“They Float,” It Growled, “They Float, Georgie, and When You’re Down Here With Me, You’ll Float, Too.” — Stephen King, It

I have come to the conclusion that the single greatest phobia among Americans, as I have never been to Bali, is the clown.  Clowns are always men (even when they’re women), and of course some of you know that my sister had a handmade clown in a chair in her room and it used to talk to me at night.  Let us close the curtain on those events.

The phobia’s technical name is Coulrophobia, which means get the hell away from me you hideous thing with three sets of teeth.  The history of the clown dates back to the 16th century, and was synonymous with the Fool or the Jester; these figures were often encouraged to behave outside the boundaries of civilized behavior and to act obscenely.  They are also associated with Hermes, the Trickster archetype, who deceives and robs; he breaks taboos and disrupts the fabric of society; he shows no restraint and acts out sexually.  Clowns are allowed to do anything they want, and while we can see they are adults, they behave like the worst children in a second-grade classroom.  They are lawless; they are sinister; and our psyche protects us from the upside-down Hell they try to put us in by MAKING us afraid of them.  Why did John Wayne Gacy dress as a clown?  Because, as one author put it, They wear masks and they have access to children.


A certain someone I love is absolutely terrified of midgets, or Lollypopguildaphobia.  There is very little scholarship on where this phobia develops, although most sufferers relate it to a traumatic event in their childhood, such as seeing a midget.  This certain someone is so super-freaked that her brother once played a trick on her by inviting her to a bar, and as she stood at one end a midget came running at her, swinging his arms wildly.  I believe this is one of the funniest stories I have ever heard, especially when Meg (whoops) goes ghastly pale and woogy while telling it.


The fear of crocodiles is also quite common.  That is because they are monstrous dinosaurs who move as fast on land as in water, and their jaw strength is by far the strongest of any animal on the planet, at 5,000 lbs. per square inch, as opposed to a Great White shark, which is only 400 psi, or a hyena, which is 1,000 psi.  There is a crocodile in the Australia zoo which is 130 years old, and if that isn’t an example of something going drastically wrong, I don’t know what is.


My daughter is the only person I know who is absolutely petrified of bulls.  She can’t even say the word.  She has had no bad experience with a bull and indeed I don’t know that she’s ever been near one.  Whereas those of you who have read Zippy know I was tortured by one for an entire day, starved to death, and lost my shoes and socks, and still I don’t care about them.  They do have alarmingly large penises, and that is insanely upsetting.


As I have mentioned before, Scott is stricken with terror by any animal that moves laterally, such as a snake or a hermit crab.  We cannot even go there in conversation.  He also is profoundly disturbed by women on the subway in New York who wear sneakers to work and then change into dress shoes.


My son is afraid of crowds, because he is very wise.


Lots and lots and lots of people hate birds.  No one ever hated a bird until Alfred Hitchcock had them attack Tippi Hedren, which is the real reason Augusten wants me to dress like her.


No sane person in this world does not hate a rat.  A rat is a cosmic error of such grave proportions, if the planet blows up the rat will be the reason.  Just read Joseph Mitchell’s essay called “Rats” in Up In The Old Hotel and tell me if you don’t feel your sanity snapping just a wee bit.


My daughter is also terrified of all bridges.  Perhaps I need to speak to a professional about her.


As for myself, I am afraid of very little, except when what should be outside gets in, like a bat, or a goat.  I don’t mind mice outside, but in the house they are Satan Incarnate.  I don’t fear snakes, spiders, or bugs; I’m not afraid of vicious dogs or dead bodies or flying.  I cannot abide a dentist, however.  And I get a creepy feeling in the pit of my stomach when something that is formerly attached becomes unattached, like a missing button or a broken lid.  THIS IS WRONGNESS.  I cannot bear to see a hair unattached from a head, and if I’m washing my face and water runs down my arms I nearly begin screaming hysterically.  Other than that, I am absurdly brave.

Oh, and then of course there are these precious little creatures, for whom every day is the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, according to Brent Bill:

Your turn.

Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 1:05 am  Comments (127)  


  1. The book IT damaged me thanks for that Steve.

    I think that I fear old folks homes or wahtever you may call them but being old and not in control would suck I would much rather be put down when I can deal anymore.

    Drowning is a major major fear
    in 1978 I was 16 and had a girl on my shoulders in a lake and I thought I was gonna drown.

    Big spiders are my hell

  2. These horrors jumped out at me just moments ago from the Yahoo! homepage on my computer. Thank Jebus for baseball instant replay, or all would be lost:

    As of 6:22 a.m. EDT
    • Fact check: Attacks, praise stretch the truth at GOP convention
    • Palin never ordered the Alaska National Guard to do anything
    • Ike strengthens into Category 4 hurricane over the open Atlantic
    • Head of San Francisco chapter of Hell’s Angels shot to death
    • Ohio mother spared death penalty for killing baby in microwave
    • High gas prices drive college students to take Web classes
    • First use of instant replay backs 3rd base umpire’s onfield call

  3. “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” ~ Adam Savage

    The personification of all things non persona creeps me out, giving them human traits that they should never ever be made to bear. Hurricanes, earthquakes, animals, disease – these beings do not have designs upon humanity. It is my consolation that “they” might have the final laugh, as Sara Teasdale so elegantly pointed out (some time before killing herself, I might add): “ … And not one will know of the war, not one/ Will care at last when it is done. Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree/ If mankind perished utterly;/ And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn, Would scarcely know that we were gone.” (I can forgive Sara the Spring-as-human line.)

  4. I confess, I too become nearly hysterical if after washing my hands I need to reach up for a towel and the water runs down towards my elbows. For a while I used to raise my elbows almost above my head to reverse this maddening display of gravity. What a sight. Needless to say, I never did this in public.

    And I greatly empathize about the unattached hairs, especially if there is potential danger of any part of my person coming into contact with said hair.

    I think rat-hysteria goes without saying. I always detested rats before, but after I read “Side Bet” by Will F. Jenkins I can barely even think of them. Personally, I feel that the narrator’s final ‘good’ deed at the end was entirely unnecessary, even insane. I will try to prevent myself from understanding his motives, at all costs. I hate them that much. It doesn’t help that I read this little story in the middle of one particular winter when a host of these furry demons decided to make my home their home. I really did feel my sanity snapping a bit, as you say, until finally, after the mental meltdown, they vacated.

  5. I have to add one last thing.


    There’s nothing more I can say about that; it speaks for itself.

  6. Tunnels for me. I guess it’s a claustrophobic thing. Once we go into a tunnel I’m positive we’ll never get out. The Holland Tunnel was particularly frightening and made me realize I could never be a New Yorker. That and the smell.

    And now I won’t sleep tonight with the memory of that ghastly hyena. WHEW–how do they make them so ugly?!?

  7. I love bees. They make honey, which is one of my favorite substances even if it is bee puke, and they make our world livable through cross-pollination that maintains all manner of plant life. I’m still terrified of them. I try not to be, I try to be rational and tell myself what wonderful creatures they are, and sort of cute as insects go, too, but I can’t help it – when one flies near me, especially around my head, I feel a wave of primal, uncontrollable panic and I HAVE to get away from it. Don’t even get me started on wasps – they’re twice as bad as bees and don’t have the whole cute-and-good thing going for them.

    Also afraid of my house catching on fire and losing all the irreplaceable stuff (pictures, my Papa’s clock, etc.), or even worse, being trapped in the fire myself. Blame my parents for letting me watch Firestarter at a very tender age.

  8. I am slightly phobic of listing fears as the thought makes me twitch. I fear all ventriloquist dummies and clowns. Howdy Doody came from the fru-its of the dev-il. My mother had a Howdy Doody doll that once waved to me when I was alone in the house. To this day I cannot return to that part of her house by my self.

    I cannot submerge my face in water. I can, however, submerge the rest of my body in water.

    I haven’t any issues with flying EXCEPT landing. It just is not natural to hurtle toward the earth at that rate of speed.

    Dentures are just pure evil. I once had a woman (a step-grandmother) chase me around a house and yard for a good 15 minutes with her dentures in her hand. She was screaming nonsensical gibberish at me while making the dentures open and close. The sight of dentures on TV, in a glass of water or slipping from someone’s mouth now causes me to rock back and forth.

  9. Brandon, do you remember how in ZIPPY, the evil old woman across the street would clack her dentures at me like castinets, causing her seven bearded chins to undulate in gray waves? THE HORROR.

    Oh, and let me tell you: you bet your ass that Howdy-Doody thing waved at you. You should have HEARD that clown talking to me.

    I cannot submerge my face in water, either. If I even walk into water up to my shoulders I start to hyperventilate, and as a child I could swim. But no no no no.

  10. Oh the wasp. What an unnecessary bloody creature. However, I did read this interesting thing about bees lately (I don’t fear them at all and this isn’t scary — I wouldn’t do that to you on purpose, JenA). It was in an article about how various species deal with their dead. Ants, of course, just pick up that carcass and get it the hell out of the castle. But bees are so smart that if another creature invades their hive — like a wasp, or even something as big as a MOUSE — they instantaneously cover it in so much honey it becomes like something frozen in amber. I mean, it is a whole, perfectly preserved mouse, but frozen. I frankly find that brilliant and I’m going to try it with some people I know.

  11. Vanessa, if you ever read Stephen King’s THE STAND, which I might add is one of the best American novels ever written, it’s possible you will need to be tranquilized. There is only one long scene that takes place in the Lincoln Tunnel, but I don’t know ONE PERSON who has the read the book who doesn’t bring it up EVERY SINGLE TIME WE GO THROUGH A TUNNEL. It’s that unforgettable and affecting.

  12. Carolanne, GOD BLESS YOU. I have been considered eccentric (can you imagine?!?) for these feelings of mine my whole life. NO WATER RUNNING DOWN MY ARMS. NO DISEMBODIED HAIRS. Curiously, I have absolutely no fear of teeth which are just lying around without a mouth. I have all of my children’s baby teeth in a box, and once when I was showing them to John he said, “Good lord, which child had THAT tooth?” I said, “My dog, Girl Scout.” Again with the Sopranos, but I was shaken by that dream sequence with Annette Bening when Tony is trying to talk to her and his teeth keep falling out in his hand or on his plate. But that was just beautiful film-making, not phobia.

  13. Sharks. On a family vacation in Florida when I was a teenager, I was floating around in the ocean, minding my own business, when SOMETHING BIT MY FOOT. I never saw it, I know intellectually that it was probably just a crab or something, but in my heart I believe it was a shark. Also, my father caught a small shark on a fishing trip one time, and thought it would be funny to have its head stuffed and mounted like a deer. But he lacked follow-through. So for many years a severed shark’s head in a ziploc bag sat in our freezer, gaping at me with frosted-over eyes every time I went for ice cream.

  14. Jodi, thank you for the news update — always good to know these things — and I agree with you and Teasdale. In graduate school a professor asked the class, “If you were asleep in your village on a hillside, and there was a catastrophic mudslide and everyone was killed but you, and the entire village was destroyed and you were left with nothing, would you take that personally?” A number of people said yes. I said, “Duh, NO. It was a mudslide, not one of my relatives trying to piss me off.” I love that moment in Stephen Crane’s ‘Boat’ story in which he realizes the utter indifference of nature to every facet of his life and is nearly made mad by it, whereas I am ceaselessly amazed that nature a) continues to let me live, and b) is just so pretty about it.

  15. I do remember Edythe, but I try to repress that portion of the book. Too much rocking back in forth makes my brain go wonky.

    If I had heard that clown talking I would have died on the spot. You dear, brave girl.

    I grew up on Lake Erie and loved to swim. I would swim all day long as a child, and come out looking like an 80 year old. BUT I cannot…CANNOT even think about putting my face in water as an adult. Oh, the horror of it all. Snorkeling? No. Scuba Diving? Oh, HELL to the no.

    We shall go to the beach, sit in beach chairs just slightly submerged in the water to stay cool, sip on our fruity drinks, and fear for those submerging their faces.

  16. Michael T — my brother is a preacher, and when I was in high school I used to go with him to nursing homes, where he would preach and I would play the piano and lead the old people in hymns, and after a few months of it I thought, “What, 80? 85? When do I take the pills?”

  17. Ticks – Can anyone say “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever”?
    My mother, who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and had brothers who once teased her by putting a black snake down her back, can’t abide even a worm much less a snake. My daughter, meanwhile, has arachnaphobia and any small spider sends her in to a tailspin. She also hates roaches (don’t most of us?) and flees from any type of stinging insect even though she’s never been stung. On second thought, Iguess that’s why she’s never been stung 😉

  18. Soon I will publish the entire article that goes with that hyena picture and then I DEFY YOU, J. BRENT BILL, to ever defend them again. EVER.

    Y’all, did you notice that crocodile has a human hand in its mouth? A very nice touch, I thought.

    I’m leaving for Miami today — I have a reading tonight, but will be back tomorrow. Then I leave Monday for like ten days, but I’ll have my laptop with me and will stay in touch.

    Hey, can I change my icon again? I found a picture of myself and my daughter, talking, and even though it’s mostly me, you can see her astonishing beauty and also that she has just one dimple, in her right cheek, and there it is. Plus I just love her.

  19. Clowns. Oh my god. I’ve been terrified of them since I can remember. My daughter inherited the same fear, so we cling together any time we see one. Eeek!

    I cannot wash my face in the shower. I can’t bear it when water runs down my face. I have to have a towel hanging over the shower door to ensure my face remains dry. I wash my face AFTER the shower and then I go fuckin’ nuts if water runs down my arms, too! What is that about, anyway?

    I can’t stand to swim in water that isn’t crystal clear. I detest the feeling of small fish nibbling on my ass, especially when I can’t see them. It creeps me smooth out. Last time I was at the lake with friends, this happened to me, so I blew up a queen sized inflatable mattress and floated around the rest of the day. I looked absurd as hell, but no creepy fish could reach my ass.

    My 17 year old daughter gets her drivers license today, if you want to talk about fear.

  20. Eisha, I am so afraid of water and sharks that I actually had a photograph I was going to use AND COULD NOT LOOK AT IT LONG ENOUGH TO DOWNLOAD IT.

    And may I just say that once when I was about seven I was swimming in a river on a camping trip, and I got out and my dad said, veeeeery calmly, which was a sign that incredibly bad things were happening, “Zip? Just stand still a second, okay? I’ll be right back.” It turns out my entire body — especially my back (I was a tall child) were COVERED in long black leeches, which he had to remove by desuckitating their awful mouths from my skin with salt, after which he set them on fire.

    Oh indeed Brandon, we shall have the umbrella, the chairs with cupholders, our sunglasses, our enviable bodies, our beach novels, and we shall drink and laugh and perhaps glance at the ocean but it shall not so much as touch my feet, thank you.

    My sister can’t get her face wet in the shower either. Isn’t that interesting.

    Eisha, I cannot BELIEVE you had a shark’s head in your freezer. I’d still be walking around babbling in a made-up language, wearing four hats at once.

  21. Oh, and I couldn’t find exactly the right photograph for it, but my sister’s greatest phobia is weather. Not to kid. My father instilled it (or tried to) in all of us, although it skipped me entirely. I think it has something to do with Indiana, where the temperature can drop 30 degrees in a matter of minutes; tornadoes arrive with almost no warning; blizzards are just hovering around waiting to kill you. The weather in the plains is BRUTAL. Nonetheless, she is a big weeny, and she is even afraid of wind. WIND, people.

  22. Oldmommy, never fear. I was worried about my daughter terribly when she got her license, but it turns out good driving is genetic, and all Jarvises are GREAT drivers. She’s 23 now and I never think about it, even when she takes a road trip. It will be fine.

  23. OK. Holding breath… here goes. My biggest fear is being all alone in this world. And not the kind where I’m the last person on the planet (even though that would be awful.) No, the kind of fear I have is that there will be no one to know me or talk/call/visit me. Completely unfounded, but one I’ve had since I was a child.

    Oh, and big-ass hairy spiders that run as fast as horses! And Indiana seems to be populated with a gagillion of them this time of year. Sends me into a frenzy looking for the closest vacuum with the longest hose while keeping an eye on them! Hate ’em, hate ’em, hate ’em! There was one in the house just last week that I thought had hidden in dry cleaning Robbie had brought home and hung over the door knob to our home office. If it had gotten in there, I’m afraid I would have had to burn the whole bag of suits! And then I would have had some “splainin” to do later when he got home.

  24. I don’t mind snakes, bugs, mice, bats or most creepy-crawlies but spiders top my phobia list. I even hate to turn a page in a magazine and see a picture of one as a jolt of adrenaline travels up my arms, which causes the magazine to flap and flutter, which in turn makes my brain scream “it’s ALIVE and making the magazine move.”

    I have been afraid of clowns as long as I can remember too so, of course, King’s “IT” scared the bejeebers out of me with it’s evil clown AND the gigantic spider.

    I am also always creeped out by movies, etc. with toys that come to life, which makes me sympathetic of your fear of your sister’s talking clown doll. Too bad there wasn’t a hyena at a nearby zoo at the time that needed a clown doll chew-toy!

  25. I just finished reading Iodine, which makes it hard for me to believe that you are afraid of anything, Haven! One night, after reading several chapters just before bed, I had some pretty amazing dreams…. stirred, I’m sure, by the images in your book. But I wasn’t afraid. In fact, I got up and wrote them down and emailed them to a friend who understands dream stuff better than I do. So, what am I afraid of? This summer I was at a writing workshop in Oxford and one of the instructors was the amazing poet and writer and teacher, Beth Ann Fennelly. She had us do an exercise that revealed much to me. After reading examples (in prose and poetry)of three “wells from which to draw” for our writing–desire, memory, and fear–she had us each write for like 4, or 7 or 8 minutes, about each of these. So, for “fear” the writing should begin “I’m afraid of….” and mine, very spontaneously, was all about my writing. My fears are really dichotomous: I discovered, during that brief exercise, that I’m afraid of success. Of having my memoir published and then dealing with the aftermath. But also of failure. Of selling my book proposal to an agent and then not being able to deliver the goods. I’ve waited a lifetime to pursue this, so the stakes are high either way. Oh, and I’m also afraid of creepy-crawly things.

  26. I have a terrible fear of heights- but only outside heights- like walking across a bridge or standing on the overlook at Niagra Falls. Ahhhhh. I feel as though I will heave myself over the edge. It is like an invisible pull. (shivers)

    I HATE/FEAR/LOATHE knife/slashing sounds in movies. I can watch any other terrible gruesome thing, but I cannot abide those slashing sounds. (shivers again)

    Sometimes I fear that I have not been a good mother – or how things I have done or not done will affect my children for years to come. But, then one of my children will say something that gives me hope, such as Emma (17) saying she is go glad I am not like the mother who went with her daughter to senior picture day out at this farm where they had indoor poses and outdoor poses that my daughter thought were corny beyond words – and this mother was walking behind her brushing her daughter’s hair AS she was going in to get the photo – and another who had brought 5 complete changes of clothes for her son because SHE just could not decide what he should wear…. I, on the other hand, did not even go…

    I fear that I will never actually do what I was put on this earth to do. But, I still am not sure what that is or if I will ever know.

  27. I also fear grammatical/spelling errors made during “public” writing so please allow me to substitute “its” for “it’s” in my previous post!

  28. Has anyone mentioned fear of heights? Pesonally, I have bad dreams about STAIRCASES in which the stairs have no “back” (they’re open, like cellar stairs) that go up and Up and UP in the middle of nowhere and I’ve somehow gotten halfway up but am clinging to where I am, and am terrified to move up or down.

    And immobility. Please somebody just kill me if I become paralyzed and can’t do it myself.

  29. Ewwwww…open-backed stairs. Don’t you always have that feeling that a hand is going to reach thru and grab your ankle??

  30. It all started when I had the Bangkok flu as a child. I had some very intense fever dreams, one of which involved multiple teeny tiny copies of my mother’s friend Richard flowing through the house like bugs toward my room – under the door, through the cracks around the windows, etc. Could never figure that out, as I liked Richard. The other involved spiders – thousands and thousands of them, covering me, dropping from the ceiling, surrounding me until I couldn’t move. I’ve been terrified of them since then – so you can imagine my joy when I took the dogs out the other night and found an 8 foot (truly) spider web stretching from the tree to my picnic table, with a giant orb spider in the center. I think I teleported back into the house through sheer horror.

  31. Clowns are a big one. A friend even gave me that shirt “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.” I get that. As a child I knew they weren’t funny, just sinister. Snakes are my number two but the third is BALLOONS. Hate them.

    At Cheryl Bensen’s 7th birthday they had a relay race where you were supposed to run to the end, grab a balloon, sit on it until it breaks, then run back. No way. Her mother insisted I had to do it and couldn’t understand why I would not but I held my ground. Ain’t happenin’, lady.

    So a clown with balloon and snakes is kind of my nightmare trifecta.

  32. When I was camping as a small child, I went swimming in the river next to our campsite, and immediately upon leaping in, I realized that the river had JUST been stocked with trout for fishing. Like, probably not even ten minutes before I got in. Those fish SURROUNDED me, nipping my entire body and swishing me with their fins and generally being slimy and terrifying. As a result, I am scared to the absolute death of trout. All fish, when I can’t see them, I suppose, but mainly trout. Living in the south, I often visit restaurants that have trout on their walls, and I can see their little teensy teeth, and I shiver and die many internal deaths.

    I still have to check my closet every night before going to sleep, as I am convinced someone will be hiding there, waiting to mutilate my sleeping body.

    Hippopotamuses. Whoever would want one for Christmas should be shot. I also sympathize with your hyena and crocodile fear, but hippos are that much more terrifying to me, because it seems as though everyone forgets about them, when in fact hippos are among the most aggressive animals on planet earth — said by some to be the deadliest animal in Africa, a continent already spilling over with deadly and terrifying animals. They can easily outrun a human, their teeth are dinosaur-huge, and even crocodiles are scared of them.

  33. I love spider webs. Especially in the morning with little droplets of dew on them and rays of sun shining through. If only they could exist without the threat of a spider being on or very near them.

  34. Roaches in an enclosed area, even if it’s, okay, the entire house; big, heavy, large stone things (though I still managed to fall in love with Rome); and daddy longlegs* terrify me.

    The sharp edges of things that I run into irritate me. In a way, they scare me, too.

    * Daddy longlegs, like all insects are fascinating and beautiful in their own right, but they are the devil. They only have heads and legs, folks.

  35. Let me fix that bad grammar that makes that sentence hard to read: Daddy longlegs, like all insects, are fascinating and beautiful in their own right, but they are the devil.

    P.S. Hi, Linda from Nashville. Nashville: WOOT!

  36. By and by, I do not run into the sharp edges of things on PURPOSE. I’m simply a clutz.

    I’m really going away now. See how hard it is to leave a simple comment when someone you are visiting has political commentary running on the television behind you? Fox, even.

  37. I am terrified of centipedes. Ugh just typing the word made the hair on my neck stand up. When I was maybe 7 years old my sister enraged me so much that I decided to hurl her Miss Piggy-piggy bank across the room at her. Little did I know a centipede was lying in wait. He ran off the bank, up my arm, IN THE SLEEVE OF MY SHIRT, and out again THROUGH THE NECK. The whole experience was even more traumatic than the whole stepping-on-a-mouse thing which, let me tell you, was not exactly a day at the park. I now literally run from the room when I see these creepy speed demons. They are the answer to the question “What’s grosser than gross?”

  38. …coming in from the Hyatt in downtown Indianapolis…I fear Sarah Palin above all things. More later…good thing, though, that my fears do not exceed my ignorance, otherwise I would never get up.

    PRIVATE TO HAVEN: Finishing up on Iodine. What can I say? I am about ready to give up writing and just leave it to you. I took a picture of your book on the shelf at a Dalton’s in the BWI airport. (I bought the last copy and told the clerk that he should stock a few more because of her huge fan base.)

  39. In defense of the hyena — Adults carry food back to the dens for the infants and hyenas are known to nurse infants that do not belong to their litter.

    That makes them much kinder than some members of a certain unnamed political party…

  40. Clowns because they wear masks even if they’re painted on, cockroaches thanks to some very bad experiences with them in NYC, going through tunnels and the longer the worse esp when they’re under water thank you very much Stephen King, the walking dead ever since the original Night of the Living Dead film, but mostly more realistic threats like getting cancer, losing my children or husband, or someone with guns breaking into our house while we’re sleeping. The one that effects me every day is car accidents, because I’m always going to be dealing with various levels of chronic pain due to a bad one I was in in 1994. Sometimes I have panic attacks while driving and have to force myself to keep driving because if I gave in to the fear I’d never go out again. Getting old and feeble and being completely at other peoples’ mercy rans pretty high up there too.

  41. I have a horrible, pee a little in my pants, fear of mice and rats. Anything that can sneak into your kitchen and surprise you when you open the oven does not deserve to live. In fact, the chapter in Zippy (I believe it was) where you and Melinda haul the rats to the dump-aggh! I cringe thinking about!!! And, the picture above of the baby and the rats-well nevermind. I have to stop typing now.
    Oh- I am also terribly suspicious and strangley nervous when I see a church with a marquee. Somehow running letters in bright red announcing service times are unnatural to me.

  42. Moths. As a former motorcyclist I’ve eaten many. They taste as bad as they look.

  43. Hi Jules! Something must be wrong with me. I think daddy longlegs are cute. Oh, I know why. My father spent his whole career with the Boy Scouts so my earliest summer memories (back in the 60s) are of my sister and I being practically the only girls at the Boy Scout camps my dad worked for and thus, we felt we had to be fearless. I was kind of like Zippy in that way. So, spiders, bats, snakes – I am ok with all of those.

    But, I am with George- Sarah Palin terrifies me. I almost cannot watch all the youtube footage popping up today. Did she really slam community organizers?? Ahhhhhhh.

  44. Jim Shue, listen to this: the absolute most upsetting dream I ever had was a few years ago. I was in Manhattan and I realized I was the last person left alive. I didn’t know why, but there was NO ONE. I walked a long time and it was if everyone had just been sucked up by a big Dyson. (I wish we’d all been ready.) And then I heard a baby cry. I froze and thought, “Oh my god, there’s a baby somewhere, I have to find it in this huge city, and then I don’t know how to vaccinate it, and what if it gets sick . . . .” I opened the door to a building where I thought the baby was, and then heard it. Another baby. Another baby. Another baby. Hundreds and hundreds of them, all crying and abandoned at once, and all mine mine mine. I woke up shaking.

  45. Brent, what are you talking about? Sarah Palin is nursing her daughter’s first baby! The milk of human kindness, right there.

  46. Jules, one of the great lines from Martin Amis’s THE INFORMATION is (I’m paraphrasing), “You’re walking through a doorway in your brand new, favorite sweater, and you catch it on a nail and ruin the sleeve. What is in it for the nail?”

  47. You know what else about hippopotamuses, Kimberly? They can walk on the bottom of a river, completely unseen. They aren’t buoyant so you don’t know they’re there until one of the worst things that can happen on planet Earth is happening to YOU.

  48. Kate, the teeny tiny copies of Richard are just HORRIFYING. And I thought I’d made up those one inch psychotic clowns to scare Kat and Melinda all on my own. The first time I mentioned them I had them trapped under one of Kat’s drinking glasses, scritch scritch scritching to get out. Kat was screaming, “AAAHHHHH, you are horrible, you are not my real mother!”

  49. Haven: And if it’s not babies, then it must be stray cats and/or dogs. Oh, wait. That was your real life. 😉

    One other intangible thing that utterly terrorizes me is the thought that the life I have now is just a dream and that I’ll wake up and I’ll be in that little town that I grew up in. (shudder!)

  50. Angie, I almost mentioned how much I dislike balloons. I read an article by a man who was cripplingly phobic of breaking glass, which of course translates to all glass, because it all contains the possibility of shattering. Balloons are that way for me. If there’s a balloon in the room, the odds seem pretty much even that it will pop, and without speaking too harshly, I am against that.

  51. We missed you George Stuteville!

  52. Jim Shue, yes, it was my real life! I just wrote a poem for that new book of mine which is going to WILDLY successful because people love poetry more than they love NASCAR, about stray animals, and how it’s connected to what might be my worst fear of all (I dream about it occasionally): finding myself back and married to someone with whom I spent seven years of mild torture and sick misery. Do you remember how (it’s still the case) if there are twenty people standing around and a stray trots up it ALWAYS chooses me? And so I’m living with this dark, dark man who wants no animals anywhere, and THEY JUST KEEP SHOWING UP. OH MY GOD, listen, this is so absolutely true. One night a cat showed up at my house in Muncie, (I called her Sappho) and I found a home for her with my friend Cynthia. Cynthia came to pick her up, and I SWEAR TO ALL THAT IS HOLY THAT THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED: Cynthia knocked on the door, I opened it, I handed Sappho to her, AND ANOTHER CAT STREAKED RIGHT IN PAST ME. That would be Hermes, and I kept him.

    Don’t ever worry about ending up back in Advance, Indiana, my old friend. One phone call and I’d be there if I had to ride one of my mastiffs.

  53. I remember Sappho! And the whole “got rid of one cat, but gained another. Some sort of weird cosmic cat-math problem apparently.

    Was the seven year man the same man who thought I was an orphan? Prophetic actually. I’ll tell you about it some other time.

    And Robbie always says “Oh, HELL NO!” whenever I mention that particular fear. But thanks for having my back. You know I’d be there in a heartbeat for you. I don’t know if my Westie’s back could take it though!

  54. Linda, Poe believed that we all have a tendency to want to leap from the edge that is terrifying us. He called it The Imp of the Perverse.

  55. Jodi, those are called stairs with open or no risers, and dogs will not walk down them. Once as a tornado was approaching my farmhouse in Indiana, I had to carry my rottweiler to the basement, then come back up for a redbone coonhound.

    Susan, I love what you’ve written here. I never fear I’ll fail as a writer (as I may have mentioned, I have pathological confidence which is really not good), but I live in constant terror that I’ll fail my children. Not through a failure to love them unconditionally, but by not supporting them financially adequately; by making one wrong move and destroying my career and causing them to suffer. It would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me.

  56. Ah, Jim, the joys of old friendships. I’d love to hear how you thought he was an orphan; he wasn’t, but every damn one of his children were.

    In the first three or four poems in the story, you are there taking care of Kat while I worked at night. Tater Bug. We were so lucky to find each other.

  57. I wasn’t ever really afraid of clowns, however, some politicians are resembling clowns to me, so perhaps I have developed that fear. Honestly, to me they look like sneaky gonna get you clowns.

    Haven I do not fear bridges, however given the false sense of security we have in our nation’s bridges, I do not believe that a fear of them is over the top. We pay attention and check bridges when one collapses. Time goes by, and we return to ignoring the problem. Your daughter’s fear is another sign of her intelligence.

    Yes, hippos are extremely dangerous. My little sister went on a safari in Africa. They roughed it, camped out at night. The guides stood around the tourists as they slept, on guard for hippos. Sleep? What sleep?

    I’m going over my own fears. When someone leaves a jug of milk or juice, or a glass of anything, or just a glass near the edge of a table, I lose it. It’s going to fall, and if it does not fall, all I’m going to think about is why it has not fallen yet. My family uses this to torture me.

    I don’t have any major fears, which is making me worry. Maybe I’m not paying close enough attention.

  58. Haven ~

    Regarding Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat”: one more reason to stay away from open water.

    Regarding graduate school professor’s question about mudslides: one more reason to stay away from professors.

  59. Jodi: Score.

  60. SO i am with Kat — bridges. But also of course,tunnels. Think about it.

    (The midget’s name was Johnny O’Pal. It was almost 40 years ago. HE RAN ALONG THE BAR TOWARD ME WAVING HIS ARMS. I adore my brother, but have not trusted him since that night.)

  61. I fear Aliens, and serial killers, as if any will show up on my doorstep, with out being killed by the dogs, then promptly eaten by my 10 cats. The 23 pounder is starved. I was told at the age of 5 that the aliens where coming to get me. I outwitted the aliens by hiding under the covers surrounded by stuffed toys, and to avoid freezing to death, because heat was only allowed in the front room (wood stove).
    I also fear crowds and my inability to punctuate and spell while posting with the super intelligent writers on this board.
    We have Krusty the Clown , next door. Drunk off her a**, everyday. I don’t know what is scarier, talking to her or seeing naked, ..gag. Maybe she could run for VP, shes just as qualified as Palin.

  62. Too funny! Julie Brown as Sarah Palin.


  63. First, I’m wildly waving to Jim Shue and yelling HEEEYYY. Haven’t seen you since I was a kid and you were at Red Lobster.

    Second, Haven, I’m sure you know this but mom feels the EXACT same way about balloons. She nearly has panic attacks if she thinks they are anywhere near her.

    My list of fears seems to grow the older I get. And reading through some of the responses I realized some fears I didn’t realize were fears. That whole water running down the arm thing, count me in!
    Also, I think Michael T and I could be phobia twins.

    Spiders of all sorts give me the heebie jeebies. I start itching just thinking about them. During the winter months I sit with a shoe and a can of raid beside my couch just waiting for them. They always come shooting out from under my couch for some reason. I was not meant to live in the wild.

    Ticks. Having Lyme’s Disease as a kid and not being able to use my legs for a few weeks pretty much did that to me. I freak out about them any time I have to outside or anywhere near a tree.

    Long toenail. Blech!

    Sharks. LOVE the ocean, but can NOT bear the thought of a shark living in them.

    BIGGEST fear of all though – getting old. I can not possible bare the thought of not remembering, not being able to get to a toilet, not being able to care for myself. Count me in on downing the pills when the time comes.

  64. Good gracious. Excuse all the typos. I’m sure you know what I meant though.

  65. Oh also. I’m pretty fearful of freak accidents. Not just happening to me, but happening to anyone I know. I’m talking the freakiest kind of accidents you can think of. Those are the ones that bother me. Like running into a deer with your car and the deer hoof goes through the windshield and you die from a blow to the head. Slipping on ice and dying from hitting your head on the cement. Choking on a hamburger when you are alone in your house. Walking into a downed power line. These are mild compared to the freak things that can happen to people but I know for sure that all these things actually did happen and that makes it even scarier.

  66. Not sure if these are real phobias or pet peeves . . . but, here we go:

    Fear of being touched. Example: if not in a mutual situation (hugging each other, etc.) I CANNOT stand to be touched – not by my kids or anyone . . . even my 6 year-old caressing my face, or anyone IN my face drives me bat-shit. My skin crawls and I want to SCREAM . . . it takes major patience and knowing that I am irrational to calmly say, “please don’t touch my face”, or to make the decision to hug or caress back. Also, I get nervous being followed . . . in the house, people standing behind me (especially while I am reading/watching TV and they just stand back there – “get a chair”)! Basically, if you haven’t asked, don’t come within 3 ft of me – and that goes for the pushers in grocery lines, people that sit behind me in the theatre when there is the WHOLE theatre open . . .?!*%#.

    Cynophobia- Fear of dogs they make me want to puke, if they rush up at me or jump on me or LICK me for god’s sake I want to die. I also tense up when dogs bark. I want to cry. This one I don’t get because I can’t remember any specific incident and I have good, photo-quality memory! I love to read the books about dogs personified and have friends that ADORE their dogs, but I have to say I feel brave just to be in the same room with them. Love DEAN KOONTZ and reading about those cool dogs . . .

    Dishabiliophobia- Fear of undressing in front of someone. What sane woman who doesn’t work out 3 hours per day and is over the age of 40 would willingly do this. . ?

    All phobias related to organized religion. I am SPIRITUALLY OPPOSED TO RELIGION. I was brainwashed in mid-western, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Fire and Brimstone Hell. Need I say more – on top of that mire, I was sent to a private parochial school were I was denigrated daily for smiling, being out-going (not appropriate for a girl) . . . for years I puked at the sign of a cross or bible . . . after studying philosophy and Joseph Campbell I have overcome the fear, but still prefer to not subject myself to it (my mom is married to a Baptist preacher now, which makes it difficult . . .). Along with this I FEAR and ABHOR Thomas Kincaide . . . he is cottage porn. (Hagiophobia- Fear of saints or holy things; Homilophobia- Fear of sermons . . . it goes on and on.

    Fear of the Midwest: Syngenesophobia- Fear of relatives; Nostophobia- Fear of returning home; Patroiophobia- Fear of heredity; intertwined with FEAR of RELIGION.
    Ok, I’m “coming out” – I grew up in Olivet IL, had a sister that got a master’s at Ball State, tons of family from Cayuga, Kingman, Brownsburg, Wingate, Covington, Sunman IN . . . I ran away to Texas then Atlanta, married a rock singer (he actually had a record deal) when I was 19…divorced at 21 (the rock singer was a slut) . . . all to get AWAY from there. Almost related, but she is from NJ Pentheraphobia- Fear of mother-in-law. She, in one body, equals all 150 of my relatives.

    Fear of extreme bright lights, glaring lights. (Photophobia- Fear of light).
    I think I am a vampire . . . definitely a night owl, so I can avoid sleeping in the dark).

    Sociophobia- Fear of society or people in general. 95% of humans are stupid idiots.

    ………. These are just the ones I know of…. maybe I do need to see a psychiatrist? They all (except for the dog thing) seem totally rational to me, given my biography.

    I adore all KIMMEL books, I am still reeling from Iodine . . . I can’t even comment yet . .

    I did email my 14 year-old daughter your (Haven’s) original posting (she screamed when she opened it because of the clown picture . . . she can’t be in a room with a “chuckie” door (the ½ doors in attic rooms – she has actually peed herself before). My 16 year-old son is terrified of Hannah Montana. He was in theatre with her for years and they hate each other’s guts – when we are in a store and he sees/hears one of her songs he just spazzs out . . . we threated to get him HM sheets and I thought he was going to cry!

    The last one – Clinophobia- Fear of going to bed; Hypnophobia- Fear of sleep or of being hypnotized; Somniphobia- Fear of sleep. This is more of a PTS . . . began as a toddler watching my mom being thrown against a wall while I hid with my big sister and baby brother behind a duct-taped, olive green, nhagohyde (sp?) recliner . . . reinforced when my mom worked 2nd shift (at a casket making factory) and we had to wake up in the middle of the night to go home, then I got to sit on the steering wheel while she took in the baby and my older sister (I was the brave one) . . . those crickets were loud! (into a green trailer in Sunman, IN where GrandDaddy Longlegs were my best-friends)…. more reinforced at age 7 when I spent 2 weeks with my mom’s sister’s husband (not a blood uncle) raped me for two weeks, at all times of the day, but most especially after everyone was asleep and I can feel the blanket slowly being pulled down my body…….ugh, yuck,….. so I can go for 3 or 4 days without sleeping . . .

    Which brings me to an off-shoot phobia – FEAR OF TRAILERS. Not the financial despair but all bad things in my life have happened in those rusted tin-boxes, when I go in one I have to run to the bathroom and puke, I’m not kidding (I do puke easily, though) . . .

    Fellow Survivor of the Midwest,
    Currently Near Nashville (everybody is moving here . . . )

  67. Cockroaches. Cockroaches. Cockroaches.
    Before I met my husband at the tender age of 19, I had never seen a cockroach due to the fact that my mother is an abnormally sanitary minded woman of Midwestern German descent. My husband tried to fool me by telling me they were ‘water bugs’, in which case I wondered what they were doing in his mother’s kitchen, but I found out the bitter truth after we were married and he moved us into a tiny and I mean really teensy little apartment that could only be lived in by two people very much in love who WANTED to be in physical contact all the time. In this apartment lived the mother colony of all cockroaches. I saw them during the day, I listened to their parties at night, afraid to get up to pee in case I stepped on one (that sickening crunch!). I moved the single bed six inches from the wall so I could pretend they couldn’t get onto it because it wasn’t touching. It was horrible. The fact that the color totally drained from my mother’s face when she saw the apartment for the first time and my dad had to hold her by the elbow so she didn’t fall should have clued me in, but no, I was too much in love. In a few months time thank God, we moved from that apartment in Iowa to Tucson, Arizona, where my husband went to college and I kept house in a single wide trailer. Unfortunately, with our meager newlywed belongings, we also moved the roaches. With the help of an army of exterminators over the years, I have fought roaches. I learned that scrubbing nooks and crannies with toothbrushes and disinfectant wouldn’t eliminate them from a home once they were established….no amount of guilty cleanliness would work. I discovered I didn’t mind the smell of insecticide in the morning. (or afternoon or evening either). I know I can never win, but I do all I can with the help of any evil chemical to kill them to this very day. If I see one in my house, I cannot sleep there. I have gleefully, with verbal commentary and insane cackling, watched them twitch and die in the sunlight. My karma is permanently damaged, but hey, they asked for it….mocking me with their presence when I opened a kitchen drawer, just daring me to find them; challenging me, waving their antennae in my shocked face and then running to hide. I have to mute the t.v. commercials for exterminators, and some horror movies are off limits. Other than that, I am filled with nothing but love for all living things.
    Thanks for asking.
    I love your books and your blogs.
    Brenda D.
    Married to a certified pesticide applicator (and arborist) for 37 years.

  68. Wildly waving back at Best Niece Abbey. It has been ages! Aren’t you supposed to be the little one chasing after her aunt & not the one chasing after her own daughter? By the way, she is gorgeous! Say hi to your mom & brother for me.

  69. I was reading along and thinking “hey now, contrary to popular belief, rats actually make kinda nice pe…..” but before I could even complete the thought, you put a BRIDGE on there. I sometimes wonder what it is about bridges (that look like bridges, not bridges that are disguised as mere roads) that freaks me out like they do (and have since childhood) but then I remind myself a phobia is an irrational fear. So it’s OK. And I have one word of advice for your daughter: Never ever ever google images for the French Millau Viaduct. Someone sprung that one on me unawares once and I have still barely recovered. We have a tiny version of that bridge here and I will never ever go across it. The one in France is just plain wrong. Bridges should never be hanging in midair amongst clouds.

  70. My top three horrors are Moles, Opossums, and Three-Toed Sloths.

    Moles, because of the grunty way they blindly paw at the dirt. It just seems sordid. My opinion is no doubt influenced by reading Thumbelina as a child. Just the thought of her marrying that odious creature gave me the creeps…I think I might still be terrified of being sexually molested by a mole. I saw a star-nosed mole (google it!) on Animal Planet, and a new nightmare was born.

    Opossums are just vile. I saw a dead one once on a hot day and it swelled up and looked like a small, hairy pig. A friend of mine also saw what he described as a “pregnant” opossum that had been killed, and it’s young was swarming around it and crawling across the road. Probably not technically correct, they were probably born but still in the pouch, but that’s an image I don’t think anyone has ever used for a backwoods horror film, but they should!

    Three-toed sloths freak me out because of their long, curved toes that look like uncut dirty fingernails, their Cousin It hair, and because they faces look vaguely human, but hairy. I also disliked things that move slowly, like zombies, although a Slow Moving Loris made a pass at me at the zoo once and it endeared me a bit to other slow creatures.

    Other horrors include spiders. Not spiders in their natural habitat (those are fine, the bigger the better. One huge one lived on my neighbors garage last summer and I not only photographed it, but I visited it every evening at twilight.) Spiders in my house, or NESTLED IN MY CLEAVAGE, that’s where I draw the line! I am especially terrified of the jumping spiders that look like miniature tarantulas. It’s the one time where shrinking something did not improve it. I always feel like it’s everything I am afraid of only with all the air squeezed out to make it an extra compact version of horror, kind of like Dippin’ Dots Ice Cream. Instead of Pure Ice Cream it’s Pure Terror.

    I am thoroughly disgusted by male rats that have not been castrated…the way their testicles drag! I’m not a rat fan anyway, but that was too much.

    Antique dolls with sleep eyes are intolerable at night. I once had my mother’s childhood life size doll, and it somehow ended up UNDER MY BED with ONE EYE OPEN, so every time I looked under the bed I saw a body lying there.

    I’m terrified that me or one of my children will be attacked by stray dogs.

    Driving in an unfamiliar place is incredibly uncomfortable, and makes me sweaty.

    My three year old son is afraid of, of all things…stripes. He refuses to wear anything striped because “it stresses me out.”

    My grandmother was famously afraid of birds long before Tippi Hedren. As a small child she was riding in the front seat of her parent’s car and a huge bird, she thinks it might of been a hawk, smashed against the windshield. Her father CONTINUED to drive down the road for several miles until he reached a service station, with my grandmother forced to stare at this huge, smashed dead bird over her head for the entire duration. She’s never gotten over that one.

    My husband is afraid of clowns, and people in costumes in general. He claims it isn’t fear but that “I don’t trust them.” He also had a “dream” (as his mother refers to it) that the farmer puppet in his crib was talking to him, and that kind of makes me want to burn all of my kid’s stuffed animals. You never know what those things are going to say!

  71. I’d say you hit all the high points.
    Nice post, Haven!

  72. I forgot baboons.

  73. Well, Sher and Linda, we very obviously need to form a chapter of the Haven Kimmel fan club. Or, if there isn’t one, create one. Ooo, ooh, dibs on President! Nah, okay, I’ll be secretary. I take wicked good notes.

  74. In my personal horror movie, Samuel L. Jackson expertly delivers the line: “Enough is enough! I have had it with these *expletive* silverfish on this *expletive* plane!”

  75. I’m sorry, but I just noticed Kate’s “I forgot baboons” post, which is so wonderful and hysterical in all its economy of expression. And terrifying. Like a wonderful, terrifying little poem. Of a sort.

    I’m an idiot, who is going away AGAIN.

    Oh but Haven, one more thing: 7-Imp is ready to interview you if you’re still up for it. Contact us at seventhings@gmail.com, or we’ll try to contact you if we don’t hear from you soon-ish.

  76. These are kind of funny Sarah Pailin parodies too.


  77. This really happened to me, and I fear it still. I was about nine or so. I had just fallen asleep, but just barely. I don’t know what caused me to awaken, but I did, and as I did, I looked across the room to the window and there was a man outside, looking in, his face pressed close to the screen. I don’t even know if this is fear, but I went mute and paralyzed with dread for several seconds until I finally yelled out.

    To this day, the sight of someone through a screen window or door is jarring.

    I also have a post traumatic fear…I was walking my dog many years ago in the downtown area of Washington, DC. Because of my years covering police for The Indianapolis Star, I generally watch the streets for danger, and, in fact, I have broken up three robberies.

    So as I walked down the street, I could see a couple of kids coming toward me on the opposite side. I watched as one slowed down while the other walked ahead and out of my view.

    It was then that the kid came across the street, attempting to pull a pistol on me.

    I was lucky. I took a swing at him at about the same time he trained the gun on me. Then, I rushed toward him thinking that if I got the gun from him, I would shoot him in the spine.

    He spun away from me and I shouted: No! Get the fuck away. Then I started walking backward down the street. Luckily, he did the same thing, screaming all kinds of epithets and expletives at me, which I shouted right back at him.

    When I turned, I thought he was going to shoot me, and I got ready for it.

    Instead, his friend ran back toward him, slapping at me.

    I don’t know if I was afraid, but I was drenched in adrenaline as I stood on my porch watching them walk back from where they came.

    Then, I noticed my poor, old, deaf and blind dachshund had continued her walk — and in the direction of my would-be thieves.

    I don’t own a gun and at the time had not assembled my current arsenal of a hatchet, sword and softball bat, so I went to my golf bag and pulled out a two iron for a weapon as I went back to the street to fetch my dog.

    Well, if they had attacked me, they would have robbed and killed me with no problem because I never could hit a two iron on the golf course and probably would have fared no better with robbers.

    But I got the dog and picked up another story.

    I do still have nightmares at times when I see this kid with the gun pointed at me.

    I hate robbers.

  78. I meant to say “Nashville” chapter…why can I never leave just one comment?

  79. I’m completely obsessed with this blog post…I keep thinking of new things…

    My friend Brian is completely terrified by blood, pus and most of all, camel-backed crickets. Those are the crickets that look like they were crossed with spiders and then deformed in an accident. I once toyed with the idea of feeding him chocolate-covered crickets and not telling him, but my love for him out-weighed my evil impulses. That happens to me a lot, which is why I am not a more interesting person.

    I know I have mentioned in before, and I’m not sure it’s a fear exactly, but my five year old son freaks out and starts yelling every time he sees Andy Capp Hot Fries at a gas station or drug store. They make him *so* angry!

  80. I keep going back and thinking of things I want to respond to…

    I detest loud sudden noises, including but not limited to: firecrackers, the buzzer on my grandma’s dryer, and balloons popping.

    Whenever I see someone being stabbed in a movie or even *think* of someone being stabbed I can FEEL it in my back.

    My grandmother can’t wash her hair in the shower. It makes her feel like she’s being smothered. She washes her body in the shower and her hair in the sink, which I don’t understand. Washing hair in the sink feels a tad like drowning to me.

    Someone mentioned hating fish nibbling their toes I believe…has anyone heard about the fish pedicures where the carp nibble the dead skin off your feet?

    Another person mentioned daddy long-legs, which I find to be cute and harmless EXCEPT for the one I saw at church camp that looked like it was covered in red velvet. I never saw another one in my life but that thing just looked malevolent. Also, it’s rumored that they are extremely poisonous but their mouths are too small to bite us. That really bothers me for a reason I cannot put my finger on.

    As for disembodied hairs, my husband once brought his mother a toy he wanted to purchase. She noticed that a hair had been sealed into the package. I kid you not, the woman SCREAMED, THREW the toy down and then told him he had to get something else because that one was diseased.

    I’m not crazy about bees, probably because I once had dream there was bumblebees stuck in my underwear.

  81. I gave a reading at Books & Books in Coral Gables, FLA tonight (maybe the most beautiful bookstore I’ve ever seen), so I’ve been out a while but there are a few things I simply must say.

    The first is that I once again became maniacally hysterical when Meg described the midget running at her. I CANNOT BEAR IT, IT IS THE FUNNIEST STORY IN THE WORLD.

    This is in COUCH, but you may recall that one time my sister and her friend Terri drove quite a distance with smoke coming out from under the hood of Terri’s car, and when they stopped it was Terri’s cat, Poot, beyond medium-well done on the engine block. That had to be a picture.

    Oh Abby. Other people’s toenails, hep me Jebus. And of course you know about freak accidents; you were raised by the county coroner. After twenty years of having him as a brother-in-law and looking at coroner’s photographs, I too am aware that anything anything anything can happen. (I’ll simply use code for this one photograph, as you may not have seen it. Four teenagers: car: fence post. Know the one?)

    Now Sher, there is a lot to deal with there, but most of it is summed up by ‘Olivet.’ Have mercy, Candy’s trailer must have bothered you so much in IODINE. It’s the one part of the book that really troubles me.

    Katemckinneycake: I’m not quite the dog whisperer but I think most of the people who know me best will agree when I say that I know more about dogs than almost anyone else . . . in a general ten-mile area. So trust me: there aren’t many stray dogs, at least in urban areas, because they’re picked up so fast by animal control. But IF and I think that’s a big IF, you are ever approached by a stray dog, do not make eye contact with it, and if it gets close to you there is only place on the body dogs really really feel pain, and that’s in the nose. Just say these words: I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Kick Your Ass, and then punch that bitch in the nose with your fist as hard as you can. (Remember to never, ever punch someone with your thumb inside your fist — you can break it.) I rescued a vicious, insane, deadly pit bull during my dog rescue days, and I was the one person on earth who would, if he was misbehaving, grab him by the collar and lift him in the air until he choked. I would say to him, “There is ONE alpha. Who is it?” He’d twist and squirm (he weighed 70 pounds) and then I’d say, “There is ONE alpha. Who is it?” And I would do that until I won. Never, ever lose your confidence or your anger. I pity the dog that tangles with me, I swear to god, because I might end up wounded, but he’s going to end up with his throat three feet from his body.

    That said, my sister had that crazy ass inbred monster and I’m GLAD he’s dead.

    One thing I forgot to say is that I have to eat food immediately after it’s cooked, and I don’t eat leftovers, because I consider them ‘carcasses.’ I also forgot my single most crippling phobia, which is yellow mustard. I can barely type those words. I can’t think about it, I can’t see it in the store, I can’t withstand the smell, I can’t lift it out of the refrigerator. If ever, ever yellow mustard touched my actual human tongue I would decapitate myself.

    I’m terrified of life without John, because I am utterly helpless. I don’t know where my clothes or shoes are, I can’t feed myself, I’ve never paid a bill, I wouldn’t begin to know how to cut the grass. OH AND MY OTHER MAJOR PHOBIAS: going to the post office or answering the telephone. Talking on the telephone is so painful for me I get dizzy. (With these exceptions: my sister, to whom I could talk every day, Abby, Beth, my mother, Scott, Suzy-Q F. Cooper, and evil Christopher.) In fact, Scott and I became instant friends because he called to invite me to read at the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and because he had called a few times while I was away I decided to be polite and answer.

    HAVEN: Hello?

    SCOTT: Hi, you don’t know me . . .

    HAVEN: And you don’t know me at all.

    For some reason both of us just found this HYSTERICAL, but really I was telling the absolute truth. People call me. I don’t know them. This isn’t acceptable.

    I am horrifically terrified by my temper. I’ve successfully controlled it for 25 years, with only a very few exceptions, but those exceptions were enough for me to know that I am a dangerous person when cornered (LIKE THE REST OF MY FAMILY, MELINDA). I have twice suddenly transformed into Pennywise The Dancing Clown at readings, when ordinarily my readings are joyous events and everyone laughs a lot and we have a ball and I adore everyone there. Like MY MOTHER, DELONDA, when angry but not murderous I go completely cold and my face loses all expression except contempt. I never, ever intend this to happen. Here were the occasions.

    The first was when I was giving a reading for my kid’s book, ORVILLE, and during the Q&A a woman who had BROUGHT HER DOG WITH HER raised her hand and said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve asked all bookshops and libraries to ban this book, because I think it’s the most cruel and mean book I’ve ever read. The dog is homeless and lost, and then he’s chained to a barn, and I think it’s just very cruel and no child should be exposed to it.” Oh beloved friends, the pause that ensued as I looked her in the eye. I mean, I looked at her until she turned her entire body away. Then I said, “Wendy? Your name is Wendy, right? My guess is that you have some issues with your own childhood, or perhaps your home life now, and that you feel both lost and chained, and that you are not psychologically sophisticated enough to understand that in children’s literature, the child wants someone to identify with who is victorious in the end, which Orville is. Most of all, I would have to ask if you received any formal education, because surely you have heard of Grimm’s Fairy Tales? Classical mythology? The stories children tell each other? I can see that you are in a great deal of pain [lord above, the viciousness in my tone] over this picture book, and I really think you need the help of a good psychiatrist, along with powerful pharmaceuticals. And as far as getting any bookstore to ban this book? Good luck, poor, wounded thing.”

    The second event is actually too cruel to repeat. Mom brought it up the other night, because it happened in Indianapolis in front of a large crowd and I was so lazily contemptuous and cruel that the entire place went silent and poor Mom nearly had a heart attack. She was afraid of what I was going to say next. And my friend Tim was there, in the back row, and he said he didn’t know what to do: if he should walk up and ask the man to leave, or what, but TIM HIMSELF was so afraid of me he just stayed put. I’ll just tell you how it ended: this man was ‘unappreciative’ of a portrait of one of my relatives in COUCH, which was, in fact, entirely loving. I’ll skip the dialogue, but right at the end I said, “I really think you should take him [the relative] — no, really, he’s yours now — but I sure hope you’re not gay. Actually I KNOW you’re gay, and I know you haven’t figured it out yet or can’t accept it, but either way, he hates a fag, and would shoot you through the heart.” The man got up and left.

    So. Yes. Kindness, compassion, the Inner Light, the Seed of God Within Me, the Boddhisatva, the infinite goodness of my daughter Kat, Jesus who loved the sinners, J. Brent Bill: pray that this wickedness stays buried, from now until the hour of my death.

  82. Dagnabbit, my computer just ate a post to George about how horrible that story is, and yet how once again my point is proved that a golf club is no match for a Glock 9 millimeter. I also described the Marine switchblade I just ordered, which circumvents the law by putting the spring button NOT on the handle. Then I said I would happily order one for George himself, and I did not even want one of his hollow metal golf batons in return. A GIFT.

  83. …if all my would-have-saids were my saids, i wonder how things would have turned out.

    glad your reading was good in florida…

    i got scared again last night watching the GOP, their teeth-bared, gorging on big, choking helpings of self-righteousness, flavored with pompousness and puking out a big purple mass of jingoism.

    i think i need to stock up on rolaids and wet-naps to get through these next couple of weeks.

    PRIVATE to HAVEN: I finished Iodine and will give it to someone I really, really like. Also finished reading an interesting book last night called The Shack. I’ll buy A Wolf at the Table on my way outta Indy. Being back in Indiana, I’ll say this: you got us Hoosiers pegged. Only the buildings and street corners change.

  84. …switchblade? I haven’t seen one of those since 1965 when my uncle Dickie showed me his cruel-beautiful pearl-handled one shortly before he went to Vietnam. The button was a tiny skull. Talk about fearsome.

    My only knife is Swiss one, purchased in Denmark and equipped with corkscrew that favors dark reds. It refuses to be lost. For example, it was confiscated by the military in Saudi Arabia. Confiscated again in Brazil by an officious border guard and ransomed by wife for a handsome price.

    In 1996, it once spent an afternoon in a drawer at the Traffic Violation Adjucation Center in Washington DC with other sharp objects which included carpet knives, a straight razor. a sharpened nail fail with a masking tape handle and an ordinary ice pick. The other knives made fun of its curly cork-screw attachment, then they smoked some crack and stood out on a corner, asking/threatening strangers for donations of small change! I think my Swiss knife and the ice pick had a tryst, though.

    For personal protection, however, I favor a small, sharp, light, but well-balanced, tomahawk. That’s the last thing bad guys expect. Throw one of those with a well-uttered ironic comment and it leaves ’em gasping.

  85. You know what else is really good for self-protection, George? Duct tape a bloody meat cleaver to your forehead and then wet your pants. I don’t know why, but even the most villainous will not approach you.

    What is this interesting book THE SHACK? How did I miss it? Oh, I know, I spent 48 hours writing a villanelle about Ezra Pound. A lot of things get away from a person that way.

  86. I am afraid of iceskates*. Terribly afraid, and my daughter, despite my best efforts, has picked up the fear.

    * “Iceskates” is the word we use in the family to denote that 8 legged creepy crawly insect of which Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web is an example. Poor us- we are so phobic we don’t even use the word.

  87. What is it about white hot rage that makes us say such horrible things to people? I’ve been pushed beyond the limits a few times myself and the evil side of Gemini comes through loud and clear. It’s like having an out of body experience watching myself cut someone to the core with a some choice words I normally wouldn’t/couldn’t even think of.

    I try to defend those times by saying that the person was such a pompous, arrogant idiot that they’ve deserved everything I’ve blasted them with. And if that were true, I probably wouldn’t cringe thinking of it years later. (Remember Loraine?)

    OOOOH! That reminds me of another thing I have an irrational fear of. Giant statuary of people outside of businesses. Like the statue of Paul Bunyon that stood at the entrance to Kirby Lumber and now is in front of the Timbers Lounge. Thank you Mr. King for that one! I was reading “It” and decided to take a short-cut to get out of Muncie when I drove past Kirby Lumber for the first time. Had no idea that thing was so close to where I lived! Just blocks away! I don’t think I drove by there ever again!

  88. George Stuteville,

    Sweet bastard! (You’re not a bastard, I’m sure; that’s just an exclamation that is in poor taste.) Your story about the person looking at you through the screen window when you were a child? I read that RIGHT before bed, and it took care of my nightmares last night. Maybe my nightmares for the next five years. That’s not complaint; I’m just trying to say… well, as a Southerner, I’m required to say: Bless your heart. That puts any roach phobia to shame, I must say.

  89. Verb blasts – so bad, so bad – I think it is the oppression of the midwest coming up – it is like a declaration: I have a right to be here, in fact, this is MY show and who do you think you are? Obvious projection from the BITTER evildoers – and somebody needs to call them on it, they are, in essence, bullies. Good for you! We all have an “end of our rope” trigger and if it is repressed, watch out! Consider that you are releasing your anger, I would die to see those situations. I’d be waiving my metallic, mental pom-poms.

    Candy’s trailer, I was rocking back and forth during those scenes . . . and I’m thinking Candy was a multiple personality of Trace . . . yoozer!

    One more phobia: potatoes. I know, you say this is impossible! But I had a friend who reached into her bag of taters in her pantry, and pulled a squishy, oozing, bloated dead mouse out – she had in her (teen age vernacular “freaking”) hand! Give me mercy, be well my soul. I’m not catholic but I want to cross myself. So I buy only “choose your own taters” one-by-one, fill your own bag, or clear bags and have been known to shudder, shout, and speak in tongues while using tongs to remove the taters so I can peel ’em, oil ’em, and fry those babies up. It’s like labor.

    Go Nashville – Haven, can you do a reading at Davis Kidd???? They’ve had A. Manette Ansey and Ann Patchett . . . let’s investigate?

  90. Sher, Linda-Also-From-Nashville and I already begged Haven to do this Davis-Kidd adventure. She says she’s been there before. Let’s start our Nashville chapter of the Haven Fan Club and petition for it to happen. I’m only halfway kidding.

    I once found a neglected potato in my cabinet, back when I was single and way more ignorant about vegetable maintenance, and it was also terrifying. I won’t go into detail. But ARE YOU SERIOUS THERE WAS A MOUSE IN THAT BAG?

    Jules-Also-From-Nashville, who still thinks we Nashvillians should get together

  91. Jules – yippee you are in Nashville –

    Yes, I am dead serious about the decaying mouse in the potato bag . . . my friend was shaking for days and scoured her hand so hard it was red and peeling . . . when I get hysterical, laughing from insomniac nights (total mania) I think of that and it sobers me up ASAP . . . I’m gagging just thinking of it. Also, it DOESN’t help that I am an artist and can visualize ANYTHING . . . ugh . . . I can see the entire movie of Iodine, shot like Fight Club (can I be trailer set designer, Haven? I can outfit it top to bottom in authentic Midwest “panache”, ha! and it could serve as therapy for me). . . FIGHT CLUB, BTW (by the way) has my favorite line from a movie

    Helena Bonham Carter’s character:
    “You’re the worst thing that ever happened to me”. What prose. What clarity.

  92. Seriously, I’ve read at Davis-Kidd Nashville like FIVE TIMES. My media escorts know my entire life story. I have no idea why I’m not going there on this tour. Let’s think about what to do.

    Remember in COUCH when my dad reached into the dog food bag and a rat ran up his arm?

    Sher, do you have an e-mail address where I could write you privately? It’s something I want to say about Candy’s trailer, without giving anything away to people who haven’t read it.

    Bless dear Jim Shue, who has not said what he knows perfectly well. We met when I was sixteen, and from then until I had Kat I used my wit solely for evil. I was constantly being proposed to by gay men because of it. So I met Jim for the first time; he worked with a mutual friend. We were at the Pizza King on Madison, our bartender’s name was Rick, I was drinking a Shark’s Tooth. And Jim was the most timid, shy, earnest, small-town boy, sweet. And there I sat across from him, a smiling, enigmatic, vicious diva (ugh, it hurts to even type this). I asked him a few questions about himself and he mentioned ‘church.’ He said, “I’m a Christian.” I leaned back in my chair and beamed at him, waited a beat, then said, “No, you’re not.” Everyone else at the table was quite accustomed to me, but Jim was completely innocent, and from that point on he lost his faith. I actually robbed him of his FAITH for no reason other than that I could. How ghastly of me. He forgave me many things.

  93. Oh, dear sweet Haven. You didn’t rob me of my faith. You helped me find my own and not follow other people’s beliefs. I may have lost faith for a while, but mine was always there waiting for me to discover it.

    And I do remember that night. You, the mutual friend, and two other guys all bombarding me with so many questions that I ended up just shutting up because I couldn’t defend my beliefs. I couldn’t because I just blindly believed what ever I was told. Plus being so angry at everyone to have the audacity to question my beliefs. I mean really! I had never experienced anything like it. It didn’t help that you were a member of the debate team, which, by the way, I had never even heard of until I met you. What a great night. 😉

    And yes I did forgive you when I realized that you had actually presented me with the best gift of all… how to think for myself and to question what other people tell me as the truth.

    Oh, and you were 15, sitting in the lotus position between your living and dining rooms. Not evil, so much as just devilish. I thought you’d put Delonda into an early grave!

    Did you ever locate the “mutual friend”?

    (Lord, I’m getting long-winded! Maybe I should start my own blog.)

    And how is it that I can’t remember you having your appendix out, but I can remember cramming 5 of us in that little Dodge of mine and driving through a dark rainy night to see your sister after hers burst?

  94. Oh sure Sher — you can be my set designer. Except no one ever options my books, so you might have to wait a while.

    Favorite movie lines: this could really take off. I personally love, from 1944’s Atlantic City, “You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days.”

    Many of my favorites are from GROUNDHOG DAY, well, obviously.

    RITA: [Phil has just described the lives of many of the diners] What about me Phil? Do you know me, too?

    PHIL: You like boats, but not the ocean. You go to a lake in the summer with your family up in the mountains. There’s a long wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing from the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone. You’re a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You’re kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel.

    RITA: [a little frightened] How are you doing this?

    PHIL: I told you. I wake up every day, right here, right here in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    And of course this beautiful moment, in the bowling alley:

    PHIL: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

    RALPH: That about sums it up for me.

  95. Jim, you forget my ASTONISHINGLY TRAUMATIC APPENDECTOMY but remember Melinda’s because she is all the bloody time stealing my thunder.

  96. OK! You just made me almost pee my pants!

  97. About the stray dog thing…Once I was taking a walk with my boys and I saw a women walking with two chows. I pointed and said “Oh, look at the doggies” and right as I said it I realized the woman was not walking the dogs, she was wearing an animal control uniform and was attempting to round them up. I was seized with panic, and grateful. Also, once I was walking home from school and I rounded a corner and a chow charged the fence and I sincerely believed for two seconds that I was about to be eaten by a lion. But if it ever happens again I’ll know how to deal with it!

  98. Haven ~ About your remark: “It’s something I want to say about Candy’s trailer, without giving anything away to people who haven’t read it.” That’s very tantalizing … Would you consider labeling your remarks SPOILER ALERT and sharing it on your blog?

  99. balloons. hate, hate, hate balloons. since i am a part time wedding photographer, this makes the grand exit sometimes problematic. there have been instances of screaming and ducking instead of taking that photo.

  100. I’m already public, so no harm here in listing it – and I have to say Linda, Jules and I are already whipping the e-mails back and forth:

    (that is my very LAME (never any comments) art blog . . .

    Now hear this (I feel my phobia revelations seem whiny). . . I’m not a victim, I am a resilient human that has absorbed every event in my life and it has opened me, I am more alive than most people I know . . . I laugh harder, try harder, and cry harder – I wouldn’t change a thing . . . I’m happy to be me, past/present/future.

    That is what I love about Augusten/Sebold/Pelzer/Ansey writing, it isn’t “woe is me” – it is a celebration of resilience.

    Somebody knock me off this soapbox NOW . . .

    If you have been at Davis Kidd within the last 5 years I will sue them – I have NEVER seen your name on any Author’s Reading List . . . maybe it was the one week I was gone?

    Dang it.

  101. All this talk about Davis-Kidd makes me miss the old location before it moved to the mall. Not that I don’t still love it, but, oh nostalgia. I guess that is because my kids were small when it was at the old spot and we spent all that time in the children’s area. Not that the new children’s area isn’t even more wonderful, but it is not the children’s area of my memory. Does everyone get this sappy when their oldest child is a senior in high school and about to go off into the world and leave their mother behind in a big old heap of sad tears on the floor? Can anyone say hormones? Maybe it is the effects of the big bowl of chocolate ice cream I just ate. When I got out of rehab they said sweets cut down the alcohol cravings. I had never been a sweets person before but I found this to be true took it to heart and found comfort in ice cream. Now the ice cream is finding comfort on my hips and my tummy. Booo.

    Oh, I just thought of an ice cream related childhood memory, Haven. The summer before I started kindergarten (circa 1965) we moved to a town in central New Jersey to a ranch house on a dead end street where ALL the hundreds of kids on the block played all day in the street and all the mothers were home (on their couches?? Hmmm?) Anyway, my first memory of that neighborhood was the variety of entertainment trucks that drove down that street. There was the ice cream truck of course – I loved creamsicles the best – but there was a truck with a mini-ferris wheel on the back of it. I am not making this up. I don’t know how much it cost – it could not have been much because we had next to no money – but you would get a little ride on the ferris wheel on the back of this truck. It was like the fair had just driven down the street. Oh no, now I am thinking of clowns. There were no clowns or clown trucks, I promise. Oh, and sometime I need to tell you about this truck that visited our elementary school with graduate students doing research. It was research on how children lie and then how they react when they find out their lies have been discovered. It involved being left alone in a room with little stacks of pennies. For the longest time I would remember this and think of how evil those people were to mess with out innocent little minds like that.

  102. Linda, this is a section of a two or three page poem on the desire to find the most beautiful thing. It occurs about in the middle.


    I begin at home, the lost little town, land-locked and static.
    A woman is lying in bed; her curtains sway and swell
    in an afternoon breeze. Something moves in the attic, her pet, the past –
    she calls it a cat, but only when it scratches her.
    She hears again an ice-cream truck she has never seen.
    The memory is the same: sixteen, the boy from church
    who seemed to like her, he is chasing her through the dark
    cemetery, and even though the paths are clear and known,
    she slows down. He catches her. She startles awake, waits
    for the rain. Reaching for a daughter, her hands
    touch her own face.

  103. http://news.yahoo.com/comics/speedbump;_ylt=AlQnDKcSpcIAvxEHX.lvGx8K_b4F

    This “Speed Bump” cartoon popped up today… explains a lot!

  104. That is lovely, Haven. Thank you

    I am leaving in a moment to drive my daughter, Emma, up to the Parthenon (Nashville’s Parthenon, that is) for her volunteering. She LOVES Latin and classics and ancient history so much that she gave 6 weeks of Saturday mornings up when she was 16 to train as a docent. I will have about 1 1/2 hours between dropping her off and going to my favorite Saturday morning AA meeting, so I plan to spend it at the Borders books across the street from the park (Centennial Park is where the Parthenon is located for those of you who don’t know Nashville) So, now the big decision. Which book, ok bookS to buy? I think I know. I guess I will surprise myself and give you all an update later.

    Tonight I get to be my completely other self, which is a fool for Texas singer-song writer, Pat Green. I love this man. He is playing in Nashville tonight – first time in two years – and I am going with a group of wonderful fan women friends, all whom, like me, don’t mind looking like goofballs around the beautiful, tiny, college girls. Of course, I will not have beer so I am a built in designated driver. yea for me!

    Happy Birthday again to Kat. Haven, she is gorgeous, and like my daughter I can tell she is gorgeous inside as well as outside. xoxo

  105. that poem rocks

  106. So, I bought Iodine. And, when the cashier was ringing it up for me she paused and said “Oh, I didn’t realize she had a new book out!” To which I said, “Yes, and she is on the book tour for it right now. But Nashville is not on the list.” Then I made a sad face. I said the comment as if I knew Haven personally – it was kind of like – a hah!– you work in a bookstore and you didn’t know this brilliant book was out? How did you get this job? Go hang your head in shame. But, then, she did seem nice and she seemed very happy to know Haven had this new book out, so I forgave her. And then I went to the AA meeting and the topic was about prayer and meditation and one woman read about how if we have a resentment or a problem with someone we need to pray that wonderful things will happen to them, pray it as if we mean it even if we don’t and do this for two weeks and then we will really mean it. Does that mean I need to pray for Sarah Palin because I am just not in the mood to do that right now?

  107. Sarah has enough Far Righters praying for her . . . I think we need to do White Witch magic hexes, I’ll have to research that.

    Do you realize that we are:

    A Single heart attack or stroke away from having that moose-killing woman being our “chosen CEO”, her words, not mine!!?

    She has made her choices, good for her – but, BY GOD!)#(#(#($(!@

    as my very righteous, alcoholic, pulled two of his own fingers out of a corn picker, war hero grandfather would say, as he SLAMMED the farm table with his clenched fist as he SIMULTANEOUSLY rolled his eyes 360 degrees in his sockets AND smoked a hand-rolled, from the Prince Albert can cigarette), {{{he was from Veedersburg IN!)}}}} –

    SHE HAS NO RIGHT to take away my rights, my daughter’s or my nieces’ or my granddaughter’s RIGHTS. . .

    Secondly, and re-inforcing the former, the next president could be responsible for choosing 3-4 new Supreme Court Justices . . . that is after 8 years of BUSH-ass . . .

    I’m having CONIPTION fits and my PANTIES (which I don’t wear because they cause pantylines) are in a WAD!

    I am the most insane person in my family, so I hereby disqualify any comments I make about anyone . . . don’t talk to me about politics, religion, or relatives or you might open a floodgate (“obviously” you think as you roll your eyes . . . ).

  108. Haven, was that YOUR poem, if not, who’s???

  109. Again, happy birthday to Kat…what a wonderful person. Also, did I mention that I have a 20-year-old son, who plays marimba and studies music at Butler? My other son is nearly 28, married, lives in Indianapolis, and is such a great sardonic writer with such a keen ear for dialogue.

    Haven, I don’t even know what to say about Iodine except that I am astonished by it. I don’t think any of the reviewers have unravelled it.

    I wish I were reporter again so I could interview you about it. I would conduct the interview like this:

    1. As author, you alone know the identity of Trace/Ianthe/I. Was her story a linear one in your own mind before you structured the narrative?

    You: Yes, of course. I know everything about my characters.

    2. Without revealing who…could you tell me how many of the characters are actually real?

    You: They’re all real. What is reality anyway? Or, none of them are real, you idiot, this is fiction. What time is it anyway? This interview has gone on entirely too long.

    3. Ok, who are they? No. Let me guess. My guess is three. The first one is the person who is missing. The second one is missing, too, but he’s the original cause of the trauma. The third is Jacob. Am I right? There might be a fourth, and that one is missing, too, pictured only in the sonograms.

    You: There are many ways to read this. And this is how you have chosen to do so. You are obviously insightful.

    4. Well, thanks…what can I say? I am a Hoosier, afterall, and though I appear normal, I am deeply troubled.

  110. Stephen King is the best author in the world.
    I may only be 12 but It is the best book I have ever read.
    Thanks to Stephen King drains and sewers might as well kill me.
    I also can never think about life after death it scares the hell out of me.
    Tanks Stephen King for putting me in my “happy place” called Derry, Maine.

  111. I just started reading Iodine yesterday and I am getting cranky and frustrated every time I am forced to put it down. I wish I could take a sick day tomorrow. I can’t, but maybe I can take a really really really long lunch break. Just sayin’

    Sher- I get cranky too and want to scream. Call me sometime if you need sometime who understands to listen. Or, if you’d like someone even crazier to vent back. My office number is on the email I sent you but I will send you my cell as well.

  112. Sher — yes, that’s my poem, but just a section of it. The entire poem is called ‘No Ideas,’ from Wallace Stevens’s phrase, ‘No ideas but in things themselves.’ It from my new book SEVEN YEARS, which is only about half done. I may have invented this form, I can’t quite tell, but it’s the story of my (long-ago) disastrous seven year marriage to He Who Shall Not Be Named, who was an important academic and scholar, as well as my department chair. So it’s a memoir told through narrative poems, beginning with our love affair/marriage (Woodsmoke), to part 2 (Three Honeymoons), 3 (Faculty Wife), and the final section (Threnody). The trick is that each poem is guided by a particular American writer or poet. So one of the love poems is called If Eliot Had Written The Promisedland. Etc. It will be a full-length book, not the typical 58 page poetry collection.

  113. Now George, do you see the way you read THROUGH the book to what was on the other side? I too can read through your questions and see that you really really got it.

    Have you ever considered a career as a really really smart person?

  114. Linda, if you walk into any bookstore in Indiana except Big Hat Books in Indianapolis, not only would the bookseller not know I had a new book out, she might say, as a ‘bookseller’ in Muncie said to my sister when she tried to get a new copy of ORVILLE, “No, no, I don’t see anything in print by that author. Are you sure you have the right name?” My sister gave one of her trademark half-smiles, paused, then said, “I’m pretty sure, yes.”

    That’s maybe the 20th time it’s happened to someone I know in Indiana? “Never heard of her.” Of course those people probably also can’t read the nutritional information on their cereal boxes, but at least they are hard-working Americans who will vote for the woman who not only kills caribou but occasionally dresses like a big old ho.

  115. I am going to ask for the manager in every book store I go into for the next month and request a Haven Kimmel display. And I will happily explain why they must do this. I shall not rest until you are well known in my little universe which is basically the perimter of Vanderbilt University, where I work, and Brentwood, south of Nashville, as well as Green HIlls, where I usually shop.

    I have a confession to make. Haven- tell me if this is evil and wrong. Whenever I go into a bookstore and see a display of Ann Coulter books (that always have her photo on them)I turn them all around. Not just the one on the front of the row, but all of them. There must be something very wrong with me…. 😉

  116. Linda, why just yesterday I picked up an entire stack of Tucker Max’s I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL and put them backward in the computer programming section.

  117. Aiden, are you really only twelve? Because you sound fabulous. My son is twelve and he too is fabulous. I started reading King at that age and I learned everything I know about writing from him. Also? After my mom read SALEM’S LOT, she was walking out to her car one night and started to get MAYBE A LITTLE SCARED, and she tried to unlock the door but couldn’t get the key in straight so she just went ahead and peed her pants.

  118. Now Linda, not to disagree with your spiritual guide, but I think praying for the best for someone with whom you’ve had a disagreement, or who has hurt you in some way, is very wise and compassionate. I think praying for someone who is both stupid and dangerous and wants to run our country is a flat-out falsification of life.

  119. i fear nothing outside of myself that threatens to intrude. bugs, birds, sinister characters, walking home alone, driving the wrong way in a parking garage, htting a redwood tree square on, lunatics, clowns, midgets, giants, maggots, nothing. i have a recurring thread of emotion that recalss each moment my brain told me to be afraid but my body and heart refuses to comply. i amnont afraid of needles, guns, the sight of blood, or precipices. i’ve been in earthquakes and they dont scare me. i love lightning and thunder and hail. LOVE it. i dont fear flying or trains or driving fast or driving slow or being stranded or being surrounded. the worst thing i could imagine that could happen to me alerady happened. see, that is i thina terribly freeing event, if you live through it.

    all parents fear illness/death to their children, so that doesn;t count. that’s a given. for MYSELF? i fear nothing. in fact it’s fairly safe to say that i havebeenknown in the past to court disaster, in an attempt to find the edge of some fear. it was unsuccesful. i only came up with some greats stories that i can hardly tell to anyone, because i will be judged and so on. i don;t fear being rejected because i chose it as a career. i dont think you can fearwhat you chose.

    still, if i had to say one thing, i fear having to go to Las Vegas. There’s a reason King staged the end of the world there, in his novel THE STAND. and yet i needed fear this, because no one can ever force me to go anywhere except the Great Beyond. can they.

  120. Haven- you are so full of wonderful ideas. I feel better now. And I will definitely have to carry the Ann Coulter books around the stores from now on and “accidentally” leave them in places that might surprise people who would actually think it is a good idea to read them. Oooh it is going to be fun to think of where those spots might be. You might be right about praying for Sarah Palin. I don’t think I should simply pray good things for her, but I think I should pray for her too see the error of her ways. I feel as if I should do something other than just be angry, but anger can be a helpful emotion too, can’t it? Yes, I think it can.

  121. Haven – can’t wait for the new Poetry book . . . I’m a total poetry geek (fav is Dylan Thomas). I named my son (16) after him, but apparently half the nation named their sons after Dylan from 90210 – so we would be at the soccer field and half the team would turn their heads when you cheered them – very funny sight!

    Aidan – I was about 12 when I read my first Steven King novel as WELL. It was Salem’s Lot and I used to read, like, all night long. I would get 12 books (my max.) each Saturday from the Carnegie Library (my idea of heaven) in Ridge Farm IL . . . I thought it was a HUGE library back then . . . anyway, one night I was reading it and it was one of the parts where the kid looks up from his bed out his window and one of the VAMPs were floating outside his window looking in – and HOLY SMOKES I saw him for sure and FLEW out of my bed, panting and sweating into the living room, it was around midnight, and my mom was up waiting for my dad who worked 2nd shift . . . I couldn’t speak for, LIKE, 5 minutes, I was SO scared . . . she made me a grilled cheese . . . but I couldn’t tell her why I was so scared because I wasn’t allowed to read “secular” books – thank goodness she never checked my library books!

    Other books that are awesome that I read at about the same time: The Good Earth, The Pearl (talk about having a spider phobia), and if you LIKE being scared – Dean Koontz’s WHISPERS is phenom. Read, read, read. If you love Vampires, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series is good and there is a movie coming out in November and one of the guys (Cedric Diggery character) from Harry Potter is playing Edward. But her best book by far is THE HOST. I know it is a common series, but I also loved Anne Rice’s vamp books & her TALTOS series rocks. Because I read for years, I couldn’t believe how much easier College was, and I sometimes knew more than the Professors (which can be a bad thing). You pick a lot of information up from every book you read . . . it just absorbs in there without you even trying.

    Linda – I have Brentwood, Cool Springs, Franklin, and the new Books-a-Million in Spring Hill covered. In fact, I totally pissed off the Barnes & Noble girl in Franklin when she didn’t have Iodine (“well, we had one but it sold” – “well, dumb head, get some more in” I thought but didn’t say verbally, only with body language . . .but I DID say: “she is a new york times best-selling author” . . . ). Imagine my surprise when BAM, 5 minutes from my tiny (but GROWING) Spring Hill had TWO copies!!!

    To view my highlighted and flagged view of IODINE (unfortunately we can’t imbed images in our comments, ’cause I tried), look at my blog, I posted it a few days ago….I think the link is somewhere in this thread . . .

    Suzanne – I am taking that comment to heart that you have nothing to fear once the worst has happened . . . I just seem to have repetitive issues happen, like yesterday I drowned my cellphone in my glass of diet coke (this happened in December as well, in another glass of diet coke) . . . I need disposable cell phones, fingers, teeth . . . these items are JINXED.

    Commenters – you all rock, but I’m sure nobody wants me to write back to each one . . . Have a great week!

  122. Haven – I forgot to say, your mom’s pants are one of my favorite visuals in the whole world, I am LOL right now! Oh my, in Couch when she is riding the bike on campus and then in the office with the droopy crotch . . . so no movie offers, what about a TV series, like the Wonder Years? . . . what fodder you have and everything is so visual – your blue slippers “real feet” in Zippy . . . maybe I should just do a painting . . . or start MA, Midwesterners Anon . . . our confessions could be a series . . .can’t wait to see the progression of the relationship/poetry format . . . editing my own poetry is like self-autopsy, I keep thinking, what if that ISN’T a disposable part like the appendix?

    I have read Iodine (well, you knew that already) and I am finishing WOLF AT THE TABLE, but I was at a crucial point with it last night and had NIGHTMARES for the first time in a long time . . . I need to blog Augusten with a few questions about that one, but I don’t know, the questions might be too personal . . . I have saved the last 10 pages for tonight. Which kind of scares me, too.

  123. George – you are very astute.
    (I think I need to take shorthand notes while reading this blog)

  124. Sher: This is the second time someone on this blog has called me astute. For clarification, I am a Stuteville.

    Haven: really, really?

    Aidan: Stephen King is great. Here’s an assignment, read his short story Stand By Me, then rent the movie and watch it. When you’re done, read The Green Mile and then watch the movie. Did you know King’s wife, Tabitha King, writes, too? A book by her that I recommend for you is One on One. If you like that, here’s another for you, it’s called The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread. (these are some books I recommended for my boys when they were your age.)

    Since I just finished reading all of Haven Kimmel’s books, I am hunting for recommendations. Do you have any? I am very particular. I am hunting for something light after the last one I just finished.

  125. Can I just say that OH ALL THINGS HOLY, I cannot WAIT to read that new book of yours.

  126. George –

    Something light – DO NOT READ A WOLF AT THE TABLE, but you might like Magical Thinking if you are wanting a Burroughs (you may have already read that).

    What to Keep by Rachel Cline

    People of the Book by Geraldine March
    or her YEAR OF WONDERS

    Letters from a Wild State (Rediscovering our true relationship to nature) by James Cowan

    King’s Oak by Anne River Siddons
    (also she has a book of essays that are fabulous and funny, but I can’t find that book – I just moved)

    Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

    A. Manette Ansey’s Limbo, a memoir (lighter than WOLF or RUNNING or IODINE)

    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

    Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard

    (I am always reading about 4 – 6 books at a time, a memoir, a bestselling mindless thriller, a history book, a philosophy book, can always have a Jodi Picoult novel – except I’ve read them all now). I have to admit that while I was reading WOLF a TABLE I had to switch back and forth between that and Wild Swans by Jung Chang AND Randy Pausch’s LAST LECTURE)

    For meditative reading I like The Desiderata of Happiness, collected essays of Max Ehrmann . . .

  127. I went to the library last night and found something I had not read (surprise) by one of my favorite writers, Robert Penn Warren. Yeah!

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