Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Do You Know ...

Barnes and Nobel caved. Well done, Lauren Becker. The planned reading will go ahead. Gulp! Now I have to figure out just what I can read to a high-school audience. I don't consider my work kid-friendly :-)

Just the other day I overheard my seven-year-old daughter tell her friend "My mom's a writer, but you won't be able to read her work. It's ADULT material." I can only imagine how that was interpreted by the little friend's parents!

I am almost finished reading Dan Chaon's novel, AWAIT YOUR REPLY. What a brilliant stroke to open with that horrific scene. As I read, I always have that palpable tension in the back of my mind, knowing that the story will come full-circle and back to the torture scene.

I just hit on that inevitable torture scene last night. I had to stop reading, afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep after. Now I can't wait to get back to the book. The urge is so bad I don't think I can wait until tonight. It's like the tired but true scenario around the car crash: where you don't want to look, but you just can't help yourself.

I love AWAIT YOUR REPLY on a number of levels. It's imaginative, gripping, and well-written. It's characters are fascinating. Issues of identity especially capture my imagination. Who are we really? What is real? What's not? Haven't we all, at some point, just wanted to walk right out of our current life and start over, become another person entirely? The idea is equally strange, frightening, and exhilarating.

I have long felt fixated on who I would be now if "X," "Y," and "Z" hadn't happened to me in the past. This is particularly true of the abuse I suffered in childhood. Who would I have been if I wasn't abused? For the longest time, I believed I would be a better, happier person. I refuse to believe that any longer. I refuse to bail on myself any more. It's not about what happens to us, it's what we do about what happens to us, right?

How about you? Ever want to be somebody else? Trade places? Start over?


  1. hey - great stuff in wtf!

    and in regard to what is kid-friendly, it's funny because there's always this awkward moment whenever my family gets together for a large meal (like thanksgiving) and one of my older visiting relatives will ask, "what exactly do you write again?"

    and i'm like, "uhhhhhhh"

  2. Ah, the insidious "if." IF I hadn't been abused, if I had been taken seriously, if I'd been more loved, less coddled, more brave, less shy. If I hadn't been told, if I hadn't believed, "that's not for people like us..."

    Who would I be now?

    I reluctantly agree; in many ways, I'd still be me, no matter what "if," and thus ends the arena in which we can make excuses for what we haven't yet achieved. If you've written about THAT in any of your stories, that's what you should read to a high school audience. What would your life have been like if you had known earlier that the past doesn't dictate the future/present? What would you have done with that gift?

    Don't underestimate high school students; they're not kids, they're just young adults and some of them are as world-weary and old as you were at that age, having experienced life in some of the same ways. Plus, those going to a reading willingly are looking for an experience of adulthood, in a way. It might be okay to share "adult material" with them.

    (Your daughter cracks me up.)

    I look forward to hearing about how it goes.

  3. Hi P. Edward Cunningham, great name! Thanks for visiting and the kind words.

    Tanita: "If" so tiny and so huge. You're absolutely right. Right too about not underestimating high school student/tomorrow's audience, thanks. I'll let you know how it goes. Cheers.

  4. Big happy to hear B&N caved. "Adult material," that's awesome. Good luck, and have fun out there...

  5. Good luck w/ the reading, Ethel. At my recent reading/performance thing in L.A., they actually had a flier posted that said something like "Warning, material not suitable for children or teenagers." I wish I'd taken a picture of it.

    I'm a big fan of Dan Chaon. I haven't had a chance to check out the new novel. Looking forward to doing that soon.

  6. Thanks, Eric and Andrew, always a delight to hear from you both. Andrew, I finished Chaon's novel the other night. Nothing would have torn me away from those last forty pages. Do read it soon, and enjoy.

  7. I loved "Await Your Reply," and when I get a chance I'm going to post about it.

    Good luck with your reading!

  8. The reading went great, Katrina, thank you.

  9. Hi Ethel!

    So happy to share the podium with you!
    Article, with video, is here:
    I hope you like it! As always, let me know if anything needs changing/adding, otherwise perfecting!

    And do send something in for my series if you can attend!