Sunday, February 18, 2007

Blogs, friends and books

when I started blogging three years ago on AOL, I had no idea I'd still be writing online. I thought a different medium for me would help me get back into the habit of daily writing. What I didn't expect was that this would become something of an addiction, the cheapest therapist I've ever had and amazingly a source of friendships. The last part still gets to me.

You see, I have three original Judith HeartSong paintings in my home. I have a book on my shelves written and published by Paula which is dedicated to several bloggers, including me. I also had the honor of entertaining Paula in my home, an evening which still warms my heart. From a hostessing point of view, the evening should have been a disaster. My home was a smelly mess. My husband nearly mute. The dinner bland at best, and the planned highlight of the meal, homemade lemon ice cream, failed to set. She sat down in a chair which broke -- my rickety furniture's fault solely. With most people, an evening like this would still make me cringe at my ineptitude. Yet, we felt and talked like old and dear friends, and it's a treasured memory now. I miss you, Paula.

I have pictures on my fridge of Amy's daughter, Pie. Amy's blog is now private, and I miss her too. Leaving AOL as an ISP kind of cut me out of her loop, but I still get the Christmas cards! I've received cookies and refrigerator magnets from Wonky Muse of The Blue Voice. And my fridge is covered with postcards from Theresa and Moksha. Theresa is the author of The Secret of Hurricanes (which I highly recommend) and I've also received copies of Sun magazine from her, copies which are now showing the wear of having been read over and over. I can't forget the Christmas cards from even more bloggers, and I'm still hoping for a phone call from Lisa.

Recently, I was touched with more generosity from another blogging friend, Rebecca of In The Shadow of The Iris. Rebecca had eagerly waited Janet Fitch's new book, Paint It Black, and was bitterly disappointed. After literally throwing it across the room, she offered it to whoever wanted it. I jumped, even with the warning from a writer I respect. I simply loved White Oleanders and wanted to see how Fitch would follow that up. All I can say is that Rebecca did better than I did. If I'm remembering correctly, she made it about halfway through the book. I think I made it through about 20 pages before giving up with disgust.

Janet Fitch is a beautiful writer whose sentences flow like good music. Her command of language and imagery is compelling, but there was just not one character in the book for whom I could build any sort of empathy, sympathy or emotional connection. Every one was wallowing in their own depression and loving it just too much. I don't need that. Depression and violence are two things that don't need to be romanticized or glamourized, but that's not quite an accurate picture of the book's characters. The portrait of depression here is so ugly, and the characters don't want to give it up. I was just fed up. It's rare that I don't finish a book I start, but my time has become too precious for people, either fact or fictional, who prefer illness to health.

A little later, I received another package from Rebecca who is thinning her bookshelves. This one had Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, Jodi Picoult's The Pact and Anne Patchett's The Patron Saint of Liars. A veritable reading orgy! My free time has been delicious lately. The first thing that happened was the womanchild and I struggled over who got to read Whitman first. I let her win the argument, but I still got the book first. (Her social life is much busier than mine.) The older I get the more Whitman means to me, and Song of Myself is particularly significant to me now as I'm reclaiming a life of my own.

I first found Jodi Picoult a few years ago when C. and I had to drive to Nashville every other week to see her eating disorder specialist. These were very emotional times, and sometimes we needed the safety of listening to something other than ourselves. On a whim, I picked up My Sister's Keeper on tape and got hooked. Picoult has a real talent for writing about serious issues in an accessible, almost comfortable, way -- but not letting you off the hook. There are no easy answers, nothing is black and white in her books, yet her writing style is so direct and clean, you want to dive deeper into her murky waters. The Pact, despite my initial reservations about the subject matter of teen suicide and the fact that it had been made into a Lifetime movie, didn't disappoint.

Now, The Patron Saint of Liars awaits. Patchett is a Tennessean, a recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award for a previous novel, and an author who's been on my "must read someday" list for awhile. I have the feeling that my lunchtime tomorrow will pass all too swiftly as I open my next book.

I don't know what I've done to deserve such wonderful friends from the blogosphere, but I'm very grateful. The Internet allows for an illusion of intimacy like no other media. It's so easy to think we truly know one another. In some ways we do, and in others, we are mere strangers, but I know we've connected. For sharing these bits of your life, through your blogs, and for all your generosity, I'm truly grateful. Sometimes I think of blogging as nothing more than a time sucking black hole and a diversion from what I really should be writing. I'm reminded though that it can be more than that.



Anonymous emmie johnson said...

Beautiful blog. I hope even I make such wonderful friends from the blogogsphere. Have a great life.
You could also check out my blog on friendship greeting cards for some beautiful e-greeting cards and friendly tips.

February 19, 2007 2:12 AM  
Blogger alphawoman said...

I should have my husband read this entry. He thinks I am addicted (which I am) and that the computer is a total time waster...blah blah blah. I am shook up right now since I just found out that Pennie from A Pennies Worth (the courageous woman who has fought polio and prejudice) suffered a brain aneurysm in January. I have not been so lucky as to really connect with anyone on the blogosphere. Have you heard of Book Mooch?

February 19, 2007 4:18 AM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

Great entry. And timely; I had just been thinking about how much I missed the old AOL community. It is much harder to keep track of people now, especially those who blog only irregularly.

February 19, 2007 7:40 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...


I just found you today, but I have to say, wow, I can so relate to many things you've written. And I'm excited to see you're also a Walden fan.

Just wanted to say hi, nice to meet you, and hope to get to know you better,


February 19, 2007 10:15 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

This is a nice testament to the better things about what's left of J-land. It was good to read this after reading Jackie's (Hope Floats) goodbye entry yesterday and how horrible others can be online.

I have gotten some great cards and packages from others in the blogsphere as well. Come to think of it, I have a package for Ms. Rebecca Anne that I have got to get in the mail.

Nice post!

My Blog

February 19, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Greetings from another old friend. :-)

February 19, 2007 10:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I'm afraid Lisa isn't very good at phone calls... Maybe she could send you a...chicken sandwich? :-P

I have been noticing that the blog world seems to be drying up and blowing away. Where is everybody these days?

February 19, 2007 11:18 PM  
Blogger Theresa Williams said...

Ack! Blogger wouldn't process my last comment entry and erased it besides! When will I learn to save these things before clicking submit??? Anyway, what I said was: Ah Cyn, God love ya. What a gracious, beautiful entry. For the expatriots of the AOL community it is a wonderful reminder of what we had there and that we must keep trying to stay connected to one another. You are right that blogging is NOT a time sucking black hole (I can't tell you how much of my blog-think has gotten recycled into other writings of mine). I know you could be mining your blog for publishable gold, too. If the world was fair, you'd have your own column, writing great concept pieces like the one below on crushes. But you can push things in your direction by finding out about the Arts Council grants in your home state. Each state is different (in Ohio fiction and non-fiction manuscripts can get either $5,000 or $10,000 in grant money!). It's a blind submission, so you wouldn't be judged on previous publications, education, or anything: just the writing counts. You should do it! Your comment about Paula is so right-on. It sounds so like her. I haven't heard from her since a short e-mail at Christmas; I guess she is doing what she needs to in order to further her teaching and her writing. I hope she is well.

February 20, 2007 12:34 AM  
Blogger Theresa Williams said...

PS to Lisa: I am AWFUL with phones! I can't stand them. I get all choked up with nothing to say. Phones make me nervous. It doesn't matter how important the person is to me, I get all nervous and weirded out over the phone!

February 20, 2007 1:13 AM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Thank you, Theresa. That is exactly my problem...

February 20, 2007 9:17 AM  

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