Tag Archives: writing

Thank You, Internet!

Wow, Internet. I’m not sure what to say. It’s been a Day for me and my little blog.

When I got to work this morning, I logged in to check my blog stats, as I sometimes do in the mornings, not expecting to really see anything exciting…when I saw I had something like 100 page views already, just for today. That totally blew away my previous single-day record from 2011 of 46 views in a single day (at least half of which I’m convinced was spam).

“Whoa!” I thought to myself, and scrolled down to see the referrer links to see where all of you wonderful, amazing people were coming from. That’s when I saw http://www.newyorker.com in my list of referrers. “Is this a joke?” was the foremost thought in my mind when I cautiously clicked on the New Yorker link (because, often, you just don’t know, am I right, Internet?).

And then I saw this:

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THERE AT THE BOTTOM! THAT’S MY BLOG! THAT’S MY BLOG! THAT’S MY BLOG!

Whereupon I had to instantly call all of my near and dear and tell them the news in vocal registers completely inappropriate for the workplace. There may have also been semi-hysterical laughter and spontaneous hugging.

It’s really just been a crazy, crazy day for me and my little book blog. People have even tweeted links to my blog! Including Rebecca Mead, the one who inspired me to read Middlemarch in the first place!

tweetsAs of this evening, I’ve had more than 1,000 views on my blog today.

So really, I just want to say thank you, Internet, and thank you, New Yorker! I feel hugely honored that you all took the time to read my silly little emoji post, and even share it. Come back soon? (xoxo)

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November, or Where I’ve Been

November. It has not been a good month for blogging.

I wish I could tell you that instead of blogging, I was embracing NaNoWriMo, and started writing a novel at last, but this would be untrue.

What’s true is that November kind of gets me down. The beginning of November marks the end of Daylight Savings Time, and as ready as I felt myself to be for the “brighter” mornings, the early darkness of the evenings has sapped my energy far more than I ever expect it to or remember it will. Between that, a whirlwind weekend trip to visit my newly-married friend in her new far-Canadian home, looking for and applying to library jobs, and the Thanksgiving holiday, I fear I have sadly neglected my little blog.

Maybe one reason November is so disheartening is that it’s basically the beginning of winter, here in the Pacific Northwest, anyway. The chill of mountain snow touches the wind, and what with the limited daylight and the dropping temperatures, it seems like the only thing left in life is to break out the fleeces, burrow under blankets, read a pile of books, and eat. Which is largely what I’ve done this month.

Perhaps the biggest news around here is that due to some surgery my mother is having in December, my sister and I will be cooking Christmas dinner. Together.

My sister doesn’t hold much stock in my culinary ability. When she got married, she did a dessert bar instead of a wedding cake, and my contribution to the dessert bar was my grandmother’s famous cookies, which are on the fussier end of the cookie-baking spectrum. Discussing this beforehand, her comment to me was, “Are you sure you don’t want someone else to maybe do them for you?” (And this was before I wrote the recipe down wrong and completely botched the first batch.) Some might call her lack of faith in me justified by my failure to make cooking a priority throughout the majority of my 20s. I’m really trying to be better about cooking, but in the dark that has been November, the ease of tomato soup and cheese sandwiches often won the battle.

However, which I feel to some extent cancels the lack of imagination in my November dinners, I did use “artisan” bread* for the cheese sandwiches. I’m a big fan of artisan bread (because if you’re going to eat bread, it might as well be good bread, right)? The only drawback to artisan bread is that mostly you have to slice it yourself, and sometimes, when you’re very hungry and having a clumsy day, you find yourself accidentally slicing your fingers along with the bread. Although this is certainly not the first time I’ve cut myself with my very sharp bread knife, this is the worst so far.

(Since I cut my left thumb, which isn’t even the thumb I use to hit space bar, the cut can’t really even contribute to my failure to blog for the most of the month, sadly. Somehow the lack of blog posts would feel more legitimate with an excuse like “I cut off the top of my thumb! But not all the way!”)

Further cancelling the tomato-soup-cheese-sandwich-extravaganza-also-known-as-November, I bought two cookbooks this month, both of them by food bloggers. However much I may lose heart when I catch sight of a long list of complicated instructions, I really do enjoy reading about cooking and food. Hopes are high, in any case, that these will inspire some culinary creativity in the face of early dark and cold. Personally I think we really need to try out a Smitten Kitchen recipe for Christmas, like the apple cider caramels.

* Technically, the artisan bread was store-bought. Which may negate its cancelling effect, in the end.

A Quote to Start October

I’m a big fan of the blog Letters of Note, described as “correspondence deserving of a wider audience” and curated by Shaun Usher. It’s a great place to while away some time reading other people’s stories. And there are so many great letters out there (some of my favorites: from F. Scott Fitzgerald, from John Steinbeck, from Harper Lee, from J. R. R. Tolkien).

Yesterday Letters of Note posted a letter written by Lafcadio Hearn to one of his editors, in which he rhapsodizes eloquently about the beauty of words. It’s too great not to share again.

For me words have colour, form, character; they have faces, ports, manners, gesticulations; they have moods, humours, eccentricities;—they have tints, tones, personalities…Surely I have never yet made, and never expect to make any money. Neither do I expect to write ever for the multitude. I write for beloved friends who can see colour in words, can smell the perfume of syllables in blossom, can be shocked with the fine elfish electricity of words.

May your October be full of syllables that blossom in perfume.

On Memoirs

This week I read an interesting article in New York Magazine about Joan Didion’s newest memoir, Blue Nights. In it, the author, Boris Kachka, talks to Didion about her success with The Year of Magical Thinking and the new memoir. The article is great, if maybe a little sad, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. Apparently, I’m not alone in saying so; it was one of the most-read “long reads,” according to the magazine’s facebook page:

From facebook.com

There’s so much fodder for discussion in the article:  Kachka quoting Didion from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that “writers are always selling somebody out”; Didion’s prescience about the hippy movement and the impact it would have on society as a whole (what, as a result, might be “sacrificed…on the altar of universal love and self-fulfillment”); the honest questions Kachka describes Didion as asking of herself in Blue Nights – about being a parent, and being a good parent.

But I wanted to focus this post on something Kachka says in the article, that “Didion has always maintained that she doesn’t know what she’s thinking until she writes it down.” As a person who has kept a journal for the majority of my life, I can relate. For better or worse, I have always written to understand what’s going on in my head – even just to know what’s going on in my head. (I say “for better or worse”, because you make a record like that, of so many years and so many “places” in your life, and it can be ground you loathe to revisit, yet you find yourself somewhat incapable of destroying it at the same time.)

Later in the article, Kachka says:

…sometimes it’s difficult to tell which of her confessions are genuine and which calculated for literary effect, how much to trust her observations as objective and how much to interrogate them as stylistic quirks. Her clinical brand of revelation can sometimes feel like an evasion – as likely to lead the reader away from hard truths as toward them.

Memoirs as a genre have received a lot of scrutiny lately for a certain lack of truthfulness; we probably all remember the teacup-storms related to Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors. I suppose what I find most interesting about Kachka’s comment is that one might come to the memoir expecting either “to trust her observations” or to be led toward hard truths.

It made me think of something I once read by C. Day-Lewis:

We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.

The subject matter of Didion’s most recent works, the death of her husband, followed two years later by the death of her adopted daughter, is deeply personal. However, her memoir about the death of her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking, was exceedingly popular. Kachka describes this success pushing Didion into the limelight, casting her in the role of mentor in the minds of some readers, a role with which Didion admits she is uncomfortable.

I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of reading something that speaks directly to our own personal experience or to some part of our souls, and being touched by it in a powerfully meaningful way. But when it comes to the memoir – when it comes to the writer’s need, I guess, to understand by exploring her own thoughts, would it be better, perhaps, if we were to approach it, not as the writer seeking to make herself understood, but as the writer seeking to understand?