A REVIEW OF “SOMEONE” BY ALICE MCDERMOTT

Someone

To read this novel is to feel the wonder of life anew and to become, however momentarily, a better person.

It’s been said that women’s novels have great characters but that they never do anything. That depends on what you mean by do. In Alice McDermott’s Someone, an unexceptional woman, Marie Commeford, is born into a lace-curtain Irish household in Brooklyn in the 1920s and undergoes  familiar rites of passages—childhood, sexual awakening, work, marriage, children, and growing old. Such family and neighborhood-centered experiences—as lived by women at least—are often construed as non-events in a culture dominated by action adventure plots about heroic—and usually male—risk, struggle, and ultimate victory or defeat. But in Someone these “non-events” are rendered with such emotional and sensuous fullness that they bring home, with new force, the existential conditions in which we all live. Continue reading

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WHEN A BROTHER DIES

“Even siblings we don’t see, who live differently from us, who move in their own world, may be shoring up our lives, our sense of family, our feeling of being at home in the world without our knowing it.”

Two years ago, in March, my younger brother died, quite unexpectedly. He’d been my only sibling and, both of our parents being gone, the only other person left from our original family. His daughter had asked my daughter to tell me the news. “Mom?” she said on the phone, and the sorrow in her voice stopped my breathing. Had something awful happened — to her? “Gary died.” Continue reading

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A VALENTINE FOR MY GAY EX-HUSBAND

There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time.  Jane Austen, private letters.

Dick Picnic Cropped

 

I met him in graduate school during the early sixties, the kind of smart, studious young man I‘d always been drawn to but never managed to date.  He said “oops” a lot and was so funny that being in his company felt like having childhood for the first time. He knew music, wrote poetry in a serious way, and was, in my eyes, the smartest person in our circle. We only saw each other in a group or in a threesome, but we began to rest in each other‘s company, to draw close without touching. Continue reading

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MY TRIP TO PITCH FEST

It’s walking through one door that enables you to try the next.

Screenwriter's ConferenceWhile writing a blog about “retirement as an open door,” I decided this August to attend a Screenwriters Conference in Los Angeles and, despite my reluctance to embarrass myself in public, signed up to present my screenplay at the conference “Pitch Fest.” The latter was to consist of sixty to eighty tables staffed with representatives from film agencies and production companies. Participants would line up at tables, pitch their scripts for three minutes, receive two minutes of critique, and then move to the next table on their list. A form of speed dating, I called it, in which all your dates are there for the express purpose of giving you criticism. I feared it like I feared sporting a bikini–thirty years after it looked good on me.  The average age of script readers has been pegged at 22 to 27 years.  Would I be the oldest person there? Continue reading

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SHE WRITES/SHE READS: WOMEN AND THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING

Avid Reader, Davis

Avid Reader, Davis

The question of who gets to be a story teller and of whose stories are read and acknowledged is crucial–not just for women, but for men and for the way civil society as a whole is constructed.

The “She Writes” in my title alludes to two things–my publisher, She Writes Press, and the fact that more women are writing for public consumption than ever before.  One factor in the surge of Continue reading

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RETIREMENT AS AN OPEN DOOR

Noise 2

“The door is only a door. It makes no promises.”

Earlier today I read about a screenwriting conference to be held mid-August in Los Angeles.  The conference will include the usual workshops, speakers, and panels along with a “pitch slam”–a chaotic, noise-filled event at which a hundred or so screenwriters line up to describe their scripts to sixty agents and producers.  The screenwriter’s “pitch” is followed by three minutes of critique from the agent.

Were I to attend this conference, I’m certain I would be the oldest person there.  (I’ve seen pictures of these gatherings, and aspiring screenwriters, along with most agents and producers, appear to be pushing twenty-seven.)  I can already imagine the awkwardness, the possible alienation, I might experience, and yet I’m strongly thinking about going and about paying to do the pitch. (Imagine speed dating in which it’s understood that all your “dates” are there for the express purpose of being critical.)

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PEARS IN RED WINE

In memory of my dear friend, Mary, the magical “Claire” of my memoir who died Sunday, June 15, of a brain tumor, I am re-posting this chapter from my memoir, Tasting Home.

Mary In Her Bathing SuitBefore I entered the women’s group at Penn, I didn’t much trust other women. (Mother had left me wary about members of our sex.)  In the end, I would have a long history with such groups—and the menus would become increasingly elaborate– but it was Claire who prepared me, who first opened me to the love and care of women.

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SHE WRITES/SHE READS: WOMEN AND THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING

With Authors Judith Newton, Jessica Levine, and Rossandra White

May 17 – 7:30 PM  • The Avid Reader • 617 Second Street • Davis, CA 95616  •  (530)  758-4040

 May 17th at 7:30 p.m., the Avid Reader bookstore in Davis presents book readings and discussion with authors Judith Newton, Jessica Levine, and Rossandra White. Their recent books are published by She Writes Press, a San Francisco Bay Area publisher founded to serve members of She Writes, the largest global community of women writers online and women writers everywhere. The program showcases the diversity and power of the She Writes list and reflects the reality that more women are writing for public consumption than ever before.

The authors will discuss the new publishing possibilities available to authors today, their own journeys to publication, and the ways in which women’s lives and stories are as central to history and culture as those of men.

The audience is invited to participate in this discussion and celebration of women’s voices and their potential empowerment in publishing today. Continue reading

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CRUISING

“The more expensive staterooms on ship came with butlers. The very idea of a butler made us break into a sweat.”

I’ve been meaning to write about cruising for a long time.  Cruises are great when previous trips have made you sick of packing and unpacking luggage and of dragging large bags over cobblestones and carrying them up staircases that never end.  Suitcase weariness was mainly why my husband, Bill, and I decided to try another cruise last fall.  Shipboard closets are reliably large and come with drawers. You unpack once and that’s it. And after a few days of walking six to seven hours on land excursions, you find that returning to your stateroom really does feel like going home. The plumbing is reliable and you don’t have to keep figuring out where things are and how to flush the toilet, and this time we even had a bath tub. What luxury!  And then there’s the verandah, good for private moments with the ocean.

Our Verandah

Our Verandah

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FRENCH CONNECTION

I can’t say that  I was ever fond of France, a fact that had much to do with my inability to properly pronounce  the language– and with the scorn of Parisians, in the past,  for my less than perfect efforts.  I  spoke Spanish and Italian well enough for travel—and German too, though Germans wouldn’t let you speak more than one or two words in their native tongue, before they insisted on dazzling you with impeccable English. But the French were less likely to bail you out.  There’s nothing like French linguistic disdain to keep you vacationing in Italy and Spain.

Honfleur

Honfleur

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