I got a letter today. This is what it said:

Dear Literate Kitten:

Fuck you.

The Universe

Here's what happened: Regular readers know I'm being pummeled at my full-time job. (This has been a bad week. One example: I showed up at a meeting yesterday and found out -- surprise! -- that I was expected to give a presentation in front of 70 people. No notes, no preparation, no nothing. So, I pulled that one out of my ass.)

So, I've been waiting for a little pick-me-up, a nice boost at least in my fiction career. Last year, I was a winner in a nationwide contest for a short story. Great, right? Well, here it is a year later, and the story is finally published. So, I sludge through the first rain of the year to the bookstore this afternoon to get a copy and there it is, on the shelves. And on the cover is my name. Misspelled! Misspelled on the cover, inside the issue. Everywhere you look. To add insult to injury, said magazine is now folding and this will be the last issue.

In the greater scheme of things, this is small potatoes, compared to Darfur or cancer. But they're my small potatoes and they're piled into this stinking mass that is positively suffocating me. I suppose since life handed me small potatoes, I need to mash them....with a lot of butter and salt and cream.

Thoughts for Thursday - How to earn a living

Help me out here.

Let's say: You want to write fiction.

You have won some awards, had publications, encouraging murmers from agents. But not Guggenheims or NEA awards or anything like that.

But even without being a Top Banana, you want to write.

And you gotta earn a living. No inheritance, no savings, no rich spouse in the wings.

What would you do?


Happy All Hallow's Eve

Today I wore jeans to work. I tell people that I'm a Constitutional Amendment.

Have a fun one!


RIP Challenge - #5, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

Yay, I made it. By the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. I admit I saved a few of these stories for next year, but I'm counting it toward this year's reading. I only wish I had more time to wax poetic over the book in this post.

I adore Edith Wharton's writing. As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy Wharton's precise and subtle observations. Although I can't say these stories were particularly spooky, they are interesting and full of her particular way of illustrating characters, as in this example from The Eyes:

His mind was like a forum, or some open meeting place for the exchange of ideas: somewhat cold and drafty, but light, spacious and orderly--a kind of academic grove from which all the leaves have fallen.

And here's an example that brilliantly captures the essence of characters (as well as instilling a sense of desolation) in a single sentence (from Afterward):

Dorsetshire had attracted them from the first by an air of remoteness out of all proportion to its geographical position.

My favorite tale is Pomengranate Seed, a true page-turner. This short passage captures the ever-shifting relationship changes between a husband and his new (second) wife:

She had meant to move her husband and had succeeded only in irritating him; and this error of reckoning seemed to change him into a stranger, a mysterious incomprehensible being whom no argument or entreaty of hers could reach. The curious thing was that she was aware in him of no hostility or even impatience, but only of a remoteness, an inaccessibility, far more difficult to overcome.

These are tales that create tension between specific places (typical of the gothic or horror tale) and those who dwell in these places. In the best of the stories, place cannot exist without character and vice versa; one reflects the other. I'm glad Edith Wharton was brave enough to overcome her fear of ghosts by writing such an interesting collection of ghostly tales. More intriguing than suspenseful, more revealing of the human condition than paranormal activity, these stories transcend Halloween--they can be enjoyed during any season.