I need a new best friend. VERY badly. Are you her? I am going to write a personal ad about it.
Desperately Seeking My New Best Friend. MNBF should be female, live in the greater Atlanta area (Decatur preferred). MNBF has HBO and a strong desire to invite me over once a week to watch Game of Thrones Season 3 with no men in the room because, face it, brilliant and wildly entertaining as it is, that show is borderline pR0n and I can’t sit in a room containing both other people’s husbands and THAT many boobs flippetty-flopping about with such gratuitous abandon.
These are really my only requirements. I don’t care what MNBF thinks, believes, looks like, or even smells like. I don’t care if she practices some weird abhorrent religion where she eats live birds. I DO NOT EVEN CARE IF I AM EXPECTED TO BRING THE SNACKS EVERY WEEK. I will bring the snacks. I WILL BRING LIVE BIRDS FOR SNACKS. Just hook me up with The Imp, Arya Stark, and That BAD-ASS Khaleesi.
Speaking of pR0n: So, my OLD best friends— the suckish ones who either do not have HBO, or do not invite me over properly to watch GoT, or who HAVE HBO and WOULD invite me but cruelly choose to live in other states— will tell you there is no movie so bad I won’t sit through it. The last movie I walked out of was JADE, in 1997, because it committed a high trio of crimes: being SUPER boring, not making sense, and having David Caruso with no sunglasses whipping on and off.
But Lordy, I will sit through anything. I’ve seen every MINUTE of Gigli, Battlefield Earth and I watched Showgirls…twice.
I’m also not a prude. See: Game of Thrones, above. I watched MONSTER’S BALL (actually a great film) but the titular Ball is plural and belongs to Billy Bob Thornton, who shows it to us, along with its friend, and along with really ALL of Halle Berry, and then they DO Things. A lot of things. For a LONG time. I watched this movie with my DAD In the room, and did not leave or die.
Two films on my ALL TIME TOP TEN LIST movies are EASTERN PROMISES and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, both of which star the dangliest pieces of Vigo Mortenson, pieces that I did not ever ever ever need to see. But I own both those movies and love them and will always see any film Cronenberg makes, no matter how naked and depraved, forever. Not a prude, ‘kay?
I say all this to say, I walked out of Spring Breakers on Friday. We were 45 minutes in. We had heard EACH line of dialog at LEAST TWICE, sometimes three times, repeated over different boring jiggley montages of boobies and spewing-beer-as-metaphor and fake guns as metaphor and Britney Spears songs.
This is not clever social commentary, because clever social commentary requires CLEVERNESS.
This is…a ham fisted presentation of the same BALDLY obvious contrasts and congruences, so OBVIOUS that my CAT gets it THE FIRST TIME and yet we, the people, are asked see them over and over. Yes, I see what you are doing thematically. Yes, already. No, it actually does NOT interest me MORE if you AGAIN show me the thing that failed to be intellectually complicated enough to interest me the first time.
Shall I now repeat a contrast for you? OKAY: I sat through SHOWGIRLS. Twice. Spring Breakers was not intellectually complicated enough to engage me.
And granted, I walked out before James Franco did more than yell four lines while wearing an X-treme Grill, but I thought I could be doing LITERALLY any other thing in that moment, including LOOKING AT A TOILET, I would be more engaged and entertained.
WHY IS THIS MOVIE 69% FRESH ON ROTTEN TOMATOES? Is American Art House film really this…bankrupt?
I never write bad reviews of things — If I like it, I tell you, if I do not like it, I shrug, I move on and try to find a thing I LIKE. But LORD, the critical reception of this film is so INEXPLICABLE. I need you to explick it.
Can anyone defend it?
Also, do any of them die? I walked out with two WILDLY critically acclaimed, accomplished novelists, both also bored and mystified by the positive Tomato Meter for such banal storytelling, but we all three hoped it would at least end in a blood bath. If you want to see this film (you do not), then do not read the comments, because I am FLAT asking for spoilers. Please tell me they all die.
I am on writing retreat in a VERY darling bungalow in Virginia with Mad Genius Lydia Netzer, and we wish you were here, assuming you are a homeless triangle in need of a thorough cleaning.
Because if you are, we can plug you directly into the shower as if it were a socket and you were the right-triangle-shaped-prong that goes in there. To be rinsed.
If you are shaped more like a tuba, or a pony, or a box of rock salt, or a Lady Novelist, you won’t go in the shower very well.
Also, if you ARE shaped like a triangle, but you are OBLIQUE, you can sod RIGHT off. No shower for you. Right or die.
I actually came here to WRITE or die. I suspect my body has chosen “die.”
I may or may not be stoned out of my GOURD on Dayquil, by which I am mean I definitely am. The box says DAYQUIL will not make me drowsy. GOOD JOB BEING A TRUE BOX! I am SUPER not drowsy.
The box did leave a few things out, like, it MAY make you LOOPY as spiral permed hair from 1983. The small print probaby covers that, and maybe it also says I may experience vision wavers, but I couldn’t read it because I am having all this dern VISION WAVERING. Also, I have this THOROUGHLY DISTURBING lightheaded sense of my ears quasi-detaching themselves to float up up up up UP and away off my head but on STRINGS. They bong against the ceiling, with the strings still running down inside and attached so that my brain gets jostled.
This Shower cannot be Explict. Or Bathed In.
I think now perhaps Lydia and I are on a Mucus Retreat. I came here, at great personal expense in terms of time, travel, lodging, and child care, came 1/8th of the way across the country, in order to leak foul juices from EVERY HOLE IN MY FACE.
I have Mucal Goal Bucket, and each day I hope to leak enough mucus to FILL IT, and at the end of it, I should have a complete TANKER TRUCK FULL OF INFECTED SLIME, which I will drive directly to Harper Morrow so they can reproduce and distribute it via Independent Snot Stores, Barnes and Snottle, Snots-A-Million, Snotazon, and any other venue where snots of all the finest kinds are purveyed unto the healthy.
Other activities a Lady Novelist might engage in on a Mucus Retreat: Suffering, Flopping, Sweating, Not Writing, Having Fevers, Having Chills, and hallucinating oneself into a right triangle shape long enough to bathe.
Assume no assumes. I am just Crazy Busy in the Face, trying to get out of town for a week.
As a place holder, and so you know it is all well, I am putting up and OLD post I love, that I had forgotten, that is true and dear. In it, Beautiful Maisy Who Is Barely Two is…barely two. This month? The baby below turns ELEVEN…
I’ll catch you up on the sequelization of America once I am safely in Virginia (I will be at the VA Book Fest Nets weekend, and writingwritingwriting holed up with The Mad Genius Known As Lydia Netzer until then).
Beautiful Maisy is barely two, and she has a white tiger doll named Siegfried. He was named before the Eaten Magician Incident of 2003. I am sure a white tiger doll named Siegfried is already NOT pc. But there it is. We have one. He is Siegfried and any attempts to call him “Tiger” instead are met with a blank stare and a refusal to understand who that is.
That is not even the problem. The problem is, beautiful Maisy can not SAY Siegfried. She used to call him a word that sounded like Swfog. But today, in the Wal-Mart, she very loudly found a new way to incorrectly pronounce Siegfried. She says it so it sounds EXACTLY — DEAD BANG EXACTLY — like….faggot. Yes. You heard me. Faggot. Clear as a bell.
And this is the girl who has such a high, loud, carrying voice that she sets off the WHISTLE BEEPER my friend Jan uses to locate her keys every time she gets within a city block of the thing.
In fact, Jan gave me a WHISTLE BEEPER because I am ALWAYS losing my keys, and it went off every time Maisy spoke, and Maisy NEVER stops speaking. EVEN when I shoved my keys UNDER THE SOFA CUSHIONS in the living room, Maisy could SET THEM OFF from upstairs. PS Did I mention the WHISTLE BEEPER has no off button???? I eventually took it into the backyard and beat it to death with a brick. ‘Nother story. ANYWAY….
Sentences Maisy shrieked cheerfully at 500 decibels as she danced through the Wal-Mart:
—Where my Faggot?
—I love Faggot!
—Bye Bye, Faggot!
—I Broke it, Faggot
And then she held up her monkey in one hand and Siegfried in another and IRREPRESSIBLY chanted FAGGOT MONKEY FAGGOT MONKEY FAGGOT MONKEY for 2 aisles.
Right now she’s running through the house yelling FAGGOT! FAGGOT! WHEE Ahhh YOU! as he has gone missing.
He has gone missing because we have more errands to run, and Faggot is not coming with us, thanks. Monkey must go alone. We will not go barrelling through the Publix piping out cheerful little derogatives in a high-pitched peeping voice that carries for miles. NOT ON MY WATCH.
I am currently doing a thing I’d said I’d never do. VERY currently. RIGHT THIS SECOND I was doing it, and I paused to come here and tell you I was doing it, and as soon as finish telling you I am going to go right back and do it some MORE.
Best Beloveds, I am writing a sequel.
I always said I wouldn’t EVER write a true sequel because, look, I write rowdy books. I shoot people, I drown them, I smash in their heads. If you are my character, you may not make it out of Chapter 1.
And if you do? You are not going to skip lightly through a meadowy-sunshine-landscape of mild troubles and soft dilemmas. If you are my character, your greatest challenge in a chapter will never be, I have lost my keys and it is time for carpool! Your largest looming question will not be, The chemicals in Sweet and Low? Or the blood-spiking calories of SUGAR?
Lookit, ya'll. It's all my books, so far.
You are going to careen across the country with a gun and a dog, or a gun and your best friend, or bloody hands and a man your family is never going to accept, or your terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible sister. Towns will burn and awful dogs will eat up half your kindly auntie.
I feel, if you are my character, and you make it ALL THE WAY TO THE END—not unscathed, never unchanged— but to the end, then you have EARNED a rest. I promise I will leave you in a place of hope. Perfectly happy? Tidy? Sorry, no. But I bring you to a breathing place. You, my character who lived, I love you, and I will not re-set you on whole new fire and leave you flopping in agony on the last page.
If you make it, bloody and changed but whole in some new way, I feel it would be MORALLY REPULSIVE to come back to you and say, “And NOW! I set your life on fire…AGAIN! BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHA.”
And I would have to. I am not going to write a book wherein people walk the dog and learn to beer-grill chicken and go to see their kid play the second Scottish guy on the right in Brigadoon. That is an EXCELLENT life. It is a TERRIBLE BOOK. SO I have sworn not to sequel, and I never have. Even my linked books (gods and Saints) are not SEQUELS. They take place over the same span of time, with the main characters and the plots crossing paths in three small, identical scenes.
But now? I am writing one. Sort of…
Part of it is because I am not ready to let go of the book you see below you yet. (LOOK, HERE IT IS, and it is coming THIS YEAR, near the end, so get it on your Christmas lists please.)
This book above is FINISHED, so it is not the book I am writing NOW. It is not the sequel to anything, but it is, quite frankly, the best book I am capable of writing. Maybe that won’t be true ten years from now, but it is true now. It is a departure for me, but not one so huge that I think it will be spooky or off-putting to people who like my books. I love it wholly.
It has two narrators. One, Shandi, is VERY much one of “my” narrators. She’s a rural, blue color, Southern person of imperfect past and uncertain future. I think Shandi is the way in, for my readership, because the other narrator was the toughest thing I ever wrote, tougher even than Liza, the stroke victim in A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY who narrated part of the story even though she’d lost all facility for language.
I’ve been wanting to write about William Ashe for YEARS now. (Yes, him, ya’ll. A male narrator.) He is a brilliant geneticist, and atheist, and an Aspie. They meet – Well, wait – look.
I want you to read the jacket copy, which I did not write, because the woman who wrote it GOT what I was trying to do. It begins with Shandi’s actual first lines…
I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K.
It was on a Friday afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had all been boiled red. We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32 that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could.
I thought then I had landed in my own worst dream, not a love story.
But there we were, William gone still as a pond rock, me holding a green glass bottle of Coca-Cola and shaking so hard it was like a seizure. Both of us were caught under the black eye of that pistol. And yet, seventeen seconds later, before I so much as knew his name, I’d fallen dizzy-down in love with him.
At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.
Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his world. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.
Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know.
Someone Else’s Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson’s funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.
EH? EHHH? Whatcha think????
BAH lookit, almost carpool time, and I have yet to walk the dogs or decide between sweet-n-low and sugar…I’ll explain why I am sequelling tomorrow; I have blathered on endlessly and I need to get back to doing the thing I said that I would never, never do.
This is why we never say never, I ‘spose. But I feel like it is not just me…What have you found yourself doing that you once said you truly, super-wouldn’t?
Mango would like it known he resents being cast as the ominous murderer in so many of my recent blog pet pictures, to which I reply, “Perhaps you should stop looming around, terrorizing Ansley. Maybe stop making blood-lusty throat-goat warbles and giving yourself minor brain damage by hurling your face into the glass in a futile attempt get at my little birds.”
Now he isn’t speaking to me. CATS! Such DIGNITY. A cat is little more than a massive scoop of dignity surrounded by a purr-box and some hair. And yet God also made them hilarious.
SO hard NOT to laugh at a cat, really, when he leaps and misses and smacks into the wall and slides down it like Wile E. Coyote. But if you do, they stalk off, mightily offended, tails up and their little winking butts radiating clenched and angry I MEANT TO DO THAT-ness. Ask me how I know.
They didn’t mean to do that. You know it, I know it, the cat knows it, but it is better, and kinder, and leads to a more peaceful house, to tamp the laugh down and nod sagely and agree. You clearly meant to do that.
I think a cat is my spirit animal, as I have too much personal dignity coupled with INSANE klutziness. I can trip over DUST MOTES, but if you laugh at me as I go comically sprawling face first into the cat-box, I will stalk off with MY tail up.
Mango and Man both have had a morning here. Mango is being petulant, sitting stiff and scowly on my desk instead of lolling in my lap as I work. He, you may have guessed, ios the wall-smacker, and I am the fool who laughed.
Bagel reacted…poorly to the new worm-preventing medicine, and in the dead of night, he crept out of our bed and went and, er, reacted poorly all over the dining room. ALL over the dining room.
Scott went downstairs to push the coffee button and did not come back up for an hour. When he did, he stank of virulent cleaning products and was much surlier than is his want. Took a quick re-shower in bleach, and then stomped out to go to work, only to stomp back in and say, “My tire is flat.” He changed his tire, then said, “Imma take out the trash and go.”
At the trashcan, he discovered Sam had simply crammed the bags into the can and hurled the rest into a heap. Here in Decatur, your recycling is all free, but trash you pay for PER bag. You have pack all the regular bags into special Decatur bags. Sam had stuffed the can without bothering to do this. So Scott had to unpack the can and load all the trash into the proper bags. He finally roared away, only to roar back.
Hi, he said. I forgot my wallet.
I am terrified he will be killed by a truck not four miles from the house, the way things started here. And the cat is still not speaking to me…Two of my most favorite fellows are having CRAP days.
I tried to decide which was me. LORD knows I can’t claim any kind of hair pretty. Mine gets cut maybe once a year and has all these gray strands. I mean, er, all these VERY EXPENSIVE SILVER SINGLE STRAND HIGHLIGHTS. *cough*
Nah. It’s fulla gray and I don’t care, lala. I am 45 years old and I don’t even know how to blow dry the stuff properly. My idea of hair is, “It is good to have some.”
I keep it relatively clean and when I remember, I rub it with this random defrizzing product I found on a grocery store discontinued product rack. It was 90% off, so I bought jars and jars of it. I’m not sure it does anything but it smells nice, so in it goes.
I tell Scott all my pedicures are basically FREE because I am just spending the money any decent God-fearing woman would have long ago put into her hair.
I have a THING about foot pretty. I need soft feet with cheery toes to look at during yoga or I become discouraged. But foot pretty didn’t make the Haiku so I abstain from claiming it. (Although I HAVE it, ya’ll.)
I think mom pretty requires a willingness to accessorize than I currently do not possess. Mom Pretty loves itself a colorful scarf, don’t it just? Mom pretty smells like vanilla? I am not sure. What IS mom pretty? Are you it?
I try to be tough pretty, but I amn’t tough. I am made of squashmallow and tofu. I am amorphous and bendable and easy to wound. I am working on this, as it is boring and ridiculous to let any old grouse with a poor social filter or a grudge wander by and ruin my day by being a buttock.
But! I DO think I am smart pretty. My BRAINS are quiiiiite fetching, thanks. They run fast and hot and I feel that were you to crack my head and take a peek, you would find an abundance of gray matter, arranged in a charming pattern of swirls.
What kind of pretty are YOU? Any of the four, or some other kind? And if you pick mom pretty define it. I may decide I am it, too, if I can be it without having to change my earrings or run more carpool days.
Let’s play Silent Assumption. If I go silent here, assume things are bad. As in, Last week, Dad was back in CCU for the bulk of it. If you notice me not blogging, and you are a you who prays, my silence is an excellent indication that it is time to throw in a word for Bob Jackson.
But oh look, here I am again. NOT silent, so assume Dad is home now and doing well, on a new cocktail of drugs that may, this time, please God, make his heart go properly on pumping his blood through all his wonderful pieces.
They put him on this experimental drug I am calling The Japanese Goat Medicine, because it is experimental, and because the doc said, “Oh, it has had great results in Japan,” and I said, “On PEOPLE? Or more like on GOATS?”
On people, but still. The label says WARNING: MAY CAUSE PREMATURE DEATH.
Oh, you don’t say. When you are taking meds like this, that “may cause premature death,” it’s a risk v/s benfit thing. You don’t snack up on some drugs that may cause premature death to fix your hangnail. I get that, and they seem to be WORKING…but.
I STILL hate the language! It makes me go, So is the hope is that they will instead cause POST-mature death? But maybe that is right. You take a dangerous drug, but it may well extend life past your expiration date. The label scares me, but I’ll tell you…my dad is who he is.
Ranger Bob, after this last stint in the CCU told me, “Well I almost gave up, because I am very tired of this, but now I have decided not to.”
My dad has decided not to die before, more than once—he decided it while deep in a bunker with two armed men determined to kill him. He decided it when he was diagnosed with fatal blood cancer over 30 years ago…and he is still here. As my brother has said, over and over since this began, “No one ever got rich betting against Bob Jackson.” My father’s heart, broken and tired and wounded as it is, is just SO very mighty.
And yes, this is a losing game. I mean, we are all on earth. NO ONE here gets out alive. But Daddy has said, “Not just yet.”
I believe him.
Look up at that picture Scott took…Do you SEE that brave (or stupid? Or brilliant glass-understanding, or unaware) little bird in the feeder? Does he not SEE Mango? Or is he like, MEH THAT CAT HAS BEEN TRYING TO GET ME THROUGH THIS GLASS FOR WEEKS NOW TO NO AVAIL. MIGHT AS WELL GORGE MYSELF and be happy. *BURP*
Scott took this pic. Ansley is looking at me. See the worried ears?
She is asking me with the plaintive eyeballs WHY I have allowed this AWFUL, TERRIFYING CAT, the one with all the POINTY BITS on his EVIL FEET, to perch above her. Do I not KNOW this cat can drop upon her and rend her in twain, Lo, any moment? At his LEISURE? Maybe now, maybe in ten minutes.
Maybe she will fall asleep and then! AND THEN! Maybe he will just sit there for five years, ten years. Twenty, even, and NOT drop, and NOT rend, but how is she to KNOW?
Oh, Ansley, you and me both, baby. It is exactly how I feel this week, my ears in JUST that shape, waiting to see what will happen with dad’s new drug treatment protocol.
Except, hey, Ansley? YOU could just, you know, MOVE a foot and not be under him. Just sayin’.
I am distracting myself by doing a lot of NOT WORKING. In this I have several key tools.
1) My friends.
Me to Grey: So on the blog I threatened to slap Ghandi , and then Julie pointed out that JUST BY CONINCIDENCE , I had threatened this on the actual anniversary if his death.
Grey: Oh NO! All the Buddhists will be on the war path! …Wait.
I love that. I love my friends.
Another friend, Alison, in an unrelated email, recently said, “My shampoo is like me–French and tender as a petal.”
I LOVE THAT SENTENCE. I can’t stop being delighted with it. I WISH I HAD FRENCH SHAMPOO JUST SO I COULD SAY THIS.
2) I began OBSESSIVELY tracking all my food and exercise. (ASIDE: I was going to use FIT DAY but then FIT DAY, the second I signed up, sent me an e-mail titled, Is the “50 Shades of Grey” Workout Right for You? Aaaand, NO. I mean, I am sure spanking can be quite aerobic or whatever, but… no. )
So I am using My Fitness Pal, which here-in-after we shall all call MFFP . (No. that’s not a typo. *bland, blank-eyed smile*)
AND YES, let’s all agree Ann Lamott is TOTALLY CORRECT. But this, with MFFP, is not so much an actual attempt at a diet as much as it is a way to obsess over something that is not My Own Personal Cat of Damocles.
At first I was mostly using it to LOOK at all the nervous cookies I was consuming in my fretting. Kind of an art project—this is what stress eating looks like, up close and personal. THEN! I realized THE DARN THING WAS SHOWING MY TERRIBLE FOOD TO ANYONE I FRIENDED!!!
I asked people, “OH! Can you see my food? As if I put it in a cellophane stomach?”
That’s the start of a very disturbing poem or children’s book, but the answer was yes. Yes, they could.
I immediately deleted my account, and I made one under a nom-nom-nom-de-plume. *rimshot*
So far I have only friended two people, both close friends.
This is my true food! SEE MY TRUE FOOD?
But holy cats, it WORKED. How crazy/sad is it that this worked? Not in terms of a DIET. It is more than NOT snacking. I ate so HEALTHY.
The pressure of my friends seeing ALL MY FOOD ALL DAY even made me eat FRUIT, and I HATE fruit. I drank extra waters so I could publicly click the water clicky. I ate the daily recommended number of veggie servings, which okay, I LIKE vegetables, but maybe not as much as my first few days of friend-monitored food tracking would indicate.
How terrible. I suppose I do not mind killing people as long as it is SECRET. Except in this case the victim is a Cakes and Ale bakery box full of chocolate-raspberry macaroons. But publicly, I have to be the poster child for nutritive fiber? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME that the appearance of goodness is so ATTRACTIVE to me.
I see this ending one of three ways.
The horror and wonder of my friends looking at ALL MY FOOD will continue to work, and I will become SO HEALTHY That I will actually give up MORTALITY for Lent and LIVE FOREVER.
This is…least likely.
More likely I will begin to LIE on my food chart. I will put on fruit I MEANT to eat. I will accidentally leave off the slab of bread pudding with hard sauce, or I will put it on, but I will CALL it, “small raw carrot”. Then I will feel bad for lying, and I will call my friends and confess that I have LIED about my food, but it will not stop me, and I will scamper about in food-lying delight, scamper-scamper, all around the meadows, stress eating cookies that I do not chart.
OR my friends looking at my food will work for a bit, but the pressure of it will fade bit by bit, until I have to up the stakes. I’ll make more FRIENDS, ones I do not really know, SCARY NEW PEOPLE, and they will be able to LOOK AT MY FOOD and I will keep myself terrorized this way, and when THAT begins to fade, I will make my food PUBLIC so the WORLD CAN SEE ALL MY FOOD, and when THAT fails I WILL PUT ALL MY SHOWN FOOD UNDER MY REAL NAME.
I have a dewy coating of horror-sweat coating my waxen brow to think of this.
So. It is Ash Wednesday. Tonight, as I remember all that I am too remember, I will talk to God about my own revolting love of the appearance of goodness. And yet, for Lent, I doubt I will give up my willingness to USE this revolting love to go down a pants size…HA.
Lent this year? Here in what is likely just past the midpoint of my life (unless a bus et al intervenes and ends me early) I will give up, for whole seconds at a span, CARING SO DAMN MUCH what people think of me. Ad if I can’t quite give up loving the appearance of the thing I want to love, I’m at the VERY least going to look for ways to love the thing itself.
Not so a Cat of Damocles won’t drop. No deals. Nothing causal. Just because it is right. It IS right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to love and do what is good for no reason but the goodness.
And YOU, beloveds? Do you care this much what people think? What would you give up for 40 days that would be both hard and good for you? What can you not give up?
First of all, my dad was back in CCU last week and all this weekend with some congestive heart failure. Just a LITTLE bit. Heh. We’ve all been in Birmingham. They thought it was a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, but it was a problem with some clotting in his graft. They were able to go in and fix it, but…It was scary. He is back home now, and seems VERY GOOD. Even so—If you are a praying sort, we would surely like some.
Second of all, THANK YOU for the big rally round, for the wise advice, for the offers to punch mean people in the genitals on my behalf. It was a good weekend to have all this rallying happening in the comments that kept landing in my phone as I sat in the hospital. You do not even know. Thank you.
Actual page from a chick tract, only slightly edited. LOOK, the DEVIL HAS MY HEAD!
Third of all, I realized how RELATED Thing the First of All and Thing the Second of All are! I have been publishing novels for HOLY CATS a decade now. This is not the first time a reader has sent me a less than delighted email. In fact, after gods, when the internet was not SO prevalent, I once got a HAND WRITTEN letter explaining with great sorrow and detail exactly why the vile book I had written was going to PUT ME INTO HELL.
It came with a tract.
I treasured it, ya’ll. What a delight, eh?
This mail got to me not because it is any different from any other drive-by YOU SUCK, but because it came at a time when I am so so so worried. It felt like, “OH HEY, are you mortally fretting about some of your most beloved people? Well, scuse me, I just need to give you a quick slap. THERE!”
I know the letter-sender has NO IDEA what is going on in my personal life, but isn’t that the point? Isn’t that why you do not write to strangers to explain how they have failed you from afar?
She behaved badly. Telling people they have behaved badly—you can only KINDLY, and with ACTUAL GOOD INTENTIONS, do that for a person if you love them.
Beloveds? I cannot love her just now. *grin*
Love aside, there were at least four mature, cool, excellent sample letters I could cut and paste from comments, if I so desired, but they might cause a reply, and I no longer care enough to have a dialog. Once I realized the roiling feelings were NOT about her or the letter, my need to answer her at all abated.
FOURTH of all? IF I WERE GOING TO ANSWER? I regret to inform you that I would not take Margaret Maron’s high road, nor would I take Laura Lippman’s cool, professional road, or any of the other smart roads offered. I WISH THAT I WOULD. THOSE ROADS ARE WISEST.
But a glance into the mirror assures me I would not. Instead? I would go down the rabbit hole with Alice, so I cut and paste her answer, to share with you below. Because it is delicious:
I think I see what’s going on here. And look, I’m flattered, but I’m not going to sleep with you.
I tried to think of a book NO ONE could possibly hate…and here are quotes from 2 of the (57!!!!) 1 star reviews I found on Amazon:
“The story is boring. It just points out various things in a room, then proceeds to say “good night” to all the objects in the room.”
“The bunnies are creepy and there are weird [sic] things going on.”
Listen, you publish a book, someone, somewhere is going to hate it, and they are going to post their reasons on the internet in the most vehement, unkind terms possible. Non-journalists— just readers responding to a book on Amazon or GoodReads— are not as aware of subtext as writers. Often these “product” reviews by “real people” step past the book to draw conclusions about the writer in ways that read innocuous to the general public, but can FEEL extremely personal to the writer.
If you are said writer, you can’t respond publicly. You can’t.
Even if the post-er has used your book to draw conclusions about you as a person, insulted your parents, your past, your personal ethics…you cannot respond, because you are going to come off as churlish and spoiled at best. You put the book out. If people read it, they get to respond, for good or ill. The end.
Also, there is a built in safety. If the reviewer HAS been incredibly awful and personal, savvy readers will see that, and discount the review. The author butt-hurtedly pointing out the obvious is unnecessary, and he comes across as a hypersensitive, defensive bully. And it is far more likely that the review is not that awful. It is far more likely the author is reading SO MUCH into what is a perhaps poorly worded but ultimately simple dislike of the work.
I can of course behave professionally. I’ve learned how to handle “product” reviews of my work by consumers. I’ve been publishing for close to ten years without yet murdering anyone who implied I was a slut on Amazon, so clearly I know how. Here is my secret: I do not read them. I do not google myself, and I do not follow links.
I remember when I stopped. It was VERY early in my career, just after BETWEEN in hardback. There was a throw away sentence in the middle of what was actually a very BOOK positive consumer review on some site or another. The person liked the book. AND YET. In the middle, they said something about my strong women characters, which, yay, but then, in a parenthetical aside, they drew the conclusion that I wrote women this way because my parents had secretly wanted a boy. My parents, this reviewer said, made it CLEAR they wanted a boy by naming me Joshilyn.
Oh, but I was ANGRY. I wanted to respond so badly. I wanted to say HEY JERKFACE TOAD, THE H IS SILENT. I AM NOT NAMED FOR A JOSH OF ANY KIND, OH TOADY JERKFACE. HEY JERKFACE, YOU UTTER TOAD, ME PUBLISHING A BOOK DOESN’T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO TAKE SHOTS AT MY MOST DEAR AND BELOVED PARENTS, AND PS SUCK IT, AND PPS YOUR FACE IS JERKY! LIKE A TOAD’S FACE!
I very quickly realized it was not a rational response. But LORD I felt it like a storm in my guts. That someone could just pause and speculate this way and then state it as fact, a casual toss off, Hey! Enjoyed your book, too bad your parents so OBVIOUSLY didn’t want you…
Here’s the truth that I wanted to scream in fury at this perfectly innocuous person whose big crime was EXPRESSING AN OPINION ON THE INTERNET: My parents already had a boy. They very much were HOPING for a girl with me. In fact, family legend is that as they wheeled my mother away, in full blown labor, my father called after her, “Betty? Try to have a little girl this time?” Making her want to murder him because she was VERY busy trying not to be burst in twain. I am, in fact, named after my mother, who disliked how her own name, Betty Joyce, seemed Nickname-y. She gave me longer versions: Joshilyn Elizabeth.
So public speculation that I wrote what I wrote because my parents were these awful stereotype BOY WANTERS who never quite loved me enough…it really made me angry. I felt the review went past my book to take unwarranted pot-shots at my family. But I doubt most readers, skimming the review to decide if the book might be up their alley, even NOTICED the implication.
This is not an untypical author response. It was so HARD not to step in and angrily defend, and the vehemence of my emotional inner lather taught me… walk away. Better to not reviews where there is latitude to speculate about me the person. Never respond or answer or defend. It is NOT personal to anyone but YOU, and HEY! By the way!
The book is itself. It speaks for itself. It defends itself. The end.
But, and here, oh my beloveds, HERE is the moral dilemma. What if the internet person comes to me?
What if a person who has their whole mouth, their Friends and Rabbit-Style relations, and all the vast internet to complain to, if that person decides instead they need to thrust into my in-box a SEVEN PARAGRAPH indictment of me as a human being and a writer?
If you do not like my book, are you allowed to waylay me in my inbox? IN MY OWN HOUSE, to drive in through my monitor and say, Hi! You Suck! while I am trying to have coffee and begin my day? Picture me sitting in my pajamas, petting my cat, feeling good as the little birds came to the feeder, readying to get to work on the new book, and…BOOM, enter a total stranger to say, Good morning! I super hate your book! Why didn’t you write it the way I would have liked? Is it cuz you’re just not very bright, or more because you are a hack who doesn’t care about your work? I REALLY want to know which it is! Catch you later!
Scuse the PG Language...I just LOVE this.
Because I got that letter this week. And OH did I write a response. It is blistering. It is not kind. But then I didn’t send it. I REALLY WANTED TO. But I did not. It’s still in my drafts folder, lurking like a mean, mean tumor.
THEN I thought about posting it HERE, with none or maybe a few or maybe all of the identifying details of the writer changed, to respond to the letter not PERSONALLY, but publicly, the way I believe the person should have responded to my book. That blog entry is moderately blistering.
I didn’t post it.
I wrote this, instead. To open this dialog.
So, I ask you, seriously, do I get to answer?
I answer ALL my fan mail, but this is NOT fan mail. It’s a drive by pee-in-my-Wheaties.
Do readers have this right, the personal, direct, insulting, patronizing letter, and I just have to eat it as if it were a book review? HEY, I put the books out there and every day I am ACTIVELY asking people to read them. I am accessible on Twitter, facebook and via email.
Is that permission? And if you take me up on the permission, have you given me permission to respond? In simplest terms: If you come to my house and to explain to me directly in insulting terms how I have personally failed you with my book, do you give me the right to explain that you are stupid? *angelic smile*
So. You tell me. Yoda says there is no TRY. Respond? Or respond not? And in what venue? Public? Private? What are my rights here. And what IS RIGHT here?