Thursday, March 31, 2005


Excellent writer Jonathan Safran Foer believes and doesn't believe, and that's okay with me:

Interviewer: Kafka said that writing is a form of prayer. Does this concept ring true for you?

Foer: It does. But Kafka didn't believe in God, and neither do I. So what did he mean that I'm agreeing with? A prayer, OK, but a prayer to whom?

I Think My Dog Knows When I Have A Deadline....

She went out four times last night, two of them very messy--or so my husband tells me. That's about as blog confessional as I'll get.

The weird thing is, her last big stomach eruption "presented" as they say in medical land on the day of my last big deadline.

Coincidence? Or proof I should get my own Pet Poop Psychic show? I'd do just about anything to meet Triumph!

Friday, March 25, 2005

You know the one I'm talking about. How sad and strange for the whole family, and now for the whole world. Lori Leibovich wrote a very fine essay on Salon about the challenges and the mystery of cases like this, and Salon was kind enough to print my letter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

How Much Does This Stink?

Hoboken Public Library: "BY ORDER OF THE MAYOR:

As I've mentioned, I'm a less grumpy New Jersey resident because I am, basically, a happy Hobokenite. Friendly, small small town, two of the librarians know me by name, and call it out on the main street...

To tell me that the library is closed indefinitely.

This is so not good.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


I kind of love this: From the queen of poetic genderbend:

Jeanette Winterson: "By the way, I love Maroon 5. I don't know what this says about me."

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Faith is recovering. No scary emitting of bad smells or substances in over a day!


According to this story, vet malpractice suits are on the rise. To date, the largest settlement has been $39,000--certainly no small potatoes, but far from zillions. It seems to me there are several issues at work, revolving around how radically the role of pets has changed in the past few years, consumer expectation, and medical competence. It's tricky, especially since, as I mentioned in the last post, the patient can't talk. I feel a Law and Order episode coming on....

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Faith ate something on Sunday, or maybe Saturday, or maybe Friday that has made her stomach, and the contents thereof, a living hell. (What does a dead hell look like, I do wonder?) The air has been noxious, our sleep schedules disturbed, my work schedule not so hot.

The upside of dogs is also their downside. They cannot talk, so when they are well, you can project just about anything onto them. And when they are not well, they cannot talk, and so you must guess, based on, well, what's coming out of them. Something came out of her yesterday that didn't look good. So I scooped it up after staring at it for a good long while, and walked over to the vet, who assured me that it was likely, nothing. We will know today.

I trudged home, wondering when I'm going to write my new section on dry vs. wet cat food, and knowing I'm too tired to go to my beloved book group, where I had dearly wanted to discuss The Kite Runner.

Faith trotted home happily (or so I project). So happy--she scarfed a cheese doodle!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Maureen Dowd's put her two cents and more in about the dearth of female op-ed columnists on the big deal papers. The NY Times was sharp enough to hire the genius Gail Collins, who's now, sigh, management...dang, I miss her columns. The argumentative and proud of it Elizabeth Spiers also has some smart things to say on Mediabistro about gender-specific criticism:

A website critical of my former blog,, once crowed that if I continued upon my degenerate career path I'd end up a married suburban mother in New Jersey. I'll admit that the "New Jersey" part gave me pause, but the married with kids part just struck me as bizarrely irrelevant. (I'm also having trouble imagining the same supposed insult directed toward any of the male writers I know that wouldn't result in snickers or sheer incomprehension.)

I will link to both later. I am too lazy right now.

As with the L. Summers kerfluffle, something dumb has incited something smart--apparently Susan Estrich has been, in Dowd's words, "smearing" Michael Kinsley for his lack of female op-ed types on his paper. Dowd defends him. But listen to what Gail "I Explain It Funny and I Explain It Sharp" Collins says:

Gail Collins, the first woman to run The Times's editorial page and the author of a history of American women, told The Post's Howard Kurtz: "There are probably fewer women, in the great cosmic scheme of things, who feel comfortable writing very straight opinion stuff, and they're less comfortable hearing something on the news and batting something out."

To which I wanna say, why did I NOT get this memo? While I was never, strictly, an op-ed writer, I have terrible college nostalgia for my days as a theatre critic at the University of Pittsburgh's faculty and staff paper, where, at the age of 18, I drew blood regularly. The chairman of the theatre department apparently wanted to break my legs and get me fired, and a pretty well-known playwright wrote me letter after letter trying to make me like his play better. And failed. People thought I was mean...and I enjoyed it.

I liked being mean, and I liked being talked about. I did retreat quite a bit onto a fainting couch of fake niceness when I hit my 20s--do I blame Reagan? Maybe. But arguing, which is at the core of op-edit-try, has always been something I like to do.

I think it has something to do with being raised in a very female family (oldest of five girls), by a lawyer father and an activist mother who spent a lot of time on picket lines. Opinion-zinging was mandatory at the dinner table, defending your position as natural as breathing, and while it could get heated, it was I got, unlike a lot of girls, lots and lots of social cues that any smart woman argued for her position, and argued well.

Title 9 is a fantastic thing, and I agree with Dowd that we have to look harder to look for more Gail Collinses and Mauren Dowds, but we still have to train girls and women to think of arguing as the very fine sport that it is. Then we'll have an avalanche of snappy (and snippy) gal columnists. Hark! I hear them coming over the blogosphere right now!

Friday, March 11, 2005


This story partially answers a question I've always had: what happens to the dogs who have to drop out of the Iditarod? And who takes care of them. Answer: sometimes it's prisoners. SitNews - Inmates Volunteer To Help Iditarod; Provide Care for Dropped Dogs

The volunteer dog handlers consist of minimum custody inmate volunteers working in teams. The volunteer crew logs in and tags each dog brought in, making note of medications and any veterinary treatment that might be required. The crew then makes sure each dog has water, food and clean straw bedding.

This year a record 44 inmates have volunteered, Supt. Marshall said. Dog food and straw is provided by the Iditarod Trail Committee.

The dog care project began in 1974 under the direction of then-deputy superintendent Dan Reynolds, who was also a dog musher. In 2004, the facility cared for about 300 dogs with a single day record of 80 dogs.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


I don't think I've specifically complained about New Jersey lately, and that's because Hoboken feels like home. Even when a drunken girl lurches in front of my dog during her Patrick's Day bar crawl, I feel kindly, because she's going to say: "Hey, that's a cute dog." The drunk boys cheerfully shout, "Hey, I bet your dog could kick my ass."

And they would all be right.

But it would happen to be on one of those days I'm missing both Brooklyn and feeling like I have no way of finishing my current short story that I read this on a blog:

Michael currently resides in Brooklyn and is writing a novel about a man who suspects himself of stealing his girlfriend’s bras.

And I, who wrote a short story in a Brooklyn brownstone about a girl who shoplifted her first bra in a department store while her mother picketed outside, feel...homesick?

I WANT THIS GUY'S JOB. SORTA. BUT DEFINITELY HIS WRITING METHOD Arts & Entertainment | The man behind "Deadwood" is David Milch, who has one of those scary "I am a recovering brainiac drug addict who writes every single episode of my show" sagas that seems to pop up in TV production land every once in a West Wing while--though I have yet to hear of a girl show runner with this problem. I'm trying to imagine the producer of the "Gilmore Girls" getting this kind of behavioral leeway. ("I just couldn't write another witty line for Rory that referenced BOTH Coldplay and Toni Morrison, so I turned to the crack pipe...")

But I digress. Keep it simple, show runners!

What's fascinating to me about David Milch is the way he writes, and the way he recommends you, gentle reader, approach your writing. He doesn't even touch the keyboard when he writes dialogue. He speaks it, and it is TRANSCRIBED. He has no the hell idea where he is going when he starts, and he likes it that way. Call it channeling, free association...whatever. But it's intriguing.

Now, the cynical part of me wants to say, well, Media Kings Can Do These Things. But it backs up what I intuit, often, when I'm teaching writing, which is that the closer you get to the oral tradition that was storytelling (think Homer!), the better off you are. There's a fine line between talking your story to death and truly finding something new when you are, literally, singing it into the air. I think screenwriter Larry Gross does this, too, talking his entire script into a microcorder as he paces through his big old house. Jonathan Safran Foer seems to migrate from boro to boro, from cafe to Kinko's, which somehow makes poetic sense given that his writing is gripped with dislocation.

It's like this: your body probably knows your story better than your brain does. Sitting at a screen too long isn't good for your body--or your narrative muscles. Move something!

Monday, March 07, 2005


This blog is the kind of thing I like to call "Blog Crack,"*The* Link Portal on Gender in the Blogosphere | CultureCat. Feminism + Blogging + Gender = something I'll get lost in for a good long time, and neglect important bodily functions to keep reading.

Seriously, I seem to be investigating that big old subject "women and desire" these days in fiction, memoir, perhaps even pop this is gold, goddesses. Pure gold.


No, enough with Martha Stewart. God bless her and her attempts to make prison reform "a good thing." I'm talking about Camilla Parker-Bowles and her consort Prince Charles, who, according to Daphne Merkin in the Sunday Times Magazine, have done the wildest thing: kept a relationship between two contemporaries going for 30 years, and now...are getting married. The New York Times > Magazine > The Way We Live Now: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups. One of my friends used to say money was the long hair of the 80s. Could middle-aged love be the long hair of the 00s?


Reason to stick around a little longer: the writer/director team of Secretary is doing the Diane Arbus story. Not quite sure I can see Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus, but then I think about To Die For, and I can. Plus, can that be Robert Downey Jr. I spy, coming over the hill?

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Haven't read One Hundred Years of Solitude? Turn off your computer and start right now.