Tuesday, October 20, 2009

JK8: The Vanity Fair Piece

In an article entitled, "The Unreal Rise of Jon and Kate Gosselin", Vanity Fair weighs in. Not really much new here, but the piece does a good job of encapsulating the whole sad trajectory in VF style. Read it here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mary Pecan Comes Home

Alert readers may remember back in May, this post, that I wrote about both the events following the ice storm and the ex-man's loss of his mother. Back then, I (in an unintentionally dramatic way it turned out) had a real, live tree shipped to him as a memorial that I thought would be special.
Now known to us as Mary Pecan, that tree recently reached sufficient size as to need a more permanent home. Of course, I asked for a photo of Mary in her new outdoor habitat. And every time I look at the picture, I cannot stop thinking of the opening line from "The Giving Tree":
Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Southern Festival of Books, 2009

We walked many miles, we got lost, but eventually we made our way to the Southern Festival of Books (a celebration of the written word) and we had a great time. But we are resolved that next year? Next year we will spend the night like sane people. We will get a hotel and we will map out a strategy and we will attend more sessions, see more writers, take more time. Because, people? There is a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover at the Southern Festival of Books.

We left Paducah at 9:00 (or thereabouts) Saturday morning and, of course, the first order of business upon arriving in NashVegas was, most importantly, lunch. Which for me usually means Noshville and Saturday was no exception. I had the mushroom and barley soup and the toasted walnut and orange and salad. My Mom (right) and aunt Patsy posed for a photo:

And, no, they didn't call each other the night before and agree on striped turtle necks and jackets, that shit just happens all on its own. After lunch, we were in for a VERY long walk to the festival (owing to I forgot to check about were perzactly the plaza is located beyond just "downtown"). Held in War Memorial Plaza and the Tennessee state capitol in NashVegas, the SFOB occupies a fairly sprawling venue better than a city block long that encompasses the capitol legislative chambers at one end, and the library at the other. The event features three days of rotating (for the most part hour-long) sessions with reads from the authors attending, a signing section, books for sale, and book-related vendor tents, among other things. You see Mom and Patsy here mounting the steps to the plaza, the capitol in the background.:
To their left where the columns are, one climbs another set of large steps to another elevated outdoor plaza where the books are sold and signings take place, behind them the venue is bisected by another street and bordered opposite the capitol by the library. Ahead of them you see some of the vendor and food tents. There are other stages that feature musicians and various demonstrations including, this year, cooking. The bulk of the rotating sessions are held in the legislative chambers of the capitol which are woody, cavernous, echoey and historic.

After a lot of dithering, we realized where we needed to be was in the library in order to see a screening of "That Evening Sun" a film starring Hal Holbrook based on a short story by William Gay, a writer with the potential to join the great southern writers, in my opinion (read an excerpt from Gay's novel "Twilight" [obviously not THAT Twilight] here). According to the schedule, not only would the Director of "That Evening Sun", Scott Teems, be present for a talk and questions, but that William himself would too. This, then, was my pick for the coveted 1:00PM activity. For whatever reason, SFOB planners tend to stage all the biggest names at 1:00PM, in other words, at the same time, so girl has to choose. (Please stop this practice, SFOB.) Choosing William and the film meant we had to forgo Elizabeth Berg (owie).

I was expecting, hoping actually, for a good movie and was surprised with a great one. "That Evening Sun" tells the story of a Tennessee farmer, Abner Meecham, (played by Hal Holbrook) who decides to check out of living death in the nursing home and return to his remote Tenneee farm to live out his few remaining years on his own terms. Instead of the quiet homecoming Meecham expects, he returns to find his son has rented his home place to a family of ne'er-do-wells, headed by one Alonzo Choate. The film then tells the story of the face-off between Choate and Meecham. Meecham sets up camp in the tenant's quarters and, as they say, it's "on". See the trailer here.

I've never had the experience of seeing a really good movie and then having the director and, in this case, screenplay writer, present to talk about his (or her) process and thoughts afterward. It was a real treat. I got a huge charge out of Teems sort of pounding the table and describing his passion for authenticity during casting saying he declared, "All southern accents in the film must be AUTHENTIC--or we're sunk!" (the accents were authentic, actually.) Here's a really badly lit photo of Scott Teems (left) and his interviewer.

Sadly, for whatever reason, William Gay himself was not present (wah!! What gives, William?). Still, the talk and q and a was fascinating. That whole experience alone was worth the trip for me.

Afterward, while visiting the main tent for tee-shirt and poster swag, I glanced up to see none other than Silas House shopping for his own tee-shirt right next to me. "You're Silas House!" I sort of squealed, sticking out my hand which he shook saying, "Why, yes. Yes I am."

Of couse, photo!

Silas was one of those rare people who sort of oozes goodness. Alas, I don't believe writers often get treated like rock stars (unless you're JK Rowling).

But they should, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 Southern Festival of Books...THIS weekend.

Shut the front door: William Gay, Silas House, Elizabeth Berg, Rick Bragg. Many, many more. And they're all going to read to you. Plus! Nashvegas in October. The Tennessee state capitol. See the full schedule here. I've been to this event before and these people? That can write really well? Are nearly indistinguishable from the rest of us. You'll sometimes see them just...standing around. See you there.

Lost (But fairly happy about it.)

You should know I have been in a fairly crazy good mood for a while now. It sort of comes and goes, but still, it for the most part stays these days. Case in point: I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. this morning.

I am not a morning person. Not at all. I am one to throw alarm clocks, sleep through Very Important Stuff in the early morning hours and hit “snooze” forty-seven times. I am one not to speak, if at all possible, until 10:00 a.m. If you are speaking to me in a very loud voice and are especially chirpy at dawn, I am liable to reach over with lightening speed, twist your head around on your annoying chirpy little neck until it pops and you drop like a stone, and then blithely step over your lifeless body still squinty-eyed and half asleep on the way to the fridge for a Diet Coke.

This morning, however, though I was not happy to be rising at 5:00 a.m., I also was not overly pissed off either. And by 6:00 a.m.? I almost, practically smiled. Is this what it’s like to crack up? Very pleasant? Do you, without warning, start to enjoy life? Just before you go all Juliette Lewis in the “Come to my Window” video? (P.S. Have you seen Juliette Lewis lately? Will someone please tell me when, in a very, very literal way, she started channeling Janis Joplin and why everyone acts as though this is perfectly normal and like she’s NOT doing a full-on Janis Joplin imitation when she sings?)

Oh, and apropos of nothing: Carrie Fisher. I love Carrie Fisher. But I really, really am going to need her to stop aging. Because, unbeknownst to Carrie, we are twins separated at birth, and every time I see her getting older I know that I am too. This would be very upsetting if I weren't in such a damn good mood these days. (Disclaimer: Carrie is older than me. Technically.)

Speaking of aging. I jumped on my treadmill on Sunday armed with Violet, my new iPod. And, by the way, I just want to interject here that since being recently introduced to the iPod and then getting Violet for my birthday, I am a Changed Woman. I mean, seriously, these iPods are handy! You can totally go on a trip, miss your connection, fly around the country for 16 hours and, long as you've got your iPod, completely tune the rest of the world out. So handy! Also, as I discovered on the treadmill Sunday, Violet is an absolute MUST HAVE for exercising. Thirty minutes of torture just zipped on by with the help of Carlos Santana. Apparently, I hadn't been on the treadmill for a while. If my still-sore ass two days later is any indication. But my point is: iPods. Get one. And, remember, you heard it here first.

In a still more disturbing story that may or may not be related to aging: Friday night. Olive Garden. Soup, salad, chardonnay. Not that much chardonnay. Hilarity. I have to potty. I go to the bathroom. Come back out. Suddenly, I'm in the Disneyland parking lot. All the tables look the same...endless. Where was I sitting? This side or that side? Down this hallway of booths or that one? I have a faint flicker of a memory and set off in a direction. The wrong direction. I double-back, tour the restaurant for a while. No sign of my party. I walk to the other side. The wait staff begins to look at me strangely. Especially since I'm giggling. At myself. I go back to the lobby. Consider sending an SOS text. This thought leads to more giggling. More concerned looks from the wait staff. But no...NO! I will not be conquered by Olive Garden! I can do this! It's only one glass of chardonnay and a few snorts of a second! Focus...focus.

The story has a happy ending. This time.

Should I be worried?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Jon Gosselin: Assholery at Warp Speed

Thanks to an alert Facebook friend, (thanks MET), I learned the whiny douchebag otherwise known as Jon Gosselin recently appeared on Larry King Live and is now denouncing the production of the reality show based on the life of his family. In fact, he is taking legal steps to halt entirely the production of the show that made him (fairly) rich and (in)famous. A show he repeatedly for years defended as an absolute positive in the lives of his kids, an enterprise he claimed provided learning opportunities and life experiences for them they would never have enjoyed otherwise.

Again, all this (it just so happens) in the wake of the announcement that his role in said reality show will be diminished likely due to the fact that he is a whoring jackass with little or no sensitivity the impact his sudden and very public extra-marital actions might be having on the psyches of his minor children.

That's right, folks. Jon Gosselin, the guy that, not two weeks ago, announced on national television that he "despised" the woman who bore him eight children, preferring instead the charms of his twenty-one-year-old girlfriend, Hailey Glassman (that should be a Very Special Google search for his children in a few years) has suddenly, and without warning, grown a conscience. A conscience as big as Olde Texas. A conscience SO BIG that it simply does not allow for the continued production of the show he enthusiastically participated in and defended for the last eight years (and as few as six days prior). A show that makes his Ed-Hardy-tee-shirt buying skull-ring-gifting, Manhattan-based lifestyle possible.
Poor, sensitive Jon, ya'll. He's HAD AN EPIPHANY. And a very suspiciously timed epiphany, at that.

Not that Jon is alone in his recently oh-so-recently acquired conviction that the show is detrimental to the welfare of his children. As I've written before, Jon & Kate Plus 8 is a show that was no stranger to controversy long before the specter of the Gosselin divorce reared its ugly head. There has been, since the beginning, a large group of detractors opposed to the production of a show dependent on its pint-sized stars for content. This particular controversy has been brewing almost since the beginning. The movement just never before had one Jon Gosselin in its camp until a minute ago, when Jon realized he was OUDT (Heidi Klum).

Then? For the fickle Jon Gosselin, the show was suddenly a Bad Idea all around. Wow. Who knew?

I've written extensively, probably too extensively, about how certain of my own life experiences make me perhaps overly (and unexpectedly) sensitized to the fate of the Gosselins. Jon's most recent and almost unbelievable antics only serve to strengthen my conviction that maybe, just maybe, Jon Gosselin is actually The poster boy for the bad behavior of divorced (or about-to-be-divorced) fathers everywhere.

This seems to me to be the sort of behavior we see every day in real life, but that is seldom so publicly presented as it is in the Gosselin case. Behavior that, clearly, is way more about this father's own personal well-being than that of his children. Behavior that would indicate that, not only is he not acting in a way that would show respect and care for his children and the union that produced them, but behavior that would actually indicate he doesn't have many qualms about using his children's fate and future as a weapon against his former wife. A former wife already disproportionately shouldering the lion's share of responsibility for their children. Their eight children. While Jon, in the meantime, despises her at his leisure. On TV.

I think, in the early years of JK8, Jon Gosselin garnered a lot of sympathy from the viewing public for having been "man-handled" by a wife that often seemed controlling and overbearing. In hindsight, and with the added benefit of recently having observed a now-rudderless Jon Gosselin in action, it's pretty easy to see how she got that way.

Somebody with a clue had to be in charge of the Gosselin ten. And it sure as hell wasn't going to be Jon Gosselin.

Friday, October 02, 2009

O give me a home...

Bookworm Books

Bookworm Books in West Yellowstone, Montana was by far the best retail discovery of the trip. A reader’s paradise, the place is literally crammed floor-to-ceiling with books of every description, many of them used, some not, most always in no particular order. The aisles are narrow and crooked, and often end in sudden claustrophobic book cul de sacs. One crammed-to-bursting wall sported a hand-lettered sign that promised, “In order by Author!”, as in: Can you believe it? (And anyway, it wasn't entirely true.)

This would all be annoying, I suppose, if one were searching for something in particular, but of course, “vacation” means that is not the case. So it’s not a big deal when you find “A Movable Feast” snuggled up to a Nancy Drew mystery. There were antique books and crappy books and classics and random first editions shrink wrapped in clear packaging perched atop coffee table books, and all of this stacked beneath a box of vintage western postcards: "Wish you were here!", scrawled in careful, shaky handwriting in the blue ink of a long-ago fountain pen on the back of a card featuring a solemn family of sad Native Americans.

I prefer a used book, of course, a book that has pages soft with use and the smell of another place entirely. And even with the amazing vistas of Yellowstone and the Tetons calling from just outside the door, it still felt worthwhile to take the time to run a hand over the spines, struggle through a few paragraphs of “Ulysses”, take photographs, breathe in the musty smell of pressed printed paper.

Ah…a good bookstore. There is no substitute.

Thursday, October 01, 2009