Monthly Archives: March 2009

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Hating to write is not so unusual in the writing business

In a recent Guardian interview with Colm Toibin (a 2008 VA Festival of the Book participant), the Booker-shortlisted author says, “I write with a sort of grim determination to deal with things that are hidden and difficult and this means, I think, that pleasure is out of the question.” Writing is “never fun,” according to Toibin, but it’s necessary.

The interview reminded me of something Dorothy Parker once told me: “I hate writing, I love having written.” Sometimes writing is what you have to do in order to get the monkey off your back. And sometimes you have to adopt another, more vicious monkey like a drinking problem in order to get the first monkey off your back. And either way you’re probably going to turn out an unpublished loser.

Speaking of writing quotes, Opium Magazine is collecting them as part of its Network of Writers Experiment. You have until 5 o’clock today to beat the following quote by “pr,” an HTML GIANT commenter: “If you are not getting ass fucked nightly by aliens, you will never be as good as Hemingway.”

The VA Festival of the Book contains more human interest stories than the Oscars

We all know that John Grisham used to practice law, but did we know that Harley Jane Kozak, a VA Festival of the Book Crime Wave headliner, was the beautiful Buckman wife serenaded by Rick Moranis in Parenthood? You remember – “Nathan, we’re trying so hard to keep these kids off drugs.” I loved her in that movie. She was also in both Arachnophobia and When Harry Met Sally. But in the past five years she’s published four novels. It was about time she got a real job!

Ms. Kozak probably hates it when people remind her of her sordid past as a stunning and critically acclaimed Hollywood actress, but I’m not in this blogging game to make friends. Speaking of which, if I tried to collaborate on a blog with my five best friends like Harley does in The Lipstick Chronicles, I would surely lose my marbles. If writing was a team sport, I would be playing third string in the d-league of a junior college. And I’d probably have to pay for my own uniform. And my name would be misspelled in the roster. Go on, you say? And I’d spend most games hanging out by the vending machine waiting for candy to fall out. But here in this circumscribed writing world where every day I play myself for the championship title, my pitching arm is strong and I’m chewing Big League Gum and I’m going to knock that other girl’s teeth out if she dares to step between me and home plate. Score: zero, zero. Winner: me!

Maybe Harley will let me be her ballgirl. I can at least bring her a bottle of Gatorade when she reads on March 21st.

Notes from a Dominican travel diary

I survived my travels (the tropical travels that I neither deserved nor paid for). But surviving them gives me hope that I am four planes and five Xanax closer to conquering my fear of flying. Our suitcases full of dirty clothes are apparently still sitting on the runway in the Dominican Republic, but I don’t even care. I will buy a new toothbrush. My luggage can stay in Punta Cana and soak up the sun and tip its handlers indefinitely because our lives have again been spared. And all without anyone acknowledging just how close we came. Except for my mother whose “Call me as soon as you land safely” text was waiting for me in Virginia and whose “But all the other doctors’ wives get Valium!” is a common refrain on long trips.

The agony of flying was a peak experience, but the honeymoon was pretty good too. I had no idea that Johnny Castle, Baby Houseman, and all of Johnny’s Dirty Dancing coworkers were alive and well and still being suggestive with their bodies on a Caribbean island decades after their triumph in America’s Catskills. In fact, this IMDB plot synopsis of the movie does a better job of summarizing my trip than I ever could:

It is the summer of 1963 and Baby and her family are to attend the holiday resort in America’s beautiful Catskill Mountains. But when they arrive Baby is almost immediately swept off her feet by the sexy and talented Johnny Castle. When her father forbids her to have anything to do with the hunky resort dance instructor and his pals, she finds herself falling madly in love with him and learning how to dance the passionate Latin dances that Johnny loves. Like the beginning of the 60’s signaled the ending of an era of innocence for the U.S.A., it also signals the ending of Baby’s innocence and the awakening of her feelings as a young woman.

Keep in mind that I was not playing the part of Baby in this scenario. I was playing the part of the complacent, elitist married woman who rolled her eyes every night when her beach resort’s nubile entertainment staff started shaking their Dominican hips on the mainstage for the tourists. No, this old lady did not participate in the “Fun Club” or in its after-hours activities at Mangu Disco where perhaps a few foreigners were specially chosen to merengue with the less discerning resort employees. This old lady and her equally crotchety husband wore SPF 70 sunblock every day and went to bed as soon as the band started up and found the unlimited rum drinks a bit too “Pixie Stickish.” They were also confused about how they were supposed to perform on the “Party Boat” (strip and dance on the bow or be the private, inconspicuous couple that the other passengers forget in Open Water?) and about how they could possibly finish reading their serious novels with the techno music blaring from the swim-up bar speakers.

No, in this scenario we were definitely the reluctant, forbidding, Dr. Houseman-type abortion givers, not the fun-loving, Penny Johnson-type abortion givees. In a way it’s sort of sad to leave my provocative dancing, unwanted pregnancy days behind me (kidding, Mom!), but at the same time it’s awesome to have a husband who is willing to complain when the music gets so loud that his wife can’t finish her book or when the Canadians drink so much rum that there’s nothing left with which to disinfect a papercut.