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
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