Silence in the Museum now up on Soundcloud

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Silence in the Museum: a brilliant tale told from the point of view of a woman in a painting. Mia Funk is a world renowned painter whose work you will probably recognize. See her website MiaFunk.com.

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52 Men the Podcast: Women Telling Stories about Men

Today the podcast went live with three episodes by three awesome women writers: Amalia Negreponti, Lynne Tillman and Caroline Leavitt.

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Amalia Negreponti

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Lynne Tillman. Photo by Craig Mod

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Caroline Leavitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FYI, In case you were wondering, this podcast has no bias or agenda; it is simply a platform for women to share stories about men who have had an impact on their lives. The stories can also be fiction — mixed genre is absolutely welcome.

Please visit SoundCloud here for the first episodes. And if you are inspired to, please write for writers guidelines to 52Menthepodcast@gmail.com.

And for some words on the concept — here, from Binnie Klein:

Think of your life – peopled with your objects and subjects of desire/love/lust/curiosity. Give each on eat least a paragraph. Distill the essence with details and/or impressions. What did each one teach you? How did each one (in some cases) harm you? What were you searching for on that sea of beds? What Leonard understands. is how we remember these often brief encounters – as a phrase, a scent, an embarrassment, a surprise….  –

And from Amanda Fortini in the LARB:

 52 Men suggests that our identity is at least in part a product of our romantic past, and that the particulars we choose to depict that past are significant, comprising a kind of personal psychobiography…

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Some Books You’re Just Too Old For

the_vegetarian_-_han_kangI read this on Election Day, which I regret, because Election Day was hard enough. It is so smart, the book: so well written, so mysterious and fantastic, with high concerns about humanity and violence.  A woman in South Korea stops eating meat and eventually all food, and ends up in the hospital, completely mad. I was sure this book was going somewhere magical, inclusive, somewhere that would assert the value of life, and of animals — yet in the end it didn’t go there, for me, at all.

Tis true, that I am getting older. And ’tis true that it upsets me to have images that give me nightmares (I know, I know, poor me) forced into my head. For such a reason I have never gone to horror movies. Not since The Fury in high school.  I have however, seen a man at the moment of his beheading by ISIS, on Youtube — a horrible moment, that plagues me.  And now I have read in The Vegetarian an act of cruelty against a dog that is so well described I fear I will never be free of it.

It is a horrible story, a horrible horrible story, about a man torturing a dog to death using a moped and a rope…

I wish I had not read this book, because of that. Of course, as someone wrote to me on Hatebook recently, “just because you’re offended” doesn’t mean anyone gives a damn. And this act of animal cruelty may not offend you. The fact that, also in the novel, all of the characters end up in despair — dead, hospitalized or bereft — is another matter. I don’t need happy endings, and it was nice to read some people trying to be happy by drawing flowers on each other and imagining death as turning into trees.  This book just wasn’t for me.  A gifted writer. The book won the 2016 Man Booker. I didn’t like Elfride Jelinek either — too vulgar — and she won the Nobel.

Taste is taste and (back to Election Day) it changes.

 

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52 Men the Podcast…

So here it comes, 52 Men The Podcast: Very Excited.

We launch, with Red Hen Pres,s late in October. Each podcast is  10 minutes.

The lineup so far:

Lynne Tillman (Weird Fucks) read by Louise Wareham Leonard

All others so far read by the individual authors:

 

Elissa Schappell (Vanity Fair/ Tin House/novelist)

Binnie Klein, (A Miniature World radio feature/writer)

Elissa Basisst (Rumpus’ Funny Women)

Julia Slavin, and more..

To begin, please submit up to 800 words max — nonfiction, fiction or any variation thereof on a woman’s experience of a man or men, currently to louisewleonard@gmail.com.

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A little verbal abuse for you

Thought I’d share a little message I received yesterday, by a woman who didn’t like what I had to say about self-publishing.  Her name is Diana Kirk.  I think she speaks for herself.

You’re a predatory twat that needs some serious therapy.

I was kind of upset, but then today she posted this on her page so I am not so worried.

I have many opinions. Opinionated women tend to be cunts, bitches and whores. It’s just our playground. And I’m good with it. Whore it up why don’t you?

Arg, my God!

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Escape from X-Ville, gross, dirty and mean

life04-082715A dead mother, a seriously disturbed drunkard father, a job at a boy’s prison, unattractive clothing, bad looks, this book was so miserable I almost ditched it. And yay! Thank God I didn’t, because it suddenly became not weirdly grossly original, but an excellent twisted thriller Eileen — Eileen Eileen Eileen — it makes me think of my favorite song Jolene (Jack White/White Stripes version) please don’t take him just because you can.

Eileen’s girl crush on Rebecca, her run for a new life…

You can think what you want, that I was vicious and conniving, that I was selfish, delusional, so twisted and paranoid that only death and destruction would satisfy me, make me happy. You can say I had a criminal mind, I was pleased only by the suffering of others, what have you. In a moment’s time I figured out how to solve everyone’s problems…

And she does. Movie coming, also. Author Ottessa Moshfegh (from Boston) got out of poverty with this book and hit the big time.  Good news for all of us.

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A love postcard…… or Man of the Week

Offering two perks this season, royalty season — or not as it could be. In an effort to increase my numbers I am offering these special rewards!

Buy just one copy of 5scanbyronbed2 Men – paperback or ebook (only $9.99) here and I will personally write and post you one beautiful unique vintage love postcard such as this 30 year old postcard of Lord Byron’s Bedroom, left.

Or, for 2 or more copies think about being a 52 Men MAN OF THE WEEK.

For the How To Instructions on that, please email me at  louisewleonard@gmail.com. I will need a photograph of you and a brief interview so I can post something special.

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Also, if you missed the serious study of 52 Men, Susan Minot, Didion and Gaitskill in the LARB it is here:  Why Can’t You Be Sweet? 

52 Men suggests that our identity is at least in part a product of our romantic past, and that the particulars we choose to depict that past are significant, comprising a kind of personal psychobiography.”

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Jesus on a Bender with the Devil

What more could you want of a writer — dead or alive — who admits that his motivation for writing is to “shine my ass.”  download

In an interview he once stated that his motivation in writing fiction, “if there is any discernible, is probably ego and fear of mathematics, with overtones of money. Primarily I have a simple desire to shine my ass — to show off a bit in print.”

From New Orleans, Denver and Mississippi, Elliot Chaze, a newspaper man, also wrote fiction for The New Yorker, and this beautifully written pot-boiler My Angel Has Black Wings.

All the King’s Men with better faster, tougher and more elegant prose. Does anyone write this way today?  Jesus on a bender with the devil maybe.

9781590179161_custom-814cefa10a105457f4aeb3600c05ae378ec5d18f-s400-c85I said I’d kill her, but it lacked conviction, with the soft nauseau of the past two greasy high-on-the-hog months behind me. We were no more the same two people who slept in the rocks and counted our dreams than we were guppies. I loved her and was jealous of her and yet I was sick and ashamed of her, and knew she must be of me. I blamed the armored car money for her cheating on me and for my own cheating and for two months of insane buying and laughing. Heavenly God. I was running from my own name. I was too stinking rich and bloody and scared to listen to my real name. Love or no love I wanted to be rid of Virginia now…

Thanks as always to the New York Review Classics, who reprinted it.

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Into Your Ornamental Garden

PONDPOND: one of the rare books I’ve shelled out for based on page 1. I would have to say though that page 1 is one of the finest in it, and whereas the whole little book is gorgeous, it is also at times so insular I felt like the Prince in Coover’s Briar Rose whacking through perpetual thickets in search of a Sleeping Beauty who may or may not wake to my touch.

In other words, it is language the drives it, and oddness and brilliance, and these things, in any one writer, are so individual they either thrill you or they don’t. In my case they thrill me. I like, too, what Meghan O’Rourke, the poet and memoir-ist wrote of Pond in the New York Times:

More than anything this book ­reminded me of the kind of old-fashioned British children’s books I read growing up — books steeped in contrarianism and magic, delicious scones and inviting ponds, otherworldly yet bracingly real. Somehow, Bennett has written a fantasy novel for grown-ups that is a kind of extended case for living an existence that threatens to slip out of time. Such a life, Bennett suggests, is more actual than list-laden, ego-driven, “successful” adulthoods.

Claire-Louise-Conor-Horgan1-e1443438634491-215x225And now for that page 1: “First of all, it seemed to us that you were very handsome. And the principal windows of your house were perfectly positioned to display a blazing reflection at sunset. One evening while walking back from the fields this effect was so dramatic we thought your rooms were burning. We liked nothing better than to rake the tinkling gravel on your drive then to climb an impeccable tree along its passage and wait. We could hear the engine loud in the valley, followed by a thrilling silence within which we would wave our boots and imagine the leather grip of your hands upon the steering wheel, left and right. Oh, but we were only little girls, little girls, there on the cusp of female individuation, not little girls for long. The other two hung back by the brook with cups on sticks while I made my way over the wall into your ornamental garden, lay down upon the unfeasible grass and fell to sleep wrapped about a lilac seashell, which was of course my most cherished possession.” Dazzling.   – Claire-Louise Bennett

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Reap what you sow: Me and the Silver Sisters

I made friends with a writer on Facebook the other day, and it turns out that she is the sister of a former sister-in-law of mine.  Which is weird enough, but even weirder, in my estimation, is that I think I only met her once, at my brother’s wedding to said sister some twenty years ago now. My brother and his wife are long divorced. But look below, even years apart as these photos are, you can see the resemblance. My brother’s first wife, Claudia, is on the right. Her sister, author Marisa Silver, is on the left.
Marisa Silver

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Claudia was from a high school such as I went to in New York City.  She and I were both Deborah Eisenberg fans, particularly of her unbelievably aching New York  high school story “What it was Like Seeing Chris.”‘ I just knew I would relate to her her sister’s work, and did. The first I got my hands on was collection Alone With You, dedicated to her mother and sisters.

Her stories have The New Yorker‘s precision and restraint of feeling and perfect form (no surprise that she is published there).  I realized almost immediately that I had already read the first story in Alone With You in The New Yorker, the  bombshell story “Temporary” in which an adopted girl works at an agency interviewing possible adoptive parents. It has quite a few Silver themes in it — an aging mother, fidelity, the ‘settling of bones’ to quote Thomas Merton, of living relationships.  It also has that cruel and perfect dialogue the educated are so good at.

“Do you think you make a difference?” she said.

“What?”

“With your flyers. I mean, is anybody interested?’

“You’re not.”

That’s right. “You’re not.”

My favorite story is “Three Girls.” In it, a few sisters take turns managing their somewhat theatrical mother. Something is strained in the family and at one point, sister Connie looks at sister Jean and has the sudden idea that she won’t know her sister when they are older, “that when Jean left the family, she would leave Connie, too, because Connie would remind her of things she didn’t want to remember.”

Family, how they sustain and degrade us, knit us close and tear us apart. Silver strikes me as a survivor. Watch for her new novel Little Nothing, in September.

Here’s Lou Reed, with my favorite sentiment: You’re going to reap just what you sow. 

 

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Home, You Had Your Time There

So home, a big word.  I loved Visitation, a 1967 born writer’s take on the private lives of Germans from Weimar to the fall of the Wall. So much lost, represented often by the small things: the objects left behind, or buried for safekeeping, or bought at auction disregarding provenance.

The key, the cutlery, the furniture. The house itself as object. The land on which the house sits as object — stolen, claimed, busticated.

In Visitation, as Germans flee their homes in the face of death, often multiple times, they take with them less and less. Writes Jenny Erpenbeck:

“with each step you take while fleeing, your baggage grows less, with more and more left behind, and sooner or later you just stop and sit there, and then all that is left of life is life itself, and everything else is lying in all the ditches besides all the roads in a land as enormous as the air, and surely here as well you can find these dandelions, these larks.”

It is the same in an NYRB Classic I read last month, the gorgeous almost fairytale of a book More Was Lost, in which 19-year-old American Eleanor Pereyni marries a Cezch Count, and runs his estate with him until the Germans and then Soviets usurp it.  In that case, object, house and land become a world lost.

A world such as the world of love, or one’s family, or of childhood. More on childhood another time.  Meanwhile, for all of us, if we move house ever in life, or must let go of past lives, I liked very much what a husband, in prison, says to his wife grieving the loss of their house/home/world/land:

“What is it you want? You had your time there.”

And this:

Home had become transformed into a time that now lay behind.

Visitation

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Minor Key, Me and Kenneth Koch

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In my twenties, for a few years, I threw myself into poetry. I had never thought of myself as a poet but my teacher of “Imaginative Writing” at Columbia College was the poet Kenneth Koch, (left, above with Allen Ginsberg) and it seemed with him that nothing but poetry was worth writing.

He gave me a lot, as teacher, friend, tormentor. We went out for salted chicken in Chinatown once, and when he drove me home he thought my street so busy he pronounced that I lived in “A pinball machine.” Which feels more and more true now that I look back.

He had a firm belief in me that I was always capable of more. That more to him was more range. He wanted me not to write of despair or sadness.  Or, he said, grudgingly, cajoling, realizing my penchant: if you have to do that, do the opposite also.

For him, poetry was about celebration. But perhaps that’s why I left poetry, the way I left guitar: all of my poems and songs seemed to be in minor key, and so sad.

Just looking through some papers today and found this fragment:

 

 Ah, so

over you, I don’t even think of you

there are other beds, other openings of the blinds

at 7 a.m., crow in the garden,

hands both gentle and rough, years pass, this way,

not a tear comes.

Do you catch my drift?  Still, I would like to live up to Koch’s faith in me; no one tone is the only tone, I do believe, for any writer, or at least not one key.  I want always to sound like myself, of course, but not always to sound the same.  A lot to live up to, Kenneth:

scankoch

 

 

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Thank God it’s Over –

I’ve been having awesome nightmares recently. Awesome because, upon awakening, the words flashing before me have been Lesson Learned.

As a nostalgic sort, I have been known to wallow in thoughts of past good times. Unfortunately, such wallowing has led to hankering for the past, regretting the loss of it, even, at times, cursing myself for having ruined it or somehow messed it up  — a horrible condition in which to live, and not just for myself.

But in these dreams, lately, the miraculous has happened: I have been reunited with people from the past, those people I’ve been fretting about, regretting and worrying over. And each time, in these reunions, the person has acted — watch this —  exactly the way they did before — at some point in my relationship with them  — namely I guess, the point at which I chose to leave them.

So the lesson has been that they are just the same as they ever were, that all the good I remember may indeed still be there but so is the bad.  So you know, the brain has run the relationship loop for me, and I have woken up thinking, hey, well, thank God that’s over.

This morning’s dream involved a boat, a faulty turnaround, many warnings and a person who, to quote Bowie, went “off his head and hit some tiny children.”

Lesson learned in this one:  I am not the only one at risk.

 

 

 

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O yes, Loneliness —

otago612164So, I have written on loneliness before, on this blog, and will likely do so again.

Yet I may point out here that of these 52 stories in 52 Men, based in life, all 52 transpired before I turned aged 40, and loneliness no longer plagues me.

“Everlasting hurt” — to quote Michelle Elvy on the book, yes, that plagues me.

But who doesn’t have everlasting hurt, over something?

:

“There is everlasting hurt in these pages, but also a kind of bold acknowledgement of the hurt.

The whole book can be seen as an answer to the question of loneliness…..”

Full review on the link below:

The Question of Loneliness

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Not a Whole Lot of Love

whole lot of love

I am pleased to report that a reviewer found the 52 incredibly sad.

I wanted to write a book that was pure and simple, cause and effect.

There were other ways to tell this story, happier, more popular ways. But I am not  trying to conform to a redemption narrative — at this time.

I am trying, with all of my force and self-absorption and worth, to tell what happens to me and to girls and boys everywhere, when someone in their childhood is allowed to crush their spirit through both abuse and sexual abuse.  Cause — effect.  Cause — effect.  Cause: the abusive other unchecked by family or family friends.  Effect: chaos and lot of pain for everyone.

It made me sad, too.

That’s the book I wanted to write.  Thanks to reviewer Kirsten McDougall and and editor Louise O’Brien at “New Zealand Books.”  Here is the opening:

I felt deeply sad upon finishing Louise Wareham Leonard’s new book, 52 Men. Its constituent 52 parts tells a story that fits right into our Tinder-times, even though Leonard is reporting back from the age before apps supported hook-ups. Dating can be a perilous business for the mind, heart and body, and it was both fascinating and sobering to read through the 52 encounters. But this book is more than just about dating 52 men; it is a book about the power dynamics that exist in our society between a rich man and a comparatively less wealthy woman; a famous man and and a non-famous woman; a girl and an older man. The complex layers of sexual desire, emotional torment, fun and recklessness are all in here; but there is not much love to be found. The final story explains why that might be so. And this left me sad.

Here is the entire review:

Looking for Love, NZ Books Winter 2016

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Things Outlast Us

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I hadn’t really appreciated how objects tell stories until Sebald. He was always coming into landscapes and seeing odd little objects left behind, and to him they were like ghosts.

“Things outlast us,” he wrote.

“They know more about us than we know about them; they carry the experiences they have had with us inside them…”

The objects in The Object Parade, by L.A. based actress and writer Dinah Lenney, aren’t so much ghosts, but alive. When she looks at them, they tell her stories, carry her memories. They are like those delicious tiny objects in a dollhouse: they speak.

Some of her objects are “big ticket” and have the weight of symbols  – an inherited Steinway piano that Lenney wants her daughter to play,  a movie star’s chandelier that sets the tone of Lenney’s L.A. bungalow, a set of Tiffany watches given to Lenney and her husband on their marriage.

The essays that come from them, and make up this book on Lenney’s life, are open and generous, often about valor, dignity, failure, success, longing.

Just as open and telling are the stories that come from smaller objects – the little black dress, Bustelo Coffee (o Bustelo of the late 80s!), a flight jacket that Lenney treasures but her daughter abandons.

They are talismans, the brass ring dangling just in front of us, the genie’s lamp — how we stroke and stroke it hoping for success, ecstacy, perfection.

For me, perhaps the most devastating object in her collection is a set of Green Earrings, jewels of a mysteriously glowing power that her mother both gives and does not give, in a powerful ongoing somewhat torturous (to me) mother-daughter struggle of aging, beauty, succession.

They are a stand in for Lenney’s mother herself: they have the same intensity, weight and unattainability.

Of course, Lenney’s objects make us think of our own, and for me I could not but think of the Green Ring my own mother gave me. It was the most valuable thing she ever gave me — materially — and yet she did not give it to me, really.

It was an emerald ring from South Africa, belonging to my mother’s mother, the only truly luxurious gift my grandfather had ever given my grandmother in some fifty years of marriage.

But the staff in the nursing home where my grandmother later died, stole the emerald and replaced it with glass. My mother did not know this when she inherited the ring — at least not for some years. Then she finally had it appraised, and realized it was only glass, and at that point it lost its value to her, and she gave it to me.

As I recognized some time ago that my mother had never once given me anything of material value – only imitations and throwaways — I can now barely look at the ring. It  relays so much about the way my mother valued me.

Of course, there are things other than the material…

But to quote Lenney’s epigraph:

“I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life.”

Edmund de Waal

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Them That Honour Me…

Honor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT do you say after the shooting of 50 people, about a man who blames a president instead of the republicans and NRA for blocking the sale of automatic lethal killing machines to the American public?

At the moment I can’t walk, due to a roll-up with my dog and the sidewalk last week. Some nice young black male literally heard me screaming on the pavement, made a run to help me and took the nice clean stylish shirt off his back to use as a tourniquet on my bloody leg. He also called 911 from his cell phone, gave them his name and details and waited for me until the ambulance came.

I mention that he’s black, because my neighborhood has a reputation for racism, in particular against blacks, though who knows who else?  At first I worried that it would make me sound racist to mention it, but at this juncture, in a place where some people still fear and move away from young black men, no it doesn’t. It means that this young black man took a risk in helping me, a greater risk than most would do, and for that I honor him.

Back to the initial question — about what to do about such a man as Trump. At the moment all I can think to do is what I am planning to do in the next months.

As I see TRUMP signs go up in and around this neighborhood (besides the “Repeal the SAFE Act” signs) I am going to plant my own Anti-Trump signs at night. Planting Pro-Hillary may not get me anywhere, but at least Anti-Trump with some appropriate slur of his, could help.

I realize I risk getting shot by a gun nut, so I may have to stick to the grass by the sidewalks.

But I will do it stealthily, under cover of the dark.  For to say nothing is, as we all know, to be complicit.  And to be a writer who is silent — as I read somewhere once — is to be a liar. Now is the time — in light of all going on at the moment — to speak up for those that honor you.  Folks, let’s not roll over.  Rolling over will not save you.

 

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A beautiful book that destroys language. Randall Munroe

Here it is, the worst book ever. At least from a writer’s point of view. I was first excited when I saw it. Not being the most brilliant human being in the world, I love short handed ways of learning about complicated subjects. And diagrams, illustrations, ways to see truths I might otherwise not see — awesome.

So I swept up this book from its library shelf, a book designed to teach complicated matters to simple folks. And it was great, at first. I read it outside the library, happy as could be, smiling at toddlers, children. But then I got stuck on this page to teach me about boats. What was that, I wondered, looking at the boat’s flag, called “sign.”? Why not call it a flag? And what was this, calling a boat’s deck a “floor.”? It’s not a floor, it’s a deck. And what about describing a majestic ship’s masts as front stick, middle stick, back stick? Or a figurine at the bow of a boat a “pretty part?” I liked “hanging beds” – that was cute -but otherwise, as someone once said of my collected life’s work, this was bullshit.
(More below the pic).scanboat

What the hell was going on here? I decided to read the intro, by bestselling New York Times author Randall Munroe.  He had decided, because people didn’t need big words, to create a book (Thing Explainer) explaining complex subject matter using only the most common words (ten hundred to be exact) the very very very average person uses.

“I’ve spent a lot of my life worried that people will think I don’t know enough. Sometimes, that worry has made me use big words when I don’t need to.”

So, therefore: stick for MAST, sign for FLAG, pretty part for FIGUREHEAD, rest room for HEAD, kitchen for GALLEY, stopper for ANCHOR. Jeeeze!!! The entire beautiful historic history of nautical lore and language erased.  

Randall Munroe*, you 31-year-old cartoonist, stick to cartoons. You’re killing us out here, us word liking people. Killing us, softly, with  your words (ok that get’s a lol).

Wikipedia: Munroe worked as an Independent contracting roboticist for NASA at the Langley Research Center before and after his graduation. In October 2006 NASA did not renew his contract and he began to write full-time.

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Me and Richard Peabody — Bonding over the SUV

RichardPeabodyReaderI’m choked up here, choked and not even knowing how to start describing as cool a player as Mr Richard Peabody when here it is, right in his own words right in front of me  (the way it always is with the best writers) Richard Peabody, to steal a phrase from one of his own stories is “one scrumptious cat.”

I first met him when I submitted a piece about the various whereabouts (thanks Courtney Love) of poor Kurt Cobain’s cremains to Peabody’s annual lit mag Gargoyle. I was moving at the time from one city to another in the southern hemisphere and had no fixed mail or email address. So Peabody, then in Washington, ended up tracking me down on the then rarely used vessel of Facebook.  Wo-ha! — 2007?– never again did I take Facebook or Mr Peabody lightly.

Almost ten years later and I met him in person at his own booth — of course — at AWP in Los Angeles — the (of course) long-haired too-cool-to-be-a-hipster scrumptious cat whose own personal Reader had just been put out by a colleague of his: The Richard Peabody Reader, ed. Lucinda Ebersole, Intro by Michael Dirda.

Unlike those college paperback tomes with unbroken screeds by the likes of Nietzche, this one has fancy fonts, plenty of white space and revelations, along with Neil Young lyrics, a riff on birds in Breugel and Bosch, a story from the POV of the man who ruined Elvis, (Colonel) as well as a tribute to Fiji water and a poem on the children of Derek Walcott (apparently there are many…)  It also has a triptych — and of course a triptych because Peabody is the King of form and of Experimental Writing. Just email him at Johns Hopkins for his personal list of greats as I did once. It’s why his Reader is so jumping.

As one, myself, who literally stalked (by moped) an expensive Australian suburb slapping self made stickers onto SUV’s and facing haughty indignation (and possible arrest) by rich overly decorated housewives (The stickers read:

Selfish

Utility

 Vehicle)

you just know I would love this Peabody character:

“Am I Crazy, Hal thinks, or should people who drive SUVs be pulled from their vehicles and beaten with sticks?”

That’s right.

But Peabody is not clever for cleverness’ sake. Unlike, say a McSweeney’s humor piece that has no one inside it, a Peabody piece, whatever the form, always has Peabody in it.

His long form stories are real if surreal life: painful, rueful, amusing, tragic. Men make make dinner and mind the children, lusting over otherworldy fleshy creations. His male and female characters are serious, charming, often literary and eccentric : the white-chalked single mother mime from the Ukraine (in Key West), the wife who throws her art prof husband a birthday party in fishbowl IKEA (he’s sleeping with the nanny), the long suffering husband just trying to keep it decent.

Back to humor for a moment, my favorite work, which anyone who has been to a writing workshop will appreciate, is “Letters From the Editor” which consists of notes to students on their work (from which I select a few completely out of order, apologies Mr P):

NEEDS A MUCH BETTER TITLE. “Burying Connecticut”?

TOMMY HILFIGER is a good name for a character. Love the jabs at Glamour, and the drunken fumblings. Reads like real life…

THE LEPRECHAUN PIECE HAD MOMENTS

WAITING FOR THE BUS seems so trivial.

LOVE THE ANCHOVIES AND THE allergic return to high school dreams. Hilarious…

LOVE HOW YOU USED THE oysters to frame the story. The rough sex is a good insight on both of them…

But perhaps  because Peabody showed it to me personally, the poem:  “I’m in Love with the Morton Salt Girl” is my favorite.  Buy this book for this one poem alone. You will feel good about the world every time you see a salt box for the rest of your life.  You really will. That’s a promise.

 

I’m in Love with the Morton Salt Girl

I’m in love with the Morton Salt girl.

I want to pour salt in her hair and watch

her dance. I want to walk with her through the

salt rain and pretend that it is water. I want to

get lost in the Washington Cathedral and follow her

salt trail to freedom.

 

I want to discover her salt lick in the forests of Virginia.

I want to stand in line for hours to see her walk on in

the middle of a movie only to have the film break and watch salt

pour out and flood the aisles.  I want to sit in an empty theater

up to my eyeballs in salt and dream of her….

 

That’s the first half..

You can buy the Reader and see a much more scholarly description of it  Here .

And thanks to the man also for publishing excerpts of my 52 Men in Gargoyle 64.

 

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Me and Richard Peabody at AWP in Los Angeles, April 2016

 

 

 

 

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The New Zealand Academy of Literature

aotearoa-200x300This week New Zealand revealed its first Academy of New Zealand Literature, and it is truly inspiring for me to be included in the first 100 Members.  I left New Zealand young, only to return and to return in childhood and then as an adult for several years at different times — a country whose landscape and peoples arouse something in me so deep and mysterious — the delirium inducing landscape, the oceans always close to shore, the cliffs and craters and hot pools of iridescent blue — a country one of the most isolated in the world, and hence with a purity and beauty all of its own. I cannot do it justice in a five minute blog post, but I am very proud this week and for all the future.  I studied New Zealand Literature in Wellington at 21 for my Columbia College BA and was a news reporter on the Wellington newspaper in my teens and afterwards.  My MA was from New Zealand, in 2003, and my second novel Miss Me A Lot Of published there.  Many many other things to say, and of course of ancestors — but I have to go and drink champagne and walk the beach of Lake Ontario to enjoy my good fortune. Thanks to the writers there who made this happen, in front of and behind the screen. Especially Paula Morris and Dame Fiona Kidman and Vincent O’ Sullivan, Eleanor Catton.

Here is the link to the Academy.

And here is a link to my particular page.

New Zealand Or in Maori aotearoa — Land of the Long White Cloud

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One characteristic thing

sherbet1“It is a conceit so simple and ingenious that you wish you had thought of it yourself: 52 men — a few boys, many man-boys; 52 short fictional vignettes that evoke them.

“Memory has a way of reducing people to their essence, like a piece of sea glass honed to a bright, beautiful nub. This is, needless to say, a process that’s useful to a writer. “It seems to me,” says Carter, an introspective, sensitive 16-year-old who later commits suicide, “that sometimes people, especially girls […] have one beautiful little gesture they make, one characteristic thing.” For Leonard, the statement is something like a literary ethos.

“In interviews, Leonard has been transparent about the fact that she’s writing from experience (“Every story is a man and a memory that lives with me all the time”), and my guess is the names, while providing a thrilling little frisson, are also nonfictional stakes tethering the stories to the real world.

“They feel truthful, in part because, for all their weird specificity, they’re almost eerily universal…We all have such stories, and many of us have a deep and insistent urge to tell them. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion wrote, in one of her most frequently quoted (and misunderstood) lines.”

Amanda Fortini on 52 Men in the LARB SPring 2016 and online: Why Can’t You Be Sweet

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Why Can’t You Be Sweet?

Amanda-Fortini-e1347325060720Such immense gratitude and thanks for this incredibly thoughtful, deep and sensitive essay/review of 52 Men by Amanda Fortini in the Los Angeles Review of Books:  Why Can’t You Be Sweet? 

Some excerpts casually laid out for you here:

“A book “that still feels a tad revolutionary, even in 2016… when women write about their erotic adventures the tales have a different resonance and cultural impact than those written by men…

“52 Men suggests that our identity is at least in part a product of our romantic past, and that the particulars we choose to depict that past are significant, comprising a kind of personal psychobiography…

“Leonard’s focus is zoom-lens tight: she describes the various men, zeroing in on what they said and did -— and how she responded — in a pivotal moment.

“She suffered a grievous early trauma… and she’s wounded. Yet she’s also slyly, coolly observant and has transformed her experiences into art… We know her, ultimately, through the book she has written. The narrative specifics she selects to describe the men are hers, as is the deadpan humor; all of it arises from her artistic consciousness.

“Although in style and tone 52 Men differs from either Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights or Renata Adler’s Speedboat, it is, like both of these books, a novel of impressions unified by the author’s sensibility.”

Selections from the essay  Why Can’t You Be Sweet by New Yorker/New York Times/Rolling Stone writer Amanda Fortini in the Los Angeles Review of Books

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Older Men, Loving and Leaving Them

So I went to AWP in L.A. last week — the mega conference and book fair. And it was interesting, because I noticed something about myself  — and what I noticed pleased me, because it meant, friends, that I had changed, that I was not the girl I used to be. And though some might think this a shame, I found it a relief and quite pleasant.

I spent much of my youth, see, entertaining and being entertained by older men. And some of these men were great, and still are. But some of them — not so much. In fact, some of them, in a few vital cases, let’s admit, let me down.

Or is that they way to put it? Maybe not. Maybe it was more that they didn’t choose to do something for me, as a friend, when they could have, when I asked them, when it would have made a difference. And at the time — or times — I accepted this, and continued on with them, but I was not so much hurt as sort of baffled and taken aback. Because why would a friend not help another friend, particularly a younger friend who could benefit so? Honestly,  I didn’t know.

And there they were, at AWP, these few older male friends who I hadn’t seen in person in years, and who in the past I used to go back to even if they hurt me because  back then I had this compulsion see — stay with me — to please these older men, to win them over.

But I also learned, over time, that there is such a thing as generosity, and that some people are just more generous of spirit than others. And those are the people who give to you not because they owe you, or you owe them — but because they can give.

So I spotted one of the older men in the lobby of the Hotel Marriott, and another signing books at his VIP table. And whereas once, I would have approached to say hello, and smile and chat a while, this time I didn’t. This time, I stayed in my seat, I walked on by.

You only get so many chances to be generous in life, and he who goes back to the empty hand is a fool. I am not a fool now..

And by moving on this time, by the way, I came across a whole bunch of other people, such as Toni Neale (essays out this week in The Miles Between Me) and Sean Bernard — handsome young writer of Studies in the Hereafter — and the famed wild and eccentric Mr Richard Peabody – all of whom gave to me freely, and openly, and without fear — and who knows if I would have met them if I’d been hanging around trying to please those who couldn’t quite be bothered….

Cheers to the wise mind, and to smartening up and to being there “when the right one comes along.” Below:  Me and Mr P who also published me in Gargoyle 64 this year — thank you.
me and Richard

 

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Steve and me, from Flash Frontier in NZ

 This piece, Steve, is from the new issue of Flash Frontier, An Adventure in Flash Fiction. They also run a quite a long interview with me about 52 Men:  Here.  Maybe I’ll write some more about that in the next few days — will have to check if I am ‘quotable.’  lol Meanwhile: to Steve Raea, reporter friend of my youth: 

#53: Steve

I work with Steve, at The Dominion. We are both reporters. He lives on Mount Vic, and other times with hiSteve Rae on bikes girlfriend Diane. She is much older, over thirty. Things happen, Steve says.

We take his motorbike around the bays. The day is blue and cool and the light gold. We stop at my grandfather’s house in Lyall Bay. We lie in my room, and drink wine, and fool around. We go out to Red Rocks, and drink scotch, where the great seals loll. We head out at midnight around the rocky hills along the ocean curves to Makara. We do this so fast, and so drunk, I think it might kill us.

Back on Mount Vic, in his single room above the harbor, he plays me Simply Red: If You Don’t Know Me By Now… You Will Never Never Never Know Me. He plays me “Tiny Dancer” from the 70s by Elton John. Tiny Dancer, he says, is the name he will give his boat. When he gets his boat, which he plans to do soon, and sail away. I start to cry, at the thought of this. Steve cups my head in his hand. “You’re so intense,” he says. “What do you think,” Steve asks, “is the value of that?”

Then he tells me he louiseonbikehas something to say, something he realized when he saw my name in the newspaper. His father, he says, is not his biological father, but his stepfather. His biological father, Steve says, raising a scotch to me in his dim lit room above the dark harbor, “is your grandfather’s brother.” My grandfather? I ask. “Apparently.” My grandfather has more brothers than I have ever met. I pause. “So, we’re related?” I ask. Steve laughs. Steve clinks his glass to my glass. Steve reaches for the baby oil, to rub down my naked body. “I’ve been thinking, Steve says, “that I might change my name to your name.”

Soon, I take him to meet my grandfather. My grandfather takes him to meet his biological father. Diane buys him a new car and he moves in with her in Thorndon. Then he leaves the car in the garage and takes off to Tonga. He does not change his name. He buys a boat he calls Dancer and writes letters from the sea.

 

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Exile: One Year In

ElaineThis one goes out to my ex Charlie Smith of the new novel Ginny Gall

Remember the scene in The Graduate when Ben stands in the church above Elaine’s wedding tapping and calling out her name and her entire family stands around scowling and seething at him, something which Elaine sees and which spurs her decision to run away from them all?

Our desire to think ourselves loved by our families (and hence not fundamentally alone) has made a million psychiatrists rich, and a million lay people busy with the task of rearranging the truth and living in illusions so they can bear reality. But what happens when others come to you and tell you how others really perceive you, what they have been saying about you for years, in your presence and even absence — when all the well-meaning guides of your life have repeated, decade after decade, for thirty years, that your family is a danger to you? What then? What when you finally do believe them? When you finally face the truth and respect yourself enough to break away?

It’s freeing, of course, the moment of realization. It allows you to look elsewhere for your bond to life.  Such as, did you know, they think now that the cells of a fetus remain in its mother’s body all of her life (and beyond)? And did you know that if the universe is nothing but matter rearranging itself, death has no meaning?  And that your life does not have to be a struggle to be loved? It is only a matter of being with those who do love you?

So complex, human nature, and the lies we tell ourselves. I was watching the new film about the psychologist who performed the Obedience experiments in the sixties, and though it was shocking and disheartening, to discover that some 65 percent of people will obey orders to physically harm another if they believe they ‘should’,  that still leaves 35 percent who will break away, who will protest, who will endure the ignomy of not being obedient and accepted.  Are you one of the 35 percent?  If so, come to me.

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This Kind of Loneliness

“She was so lonely,” I read in a book once, that “she grew away from other people.”  It could have been Milan Kundera. Or perhaps Sherwood Anderson. I was 21 and living at my grandfather’s house in Lyall Bay, New Zealand.  I had fled my life in New York City — in love, strung out, abandoned and abandoning —  and the emptiness inside me felt as vast as the ocean at the end of my grandfather’s street.

iceballsYears later, when this kind of loneliness returned, I was 37, and again — after sixteen years — returned to my grandfather’s house.  At that point, my loneliness was so great, I couldn’t even speak to people. Stepping into a store was painful. Speaking to a cab driver or a library clerk was fractious. Being met by “how are you?” or “can I help you?” when the sound of these words was unbearable.

What cures it, this kind of loneliness?  Most of us think it is other people — the love of other people.  But first, to be loved by other people, one must be able to tolerate them, to tolerate their closeness.

I  think of this fairytale I liked as a child in which the earth opens up to reveal a whole new world in which a prince’s people are preparing for his wedding.

That’s what loneliness is — the vision of an abyss, of another world we have no part of — the awareness that one might be passing through life with no tether or meaning at all.

My solution to this — to the great loneliness?  To tether myself.  To walk the lake.  To breathe the oxygen from the trees. To  watch the ice balls float in the January  lake.

Corniness — I was raised to hate it.  But nothing is so different between us and the earth, birds, balls of ice.  One cannot be lonely when one has experienced this.

 

 

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Will you please be quiet please: Me and Mr Merton

NYGE1-Minh-vow_400 x 292Down at the monastery, resting my brain, I ran into Brother Isaac who is also the poet John Slater, and we basically blew up the silence rule by discussing   erasure poems, 52 Men, Raymond Carver, Carolyn Forche, and Slater’s book of poems Surpassing Pleasure  for two hours non-stop in a room off the abbey.

Later,  I was listening to a talk by Father John Eudes, who had been Abbot for some 30 years, and a monk for 66. “Suddenly, at at any moment,” Eudes was saying, “you will be facing death. Your  bodies are chemicals, 97 percent hydrogen and so on, and you will dissolve.”

Most people, he said, especially those with a higher education, had no idea of what more there might be.  He looked around, lowered his eyes, lifted them up again. I mean, he asked, “How can people be so dull?

A little later, out in bookstore by the Monks Bread Shop, I realized that Eudes was actually Father Eudes Bamberger — author of the book Thomas Merton : Prophet of Rewewal — that Eudes had known Merton for 18 years and screened applicants to the Abbey with him.

Imagine, I thought,  that John Eude’s hands had touched Merton’s. And not only that, but that Merton — Eudes told me — had written so much at the monastery he had exhausted both of his secretaries who came to Eudes privately and said, Please, could you get this guy to slow down a bit, Please?

Merton died in 1968, electrocuted by a fan when stepping out of a bath in Thailand. He was 53. Father Eudes was  the American who identified his body when it was flown back in to the States.

It’s all so fantastic, what you discover when you set out to rest the brain. As Brother Isaac writes in Surpassing, all of which poems I tried to read down  in a great rush down there at the Abbey of Genesee:

 

… here in the green world between

eternal fields of light

there is time

there is ample, empty, time

to acknowledge

all that is passing….

 

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NEVER Ever Ever Getting Back Together

scandjp2Here is a piece of mine published on ThoughtCatalog a few days ago:

Nine ways to break up and NOT be Friends.

My favorite way is probably the first way — to come home from a business trip to London and leave out a beautiful jewelry box — for someone else.

And yes, it was done to me — though I never confronted the man. I can still see the finely wrapped little box, its Liberty-like pattern of orange and black, its shimmery ribbon, his satisfaction as we both gazed at it on his mantel in Brooklyn Heights — and his then sudden turning away from it and reaching into his bag for my present — some English chocolate bars he’d bought at the airport.

What to say? We had been on a “break.” Not for long though…

Most of the break up ideas in this Thought Catalog piece are for men to use on their girlfriends.  A few days ago, however, my retired friend Jackie asked why there weren’t ideas for women to use on their boyfriends? It’s a good point, and I am working on that.

Please check up my piece,  should you feel so inclined.

Many thanks.

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All Gravy, From Now On: The James Jones First Novel Award

James JOnes winners

 

You know what’s better than being a winner? Than being a winner who gets up on stage and collects a prize for Best First Novel and a check in the thousands of dollars, and the feeling that Yes, from here on in it’s All Gravy for Me?

Being a past winner: being a past winner with a bunch of other past winners, as above two days ago, at Wilkes University in PA with six winners of the annual James Jones First Novel Award, founded by Jones’ daughter, novelist and writer Kaylie Jones.

And why is it better? Because when you win, — let’s face it — you are younger than you are now, and when you are young and you have worked hard, and been praised, and been fortunate, you think — let’s admit it — you think somewhat, well, Yes, Of course! I deserve it! You  you think you have been recognized — (for what you already were); you think this selection of you is a result of you and your oft praised ability and your hard work.

But some years after the win, as all of us in the photo above are, you realize that you were lucky.  That every writer around you has worked and struggled and despaired and doubted themselves.  That writers “as good as” or more “brilliant” than you are born every day.

At the same time, charming new James Jones winner Cam Terwillinger  writes in this piece that after taking a trip abroad recently, in an effort to expand himself and be different — and then discovering himself abroad with hundreds of other people his age striving in exactly the same way to be different — that he no longer believes he is “original,” and that there is no such thing as the original self:

After meeting all these folks, you have to realize that no matter what you do or where you go you will never be truly unique. It’s liberating in a way to realize that originality is a myth.

With this, I strongly disagree.  We are all original — and good writers most of all. To be a good writer, one must turn oneself inside out; one must become an Inimitable Self. No writer is any good until he/she discovers his/her original self.

But two, ten or in my case 16 years after being chosen out of some 600 manuscripts as the “best,” you realize that luck was shining on you all the time: that you, too, are the gifted one that understands as the poet Louise Gluck understands:

The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime..  Everywhere you turn is luck….

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Have any of your 52 men been in contact since the book appeared?

GuyHere is Guy Somerset, left, reading his launch speech for my second little novel in New Zealand: such “scrotum-tightening insights into the hollowness of male desire,” Guy said — ever heard a better blurb? Not for one of my books you haven’t.

Guy once kindly picked, in his newspaper column on books, my American published and freighted to New Zealand (and therefore for sale for some exorbitant $33) first book Since You Ask as his discovery of the year!  Discovery of the year! It was awesome. I have seldom been so happy.

Then, most kindly, he started assigning me book reviews for the magazine for which he was then Books and Culture editor: The Listener. Even when I was overwhelmed in my personal life (no, really, you ask?) Guy patiently let me rewrite, waiting for me to get a proper thread to pull my book reviews together. Then he’d send me another book to review.  It’s called cutting someone some slack. And you know, I appreciate that. I really do.

Below is his interview with me about 52 Men for the New Zealand Arts Festival.  Thanks Guy, for thinking of me, and asking the hard questions:

Fifty­-two – that’s a lot of men. Were you surprised how many there were when you totted them up?

Read the interview here: Five Questions for Louise Wareham Leonard

 

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An Interview with me, by Caroline Leavitt !!!

LouiseAtVSWlgWhy it took me so long to start writing; how no one will stop me now… On the vitriol of  social media, and a note to the 52 Men, in particular… was I even available?

Pic by Paul Dodd of Popwars. Interview here:  Down the Rabbit Hole of Relationships: Caroline Leavitt interviews moi. 

 

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How to Date a Writer — in the Rumpus this week

shakespeare_1758033bFUNNY WOMEN #132: HOW TO DATE A WRITER

Friends, this piece of mine is in The Rumpus this week:

http://therumpus.net/2015/09/funny-women-132-how-to-date-a-writer/

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What Girls Like: the publisher on the 52

LouiseWareham_AuthorPortrait_TeriFiske65
Some men are already angry about it.  Angry because this character dates men and throws them away.  Women are supposed to long for comfort, to weep, to wish, to pine, to wait by the phone.  Our girl sallies off to the next date. She washes her hair and starts all over again.  She will survive.  She’s energetic. She’s sassy. She’s on to the next one.  She dates Jonathan Franzen, Michael Stipes, Lou Reed.  She’s unstoppable, somewhat unstable, but dishy and cool.  Lots of men don’t like smart; they like sweet. They don’t like a witty roil and tumble as much as fumble with their trousers in the dark.  And speaking of the dark, this girl comes across as both brilliant and wounded and that might scare men too.  Women will love this book; it’s already a buzz.  Women like other women with power in their fingertips.  In the author photo, Louise Wareham wears boots. And boots as we know, are made for walking.

Kate Gale, Red Hen Publisher:  https://kategale.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/new-book-coming-out-with-red-hen-called-52-men-by-louise-wareham/

 

 

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Richard, Sergio and a boxer who reads Neruda at the Turkish Baths

52Men on Tin House BlogUpdating from yesterday, with the screenshot:  Three Men, an excerpt on the Tin House Blog here. 

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Crazy Times, Good Times, S-e-x-y times

And today, fr52Men_RedNameom TIN HOUSE, three of my personal favorites

(because yes, they’re S-E-X-Y….)  Please click  Here.  

Richard “the deadhead”

Sergio with his euphemisms for Sex

Tony the boxer & The Turkish Baths

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52 Men: the trailer; Carter Cooper, age 23

And now the trailer, with pix of the anonymous few, whom you must read about in order to identify… Unless, perhaps, you recognize Carter Cooper, who died on this day July 22, 1987 aged 23.

Maybe, he says, we could take the train out to Montauk. Or
we could go to Vermont and find his brother. We are not city
people, are we? Whenever he thinks of me, he says, he thinks
of the ocean.

First exclusive excerpts from 52 Men, on view today at The Rumpus AND The Fiction Advocate. 

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A Pyrrhic victory – the awful grace of God

6874408-M

Yes, he has won, but his victory is soiled and has no pride.  Why is it that the Greek playwrights of three thousand years ago can rip your heart to shreds? Or should the question be, how do they do it?

I knew a long long time ago that I was not a Shelley or Wordsworth kind of’ ‘girl.’ I mean, I liked them and all — I walked Wordsworth’s Lake District, and visited Dove Cottage. and Shakespeare’s thatched shack on Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But all of it paled beside the Greek playwrights, besides Euripides:  And shall not Loveliness Last Forever. Besides Sophocles: He has won, but his victory is soiled and has no pride.  Also, there was the Roman Catullus: I love and I hate and I know not which, and the pain is crucifixion.

Tomorrow — or at least soon, I am going to unearth these brief writings that had such an eviscerating, enlivening affect on me and I am going to Amaze you with them:

Aristophanes:

And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God

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Trump Threatens to Sue My Ass, a little story

Trump 86I am here to report, on this most excellent day when Trump has been “fired’ by NBC for racist comments, that I had a little conversation of my own with Trump once.

It was on the phone. I was twenty and an intern reporter at TIME.  Trump was being sued by a hotel chain.  I had to call Trump, and ask him about it, and straight away he started calling me  “Babe.” It was “Babe” this and  “Babe” that.   His voice was gold — a veritable sunbath —  as if we were close, even intimate. 

Then I read him one of the allegations against him, which I had in the affadavit.

You should have felt it. The change in atmosphere — even on the phone — when a man such as he drops his charm.

“You Print That,” Trump told me  (and it sounded to me like “You print that Bitch”)  “and I’ll Sue You.”

I wish I could say it was the only time I’ve  heard a man turn on a dime. I wish I’d learned my lesson, right then.

These men — these charming powerful men of a certain kind – how many times must they reveal themselves before we finally dump them?  Keep trying, I say. Keep trying till it Takes.

 

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Slip Away

streethassle_alb-streethassle (2)SO your girlfriend left you. Or your parents moved country, without telling you, thinking it would be some kind of Gest.

And they’re gone. And you wonder, Why Am I Here? In this speck of land, in this County, in this Country? And you look around.  You walk the street. You examine the tree, which, while you were not noticing, has turned green.

And this is how it is, in eternity.  Just you. You looking around. You waiting for the next thing. And you kind of like it.

Street Hassle: (Lou Reed)

O babe I’m on fire and you know that I admire your body.   Why don’t we slip away…

Although I’m sure you’re certain, it’s a rarity me flirting this way..

Hey babe.. come on let’s slip away….

Just like when you were fourteen and fifteen, alone in your room at one a.m. leaning out the window smoking a cigarette and realizing this is it. Moon in your hemisphere. Nowhere much else to go.   Hey that c*nts not breathing… I think she’s had too much or something or other I mean you know what I mean?…. 

 

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Weird Fucks and 7th Heaven: Patti Smith and Lynne Tillman

Weird_Fucks-HeroAlt-960x540 PattiSmithseventhheaven

Always I have been a fan of little things. I had a wagon as a child, a little red one, and used to drag it around the garden and to houses checking if anyone had any “little things” to spare.  I favored tiny objects: a plastic monkey from Barrel of Monkeys, a ceramic owl, a broken tiny figurine, a fancy shaped rock.

My passion for small things extended to books. Even now, my faves are  03, (74 tiny pages), Briar Rose by Coover, (86) Theseus by Gide (51). And I’d rather have ten pages of Aristophanes  than 100,000 of old English verse.

As a teenager, one  of my favorite discoveries was Seventh Heaven by Patti Smith: 47 pages, in a tiny little white paperback, and with the following poem, in its entirety, about Marianne Faithfull:

I was born in Hampstead. My mother wasn’t

screaming so they didn’t believe she was in

labor. Later I went to convent school. Later

I rode in leather. Later I took some sleeping

pills. I needed to lose

Jane Eyre is tiny, too, at least my 1932 edition is. So is Smith of Wooton Major.  Could it be that small terrors must be contained in small spaces? That striving to fit all we can into into a tiny box or space or form or page, is a way to control that emotion, that experience, that pain.   Lynne Tillman, having recently received my 52 Men galley kindly sent me her little book, above, the 58-page  Weird Fucks.  And it’s all there: the intensity, the glee, the intelligence, the pain and the loss and the making of her, we, us.

 

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Book of the Week: “03” on a streetcorner

“From the bus stop across the street it was hard to tell, but suddenly I understood, seeing the passengers in the van that collected her every morning, that she was slightly retarded.

Once you knew, it was easy to make sense of her thin adolescent frame, her black hair spiking up on her little head as though she were enduring some slow, endless horror, her eyes, like that of a heroine in a Japanese cartoon forced open onto the real world, eyes so round and so opaque that if they’d focused on me, I might almost have picked them up like two black marbles rolling in the gutter at my feet.”

Ask not why this book drives me to distraction with it weird lust and frustration, its setting a bus-stop, its lyrics from Joy Division, its childhood specious and a lie.

“… and I weighed up the pros and cons, what tied me to life like a blood oath, what left me cold, or tired me out; and when the noise grew sharper, more grating, and when the headlights from the first bend in the road began to cut out the sides of the buildings and project a slow revolving shadow dance on the wall, I always came back to the same conclusion  — that I felt something stir inside me, as hazy and phony as a childhood memory, as insistent as a hit song you’d heard so often you couldn’t get its bitterness out of your head, something that promised me a better future, only somewhere else….”

84 tiny pages  Valtat

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Hello Darkness Goodbye Franz

franzSo I was upset when Franz Wright died last week. He is, as one obituary said, a “beloved poet” to many, including me. The first poems of his I read, twenty years ago now, took me by the throat and shook me.  Talk about a man who has lived. He spoke to darkness and to grief and to anger and to life — and he also, later, spoke to God.

I’d been watching him on Facebook for the past year or so. He had lung cancer, and was ill from opiates and withdrawal, and kept posting grueling videos of himself looking strung out and desperate, reading his poems right into the screen in a voice so low and ragged I could barely make out the words.

I checked with some people to see if he was ‘all right’ and they said he was, as such things went.

But he was asking, still on Facebook —  if he could give readings somewhere –this a Pulitzer Prize winner — for $5,000 a university visit.  I don’t know if anyone took him up on this and now he is gone.

It makes me so angry that a man such as he could die struggling in this culture — the same culture that gives a $2 million advance to a billionaire’s daughter for her vapid badly written ‘novels’ (yeah, I went to school with her.) I live in horror and dismay at the rise of the one percent in this country.

Then there is Franz Wright’s father James, who was also a Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry.  You know what he said to Franz, when he read his first poem?  “Well, it looks like you’re a poet. Welcome to Hell.”

God Bless Franz and all those who fight the good fight. We need you. I need you. I love you.

Thank you for plumbing the depths and writing for me.  Below, the very first poem of his I ever read, decades ago cut out of The New Yorker: The Comedian. 11066135_10152809487282761_3063216015030491497_n

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Billion Dollar Paul – Man of the Week

scanpaulheadshoto Paul Derecktor, son of the founder of Derecktor Shipyards — the “Billionaire’s Boatyard” in Mamaroneck, NY. Rumor had it back in the day that his father Bob — about 70 years old at at the time — was about to retire and sail around the world with his new wife. Only his wife, who was 32, had hurt her back and was bedridden.

Bob was what they sometimes call “popular with women.” And his son Paul — handsome, charismatic, with — as someone other than me — put it recently  “ice blue eyes and a somewhat hurried impatient air” was said to be the same.

Some months after Paul and I met cruising New York Harbor, he got quietly married. When my editor asked him about this he replied, “who wants to know?”

Some people just get away from us. So I was somewhat sad to hear this week that the famed Derecktor Shipyards has twice, recently, declared bankruptcy.  It has the proportions of Greek tragedy, at least to me.  Some people are born entitled. What happens to them, if all is lost? Are they still impatient? Do they still possess their  imperturbable stillness?  Recent updates reveal Derecktor is on an upswing. Still waters running deep. Thy ships will come in over a calm sea...

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Taming the Stallion

taming-the-stalliontame-a-stallion
Barnes & Noble set me up to sign books next to this self-published writer yesterday. I was very interested in Taming the Stallion but had to draw the line at the over use of the word “buttocks.”
She had no interest in my 52 Men; she said she is A Happy Ever After Ending Author. I asked if she had read Edith Wharton, but she said she had never heard of her.
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