Story Today: The Imaging Center, by Erin McGraw (One Story, Issue No. 170)

Pete had hoped the subject of her year in Bloomington might arise in couples therapy, but she stopped going before he could swing the conversation around to old disappointments. There were so many current ones to ponder.

The therapist asked if they had married because marriage seemed easy, and Pete barked with laughter. “Easy?”

“Probably,” Katherine said.

“Honey, here’s some late-breaking news: nothing about you is easy.”

Erin McGraw is the author of five books of fiction, most recently The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Kenyon Review, Story, Allure, The Southern Review, Good Housekeeping, and many other journals.

Most Recent, Part Deux

Self thinks that now would be a good time to remind herself that there is a point, after all, in trying and trying and trying and trying, that this is where she’s heading:

  • “Cake” appeared in Alimentum.
  • “Magellan’s Mirror” appeared in J Journal and was nominated for the Pushcart.
  • “Devotions” appeared in Word Riot.
  • “Vagabondage” (self’s first novella) was published by Vagabondage Press, Florida.
  • Manila Noir (Akashic Books) was published.  Self contributed a story, “Desire.”
  • “Bridging”, a piece self began in Hawthornden, appeared in Waccamaw.
  • “Hollow” appeared in 5_trope.

For the purposes of comparison, she includes her original post.

October 2012:  Most Recent

Do you know what this means, dear blog reader?  It means that, in the past 16 months, self has been busy busy busy doing what she loves most:  writing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Reading List Goes a Wee Bit Bonkers

Self has been reading The Hunger Games trilogy at night — an hour before bedtime, she selects a section of about 50 pages or so. She’s read each book about 10 times since the Catching Fire movie.

She made a wee bit of headway in Divergent.

She also trotted around with her, to coffee bars, the issue of One Story with B. J. Novak’s story (Yes, it’s that B. J. Novak, the one who co-wrote The Office with Mindy Kaling)

This morning, she began reading a new One Story story, Laura Spence-Ash’s “The Remains.”

She had minimal contact with the neighbors.  She waved once to John.  One of his boys — they’ve gotten so tall! — was pushing a lawn mower around their front yard.

She saw that all her clematis were still alive.  The one that used to be against John’s fence, until he replaced the fence and hacked it down, is still alive.  But struggling.  It probably won’t survive the year.  Now, it’s nothing but a clump of dead brown twigs, with small green shoots at the bottom.  It used to cover almost half the fence, and every spring for a dozen years it put forth the most magnificent, white flowers.  If it dies, self doesn’t think she’ll have either the time or the patience to grow another clematis to that size.

Let’s see, what else did she do this weekend?  She returned Black Lamb and Grey Falcon to the library (took nearly a month of her life) and began a new book, The Hemingses of Monticello:  An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

She scanned one of her bookshelves and pulled out a wee pocketbook called Envy.  It’s a dictionary.  Inside are definitions for:

  • acidity (Noun): The measure of bite or acidity in one’s tone
  • acidulous (Adjective):  A way of speaking that sounds bitter or sharp
  • adulation (Noun):  Extreme praise, admiration, or flattery, especially of a servile nature
  • allege (Verb):  To accuse someone of something — usually wrongdoing — without proof.

There’s a quote from Bertrand Russell:

Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations.  If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

At Some Point, Self Just Knows

There will be no Literature NEA Fellowships for self, unless they dream up a post-humous award.  But for what?

This is self’s 6th or 7th NEA rejection.  She thinks she began applying in 1991, after her first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, was published by Calyx Press.  There was a period of about a decade when self’s confidence was so low that she didn’t even try.  Then, when Niece G enrolled at Stanford, she urged self to keep applying.  Since Niece G’s forceful intervention, self has applied three times.  At some point, it starts feeling really, really . . .  draining and exhausting and humiliating and all of that.  It’s a bear to master the application program, and of all things, during this last round, she was contacted by an NEA staffer to say that her application was incomplete and she had 24 hours to send in her supporting materials.  What?  She checked and double-checked and made sure she submitted everything well before the deadline.  She began sweating bullets and spent an entire day in a state of high nervous anxiety.

This year’s awardees include eight from California (which self thinks is the most number of fellowships awarded to any state).  The next state with the most number of awardees is New York, with five.

*     *     *     *

No One Story acceptance, after XX tries — this is embarrassing.  Shhhh!

She still loves One Story, and keeps up her subscription.

*     *     *     *

The phone rings:  it’s a 202 area code!  Has self won something?  She picks up.  A computer says:  Do you need dental care?  Did you know that . . . 

Of course self needs dental care!  Her teeth are so bad, she’s still paying her dentist $300/month for some crowns, even though she hasn’t been in to see her dentist in a year.  At this rate, she’ll finally get her “balance owed” down to “0” sometime in the spring of 2014.

Ah well, ah well.

*     *     *     *

Did dear blog readers know that they can obtain one of Stella Kalaw’s fantastic prints through Fraction Magazine, on sale through Dec. 31?

*     *     *     *

What about the Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines?  Self decided to look at The Huffington Post.  The most recent post is dated a month ago.  It’s about climate change.  It’s well worth spending a couple of hours reading through each post.  There is a mosaic of perspectives including from the Global Fund for Women in Menlo Park (They donated $500, which is a drop in the bucket, but hey, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth)

Gerry Ruiz, a photographer who lived in Tacloban, has a Facebook page.  Follow the photographs.  There is a definite arc of hope (not to downplay the extent of the devastation, of course).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Not Your Typical Thanksgiving Weekend Post

Self is reading “Indulgence,” by Susan Perabo, from One Story (Issue No. 178):

My mother was thrilled to be dying of brain cancer after a lifetime of smoking.  She had dodged the bullet of lung cancer after all, she triumphantly announced to me on the phone that summer afternoon.  All those years my brother and I had hassled her, lectured her, begged her, berated her (“Don’t you want to see your grandchildren graduate from college?”) —  and for what?  Her lungs were fine!  She’d finally quit two years before, after a bitter and tumultuous relationship with patches and gum and hypnosis and electric cigarettes, but look! — there’d be no need!  The long-dreaded cancer had found some other place to roost.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked her.  “Throw a party?”  I was trembling from the inside out —  my mother was dying —  and furious at her for reporting her diagnosis so flippantly, as if I, too, would be so thoroughly amused by the irony that the news would just roll right off me.  I looked out the kitchen window and saw my children in the backyard, their half-naked bodies slick from the sprinkler, their hair nearly sparkling in the sunlight.

Stafford Park, Redwood City:  Wednesday Evening Concert

Stafford Park, Redwood City: Wednesday Evening Concert

Lest dear blog readers think that a mother’s brain cancer would be enough material for one story, self would just like to assure you that Ms. Perabo has a whole bagful of these painful and unexpected traumatic injuries at her command, and in fact will dispense one just a few pages in, and then you will know just what it feels like to . . .  to . . .

Self, be still!  There may be dear blog readers who will want to pick up that issue of One Story (No. 178) and read it for themselves!

This is simply an amazing story.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading, 4th Wednesday of October (2013)

My mother was thrilled to be dying of brain cancer after a lifetime of smoking.

—  Susan Perabo, “Indulgence,” in One Story Issue # 178

*     *     *

One important way that people evaluate their circumstances is to compare themselves with the people around them and with their own previous experiences.  For instance, people measure themselves against their age peers, and making more money than others in their age group tends to make people happier.  Along the same lines, research shows that people who live in a neighborhood with richer people tend to be less happy than those in a neighborhood where their neighbors make about as much money as they do.

—  Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project, 167

*     *     *

Being healthy doesn’t guarantee happiness.  Lots of healthy people are very unhappy.  Many of them squander their health or take it for granted.  In fact, some people might even be better off with some physical limitation that would prevent them from making destructive choices.  (I once went on vacation with a group that included the most wild and reckless guy I’d ever met, and I was quite relieved when he broke his foot during an early escapade, because the mishap prevented him from getting up to much more mischief.

—  Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project, pp. 169 – 170

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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