Friday, August 12, 2005


I read a book sort of by mistake, Turning for Home by Sarah Challis. It's good in its way, but it's not my kind (I think the name came up off an Amazon UK recommendation based on the fact that I'd ordered books by Victoria Clayton, whose novels I adore; I got it through my beloved BorrowDirect, but it wasn't what I was expecting). The thing that really gave me a pang is that while the book is itself about a bond between a twenty-something drifter and an old lady who she comes to work for as a carer, which resonates with me greatly, it is SO much a book that my actual grandmother would have loved. It is just her kind of book. It pains me that I don't know whether she read these books or not, though I can't help but feel she must have. I have had this several times recently, as you do for someone you really love who's died: I don't care about my birthday, but she always sent me a birthday card, and it was very kind that my mother stepped in and made sure to send me one to arrive on the day because I was so much thinking about my grandmother and missing her. And I recently went to a quasi-bachelorette party that she would love to have heard about, the hostess was a former southern belle in her 80s who knew Zelda Fitzgerald (who came to afternoon tea when she was on furlough from the asylum or whatever) and Harper Lee and generally the evening would have provided much grist to my grandmother's mill (I was dying to send her a description of the dinner entree, Chicken Hong Kong, which is indescribable but may have included Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and canned water-chestnuts; we washed it down with vast amounts of Veuve Cliquot).


  1. Hi!
    So I found your blog through Neil Gaiman's blog (how exciting that he linked you...) and thought I'd say hello. This is completely random and out of the blue, but in the Spring of 2003 I was in your second semester Literature Humanties class at Columbia. My name's Helena Fitzgerald (I'm very tall and red haired), and I doubt very much you'd remember me, but I couldn't resist leaving a comment.
    Oddly enough, I've been meaning to look up your email address and try to get in touch with you. Since that year, I left Columbia for NYU to study acting seriously, had a really great two years there and realized that writing and studying literature is actually what I want to do in life, rather than theatre and acting. In making this decision over the past few months, I actually kept thinking about your class, and about a couple extremely perceptive comments you made on my final paper and exam.
    So I guess I wanted to just say hello, and thanks. Also, reading over your blog I've been realizing that what you're doing is quite similiar to what I hope to do down the road-- writing novels professionally and working in literary academia-- so, I also thought I'd ask if, by any chance, we could talk, over email or through whatever method of communication is most convenient for you, about any advice or thoughts you might have on the pursuit of both these career goals.
    Of course, I realize you're quite busy and that this is asking a lot, and absolutely understand if you don't have the time for random advice-giving. But hi, and thank you for a great class and some seriously useful criticism and praise. I hope all's very well with you, and that you're having a lovely summer.

  2. Of COURSE I remember you (and do you remember that awkward time when we were sitting at adjacent tables at Tomo and it was too complicated to explain to your parents that I was your teacher?)! You must e-mail me and we will find a time to talk soon--I'd love to hear more of what you're up to. jmd204 at columbia dot edu. If you can come uptown later in t he month we'll get coffee and chat. I was very serious about acting during college, worked with a lot of people who are now professional, but realized at some point that what I really loved was the language and that a professional career was NOT unfortunately going to be all having parts like Doll Common in THE ALCHEMIST or Titania in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM etc. (I don't think I was good enough, either, but it really was a temperament question as well.) I guess I'm not that surprised to hear you're thinking about similar stuff.