Penelope Fitzgerald, the life, the books, the screenplay, the essay…

My essay about Hermoine Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald is in today’s Los Angeles Review

Or, more accurately, it’s an essay about Penelope Fitzgerald, me, the .com crash, family life, writing screenplays, Fitzgerald’s critics, and Hermoine Lee’s biography.

I like this form – call it book-based personal narrative.  I’m thinking of doing Stella Gibbons next – or Elizabeth Bowen.  Or maybe J.G. Farrell? I’d have to get through The Troubles again, for that one – might have to wait until I quit the day job.



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Love’s Labour’s Lost, or Women Rule

o-LENA-DUNHAM-COVER-570On my way to writing this post about a Shakespeare play I got sucked in to Facebook where I discovered that most of my friends are against Black Friday or celebrated Chanksgiving or watch Terence Malick movies, or all three.  Which shows my demographic to the extent that is possible.  Also, I saw that McSweeney’s has out an interview with Lena Dunham and Judy Blume, “two cultural icons,” which I would love to read, though I flinch every time Lena is described as an icon as well as every time she is described as a feminist icon.  I would lie down in the mud to help ease a crossing for Lena Dunham – that is how greatly I love her –  but don’t you have to be at least middle aged before you can be an icon? Or maybe thirty? Like isn’t time put in a part of being an icon – and is she “feminist” simply because she’s a woman? I hate how people use that word.

I dunno, but I digress anyway because what I wanted to write about was Love’s Labour’s Lost and how it is an anthem to women and loving women, and I liked that a lot this week – I am Chankgsiving grateful for it. Which actually means that the Facebook/Judy Blume/Lena Dunham thing wasn’t really a digression. Continue reading

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The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals

Grasmere_1135256081I stumbled on these via the BBC Books and Authors podcast which is really my favorite book radio show ever because they just talk about the books they like and argue just the tiniest bit with the other people on the show who don’t like them, sharing favorite scenes and language, telling a bit about context, explaining what’s unique. Booktalk.  Simple.  Let’s not make a critical analysis mess of them

A recent one put me on to Dorothy Wordsworth whom I mistakenly thought was Wordsworth’s wife, but is instead his sister who lived off and on together with their brother John and Wordsworth’s wife Mary Hutchinson in the Lake District in England.

Such lovely evocative journals, so much love.  They are landscape portraits and sketchings of their village and the passersby, as well as glimpses into a writing life . She reads Shakespeares plays, brings Wordsworth his breakfast while he’s in the middle of a poem and does the ironing. “The morning clear but cloudy,” she writes, “that is, the hills were not overhung by mists.  After dinner Aggy weeded onions and carrots–I helped for a little-wrote to Mary Hutchinson–washed my head—worked.  After tea went to Ambleside–a pleasant cool but not too cold evening.  Rydale was very beautiful with spear shaped streaks of polished steel.  No letters! –only one newspaper.  I returned by Clappersgate.  Grasemere was very solumn in the last glimpse of twilight it calls home the heart to quiteness.

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Go Read Jane Gardam

jane_gardam_1208916cI’m really pleased with the Los Angeles Review of Books for being willing to publish my long form omnibus review of Jane Gardam’s novels.

They are the kind of books that become your friends – you know? Pure literary escapism.  I am so glad I found her.

If you read the article, I’d love for you to come back here and tell me what you think about it!

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Thom Yorke via Alec Baldwin (what?)

Alec Baldwin’s podcast “Here’s the Thing” is one of the reasons I love the era of podcasting. Only through this medium would get someone so inept that it’s an asset. I think Baldwin is a great actor, but truly, his gift is not interviewing.  He interrupts, finishes sentences, hmms and mmms in his famous, deep actor’s voice and overshares his own celebrity moments.  Sometimes I have to grit my teeth while he’s talking.

Thom-Yorke010 But I listen to almost all of his interviews (except the sports ones) and most of the time I listen twice.  The cast of characters is extreme:  Kris Jenner, David Brooks, Renee Fleming, Judd Apatow…are just a few. And the conversations he has with them are bizarre and wide ranging – these folks say things to him they wouldn’t say anywhere else. (Kim Kardashian got through the sex tape situation with her faith in God, says Kris. ) The interviews are raw and odd, and you almost always get something different to what is already circulating on the mono-channel popular culture.

My theory is that he’s so unprofessional that his interviewees open up to him – that since he doesn’t act like a journalist they don’t treat him like one.  Also, it probably helps that he’s famous too -they must relax around him.

The recent one featuring Thom Yorke is the best of these.  Yorke’s speaking voice is as mesmerizing as his music, and his answers to Baldwin’s screwball questions (if you could give up your fame in exchange for the world being measurably better in some way, would you?) are authentic and  forty-something wise.  He is sheepish sometimes, laugh out loud funny other times and then there are these flashes of analytical brilliance.  The way he describes what he’s trying to do when he sings is a poem.  What he says about “content” versus music.  I listen to it when I’m going to sleep at night, because I want my dreams to fill up with Yorke’s beautiful sayings.

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I hit a self-help trifecta this last month (and a good thing) too.

habitI mixed Adam Phillips‘ good advice to live the life you have (instead of the one you didn’t get or might sometime  achieve, maybe…) with The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t) by Brene Brown.

The first wrenched me into a reality check – living for an unrealistic and narrowly projected tomorrow while at the same time gnawing at my (to me) dreadful past was not going to be a successful life strategy.

The second gave me a massive dose of the goodness of neuroscience.   Continue reading

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Between her husband in hell, among spectres,
And her mother on earth, among flowers.
Her nature, too, is divided.  One moment
Gloomy as hell’s king, but the next
Bright as the sun’s mass, bursting from clouds.

–Ted Hughes
–from “The Rape of Proserpina” in Tales of Ovid

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Of Course You Must Go, Little Dog

This month is college admissions notification time – for most of us – a real turning point in senior year – the moment when the future starts to be now.  It’s been intense. As in intense for an already really intense person.  As in getting in to her bed when she’s not home and weeping into her pillow. It isn’t because I care that she gets into the “best” college.  I know she’s going to get into a good college already  - she worked hard on that and it’s going to happen. It’s because I cannot believe that she is leaving me. I keep re-realizing it.  She’s leaving home.  She’s not going to be living with me.  Where is my baby. No really, where did my baby go?


Last night I was sitting with her listening to her tell me about her day which is one of my greatest pleasures right now – just listening to her comings and goings –  and all of a sudden, in spite of myself, to my horror, I opened up my mouth and, unable to stop myself from all rules that I have ever set for myself as a mother re: guilting your child and being overly sentimental so your child feels awkward and etc., I exclaimed, Oh Please Don’t Grow up Anymore Stay Here Just Like This.  

Continue reading

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