Monthly Archives: February 2008

How to catch a really bad book

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As per usual, I’m sitting here slogging through the manuscript. I am refusing to entertain questions about how much progress I’ve made—I’d like to keep that to myself until I see a complete draft, thanks for asking—but you may rest assured that progress of some sort is happening, if only by virtue of the sheer number of hours I spend starting at this here computer screen.

It can be tedious at times, especially when I have to write about books that hold absolutely no interest for me. I do not, and I say this with no slight intended toward the many fine women entrepreneurs out there, I do not give a shit about starting my own business. And the work is tedious when I have to write about books that I would not be caught dead reading.

For instance:

Chicken Soup for the Mother & Daughter Soul: Stories to Warm the Heart and Honor the Relationship

I love my mom. My mom loves me. But given the choice between jumping from a skyscraper or reading this book, I would take the skyscraper. I rather suspect that Mom would be plummeting right along with me.

Or:

Men Are Like Fish: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Catching a Man

This is the sort of title that makes me want to carry a cyanide capsule, just in case. One could argue, very convincingly, that I could benefit from some education in the “catching a man” arena; one could further argue that I could benefit from education in the “catching a woman” arena, too. I can offer no defense as to these criticisms. But I stubbornly refuse to have any truck with that sort of drivel.

How do I know it’s drivel if I haven’t read it? Well, see, Amazon has this handy “search inside” feature, which permits me to sample enough of the book to get a really good feel for it. Consider this quote from the introduction:

“It is more the woman than the man who holds the power in a love relationship. Women accomplish this by driving men crazy with desire, keeping them emotionally hooked (with her womanliness, sweetness, peacefulness, warmth, charm, maternal wisdom, honesty, spontaneity, elegance, and human ideals), and moving their hearts toward the spiritual fulfillment of true love.”

Ignore, for the moment, the heterosexist assumption that a love relationship takes places between a man and a woman. Let’s scrutinize this, shall we?:

“It is more the woman than the man who holds the power.” Goodness me, I thought every relationship was different! Here I was thinking that power was shared by both people, that either partner was capable of wielding more power. Next time I meet a battered woman, I’ll be sure to criticize her for having let the man beat her; it was a silly decision on her part, considering that she held more power in the first place.

“Driving men crazy with desire.”
And if she doesn’t, I guess it’s a failed relationship. Any couple that is not sleeping together daily must be doing something wrong.

“Keeping them emotionally hooked.” Great metaphor, really empowering. Women have to what, snare men? Nice use of violent, manipulative imagery. I can really get behind that.

“Her womanliness.” Guess I need to stop laughing at fart jokes.

“Sweetness.” I’ll just keep all my cynicism and wittiness and verve to myself—nevermind that those are the qualities that make me, you know, me.

“Peacefulness.” Fantastic. I am capable of peacefulness, but… he isn’t? I guess all men really ARE aggressive macho louts.

“Warmth.”
I kept the windows open while it snowed the other night. Whoops.

“Charm.” Oddly—and this is a complete puzzle to me—no one finds my puns to be charming. “Nauseating” would be a more accurate choice.

“Maternal wisdom.” Ah haha haha ahhahha haha haha ha ha ha ha.

“Honesty.” It always backfires when I try to be honest. “I have a really low libido”—that one reels ‘em in, you betcha. “I don’t like to watch movies. Or television.” Guaranteed to land me a date.

“Spontaneity.”
You’re asking the list-making, detail-oriented, three-calendar-keeping, lifelong obsessive-compulsive to be spontaneous?

“Elegance.” Right now I am wearing a ratty old t-shirt, no bra, and pajama pants with holes in them. My hair is a rat’s nest. I have four, count’em four, beverage containers on my desk here, all of them dirty. There are cat toys strewn about the house; there is stray cat litter lurking on every horizontal surface, and possibly some of the vertical ones; I have only dusted once in my life, as an experiment—turns out I didn’t like it. All this, and you expect elegance?

“Human ideals.” I’ve got some fine human ideals, if I do say so myself. Which means that I would never, ever, ever get involved with someone who did not share those human ideals. Why should human ideals be a selling point for me, but not for him?

“Moving their hearts toward the spiritual fulfillment of true love.” The purple prose, it is killing me.

Okay, so I just took rather a lot of time to explain why I dislike certain aspects of working on my manuscript, though it was a remarkably satisfying exercise, for me at least.

That said: I’m starting to really get into this Women’s Nonfiction thing. Some of the books are wretched, but some of them are really enjoyable, or educational, or both.

And it dawned on me the other day that, golly, I’m becoming an expert. I am on my way to becoming a leading scholar of Women’s Nonfiction. Take that with a grain of salt, now. It’s easy to be a leading scholar when there are no competitors. Still though, I’m developing a nice little niche. Combine this unusual area of study with my propensity for puns and my complete inability to keep a clean house, and you have the epitome of the charming, elegant, spontaneous woman. Who has a keen maternal instinct.

Fruit of the vine

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Editor’s note: Our regular content editor, The Lesbrarian, is inexcusably unable to perform her regularly scheduled task of updating the blog. This is her day off (not because the library is closed for Presidents’ Day, goodness no; it’s only because she worked the weekend that she gets to stay home today) and she is, rather embarrassingly, tipsy. She would be working on her book but it would be imprudent for her to annotate titles while under the influence of alcohol. She didn’t mean to get schnookered, but Nebudchadnezzar came over to visit his kitty, and he came bearing a bottle of Merlot. This is completely not her fault.

Besides, the editor is enjoying her break from Ralph Vaughn Williams. She loves RVW, don’t get her wrong; he is arguably her favorite twentieth-century composer, though Shostakovich gives him a run for his money. But the point here is that, whilst composing text for her manuscript, the editor cannot listen to music with lyrics. She gets too distracted. Hence she has been listening to a lot of classical music during the composition of her book, with a recent emphasis on Vaughan Williams. But while entertaining her guest she put on Tom Waits, followed by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Christ A’mighty it’s been nice to have some late-twentieth-century tunes interrupting her regular routine.

At any rate, The Lesbrarian does not feel comfortable working on her manuscript, not until she sobers up a little more. Nor does she feel entirely confident in driving a car to Food Loin for the groceries she so desperately needs. She could walk to Farm Fresh, of course, but her grocery bill would be higher there. Instead, will supervise the composition of the interview, below, during the time it takes her to regain sobriety.

An interview with Jessica Kennedy-Rockefeller

For the past several months, internationally-acclaimed celebrity superstar Jessica Kennedy-Rockefeller has fallen off the radar. Neither the major media outlets—the newspapers, the magazines, the television stations—nor the independent press have been able to keep up with her.

“I’m guess I’m just good at disappearing,” laughs Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller, in her exclusive interview with The Lesbrarian. She is settled comfortably into her beat-up second-hand couch from the Salvation Army (“Why should I give my money to corporate businesses when I could help the needy?” she explains).  She’s wearing her favorite pair of jeans (“Three bucks at the thrift store”), a hand-me-down t-shirt, and no make-up (“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable with my beauty,” she explained to the interviewer).

“But what caused you to go underground?” we asked.

“Oh—a variety of reasons,” she replies. “I had work to accomplish. I didn’t need the paparazzi, the media, the public, not these past few months. There were things to do.”

Such as?

“You know, the usual,” she says. “Starting orphanages. Saving baby seals from oil spills. Distributing condoms in Africa.”

Sounds like Jessica Kennedy-Rockefeller has been up to her old tricks, saving the world from its direst social ills. But what about her obligations, her duties closer to home?

“Well, there’s the book, of course. I suppose you’ve heard of it.”

Of course we have. The press has never seen such a frenzy over the anticipation of a forthcoming manuscript, not since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“Don’t you worry about the book,” she says. “It’s practically finished. In fact, I could send it off to my publisher today, and it would be ready for print, wouldn’t even need editing. But I’ve decided to hang on to it till my deadline, just in case I discover additional books that need annotating.”

What about your busy social calendar at home, we asked?

“That’s been difficult,” she confessed. Is that a tear in her eye? “I hate to disappoint my stateside friends. I’ve missed any number of social galas, charity fundraisers, and high-profile dates these past few months. I’m sure the tabloids are upset!” [She breaks into laughter, gracing the atmosphere with her infectious chuckles.] “Seriously: I had to do a lot of soul searching, but my closest friends understand that I can’t always be in Wilhelmsplatz. As an ambassador to the world, I sometimes need to spend my time with the underprivileged. I can’t always live in the height of luxury in my 900-square-foot apartment.”

And her fashion followers? What words of consolation does she have for them?

“Ooh, that’s a toughie.” Again she breaks into peals of laughter. “No one else has quite my flair for style, I admit it. But what can I say? There are two thrift stores within easy walking distance; how can I not give my dollars to the DAV and the CHKD?  It’s not my fault if I always luck into fashionable finds. Sure, I could spend more than five dollars for any given outfit—but then I wouldn’t have nearly so much money to donate to charity!  Some would contend that shopping at thrift stores limits my wardrobe potential. Rubbish, I say; shopping at thrift stores forces me to expand my creative horizons, allowing me to find treasures in unlikely places.”

Ahh, Jessica Kenney-Rockefeller. Social responsibility, scholarly savvy, and fashion sense, all in one remarkable human being. How can any of us aspire to her panache?

“Well, you could marry a national leader,” she says, completely straight-faced. “It worked for Jackie Kennedy. It worked for Princess Di.”

Editors’ note: The remainder of the interview is, essentially, insubstantial. JKR needed to hurry to the grocery store, since the only thing edible in her house was a frozen veggie burger of questionable age. And The Lesbrarian, being restored now to sober spirits, was unable to continue monitoring the interview, in light of her duties to the manuscript. But the interview concluded on a positive note; Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller has agreed to give The Lesbrarian exclusive interview rights, starting immediately. Trust no other sources! Turn here, and only here, for all your Kennedy-Rockefeller needs.

Time keeps on slipping

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If there are any mad scientists, genius physicists, or space/time-continuum hobbyists reading this blog, please make yourself known. I’m looking for a time machine. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy, I don’t need frills or classy décor or good gas mileage, just something functional to get me back and forth through time. Used is fine.

Reason I need a time machine is that I’d like some breathing room while I finish writing the book. Like, right now, I’ve just come home from a Saturday at work. I was at the county library, which usually has a slower pace than the one in town, and there were certainly some dry spells—but even so, the patrons kept me busy enough that I’m sorta tired now that I’m home. I’d like to kick back with a glass of wine and a good book (even a Women’s Nonfiction book, if necessary), but considering the ever-closer deadline, I shouldn’t squander the evening.

A time machine, now, that would fix everything. I could work on the book at my leisure. Or here, I’ll make a deal with you: If a traditional time machine is asking too much, I could make do instead with a time suspender. I don’t need to travel backward or forward in time, really; I just need the rest of the world to freeze while I finish the manuscript.

Money’s kind of tight but I could come up with a decent down payment. Or I could rent. Or, if you’re feeling generous, you could make a gift of the time machine for my birthday coming up in April.

(For those of you keeping score at home, you have surmised correctly: I am writing this purely for the sake of procrastinating. I do not, as a matter of actual fact, have anything to write about today. One could argue that I do not have anything to write about on ANY day, but this time the dearth of interesting material is especially acute. This will be painfully obvious within the course of the next two or three paragraphs. Or maybe it’s already obvious. It is, isn’t it.)

So last Tuesday I voted in a primary. I’ve never voted in a primary before. I’ve never felt the need. Since I’ve been of age to vote, the Democrats have never presented any candidates worth fussing over. One has always been approximately as good as the other.

Am I really a Democrat? Well, yes, mainly. I suppose I might conceivably vote for a Republican at some point in my life, though it doesn’t seem likely. I give props to the Republicans for having better financial sense than I do, and in some ways I prefer their tendency toward small government.

But then again, sometimes I like big government. Global warming, for instance, will not be significantly addressed by small government or committed individuals. (Not that this prevents me from doing my part. I recycle, I save energy, I try to live a green lifestyle.) Global warming will only be lessened if big governments at the international level get their acts together.

On the other hand, there are some areas where the government should keep its nose out. In my state, the government has made clear who I can marry, based on—and it’s just ridiculous when you look at it like this—based on whether the individual in question has a different chromosome than what I have.

So there’s an instance where I’d like to see absolutely no government interference. If the Republican party could apply its preference for small government to the institution of marriage, I’d be far more sympathetic.

But aside from getting tetchy about government intrusion in certain areas, and aside from recognizing that Republicans have better financial sense than I do, I pretty much prefer the Democrats. Actually I think I’d make a fine Socialist, but socialism isn’t a viable party in America, so it’s the Democrats for me. It’s the best a social liberal can do in this country.

Oh, the Democrats. They make me cry. It’s so hard being a Democrat. Consider: during the past two presidential elections, the best they could come up with was Al Gore and John Kerry. The best they could come up with was not, and this is just humiliating, the best they could come up with was not good enough to defeat George W. Bush.

And then, wham, along comes 2008 and they have TWO fantastic candidates. Three, actually; I’ve always liked John Edwards. I have a photo of me standing next to him, but you’re just going to have to take my word on that, because I look really awful in the photo and there’s no way I’m ever going to let anyone see it.

So I spent all of last Tuesday hemming and hawing over which candidate I should vote for. I’d gladly vote for Hillary, if for no other reason than to get Bill Clinton back in the White House. There’s a lot about Hillary that I don’t like, but in the final analysis, I admire her and I think she’s be an excellent president. She has more experience than Barack, and that counts for a lot. She’s probably the more sensible choice.

It wasn’t until I was waiting in line at the polling place that I finally decided to vote for Barack. Hillary is more experienced, but there’s just something about Barack that makes my political heart flutter. (I tried explaining this to Alyosha. He just rolled his eyes. “It’s not like I’m not voting for a Beatle,” he said—and then voted for him anyway.)

What it finally came down to is that Barack represents something new and exciting and refreshing. He hasn’t proven himself like Hillary has, but the potential is there. I decided that, just once in my life, I’d like to be able to cast a vote for someone who really gives me a tingly feeling.

If Hillary gets the nod, I will gladly vote for her in November, with no regrets. But at least I was able to vote for a candidate who makes me feel warm and happy. It’s a much better feeling than my “Well at least he’s not Bush” votes from the past two presidential elections.

Mmmkay. Enough of that. Everyone else is writing about politics these days, and though it kills me to say this, you can find better political writing elsewhere. But can you find better writing anywhere else about Jessica Kenndy-Rockefeller? I think not! I suspect she’ll be making an appearance in the next post; it’s been a long while since she graced us all with her presence. Stay tuned!

The Almighty Dollar and the Almighty God

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My salary as a full-time librarian is right around $42k per year.

I am not shy about saying this. Anyone can look at salary information for local library positions, and for other local positions, too. (I don’t know what a Code Compliance Director is, but for $109,755, I’m willing to learn.)

Many people hesitate to discuss salaries. It’s something of a taboo. It’s not very classy—you wind up boasting or whining, depending on who you discuss it with. But when everyone knows everyone else’s paycheck, there can be no secrets. The CEO of a company might not want folks to realize that all his female employees earn less than all his male employees, so he has a good reason to encourage secrecy about salaries. The female employees, however, deserve to know if their earnings are comparable to those of their male counterparts.

I’m very relieved to work within a large structure where pay ranges are predetermined. My race and sex don’t play a factor in my starting salary.

My race and sex played a role in my getting hired, of course, possibly a positive one (“Ah! She looks like the rest of us!”), possibly a negative one (“Crikey, like we need another white female around here.”) No matter how unbiased the interviewer, no matter how much the interviewer tries to ignore it, race and sex do have influence. It’s human nature. We simply cannot ignore things we see. Religious and political beliefs can be hidden, but the way we look, smell, and sound will always be apparent in any given human interaction.

Learning when to actively consider race and sex and when to downplay them—ah, that’s a tricky proposition. Should we consider race and sex when we evaluate the two Democratic presidential nominees? The answer is complicated, but then again, so is life. If it were easy to process and comprehend race and sex, then racism and sexism wouldn’t be so pervasive and complex, now would they.

Where was I? Right—I got hired, and I knew exactly what pay grade I was stepping in to. Low 40s with the expectation of a raise every year (except, well, maybe not in recession years, but let’s not talk about that right now).

This is doable. I have health care, shelter, food, and yoga classes. I have no human dependents, three feline dependents, and a hell of a lot of student debt, but I’m slowly paying it off. I have my head in the sand about retirement savings, I don’t go anywhere on vacations (maybe someday?), and I sincerely doubt that I will ever be able to purchase a house. Because I live a frugal lifestyle, I manage okay. I don’t get compensated nearly what I’m worth in terms of my education or job performance, but that’s because I’m a librarian. The female-intensive professions (librarianship, social work, and education) are terribly underpaid, but I knew that when I applied to library school. I chose this on purpose.

And, while the cost of living in Wilhelmsplatz is certainly on the high side, my $42k goes a lot further than the salaries bestowed on librarians in more rural systems. There are library directors in Vermont who don’t get health benefits. There are library directors in North Carolina who start at $25,000. And if you don’t have a master’s degree in library science? Golly, right here in this state you can find yourself earning about $8 per hour to work as a librarian, doing all the same sorts of work I do, only in much worse conditions.

Compared to that, I can’t complain. I can complain generally about society’s tendency to undervalue library jobs, but I know that my position is far more comfortable than that of many other librarians. Just look at the county south of me for an eye-opening experience. (Hi, Queen of Claremont!)

Still though, I’m not rolling in dough. That’s why I supplement my salary with occasional writing gigs. (Anybody want to pay me to maintain this blog? Please?) Even last year I was still willing to write articles for the professional development and the, uh, sheer joy of scholarly writing, but I believe I’ve had enough of that. I’m to the point where I’d like to get paid for articles I write, please and thank you.

Speaking of getting paid for articles I write, I’m anticipating a check in the mail for the read-alike piece on John Irving I just finished. And speaking of John Irving, I may as well make good on a promise I made a while back, to talk about my response to A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Owen Meany is a modern retelling of the Christ story. It features Irving’s impeccable flair for storytelling, a marvelous mid-twentieth-century New England setting, and absolutely compelling characters. There are heavy themes of religion, spirituality, war, and duty. To call it “thought-provoking” is a serious understatement.

A brief interlude, now, while I summarize my own religious and spiritual beliefs. I was raised in the Lutheran church, but I’ve only attended church a handful of times since I was seven. I still maintain a Christian faith, but I hesitate to announce that without disclaimers. My version of Christianity is not reflected in any of the mainstream Christian churches; I don’t want anyone making incorrect assumptions about my beliefs, so I generally hush up about religion unless I have an audience willing to listen to the whole story.

Want a ferinstance? Mmmkay, here’s one: I’m a pagan Christian. I have a Christ-based faith, but the practices and beliefs of (most) pagan religions resonate with me. I worship nature as a facet of God’s creation. Except sometimes I call him Goddess, depending on my mood. Neither one is entirely accurate, since the divine transcends gender and sex, but I have a limited vocabulary, so it’s the best I can do.

Another example: I don’t take the bible literally. It’s a holy text, good for getting the gist of the Christian religion, but I ignore certain passages and actively dispute others. I do not take the bible as the be-all, end-all key to Christianity. Sorry.

And another: I don’t think that Christ is the only way into heaven. Christianity provides a good religious context for many people. It doesn’t work so well for other folks. Religion is a great channel for spirituality, and I generally don’t care which religion people pick. They don’t even have to pick a religion at all. From my perspective, the important thing is that people develop their spirituality and work toward the divine. (And even if they don’t—even if they’re hardcore atheists—I think there’s a good chance they still get into heaven. Haven’t fully developed my stance on that one yet. Give me time. Though allow me to take this opportunity to complain about atheists who think that us religious folks are stupid, or deluded, or flighty. They really piss me off.)

To me, a good religion is one that focuses on social and ethical responsibility while guiding people toward a higher power. If a particular figurehead—the Christ, the Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster—helps people work toward those goals, so much the better.

D’you begin to see why I haven’t attended church in twenty years? I’m a heretic, I am.

So I’m more or less comfortable with my irregular, probably-unique approach to religion and spirituality. But recently I had an epiphany, one that makes everything so much better.

My epiphany came from Owen Meany.

Remember how I said I didn’t take the bible all that seriously? This is partly because of the unreliability of the text. No one today, I mean no one, knows what the original authors wrote. Everything is a translation of a translati
on of a transcription of (literally) God-alone-knows-what. Read Misquoting Jesus if you don’t believe me.

Translation errors notwithstanding, my other problem with the bible is that it doesn’t really speak to me. Jesus’ parables were all well and good for uneducated fishermen, but I am an educated librarian. Simplistic, easy-to-grasp stories do not ignite my soul.

I’m not just picking on the bible. Fables, philosophical musings, business writings—no matter what the subject, if it’s parsed into bite-size morsels for mass consumption, it’s probably not going to resonate with me. This is why I go absolutely bat-shit when Yoga Instructor Jennifer reads yoga philosophy to us while we’re supposed to be meditating. I go bat-shit internally, of course, so as not to disturb my classmates—but rest assured, while I’m supposed to be seeking enlightenment, I’m more likely to be fantasizing about committing the perfect murder. (I enjoyed this fantasy in class just the other night. Don’t worry, I’m not going to act on it.)

For true inspiration, I need complicated, lengthy, abstract writing. The process of understanding difficult texts makes my brain jump into gear, and then wham! Instant inspiration! That’s why The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite book ever. It’s over one thousand pages of nearly incomprehensible, convoluted Russian writing on philosophy, religion, and morality.

So Owen Meany, like I said, is a Christ story. John Irving’s book illuminated facets of the religion that I never saw while reading the bible. It’s like the gospels, only I understood it better.

My epiphany went like this: I was really liking the title character, except I was dismayed by some of his actions. Owen acted like a real jerk at times.

“That’s not very Christ-like,” I said to Alyosha.

“Sure it is,” he said.

Eh? What? Christ is perfect, right?

“That’s what they told you in Sunday School when you were seven,” he answered smugly.

“But… but…”

“Oh, come on,” said Alyosha. “Remember when Jesus yelled at a fig tree for not bearing fruit, even though it wasn’t in season?” (No, but that’s mighty interesting.) “Or when he turned over the money-lenders’ tables?”

So that set me to reconsidering my image of Jesus. Long story short, I’ve concluded that he wasn’t perfect, after all. Son of God? You betcha. Completely without sin? …Nope, I don’t think so, not anymore. He had a temper. He got frustrated. He was a great person, quite possibly the greatest who has ever lived, but he sometimes acted in ways that weren’t, well, Christ-like. He was human, just like you or me. He had the spirit of God acting in him in a way that the rest of us don’t, but he was still a flesh-and-blood man with all of the crappy emotional proclivities that entails.

And that alone makes me even happier with my religious choice. Following Christ is much easier for me to swallow, now that I can conceive of him as an actual person who had actual choices. His struggles are so much more real to me, this way. I’d rather follow a real person who struggled with his fate than someone who, let’s face it, knew all along everything that would happen and never considered disobeying his God.

Gonna try to get some more work on the book done, now, before an angry mob shows up to burn me at the stake.

Rolling donut

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Okay. I am nowhere, nowhere near finished with the book. If I write nonstop during all of my spare time between now and then end of May, I…. well, honestly, even at that rate I probably don’t have a prayer of meeting my first deadline, but let’s be optimistic: If I write nonstop between now and the end of May, I will just barely meet my first deadline.

As I have never missed a deadline in my life and I don’t intend to start doing so now, I suppose I had just better stick to this nonstop writing gig. (Ignore, for the moment, that I am using precious spare time to compose this blog post.)

This weekend I have been dutifully writing nonstop, though I confess I have made time for a few essential interruptions. I had to. That is what “essential interruption” means. I had no choice in the matter

In completely unrelated news, my definition of “essential” has expanded recently. Let’s take this as a sign of personal and emotional growth, shall we? My ability to redefine concepts is a sign of maturity. I am embracing change, doncha know.

This weekend’s essential interruptions have included the preparation of my taxes (the state will be sending me a refund of six cents, count’em one two three four five six cents), the vacuuming of my floor, the emptying of the litter boxes, the stretching of my inner groin muscles (sounds naughty, but wasn’t; I was working on a yoga move that I can’t achieve yet), and the taking of a nap on Saturday afternoon. I am VERY well-rested this weekend. There’s nothing like a specter of writing a book to keep me in bed. Actually, I’ll use just about any excuse to stay in bed. I love being asleep. But this is getting absurd.

At any rate, I’ve had it up to here with Women’s Nonfiction. I can now safely say that I despise it. At this point I am craving fiction that has nothing, whatsoever, to do with women. I want to read made-up stories about men pumped up on testosterone, men blowing things up, men beating the shit out of each other. I mean I am to the point where I would read Tom Clancy.

Well—okay, I’m kidding about that, but I swear I’ll scream the next time I see the words “emotional journey” or “reflections on womanhood” or “spiritual discovery.” I will scream, I will scream loudly, and you want to know the worst part? I’ll probably be typing those words myself. The only thing worse than reading a book of women’s nonfiction is annotating it, and that’s all I do with my time anymore.

Speaking of which, if anyone has any useful synonyms for the following list, I will offer to be your personal slave for the rest of your natural life. Ahem:

  • engrossing
  • captivating
  • fascinating
  • illuminating
  • delightful
  • compelling
  • excellent
  • remarkable

Like zombies whose brains haven’t been destroyed, these eight adjectives keep recurring in the annotations I write. They won’t go away. They won’t die. They are ever-present and eternal, slowly but surely sucking away my will to live.

So at the library the other day, a patron wandered up and asked, completely deadpan, if I could answer the question of evil. Deadpanning right back at him, I said I might need a little time on that.

The next day, and I bet you anything he wasn’t expecting this, the next day I saw the same patron, so I marched right on up with four texts in my hand: some essays by Michel de Montaigne, some religious reflections by Nazi victim Dietich Bonhoeffer, the first part of Sigrid Undset’s fantastic trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, and—are you anticipating me here?—The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“Sorry about the Western bias,” I said, “but these books go a long way toward explaining the problem of evil.”

“Is there anything about you,” the patron asked shortly thereafter, “that isn’t adorable?”

The revolution has started. Soon all of my patrons will recognize that, yes, I am completely adorable. Now if only I can get my coworkers to follow suit.

Last night after yoga I did an unusual thing. I went to the drugstore to pick up more hair dye. That in itself isn’t unusual, of course; I need to be prepared for the day in the not-very-distant future when my roots start making pests of themselves.

Trips to the drugstore and the grocery store, for those of you who were wondering, constitute essential interruptions to book writing.

I picked that day to go to the drugstore because I had a 20% off coupon burning a hole in my pocket. Maybe it was the influence of the coupon that led me to do the unprecedented: I spent $8.43 on a tube of lipstick.

(Well– $8.43 less twenty percent, whatever that is.)

Understand that I frequently go without makeup. I eschewed it entirely during my teen years. While all the other girls were figuring out how to make themselves pretty, I was determinedly going about in oversize t-shirts and unflattering shorts, with never a hint of makeup. I guess it was some sort of early feminist reaction, with logic something like this:

Given that A) I don’t want to be like those other girls, and given that B) those other girls wear makeup, it logically follows that C) I won’t wear makeup.

I’m still as feminist as I was back then, moreso actually, but now I have the benefit of a Women’s Studies degree under my belt. My opinions on makeup have evolved to the point where I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

I think makeup, or clothing, or any other superficial accoutrement, is a bad, bad idea when it’s done for somebody else. Don’t wear makeup because you think you’re ugly without it. Don’t wear pink fishnets because you want to impress your boyfriend. Those are the wrong reasons.

But if wearing makeup or fishnets or whatever makes you happy, then by all means go for it. If you get to the point where you feel obligated to don accessories, you’ve lost touch with your own aesthetic sense. That’s bad. But if you like to doll yourself up because you enjoy your own reaction to it, then go right ahead.

Not sure if I’m explaining this well, but let me summarize: Makeup, etc., should never be mandatory. Society can’t tell you what to do. Go tell society to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut…. That’s right, tell em, sister!

If you want to wear makeup because you like it, bully for you. The only person you are obliged to please is yourself.

End feminist rant.

Anyway, I’ve progressed to the point now where I don’t see makeup as a symbol of patriarchal oppression. On a lot of other women it is, but on me? I wear makeup because I jolly well want to. Or I don’t wear it. Or whatever. Rolling donut, etc.

But, considering my limited life experience with makeup, and my inherent frugality, I’ve always been the sort to buy lipstick from the dollar bin. I think three dollars is the most I’d ever spent on any cosmetic, till the fateful trip after yoga the other night. With my dashing new hairdo, I figured a new cosmetic approach would be in order.

Oh, before I forget, here’s a recent picture. It’s not great, but it will give you a glimpse of my new look until such point as I take a better photo:

So that’s me these days. Except now imagine that with a deep vampy red eight-dollar lipstick shade. It looks awesome. I mean it. Really.

When Persepolis saw it, she nodded emphatically. Persepolis is one of the two most stylish women I know. If she approves, I
’m doing something right.

The Englishlady told me it looked sexy. The Englishlady is the other most stylish woman I know.

If those two like my lipstick, it was worth every penny of the eight dollars and forty-three cents less twenty percent plus tax.

Except now there’s one other problem.

“If I stay single for the rest of my life, at least we know it’s not because I’m dreadfully ugly!” I said brightly to the Englishlady. She agreed.

And then I realized the enormity of that conclusion.

“That means that… er… if I stay single for the rest of my life it’s…”

“Yes?” asked the Englishlady.

“…it’s because of some horrible personality flaw, and it’s gonna cost a hell of a lot more than eight dollars to fix it.”

I betcha Tom Clancy never gets all fussy over lipstick and relationships and shit. Maybe I should check him out, after all.