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Pickle Me This

June 21, 2017

Places I’ve Gone With A Book in My Bag

  1. Our neighbours’ backyard party last Saturday evening. This was the event that occasioned this list, as it made me consider whether I might actually have a book-in-the-bag problem. I was definitely not intending to read at this thoroughly enjoyable social event (and I didn’t) but when I considered the slight prospect of one of my children having to go the hospital (perhaps after falling out of a tree?) and a five hour wait in the ER waiting room, not bringing a book just seemed dangerous.
  2. Hospital waiting rooms: Oh, the splendid hours I’ve been reading in such places. The best ever was when Harriet poked me in the eye during a heat wave in August 2010* and I left our sweltering apartment to spend hours and hours in air conditioned splendour, rereading Slouching Toward Bethlehem for the zillionth time and waiting for the doctor to tell me that I would not be going blind. *Note that I have all the details on this matter because I wrote a blog post extolling the virtues of waiting rooms as places to read back when I had a one-year-old and life was harder.
  3. The park. Always, in the park. My worst nightmare, in fact, is not of anything involving hospital waiting rooms, but instead the prospect of a sunny day where my children don’t want to go home but I’ve got nothing to read save for the organ donor card in my wallet (and I’ve already read that). I will never forget the summer day when Harriet was two and I spent a whole afternoon sprawled in the backseat of the climbing frame that resembles a jeep at Huron Washington Playground reading the entirety of Alice Thomas Ellis’s novel The 27th Kingdom while Harriet pretended to “drive.”
  4. Out for lunch. Sometimes because the book is to be my lunch companion (oh, and what a joy is that!) and even if my companion is to be actual human being, a book in your bag means you can read while she goes to the bathroom.
  5. On the subway. First, because the subway is a very good place to read, but also because what if your subway car gets stuck in a tunnel for three hours? How would you bear it without a book to read?
  6. The Bookstore. This is where it gets really stupid. I always have a book in my bag, but half the time the only place I ever go to is a bookstore anyway. But still, if I went to a bookstore without a book in my bag, I’d have nothing to read in transit. And think about if the subway got stuck in the tunnel, right?? But then, what if you were fifteen pages away from the end of a book? This is when things get complicated. Because you need to bring a secondary book to start reading when you finish the first one, and perhaps a tertiary book just in case that second title turns out to be a bit of a dud. I could possibly come up with a very good reason why you should never go to a bookstore without thirty-seven novels in your rucksack. Anything less would be reckless.
  7. Harriet’s birthday party. We took eight small girls to the movies. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to read at all.
  8. Playschool co-op shifts. I don’t know why I ever thought I’d have the chance to read on a playschool co-op shift, particularly since I never ever have. But still, you don’t want to take a chance like that.
  9. The Shovels and Rope concert at the Phoenix in October: I was reading Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth before the show while Stuart was in the loo. The security guard who checked my bag thought it was weird that I had a book.
  10. My own book launch. I was reading Big Little Lies. I didn’t get a chance to read it though.
  11. The hospital, where I gave birth to my second child. This is not so weird, but it is weird when you consider that I brought nothing else except for a pair of shoes to wear in the shower. I was hoping to give birth at home, and perhaps thought packing clothes would jinx this. Instead, it just meant I spent a lot of time naked. But at least I had a book.

June 12, 2017

Grounds For Hope

On Saturday night somebody attacked our lavender bush with a sharp stick, clearly with the intent of destroying it. Yes, the lavender that we bought two years ago in order to replace the shrub that someone tore out of our garden in a (we think) drunken rage. It was discovered Sunday morning half dug up, roots torn, sad and limp. Particularly sad because it had been so lush, flowers just on the verge of blooming. Poor little lavender, and we speculated about the culprit—was it a man who (like someone rather close to home) had become frustrated with his wife’s compulsion to add lavender to everything, and just decided he couldn’t take it anymore, every single bite of everything tasting more than a little like perfume? Or someone further over the edge, plagued by demonic lavender visions, a stake in the root the only real solution?

Anyway, we have found that tending a community garden is an excellent exercise in living with the world, in coming to terms with its realities. What kind of asshole would so something like that? But the thing about the world is that there are all kinds of assholes, and accepting this is part of life. And so we focus instead on other things, that we have a community gardening group to whom we could direct our gardening emergency questions: Can This Lavender Be Saved? I got an email back in a half hour or so, that depending on root damage the plant could possibly survive by being trimmed back and repotted in a small container for the summer and given a restful summer. We got on it straightaway and the lavender looks much less sad now. Also, the city is donating plants for community gardeners and we’ll be able to order a new lavender for our planter. All is not lost. We’ll keep tending our garden, and putting up with the jerks that try to wreck it and/or steal our plants is all part of the experience. We’ll keep planting our seeds and helping them grow, because this is the world we’ve got, and when it isn’t awful, it’s really beautiful. The one and only too.

Today marks a year since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, an event that was terrible in itself but also marks the beginning of what I think of now as The Very Bad Time, one that hasn’t yet concluded. Jo Cox’s murder, then Brexit. I remember walking home from soccer last summer on the most beautiful evening (there were rainbows) and then hearing news of atrocities in Nice. The election in November, so much awfulness since. And more devastation in London and Manchester these last few weeks, each of these events strung like beads on a terrible, awful string. It is a difficult time to be in the world. Life is so hard and random, even when there aren’t maniacs committing acts of murder on busy streets. There is uncertainty, and sadness, and so much loss. So much awful commemoration.

Such much juxtaposition too. How do you make sense of it? I remember the Pulse Nightclub news at the end of the most splendid summer day, a day that smelled like sunscreen, tasted like ice cream, and sounded like the splash of waves on the beach. It was a day that became legend in our family, because we hadn’t had a plan at all—it just happened. And then yesterday we wanted to do it again, to return to the Beaches Arts and Crafts Sale, to have a picnic in Kew Gardens, play on the climbers, have dinner on Queen Street, and so spend so much time that time slows down hanging out beside the lake, collecting beach glass, and looking for other interesting things.

Efforts to orchestrate good days can easily go a bit wrong. There has be room for them to happen, and I was thinking about this yesterday as we planned our day. (“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no terrorist attacks in it yet?”) Plus, I was wondering about the beach. Water levels are at record highs—more dread of course, global warming. Will there even be a beach? I’d seen photos of the lake right up against the boardwalk.

I love beach glass. I love that the intersection of humans and nature can result in something so precious and beautiful. I love that the story isn’t all bad. I love that beach glass by definition is sharp edges worn smooth, that collecting it is an exercise in paying attention. We started collecting beach glass last summer, to what end I’m not sure yet, perhaps just for the sake of having it. I usually resist the urge to own things I find in nature, but beach glass is different, and I don’t know that the lake really minds if we take it away.

And the thing I learned yesterday is that high water levels and diminished beach equals an abundance of beach glass—it’s all been swept ashore. We found loads of it, huge pieces, a veritable treasure trove. I think too about the high water levels in the context of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s “Big Water,” about the lake reclaiming itself. The positive ecological benefits of what’s happening, all the things that might grow, might be discovered.

In spite of everything, and maybe even because of everything: we had a very good day.

“To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.” —Rebecca Solnit, “Woolf’s Darkness”

May 11, 2017

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

A thing that happened to me yesterday when I was working on the second draft of my new novel was that I realized I’d totally stolen a plot point from the 1988 Bette Midler vehicle, Beaches. Not so shocking, I guess, considering I am writing a story about two women’s friendship over decades. It’s the part where C.C. Bloom ends up with her theatre director, who’d previously slept with her best friend, and you’ve got to wonder if they’re together not just C.C. wants to be but because she wants to one-up her friend. Of course, my story is a bit different from this, I assured myself, but then I realized that it even takes place around a theatrical production—albeit one that is a very very terrible campus drama society play.

I should have known this would happen. It is possible that Beaches has been seared onto my DNA. That film was my introduction to all the best things—boardwalks, photo-booths, pen-pals, and Mayim Bialik. We had the record, and I spent hours gazing at the cover, the framed pictures on the piano documenting Hilary and C.C.’s history. I was obsessed with Beaches. I think I saw it in the theatre, and then we had the video. I can recite whole passages—”You did everything you said you were going to do, everything” and “That’s my robe,” and I actually do periodically utter C.C.’s line from when she asks the bartender to carry in Hilary’s bag and her tells her, “I’ve got a bad back.” She said, “You’ve got a bad attitude.” Exactly.

The New York apartment with a bathtub in the kitchen, into which Hillary moves while on the run from her upper-class destiny, where they string Christmas lights and sing, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”—in Latin! Basically it stands for everything I ever wanted. I wanted to pound on a radiator while screaming, “Send up the heat!” Such romantic, bohemian deprivation. Remember when Hilary drove a Volkswagen bus and worked for the ACLU, and Hilary’s tousled up-do in the laundromat with C.C. asking her, “Do you really think I have talent?” I wouldn’t recall this scene at all, except I just watched the movie trailer and realized I’d spent my 20s quoting that line, not realizing I wasn’t its original author. I’m sure I’ve also had days where I’ve gone to buy a wrench because we didn’t have one. It is possible that Beaches is in fact my subconscious. I wanted that once-in-a-lifetime friendship that lasts forever, for sure—or at least until someone ends up with a terminal heart condition. (It is also possible that this film was the advent of my hypochondria.)

I loved that movie so much, and had a mass market paperback of the book on which it was based, in which Hilary Whitney  was called Bertie Barron, but still died at the end. I think I even read the sequel, Beaches II: I’ll Be There, although I’ve forgotten everything its plot contained. Interestingly (or not, all things considered) I am quite sure that Hilary Whitney’s family home in the movie is the same house at which Roger Sterling hosts his offensive blackface party and sings, “That Old Kentucky Home,” in Mad Men—when you watch a movie 3000 you come to recognize these things. Beaches is also the reason I developed a moderate crush on John Heard, and why when John Hurt died not too long ago, I wasn’t all that bothered, because at least John Heard was okay.

I am afraid to re-watch it. Not just because I have a feeling I might discover that it doesn’t hold up—the acting in the film trailer was kind of…awful—but because I might discover that everything I have I have possibly stolen from Beaches, that in fact I do not exist at all as a singular entity but instead as an amalgam of lines and ideas from late 1980s’ films in which beautiful young women die tragically (and gorgeously). What if all of us are just walking around in Gary Marshall’s dream—or even fragments of the imagination of Iris Myandowski the handwalking queer?

May 2, 2017

What’s Your Dream Denim?

“What’s your dream denim?” is an actual question a GAP employee asked me not too long ago when she had discovered me wandering her shop in despair and confusion at whatever had happened in the world of pants since the last time I’d gone shopping. Not even on the clearance rack could one locate a pair of the low-rise skinny jeans I’d been wearing since 2009 when all pants basically became elasticated, the greatest revolution in leg wear the world has ever known. In their place instead was boyfriend jeans, and girlfriend jeans, and wide legged cropped jeans (WHA???), destructed jeans, and the most horrifying pair of jeans I have ever glimpsed: super high-waisted button-fly bellbottoms. What the actual fuck?

But revolutions in leg wear have always caught me unaware, the GAP’s late-1990s Khaki Swings Campaign notwithstanding—I bought a pair of those pants because I wanted to learn to dance like that, although it didn’t work. But I remember actually wearing tapered acid-washed and thinking that dark denim was a fashion crime, and then suddenly there we all were wearing dark-navy jeans with flares. And then one day about a decade on it was clear that flares were dying, and I vowed to never go tapered again, making fun of people who wore jeggings…until one day I had my own pair. Where did they even come from? I cannot tell you. If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I’d be wearing tapered jeans at age 37, I would have said they were crazy, but here I am, and frankly, I am terrified. Concerned that the pair I’m wearing right now might be the last pair of low-rise jeans in the world—who thinks high-waisted jeans look good on anybody? They make lithe 22-year-olds look dumpy, so what hope is there for the rest of us? It’s my one real complaint about millennials, their ridiculous waistlines—it is possible that none of them were ever taunted for pulling up their Buffalo jeans too high in 1991 so they have no idea about the grade-7 trauma their terrible pants could possibly induce.

But if fashion history is any indicator, about 15 months from now I’m going to be zipping myself into a pair of jeans whose waist rises to my clavicle. Maybe they will be flapered, which is a term I’ve just invented for a leg that is tapered just below the flare. In the boyfriend’s-cousin’s-hairdresser cut, which is like the boyfriend jean, but more tailored to one’s figure if one happens to be shaped like a broomstick. There is no dream denim, it is only a nightmare.

April 4, 2017

Dear Pottery Barn Kids Sherway Gardens

Dear Pottery Barn Kids Sherway Gardens,

Thank you for following me on Instagram. You have over 1300 followers, which is no small potatoes, and you are an internationally known brand located in a very good mall, so I should be flattered. And you’ve not only followed me, but you’re engaging with my posts, sharing baguette-related humour and being all ’round pleasant and fun. I feel like you and I could be friends…except you are a store. And you’re not just a store, you are a store that I can’t afford to enter because in order to afford your merchandise, I’d have to move up at least two income brackets. Do you know that I bought my kids’ bunkbed out of an actual garage in an industrial park at Jane and Finch? If you knew that, would you unfollow me? I showed my children a photo of the bunkbed on your feed that was built to resemble a playhouse, and they both went a bit gaga. They said, “Mommy, could we go there?” By which we all knew they really meant, “Is it possible to have another kind of life?”

I don’t know how they do it, those people who “engage with brands on social media.” How do you engage with a brand? When they make a joke on your instagram post, do you respond with, “Ha ha that’s funny by the way you’re a store”? Don’t get me wrong, I like stores. If I could afford to buy the playhouse bunkbed I’d be all over that shit. If you were having a clearance sale, I could possibly come in and purchase a facecloth (but only one that was on deep discount because a customer had bought it and returned it and the packaging had gone missing and someone had actually washed their face with it). But I don’t know how to talk to you. Everything in your posts is literally wearing a price tag or from a catalogue. How do you engage with a floor model? I don’t know what you look like. Do you even have a face?

Does a store dream, Pottery Barn Kids Sherway Gardens? Do you have hopes and fears? Do you cower at night in the silence of your mall and worry about climate change? As yuppies and their offspring traipse their dirty boots across your carpets in the daytime, do you ever wonder about the point of it all? What’s your favourite book? Your favourite recipe? Have you ever suffered from sexual dysfunction? Do you like cilantro? The artificial flavour for banana? What’s your favourite season? Do you have economic anxiety? Are you a public company? Do you ever consider your responsibility to your shareholders and then get really scared?

I want to know you. I want to be your friend and celebrate your birthday, and maybe even buy you a cup of coffee—but I can’t. So close you are, but still a world away. But maybe one day I’ll come across your wares on Craigslist and snap up something—a storage solution or an organic duvet insert—and maybe then this arrangement will all make sense. Perhaps one day I will understand.

Yours respectfully,

Me.

February 19, 2017

Speedy Deletion: How I Tried and Failed to be on Wikipedia

Because I tell you everything, you have to know that I’ve wanted a Wikipedia page since 2008. This was the year my friend got a Wikipedia page. At the time, I barely had a “Published Works” page on my website, and my website was on Blogspot, and I had a long, long way to travel still. And all these details are a little shameful to admit, because we’re all supposed to be cool about this sort of thing. Like, “Oh, do I have a Wikipedia page? I had no idea, because I certainly don’t google myself weekly.” In my next life, I hope to be that cool, but in this life, I’m the woman who finds every mention of me or my work two days before Google Alerts does. Just once I would like Google Alerts to surprise me—for me this would be a definition of success. It would mean not only that my online mentions were turning up in substantial volumes, but also that I have better things to do than hunt about on the internet looking for them.

Anyway, last summer I decided that the time had finally arrived. I’d amassed a small body of work, some prizes, publication credits, and had a debut novel on the horizon. Because it would be cheating to create my own Wikipedia page (although I have been told that this happens all the time) I asked my husband to make mine for me, a really romantic gesture. And he did. It was really nice, and there I was amongst Canadian authors, and Canadian authors born in 1979, even. But it hadn’t even been a day before the Kerry Clare wiki was causing trouble.

The trouble at the start was kind of innocuous. They wanted references and citations, and this was understandable. There was nothing personal about it. I filled in the blanks and added the details. And then the next problem flagged was that my page was not connected to other pages, or referenced by them. Never mind—I’d fix that too. I connected my page to that of authors who’d been published in my anthology; I linked to an author who’d published me in her anthology. If I could I would have literally underlined that I am in fact a National Magazine Award-nominated author, or bolded the text at the very least. And this, the fact of being a National Magazine Award-nominated author, is really a very Canadian thing—you don’t even have to win. But the Wikipedia editors didn’t know this. (Perhaps “this” is also kind of sad. Don’t think I didn’t consider it.)

It was about four days into my career as a person with a Wikipedia page that  things got more personal, that the notes on the discussion page began to be written by actual people as opposed to the template messages about links and additional citations. The people, who volunteered their time as Wikipedia editors, were not at all impressed by my accomplishments. And for awhile, I tried to engage with the process, to answer their questions, to fill in the blanks, to vouch for my own notability. But the more I tried, the more adamant the editors became. “Being nominated for an award does not make a person notable,” the editor explained. “She didn’t win the award. And her publication date is so far off into the future that it is likely, especially with the current state of publishing, that her book will never in fact be published.”

At this point I finally gave up. Although saying this suggests I had more agency in the matter than I actually did. Even if I hadn’t given up the fight to be on Wikipedia, I was on the shortlist for speedy deletion and it was probably going to happen anyway. But when I did give up, it was because it had dawned on me that battling to remain on Wikipedia was going to have to become my full-time job, and it was exhausting. Turns out I’m not so unnotable that I had absolutely nothing else to do with my time except battle it out with Wikipedia editors. If I’d devoted my life to staying on Wikipedia, I’d never be able to do anything else that was notable again.

I know some people who are as notable as dirt stuck to the bottom of my shoe, and they’re still on Wikipedia. How, I wonder, have they managed to pull it off? Perhaps it’s such a feat of incredible endurance that it makes a person notable after all?

A few lessons I took away from this: first, that the whole exercise is remarkably gendered. (The dirt on the bottom of the shoe people I refer to are male.) It was not lost on me that I am a woman who does have some accomplishments, and that my work was entirely dismissed without hesitation by a group of men who really knew nothing about those accomplishments, and who did not necessarily have any accomplishments of their own. Perhaps I am wrong about this final point, and I would be ecstatic if I were, in fact, but it does occur to me that profoundly successfully (or notable people) don’t necessarily have the time to be editing Wikipedia in the middle of the night. Anyway, the idea of mediocre men undermining a successful woman was not so mind-blowing—I don’t know where exactly, but I’ve heard that one before…

And the second lesson? That it’s really healthy for a person (especially a person who googles herself on a regular basis) to be reminded of her insignificance. I’m not being facetious. And that Wikipedia notability and other such metrics are not those with which we should necessarily gauge our success in the world. I mean, it would be nice, but these aren’t the things that matter. It’s good to know too one can be a total failure in all these respects, and still be entirely happy, and worthy of existence.

February 7, 2017

The hair has a jacket.

Someone tweeted a photo of Airforce One not long ago, its repulsive occupant on board, and occupant’s jacket was draped around his chair in a most peculiar way, as though the chair was wearing it. “Look! The chair has a jacket!” I tweeted in response, not remotely with wit, except that I actually made a typing error, and my reply in fact read, “Look! The hair has a jacket.” Completely lunacy. And I now have visions these days of running into crowded rooms and screaming this phrase, to everybody’s confusion. Who is that strange person?

Somehow between now and my book’s publication, I have to acquire some social skills. I also need to find footwear that isn’t a pair of dirty green rubber boots and a coat that is not in fact a giant duvet with sleeves, if I have any home of creating an impression of the author that isn’t “vagrant.” Vagrant who has forgotten how to smalltalk and keeps pointing out how the hair has a jacket.

January 19, 2017

The 1980s: Macleans Chronicles the Decade

Three years ago, I wrote about the importance of using books as literal building blocks, but it’s true that our metaphoric bookish building blocks are always what’s most fundamental. I suspect that somewhere deeply twined into my DNA is the book The 1980s: Macleans Chronicles the Decade, published in 1989 by Key Porter Books. It is possible that no one, apart from the book’s editors, have read this book as avidly as I did, for years and years, and at point in my life too when my brain was still forming so that its images are now seared upon my consciousness—in particularly, unfortunately, a photo of Lech Walesa fishing in his tiny underpants. It would be years before I learned why Lech Walesa mattered, and even once I did, I’ve never been able to disassociate him from his weird blue plaid briefs.

1991, of course, was the end of history, according to Francis Fukuyama, and this is the lens through which I viewed this book, perused its pictures, fascinated. History was done. In my recollection, I was literally in my grade seven history class when the Soviet Union was dissolved—though I am not sure how this is possible because the coup was in August and the union was finished on Christmas, and at neither of these moments was I at school, but still. It’s the idea of a thing. Suddenly all of history was there in the past, and I remember wondering what The 1990s: Macleans Chronicles THAT Decade would look like. But my family never got that book. If history is finished, who needs a chronicle after all?

A copy of this book lives on my shelf, and I don’t leaf through with the same regularity I did as a child, but I did the other week, after two months of feeling so downtrodden, uncannily not at home within the world in which I find myself. I’d read somewhere about the psychology of nostalgia, and how for all of us the moment of greatness in the past lies precisely when we were on the cusp of everything, with so much hope. Remember the ’80s, I was thinking, a decade so ripe with possibility, Lech Walesa’s underpants aside. But then as I started flipping the pages, seeing those iconic, devastating images—the Challenger explosion, famine stricken children in Ethiopia, Bloody Sunday in Beijing, the body of a child buried in ash after the gas leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India; another dead child, lying with its mother, the casualty of poison gas attacks in the Iran-Iraq War; terrorist hijackings, albeit the retro kind when in the end the bad guys let the hostages go. But still. There’s an entire chapter entitled “Assassinations.” The ’80s were really terrible.

I want to hug the woman in the above photo who is protesting for the Equal Right Amendment to the US Constitution. “My foremother,” I want to say to her, “you don’t even fucking know.” Except she probably does, hence the look on her face. To think that 30 years after Henry Morgentaler, on the facing page, won his legal battle to strike down Canada’s abortion law, access to abortion would still seem so precarious (and only theoretical to Canadian women who live in so many places). #FuckThatShit has been my go-to hashtag these last few months as I grapple with “the absurdities that have been foisted on me and my neighbours,” to paraphrase Jane Jacobs. As Macleans chronicles the decade, things right now seem not much different from what they ever were.

None of this is a new story, in what I mean. Donald Trump and his ilk have always skulked the earth, knuckles dragging on the ground. Which is incredibly annoying and demoralizing, but also kind of reassuring too, that people have stood up against dark forces before and we can take courage from them. That goodness prevails, that things can get better.

The fight is never won, but maybe the winning is not the point, and instead the fight is.

January 15, 2017

Cake Breaker

I specialize in accidental cakes—I wrote about one of these in my favourite blog post ever. And here is another, in a post that was originally an Instagram post, but I was a few hundred words in before I realized it was a blog post after all. And so here it goes.

Yesterday there was no cake scheduled and there would have been no cake, except that when I was looking in a drawer for chopsticks at lunchtime (we were having udon noodles), I found an implement (shown in the photo above) which I’ve never used and cannot remember where it came from—from my mom or my aunt? Was it my grandmother’s? But regardless of origin, I didn’t even know its purpose: a comb? A plow for mashed potatoes? But then Stuart remembered that it was a cake server. “That’s right. But how??”

And then I googled “cake server with prongs” and found Jessica Reed’s website (“CakeWalk: Exploring Stories, History, and Identity Though Cake”), which is my new favourite place on the internet. In the post I found, Reed writes about this implement, “the cake breaker,” patented by Cale J Schneider in 1932. The cake breaker is specially designed to slice a cake without destroying it, essential in delicate cakes such as angelfood…

“Well, let’s make an angelfood cake,” I declared, determined—until I found the recipe had 12 eggs in it. Our eggs are free range and eggs are far far too precious for that. So no. I scoured my cookbooks for other options, and settled on an apple upside-down cake. Not the best cake for a breaker, I realized in retrospect, because it would have to slice through apples too. So not optimal, but it worked. We ate the second half of it this afternoon, and it was even yummier.

And the point of this, of course, is the amazing way that all roads (even udon!) lead to cake, however indirectly.

I mean, at least they do if you’re lucky…

January 9, 2017

To List, or Not to List

The scene: our bedroom, 11:50 on Thursday night. Stuart has turned out his lamp and rolled over to go to sleep, but my light is shining and there are urgent matters still to be discussed before the night is out. I’m thinking about Vicki Ziegler’s blog post about the books diary she’s been keeping since 1983

Me: Stuart—I have to talk to you about something.

Stuart: Mmm?

Me: Remember when I used to keep a list of all the books I read?

Stuart: Yeah.

Me: I stopped doing that—it seemed a bit less obsessive-compulsive to just read the books.

Stuart: Okay.

Me: But sometimes I worry, like I should have been keeping track, but I haven’t.

Stuart: Uh huh.

Me: I mean, I write about books on my blog, and there’s Goodreads, and if I really wanted to go back and compile a list, I could. I just don’t need to. Which is kind of a positive thing, I guess. Not a bad way to be.

Stuart: No?

Me: And I think probably what I am doing is the least bananas scenario, right? Being in the moment, just reading what I want to read. It’s what normal people do. A sign of good mental health.

Stuart: No.

Me: What?

Stuart: Normal people read books, or maybe they keep track in a list. But YOU have managed to not keep a list and also worry about not keeping a list, which is the most bananas way of all to be. It’s kind of amazing.

Me: You probably want to go to sleep.

Stuart: Yep.

Me: Good night.

Stuart: Schnurpzzzz.

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