What I Learned On My Book Tour

I learned a great many things on this recent outing, such as the value of a belt.  But also?  If your pants are going to fall down, Miami is a good place for it.  I think it has something to do with Jennifer Lopez, but that’s just an intuition.  And I learned a few things I didn’t know about taxidermy.  For instance, there’s a fine line between a beautifully preserved specimen and a dead animal (really, it’s like . . . you can’t even see the line until you’ve crossed it), and sleeping with a dead rabbit night after night will sometimes cause the rabbit to appear to have been hit by a car.  Packing it in a suitcase doesn’t help.  At first I tried to move him by packing him/it between clothes, and one of its ears got bent in a disturbing way, so instead of wearing my cowboy boots I packed them, slipping her inside one of them.  I thought this was ingenious but when the bunny emerged he seemed even flatter and more boot-shaped than before.  Then the worst occurred:  I opened my suitcase to discover it had been inspected by the TSA.  I frantically went over the list of what is forbidden in a checked suitcase and I could not see, on the list in my mind, any mention of dead animals.  IT’S OKAY.  FLAT STANLEY WAS SAFE.  This is what he looked like before the trip:

Now you expect an ‘after’ photograph, but I just can’t.  Anyway, he’s under my pillow.  This, however, is what a live animal looks like:


That is my dog, Iorek.  He is posing with my two-year-old’s shoe, for perspective.  IT’S OKAY.  I took the baby out of the shoe earlier.

I also learned that people are astonishingly kind – well, I knew that.  The belt thing was something of a surprise.  I was treated kindly everywhere I went, by everyone I came into contact with – in every city, in every hotel, by everyone who attended my readings.  Bookshop owners were extraordinarily generous, and whaaaaaaa? is this?  Commenters drove long distances to see me, which shocked me every time and made me teary.  And to everyone who has given their time and money to IODINE, I can’t thank you enough.  I’ll never again believe The Novel Is Dead, as is so often proclaimed.  It is Merely Flat and Appears To Be Sleeping. 

Finally . . . wait, let me back up.  I’m not a person with enemies (that I know of) (and if I have some you may hold your peace because I am blissfully unaware of it) but once upon a time someone stole something very dear to me, and did so knowing how deeply I would be injured.  Only in the first week or so after did I actively wish injury upon this person; after that, and to this day, I have merely been puzzled as to how much must have been lacking in My Bete Noir’s (hereafter MBN) life to have done such a thing.  MBN is a person who, as Martin Buber, my favorite Jewish philosopher – and I’m sure yours, too! – would put it, turns every Thou into an It.  “O piling up of information:  It, It, It!”  The purpose of such a life is not to apprehend, nor is it to fully engage with any thing or person – no one is a You – but to collect, and to deflect the deepest meaning of all particular occasions. 

I heard recently that MBN, on one or another whirlwind Piling Up Of Information tours, made fun of Graceland in a very public way.  That was when I knew I could cease puzzling over my own loss, because there are people among us who have a hole where there ought to be abiding compassion and tenderness and grief.  There is no sadder figure in our popular culture than Elvis Presley, and nothing more heartrending than to invade his home and the scene of his death, the place he is buried between his parents, wearing a headset and staring at his relics.  MBN did not see a boy from Tupelo who thought he’d purchased a mansion and who decorated it according to his whim and his loneliness.  And apparently MBN’s headset didn’t include Lisa Marie’s account of how, as a little girl, she would see him walking down the stairs and he was so much larger than life, so much more than any other man she knew, it was like watching a god descend. 

Others have made fun of his taste, how small the house actually is, and I am always stunned at how callous and blind people can be.  Graceland is a holy site, because it is the place a man struggled for control of his life and his soul and lost, and not just any man but a good one, a generous and kind and brilliant man.  It is the place a child lost her father, and where the father before her lost his own two beloved parents.  Elvis lived with the ghost of his own dead twin.  He was made an It in his own lifetime:  Colonel Parker actually referred to engagements he set up for Elvis as ‘exploitations,’ and to Elvis’s face.  There are people who would mock him and those who see him as a genuinely tragic figure.  I don’t care what the latter type looks like or what they wear, or if they stand at the gates on the date he died and openly sob:  I’m with them.  My brother-in-law, who is really much too nice for my sister, well, okay, she gives them to me too, has given me priceless Elvis paraphernalia from his own past, and each piece breaks my heart a little, because Elvis paid for those concerts with his life while others danced and spent his money.

Did I have a point?  Yes.  I’ve been to Memphis a dozen times but this year just driving over the exit for Elvis Presley Boulevard caused me to let go of what MBN took from me.  As I wrote to a friend, I went out walking, as I always do, and when a woman stopped and asked me if I was a Christian, son, I said, Ma’am I am tonight.

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Published in: on September 14, 2008 at 10:07 pm  Comments (193)  

193 Comments

  1. I thought Graceland was a terrible joke when I was 14 and had no soul or taste. Then I went there and bam! I lost a part of my heart to the King and I never, ever got it back. And I don’t want it. He can have it…he deserves it.

    But I do want my own Jungle Room.

    By the way, it was one of the supreme highlights of my life to meet you. I will drive that far again (although maybe next time I won’t have to!)

  2. It was very dear to meet you as well.

  3. I always wished Elvis had written his own material. When I was a kid, my parents would dump my brother and I off at the local movie theater. About every other weeks was an Elvis movie, it seemed. I have seen them all. I was never ashamed of my love for Elvis. I just didn’t give a crap what anyone thought.

    I was sitting in a diner in Fort Kent, Maine eating breakfast when I heard about the death of the king.

    I went out and got stoned — no biggie because I did that every day — but I got stoned and went driving in the Maine woods. The local radio station was playing a tribute and the music faded in and out, ultimately getting fainter with each mile I drove into those woods that day.

  4. I loved Elvis so much as a child that my parents kept the news of his death from me for a while. I was four.

    Then I grew up, and lost my taste for him. Okay, really, I thought he was a sad, fat old clown. I mean, those jumpsuits… And then I went to Graceland, for the kitsch of it, you know. And I suddenly got it. He was poor white trash from Tupelo, and he probably walked by that “mansion” all the time as a teenager, and when he got suddenly rich and famous in a way NO ONE HAD EVER BEEN BEFORE, he made it his own. Of course it’s tacky – it’s not like he suddenly got taste, too. I was sobbing by the time I got to his grave.

    You are so right. He is tragic, and Graceland is holy.

  5. It was years later when I heard Marc Cohn’s Walkin’ in Memphis…to this day I hear the words: Drivin in Maine. And welcome back, Haven! How was Indiana? I mentioned this, but when I was in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago, it felt weird. I couldn’t bring myself to walk back to The Star city room. I didn’t want to be one of those sad old guys that I used to see from my desk when they would come trudging up to the desk, dragging their memories along with them. My deal, my response, is to unload a decent piece of writing. I’m working on it.

  6. I had a long and impassioned argument with a friend over whether or not Elvis was the King of Rock-n-Roll. She said no, it was Buddy Holly, because he wrote his own songs.

    Now, I love Buddy Holly passionately. Those tall, gawky guys with glasses get me every time, I love his songs, love him. But I’m sorry, the fact that Elvis did not write his own songs means he wasn’t a song writer. It has no bearing on his status as KING. No one else sang like that, or had that look, or charisma.

    It is a terrible shame that his talent was wasted in a bunch of films that embarrassed him, but the body of work that he left behind more than makes up for it.

    I just realized Elvis died almost exactly 9 months before I was born. Elvis was Taken Away, and I was Added (to quote someone you all might know.) It always seems odd to me that the entire time I have been on this earth there has been no Elvis. It certainly doesn’t feel that way.

  7. It was strange for me to be back in Indiana, too, George. And I completely understand why you didn’t go to the newsroom.

    When I tour through there, I have two distinct audiences: those who know my memoirs and nothing else (and are very familiar with the memoirs) and readers who have followed my entire career. When I’m faced with the people who come to see me read just so they can ask about the characters in Zippy, I freeze a little bit inside. I don’t mean I don’t love them — very often they were neighbors, or close to it — but I don’t want to expose anyone anymore. Except my sister. And Delonda, but in the most loving way, of course. Well, and it turns out my fabulous daughter. And I’m not averse to talking about . . . oh, who am I kidding.

  8. If you REALLY want to get your heart broken, go listen to Elvis’s home recordings, which were made on a reel-to-reel at Graceland. He and his posse sing hymns and standards, like The Tennessee Waltz, and Elvis plays the piano. He changes the words to songs, he laughs, one of the wives comes in and asks if they need anything to drink. The most astonishing thing about the recordings isn’t their intimacy, although it’s piercing; it’s how bloody gorgeous his voice is on every song, with absolutely not one machine to alter his pitch or equalize the sound. You can hear what and who he wanted to be: a man who sang and played the piano and guitar, was passionate about it, was in love with music.

    And Glen Campbell didn’t write his songs either, but that doesn’t make him anything less than one of the greatest studio guitarists and general fabulosities of all time.

  9. kate: i am not saying he was not the king…i just wondered what he had to say…his lyrics, express his own melodies…that sort of thing.

    haven: you ain’t foolin nobody…i guess every person and every experience you have ever had or will ever have is fair game, right? did anyone from the star interview you (muncie or indianapolis?)

  10. I thought G.C. was a writer…I do think he was great. I liked and still am influenced by all those guys from the era — except, perhaps, Bobby Goldsboro. But I love Roy Orbison (was there ever a sweeter high voice), Waylon, Merle…especially Hank Williams.

    But those Elvis tapes you are talking about sound so intriguing. I have never heard them…I am going to try and find them. I especially loved his Cryin’ in the Chapel.

  11. George, oh GOD no, people and experiences aren’t fair game with me. COUCH, especially, was crafted to celebrate my mother while protecting as many other strands of the story as possible. For someone who wrote two memoirs I’m unusually discreet. Or as my sister said to a reporter who asked her if she was really as mean to me when I was little as I wrote in ZIPPY, “Ha! She didn’t tell the half of it.”

  12. Almost all of Glen Campbell’s greatest songs were written by Jimmy Webb. Very talented guy, that Webb.

  13. Oh George I know…I’m still having that fight with Amy all these years later…and she’s probably forgotten all about it! I get what you are saying.

    It’s a terrible shame how that man was robbed…I’ll have to listen to those recordings.

    And Roy, oh my Roy! *Swoon*

  14. Haven: See what happens when I assume? Thanks for a glimpse into the back story! You dredge out new neural channels all the time in my brain. Elvis..Glenn Campbell..Wallace…all in one night!

  15. Haven,

    Being one of those people in the audience…I just want to let you know that, to your credit, the reason people ask is because you made us love those people, and care deeply about what happened to them. It’s been so fun being on this blog and seeing Melinda and your sweet mom post, because it feels like seeing long lost members of my own family.

    And you did a hysterically wonderful job of answering the question, I might add.

    Kate- Memoir Dork (who has read most all of your books and loved them, but still feels that truth is stranger than fiction.)

  16. Roy Orbison just could not have been better. Perfect, perfect tone and sadness; he was operatic.

    And George, you know Bobby Goldsboro’s career began with Orbison, right? How could I have such knowledge of the writer of the great “Honey”? Because I AM FRIENDS WITH HIS SISTER. Who shall remain unnamed. But if either she or her dastardly handsome and talented husband should read this, hello you two.

  17. Kate — just e-mailed you, Miss Cake.

  18. Haven: Just took a late-night stroll on Google and there was an interview of Bobby Goldsboro talking about his long association with Orbison! I had no idea. I was always so amazed that he could even get out of bed after the losses in his life.

    Did you read Bobby Ann Mason’s book about Elvis?

    The other night on PBS they were re-running takes from the Johnny Cash Show (I did know that Joni Mitchell was a guest). When I hear those guys from that era, time dissolves and suddenly I am sitting in the kitchen at my parents’ house at about 5 a.m. listening to country music on the radio and drinking coffee with my Mom and Dad, getting ready for the day. My Dad is sitting in his chair, wearing his blue uniform, a diesel mechanic, sitting there smelling of oil and Old Spice, my mom, reading aloud from Erma Bombeck, me, sipping coffee

  19. AUGH!! This is what I get for not watching television!

    I wasn’t going to mention this because I want to write her a personal note as well, but the divine Liz of Big Hat Books in Indianapolis gave me, as a gift (I get gifts for going to stores where people are selling my books! I should be bringing THEM presents!) the 16-CD box set of Johnny Cash reading The New Testament. I was speechless; I still am. I have two long road trips coming up and I’m saving listening to him until then. Even looking at the box stuns me.

  20. Oh, and yes, I’ve read Bobby Ann Mason’s book. I love that biography series. You should pick up the definitive biography(in my opinion), Peter Guralnick’s two-volume Last Train To Memphis, The Rise of Elvis Presley, and Careless Love, The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. He’s a great biographer, great musicologist, is obsessively detailed, as biographers are supposed to be.

  21. elvis presley is the king. oneof my most favrotes is his boxed cd set recording of PEACE IN THE VALLEY is flawless of course, and we all do love us some SHOW ME THY WAYS song on that on. and hecould fuck up te end of the song andlaugh and then PICK IT UIP FLAWLESSLY ,mas he does on thaht recording. and yall need to get your hands on “thE songs frommy mothers hymnal” which is on the johnny cash AMERICAN RECORDINGS compilation. i sing it ALL THE TIME, it;s absolutely haunting. i didnt really know elis until i heard that one song, which i guess speaks to your post here about letting go of what people have taken from us, or tried to take.

    help me love when im hated
    spread joy unabated
    show my thy ways o lord

    oh and lisa marie presley ROCKS. her face alone is a teller of tales. GOD I THINK SHE is brave and brilliant andbeauiful, as is priscella. yes,some plastic surgery went amok but who cares? i mean, really. who cares. i mean as far as im concerned they are ALL MEMBERS of anancient tribe come to bless us. glen campbell, jon cash, elvis, all of themput it right out there and never tried to TRICK US. i worship at the church of Jon Cash every day. the music video of GODS GONNA CUT YOU DOWN is oneof the greatest and most heartwrehcning pieces of film, ever. well. im feeling some bouyancy again,after a very rough time of missing my haven and so on and writers sucking shotguns,which yes, was very very sad and disturbing and made mequestion many things. he took a piece ofme with him, i will have to remake another cork to fit in that hole.

    and yes, i imagine you did leave 90% of actual history out of Zippy and SGUOTC, because that’s the nature of things with memoirs – one can only tell so much without betraying the deepest loyalties. and you sort of have to choose which rock you’re going to smooth,don;t you? which rock you are going to tumble into gemstone.

    my father looked exactly like buddy holly in his youth. for a long time i carried his big geeky glasses along with me, but they were lost in the shuffle. it isnot an exaggeration to say i have nothingof my father’s left except the hole where he was. if icould lose that, i would, but i cant. as Rick bragg said of his lost crazy lush father in THE PRINCE OF FROGTOWN “there is nowhere you go that he will not be.”

  22. MIDWESTERNERS! RAY BOLTZ IS GAY.

    Seriously, Ray Boltz has uncloseted himself as a gay American. I will never sleep tonight. MELINDA, DO YOU HEAR THIS?!?

  23. And here let me thank Miss Suzanne, Who Takes Us Down To Her Place By The River, for filling in for Mr. Carson while he was away.

  24. Here is the article about Ray Boltz. Christian music, we hardly knew ye!

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2008/9-12/arts/feature/13258.cfm

  25. by the way, i thought juaquin phoenix was ROBBED for not getting an oscar for WALK THE LINE, and reese witherspoon almost made up for it. almost. because phoenix met with jon cash, and got his blessing, and so on. and then, he BECAME him, on film. that was a great film, i stomped my feet throughout. thank you for reminding me, everyone, of jon cash and elvis and glenn campbell,whose version of CRYING is heartwrenching and so lucid it gives me the WILLIES…only he could stand up to roy orbison and cover that song without massive humiliation and divine retribution. and one last oprecious song: Field of Diamonds, with june carter cash and jon cash, together at the end.

  26. well, you know we are allnearly frantic. i mean we were going to the fucking NEAR ROOM when you had been gone,like two days. i’m still not over it. naturally i made a FOOL o myself, just trying to slap shoe my way through it.

  27. This is as off topic as you can get, but I just have to say that I am currently reading South of The Big Four and it is the most sublime fantastic ever. I have never read a more quiet book, this is the only way I could explain it to my husband last night. Again, thanks for always nodding us in the right direction at the book store.

  28. I just slap shoe my way through it, Suze. Except I don’t know what that means.

  29. Caryl, can you BELIEVE how good that book is? From the first word to the last — sublime is exactly right.

  30. Here’s a synopsis of my trip to Indy:

    http://mckinneycake.com/2008/09/do-you-know-what-i-did-last-thursday/

    Also, Ray Boltz? Dude.

  31. Taste is such an arbitrary thing anyway. What’s good taste? Who decides? No doubt had Elvis lived his tastes would have changed along with the fashions of the times. His clothes were pretty sharp!

    People who make fun of other people’s tastes are acting in excruciatingly poor taste themselves.

  32. Also, I am still waiting on the email…!

  33. oh my god. south of the big four?it gives me CHILLS. it;s all i can do to stop myself from going upstairs right now and getting it and staying up all night to reread it. but i have to wait, because i’ve read it thrice already.

    slap shoe-ing, btw, is a combination of soft shoeing and slapstick, and you also hold your hand out in front of your face to ward off blows of indigNATION.

  34. Is that beautiful dog named Iorek possibly named after Iorek Byrnison, the Panserbjørne? Because I could imagine how much his owner, one Haven Kimmel, might like the Golden Compass series which is similar in many ways to the works of John Crowley, and honor one of her Favorite Beings in All the World with a name like Iorek, which is Very Clever, indeed. One online definition points out that, “Like all Panserbjørne, Iorek follows a very strict code of conduct, and will, in no situation, betray a promise he has made. He possesses incredible strength, and is a great friend and comrade.”

    I am a huge fan of dogs, myself, and have been owned by several, my current owner weighing ten pounds and being named Emma.

  35. Okay Haven, this post took me to the online dictionary twice. LOVE the Elvis, Johnny and Roy (I guess I’ll just have to get over that Tonya Tucker thing and give Glen another listen.) Find the white bunny quite scary, though.

  36. Digging in my heels, with all possible respect, to refute Pullman/Crowley comparisons. Not. Budging.

  37. I got to see Haven at Big Hat Books in Broadripple, IN. The reading of the book was mesmerizing – I think that is why people are so quiet during the reading. Just by listening to Haven speak and reading her work do I feel like a better writer myself. I have started Iodine and, yes, it is mesmerizing. I look forward to reading the rest. And since I just subscribed to the blog. I wanted to respond to getting a compliment. I entered a store where the owner paints on old furniture. She, in fact, had purchased an antique, twin bed from one of my garage sales and painted it beautifully for a little girl’s room. We started talking and I mentioned more furniture I had for sale – a great set of 3 theater seats and a needlepoint kneeler. She began talking about these items to the next door shop that did decor and they agreed to do these pieces on consignment for me. We, then, discussed how I came upon these items which for me was antiquing – something I love to do but now these items don’t fit into my house with a husband and two small children. That’s when I received the compliment, “She’s one of us”, the store owner remarked to the decor store person. And, I so understood what she meant and felt a kindred spirit with them.

  38. I have lived in Nashville for 22 years but have only been to Memphis once. I know, I know (she says shaking her head, eyes cast downward). That one time was on a overnight field trip with my daughter’s 4th grade class. My daughter is now a senior in high school but that trip is a highlight of both of our memories of that time of her life. Of course we went to Graceland. The grandfather of one of the boys in my daughter’s class (I will get his name and let you know later – the grandfather, that is) was in Elvis’s band. He called Graceland ahead of time and got special little treasure bags for the kids. That connection made it special for him. The tour was kind of an eerie experience for me that I am probably still processing somewhat. Paul Simon’s Graceland. Love it. Even my current music crush, Texan Pat Green, has a song about Elvis. The only Elvis cd I have is a Christmas one. Guess I will need to remedy that.

    Glad you are back safe and sound, Haven.

  39. What about J.C.’s cover of Hurt? Wow…if I hear that song early in the morning when my MP3 randomizes it near the front, then it plays in my head for a week. When I was a kid, I would caddy at our local country in the morning. Then, flush with cash — maybe $3 — I would go over to our local Rexall and order myself a chocolate milkshake…and I am talking about a shake made in a steel blender jar that would be so cold it had frost on the outside…then I would drop a dime in the juke box and play Ring of Fire. Sometimes I would play Elvis’ Return to Sender. I never did this thing with friends. This was a private deal, you understand, the kind of thing you do when you are 11 or 12 and are trying to be the kind of person you suspect you are but haven’t a clue or how to get there except to start off with a milkshake or maybe a root beer float. When I was about this age, I also spent an inordinate amount of time at the bowling alley at the local YMCA. Roy Orbison’s, Pretty Woman, was pretty much the dominant background music for the “tough” guys who would sit at the back of the snack bar wearing their Beatle boots, oily hair, pegged jeans and t-shirts with packs of Marlboro’s rolled up in the sleeve. These guys were to be:

    1. Avoided because they were Hoods (slang in those days for Hoodlums)
    2. Admired because they were Hoods (didn’t take no crap off no one).

    Today, my MP3 player is crammed with these songs from the Greats…yes, I have Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, and Roy Acuff, too.

    Wow…

  40. Suzanne: yep, Walk the Line was pretty darned good. Talk about having the hots for each other…you could see it in June’s and J.C.’s eyes the other night on PBS when they reprised Jackson. So cool. May we all have a love like that — something that makes fire come out of your eyes and causes you to go after the high notes without fear. That’s what I’m talking about.

  41. Hi Haven,

    If I may offer a small correction:

    [Graceland] is the place a child lost her father, and where the father before her lost his own two beloved parents.

    Only one, actually. Vernon Presley survived his son Elvis by slightly more than two years, dying on June 26, 1979.

    Glad to read that you and Flat Stanley made it back safely in spite of the meteorologic nastiness!

  42. I do wonder what might be wrong with someone who doesn’t have at least a small affinity for Elvis.

    Several years ago I discovered a co-worker, a staid and elegant woman, had a deep and abiding love for Elvis A. Presley. When I asked her if her obsession was indeed, an obsession, her face melted and she simply said “Ohhhh, yes.” Several days later, she began receiving letters from an admirer signed simply “E.A.P.” Even after I moved three years ago, the letters continued – until her retirement last year. The letters came from all over the country and usually had an invitation to be EAP’s companion on the road.

    My last day working there, she actually told me she knew I was the letter writer. I imagine that’s what it’ll feel like when my son realizes there’s no Santa.

  43. Yes, Iorek is named after Iorek Byrnison, clever Jodi. I actually knew Pullman many years ago, when I spent some time at Oxford. He offered to serve as a tour guide and we had a smashing time. He said things like, “Aaand there . . . is another pub.” At that point he had written the Ruby In The Smoke books, but I don’t think they were available in the States. I read them while in England and was stunned by them, particularly as YA books. The His Dark Materials trilogy is of course worlds apart and wildly good; The Subtle Knife, in particular, is of a different order. I had no idea a film would be made of The Golden Compass, and I live in fear that people will think I named my dog after a computer-generated something or other, rather than a profound and wonderful character in an equally profound trilogy.

  44. Michael T., you are so right about Vernon. I forget that he outlived his son, because he’s buried beside him. As soon as I read your comment I could see Vernon’s face in that photograph of Elvis’s casket being carried out of his funeral. Agh.

  45. Brandy, what an amazing kindness on your part. Truly. My mother used to receive similar postcards and letters from William Shatner.

  46. Kate, I just forwarded again what I sent last night. Your name is spelled exactly like my daughter’s, which is to say the way Katharine Hepburn’s is spelled, yes?

  47. george? you got some writing chops, there. love the ring of fire jukebox scene.

  48. i have a color postcard of my Jon, William Shatner and Leonord Nimoy. He paid $80 to have it taken at a Trekkie convention in 2003. we can photoshop in delonda at a later time.

  49. Suzanne, thanks for noticing…a morning warm-up. I am working on some stuff. Not memoir. I used to keep my fiction contained to journalism, but I have had to modify that approach now that I am out of that biz. Couple of stories from my newspaper days still bug me though and I am revisioning them.

    I can’t even begin to describe the inspiration, insights, and practical info about Elvis, taxidermy, hyenas, Buddha, splitsville, sib management, mangoes, and effective child care I get here from Haven & Co. This gives me hope for the future — everyone else’s and by karmic association, my own.

  50. our futures are tied together with postal twine of a most magical sort. the more you try to untie it, the more stalwart it is in its appointed rounds

  51. was it stegner..? no,it was vonnegut who said, in an interview w/ robert caro ( a STUNNING THING OF GENIUS) that he’d kept his jounalistic roots and still refused to bury a lead. i suggest you do the same.

  52. george? here it is.i’m posting the whole thing on my blog as well.

    http://www.robertcaro.com/newvan.htm

  53. Trekies….I used to love working Saturday general assignment at The Indianapolis Star. What would happen is the desk would be on the look-out for a good “bright” feature to slap on the second front page or run on the bottom of the front for Sunday. Often, the editors would assign me to go cover some convention going on in Indy. I covered everything from James Dean Museum fundraisers to burials of soldiers killed in the most recent conflict or chess tournaments.

    One weekend I went out to a Trekie convention.

    When I got back into the newsroom, one of the editors asked me how it went. So I spun off what I thought would be the lead paragraph and some of the “color.” Then, flippantly, I added, “…and you know, one thing about this is that no matter how down and out I get, no matter how much life defeats me, no matter what happens to me in this life or the next, I can take solace in knowing that I will never dress up like a Klingon or Ferengi and go as an active participant at one of these things.”

    She looked at me and said she had just gotten off the phone with her husband who said he and their son were really enjoying it and everyone loved their Vulcan ears.

    …this editor and I had known each other since the early 1970s in Evansville…and she ran my story front page. I suspect it was her more her familial connection than my brilliant writing that swayed her decision.

  54. Oh, I don’t know that I was motivated by kindness as much as mischief, but I think she enoyed it.

    And good grief, His Dark Materials? I’m lucky I passed Chemistry is all I can say. Amazing.

    To Suzanne, can I just say I love love love Pablo’s name? I’ve been trying to talk my husband into naming theoretical #2 Joaquin for years, but he is hesitant. Could be because theoretical #2 may never move into the production phase, or because he fervently hopes for a daughter – but could also be he thinks I harbor a secret crush on Joaquin Phoenix (not true!). Am working on Split now. Each book has been more compelling.

  55. Suzanne: thanks….I was assigned to write Vonnegut’s obituary long before he died. We did this on all Important Hoosier People so we would have something in the can and ready to go in case Someone Important died after the deadline and we had to have info in the late editions. My lead on Vonnegut’s was: So it goes…and the last line was from an interview when he said,“There’s only one me, and I’m stuck with him.” Being a stickler for accuracy, I faxed him a copy so he could correct my factual errors. He ok’d it and wrote back: “I must have been a nice guy.” –That’s my Vonnegut story.

  56. VONNEGUT: Where’d you go to college?

    CARO: Princeton.

    VONNEGUT: I’ve never heard of it.

  57. George, Delonda attended her share of Star Trek conventions. There I said it.

    The day Vonnegut died was hard on me; not as hard as when J. Cash died, but very painful.

  58. Ha…….that just kills me!!!!!!!

    I am going to use that line next time I get a chance (and in DC, it could happen tomorrow)

  59. Maybe Delonda was at the Trek convention…probably around 1986-87…yep:

    1. Open Mouth
    2. Insert Foot.

    Vonnegut’s death was hard on me, too. I loved, loved, loved him and felt so privileged to write his obit. When he passed away, The Star did use some of it.

    J.C.’s death was hard, too, and brought up a lot of stuff related to my own father’s death. But I knew it was coming shortly after June Carter’s.

    Haven: newspaper work caused me to abstract so many things — objectify. If I appeared flippant about Vonnegut or Trekies, I didn’t mean so. It’s just a work-related injury.

  60. Kate, thank you so much for that blog post. I’m beyond honored, and I tried to leave a comment but I can never, ever remember my original screen name and password. I once wrote the GREATEST comment on J. Brent Bill’s blog and then couldn’t post it because of the holes in my brain. But thank you again.

  61. “Ianthe sipped her wine, sat back in her chair. She cleared her throat and affected the posture of a young actress with a burgeoning reputation, entering stage left. “He said, ‘I earned my master’s and Ph.D. from a little place called Yale, maybe you’ve heard of it?'”

  62. Heavens, George. I appear flippant about everything, when indeed I am quite earnest inside. But see? Maybe I’m being flippant about being earnest. This is one of the troubles with me.

  63. Jodi, RIGHT?!? I thought I made that up until I read Suzanne’s blog post today! Well, in fact one of my own college professors said it long, long ago and I actually wrote it down. In fact, I responded in a very similar way to Ianthe. There we were, sitting in a class at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, and the professor introduced himself that way, and I had cover my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Vonnegut was much, much cooler.

  64. It’s important to be earnest….

  65. I can only hope that today, if “the professor introduced himself that way,” you (like me) really WOULD laugh out loud. And lay on the desk and pound it with your fist, still howling.

    I so love the way you wrote this scene with Ianthe and Jacob because it’s so visual. From Jacob dropping his glasses on the table to Ianthe’s deep, shuddering breath and Jacob’s request: “Tell the part about Yale again.”

    I’m thinking about the words you chose to head the chapters, and I’m stuck on Chapter Two’s “Caduceus.” I know it’s Hermes’ wand … These are subtle clues, aren’t they?

  66. I grew up with Elvis. Why do people remember the jump suits. What about that young man clad in leather, ..yummy. Anyone who lived in the 70’s or 80’s wore those hideous clothes. Polyester everything with even more hideous patterns. I don’t care what Oprah says I will NEVER wear bell bottoms again.
    I love Zippy and family because it brings memories of my childhood. Wood stove heat, and sleeping bags.
    OT my dogs, pictures of my dogs over the years. They are all German Shepherds that will probably look all like to the non-GSD people.
    http://community.webshots.com/user/sgallagher1960

  67. Oh,..PLEASE, bury that poor rabbit. Taxidermy, ack, dead things all dusty and dirty. Or add horns, a modern Jackalope.

  68. You spent time with Pullman??!! Wow. Thanks for sharing the story and the charming quote.

    As for Iorek’s name, you said “I live in fear that people will think I named my dog after a computer-generated something or other.” No worries, mate, ’cause people Don’t Think. Period. Has anyone EVER asked you about your dog’s name? And the bigger picture is, Who Cares? Your dog is bigger than their dog. Gar-un-TEED.

    “… Yorick! … a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times … Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now?” (Hamlet, V.i)

  69. Jodi, you guessed 100% correctly! If I just say his name, I intend to invoke Hamlet; if you see it in print, you should see the armored bear. I HOPE YOU GOT THE ENTIRE SUIT THAT GOES WITH THOSE SMARTY PANTS!

  70. Jodi again: yes, all the chapter titles are clues.

    One of my best professors at BSU, Dr. Mathis-Eddy, said to me once, “Oh, I learned long ago to never patronize my students. In Indiana that boy in the back still wearing his farm overalls and pig boots could very well be the son of the Governor.”

  71. OK. I’ve been reading these comments all day (day off) and feel my sense of intelligence dwindling by the second. Y’all are w-a-a-a-y too smart for this Hoosier! I’ve been searching my brain for something witty/smart to say and all I found was some wadded up Kleenex and a tube of Chapstick.

    Oh, personal to Haven: No, you couldn’t and the feeling is mutual. I only briefly touched on what your reading at Big Hat meant to me. Seriously, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Synchronicity. XOXO

  72. AH! Do you see what Jim Shue did right there? He pretended to have his intelligence dwindling, and then he quoted Vonnegut. From Cat’s Cradle, I believe, and I might not have it exactly right, “She searched her mind for something to say, but all she found were some used tissues and costume jewelry.”

  73. Oh, and also Sock: our meeting may have been synchronous, but I got to meet your baby so I win.

  74. Haven, Just wondering … if I follow Percy Shelley’s “Ianthe” from “Queen Mab,” will I find more insights to your character? Or am I on the wrong track?

  75. Jodi, no you’re not wrong. But the more important meaning of that name is its connection to iodine.

  76. Oh, I think I won getting to be one of her dads. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and utterly delightful little girl.

  77. Wait, Wait! Root from the Greek, meaning violet-coloured … a young girl, so beautiful that when she died the gods made purple flowers grow around her grave …

  78. …i suspect that the name had something to do with her eye coloring…

    Haven: we needed footnotes for Iodine or a reader’s guide…my wife is reading it now and I am soooooo looking forward to her take on it. Probably a thousand percent different than my own. I am still very tentative about my conclusions, however.

    …an astounding book. I went to a dinner party Saturday night and when the topic moved from Sarah Palin to what books we are reading, I sounded like an Infomercial for this book. I morphed into one of those Time-Life guys you see late at night on cable hawking product like Groove Tunes of the 60s. I told the story of how I managed…managed, mind you, to get the last copy on the shelf at the bookstore in the BWI airport.

    I was repeated Haven’s name so much that people thought I was chanting or something.

    A couple of people were familiar with Zippy. I said if you liked Zippy, try these: then I rattled off the HK novels I have read this summer.

    I even told them about this great blog and that Haven actually talks to her readers…

    What a summer of great reading…

  79. George, if I gave you $20 would you also spray paint on new hair?

    Seriously though: thank you.

    Jodi — yep. And what color is iodine?

  80. Laughing…$20 bucks you say? hmmmm, let me think about it. first, whose hair? By the way, where’s my switchblade?

  81. Ohoh OH! And its use in the production of meth …

    Dear George, did you think Our Beloved Author thought only as far as the colour of Ianthe’s EYES? Puh-leeze.

  82. Jim- when you mentioned chapstick it made me think of Augusten and his crazy therapist. That made me giggle.

    Oh, Haven, Iodine is bringing me closer to my sweet daughter. I may have mentioned previously that she is a lover of all things Latin and classics related. Last year, when she was a junior in high school, she scored yet another gold medal on one of the tests taken at the Tennessee state Junior Classical League competition. Because it was her 4th gold in so many years she won a hard bound copy of what she fondly calls her “OCD” – The Oxford Classical Dictionary. It is one of her prized possessions. So, when I finished reading Iodine yesterday I went into her room and said, “Emma, you must help me” and I gave her the titles of the chapters and she started looking things up for me. She does not take after her mother with her intellect (thankfully). Even as I was reading Iodine I kept thinking “Emma would know what this means!” So, I will borrow her OCD (not that I don’t have plenty of my own- just not the right OCD) when I read Iodine again. As I will.

  83. Heck, Jodi, I just NOW made the connection between Ianthe and violet, and that with the aid of Google! I thought I was being helpful. Ok, I plead Hoosier and shall be a lurkster until this thread runs its course.

  84. George, let’s unravel this together, shall we? How are you doing with the clues as chapter headings? “Caduceus” has me stumped right now. One COULD tie it to Melanie’s trip to the ER after slicing her breast for Jeff’s favor, but I doubt it.

    I’m also backtracking to find the instances where Trace’s hands tingled and her ears rang. I know your wife has the book, so you might not be able to check this out …

  85. Thank you, Linda! Geez! I had no idea why I said Chapstick instead of Blistex, which is what I use. It must have been because I’ve read, over the course of three weeks, EVERYTHING Augusten has written. Including articles from Details magazine! See how it just sort of seeps in?

  86. Jodi, have you ever heard of the classicist Walter Burkert? That’s a major clue to the meaning of Caduceus.

  87. George . . . I hear you lurking out there.

  88. Linda, this makes me feel much more free about saying that Kat’s college philosophy team went to the national finals in the Ethics Bowl.

  89. Haven, Thanks! I’m checking the responses here while mowing the lawn. My husband agreed to do the grocery shopping and dinner preparation if I’d mow. Best deal ever, but it does interfere with my blog time … Once I get the front yard finished I’m looking into Walter Burkert. How did I miss him in my Joseph Campbell studies…?

  90. …and I thought I was being so sneaky. These clues are making me nervous, darn it.

  91. Ok, someone stop me, please. Too late. I will just go ahead and commit some hubris right here and now and say it out loud because I think I figured it out.

    How?

    Tempted as I was, I eschewed the clues, despite being enchanted by them, relying instead upon the powers of abductive reasoning drawn from the evidence within the narrative and nowhere else.

    Back to lurking.

  92. GEORGE, YOU GO, GIRL! That’s the spirit!

  93. I’m in total shock over Ray Boltz. Met him a few times. Had no clue.

  94. Oh thank god Abby picked up on the Ray Boltz thing. I thought I was going to have to start calling Mooreland to get a family response.

  95. Me and Sherlock, over in the corner, doing lines.

  96. One of my favorite professors said to me, after asking how much I was being paid for an article I’d written, “Yeah, I was paid that much once for a short story. It all went straight up my nose.” This was not in seminary, by the way.

  97. Whatever are you talking about, m’dear. I was referring to lines of type…

  98. Taking a break from the Greek clues in Iodine … Didn’t Ray Boltz do a kick-ass version of “Man is Not the Son of a Monkey?”

  99. Oh, I’m sure my professor was, too, George.

    Jodi, I don’t think he covered that particular gem, but you should have heard his, ‘Zachary! You Come Down! Cause I’m Goin’ To Your House Today.”

  100. Haven, That’s Zacheus, not Zachary. And did you sing the “‘Cause I’m going to your house today” version? I recall singing “‘Cause I’m going to your house for tea.” Let us not forget the hand motions — wee little, climbed up …

  101. I was little! I couldn’t spell!

  102. I loved his rendition of “Deep and Wide,” especially when he got the crowd going with “MMMM and Wide, MMMMM and Wide, There’s a Fountain Flowing MM and Wiiiiiiide …”

  103. Did you . . . Jodi, did you go to my church?

  104. Let us not forget “There is a BOMB in Gilead, To make the Wounded Who-OOoole, There is a BOMB in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.”

  105. Yep, I did, and my MOM was our choir director.

  106. Ray Boltz!! I’m reminded of a conversation between my grandmother and my cousin when he came out a few years ago:

    Grandma: You need to find yourself a positive role model. Your uncles are all jackasses. [can I say that on here?] Why don’t you talk to pastor Steve; he knows Ray Boltz.
    My Cousin: Ray Boltz is gay!
    Me: (huddled in the corner, Googling Ray Boltz on my laptop)
    Grandma: Well, your uncles are still jackasses.

    Teehee. I e-mailed her the article.

    And Haven, thank you for a photo of Flat Stanley. I was excited about going to work today so that I could send you a photo of the taxidermy collection. Unfortunately, Columbus is a mess due to the remnants of Hurrican Ike and everything is closed. (We’re not strong stock here in Ohio; we shut down every chance we get).

  107. I wouldn’t have thought for one nanosecond that a prof at Earlham would make such a comment. My son He goes to Butler) said the funniest thing about IU and Ball State the other day: “Dad, people go to IU if they want to be a drunk, but they go to Ball State if they want to be an alcoholic.” Me? I am a grad of Martin University in Indianapolis.

  108. “Talk about love, how it makes life complete,
    You can talk all you want, Make it sound good and sweet,
    But the words have an empty ring,
    And they don’t really mean a thing,
    Without HIM love is not to be found,
    Not to be fo-ound …
    ‘Cause Love is Sur-ren-der,
    Love is Surrender to His Will …”

    Or how about this …

    “I looked for love in the red rose so small
    I looked for love in the green tree so tall …”

  109. …bombs in Gilead…the other day, I heard someone sing Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun. Now that is something that has also been playing at my more poor mental periphery.

    But don’t take my word for it.

    Try the lyrics to the tune…it really works.

  110. “Do Lord, O Do Lord, O Do Remember Me (hallelujah)
    Do Lord, O Do Lord, O Do Remember Me (hallelujah)
    Do Lord, O Do Lord, O Do Remember Me-e
    Waaaaaay Be-yoooooooond the Bluuuuuuuuuuue.”

    In the Singspiration book — you know, with the spiral wire binding? White cover?

  111. “I’ve Got a Man-sion, Just Over the Hill-top,
    In that bright land where, we’ll never grow old,
    And some day yooon-der, we will never more waaan-der
    But walk the streeeeeeets thaaaaat
    Are pur-est Gold.”

    “In My Heart There Rings a Melody …”

    Okay, okay, there’s more but even I’m getting wazzed here.

  112. years ago JUST after my divorce, i went to annie lamotts church and they sang “I SURRENDER ALL” and i completely lost it and had to focus on not aspixiating on mucus for the better part of an hour.

    i mean, church is bone chucking. it gets right in there and hauls you up from the inferno. what i hate, and what i need, is someone to make me get up and go to church every sunday. marin city presbyterian is ms lamott’s church but whats weird is she and i werre going there on and off during the same time and neverknew it. oh there’s a while long convulted story about ms lamott and yes , she is an angel. just a greivous fucking angel of mercy. anyway, and now teh marin city church is beautiful, and luckily it;s in the COLOREDpart of town so hardlyanyone goes there who’s rich and vile, except me sometimes, and hey, you know, i am not a qwealthy women in the monetary sense.

  113. PS TO MISS CAKE

    OH MY GOD

    HAVE MERCY on teh CHILLIN!

    i just read your haven book tour story blog. you’re alarmingly humorous. yes , there was a point when i KICKED OUT MY LEGS like i do when someonething’s truly funny.

    “My husband has more than once left me at home while he traveled to the Transformers Convention (yes, the toy, not the electrical tower), including once, driving all the way to Texas. I told him “This is my Transformer’s Convention.” And he knew I was right. So on Thursday all five of us drove up to Indy to spend the day. It was meant to be two days, but I didn’t get a paycheck I was expecting. So, no hotel, and instead of a whole day at the Children’s Museum we had only two hours, which may someday be proven to be child abuse. There was a poop incident, and we had to rush to see everything, and we couldn’t really spend any time discussing the things we saw. We are going back.

    We had to rush quick to McDonald’s and to the boy’s joy yes, they had LEGO Batman and to my joy they had Madame Alexander Wizard of Oz Dolls, and Alice accidentally wound up with two. Then we had to hoof it to the little independent bookstore, Big Hat Books, and wouldn’t you know it, there was a STREET FESTIVAL going on and we almost didn’t make it.

    GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA
    and also, DUDE. i’m like What? they have Madame Alexander Wizard of Oz Dolls AT macdonald’s?

    and i am going there right now to get me sum. and oen of those little vanilla faux ice cream cones that you can just stick your face in. no effort involved at all, the perfect experience other than some others than leap to mind, experiences of a CARNAL nature.

    xoxoxoxoxo
    sfc

  114. and yes, people, i am here to say that there was dating after divorce, and that it was Good. i refer to the time as “Nymphomania 05″. augusten BEGGED me to take money ‘just once…” for sex, but i never have, but i sortt of ACCIDENTALLY got a watch, as i talk abuot onmy blog, but NEVER to the man involved.

    Now – since The Tour? I am much more particular, but i notice not somuch as to do without any adult activities.

    “Total abstinence is so excellent a thing that it cannot be carried to too great
    an extent. In my passion for it I even carry it so far as to totally abstain
    from total abstinence itself.”

    -Twain

  115. Best Niece Abby – You met Ray Boltz and didn’t pick up on him being gay?!? I waited on him one time at the old Red Lobster and knew. Of course that was probably because he was looking at me like I was a 2 pound lobster drenched in butter. But, everyone I worked with told me I was wrong, that he was married. HA! I feel TOTALLY vindicated now!

  116. I went to take a shower and so much happened.

  117. HA!

    god, george you have a VONNEGUT STORY. how fantastic. and haven, this is how the joke goes…

    VONNEGUT

    My daughter Lily complains because I talk too much, and that’s because I’m an actor and I’m trying out lines and it’s much better to say them out loud to hear what they sound like, but you have real people. Do you talk to yourself?

    CARO

    I do, yes. I do, but I don’t do dialogue. I read my paragraphs out loud to hear myself the rhythm. To me rhythm is very important, and the only way I really hear the rhythm is by reading.

    VONNEGUT

    I would do the same thing with commencement speeches, I want them to be shapely and to be fun possibly for an actor to say. Where’d you go to college?

    CARO

    Princeton.

    VONNEGUT

    I’ve heard of it.

  118. We’ve got a great big wonderful God!
    A great big wonderful God.
    A God who’s always victorious,
    Always looking over us,
    A great big wonderful God!

    Miss Jodi.

  119. Who Made the Mountains?
    Who Made the Sea?
    Who Made the River
    Hm hmmm hmm hmm (I forgot the words)
    And who hung the moon in the starry sky?
    Somebody Bigger Than You and I.

    Miss Zippy

  120. Jesus,
    Jesus,
    Jesus.
    There’s just something
    About that name.

    Miss J.

  121. I really, really like Anne LaMott…would love to meet her but I don’t know what I’d say….for you religious nuts here, give The Shack a read. My minister at St. John Episcopal Church liked it. For my money though a really GREAT biblical type read is The Book of God by Walter Wangerin, another Hoosier writer, I might add. He was a prof of mine way back in time so far that we were reading the Acts as a serial.

  122. Hey George — I bought THE SHACK because of you! Walter Wangerin is a GREAT, truly.

  123. Lordy I didn’t think I’d ever get down to the bottom of the comments. I read…I opened and read…I jumped in the car and flew down to the Mark wall and told him the whole sorted story…HE WAS SHOCKED…he’s going to check on the sheep…I mean lamb right away…ewww wait till I tell Mark and Julie. Thanks Arse, I had such a bad day at work and this just fixed it all.

  124. My sister, above there? She went and told her late husband’s tombstone that Ray Boltz is gay, and it improved her evening. And I am thought of as the weird one.

  125. Master, Savior, Jesus
    Like the fragrance after the rain
    Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
    Let all Heaven and Earth proclaim
    Kings and kingdoms
    Will all pass away
    But there’s something about that Name.

    I’ll see your Something About That Name and raise you a Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,

    Look full in his wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of his glory and grace.

  126. Oh, Jodi, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see? (To see?)
    There’s light for a look at the savior
    And life more abundant and free.

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus, y’all.

  127. Jesus Loves the Little Children,
    All the children of the world,
    Red and yellow, black and white
    They are precious in his sight,
    Jesus loves the little children of the world.

    Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain,
    Heavenly Breezes Blooooow,
    (take it, Haven!)

  128. (Now let us) have a little talk with Haven;
    (Let us) Tell Her all about our troubles;
    (She will) hear our faintest cry
    (And She will) answer by and by.
    (Now when you) feel a little prayer wheel turning,
    (Then you’ll) know a little fire is burning
    (You will) find a little talk with Haven makes it right.

  129. The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me,
    I stand alone on the Word of God,
    The B-I-B-L-E!

    I’ve got the Joy Joy Joy Joy
    Down in my heart (Where?!)
    Down in my heart
    Down in my heart
    I’ve got the Joy Joy Joy Joy
    Down in my heart (Where?!)
    Down in my heart to stay!

  130. I’ve got the Peace that Passeth Understanding
    Down in my heart (Where?!?)
    Down in my heart
    Down in my heart
    I’ve got the Peace That Passeth Understanding
    Down in my heart
    Down in my heart today!

    Jodi, we are GOOBERS.

  131. Turn, turn from sin and sorrow
    [Something] God on high!
    Climb, climb up Sunshine Mountain
    Commenters and I! [me.]

  132. Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
    Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
    There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
    So be careful little eyes, what you see.

  133. Jim Shue – apparently my gaydar was not working when it came to Ray. I was but a naive little Christian girl at the time so I was kind of enamored by him. I’m sure that if I ran into him recently (before the news of course), being the sinner that I am, I would have picked it up right away. 🙂

  134. Oh be careful little fingers, what you . . . I forget.
    Oh be careful little fingers, what you . . . still forget.
    There a hmm hmmm hmmmm, and He’s something
    Hmmm hmmm
    So be careful little fingers, what . . . whatever.

    Since I rocked that one, how about:

    And God told Noah to build an arky, arky,
    God told Noah to build an arky, arky
    Build it out of!
    Hickory barky barky
    Children of the Lord!

  135. Angie, are you the lovely Brandon person with the tiny flying squirrels? God, I wish you’d had one of those in your pocket in Muncie.

  136. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
    This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
    Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

    Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine

    Don’t let Satan PFFT! it out, I’m gonna let it shine

    SING THIS SONG ’til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine
    Sing this song for ol’ Ray Boltz, I’m gonna let it shine,
    Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

  137. Jacob of the Great Laugh paused a moment, as if allowing the scene to enter him fully, and then his head fell back against the wooden kitchen chair and he roared. He shook with laughter, he had to wipe his eyes, and Ianthe too came completely undone; she had to rest her head on the table to ease the ache in her side.

    … “Stop! Oh dear god, I can’t.” Jacob took off his glasses and dropped them on the table. “I can’t take any more.”

    Ianthe wiped her own eyes, took a deep, shuddering breath.

    “Ah.” Jacob blinked, shook his head. “Tell me the part about ‘build an arky, arky Build it out of! Hickory barky barky’ again.”

  138. The Devil is a sly old fox.
    I’d like to catch him and put him in a box.
    Lock the lid and throw away the key.
    For all those tricks he played on me.

    Glad I got salvation,
    Glad I got salvation, and I’m trusting in the Lord.

    Now if that Devil’s hounding you,
    I’ll tell you what you better do,
    Use your Bible for a gun and send that Devil on the run.

    That’s for Sarah P.

  139. Oh GOOD ONE, SISTER!!

  140. I am collapsed over here by the addition of ‘hickory barky barky’ to IODINE. I’m weeping. I cannot go on. Lord above.

  141. Abby – weren’t the gaydar… just the recognition of a tortured soul. As they say, been there, done that. Twice. ;D

  142. Ah. Then you know how I felt when I read ‘hickory barky barky’ but needed your words to express my feelings. My keyboard is splattered with tears and … stuff.

  143. I tried to read your comment aloud to Scott and I couldn’t speak, and then I sneezed. Seriously, I am bent in two.

  144. Here — now Scott can sing along with you, Miss Zippy.

    RISE AND SHINE

    Chorus:
    Rise and shine and
    Give God your glory, glory (3 times)
    Children of the Lord

    The Lord said to Noah
    There’s gonna be a floody, floody
    Get those children out of the muddy, muddy
    Children of the Lord

    So Noah, he built him
    He built him an arky, arky
    Made it out of hickory barky, barky
    Children of the Lord

    The animals they came on
    They came on by twosie, twosies
    Elephants and kangaroosies-roosies
    Children of the Lord

    It rained and it poured for forty daysies daysies
    Drove those animals nearly crazy, crazy
    Children of the Lord

    The sun came out and
    Dried up the landy, landy
    Everything was fine and dandy, dandy
    Children of the Lord

    The animals they came off
    They came off by twosie, twosies
    Started life a newsy, newsy, newsy
    Children of the Lord

  145. OH HO, you must have grown up in South Dakota! Because my version goes:

    The animals they came off,
    They came off by threesies, threesies,
    Animals they came off
    They came off by threesies, threesies
    MUST HAVE BEEN THOSE
    BIRDS AND BEESIES BEESIES
    Children of the Lord!

    My sister will back me up on this.

  146. I am a V
    I am a V E
    I am a V E G E T A B L E
    and I have Z I L C H
    in my B R A I N
    and I will V E G (dash) E T E R N A L L Y…

    I am V…

    Sung to the tune of “I AM A C…”
    Rendered in approximately 1984 in the Saga dining hall at good old Earlham College by some preachers’ kids who’d consumed a little too much soft serve ice cream than might have been prudent.

  147. Steiner, Suzanne has left the building and gone out for soft-serve ice cream even as we speak! And there was trouble enough with that one already.

    I have wrought my own demise, here. My stomach muscles hurt.

  148. Thank you Thank you sister. I was going to write our added verse. I love that one best of all. Do you remember when I was leading the little kids in front of Mooreland Friends and one of Jodelle’s girls sang that verse. Old Delbert and Precious Agnes found the pentecostal. We almost took communion. Oh poor Rosie and Marion. It was a hoot.

  149. FOUND THE PENTECOSTAL!! I NEED OXYGEN!

  150. I would just like to point out that I changed my avatar to a photograph I took years ago of a sign declaring TENT REVIVAL COMING SOON before any of these shenanigans began.

  151. Well, it’s about time you told us what that was! These old eyes can’t see as well as they used to!

  152. Haven, I’m folding my hand. Thank the Goddess we survived the floody floody of our youthy youthy!

    ” … Recognizing our powerlessness to convey what [we’ve] been through, [we have] given up the idea of describing hell. … The reason why writers fail when they attempt to evoke horror is that horror is something invented after the fact, when one is re-creating the experience over again in the memory. ~ Antoine de Saint Exupery, “Wind, Sand and Stars”

  153. I might just change my avatar every day. I shan’t be predictable about it.

  154. Ah, very interesting quotation from de Saint Exupery. On a less philosophical but very entertaining note, I read Jincy Willett’s new novel in one airport or another; it’s called THE WRITING CLASS, and it’s quite a piece of work, as her other two books were. One of the students in the class attempts to write a horror story and the professor (it’s her POV) tells him the reason it fails is because he wasn’t afraid when he wrote it. That’s workaday wisdom, but it’s true for me.

  155. My hold list just got longer. I wonder if the librarians over here at the Nora branch of the IMCPL wonder “what the heck is this guy about?”

  156. I love you Jim Shue. I haven’t seen you since Red Lobster in 1906. Glad you’re still about and found this family again.

  157. Remember when we used to go in to Red Lobster and see Jim Shue EVERY TIME? And it was really great and all? And then the cheese biscuits? GOD.

  158. I have the recipe! Just send a SASE and $20 to…

  159. Gah, a day without internet and phone and this place just explodes! I don’t know where to start…Jodi and George and Suzanne and Haven, thanks for reading the blog and enjoying it!

    Has anyone sung this little ditty?

    I may never MARCH in the infan-try
    RIDE in the cav-al-ry
    SHOOT the ar-till-a-ry
    I may never FLY o’er the EN-E-MY
    But I’m in the LORD’S ARMY
    (Yes sir!)
    I’m in the Lord’s Army
    (Yes Sir!)
    (repeat)

    Jim Shue your baby girl is too precious…I was missing my own baby so bad while I was looking at yours…she was at Chucky Cheese, pooping in her diaper.

  160. Oh yes, Haven…my name is spelled like Katharine Hepburn which, I believe is closer to the Greek. I also went by Katie as a child and Kat as a young adult and I finally settled on Kate, though truly I want my name to be KiKi Rodriguez. I don’t know why.

  161. Kiki Rodriguez, that song even has hand gestures and marching! Now it will be in my head all night.

  162. The new Clyde Edgerton novel, The Bible Salesman, has a funny section about adding ‘Between the sheets’ to the titles of hymns, like so:

    Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see
    Between the sheets

    I’ve got the Peace that Passeth Understanding
    Between the sheets

    Jesus Loves the Little Children
    Between the sheets

    We’ve got a great big wonderful God!
    Between the sheets

    This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
    Between the sheets

    et cetera

  163. well it’s sort of very coarse and wrong and shameful and crass? but when we were teenagers we would take every hymn or gospel song or psalm, and we would substitute the word “fuck” for “love”.

    i.e.

    Jesus f$#@s the little chiiiiiiilllllDREN, all teh lil chiuldren of the world…red and yellow black and white, theya er precious in His sight….

    or

    Jesus f$%#s me this I know, cuz the bible tells me so

    or

    The f$%# that supasseth understanding

    God’s f%$# is everywhere, His eye is on the sparrow

    …for God so f#@$ed the world, he gave his only son…

  164. I just knew I went to bed too early last night.

  165. Dear Suzanne, I can see that you were not a member of the church children’s choir in your youth. You were, in fact, one of the children for whom The Children’s Sermon was invented, allowing for your dismissal from the “regular” service to the hinterlands of the church, where rancorous youth were baby-sat by dispensable teens or older women dispensing paper and crayons, and attempting to get you to sing songs about temperance (“A cocktail?? Why, that’s a rooster’s end!”) Not for you the front row of the children’s choir, where Good Girls sang loudly and were admired by the brethren. You were One of Those sitting with the boys in the back of the balcony and being watched over by a Responsible Adult, who gave you The Evil Eye when your rancor rose to unacceptable heights. Lucky you. I’ve still got those stupid Good Girl Tapes running in my brain, and have spent my wasted adulthood looking for, at least, the “pause” button.

  166. Suzanne: Above all people on this blog, Melinda included, I fear you. Can I sit next to you in church? You would eat a cheese biscuit and sip a Diet Coke during communion.

    Did I mention that Francis Scott Key was once a parishioner in my church? This was a few years before I joined and right after he wrote a little ditty called The National Anthem.

    When I was a kid, we went to Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. In my teens — and to this day — I called it Friendship Missionary Position Baptist Church. At Christmas I can still hear the choir director breaking every sound barrier known to the universe as he tried to hit the high notes on Oh Holy Night. I remember the organist (gist for profane comments, here Suzanne) saying, Paul, why don’t start off an octave lower?

    Anyway…and I will just nakedly admit it right here, one of my deepest fantasies is to take the lead in fronting a full blown gospel choir and belt out to the top of lungs the great tune, I’ll Fly Away.

  167. Speaking of Annie Lamott (love her – read all her books before I found Haven and Augusten. Annie helped me before I got sober, which would probably make her laugh, but she did help, and I think in a way pushed me to rehab. No, I have never met her – but would love to – but I am Presbyterian so we have a few things in common) Anyway (sorry, I have a habit of taking the very long route to the point) – just read this in Salon and it is such good advice that I am going to take to heart)
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/09/16/anne_lamott/index.html?source=newsletter

    p.s. as Annie suggested, I put my name into the Palin name generator (and, yes, this is the last mention I will make of that particular name)and mine came out as Khaki Salmon.

  168. Had to do it. Thanks Lindie!

    Jim Shue, if you were born to Sarah Palin, your name would be: Fleck Rookie Palin

  169. if the unthinkable happens on election day, you can reach me at the following location: The End of the World Resort in Guanaja, Bay Islands, Honduras. Ask for the mainenance man or by my God — oops, I mean, Palin-given name, Crunk Petro.

  170. you are a very tolerent people. i worship all of you. george, especially. i mean, george is our Pat Conroy, our Larry MacMurtry, our Twain. Miss Cake is our Welty, and miss Jodi our Cormac MacCarthy and miss Haven is …well, Miss Haven is our Queen. She maketh me to lie down in green pastures and shut my trap! xooxxox
    suzanne fennnimore cooper, haven kinnmel’s secret girlfriend of the west.

  171. Moose Roadster Palin is my new name, btw. It is punishment enough.

    I suppose it goes without saying that my father was a Baptist minister and that while he preached at the First Baptist church on Eureka Street in San Francisco, I was relegated to a room where babies were kept in white wooden cages built into the wall. I recall not fearing the baby cages, but rather wanting to climb into one.

  172. I am absolutely obsessed with this blog community. I know every single one of those songs, and by the time I got to the bottom of the comments, my tummy hurt, and there was tea splatters on my screen from where I spit it out.

    Church signs are also a favorite thing of mine — my all-time favorite was at a church in eastern North Carolina that read, “Stop, Drop, and Roll Doesn’t Work in Hell.” I was forced to pull over to the side of the road and take a picture. Runner-up from a church in Georgia: “Heaven is Cool. Hell is Hot.”

  173. I truly believe that finding all of you is God’s gift to me for getting sober. I guarantee that is the one thing God is happy with me about, as I have a long long way to go on most everything else. 🙂

  174. Suzanne, you should do a road trip photo book of Church signs. I don’t think you would even need to do any commentary.

  175. When we first moved to Durham, Kat and I were greatly comforted by the sign in front of an African Methodist Zion church that read (and reads permanently):

    EVERYTHING IS JUST ALL RIGHT.

  176. Suzanne, I am speechless. This place is soo much more than a blog!

    Methinks we need a message board!

  177. What is a message board?

    Also I have in mind a new blog post but it’s raining and I can’t get to the Barn without risking moisture. The weather is EVERYWHERE.

  178. Oh, it’s like a forum where people post topics and answer back…kind of the way we treat this blog but with a slightly different format…we just have this little community here! It would be fun to have an “Iodine discussion thread” or something. Anybody tech savvy want to set that up?

    I miss my red avatar but I cannot keep logging in and out…

  179. My spacing was all crazy…I meant that I was speechless that Suzanne compared me to Eudora Welty, and agreeing that this is more than a blog. I love everyone here too…so many smartie pies.

  180. I was speechless, too, of Suzanne’s comparison of me to Pat Conroy, Twain, and Larry McMurtry. Guess it’s because I am a fat, depressed bespectacled bastard with wild gray hair, but, hey, that’s ok, I know she loves me.

    …and I, her. She can be our, our, well, I was going to say Dorothy Parker, but since she is a published writer of books, she can be who she is. Haven, too, of course, and anyone else of the writerly persuasion I have inadvertently not included.

    This blog means a whole lot to me, too.

    When you were a kid did you ever just want to walk inside a book, be a character on one of the pages, mess around with the othe characters, leap from chapter to chapter, avoid the end, of course? That’s what I am reminded of by this place. A bunch of us jumped into the narrative of a virtual book.

  181. PRIVATE TO EDITOR:

    Substitute the word, ‘published,’ with the word, ‘acclaimed.’ I think it has a better ring to it, don’t you.

    And also, I noticed that I had written, “…speechless, too, of….” Let’s change that ‘of’ to ‘after.’

    Those are the only little fixes I see now, but I will get back to you just as soon as I extract my fine tooth comb from my dog’s fur.

  182. Do any of you have words you live by? Teaching middle school has left me with one rule for life: Mind Your Business. I find it’s all I need. All I have to say to any of my students when they’re messing around is “What should you be doing?”, and they repeat the mantra. Took me decades to hone it down to a clear, shining crystal I could hold in my palm. It works in every part of my life. As Donald Shimoda points out in “Illusions,” “Simple, direct, quotable, and it doesn’t answer the question unless somebody takes the time to think carefully abou it.”

    I also believe one should “Keep your mind full and your bowels empty.”

  183. “…jumped into the narrative of a virtual book.” You couldn’t have put it more succinctly, George. And in your mirror you may see a FDB w/WGH, but here you are a blond and shining Adonis, with vision to spare.
    Jodi, your aside to Suzanne made my keyboard the victim of a spit take. (Reminder to self: drink coffee, then read Haven.)
    And Suzanne, I’m so with those up there on your blog missing this essential component (comment board). I’d be making many more comments about how much I love you and your writing, if only I did not consider this space essentially Havenville. (I just got notice that Otherwise Engaged is waiting for me at the library this very instant, so I’ll have to make this quick.)
    I started reading Haven, and this blog, because I had a great affection for the brothers Kimmel, a central feature in our little coterie back in NYC, and the name still makes me light up. I continue reading it because your writing, Haven, is a little piece of heaven and oh, also because of the stunningly literate commenters, and the stream of book recommendations to feed my habit — Little, Big at my bedside as I speak, also Solace, having devoured Zippy and Couch in the month since I’ve known your name.
    Thank you for having the kind of generosity to create community that is such balm to the heart.

  184. George – there were indeed several books of my long ago childhood that I desperately wanted to jump in to. Two leap to the front of my mind: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler AND My Side of the Mountain. I realize now that both are about running away from home. I promise I had a fine childhood with good and loving parents. But, at the time I read these books we lived in a tiny house in northern NJ – we lived on High Mountain Road and when we drove to the top of one of the high mountains (they seemed like high mountains to me at the time) we could see the NYC sky line. But, we never went into NYC. So, running off to live in a museum seemed like the ultimate adventure to me. On the other hand, I was a tom-boy and loved pretending out of doors. Plus, my father was a professional boy scout (seriously) so my earliest memories are of the real mountains, lakes and woods – and not that far from the Catskills in which My Side of the Mountain takes place. Just thinking of living in a hollowed out tree and pulling up wild onions for food and having a falcon for a pet- ah, heaven.

    Of course, I have wanted to jump into books as an adult too. Many of Lee Smith’s books have done that for me. I just started reading Haven’s Something Rising (Light and Swift) and I already feel that way again.

  185. Jodi, seriously. THE BLOG HAS ONE BRAIN. Because while you were posting ‘words to live by’ I was writing an entry on that exact subject.

    This happens in Star Trek, doesn’t it, George.

  186. Now I must change my avatar.

  187. it is shockingly sweet to hear kind words of praise for my magnum opus comic books. really, i don;t know who wrote Otherwise Engaged,but i know she was CRACKED. Zygote Chronicles…well, i remember beginning that book. i know that. i was pregnant three weeks, and I began. yet by the time Zygote had gone to press, I was already a single mom and all the sweet scenes w/ my husband were essentially – to my mind at the time – tragically humiliating screaming nellie fiction. so i was pretty much fucked when it came to who that book’s author was as well. Split USED to be written by me, i also remember beginning that book,because the editor of O Magazine snatched up my first furious, drunken, bizarre and humiliatung thousand words and published it in the magazine — which would have been stellar news if it hadn;t happened WHILE MY DIVORCE WAS UNDERWAY, thereby forcing me to use a psydeudonym. (no i dont bother with spelling. i think everone’s hip to that now,.) so She got the credit for that,pretty much. My next book, I will have been sober fior a couple years, so there’s a good chance I may actually recognize the text and be able to accept praise at that later time. But how moving, to see some of my readers come into this hallowed ground and say encouraging sweet words that I suck on like a lozenge. just let’s everyone keep in mind that only Haven can write ANYTHING SHE WANTS and can do it EVERY YEAR, SOMETIMES SEVERAL BOOKS A YEAR. i want youpeople to know, she does not sleep but once in a while, and then only for a spell. she’s protean. only haven has been to the top of the new york times bestseller list. And Augusten. so, like, I’m a Carrier. I can;t get the fame disease, but I CARRY it. so all yall brush up against me for luck.

  188. PRIVATE (not really to Suzanne)

    There’s only one GREAT Haven…

    …and only one Suzanne.

    Your book that I bought for my brother before I knew you wrote it, is so good — and so unflinchingly observant to even the point of pain — I decided to keep for myself for the time being. Eventually, probably around Christmas, I will give it to him. Meanwhile, I now have your other books on hold/request at the library, too. I have to get through this Robert Penn Warren novel next, however. And the real bitch about all this is after Iodine and the astonishing experience it was, I was on a quest for some light reading this autumn! Forget that…and furthermore, reading you guys leaves me litle time for writing since I am such a notoriously slow reader. Thank God my newspapering days gave me fast though often off-target typing fingers.

  189. Linda:

    I actually was convinced I knew/know some of the people in Something Rising. When I mentioned this to Haven, she allowed me to give a bicycle to Cassie! I haven’t had a “reading” experience like that ever.

  190. i think you kindly GEORGE. it;s nice that Split is getting some male readership, because you know, if you flip it upside down, it;s a man;s book about divorce. yet i like to think it;s about more than divorce, in the same way Otherwise Engaged is about more than engagement, and Zygote Chronicles isabout more than parenthood. but i’m prawly wrong. they may all be about the shadows that i myself cast on the wall of my cave….my agent asked mer today Whats Next and i said i was working on 3 books (true) and that she should decide for me. god i love having an agent: they really are one’s new PARENT. yay for abdicationof all ego thrones and illusions of control. i knowthat if Chriostopher layed Havebn;ds clothes out for her every morning, she would put them on. this i know. ALL HAIL THE STEERERS OF DESTINY.

  191. GEORGE? do you want some light reading that’s still very thoughtful and lovely and WISE? READ ‘A COUNTRY YEAR’ by sue hubbell. it’s magnificent, oneof my all time favorites.

  192. Haven, This is brilliant and naked and true. I know this heart so well…..I live with one. His struggle never ceases and all in him oozes out again. And again.
    Exhausting, painful, quiet and never at rest. Talent can be a burden.


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