Long ago, the Wind and the Sun fought about who was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on. Aesop’s Fables
“When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness. He was sure the pain wasn’t caused by hunger or trapped gas; it was from the buildup of months and months of worry.”
Here’s today’s reason we should support independent bookstores. Not long ago, I was browsing deep into the shelves of the Porter Square Bookstore, way past the “New Releases!” and “Staff Picks!!” tables, when the spring green binding of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin drew me. I’m not sure I would have found it any other way, so thank you reading karma that led me to Porter Square and Shoneyin’s book that day.
So, I was lucky enough to get asked to be on Greater Boston’s Summer Books programs with Julie Wu and Jabari Asim (whose recommendations were incredible) hosted by the book-loving Jared Bowen. You can see it here:
The problem though, was picking one book per the categories they put forth. I wandered my bookshelves (scattered among 6 rooms) trying to stay faithful to the rules they made (bring the book with you—and I lend books out all too easily) and those I made (a book that has stayed with me for more than a year, thus guaranteeing that it truly passed the barrier and entered the bookish bloodstream, but that I’d read (or re-read) within the past few years, and last, not be so old that folk couldn’t get it easily. Plus, the authors had to be alive—don’t even ask why
Our writer’s code, written into our secret writer club rules, remind us that day jobs stand between us and a published novel. I understand. For years I thought if only and when and someday. And yes, working one, two, three jobs at a time took a big bite out of what would certainly have been my fast track to a Pulitzer. But slogging through, learning at, loving, and hating a number of jobs, that’s what formed and hold up my novels.
Last Friday, Henriette Lazaridis Power and I spoke about writing, lying, rowing, Greece, shoplifting, being a chicken, infidelity, domestic violence, adoption and cookies in front of what seemed to be over 150 ardent readers. (I won’t say which topics where Henriette’s and which were mine. Sealed lips.) We were lucky enough to be chosen for the Friends of the Wolfeboro New Hampshire Library Annual Author Luncheon.
Many things were lucky for us: it was a truly warm, smart and engaged crowd. (They laughed at our jokes!) We got well cared for, well fed. The setting (Bald Peak Colony Club) was exquisite. The women in charge were on top of every detail. And, of course, hovering on the top of any author’s wish list: our books were sold. In a steady stream.
If a coward dies a thousand deaths, and a brave one dies but one, then I have died at least a million times.
I live my life cowering (at least in the corners of my mind.) Okay, I may appear bold to some—haven’t I always stood up for my children, for other people’s children? Don’t I stand up to street toughs? Didn’t I work with criminals for many years?
A year ago ago, at an event at the incredibly wonderful Reading Public Library (in Reading Massachusetts) one of the librarians bought my book, The Comfort of Lies, for her mother. For Mother’s Day. Using a large amount of not-usually-available-to-me control, I didn’t say any of the following:
“Nothing says Mother’s Day like cheating, anger, and hating-being-a-mother for Mother’s Day!”
In fact, that’s true. Who the heck wants to get Little Women on Mother’s Day? Not me. Does anyone want to psychically compete with Marmee?
No. I. Don’t.
I want to be feted with a pile of books that say:
How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete? —Author Unknown
When did women’s fiction come to be? In 1956, the New York Times reviewed Peyton Place. It was called lurid, an expose, and earthy.” Grace Metalious is compared with Sherwood Anderson, Edmund Wilson, John O’Hara and Sinclair Lewis. I have no doubt that today (in our more feminist times?) she would be classified as a writer of ‘women’s fiction’ I’ve hit the caste system of novels before, from commercial versus literary fiction, to racial reading divides, to micro-indignities. Even name-calling. I thought perhaps I’d give it a rest this year, but alas my (woman’s? human?) hackles have once again been raised. A dear friend, whose soon-to-release book (okay, you pulled it out of me, it’s Robin Black and the book is Life Drawing) deserves everything from the NYT bestseller list to a National Book Award, has received excellent early reviews. (Life Drawing “might be the nearest thing to a perfect novel that I have ever read.”—The Bookseller, UK.)