Archive for May, 2012

I’m half asleep while I write this, so when it comes out all gobbledywompus and I say something like “complete and utter freedom” (which happened last week when I wrote in this state) just chalk it up to the fact that I’m writing with two-thirds of my brain tied behind my back.


A few weeks ago somebody posted a link to Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for writing and I read them and got really mad because they were all those “avoid adverbs and adjectives” types of rules that apply to some people but not others. The one that really got me was EL saying something along the lines of “I tend to skip the parts the reader skips.”

Well, I’m reading my first Elmore Leonard book in at least fifteen years. I checked _Raylan_ out of the library because I’m a junkie for Justified on whatever cable channel Justified is on.

Godbless, it’s a good think I watch the TV show. Because if I didn’t I’d have very little idea of what Raylan (the title character!) looks like. Leonard is great at the dialog, but he really can’t conjure a sense of place. The only reason I have a sense of place is because I watched the bleddy thing on the television.

There’s this writer guy I know through the internet and he’s ALWAYS disagreeing with me about things like this. He thinks EL is genius; the fact that Leonard has a lot of money and top selling books is a point in his favour, I suspect. I maintain that I like a story to tell me where I am and what it is like in that place.

I’ve long thought that there are different rules from different writers precisely because there are different readers of different writers. I don’t like Leonard’s style as much as Argument Guy does. A lot of people think my favourites are “too wordy.” So anyway. Writery Rules are not a one-size fits all thing.

And also, I don’t like this book. I’m also embarassed that I keep mixing up (in my head) James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard and when I read EL’s rules for writing I thought he was James Ellroy and I kept picturing _The Cold Six Thousand_ and all of its adverbs and adjectives and was really confused.

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A friend just posted to Facebook a link to another blog.  It was a mother writing notes to her daughter about how to be a good, kind, loved woman…unlike the women on The Bachelor…a program shehad just watched.

I read stuff like that a lot. People talk about how horrified they areby the women on The Bachelor or Jersey Shore.  The more politically oriented will also sometimes complain about Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken or Fox News. 

 It all leavesme with one simple question.  If you don’t like it, don’t want your kids to grow up emulating it…why are you inviting it into the most sacred places of your life? You complain, yet You invite these people into your homes more frequently than you invite in your ostensible friends.  You give it space in your brain and your limited time.  

So it’s not as bad as you tell your child it is?  Or. You feel better about yourself in comparison? Why keep feeding the beast? 


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I started babysitting for pay when I was 11. I also got a $3/week allowance from the time I was 12. That money was invariably spent on 45rpm singles and movie tickets. My best friend Jacquie and I were at every movie on opening weekend. Saturday was matinee day and there was no stopping us.

When I married and moved to Nashville we had no money. NO money. We scraped and saved and would occasionally treat ourselves to…the movies of course. None of the theatres we hung out in exist anymore. That fact actually kind of makes me very sad to think about. The Regal Cinemas down in what is now called Brentioch were our stomping grounds. We’d get tickets to a matinee and kick off the evening with a game of pinball in the arcade. When I’d get my quarterly bonus from the travel agency we’d celebrate with a day of movies–all day Saturday going from theatre to theatre. (Yes, we bought tickets for every show.) I always swore that I’d be a movie-going person. To my mind, people who didn’t go to theatre movies were stodgy and dull and lacking in a sense of fun.

That’s why I’m sort of ashamed to admit that not only have I not seen The Avengers yet, I don’t know if I will see it until the Blu-Ray hits the shelves at Target.

It isn’t that I don’t want to see it. It’s just that I….well. Maybe I am stodgy and dull and lacking in a sense of fun. I personally don’t think so, but then again the idea of having to sit in a room full of strangers and their never-off iPhones lacks a certain appeal.

There’s also the little manner of our home. We only drive one car, which gives us a healthy amount of disposable income. I say “disposable”, but it isn’t thrown away. It becomes things like curtains, new microwaves, sundry plants, the occasional appetizer at a restaurant. Most of it is socked away in savings for things like emergencies and vacations. Three years ago we decided that instead of going on vacation we’d buy our dream home theatre system, and that now sits in our bonus room. I tell you that cake decorating reality shows never looked so good!

It also kind of makes going to the movies more of a moot point. The last few movies we saw in a theatre (Inception, Up, a couple of others I can’t think of…Ironman II…Thor…) all actually look better on Blu-Ray than they did in the theatre.

I suppose I could go on and on. What this really is, though, is rationalisation. I’m confessing that the girl who used to go live in the movie theatres just doesn’t anymore. No matter the reason for it, I still feel a little sad at the loss.

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Queens are on my mind lately. I think that’s largely owing to my having read the Sally Bedell Smith biography during my med downtime; when I read books while my body’s blitzed out the books sort of stick with me like a fever dream. That book certainly did. I kept juxtaposing my life, lying there in bed or sitting at the table choking down soup, with that of Queen Elizabeth II. She is a little dynamo. She’s trained herself to go for eight hours without a “health break”–what we in my family call “having a pee.” The only things I can go without for 8 hours are colonoscopy prep and political commentary on 24 hour news channels. I pretty much have to have a pee every 90 minutes.

When I reviewed the love letter, er, book on Goodreads it became pretty clear very quickly that most of the other reviewers were like the author in that they were impassioned Anglophiles who dreamed of an American monarchy.

Say WHAT?!?

Yes. These people are actually convinced that we need a QUEEN. Or a King. That’s largely owing, I suppose, to the author’s positioning of the Monarchy as a sort of innocuous figurehead designed to keep the country sane in spite of the shifting sands of politics. You know–“I sure hate Obama and my brother hates Romney but we all LOVE the Queen of America!” The last century has seen Britain remake a milennium of despots and tyrants into a sort of staid political Mickey Mouse. The queen is a filthy rich figurehead that everyone feels all warm and fuzzy about and who rakes in the tourist dough. Gosh. Don’t you wish we had one of those??

I’ll overlook how much of a slap in the face that is to the people who died to get us shot of the King. Well, other than that sentence, I guess. And now I’ll dive right into the crisitunity part of this ramble:

We do have a thing upon which we can all agree, which transcends politics and unites us.

It’s called Liberty.

France realised how important that was, and they gave us a big ol’ statue with a somewhat mannish face. We stuck her in New York Harbor and most of us now think of her as just a giant green woman full of elevators and staircases. But she’s our queen. She’s the personification of that thing that is greater than all of us and ties us together.

Freedom. True and absolute and utter freedom.

The way we’re going, however, I think perhaps we deserve a Queen or a King, because we’ve spent 11 years forgetting just why she is so important. We’ve sold her off for parts as we willingly allow the government to strip us at airports and wiretap our phones.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. People living here in America are actually wistful and longing for a monarch. No wonder we’ve agreed to sell Liberty to the lowest bidder.

But you know, this is the opportunity that those of us who are still in tune with the transcendent glory of liberty can take. We can point out that liberty is that ideal which transcends political differences and unites us all.

A queen. People actually want a queen. Excuse me while I bash my head on the desk.

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I’ve been shockingly abysmal over the last two days. The closest I came to doing any actual writing was on a Goodreads review of the latest biography of Queen Elizabeth II.

Instead of writing I’ve been swallowed by books. It’s been sort of like how I imagine a $1.99 Las Vegas Buffet would be: mediocre food in such massive quantities that you feel compelled by the perceived bounty even while you choke down tasteless stuff.

Allow me to back up a second. A couple of weeks ago–while my husband was in China, actually–I cracked down on myself and organised my Kindle. I’ve always had categories, but the books often didn’t get assigned to one. I had fifty or sixty strays hanging around without category; in many cases I had long ago forgotten what the book was actually about. So I soldiered on and got everything squirreled away in its proper place.

That’s when I was hit with the midlife crisis realisation that there will never be enough time to read all the books. Now while I’m fairly certain I’ll make it through the 92 in my To Be Read category, I know that there are always more books in the world than there are time to read them. For most of my life it’s been something I’ve accepted without rancor but something snapped.

That’s the way my mid-life crisis is going to be, I guess–nerdy and idiotic, with no real style. I’m not buying a Ferrari or taking a lover or even colouring my hair. I’m just reading everything I can get my hands on and casting it aside if it doesn’t move me or tantalise in any way. The only lovers my husband needs to fear are the cagey, shifty and merciless twenty-six letters of the alphabet. And my Kindle is cheaper than a sports car.

I’ve felt a lot over the last week or so that with all the books in the world it seems like a bit of a stretch for me to write even more. There’s a peculiar vanity about it, thinking that my way of looking at things is valuable enough to warrant even the semi-permanence of a modern novel. If reading and writing weren’t such a compulsory part of my life I think I might even give it all up.

Ha. Just that thought, the idea of walking away from literacy, is enough to make my blood run cold. I suppose that’s the ghost story I can tell myself, “the woman who couldn’t read”.

*(Although that’s going to be on the agenda, moreso because I’m curious as to what I’d look like without the gray ‘highlights’ I’ve had since I was 28.)

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Boy, that was fun. Just finished The Litigators.

As for the main story and enjoyment of the book…Grisham is now a write-by-numbers author. If you like those numbers, then you’ll like the book. It’s a story of lawyers learning to use their powers for good instead of evil. Et cetera. The typical Grisham trick that I usually enjoy if I’m in just the right mood.

I hear a lot about how Grisham is a Christian. He’s one of those authors who is held up as an example of Christian writers who write in the mainstream, who can publish a novel with Christian themes and ideals without hitting you over the head with them. And I’m not here to say he isn’t a Christian or to say that he isn’t a good writer.

I’m here to say that he has a big ol’ fat prejudice against fat people and it made this book a chore to read. The poundage was given for every one of the main characters. The more distasteful Grisham wanted to paint a particular character, the heavier that character was. The worst of the bad lawyers was pushing 300lbs. The flawed but essentially good lawyer who saved the day was 220, I believe. The good girls–the flawed lawyer’s wife–is just described as “trim”. A nice old lady is “petite and tiny”. It got to be shorthand after awhile. If he wanted you to dislike a character he mentioned their doughy body, their sloppy clothes, their pounds yet again.

I don’t suppose you’d notice if you weren’t a fat person or a person with their own overt fat prejudice. Those details are the kinds of things that authors throw in to add versimilitude but get absorbed and discarded pretty quickly. But it’s hurtful to read and a hurtful idea to promulgate. It’s a sneaky bias that gets salted into our pop culture in sneaky ways. Just like in this story. People read Grisham and they come away thinking that the outmoded science (ie. high cholesterol is bad for you) is true. They trust Grisham; he’s a good Christian man who goes on most of their vacations with them.

I guess in Grisham’s world I and my 208lbs would be a villain. So I guess complaining about his book is par for the course. But I gotta tell you. I know a lot of fat people. They’re all fat for different reasons. Sometimes it IS gluttony. Sometimes it IS sloth.

But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s birth control pills or anti-depressants or a bad car accident that left them with limited mobility. Sometimes it’s a lipid disease. Sometimes it’s genetics. Sometimes…. I could and do go on and on so I’ll stop here. But I’ll just say that you can’t look at a fat person and know their whole story. Assuming that they got fat because of bad or distasteful character is a cruelly smug outlook. I expect better from adults who’ve all had flawed and difficult lives. (If you’re a human you’ve had a flawed and difficult life. Face it.) I expect doubly better from Christians.

How glad am I that I checked this one out of the library?!

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I have a stupid style of grieving. When someone tells me something sad I usually let it kick around awhile until it’s well and truly processed and then, sometimes it’s months later, I have a good ol’ session of loud music and crying to purge the sad, like popping a blister of tears. (How sylvia plath 15year old poetry is that line? Ohwell. I’m keeping it.)

So when Levon Helm died a few weeks ago I told Facebook I was sad, because I was. Telling Facebook you’re sad is how my generation raises a glass of good whisky to the sunset in honour of the dead. I prefer the Waking Ned Divine way of actually doing that except a) I do not like whisky–good or bad, it all smells like old men on the train* and b)with as many people I admire dying I’d have to start selling my teeth like Fantine in order to pay for all that Connemara Single Malt.

This afternoon while listening to music my iTunes shuffled around to Mavis singing ‘The Weight’ and I just burst out in tears. Salt tears. I then spent an hour listening to all the highlights of Levon, crying especially when we got to the lines ‘you put the load right on me’ and ‘they should never have taken the very best’.

I finally shifted out of grief mode when Van and The Band joined in on the chorus of ‘Comfortably Numb’ on ‘Wall: Live In Berlin’. And I listened to some Van for cooldown. I also did this when mourning Zevon. It now occurs to me that I have no prayer of an idea whom I’ll listen to when Van dies. There’s really nobody after Van. Maybe I’ll give Tull a try, because Ian Anderson has a way about him, but still. Van is Van.

And now that things seem better off…

*Oddly, I DO enjoy the smell of pipe tobacco. Since I don’t want anyone I know dying of cancer I’m thinking of just buying a meerschaum pipe and burning good tobacco in it like incense so that my house will smell like learned old gentlemen. Clearly I like the smell of old men if they are in libraries, but not on Amtrak. Yes, I sat next to some whisky-stink men on a train home from Chicago. Well, not “next to” because I was actually “next to” my brother Dave and hording all the buckeyes in a brown paper sack. But the stank old men were near enough to fumigate our row.

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They say people get crushes on other people who are unattainable so that the emotions of infatuation can be enjoyed without the threat of actual intimacy with the object of one’s affections. I used to get crushes on older guys in school (I went to a school that had 12 grades, so we’re talking Seniors, not fifth graders) but my parents ended up knowing the boys’ parents and there were mortifying dinners with the objects of my affections. Is it any wonder I began to turn to those who were long dead?

Well, I also claim that my historic crushes are valid because a boy who is a senior in high school may be able to drive a car, a celebrity may be able to get a good table at a hip restaurant. But these men I love in my heart of hearts? They unite nations, create an economy and tower above everyone else as they stand on the twin boosts of myth and power. Of course we’ve all discussed Abraham Lincoln at length–ha!–and my love for him is no secret.

I’ve mentioned before that another one of my less-talked-about-but-still-fervant historic heroes is Eamon De Valera.

De Valera is the fellow in the middle with the mustache. This was taken after one of his many arrests.

Others call him “Dev”, but he was known to dislike this appelation. Sometimes I call him “Val” because it’s less of a tongue twister than the whole thing.

Oh, right. Who is he? Well, the short version is that he’s the son of an Irish mother, his father is a mystery. His mother came to America to have him, and then sent him right back to Ireland with her brother. He became an Irish freedom fighter; his American birth saved him. When others were executed the British government held the bullet for De Valera because they didn’t want to anger the United States by killing one of its citizens. (They were trying to get the U.S. into WWI, I believe.) De Valera lived and went on to become the father of modern Ireland. He’s essentially a mix of Paul Revere, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. (Like Jefferson in France, De Valera turned the fortunes of Ireland with a trip to America whereby the revolution and nascent state were funded.)

So where am I going with this? Well, last week I bought a book called Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney.

Have you ever read a book that leaves a bruise on your soul? This was that book for me. It’s so beautifully written that I found myself highlighting thoughts and passages where the words fit together more rightly than words ever have done anywhere else. The story is allegorical, using one man’s struggles with his family to mirror the nascent Irish state. So while the wording is beautiful and the book feels more Irish than any other thing it also bit into my mind with the hot vinegar of venial people. I kept trying to set it aside but there were stirring passages about de Valera scattered throughout, with promises of more to come. So I soldiered on–pun intended–through to the end.

I’m still carrying around all those miserable people and their horrible ventriloquist’s dummy. I wish they would leave my head, but they won’t. At least I also have great images of de Valera in there as well, the Long Fella saving the country yet again.

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I need there to be a top post other than the one I left up from last week. So I’ve dragged my stone-passing carcass down to my desk to put something here. That last post had 72 comments, several of which made me feel all warm fuzzy inside. Apparently reading my blog is, to some people, worse than having a root canal from Laurence Olivier. As a writer the knowledge that my blog is a plague-infested cesspage makes me feel…weird. Oh well. I live weird. I’ll die weird.

So last week I was reading The Unquiet Bones by Mel Starr. It’s one of those mysteries, like Brother Caedfel, that is set in “medieval” times. I put that in quotes because every one of these books is pretty anachronistic in their own way. I’m glad I’m only a part-time medieval scholar. As nuts as some of the stuff makes me, I can only imagine how Certain People (nm, I’m looking at you) feel about it. Anyway, in this book the protagonist is a Surgeon who solves murders for his lord. I read it because I’m a nut for anything involving the history of medicine and historical medical practice. I’d prefer to read primary source accounts but on occasion a narrative with some tidbits of historical medicine thrown in is a fun thing. At least I hope so, given that’s what one of my books is about.

I’m going on about this because one of the procedures the guy (I cannot remember his name. This is the curse of first person story telling.) performed was the removal of a large bladder stone. I will not go into details, but trust me when I say that I honestly think that death would be preferable to what he did. I also think that the pain would be so bad that the patient would pass out. So anyway, on these days when my first inclination is to whine about my lot it really helps to think about the myriad ways I’ve actually got it pretty good.

You know what I find really interesting, and what will amuse some of those people who have known me for a very long time? The fact that so many people who read my last two posts think I’m a liberal. Liberal politically, liberal Christianity-wise. And while some of my best friends are liberals (dolphin, that’s one for you 🙂 ) and I truly love the company of my liberal compatriots, I think pretty much all of them will agree that they tolerate Coble in spite of her conservative positions.

Yes. I did just refer to myself in the third person. I think that’s my cue to stop rambling. Anyway. At least there’s something new when I open the page.

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In my comments section of the earlier post, Dolphin raises a sticking point with me.

A few years ago the Barna Group did a study and found that when Americans aged 16-29 (both christian and non-christian) were asked to come up with a word or phrase that described Christianity, the TOP answer (not one of the top, but the very top most common answer) given was “anti-gay.”[ed. note: added links are mine]

Not “believes in unity with God”; not “feeds the hungry, clothes the poor, opens hospitals around the world”. They don’t know we are Christians by our love but by our anger.

A couple of days ago Christian minister Rachel Held Evans addressed this very issue. Her post title was How to win a culture war and lose a generation.

Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

In her post yesterday, Rebecca Luella Miller–who is a very nice person but also very opposite me on some of these issues–said

Since when did adults surrender standards of right and wrong to our children?

I’ve been pondering these things a great deal. During this internal questioning my mind has flashed back to the Frank Peretti. In one of his books (I’m sorry I can’t recall which one) he portrays a cabal of feminists and homosexual community leaders as working in a unified bloc to conspire the downfall of the Church. I’ve read countless articles and blog entries that say the same thing. There are many Christians who believe that we as Christians are in a war with Satan. Wait. I’m one. I believe that too. But then my question becomes this. What, exactly, are we fighting FOR?

There is one belief that says we are fighting for the rightness of God’s Word. Fighting to assert the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This group seems to see homosexuals as the forefront of Satan’s Army, pushing an agenda to defeat God.

Let’s pretend for a minute that this is completely true.
1. If we believe in the sovereignty of God, why do we fear any group of men?
2. If our God can be defeated by mankind’s beliefs and actions, what use is it to believe in that God? (Dolphin also asks this, rightly.)
3. If this Cabal exists, who are the enemy? The gay people or the Satan who is presumed to be guiding them?

Now, I happen to believe (because the Bible I believe in tells me so, and I’ve seen it and felt it and been in it) that we are in a war with the forces of Evil. Our scripture is pretty plain when it says we do not war against flesh and blood. Gay people are not the enemy. Abortion doctors are not the enemy. Women who don’t shave their legs and believe that abortions are ok are not the enemy. We have an enemy, that’s for sure.

But again I ask “what are we fighting for?”

I have been struck repeatedly over the last 20 years with the growing realisation that our desire to be ‘proven right’ is an earthly thing. I happen to think that this is the way Satan is tricking the Church. Our Fruit of The Tree of The Knowledge of Good And Evil is this. We want everyone to know what is Good and what is Evil. And we seem to be left with death. People are fleeing the churches in great numbers. We are perceived as haters of mankind and hypocrites against our own God’s directions.

Maybe, just maybe, if satan is using anyone he might be using our own pride and desire to be seen as right against us.

Jesus said that if all people were silent, the stones would cry out in honour of God. God doesn’t NEED us to acknowledge the I AM. But God did call us to carry the message of eternal love and
perfect peace to everyone. That’s our mission. That’s what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for the right to let Hope out of the box. I want by the time I die for that poll to say “#1 They bring hope”.

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