Feb 27, 2007

OK, two things:

1. The Lives of Others was amazing. I don't even know how to describe it. It's completely mesmerizing, you have no idea where the movie's going or what anyone will do at any moment, it's suspenseful and lovely and sweet and horribly, deeply sad. The three leads are astonishing, especially the main character, the Stasi officer who spies on the other two (a playwright and an actress). He goes from terrifying and clinical to just pure longing. You have to see. This movie broke my heart, totally wrecked me, which is of course what all great things should do! I'm so glad it beat Pan's Labyrinth, which was great but not great like this.

2. Also, Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway. It's a memoir about her two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, helping a midwife named Monique, who was just this stunning, fearless woman who saved so many people but was also playful and gentle and whipsmart. The book makes you fall madly in love with her, and feel real grief at her death (she died young in childbirth, you learn this up front), and you feel like you're right there for this entire incredible Peace Corps experience. I absolutely feel like I've been to Mali and eaten to (<- I can't do the accent!) and chicken sauce and planted peanuts and wrapped a pagne around myself and experienced oppressive heat and crazy, sudden rains and heard a clicking scorpion and seen babies being born and mothers laid out on tables in a room built of mud.. It's a totally visceral experience, really moving and inspiring. And just look at this woman on the cover, her face: http://www.moniquemangorains.com/?page=press_room_photos. It's a world-expanding kind of book that you should order this instant.

Feb 25, 2007

Chicago was so fun. But I am very sad about the whole flying part. On Friday it was perfect and effortless: I left for LaGuardia an hour before my flight, had no bags to check, did the self check-in in two seconds, breezed through security, had plenty of time left over, then had a totally pleasant flight on which I finished the book I was reading (Monique and the Mango Rains, which I will write about later and which left me in tears) and scribbled a bunch of notes for my noir, and there was even an empty seat next to me so it almost felt LUXURIOUS, and then we landed in Chicago, no problem, and I called my friend Massie's brother Josh, who was hosting me, and he told me how to come meet him by train, and it was all effortless, and I spent the train ride writing and also reading another book, and then I met Josh and we spent the afternoon--Josh, his visiting friend Frank, and I--having a lovely lunch and hanging out, and it was awesome.

Then yesterday, coming home, I got to the airport fine, but then in the security line they were much more diligent and I had forgotten plastic baggies and the guy roooodly confiscated my black glitter nailpolish, even when I told him I might cry, and he also tried to confiscate a bottle of GLITTER until I ingeniously and scientifically pointed out that glitter is not a liquid and even demonstrated this by dumping some on my palm. We also had a long discussion about mascara, when I argued that it is "not really" a liquid. He asked if it was really, or if was not. I said "I don't think so." He said "Do you think it's not a liquid or do you know it's not" and I said, "I'm pretty sure it's not" and he said "Are you pretty sure or do you know it's not a liquid?" and finally, in a therapeutic breakthrough kind of self asserting, world asserting moment I said, "IT IS NOT A LIQUID." And then he handed it back to me. But then I almost missed my flight because I didn't hear them boarding, but then it turned out that a connecting flight was delayed and so we had to sit on the runway for an hour waiting for it anyway, and then I sat next to a woman who shifted and sighed the whole time, and then, on the descent into New York, my ears suddenly KILLED ME, just this horrible intense pain that I used to get when planes landed but thought I had gotten over, since it hasn't happened in a few years, but it was just this intense whining pain that got worse and worse and then all last night I felt sick and this morning I feel sick, too, like I have a bona fide ear infection, which I'm sure I don't but it is awfully unpleasant and leaves my jet setting prowess in question.

Anyway, the reading at Women and Children First was very fun. Just beforehand, as we were driving out of Trader Joe's where we had bought wine and snacks for later, I had discovered that Frank (Josh's German friend who happened to be visiting) plays the didgeridoo, and I asked if he had it with him and he didn't but Josh had one, so we decided to stop off and get it so that Frank could play it at my reading, and he did and even though it did not go AT ALL with my un-didgeridoo-ish tale, it was still amazing, and I believe in things clashing anyway, and afterwards a group of us went out for drinks. Later I went back with Josh and Frank and watched the first hour of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA before I fell asleep. I really liked the opening "Are you alive? Prove it." but then I pretty much faded afterwards, to my great sadness. Yesterday morning we had breakfast at this adorable place where a small woman in a sari served me chai tea and tomato bisque with cashews and thick slices of bread with goat cheese and pesto, and then they dropped me off at the train which whisked me off to my doom.

But soon I will recover, bravely, and get ready for many guests who are coming to watch the OSCARS. The end.

Feb 20, 2007

So this weekend, after much rapunzel-like self-locking-away, I finished my second novel. Last night I spent hours on the phone while my mama went through it page by page on the phone giving me her edits. She is possibly the best editor in the world, and I believe has edited every book and paper my dad's ever published. I tend to repeat the same images and words over and over, like skin and glass and ice (such wondrous words!), and she be merciless. I am reading the final document through one more time this eve, after some glamorous drinks around Grand Central Station.

Also, look: "I just finished Rain Village last night. Tessa’s struggles and then redemption keep me reading until the wee hours of the night – 2:34 am, to be exact. What an enthralling and magical book! The many themes and emotions of Rain Village make the book a slam dunk as a reading group favorite. The idea of a mentor and love of one person to change one life is a great discussion point that opens this book to personal experiences for the reading groups. If you get a chance, please say Bravo to Carolyn." -- Barbara Mead, Reading Group Choices

Oh, AND: Last night Rob and Bonnie came over to watch stupid television and movies. At one point I put on The Covenant, though I wasn't sure what it was, and so looked up some reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It was in this way that I happened upon my favorite quote from any review EVER:

Movies like this are why we have eyelids.

Feb 19, 2007

Here is a suspiciously familiar but no less gorgeously enticing flyer for my CHICAGO reading this Friday.

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Feb 12, 2007

I need to learn to speak more quotably. This is just sad. There was another article in Brattleboro in which I was quoted saying brilliant things like "I sort of don't like readings."

In other news, I went to this really cool reading series yesterday at the Good World Bar, which is really old fashioned and rustic, with these grayish battered thin-planked wood floors and cavernous walls and glittery windows, and it has all this Swedish food and plays good old-timey music. I met my new friend Rona there, one of the authors I met in Texas, and suddenly there was this whole crowd there and we were talking to this Algonquin editor, and this amazingly ebullient playwright woman with long long braids whose next play will be at the Mark Taper Forum in LA, and this poet who was one of the readers, whose poetry was very beautiful and, like, translucent, all blue and light and seashells and despair, and the bar was all candlelit and the reading was at dusk and it just felt really really NEW YORK.

After, I met Joi and Jeremy for dinner at Kate's Joint. Then they left and I wrote for a bit before my sister and her friend Angel came for more drinks. The Grammys were on at the bar and I have to say, I have never had the misfortune of seeing Cristina Aguilera or Justin Timberlake perform and I have now been scarred for life. And possibly for the afterlife as well.

Feb 10, 2007

So I was so disciplined. I said I refused to leave the house today as I am writing writing writing, and I turned down venison and I turned down drinks and I turned down a movie and I even turned down a hot date and I worked all morning but then my sister called and said "Do you want to get dinner?" and I said "I can't" and she said that she could go wherever she wanted for dinner and her firm was paying, since she just closed some big deal, and that she was thinking either Gramercy Tavern or Nobu and I said OK FUCK WRITING. And miraculously she got a table at Nobu and soon I shall be there. The end.

Feb 8, 2007

So this appeared in PW Daily yesterday, Publisher's Weekly's daily newsletter thing. A few peoples were impressed by (and disbelieving of) my skiing prowess before I painfully admitted that those are SNOW SHOES on my feet and not skis. And that basically Lynne, Layne, and I walked on a path with a light snow on it wearing these very strange contraptions on our feet for no real purpose at all, whilst our companions glided past us on bent knee, smiling heartily. It was very sad, I'm not going to lie. Plus they kept falling off. We did, however, stop and stare for a while at the town of Grafton in the distance, and with that perfect snow and the trees in front of us and that little town with not one but TWO steeples jutting up from it, it really could not have been more like something out of a storybook.

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In other news, last night my friend Rob and I saw Children of Men, and I thought it was pretty stunning and fascinating though I wasn't much moved.

I also forgot to link to this extremely exciting interview.
Yesterday eve I met Joi at the Olive Tree, one of those rare NYC restaurants where you aren't sitting smack dab in someone else's lap. It was a lovely thing, being able to talk without having to ignore the fact that the people next to you can hear every word. I think it's one of those things you get used to here, just like you get used to (if you're me) dropping off your laundry every week and smiling at the launderers and blocking out the fact that these people are going through your underthings. Then we had workshop and it was blissfully small, just Joi and Anton and me, and Jennifer, and now it is Friday, I thought it would never come, and it is a THREE DAY WEEKEND, and while I am doing many fun things on Sunday I am going to spend the rest of the weekend finishing my boooooook.

Feb 6, 2007

Last night my ingenius friend Eric took me to CAFE LUXEMBOURG, where we had one of the best meals I have had since he, his beau Shax and I feasted on fresh lobster and clams soaked in butter last summer in Connecticut. First I should mention that when we walked into Cafe Luxembourg--which is very sparkly and clinky--and were relinquishing our coats, I heard a man at the bar prepare to launch into a story. He spoke with such authority and gravitas, in such a seductive, embellish-y manner.. I don't remember what he said, but it was more in his manner of telling, anyway... You knew that the person he was speaking to was about to hear a real bona fide STORY. I wanted to drop down and sit on the floor cross legged right then, to listen! We might as well have been in front of a campfire. I glanced over and am fairly positive it was MICHAEL CAINE. But I was much too cool and glamorous to stare, of course, to make sure, and then soon enough we were whisked away to our table.

I have to describe two things. First, the OYSTERS. I was in the middle of telling Eric what I'm sure was something very riveting when I realized he had eaten his two oysters and I hadn't eaten mine. I reached down and took the scraggly thing and poured it in my mouth, still thinking about whatever it was we were talking about. And then! No oyster like this have I ever had. I believe it might have been magic. Because suddenly the ocean was in my mouth! It was like holding a seashell to my ear, but tasting it! How often do you taste something that transports you out of a winter New York and into another space and time completely? It was like all the sparkliness and clinkiness had been replaced by seashells and pearls and weird dangly creatures you can see through and waving coral and salt that looks like snow in the water. It was a complete emotional experience, eating that oyster! And then there was a second one. Oh my, was it blissful. And we were drinking a lovely Chianti besides.

We also had these lovely salads WITH POACHED EGGS ON TOP but then the main dish.. The main dish was fantastical. I had winter squash ravioli with an oxtail ragout and some sage cream sauce. Eric had coq au vin, which was very exciting to me because of course as we all know that was JACK TRIPPER'S specialty on Three's Company and tho that has always given that dish a wondrous mystique to me, I have managed to make it to this age without ever tasting it. Both dishes were amazing. Hearty wintry, snow-falling-outside and icicles-forming-on-the-shutters kind of meals. I do not have the vocabulary to describe those sweet ravioli with the really rich meat on top and that light herb-y sauce, but it was like all the songs and movies I love most, which are always many things at once, like hysterical and devastating at the same time. It was like Gegen die Wand, but on a plate! If only my one true love Tom Colicchio had been with us. He would know what to say.

Oh, and. Amongst many other lovely things Eric was telling me about the three plays he is working on, and one of them is The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, which is coming to Broadway this spring as a one-woman show with Vanessa Redgrave. I had not realized that The Year of Magical Thinking was a memoir about grief--Joan Didion's husband and daughter died within a year of each other, unexpectedly--that came out last year, her analysis of and meditation on her response to such astounding loss. I had to read it immediately once Eric told me what it was about. After dinner, we went back to his and Shax's apartment so that Eric could give me a copy, as he has about 5000 on hand. On the subway home I read about 50 pages I think, and this morning another 50. I can barely wait to leave work and finish it. The writing is so clipped and clinical and careful and intelligent, and yet what she's writing about is the most wrenching loss, and the tenderness and grief press up against the clinical language in this most amazing, unbelievably powerful way. I cannot even imagine what that woman has borne, and to be able to document it so precisely! I understand, too, that Joan Didion wrote the play, not just adapting it but starting from scratch to do it, and that rehearsals have just started and Vanessa Redgrave is spectacular. I cannot wait to go see. Also, the haunting photo on the back of the book totally gets me. I mean, she's the one who looks like she's about to float away:

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Feb 4, 2007

So yesterday, when I was supposed to be writing, I got massively into this book The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson, who was one of the writers I read with last weekend in Vermont. You can't put that thing down!! I did somehow manage to wrest myself away for a few hours last night in order to read at the GIANT LAUNDER CENTER in Williamsburg, where a large and hip crowd had gathered for two readings and some steel guitar as part of the Dirty Laundry reading series. I read first, and it was sort of intimidating with those bright white lights and like three film cameras AND several regular cameras aimed at yours truly, not to mention me being by my lonesome after Massie succumbed to illness and my sister to work, but I bravely soldiered through and even told some laundry anecdotes and EVEN was interviewed by Reuters for TEEVEE. What TV I don't know, and I would like to never know, just as I will never never listen to any of the radio things I have done lest I faint away in pure horror. I also, by the way, will be recorded LIVE on satellite radio in the near future thanks to Ron Hogan, a task for which I shall have to be in a studio at 7 30 AM; this too is terrifying, but the way I figure is you have to do these things and then invoke the masterful dual arts of FORGETTING and DE NILE.

Still, I think I am getting better at all of this. Readings are much easier for me now, tho I was pretty nervous in Vermont last weekend, in Chester, because I not only faced 90 people and 5 other writers, all of whom I admired, but another TV camera (I think that whole reading is going on some cable or public TV in Vermont, and again I don't want to know) AND I was supposed to talk more than read. I was visibly nervous I think, but did okay. It was funny tho to follow Alex and then be followed by Kris Holloway, who is a riveting speaker, a total firecracker--both of whom could not be more different from me, writing-wise. He's all savvy and smart and politico and then she gets up and immediately makes you feel like you're right in Africa, smelling nuts roasting and hearing the crackling of fires. The other writers, who read later in the day, were Layne Maheu plus Bruce Bauman--this amazing writer who comes off as totally hard-edged and cynical but you quickly see it's just masking gorgeousness and devastation; his writing is sublime, goes right to the gut--and Charles Davis, who is this very humble, very sweet ex U.S. Marshall who also just writes beautifully. It was really cool and this part of Vermont could not have been more picturesque. I mean, look, I even participated in snow sports (and donned a fashionable duck hunting cap)!!

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(This is me with Lynne and Bill Reed from Misty Valley Books, Layne Maheu, and Kris Holloway, whose husband John took the photos.) And here is a very weird yet very officiale photo of yours truly attempting to speak into a miniscule microphone I could not figure out how to clip on:

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The weekend also involved many glasses of wine in front of large fires, and much fraternizing with all these cool local peoples over dinners and crackers and cheese. We also all stayed in this lovely, charming inn where the rooms had many many many pillows with flowers sprinkled on them. On Sunday, after Chester, Layne and I drove to Brattleboro to read at Nimble Arts Trapeze and Circus School's new location at the New England Youth Theater, but first we met my friend Eliani and got to explore the environs for a bit. It's a very cool town and Eliani was an extremely generous hostess. She even helped me procure cupcakes and cider, two items I feel should be part of any reading. The reading went well, I thought, and I think about 40 people? showed up. I read first, then Cody Schreger perfomed on the trapeze, and then Layne read. After, Layne, his friend Shayne, Eliani and I went to three bars where I chastely abstained from alcohol since I had to drive back to NYC, tho I did imbibe a large gingerale with a long plastic giraffe dangling off the side. In our brief sojourn through Brattleboro we met many of Eliani's friends and then saw them a second and even third time in our wanderings. By the time we left I felt like I'd loved and lost, then loved and lost again.

Today I finished The Faithful Spy, which would not let me out of its clutches until I was done, and now am, once again, working on my novel. And this post. Which is in no way a procrastination technique of any kind at all. The end.