Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New books, new movies, new year

I hope you all have been enjoying the holiday season. I've been reading like a fiend and enjoying every moment of it. Books I've read recently that I'd recommend include:

* Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a shocking, powerful memoir; she lived more life in one page than I have in 46 years)

* The House on Beartown Road by Elizabeth Cohen (a memoir about Cohen's caring for her father, who has Alzheimer's, while she's also the single mother of a one-year-old)

* The Underwater Hospital by Jan Steckel (a powerful voice, stunning poems; Steckel is a bisexual activist and former medical doctor)

* Breach by Anne Haines (I re-read these poems; she's phenomenal)

* The Cellar Gang by John Carder Bush (one of the strangest novels I've ever read; creepy and fanciful--refreshingly surprising).

We've also been watching some Netflix movies. Recently saw Unveiled, a German film about an Iranian lesbian who escapes to Germany. It's great, although it has a flawed ending.

Mom and I went to see Marley & Me. I bawled. She didn't--but she liked it. I hadn't realized Owen Wilson could be so charming.

Next week we're going to see Doubt with our friend Scott.

Don't miss Milk if you haven't seen it. Best film I've seen in years, for many reasons.

Happy Obama New Year all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The lame duck ducks

We finally saw "Milk." Read Collin Kelley's review to get my exact thoughts. Collin must have channeled my brain. Okay, maybe I'm taking too much credit for Collin's brilliance.

While you're on Collin's site, check out the video of the lame duck ducking. Poor guy got a shoe thrown at him. Not quite equal to getting bombs and chemical weapons thrown at you. But the message couldn't be clearer.

Today I gave finals #2 and #3 out of 4. Final #4 will be a party at my house on Wednesday for my literature class. Today's finals were poetry readings by my brilliant creative writing students. They were feelin' it, and so was I. It's a crazy thrill to be able to provide an opportunity for young writers to thrive. Today was a teaching high.

And yet, I'm ready for winter break. I'm so looking forward to writing every day. It will also be make-or-break for my historical novel. I've been stuck in the mud on it for a while--and I'm going to decide during my 5 weeks of daily writing whether or not I'll continue, take a break from it and work on something else, or abandon it altogether.

There must be something about writing an historical novel that creates this problem for writers. Michael Chabon once said he was struggling with Kavalier and Clay, so he set it aside and wrote Wonder Boys in a few weeks. He was then refreshed or reprogrammed or refurbished enough to go back and finish Kavalier and Clay. Yes, you heard it: The wonderful novel Wonder Boys was written in a "few weeks." Don't think about it. Musing over that stuff is enough to create writer's block.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Easy like Sunday morning

It was so good to be with family yesterday, to support each other in the midst of the sadness of my cousin Steve's death. The highlights were all the hugs, love, food, photos, music (Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire...groups he loved), tears and laughter. Steve would have loved it.

I could have done without what came before: a fire-and-brimstone priest who threatened us with eternal damnation if we didn't believe. I grew up Catholic and had never before experienced a Catholic priest in the Southen Baptist vein. This guy missed his calling.


Speaking of god, my poem "Religious Poem," was just released in the latest issue of Limp Wrist.


I just received an amazing email from someone who read my novel. If I can hook anyone on a book, I'm thrilled!

THANK YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS OF PURE ENTERTAINMENT.... Seriously, I have not sat this still, reading, since I can remember. I totally loved your novel and can't help to wonder about how much partying "Norma Rogers" really did in college...I can' t wait to read "Complementary Colors" [my next novel, which is previewed at the end of For the May Queen]. Again thank you very much, you are very talented and more people need this type of entertainment...turn off the tvs and ghetto blasters, get back to the basics just plop down, relax and enjoy a great novel.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Homage to Steve

My cousin Steve died a few days ago. I got the call from his sister. Steve was only 48.

When we were kids, he pulled pranks on us, like cheating at the innumerable card games we played during holidays. He told hilarious jokes, trying to get us to lose it so that the coke we were drinking would shoot out of our noses.

He was 2 years older than I was, and I always looked up to him because he was so, so handsome and cool and urban. I was a little suburban girl, and I was in awe of his platform shoes and perfectly feathered hair and non-white friends. He was a whiz at bumper pool. He listened to exotic music, like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Michael Jackson. The first time I heard "Rollin' on the River," he'd played it for me on his stereo.

Steve leaves behind two teenaged boys who are going to miss their dad beyond what I can imagine, I'm sure. He had their faces tatooed on his chest, which he used as inspiration to stay sober for a lot of years. Unfortunately his disease got the best of him. It sounds cliche, but it's true: Everyone loved Steve because he was funny, smart and just a plain sweet guy. Every time I saw him he'd give me a big hug and say, "Hi, beautiful."

We'll all miss him.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another reason to support widespread access to a college education for all

Education and income were strong factors in vote against gay marriage

A majority of blacks and Latinos voted to ban same-sex marriage in California last month, but socioeconomics — not race and ethnicity — was the decisive factor in Proposition 8, according to a new statewide survey of voters.

Even after the California Supreme Court's landmark ruling, after an estimated 18,000 same-gender couples wed between June and November, and after the two sides in the Proposition 8 campaign spent more than $83 million to sway voters, the state remains locked in an ideological stalemate on same-sex marriage, exactly as it was three years ago. Neither side in the same-sex marriage debate holds a majority. Forty-seven percent are in favor of same-sex marriage; 48 percent oppose it.

The new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California of 2,003 Californians who voted Nov. 4 found significantly less support for Proposition 8 among blacks than had been indicated by exit polls. Election Day exit polls triggered recriminations between gay rights advocates and black leaders. And now the new data indicates that 61 percent of Latinos voted for the ban, an even higher percentage than exit polls indicated on Election Day.

But while a majority of non-white voters backed a ban on gay marriage, the key finding in the new survey was that voters' position on Proposition 8 was determined more by their level of education and income than their race or ethnicity, said PPIC president Mark Baldassare. Among Californians with a high school diploma or less, 69 percent voted for Proposition 8. Among college graduates, 57 percent voted against it.