waiting room jitters

You know those old movies where the father is smoking one cigarette after another while he paces the waiting room? Sterile white hospital, a couple other tired looked men who need shaves.

Then the nurse comes out and announces whatever it is, and his face lights up. Gee, he sez. That’s swell. He’s happy; no reviewers around the corner waiting to spring details of the delivery or newborn on him with pithy commentary. Now they just have to go home and raise the kid.

For some reason I’m feeling very anxious Tied to the Tracks. I am more nervous about this book than I can remember ever being about any other book. There are some obvious reasons for that, but they are really too easy to be the whole story.

Now see, I’m not asking for sympathy. I have nothing to complain about; in fact, career wise, I’m pretty well off. It’s hard to get review space these days, so when I tell you there was a two line blurb in the Washington Post, you should remember that sometimes there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Because those two lines? Not nice. My agent called to paraphrase and it went something like this: run of the mill chiclitromance; completely predictable.

I don’t suppose you’re surprised to find out that the Washington Post is disdainful about anything that smacks, no matter how faintly of (whisper it) romance. Now, I don’t think the ending is completely predictable (there are a number of endings, and some of them go interesting places), but that’s beside the point. And what was the point again?

Oh yeah. To the WP, being able to predict the ending of a novel is a mortal sin, and thus am I cast into the fires of wapostian hell.

But Booklist loves Tied to the Tracks, and Booklist is all about librarians, and I hold librarians and libraries in much higher regard than WaPo, so I’m fine. Really. No need to worry about me, nosirreee.

Oh, and the person who went to Barnes and Noble and was told they didn’t have it? They do have it, or will. but I’m glad you’re calling Village Books. They are nice people, and deserve support. However, if you do try to buy it someplace and they don’t have it, would you send me an email and let me know? My editor needs to be kept in the loop on that kind of thing.

Finally: in a month or so I want to post about the theory of the Super Duper Magical Negroes (those litcriterati, such wags. such players with language). Because I have been thinking about this, and I have come to the conclusion that Curiosity is not a SDMN. Nor is Miss Zula Bragg. But I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

Link via RydraWong via the Radiant Robyn Bender.

books out of mind

One of the bonuses of cataloging all our books is running into stories I haven’t thought about in a while. Today I came around a corner and there was Rebecca. Du Maurier’s Rebecca, of Manderley.

Now, there’s a well done first person narrative.

Question: How can I have gone so long without re-reading this novel? It feels like going to a class reunion and running into somebody who was once a wonderful friend, somebody you haven’t seen or really thought about for years. How sad, that long absence. How nice to see her again.

Of course with this lovely bonus comes a downside, and that is the height of my to be (re) read pile. Which reminds me of a panic dream I had when I was studying for my doctoral exams. A recurring panic/anxiety/holyshitexams dream.

In the basement of the main library at Princeton there are study carrels. Something like a walk-in closet, with a sliding door. Glass window in the door and next to it. Just enough room for a long desk-like slab, two chairs side by side (sometimes people actually had to share these closet-carrel thingies). Four long shelves for books, right to the ceiling.

Dead quiet in the bowels of Firestone Library. Florescent light that made everything seem slightly Brazil-like (I’m thinking of the movie, either you know it or you don’t). Studying sixteen plus hours at a go, you could forget what time of day it was, if it was day at all. People stumbled around at three in the morning, mostly so other people would see how studious and unkempt they were.

In this dream I was sitting in my carrel studying. Every surface covered with books. The door open, for fresh air (or what passed for fresh air down there). Suddenly I look up and realize that the sliding door has slid shut. And, what a lovely touch: there are now bars on the windows, and a slot in the door.

Footsteps coming down the hall, and the sound of a cart being pushed. Dinner, I think. The slot is pushed open, and books start coming in. Fast. So fast I can’t grab them, and they start to cascade across the floor. I’m up to my knees in books. I scream: STOP. I CAN’T KEEP UP.

The cascade stops.

From the other side of the door comes a woman’s voice. Calm, authoritarian, inflexible:

Now of course I don’t have to read faster, even though my pile of books is growing by leaps and bounds. Because nobody is going to sit me down in a chair and ask me to talk about the editorial history of Grimms Deutsches Woerterbuch or how to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European consonants or to outline the underpinnings of a theory of universal grammar. If I feel like it, I might tell you about Rebecca after I’ve re-read it. Maybe. If I feel like it. And you promise not to quiz me.

Back to work. And I just remembered an even better anxiety/panic dream. Tomorrow, maybe.

spam spam spamalot, and other things

1. I have closed the comments on all the posts in the s3xs3enes posts, which seems to have helped a lot with the bandwidth/spam problem. For now I’ll leave it at that.

2. There’s this theory of mine: if those people who sit around and figure out ways to get around spam filters put their combined intellect together, maybe they could buy a cup of coffee.

3. Jenny Crusie has a huge long post on her weblog about how great Spamalot was, which she just saw, on Broadway. When we were in Manhattan this summer we couldn’t get anywhere near Spamalot tickets. Well, we could have but at about $400 a pop. Not that I’m jealous or envious or anything small and green like that. Nosirree, not me.

On other fronts, a character is telling me now that she doesn’t want dogs. She was supposed to have dogs, but she’s most insistent that she has no dogs of her own, but fosters rescued dogs until they’re ready to be adopted to permanent families.

But wait, I said to her and she said: no.

These characters, they think they own the joint.

Selah's map

I had an interesting email regarding Selah Voyager’s plot line in Lake in the Clouds from Melissa, who is a handweaver, a compulsive knitter and an embellisher (in part):

I was fascinated by the runaway slave woman’s skirt/map in Lake in the Clouds.  Can you tell me anything about the source of this idea?  Have you ever seen one, or seen photos, or was it an idea, a likely thing to have existed? 

I wondered when somebody might ask me about this. The idea for Selah’s skirt/map came from a controversy in quilting history. The original theory, put forth in a book called Hidden in Plain View : A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad (Raymond G. Dobard & Jacqueline L. Tobin) claims (in brief) that runaway slaves exchanged information about the routes north by means of codes in quilt blocks. Recent research into this seems to indicate that there’s little basis in fact, and that the quilt code might best be thought of as a folk story. Hart Cottage Quilts has a good essay about the whole topic here.< I liked the idea of women using textiles to communicate with each other, and so I adapted it for Selah's journey out of Manhattan by having her sew a map onto her skirt.

Textile history is something that has always interested me (Martha Ballard’s diary is a treasure trove of such information), and I am very active myself in mixed media textile art and (to a lesser extent) quilting. I do write regularly for Quilting Arts Magazine. A little known fact: the detail from a crazy quilt seen on the cover of the Premiere issue (about to be reissued, by the way) is my work.