Thursday, June 22, 2006


I send off the (many) corrections to the page proofs tomorrow. Strangely, in addition to many good and useful queries and changes, the folks in Chennai lopped of the –ue of all words. You heard it here first: that suffix (is it a suffix?) is on the way out. I’m holding on, however. Analogue, catalogue [British, I know, but it is a monograph on Woolf], dialogue, and monologue have all been restored to their full glory. But I will cease the plaints with that.

I hired an indexer to do the index for my book. I’m so pleased with the result! Somehow this compressed list captures what makes me proud of the book (embarrassing to admit) and what made it fun to write: the list still looks rich, fertile, and surprising to me--full of things I like and things that interest me. That's a hard thing to write without sounding immodest. Still, it seems really cool to have an outside reader come up with this list: not quite as good as a Borges catalogue, but still rich and miscellaneous. And so, for your reading pleasure, a preview: the index for the letter A:
  • “Addison,” 86, 96-99, 102
  • Addison, Joseph, 11-14, 78, 86, 89, 91, 163
    influence on Woolf, 95-103
    in Orlando, 105-6
    spectatorship and, 109-10, 112-14
  • African writers, Woolf’s influence on, 14, 161-65, 167-68
    See also Aidoo, Ama Ata; El Saadawi, Nawal; Lessing, Doris
  • Agamemnon (Aeschylus), 19-20, 35, 40
  • Aidoo, Ama Ata, 14, 161-63, 167-68
  • “Am I a Snob?” 2, 96
  • Anderson, Benedict, 5, 12, 162
  • androgyny, 79, 107, 117, 119, 126, 141
  • Antigone (Sophocles), 17-20, 29, 34, 43-47, 49, 166
  • Anxiety of Influence, The (Bloom), 5
  • “Anon,” 55, 82-83, 87, 158
  • anonymity
    as creative outlet, 13, 83
    fame and the loss of, 134-35, 157-59
    public debate and, 86-88
    Woolf’s impatience with, 93-95
  • arcades, 80-81
  • Arendt, Hannah, 104
  • “Aurora Leigh,,” 151
  • Austen, Jane, 5, 42, 91-92
    Woolf on, 95-96
  • authenticity, 83, 114, 149

To see the other 25 letters, you’ll have to wait until the fall.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Overheard: Eliot redux

I had to go to the dear one’s new preschool this morning to sign a form for the fall. In the lobby, I met a mom and dad with their dear one. They were on the same errand. We exchanged a few quick greetings. They told me that Miss -- would be right back. The father insisted on their staying to say good-bye and thank her for her help. Then, suddenly nervous, the mother straightened herself up:

“Dear! I’ve been remiss. I’ve neglected to bring a juice for our son. Shall I head off in search of one whilst you remain here to wait for Miss --?”

I detected a stiffness, an attempt at pontifical solemnity, that I found rather tiresome.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

T. S. Eliot

Here’s what Eliot said, in retrospect, about the tone of his contributions to the Times Literary Supplement: “There are, it is true, faults of style which I regret and especially I detect a stiffness and an attempt of pontifical solemnity which may be tiresome to many readers.”


Monday, June 19, 2006

The Einstein Option

There were two ways to earn an A in my high school chemistry class: you could maintain an average of 90 or more or you could impress our teacher, Mr. Kunselman, with your genius. He called this latter the Einstein option, explaining that he did not want to be in the position of Einstein’s physics teacher, inadvertently famous for giving a genius a D in chemistry.

I’ve been thinking about the Einstein Option today as it applies to spelling and grammar errors. I’m correcting my page proofs and today’s project was a chapter on Woolf and Byron. Ironically, then, I find myself poring over my own comma usage in a chapter full of quotations that preserve the charming, speedy genius of Woolf and Byron’s idiosyncratic punctuation.

But errors are neither charming nor a sign of genius in a first book, are they? It’s only posthumously, with fame secure, that an editor can opt—as Byron’s and Woolf’s have—to preserve the author’s idiosyncratic spellings etc., as evidence of the trajectory of their minds. My own errors, I fear, are more likely to be viewed with the skepticism that rightly greets Mr. Bingley’s admission of speedy, error-filled prose, in Pride and Prejudice: claims of sloppy prose are not confessions of error but boasts of a rapid (and thus occupied, intelligent, interesting?) mind. I hate my errors and hate having to comb over them; each one I find—and those that remain, I think, are minor—gives me the chills.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Page Proofs

I’m correcting the page proofs to my book this week. The first look at them was a shock. I was upset—not happy or sad or angry, but upset. It’s so strange and amazing after all these years to see actual proofs, to glimpse the book as it will look when it’s published. Deep inside there was a little tiny me jumping up and down with a huge bouquet of balloons yelling “yippee!!!” Surrounding that exultant being were layers upon layers of caution, trepidation, and fear. It was such a confusing feeling that when people asked me how the proofs looked I could only respond in monosyllables like a sullen teen: “Fine. O.k. Good, I guess.”

Fortunately, as promised, the folks in Chennai gave it a proper copyediting this time and the text is cleaned up. I’ve been answering tons of reassuring queries: “Reading Room has been inconsistently set in capitals and lower case. Ok to make all references in capitals?” So now I have a seven-page list of changes to be made and unmade, queries, etc. I’ve made an appendix and added citations to the bibliography. It’s terrifying and exciting.

I promised myself long ago that, when the book comes out, the anticlimactic feelings are banned, for a bit anyway. Believe me, I can list a million anticlimactic and disappointing things about the book but I plan to put them to rest for a big bash. Now that I’m truly in the final stretch, I can feel that little tiny me with balloons growing, getting ready to celebrate. I need to stock up on champagne…

And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, it’s been a busy six or seven weeks: I gave birth, we moved to a glorious new apartment, and now I’m correcting page proofs. All good, exhausting changes. Soon enough, the pictures will be hung, the boxes unpacked, and the proofs corrected. When that day comes, perhaps I’ll get to read a book again…

Monday, June 12, 2006


I was skeptical when I first heard a winemaker describe microclimates to me. The idea that the weather could vary from one side of a valley or hill to another, that within a field there could be certain rows that would yield a sweeter, richer, plumper grape, seemed just the kind of pretentious niggling nonsense perpetrated by wine snobs.

We moved to a new apartment three weeks ago. It’s just six blocks from the old one, but a world away. Where our old neighbor was a senile man who told me “I made 82 yesterday” over a dozen times in the 20 months we were there, our new neighbors work in the theater. Last night, I strapped the infant into her carrier and headed next door to watch the Tonys with others from the block. We all cheered when our hosts’s friend (and JC resident), John Lloyd Young, won for Jersey Boys.

I’ve moved from the kind of neighborhood that spawned Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to one where my neighbors are assistant directors on Broadway, friends with the star of show inspired by Valli's life. I feel sweeter, richer, and plumper already. Microclimates indeed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I’m so glad

Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, Mary McCarthy, Quincy Jones…

Like many alums of Seattle’s Garfield High School (including,as dedicated readers will know, Dave over at WordMunger), I am deeply, deeply proud to be an alum. I roll that list of the four most famous students around from time to time and marvel at how, in its diversity, it reflects the main reason for my pride: the whole time I was there, I felt so lucky to be part of a working, thriving multi-racial community. Now, in an article about a long-overdue renovation, I read of the very, very long history of that pride: "The nineteen hundred and thirty eight Arrow [the yearbook] is dedicated to the student body of Garfield, whose friendliness stimulates racial understanding.”

Situated in Seattle’s Central District, a largely black residential neighborhood bordered by white and mixed neighborhoods and not far east of downtown, Garfield was, when I was there in the early eighties, the high school that the local black community most closely identified with. The administration was largely black and the student body was just over half black. Acquaintances at other schools had heard rumors of the ongoing influence of the Black Panthers. To me, this was crazy racial, racist fear, an insane anachronistic hysteria. But I was surprised and fascinated to learn something of the actual basis for this rumor from the Seattle Times article:
Things got so rough that Michael Dixon, the 1970 senior-class president, tennis-team captain and a member of the Black Panthers, said that after school he would escort white friends home to their Madrona neighborhood and Asian-American friends to their homes down by Yesler Way. He even worried for his own safety.
It’s not that things were perfect—there was prejudice, discrimination, and harassment in my day, too—but we all worked hard to get along and we loved those times when we did, when we came together as a community in spite of the fears and low expectations of the world around us.

Hard as it is to describe the pride that comes from living in a thriving and diverse community it’s harder to overstate the times in my life when I have understood something, connected with someone who expected to find me hostile, been moved by something where I was expected to be cold because of my time at Garfield. As we used to sing in the stands after every football game, win or lose, “I’m so glad, I go to Garfield High / Singing glory hallelujah, I go to Garfield High!”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


As an Anne, I went through an especially intense Annie phase: I even ran for class president once (9th grade?) with an “Annie”-themed campaign. The dear one has the dvd and it’s in heavy rotation here now. I find that the same lines that delighted me years ago still delight me now, though I hear some of them differently. I think, on reflection, that my love for the movie is less sophisticated now then it was twenty five years ago. Unchanged is my love of the couplet “No one cares for you a smidge / When you’re in an orphanage.” The dear one loves it too, though her sense of the meaning of both “smidge” and “orphanage” is a little vague.

I remember loving these lines from “Little Girls” that seem so a propos now—
Some women are dripping with diamonds
Some women are dripping with pearls
Lucky me, lucky me, look at what I’m dripping with—
Little girls.

The sarcasm is delicious and I know I loved it at ten or fourteen as much as I do now. The humor is less subtle, less abstract, however, when I am literally draped in girls—with a babe in arms and a toddler nearby, insisting, that she, too, need be fed by hand.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lists and Piles

The beloved infant will be six weeks old on Thursday. I’m told that six weeks is the peak of fussiness—it is meant to decline then over the next six weeks so that, by twelve weeks I will have a “settled” baby.

Madly, I take these observations far too seriously (as seriously as I took the due date for both girls) so, with each crying jag (of hers) I remind myself that, come Thursday we’ll be on the way to less crying as if she herself knows that Thursday is her high water mark.

To be fair, she is not at all a fussy child, simply one who still wishes to be inside. As long as I’m wearing her in the BabyBjorn or holding her in my lap (she lies across my stomach on a pillow as I type), she is lovely, sleepy, hungry, and dear. But set in her in the bassinet and, boy! you’ll hear about it.

So, my life is comprised of lists and piles--lists of things to do when and if she lets me set her down (or, say, falls asleep in the car seat and stays so for an hour or two after) and piles of things I need to have at arm's reach for those many hours a day when I’m trapped in the chair. The pile doesn’t change much—it just moves from room to room—cell phone, a novel, a section of the Sunday Times… The lists, however, are like concentric circles: what must get done (worth risking waking the infant), what needs to get done (worth letting her cry a few minutes more), what should get done (worth trying to do with her in the Bjorn or the minute she’s settled somewhere), what I’d like to get done (thus far, a complete and utter fiction). So, I think about blog entries or reading an essay or book I’m meant to review, I look at the cover of Mockingbird, the new biography of Harper Lee, or, for that matter, the cover of Newsweek, and imagine with great pleasure, an hour in their company, reading, writing, but the fact is, often all that I can manage is a quick run to the bathroom with a dash past the fridge for some yogurt and seltzer water before, once again, I’m at the beloved’s beck and call.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


It's Television week over at the LBC and I've posted my thoughts--composed before the beloved infant's arrival and only slightly tweaked (likely for the worse) today--there.

I've been watching a goodly bit of television myself these days but am gradually rejoining the land of the reading. I'll be back more regularly soon, I expect...