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I just joined Facebook, so if you're there and want to friend me, that'd be swell.

Paul Lisicky is reading the manuscript of my novel, and posted this beautiful thing about it last night.
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Woke to gorgeous news from a beloved friend, and to find Paul Lisicky posting an excerpt from my erstwhile Martha Moody.

Plus, three songs featuring the Bay Area. This is a very fine way to start the day.
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Mark Doty's amazing book, Fire To Fire, has won the National Book Award in Poetry. Novelist and memoirist Paul Lisicky, who is Mark's partner, has been writing wonderful posts about the event in his blog.


Jun. 30th, 2007 03:23 pm
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Last week, I put a pear and a long, red Jonathan Edwards commemorative pencil in my bag as I went to wait for the bus to Amherst for a reading. I didn't eat the pear, which, because of the heat, got so soft that I could peel it with a spoon. So I did and put the pear mush in the freezer, and, just now, put it in the blender with cinnamon and yogurt to make a frozen pear smoothie that I just drank the last swallow of from a tall glass. It was good.

  • Mark Doty read poems that are staying with me, including a fierce one about a guy deliberately almost running him over, and what it felt like to be carrying his anger and image of that around with him, it ends, I think, "When did I ever put anything down?" And another poem I really loved about a confrontation with the sublime -- the terrible, tempting danger of it -- climbing a wild, weird Gaudi temple and getting safely down again, belly to dirt, all the while sitting clapping in a room.

  • Paul Lisicky read very new work: short pieces filled with animals, woods and a kind of dangerous intensity and shifting sense of the real that reminded me of Rebecca Brown's The Dogs and Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch and The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits. They made my skin tingle up and down the inside of my arms, which only happens when the work is touching a deep vein in me.

  • Thomas Sayers Ellis was an amazing reader.

  • Grace Paley was looking a bit more frail than the last time I'd seen her, read a lot of poems, and said of a story she read, "I think there's another page, but, oh well." And that's really how it felt -- she had offered us plenty, for sure.

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There are some great readings at UMass this week at the Juniper Writing Institute.

Tonight, I'm going to see Mark Doty and Grace Paley, two writers whose work I love and whose very different presences as readers knock me out. My friend Chaia Heller, who has asked me to do fat liberation workshops as paid gigs way more than anyone else has over the years -- she asked me to do my first one, as a matter of fact and the most recent one, too -- once invited me to give a reading with Grace Paley at the Institute for Social Ecology, and it was utterly delicious, even if Grace did get mildly annoyed at the way I raved about her work before I started reading. I couldn't help it, though. I read her early short story collections when I was haunting the University of Colorado library in the early eighties, partly because I didn't get along with my dorm roommates and needed somewhere to be, and partly because I was looking for models of fiction writers and poets who were women, and those stories were funny, ardent, heartbreaking and political in ways that left me practically bruised with the desire to be able to write like that.

Mark Doty is a poet whose new books I always order as soon as they're published. He once gave a keynote at the OutWrite conference that left me crying in my seat with his evocation of the reasons to write and the things that poetry (counter to what WH Auden wrote) actually can do. I've just started his latest book, Dog Years, a memoir about his dogs Beau and Arden.

In response to a comment from a stranger, about facing the prospective death of his aging dog, he writes:

Just now death remains an interruption, leaves me furious, sorrowing, refusing to yield. Too easy an acceptance seems, frankly, sentimental, an erasure of the particular irreplaceable stuff of individuality with a vague, generalized truth. That's how sentimentality works, replacing particularity with a warm fog of acceptable feeling, the difficult exact stuff of individual character with the vagueness of convention. Sentimental assertions are always a form of detachment; they confront the acute, terrible awareness of individual pain, the sharp particularity of loss or the fierce individuality of passion with the dulling, "universal" certainty of platitude.

I'm also particularly excited about Paul Lisicky's reading coming up on Tuesday, when Thomas Sayers Ellis will read as well. Paul is a novelist and memoir writer --I especially loved his memoir, Famous Builder, very much.
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Last weekend, I ate abundant food from Zabar's in New York City on a bench with [ profile] beccawrites – honey crusted salmon and tiny pickles and olives, babka and two cheeses with crisps of bread that sustained me when I almost missed my bus home and had to hop over fake velvet ropes at Port Authority and pound on closed doors and wave the driver back to the curb, and so arrived aboard for the four hour trip, dishelleved, hungry, without water, and needing to pee. But Peter Pan buses have bathrooms, a tight fit for me, but okay.

And, I did, I still had that cheese from Zabar's -- which I, in my ignorance, had not heard of before -- where we also witnessed lobster tails, champagne ham, and received free samples of jalapeno polish sausage, smoked salmon, and yet another cheese. I ate it on the bus, wrote a letter, and watched the leaves get brighter as we got closer to home.

[ profile] beccawrites is delicious, smart and fun, and she looked like a mighty force hurrying across Penn Station to meet me under the big sign, where other women named Susan had been greeted, hugged and also (one from Florida) fruitlessly sought for as I waited.

Then I met Paul at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and his face was so beautiful, lit up – he was coming off a morning of great writing, when he had been expecting complicated technical problems, but it all came together – made a container, he said – so it was inspiring just to be around him – plus, he's a sweetie. To go to the bathroom at the cathedral, one has to go through the beautiful sanctuary with its unexpected niches and odd sweetness, then outside the building to these weird trailers, and there were these pedals to push with your feet – right for water, left to flush, but did they mean stage right? – I had to study the directions – it was like going to another country.


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May 2009



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