what a good book should do

There’s a fairly short list of books I truly love, by which I feel gratefully reshaped while reading them—and I’ve just added one more title to their number: The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst. I don’t even quite know yet what I want to say about it… only to testify to this feeling of awe, of gratitude and grace for the experience of something so utterly moving and beautiful and bittersweet. It hurts exquisitely to read how well Parkhurst writes of Lexy’s anguish, as imagined through her husband’s eyes after the fact—there are two or three pages right near the end where the describing of the experience of despair is so pitch-perfect, accurate and immediately recognizable, that it feels as if my own heart, in its most private and awful moments, has been written onto the page and published and printed in the thousands by a complete stranger—it’s the oddest combination of intimacy and the public—which I suppose is also the pith of my secret heart. I want to hold the feeling this book has created inside me, not to let it slip away into daily whatevers—that’s really why I write about it. I dearly don’t want this exquisite feeling of graceful recognition and my own amazement to end. O the tragedy of the final page. So the inclination to talk about such books with others in classrooms and coffeeshops and book circles. But when a book comes printed, as this one does, with prepared discussion questions for groups of readers, well, I appreciate it, take it as a sign of the book’s power to move, but still can’t bear to glance at them for awhile—they feel, in their candor and baldness, at first like a cheapening of that magical, intimate, transported moment. The great power of a work of fiction to reach into exactly you in your most personal heart to create a there quiet chemical explosion, this is the wondrous gift of certain writers. If I could accomplish the same for other readers so wholly and satisfyingly in books, I would feel unutterably blessed and successful in my work.

there. if I’m honest about it, that is the dream. nothing less.

And now I’m going to make a cup of tea and maybe a batch of cookies and continue to savor the receiving of the gift.

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greatest respiratory flu soup ever

I’ve been living on this stuff for the last week– and I’m not even sick of it yet:

  • chicken broth
  • several gloves garlic, sliced
  • onion, chopped
  • curry powder
  • red pepper flake
  • salt

simmer for 30 min.

  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • fresh mint, chopped
  • (I keep forgetting to buy basil, but that too)
  • fresh lemon juice

puree. savor. breathe deep.

melancholia and other malarkey

the other day I wrote this line: “I grow older and older without knowing a single thing more.” it’s just that kind of winter, I guess, dragging on, you know. I was lying there, doing my due diligence to fall asleep, and then some strings of words wedged themselves in my consciousness– so I got up to throw out the net– sometimes tasty bits wash up– but this time the haul sparse and spiny. for one thing I fear I’ve developed an addiction to nyquil cough syrup, or maybe I just shouldn’t have had that cup of earl grey nigh on midnight. or fallen into bed at eight. all cockeyed. speaking of, my right tear duct squirts every time I blow my nose. in any case. the bare space here embarrasses, so I’m stuffing it with wadded tissues and dead fish.


“the clock reads three sticks, and I long for small things to hold. it’s a wednesday that feels like a wednesday made of bisque– daylight salt-dusted and wind blown over frozen waves. I perched on the curl and peered for something suspended, witnessed only grit gone opaque in lake teeth set descending. I grow older and older without knowing a single thing more, am grown so brittle– though somewhere swims flashing scales, pooling eyes, if I could just thaw to it– somewhere grow dark ropey arms that sway to a warmer current and reach greenly for great swallows of sunlight.”

my dirty little secret

chris knows it–

(wait for it)

I love grey’s anatomy. as they say, seriously. it’s a soap opera with good writing– what’s not to love?

what’s not to love about a mark with a broken penis? or dramatic scenes that turn on a wafer-thin instant, a line– ethically, emotionally, even to some extent spiritually. I gladly buy into the drama of it– I think I mainly live in that current. which is why I so looove grey’s anatomy.

I am facing the sappy, goopy in myself lately– it’s what you tend to reach when you retreat inside. depression is a sloppy business when you get down to it. struggle involves awkward positions, chagrin at the numbers but persistence, however you weigh it.

there’s not a lot of discernible language when you go underground, under the radar and other scientific instruments. and then you seem to surface– it is a little better, for one reason and other. a walk by the lake, a telephone or chat conversation with a friend across the miles– or right at home. you surface. chris knows it.

you tread water with watching t.v.


days can be a bit of a slog.

and then you’ll stumble over a project, become infatuated, want nothing but to talk about it, become a little tiresome. happiness hath no momentum.

but after awhile you have to say something. odds are it’s not going to be brilliant, so just move forward. the head is a heavy thing.

you make projects as a distraction partly– you think, I could make an essay form in this medium– even if I do it stumblingly. you write just whatever from the place you’re in. it’s a relief. sometimes that’s enough.

so you breathe and just keep putting the feet forward the best you can.

you think about how longer narrative forms are more challenging because they need to create interesting, muscular patterns– or at least maintain consistency to be readable or livable, for that matter. there is discomfort, weather and vexedness of a thousand varieties– so it goes. it would be nice if your narrative could have some gypsy shake, heft and bells.

by the end I always have to change the title– and then rearrange things, so it ends up not being the end– sometimes it’s good to give your audience opportunities to forgive you– small ones work well, large ones less well, you learn.

I don’t know what the appeal is of the second person vague– it’s both confrontational and obviously sneaky. vaguery has always been my sticky wicket, the slope I must slip on because I hate the editor.  grapple with the editor. do war with it. grit in the throat.


it is most excellent to have your mind thought sexy, odd and elemental, especially by thinkin folks you think are cool. you realize– I realize moments of feeling fully present. first person intensely. I imagine english as a foreign language– grammar and vocabulary most provocative, shaping what you say and letting it change on your lips. that inevitable second person! is the plot thickening sufficiently? or does it need some agent to make it coagulate. is it bad form to speak of coagulation? I do faux pas.

sometimes you, that is I, overcook the chicken. but it still feels necessary to make things bite-size, even if too dry to rightly swallow.

I know why the you– the you is the I that wants to be edited somehow. tailored to make more sense.

you have a thing for tightropes. tights, ropes. you have a thing, a relationship with words, relationship here being a dirty word. you choke on it, stutter, make sounds almost like sense. a little offkey, singing.

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