Getting There

Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I actually sing that song sometimes while fixing the cats breakfast.  The legacy of a mother who loves musicals. I’m such a cat lady.

Took Doe to the park this morning. Central Park is a big dog run before 9 am when they’re allowed to be off leash. We narrowly avoided an attack by a vicious bitch named Clem, and found our way to the fields off 97th Street and 5th. Doe was soon tearing around like a little greyhound. She looked truly happy for the first time since our move from Harlem. I think she misses her friends, dog and human, from 121 Street, or maybe it’s stress. She’s had a mild recurrence this month of pancreatitis or IBD, or whatever her illness is. I’ve got her on a low dose of prednisone and, hopefully, she’s on the mend. When she gets sick, the vet always reminds me that as she gets older, her episodes will happen more frequently, but she’s only two and was perfectly healthy for six months before this. I’m still hoping she’ll outgrow the whole thing.

My apartment is coming together and I’m loving it here. It feels so mine. In order to write, to gain access to myself, or that magical otherness that is maybe not so much myself, I need to feel entitled to my time and privacy and that can be a tricky state to get to. I had no idea this place would give me that and I’m very thankful.

I’ve been writing stories, playing and singing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this spot and it’s good. Saw Jayne Anne Phillips read at BAM last night. I was with two of my favorite people, Paul and Leslie, and we had a wonderful time. It was fascinating to hear Jayne Anne discuss her process, also to see her avoid certain questions, protective of her privacy, or perhaps ignorant of aspects of how the work happens. It is a mystery, even to the writer, maybe especially to the writer, in many respects. I wanted to ask her how she views those first stories now, the ones in Black Tickets. I wanted to ask her what her relationship is to them now. But I didn’t ask. Two drunk people asked ridiculous rambling questions that were embarrassing to hear. One man wanted to know what her criteria was for accepting or denying anyone into the MFA program at Rutger’s (she heads that program). He got very belligerent. I think he may have had a dog in that race. Then a woman asked if she’d known any famous writers while she was at Iowa. K.M.S., as Jillian used to say (

So, I didn’t ask my question. Although, I would have loved to know the answer, but questions, at these type of events, are asked mostly to confirm an idea you already think you know the answer to, and Jayne Anne Phillips wouldn’t have given me the answer I wanted, which was to recognize that the element of autobiography, of vulnerability, in Black Tickets, contributed as much power to those pieces as their rhythm and brevity. In the later work, she keeps her distance emotionally, so as successful as the novels are, and they are astounding achievements, especially Lark and Termite, they don’t compare to the pure perfection of the early stories. Ha! Not much chance I’d have heard her recognize that!

She did say two things I loved hearing. One: that the narrative of those stories was only implied (fantastic! it’s true, and yet the stories are so clearly told). Two: That she wanted her stories to burst with light at the end.

Anyway, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. There’s nothing I find more interesting than hearing about the process of other writers and artists because as I said it’s a tricky place to get to..

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