Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blog Day Afternoon

It’s late afternoon, Saturday, the day I had set aside to transform myself from bookseller into domestic diva. It started out well enough – did the laundry, changed the bed linen, emptied the dishwasher and made a double batch of tarts for my niece’s wedding shower tomorrow. But no sooner were the “have-tos” done than the Martha Stewart in me took off her apron and headed south. I’m in a decidedly melancholy mood today, brought on by two phone calls and a couple odd things I’ve been thinking about all week.

First, the odd things. I was reading John Allen’s book, Opus Dei, which is about the secret Catholic organization Dan Brown made famous in The Da Vinci Code. To be honest, I thought Allen would serve it up on a gold-plated paten with a side of pap, as he has ties to both the Catholic press and the Vatican, but I was wrong. It’s a pretty even-handed account, which in summation, seems to insinuate that while Opus Dei isn't as heinous as you might think, it's not exactly the local Kiwanis Club either. Of course I may be wrong about that, as my "recovering Catholic" sensibilities recoiled somewhere around page 153 and I never finished the book. I thought about it some, but it frankly it gave me the creeps, so I tossed it into the primeval stew of my subconscious and thought instead about how tortunous it is for me to not finish a book once I start reading it. This led to a memory of the summer I was ten and tried to read every book in the library, but never got past the first shelf of A’s because every time I went back there were always new A’s.

For the rest of the week though every time I passed Opus Dei lying on a table in the family room it caught my eye. First I’d think about the creepiness, then I’d feel a stab of guilt for not finishing it. Then, invariably, I’d remember how ten year old me actually thought she could read herself around the children’s room of the library and a wave of sadness would lap at my feet.

Then this morning Jessica called and somehow we got to talking about my family of origin. We like to rehash stuff we already know, Jessica and I, just in case there might be a nuance we hadn’t chewed over in the last 25 years. There didn’t appear to be, but I still hung up feeling sort of off-kilter. A couple hours later, while I was making the tarts, Laurie called to see how our friend Nancy is recovering from the complications of a hysterectomy. Since the news is good on that front, we wandered off onto a bunch of other topics and finally settled in on me not writing anymore, which led Laurie, whom you may recall is a fellow writer, to launch into a passionate speech about why I need to start.

I wish I could recall exactly what she said because it was really good. I know this because her impassioned speeches about writing are always good. It's just that this time I got sidetracked by the fact that though none of her words implied any of these things, every single one contained in its nucleus Catholicism, guilt, and the innocence of my ten year-old self yearning to read every book in the library.

Pass the primeval stew, please, and hand me a big spoon. This may take awhile.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Cat Who Would Never Make A Book

Not long ago, while I was perusing new fiction at the local library (which is currently being housed in a former DIY store until the massive downtown renovation can be completed), a certain librarian who will go unnamed (Hi, Liz!), filed a complaint with the Blog Department. It seems that this librarian is a secret reader of my blog and wished to lodge her grievance on behalf of Mickey, our former street thug turned Bookcat.

“You never write about the cat,” she accused.

“I do so,” I countered. “There’s even a PICTURE of the cat.”

“Yes, but you never write about the cat. If the name of the blog is Books Art Life And A Cat then it’s only fair that you write about the cat.”

The Blog Department emitted a deep sigh and agreed to write about the cat.

So here I am -- writing about the cat.

Before I begin though, it must first be understood that I am NOT one of those pet owners who takes the cat to get his picture taken with Santa Claus. I do not travel with this cat, nor do I force him to endure the indignity of rhinestone collars. I don’t buy fresh shrimp and albacore tuna for him. I don’t cook his food. I don’t serve him dinner in a crystal bowl and I most emphatically do not coo at him. I talk to him like the cool laid-back guy he is and he greatly appreciates it.

Secondly, it must be understood that even though “they” say that love is blind I’m not buying it. The real deal is that love sees all faults and wades in anyway. So that being said, I harbor no illusions that Mickey’s any smarter, cuter, or more amusing than he actually is. Rest assured that if something were to happen to the ultimate feline sleuth, Koko, Lillian Jackson Braun would not be begging me to let her use Mickey as his stand-in for her next “The Cat Who …” mystery. Koko knocks books off shelves to provide clues to murders. Mick does it because he’s so ungainly he could trip over The Cat In the Hat, never mind War and Peace. Koko escorts unwanted and suspicious guests to the door. Mick, who is incapable of keeping a civil tongue in his head, licks them until they settle back with tea and crumpets. Koko loves to listen to the classics being read aloud. Mick regards the classics as leatherbound mattresses. Koko can read backwards. Mick can’t even read four words.

Bottom line --Mickey is nothing more than a big, loveable goofball who was rescued from the mean streets of suburban Medina and has a few missing teeth to prove it. Which is not to say he isn't a great guy. He is. He keeps a low profile, asks for little, keeps me warm in the winter, makes me laugh, doesn't claw the furniture, understands the purpose of a litter box, plays well with others, and never runs with scissors.

That's it.

Which means that I have now officially written about the cat.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Good "Book Feel"

Every once in awhile a movie comes along that causes me to break Cardinal Rule #1 of Movies -- never watch the same one twice or you’ll never live long enough to see everything you want to. I broke that rule this week and may even break it a bunch more times once I buy my own copy. Of course, such a purchase will be breaking Cardinal Rule #2 of Movies – never, EVER buy the movie, as movies take up space and have to watched in order to justify their existence, which therefore automatically runs amok of Cardinal Rule #1. But I don’t care. I made the stupid rules and I can break them if I want to.

So what’s this great movie causing so much flagrant rule breaking? 84 Charing Cross Road. It’s an oldie based on the book of the same title by Helen Hanff. I’d read it some years back, and though enchanted by the 20 year correspondence between the author in New York City and a British bookseller in London, I was more taken with the situation than the actual letters. But that was before Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins transmitted themselves into both my family room and my heart -- he so genteely and she so NOT. I laughed, I cried, I even clasped my hands like a Victorian lady having a case of the vapors. The latter occurred at the part where Ann rhapsodizes over the joys of a used book – how wonderful it is to have it fall open to the page where the last reader left off, how delightful to be informed by notes, or marks, of the significance of passages you might have skimmed over left to your own uneducated devices, even how a gift inscription is not a flaw, but a part of the book’s unique history.

But what really had me in need of smelling salts was the part where the first parcel of books arrives from across the pond. Anne crashes up the stairs of her walk-up and, once inside the door, falls on the package like a ravenous dog on an untended beef roast. As soon as the first book is released from its packet (which itself is fetchingly tied with string) she’s a goner. Just the feel of it, so much more sensual than its plebian modern counterparts, which to this day tend to be paper over boards with paper jackets, sends her into a swoon of ecstasy.

Right then and there I knew this was the movie for me. It had it all – humor, pathos, intrigue, a touch of romance, and good book feel. Name one other movie with good book feel. You can't. So, Cardinal Rules be damned, I have to buy – I just bought –84 Charing Cross Road.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Deer Stalker

I’ve mentioned before how, for some inexplicable reason, something seemingly innocuous will happen, and I’ll hang on to it like it was my last dime. Well, it happened again and it’s partly why I haven’t written anything new lately. I’ve been trying to figure out why in the world a deer, albeit a gorgeous one, has become my latest mind stalker.

It all began last week when my writer’s group met, as they often do, at my house. I was tidying up a bit before their arrival when I looked out the expanse of bay window in the living room and nearly cut an antique table off at the knees with the Hoover. There, not six feet from the glass, stood a magnificent deer sheltered in a stand of trees. It’s not that we haven’t seen deer in the suburbs before – they flit by on a regular basis these days. What they do NOT do, however, is stand at attention in front of an open window in broad daylight staring at me eyeball to eyeball while the vacuum cleaner’s roaring like a race car engine! Once I got over the surprise I managed to finish cleaning and dash upstairs for a quick shower. At first I hated to run the water for fear of scaring off my visitor, but it didn’t prove to be a problem. In fact, afterwards I even decided to say something to her (never mind what) out the bathroom window. All it elicited was a minimal twitching of the ears.

By the time the writers showed up a full hour had passed and all that had changed is that the deer got tired of standing and had the good sense to sit down. Dandi and Laurie, unlike me, are country girls, so you’d think they’d see this sort of thing all the time, but I guess not, as they were over-the-moon enchanted at the sight. I thought the deer exuded a feminine presence myself, but Laurie, who is decidedly more interested in body parts than I am, was convinced it was a male. I suspect now she was right, as the whole thing ended up being a one night stand. Every afternoon and early evening since, I’ve looked with great expectancy out that same window only to be disappointed.

As I’ve thought about this odd event all week it brought back another event I’d almost forgotten. Some years ago when I wrote a lot for the Akron Beacon Journal Sunday Magazine I was sent on assignment to interview an ex-Dominican nun who purportedly communed with higher beings and was able to conduct conversations with her clients' guardian angels. My friend Jessica, who has always had a yen for psychic dabbling, went along as my assistant. To tell the truth, it was a little disappointing at first. Except for the Egyptian music being played in the background for a cat who was in labor in the laundry room, the angel psychic was about as exotic as a soccer mom. I asked questions, she politely answered. At one point she grabbed a sketchpad and started drawing furiously with colored chalks, but the interview continued seamlessly, so I thought little of it. Wen she finished drawing, she tore off the masterwork, and handed it to me.

I glanced at it and then over at Jessica whose eyebrows by then had shot up to hit her hairline. To the left of the page lay a blue lake, to the right a gazillion trees. A stone path wound through the center bordered by drifts of daffodils. In the foreground a magnificent deer stood at attention gazing straight out at me. Minus the deer, the soccer mom psychic had just whipped off an exact rendering of my backyard!

“Wh-what does this mean?” I asked, a bit disconcerted.

“I don’t know,” came the reply. “It’s yours to figure out.”

And so it was, though I never really did. For a day or so after the interview I tried in a half-hearted sort of way, but then promptly lost the artwork and forgot all about it. Now fifteen years have passed and here I am suddenly thinking about it again. Crazy as it sounds, I have to wonder if the chalk drawing is somehow mystically connected to last week's deer.

I think Carl Jung's been stalking me too.