Take a Double Dose

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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28 thoughts on “Take a Double Dose

  1. Jess

    I have never read Sophie’s Choice. I will start tomorrow. Also, you can link to pictures of Jonathan Franzen all you want. Finally, I am trying – really trying – to like Wild. I can’t tell you how much I am trying. But I don’t. But because Teri likes this Strayed chick, I’m doing my best. I will stick with it. Maybe it will snag on one of my rough edges or I will find something about her to like, but so far, not so much.

    But because of you, Teri, I will stick with it.

    In the meantime, I have a lot of grades reports to write. But did you see what my students did with my King Lear project? Assignment: create a visual interpretation of the storm on the heath in King Lear. Check it out – the first couple projects can be seen here:

    http://comingofageinthemiddle.blogspot.com/2012/05/king-is-in-high-rage.html

    Off to bed for a dose of Strayed. xo

    1. Teri Post author

      Someone this weekend said they didn’t care for WILD and I admit, I was shocked! But to each his/her own. This reading thing is like that. But I loved that book.

      I stand, however, on the arguable FACT that SOPHIE’S CHOICE is the most perfect novel ever written. Wow.

  2. Averil Dean

    Your passion for writing and writers is inspiring, Teri. I always learn something new from you. But you’ve given us so much to think about, and you’re such a prolific reader, that a little piece of me crumples in shame at how poorly read I am in comparison.

    Please rub off on me, won’t you?

    1. Teri Post author

      I do love my writers. I will not apologize!

      And I know you love Nabokov, Averil, so you know exactly what I mean.

  3. jennifersanford

    Prendre une Double Dose. Toss the dictionary. Google Translate est mon nouveau meilleur ami. (Although you would know that I am re-learning French if you hadn’t renounced Facebook!)

  4. Lyra

    Maybe if you asked the bookseller for BOB Franzen. Don’t lose faith, they most likely just use his nickname.
    When I first read The Corrections I hated it. Absolutely, aggressively hated it. For some reason, I went back a few years later and reread it and it still remains one of my favorites. But his essays…ahhh. I think people want to see him fail. He is so easily taken out of context. Anything he says can be (what I believe) misconstrued. He doesn’t prescribe what others should do but rather what he has to do to write a book. There’s such a defensiveness these days for people who take their work seriously and don’t apologize for it. And then you read his essays and see that he is absolutely human, and so, so, smart, I mean one of those people you’d love to just sit and listen to. When I saw him on a famous talk show that I had to sign in blood I’d never write about, the thing that struck me was how he didn’t back down to famous talk show host who tried to ruin him. He was humble and magnanimous but wouldn’t apologize that he viewed writing differently than she did.
    I also stopped by Barnes and Noble the other day, and he wasn’t on the shelf. It made me sad. I mean, the guy was on the cover of Time for goodness’ sake. Isn’t that enough reason to carry his new book?

    1. Teri Post author

      Whoa there, Nelly. Did you say “the first time I read The Corrections?” You have my attention!

      I saw that last interview with the Famous-Talk-Show-Host and thought our Bob Franzen was fantastic. Humble, yet sure of himself. I appreciate his fiction even though I haven’t been able to get through it yet, but his essays — which I’ve only recently discovered — speak to me.

  5. independentclause

    This is why you should go to independent bookstores! Buy books from overeducated underemployed irritating people who have half of a Ph.D. in English or could never finish college because they just kept reading in class. Buy books from people who know what the fuck they’re talking about. Love, Indy Clause

    1. Teri Post author

      Indy!!! I wish I could run a quick errand to an independent book store! The only reason I even went to the B&N (there are none of those close to me either) is because I was early for an appointment and there happened to be one right there. Otherwise I would have just ordered it online.

      Isn’t that sad, that paragraph. No bookstores! See, the civilized world really is coming to an end.

  6. macdougalstreetbaby

    THE CORRECTIONS, along with THE LACUNA, has been sitting in a basket by my bed for months. As God is my witness, I will read them. Speaking of the man upstairs, I’m on a Judy Blume kick at the moment. I just started ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. According to her own website, Mrs. Blume confesses it was this novel that helped her to find her voice and her audience. Even though that fact is out there for the entire world to know, I feel like it’s a secret that I stumbled across and it makes this reading experience fascinating.

    1. Teri Post author

      Do you know I never read those Judy Blume books. Nor did I ever read any Maurice Sendak. This is what happens when you don’t have babies, toddlers, etc… in your house! As a kid I went right from Dick and Jane to Little House.

      1. Josephine

        wait, you never read wifey as a teenager by the pool pretending to me more grown up than you were? huh? ahhh…you missed your window of opportunity.

  7. erikamarks

    Alexandra reads the audiobook? Why didn’t I know this? Drat. Now I’m going to have to get it and listen. And there was no way I was going to get through this incredible post and not want to reread SC so that’s been added to the pile. I will admit I’ve never read a word of Franzen’s work so maybe it’s about time.

    (And Serena’s loss stunned me too. Wow.)

    1. Teri Post author

      I have to thank Indy Clause for this. She asked the other day if I’d read Alexandra’s memoir — which I did the minute it came out — but I just so happened to be searching iTunes for new audiobooks when I got her message. And there was READING MY FATHER. It’s interesting to hear her read her book.

      I’ve never cared for Franzen’s fiction. I respect it, and him, tremendously, but I can’t get through his novels. I feel the same way about Joan Didion. I worship at the Didion altar, but I’ve never cared for her fiction. It feels so flat to me. But she’s the high priestess of essays. Franzen’s essays are poignant and smart as hell.

  8. girl in the hat

    I used to speak French fluently and Spanish fairly well. I learned enough Shanghaiese to get along as a tourist. Now, I can hardly speak English. I swear, I stop speaking mid-sentence, having forgotten a word.
    What’s wrong with linking to authors? Explain to me why that’s bad. (???)

    1. Teri Post author

      There is nothing wrong with linking to authors. Look at your list of languages, Anna! I also stop speaking mid-sentence — I blame this on forgetting what I wanted to say, which just means I’m getting old. 😉

      1. girl in the hat

        I forget a word and I get completely derailed– all thoughts freeze until l I remember it. Let me tell you, this does not make for such cuteness at cocktail parties. Plus, my brain’s thesaurus is broken. (No fair! I’m not ready for dementia!!!)

      2. Teri Post author

        I swear I’m not afraid to speak in public. But I AM TERRIFIED of getting up on a stage and forgetting that one word that completely throws me off and into idiocy!

  9. Paul Lamb

    Your last comment reminded me of when I was in one of the national chain bookstores and asked for Don Quixote. The clerk asked how that was spelled, so I gave it. Then she asked if that was the author’s name because she couldn’t find it.

    1. Teri Post author

      Thanks for my best laugh of the day, Paul. Hahahaha!

      Let us know when you’ve read Don Quixote’s book and if you recommend it. 😉

  10. lisahgolden

    I’ve not read Sophie’s Choice, but I remember watching my mother dab at her eyes while she read it. Close enough?

    I checked Farther Away on audio book out of the library, but returned it when I ran out of time. (I put Joan Didion first.) I’ll have to check it out again. I’m finding that I enjoy non-fiction audio books for my commute as opposed to novels.

    1. Josephine

      lisa–start on the very last paragraph of p. 130 through p. 140. I cant stop re-reading these ten pages since i bought the book

      1. Teri Post author

        The first essay in the book is an interesting take on narcissism, the internet, and love. I’m a fan.

  11. Josephine

    first–sorry i’m late.

    second–i think it’s funny you’re being criticized. someone’s got too much time on their hands.

    third–i DISTINCTLY remember reading that bit about joan’s husband standing in the pool reading sophie’s choice and thinking, “is there a more perfect, more nirvana-like state, here on earth than being able to devote an entire summer to figuring out the structure of a book? while standing in a pool no less.”

    1. Teri Post author

      I remember reading that passage and thinking similarly, and also, “who needs school? this is how you learn to write.”

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