Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LIKE FAMILY: Growing Up in Other People's Houses

Dogs are easy. If their tails are up and their eyes are soft, you're in. Sometimes they need to smell your hands, your shoes, between your legs. Sometimes they just throw themselves full tilt, all of them at all of you--like the Lindbergh's dogs. They were what we saw first, a happy blur along the fencing as our social worker, Mrs. O'Rourke. slowed the car and stopped in front of the whitewashed wooden gate.
Like Family
Paula McLain

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Baghdad Theatre one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.
Donald Miller
[not a first paragraph, but one of Miller's choices]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I don't know what woke me up--I drank no alcohol last night, I observed the carb curfew, I had only one espresso during the day, plus I did a Pilates class and hours of gardening in the fresh air--but I'm definitely awake now. Wide awake.
Rachel Johnson

I love Rachel Johnson's punctuation stylings. I write similarly. I wonder if she also uses too many !!!!? I read somewhere that you are only allowed two in a lifetime...

Monday, December 21, 2009


The beach is not the place to work; to read, write, or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down that faded straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points, and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even – at least, not at first.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Sunday, December 20, 2009


He saw each note as it fell from his clarinet. Smooth, stretched, with a smokey luster that made him think of black pearls against a woman's translucent white skin. "If I Had You," it was called, an old tune with a slow, sweet melodic line. Had he ever played this one for her?
Deborah Crombie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


If love had a language, he'd realized it would be this, not words or gestures, but the mellifluous richness he'd heard that summer evening, anchored between the pairs of violins and the bass. The musician seated with his cello tucked between his knees, bent in concentration and intensity of focus that swept and fled, stroked and drew upon man, instrument and bow.
Jeffrey Lent

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Cornelius Engelbrecht invented himself. Let me emphasize, straight away, that he isn't what I would call a friend, but I know him enough to say that he did purposely design himself: single, modest dresser in receding colors, mathematics teacher, sponsor of the chess club, mild-mannered acquaintance to all rather than a friend to any, a person anxious to become invisible. However, that exterior blandness masked a burning center, and for some reason that became clear to me only later, Cornelius Engelbrecht revealed to me the secret obsession that lay beneath his orderly, controlled design.
Susan Vreeland

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


He came on foot. Like a mirage, he rose in a shimmer of heat waves above the winding dirt road leading to our door. I watched him from the shadows of our enclosed porch.

I was fourteen on that hot July day in 1966, would be fifteen in less than a month. I leaned against the porch doorway and squinted into the sun while the last dregs of water drained from the wringer washer behind me...
Donna Milner


When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. Maybe he had been turning towards her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands. There must have been some movement, a gesture, because every person in the living room would later remember a kiss. They did not see a kiss, that would have been impossible. The darkness that came on them was startling and complete. Not only was everyone there certain of a kiss, they claimed they could identify the type of kiss: it was strong and passionate, and it took her by surprise.
Ann Patchett

Monday, November 30, 2009


In 1940 when I was thirty-one and an old maid, while the whole world waited for war, I fell in love with John Berringer.

An office crush. Big deal. Since the invention of the steno pad, a day hasn't gone by without some secretary glancing up from her Pitman squiggles and suddenly realizing that the man who was mumbling "... and therefore pursuant to the above... " was the one man in her life who could ever bring her joy.

So there I was, a cliche with a number 2 yellow pencil: a working girl from Queens who'd lost her heart to the pride of the Ivy League.
Susan Isaacs

The character became more real to me when I heard that Melanie Griffiths was playing her in the movie. Before that I think I fell for the old maid connotation. But, I do not like the movie version because they consolidate the the characters of John Berringer and his son.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Everything you think you know about the world isn't true. Nothing is real, it's all made up. We live in a world of illusion. I'm telling you this up front because I don't want you thinking this story is going to have a happy ending. It won't make any sense out of sadness. It won't redeem humanity in even a small sort of way.
Christopher Barzak

Thursday, November 12, 2009


As most New Yorkers have done, I have given serious and generous thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day. Say someone pushes me onto the subway tracks. Or I get accidentally blown up. Or a woman with a headset and a baby carriage wheels over my big toe, backing me into some scaffolding, which shakes loose a lead pipe, which lands on my skull. What then? After the ambulance, the hospital, the funeral, the trays of cheese cubes on foil toothpicks...
Sloane Crosley

Monday, November 2, 2009


Friday 4th December

Today at half-past two in the afternoon I was acquitted of the murder of my husband.

Five minutes earlier I had known I was to die. The certainty was absolute that what I have lived through in the last half year could only lead to death and a death timed, certain, ritualised...
Elizabeth Ironside

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have been waiting for my husband to die for six years.

Martin has been in a coma ever since he knocked his head --- hard, of course, it's not as though he just bumped it one day and then was (almost) gone forever --- in his studio. First there was an aneurysm, an explosion of sorts in his brain, and then he fell from the ladder he was standing on, fifteen feet up in the air, knocking his head on a painting, another one next to it, the edge of an easel, and finally landing solidly on a paint can, a serene blue oil, that tipped over and spilled forth, mixing with the blood that began to ripple from his head, so when I found him --- oh yes, I found him, when I came back from my morning walk on the waterfront, maybe an hour after the fall, but don't worry, if I had gotten home earlier it wouldn't have made a difference the doctors have told me, he was completely f***ed on impact --- I at first thought he was merely sleeping in a sea of paint, a mix gone bad. (Purple? He hated purple.) It wouldn't have been the first time he had napped on the floor of his studio. He spent nights there sometimes, instead of walking through one doorway, and then another, into our bed.
Jamie Attenberg

Friday, October 2, 2009


Hot thought the Parisians. The warm air of spring. It was night, they were at war and there was an air raid. But dawn was near, and the war was far away. The first to hear the alarm were those who couldn't sleep--the ill and bedridden, mothers with sons at the front, women crying for the men they loved. To them it began as a long breath, like air being forced into a deep sigh. It wasn't long before its wailing filled the sky. It came from afar, from beyond the horizon, slowly, almost lazily. Those asleep dreamed of waves breaking over pepples, a March storm whipping the woods, a herd of cows trampling the ground with their hooves, until finally sleep was shaken off, and they struggled to open their eyes, murmuring, "Is it an air raid?"
Irène Némirovsky

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last. Yet, looking up--into the clouds--I conjure him there: his gray-white hair; his gathered brow; and the zaggy mark (I saw it when lying with him by candlelight and, also, taking our bliss on the sunny moor among curly-cup gumweed and lamb's ear). And I see a zaggy shadow now in the rifting clouds. That mark started like lightning at Ahab's temple and ran not all the way to his heel (as some thought) but ended at Ahab's heart.
Sena Jeter Naslund

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


A warm Friday night in April, the air still and perfumed by lilacs. Emily had to pee. I fingered her leash as she circled and sniffed the ground for whatever peculiar scent would tell her she had found the right spot.
Stephen White

Note: Really, the whole Alan Gregory series is worth reading--chronologically.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate, leading to the drive and for a while I could not enter, the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate, I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.
Daphne DuMauier

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


We are a family that has always been very close in spirit. Our father was drowned in a sailing accident when we were young, and our mother had always stressed the fact that our familial relationships have a kind of permanence that we will never meet with again. I don't think about the family much, but when I remember its members and the coast where they lived and the sea salt that I think is in our blood, I am happy to recall that I am a Pommerory--that  I have the nose, the coloring, and the promise of longevity--and that while we are not a distinguished family, we enjoy the illusion, when we are together, that the Pommeroys are unique...
John Cheever

Sunday, August 2, 2009


It isn't until several days after the accident that Lottie lets herself--makes herself--think about it. Think about how it was for all of them, for Cameron and Elizabeth, and for Jessica.

What she imagines is that Cameron must have been certain, right up until the moment he turned the car into the driveway, that he could get control again, that he could win Elizabeth back.
Sue Miller

Thursday, July 30, 2009


A new lens passed over everything she saw, the shadows moved on the wall like skeletons handing things to each other. Her body was flung back over a thousand beds in a thousand other rooms. She was undergoing a revolution, she felt split open. In her mattress there beat the feather of a wild bird.

Where were you all this time? she said. Where have you been?

I guess far away.

Yes you were. Too far away.

They sat in silence.

You know you frightened me a little, she said. At the beginning.


You did.

He smiled at that.
Susan Minot

The book is SO much better than the movie, although the movie was good...

Monday, July 20, 2009


Neither of the two men trusted the other, but that, after all, was the nature of the business.

Anxious to get started, uncomfortably close, they faced one another in the semidarkness, each with a shoulder pressed against the exit door to the roof. The tight, airless space at the top of the fire stairs barely concealed them, and they strained to keep apart, to maintain the few inches separating them during the long wait.
A.J.  Zerries

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The Chinese have a curse, "May you live in interesting times." As curses went, Cora felt that this was truly the best she'd every heard. Not that she was particularly fond of curses, but in her opinion this one was eminently applicable, far superior to the generic "Go to hell" or the cheery "Break a leg" or even the medieval "A pox on your house." For many years she had thought that this first, favorite curse had actually gone, "May you have an interesting life," and she had like that version also, but then, an interesting life didn't encompass as large a radius as these interesting times...
Carrie Fisher

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I have this boyfriend who comes to visit me--it's mostly a sex thing. Unless I visit him, in which case it's mostly a babysitting thing. I'm not sure which turns me on more. You don't think of British Jews, if you happen to know any--and I didn't until Daniel Jacobs--as world-class lovers, but he must be an exception, or it could be the antidepressants he takes, which not only keep the blues at bay...
Elizabeth Benedict