The Quiet

I’ve gone quiet.

When I was little, I’d plant myself in a spare bedroom, the barn, the porch, the horse pasture, the library, or even underneath (yes, underneath) the living room coffee table and go quiet.

The best thing about setting foot on my mother’s farm was the nonexistence of noise.  Any noise.  Especially this time of year without the combines or crickets or howling coyotes, without the constant creak of the porch swing.  Even Buddy, her beagle mutt, holed up under the porch.

These holidays have been quiet.  And lovely.  Even with the Christmas crazies, my kids coming and going (which I loved!), even with Nat King Cole, Sinatra and Brenda Lee on the constant radio, even with a crazy puppy romping around the house, finding her big-girl-voice, it’s been damn (good) quiet here.

I’ve been keeping my mouth shut, reading and listening.

In THE HUNGER GAMES series, I discovered a story I would never have read, a story I can’t stop reading.  My 17 yr old niece called me a year ago and said, “Aunt Teri, you’ve got to read this book!!!”  And I said yep, sure, ho hum.  But now.  But now I’m almost finished with the 2nd book in this series, and had to run out like a crazed, obsessed nutcracker and buy the 3rd.  In hardback, full retail.  I couldn’t wait for Amazon.com delivery, that’s what fun these books are.  The great escape.  Team Peeta!

A friend sent me Ann Patchett’s THE GETAWAY CAR, a short e-book about the writing life, which I read in about a day.  Patchett’s memoir led me to her friend Elizabeth McCracken’s AN EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION.  I listened to it on audio, to McCracken reading her memoir, and it broke my heart and revived it, all at once.  I sat in my car, in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble, listening to the birth scene.  Tried to not-listen to it.  In the holiday rush of some jerk-off wanting my parking space (honk honk honk honk “Come On Lady!”) I crumbled under the pivotal scene.  That book led me to re-read (or rather, listen on audio to) Patchett’s memoir, TRUTH AND BEAUTY, which I read years ago when it first came out.  And then I found all of these articles about how pissed off everybody was about this book and, suddenly, I was pissed off.  At ALL of them.  If you’ve ever had a friend that consumed you, if you’ve ever sacrificed your peace and quiet for someone else’s hell, read (or listen to) this book.  And then google “Ann Patchett Lucy Grealy” and go read the bullshit that came after.  I’m in your corner, Ann Patchett.

We went to see a great movie this week:  THE DESCENDANTS.  A quiet little story where nobody is who you think they are, a story I wish I could write.  I ran back to the store and bought the paperback, retail $13 flippin’ 50, by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  What a discovery, this writer I’ve never heard of.  Can’t wait to read her book, her book with the story I’ve already seen.  There’s an interview section in the back:  “In a way, I’m writing all day,” she says.  “Reading other people’s novels is my work.”  Reading is a great thing, “because in a way you’re engaging in this strange, silent, conversation.”

On Audible.com. I found an old (really old) recording of Mary Karr’s THE LIAR’S CLUB.  It’s abridged, and the sound quality is awful, but who cares.  It’s spectacular, in the way that only the Texas of Mary Karr is spectacular.

I’m feeling quiet in this new year.  Like I want nothing more than to hole up in my dining room (aka my office) and shut it all the hell out.

_________

Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.     —Frank McCourt

Don't let this quietly sleeping, long-legged angel fool you. She dreaming up her next adventure.


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23 thoughts on “The Quiet

  1. erikamarks

    A crazy puppy finding her big girl voice–if ever there was a more perfect sentence and image, I can’t think of it just now.

    So many wonderful recommendations, Teri. It’s looking more and more like I won’t be able to deny the phenomenon of THE HUNGER GAMES much longer–I am beginning to think I am the last person on Earth to read the series. READING MY FATHER continues to enthrall me–and the revelations that continue to pounce off the page.

    I always feel quiet at this time of year too. Maybe it’s knowing the true cold is coming–or maybe it’s just my childish contrary nature that wants to hole up when all the world seems bent on whooping it up on New Year’s Eve, but I’m with you on the softer side of life right now. Of course, I’m not sure anyone of us here can be quiet for long. Certainly not with the presidential race heating up and the potential for doom growing with it. (Oh man, so much for that peace I was hoping for.)

    1. Teri Post author

      Ahhhh, READING MY FATHER. That was pretty darn peaceful, and crazy, as I recall. It’s one of those memoirs I’m sorry I’ve read because I won’t be surprised by it again.

      JoJo and Lea send their love (and crazy energy) to Olive…..

    1. Teri Post author

      AN EXACT REPLICA is a tough story, the death of a full-term baby. I struggled to get through. But like any good storyteller, she draws you and you’re waiting for her next words and you don’t dare get up and leave until she’s finished.

  2. Jess

    My students are nuts for The Hunger Games, so I read the series, and while I enjoyed the first book (and particularly the Theseus/Rome allusions), I was left bored by books 2 and 3. I like that I read them, though. It’s always nice to be on top of what my students are reading. I’m re-working my summer reading offerings and have to read a lot of books to check for appropriate content issues – having a blast re-reading Old School, Travels with Charley, This Boy’s Life, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Brave New World, and on and on and on…

    1. Teri Post author

      I finished the 2nd book last night and found myself scanning a little, just a little, towards the end, but I still need to know how this is saga all going to pan out … so onward to #3! I can’t remember the last time I read a book like this: futuristic and all. Maybe never? I must be expanding my horizons.

      I’ve tried to read OLD SCHOOL a few times and couldn’t get going. And god knows I love almost any story about kids at boarding school… There’s nothing like Tobias Wolff’s short stories, but I feel like he loses his way a bit in the long form (his memoir being the exception).

  3. amyg

    how wonderful was the descendants? i saw it by myself and liked it so much i wish i would have seen it again instead of Take Shelter when i coerce my husband into a movie in a theater (vs. our couch).

    i want to be a gazillionaire with 1,000 acres of hawaii land and that house. it was the perfect amount of messy.

    your mom’s farm reminds me of my neighborhood.

    1. Teri Post author

      It was absolutely the perfect amount of messy. And it also made me Hawaii-obsessed. I spent yesterday looking on-line at hotels on Maui. 😉

      Hey, what’s happened with that farmhouse behind your house. Are people renting it?

  4. Lyra

    Could JoJo be any cuter? No. No, definitely not.

    What a wonderful way to spend the beginning of a new year, reflective and silent with words waiting to be written, words being heard because of the silence. Love.

    We went south every spring to go visit my grandmother in South Carolina. I stayed in the sun porch on the second floor and always the most astounding thing was the quiet. I think I’ve mentioned it before but I was in that room of windows with a small book light my other grandmother had given me, my fellow bookworm, when a storm kicked up, a heat lightning storm. I was reading Salem’s Lot. Scariest reading experience of my life and I couldn’t stop because if I stopped I was certain I’d see vampires flying up to one of the many windows, windows that I couldn’t see all at one time.

    That probably has much to do with my weenie disposition as a grown-up.

    1. Teri Post author

      My grandmother never read a book, but she was obsessed with vampires and told the best scary stories. The best place to be during a storm was curled up next to her on the front porch swing while she unfurled some story set in Transylvania.

      As for the quiet, I think I’m becoming completely noise-averse as I get older. I’ve never liked loud crowed places, but now they make me nuts.

  5. macdougalstreetbaby

    Oh, what I would give for some quiet. One more day. One more day. My real vacation starts when school reopens.

    I’m so happy that you got this time. You’ve used it well. And, of course, I take your recommendations seriously. I tried HUNGER GAMES once, after Avril touted it, but couldn’t get past a certain word on the first page. I want to say it was “section,” but I could be wrong. I don’t go for apocalyptic stories and that word slammed the door shut for me. Alas, I will try this read again. I keep hearing what an amazing story it is. I would be a fool to let my issues take control.

    Frank McCourt. What a gem, he was.
    Happy New Year, my friend.

    1. Teri Post author

      District. I never read these kinds of stories. Literally never, which is why I poo-pooed it right away when my niece recommended it. I don’t tend to like fantasy of any kind, but I must have desperately needed to get away from all the realism I’ve been reading. Escape has been lovely, and story is clever.

      I bet you have a stack of books you’re already trying to get through, MSB. Don’t let me add to it! And cheers to the quiet you’ll have starting tomorrow.

  6. Catherine

    I’d love some quiet and for me too the holiday starts when kids go back to school and uni. Right now I am trying to survive the ski slopes and find and new masseur! Right now I miss my piano. Haven’t read much but finished The Slap and now reading The Book of Daniel, great language. Best to you Teri in 2012.

    1. Teri Post author

      Happy New Year, Cat. We’re glad to have you around these parts…. I’m off to check out these 2 book titles. Because of course what I need more than anything is to buy more books!! Ha! But hey, I’m looking anyway.

  7. Laura

    Ann Patchett is one of my favorite writers, and I read Truth & Beauty years ago and loved loved loved it. But I had no idea of the shit storm that followed! I haven’t looked it up yet but am guessing that some people feel Patchett was trying to profit off of Lucy’s illness? If so, they clearly missed the point.

    I read Lucy’s Autobiography of a Face after I read Truth & Beauty. I enjoyed her memoir, as well (frankly, I connected more strongly with Patchett’s) but found it interesting that Ann was not mentioned even once in Lucy’s memoir. Not many of her friends were, if I remember right. That says something, too.

    I read the Hunger Games series a few months ago. The first book is just delicious. It’s a wonderful lesson in building suspense and getting readers to care about characters. But I agree with Jess that the second and third books in the series paled in comparison. There was a lot more summary, explanation, etc. The series as a whole is still like crack, but it’s the first book I consider something special. I admit it — I’m totally going to watch the movie when it’s out, too.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m thrilled to read your thoughts on this, Laura. I feel the same. I read TRUTH AND BEAUTY first, which led me to Lucy’s memoir. Many of the articles I found (with scathing comments, as well) seemed to be the opposite, where people read Lucy first, then Ann. And then they were pissed!

      Here’s the link to an essay her sister wrote (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/aug/07/biography.features) and wherein she says: “My sister Lucy was a uniquely gifted writer. Ann, not so gifted, is lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to my sister’s star.” I thought my head would explode when I read it. #1, in Ann’s book, there is never mention of any sisters (and Lucy had 2) being around during all of the surgeries and recoveries; Ann was there, but where were they all those years? And #2, I would never have known Lucy existed if it weren’t for Ann Patchett. And the way the stories read, all the way around, it sounds like Lucy might have never written her memoir — the book that made her famous, not her poetry — if Ann hadn’t practically made her do it. Lucy was talented, yes. But it always sounded like she avoided finishing writing projects like a plague. Was this purely Ann’s perception and portrayal? Maybe. But it sure seems Lucy spent much time at Writing Retreats and on Fellowships, NOT writing anything.

      If there is evidence to the contrary, I’d love to see it. Please send it to me!

      Of course I also see that Ann got something out of this relationship as well. And she has her own reasons for staying in this friendship with a woman she adored, even if that friendship drained her emotions and her finances. Having been in such friendships, I get it. And I thought she portrayed it all well in TRUTH AND BEAUTY. Many people asked, “Why isn’t there more ‘Ann’ in the book?” and I want to scream that Ann was so overwhelmed by Lucy’s life and Lucy’s friendship that there wasn’t much ‘Ann’ to speak of.

  8. lisahgolden

    I miss the quiet of having the house to myself. I hadn’t realized how accustomed to it I’d become, but these weeks of having family home have confirmed it. It’s been fun, but I’m ready to get back to my routine. Actually, a new routine. A productive, creative one.

  9. Averil Dean

    I used to do the same thing when I was a little girl. I would take my book wherever it was quiet, and I would disappear. It gets harder to do as you get older. The world is less willing to let you be quiet. (I, for one, missed you terribly when you were on hiatus.) But I hope in 2012 we can all find balance and comfort in both the writing we create and that which has been created for us.

    FTF, Teri. We’re waiting. . . .

  10. Downith

    “I’ve gone quiet.”

    Me too.

    I feel like I’ve spent most of the Xmas hols saying “turn it down”….

  11. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    For some possibly unwarranted reason, I keep putting Hunger Games in the same category as Twilight, which I finally read but which left me saying, “Meh.” Hearing your take on it has changed my mind. I will give it a try after all.

    And The Descendants has been the top movie to see on my list this holiday season–just haven’t managed to get there yet. Hopefully this weekend. A great story and George Clooney too? I’m so sold. Also looking forward to Diablo Cody’s Young Adults. If it’s near as good as Juno, I’ll be happy.

    I so love books, of course, but a few great movies over the past few years have really made me wish I would have given screenwriting a shot. (In fact, Betsy and I talked about this quite a bit when we spent that time together last summer.) Seeing your words come to fruition on the big screen? Swoon. Plus, dialogue is probably my favorite thing to write.

    But dialogue in person? Yeah, guess I’m much about the Quiet these days, too.

    Glad you’re finding a bit of that yourself.

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