The French

1.  The French Open has started.  Did you hear that?  The French Open Has Started!!!!  It’s on TV all day and all night.  (not an exaggeration, live play starts at 2 a.m. my time)  And here’s what’s weird: I write more during the tennis majors.  Ass in chair and all that, with 24 hours of tennis matches in the background.  Today was a good manuscript day.

2.  I wanted to say “Take a Double Dose” — the title of this post — in French, but I’ve forgotten how and had to drag out my fraying French dictionary.  Shit.  Shit shit shit.  My French has suffered horribly these last years.  Do you ever feel that the languages you’ve learned, the languages you’ve loved and poured your heart over, are falling right off into no man’s land?

(Serena Williams — whom I picked to win the whole thing — lost in the first round.  I’m stunned.)

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Styron

1.  This is my 4th reading of SOPHIE’S CHOICE.  Or is it my 5th?  A fellow blogger asked what I love about Styron.  I sent a response and immediately wished I’d said about 15 other things.  Here’s today’s answer:  William Styron is a brilliant stylist.  I feel like when I see Styron sentences I recognize them immediately.  He can string together a sentence that’s a paragraph long, throw in a couple of unusual big words, and yet you never feel like it’s too long or that he’s showing off.  Second, in not shying away from big subjects like slavery or the Holocaust, he’s brave as hell.  What white non-Jewish writer can take those on with that kind of confidence, knowing the criticism to come?  Who else writes like that?  Nabokov maybe?

2.  Thanks to this fellow blogger, I’m also listening to Alexandra Styron’s memoir on audio (while I walk the dogs) and then reading SOPHIE’S CHOICE.  This is proving to be a very interesting experiment.

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SOPHIE’S CHOICE

1.  When I tell people this book is a favorite, they look at me like I’m a vampire.  I feel like people avoid this book because they think it’s purely a Holocaust novel and they don’t want to read about “the choice” she makes, which is horrific to imagine as a human, much less as a mother.  But if you follow through the novel, Sophie makes about 2 dozen choices which lead up to that one, all which corner her further and further.  Plus she lies.  She lies big in the beginning and lets a little more truth out as she goes, and controlling that leaking of information, as a writer, would be incredibly difficult.

2,  There’s a scene in Joan Didion’s THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING where she says her husband, John Gregory Dunne, is standing in their pool, reading and rereading SC all summer, trying to figure out how it works.  I totally understood that.  The discipline and planning and talent it took for Styron to put that novel together is astounding.  Let me say it again: a-s-t-o-u-n-d-i-n-g.

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Franzen

1.  I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s essay collection HOW TO BE ALONE.  With every essay, I feel different about him as a writer.  I’ve been criticized on this blog for linking, too much, the writer and their work.  But the reality is, I link them.  I.  Do.  So fucking shoot me.  I want to know the writer and his/her work.  Franzen’s essay collection is excellent.  And enlightening.  Read it!

2.  I went to Barnes & Noble to buy Franzen’s new essay collection, FARTHER AWAY.  I couldn’t find it and asked for help.  The B&N employee pulled it up on his computer, but only after asking, “Can you spell that?”  He typed in the info and turned screen to face me, “Is this him?  You said John Franzen, right?”

I’m telling you people, our world — the civilized thinking world —  is coming to an abrupt end.

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