Shakespeare and Didion

My mother, daughter and I went to see a production of Othello. My daughter is young, but she’s seen at least three Shakespeare plays so far–Falstaff (fat shaming), Othello (domestic violence) and then Romeo and Juliet in a few different forms.

In the middle of Othello, my mom whispered, “Why is Iago evil? Do we know?”

Some people ask, I think. I never ask.

It’s a quote from Play it as it Lays, by Joan Didion: “What makes Iago evil? Some people ask. I never ask.”

 

I tell my mom, “We don’t know.”

 

On work and writing

I’ve worked at Burger King.
I’ve been a secretary.
I’ve worked as support for home health care, typing up admit forms of symptoms for the dying, one after another eight hours at a time.
A waitress and a hostess,
I’ve sat at the bar, eating my free meal, once the rush ended.
Walked home in the small hours, late night almost morning.
I’ve made deli salads on a large scale, stirring in the mayonnaise, the noodles. The chopped chicken bits.
I’ve made sandwiches. “None of that grass, on there!” the old rich geezer used to yell at me, his name on half the buildings downtown.
And I’d slowly lift a handful of sprouts, just to see the color rise in his
very pale face.
I’ve been a clown
and a professional cake cutter.
I’ve worked in art installation, driving the van, Art4You,
decorating law offices, beach condos, telling them where to put the
stork sculpture, the big painting, the work to match the couch.
I’ve hung art for major car dealers, the names you see
around license plates.
As an underwriter, I’ve seen the stories credit history tells,
medical records, grades.
The backside of the life story.
There’s more. There’s always more.
But mostly, I’ve been writing, the whole time.

Travels to Tulsa

I use the plagiarism checker at Grammarly.com because “reuse and recycle” works to help the environment, but maybe not your English assignment or your glorious novel-in-progress.

 

A Beautiful Thing

I’ve been thinking about the book tour I went on recently with Chuck Palahniuk and Chelsea Cain, the three of us in our pajamas, telling stories. The first place we brought this rendition of the show, Bedtime Stories for Adults, was a public library in Tulsa.

It’s a library that’s closed for the next two years, ready to be demolished and remodeled. Without any books, it was a beautiful though dystopian setting.

It was the library of some terrible future where the Native American Resource Center had no resources, only rows of empty shelves.Tulsa Native AMerican

One central wall was graced with golden letters proclaiming the eternal value of books! It was a quote–maybe most of a speech–called “The World of Books,” by the author Clarence Day. In his words, “…Monuments fall…Nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out and after an era of darkness new races build others but in the world of books are the volumes that have seen this happen again and again…and yet live on…still young…”

Tulsa Lib World of booksYoung or old, there weren’t any books in the building. They were gone.

If they were living on, it was in storage.

But we brought our books, and read and met the audience and had a party. Because the building was scheduled for demolition, we had permission to invite the audience to write on the walls. Chuck invited them to write things they wanted to let go of, things they were ready to have demolished.

In the documentary, “Kicking the Loose Gravel Home,” by Annick Smith, the poet Richard Hugo talks about “putting words on the page to amuse” himself. He says, “That’s writing…”  In the most fundamental way, that’s what writing is.

On the walls of the Tulsa library, people wrote a lot.

Some wrote in ways that weren’t about letting go at all, but about celebrating the moment, having a fleeting voice. We all want to let go, and we want to hold on.

They wrote names and wishes and the word “love.” They wrote curses, obscenities and prayers. “Cunt” came up with a little too much redundancy, and “taint” seemed to be a crowd pleaser, but I was more interested in all the big dreams articulated, and there were plenty of them. It was beautiful. There were people who wrote about the extremely personal drama of struggling with health concerns, and life. Others wrote about public drama–and by public, I mean things like Breaking Bad. That public: on TV.

Tulsa Library Wall 2

Now, a month later, maybe the building is entirely different inside, gutted and in rubble.  Hopefully it’ll come back around and be a fantastic place full of books and events. Books will live on, still young! Or not. Either way, for now, we have our memories, and they’re good ones.

At least there’s that.

Cheers, Tulsa! So glad to meet you!  An honor and a privilege, just to be alive.

 

Big Books.

“No statement of fact can ever be, or imply, a judgment of absolute value. Suppose one of you were an omniscient person and therefore knew all the movements of all the bodies in the world dead or alive and that you also knew all the states of mind of all human beings that ever lived, and suppose you wrote all you knew in a big book, then this book would contain the whole description of the world; and what I want to say is, that this book would contain nothing that we would call an ethical judgment or anything that would logically imply such a judgment.”L. Wittgenstein.