kennedy to the world. From the first, the French were gaga over Jackie and seemed particularly caught up in the Kennedy mystique. In a French newsreel made shortly after the election, Hyannisport, where the Kennedy family maintained their summer home, was referred to as "le Saint Tropez d'Amerique." Much was made of Jacqueline's French heritage, as well as her fondness for French couture, culture, and even interior decorating. But what really won them over was her ability to speak their language. ... The Kennedys' trip to France was Jackie's fashion apogee. Although she rued the fact that journalists seemed to regard her merely as a fashion plate, there was no denying the seismic effect she had on the French people. More than two million spectators lined the streets to watch the Kennedys' motorcade, and every scrap of information about their trip was detailed in the French newspapers and magazines. < < < < < ---------------------------------------------------- "the seismic effect" the "perfect stage" "mystique" "fondness" for French couture, culture, and even interior decorating "fashion apogee" "French newsreel"