This Part Is About Me and My Friends So If You Don’t Give a Shit Scroll Down…
So I was in Los Angeles for the Festival of Books. When I left Chicago, it was raining in this manic, endless way that had caused the sewers to back up and the streets to flood. Sinkholes were opening in the ground like some apocalyptic flick and cars were falling into them and people were in critical condition and there were more than 300 flights cancelled at O’Hare. My flight was among the cancelled, but I couldn’t accept it because Brad Listi and I were throwing a party in LA that night and I loved all the writers on our line-up and I was going to hear Rob Roberge’s band, The Urinals, play for the first time, and Emily was in from New Mexico for god’s sake. I called American Airlines like some parody of Diane Keaton in that movie where she plays the steroidal career woman who needs to move to the country and raise a baby so she can become a halfway sympathetic character–I called and said things to the AA reps like, “I’m throwing a party for one of my authors and I have to be there,” and miraculously the people on the other end of the phone seemed to think the ridiculous things coming out of my mouth made sense, and they put me on a flight to Orange County that night, because it was completely impossible to get to LAX. At O’Hare, even the flight to Orange County was delayed three hours, and the gate kept changing, and all the Orange County residents who were desperate to bust out of apocalyptic Chicago were huddled together bonding like people in an ER after a disaster, laughing at hysterical pitches and calling each other by name, talking to me assuming I was one of them. And for that night I was, because I was as desperate to flee Chicago as anyone else. The OC airport is only 10 minutes from Stacy Bierlein’s house, which doesn’t make sense on any possible level because Stacy is the ultimate city girl (by which I don’t mean indie-boho-city, the kind that could mean Porland or even Minneapolis; I mean the kind of urban that screams New York or LA), but her geographic incongruity was of great benefit to me when she picked me up from the airport, where I was straightening my hair, half undressed, in the baggage claim toilet. Stacy looked like she was going to a party, which she was, but she always looks that way. We drove together in the quintessentially maddening California traffic, but I miss Stacy so I could have stayed in her car all night and that would already have been a great vacation. We didn’t make it to the bar in time to hear the readers, but I got to hear the Urinals, and I got to hug people I almost never see, and I got to meet the fabulous Zoë Ruiz who told me she was bad at small talk, but she was so charming and young-Tina-Fey-cute that her saying that made her seem like she was good at small talk, actually. Someone was madly in love with Melissa Chadburn and kept rhapsodizing about how beautiful she was. A drunken woman threw her arm aggressively around me and squealed patronizing things like, “She’s so adorable–write about how adorable she is!” while Rob was signing her copy of The Cost of Living, and I thought about how my friend Tom always said you can take the girl out of the neighborhood but you can’t take the neighborhood out of the girl, and I’d like to claim I didn’t go ghetto on her so that I could prove Tom wrong, but really it was because she was buying my author’s novel, and because Brad Listi would have had to kill himself in shame. I don’t know what Rob wrote in her inscription, but I hope it was, You’re lucky my adorable friend didn’t deck you.
The thing about LA is that I always want to hate it and that used to work but it doesn’t anymore. I woke up Friday morning and it was snowing in Chicago and there were cars presumably still in holes that had opened in the street, but in West Hollywood it was 80 degrees when I walked to the little market to buy coffee, and there was bougainvillea hanging off houses, and once I climbed up onto the picnic table of my back patio and got filthy pulling the umbrella down, sun flooded everywhere and made the book jacket of Aleksander Hemon’s The Book of My Lives hot to the touch. And I fell in love with LA just a little, and if I’m honest I’ll admit it wasn’t the first time.
We went to the LA Times Book Prize award ceremony and dinner. Tod Goldberg picked me up because he knows I’m hopeless without him. I don’t see Tod often but almost every time seems to involve him picking me up in a pimp daddy vehicle very late at night and taking me to a diner and making me laugh convulsively by talking about people he wants to punch in the neck. This time, I was counting on champagne instead of runny eggs. Rob didn’t want to go; he said it would be like the Academy Awards, but somehow I interpreted this to mean champagne and people sitting around tables chatting while awards were announced like background music. I don’t really watch the Academy Awards. The Times had just done a great piece on Rob, but still 3 minutes into the actual (stadium seating, very dry!) ceremony, he hopped his seat into the aisle behind him and fled for his life, and the next time we saw him he’d won money off some college kids playing pool; he said he’d thrown the first couple of games on purpose, and I have to guess that wearing an awards ceremony nametag didn’t hurt his efforts to seem clueless and dorky. Meanwhile, back at the Academy Awards, Janet Fitch gave me her pashmina without my even asking because I was shivering in the excessive air-conditioning; I’d never met Janet before, but she radiates a happy kindness that strikes me as rare. Margaret Atwood got the Innovator’s Award and my friends kept asking me if I was going to go say hello to her now that I’ve interviewed her for the Rumpus, but even in some alternate universe where Margaret Atwood would be standing unattended, I would sooner lick a frozen telephone pole than do that–there is not enough champagne in the world to make that sound like a good game plan if you’re me. On the way home, Tod made me cackle so hard that my fingers couldn’t keep up with tweeting #shittodsays. By the time I got back to WeHo, I was complaining about the cold because I hadn’t brought a jacket and the sun was down. The thing about me–the thing about everyone–is that human beings have very short memories.
Sometime while I was gone, we all got emails from Isaac announcing that he was leaving. Shit.
Congrats, McSweeney’s. Treat our boy well.
The Links Part…
The Weeklings resolves to pay its authors.
Steve Almond, on Boston under siege and avoiding the media. A nice companion piece to today’s Sunday Rumpus essay by Maggie Downs, actually.
Fashion inspired by new “girl power” books. Yeah, really…
David Mamet goes DIY with self-publishing.
“Drinking Panther Piss“–ManArchy’s intro to Nick Cave.
Mud Luscious, publisher of such indie hits as Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby, closes its doors. (This makes two “shits” in one Round-up.
The removal of women writers from the “American Novelists” category at Wikipedia sparks Twittersphere controversy. (And this makes two “yeah, reallys” in one Round-up. And three “shits.”)
A completely bizarre anti-Chicago rant in the New York Times inspires Claire Zulkey to respond with a list of Chicago’s women writers (which doesn’t include Audrey Niffenegger, oddly). I remember a couple of years ago talking with Zoe Zolbrod about how tiring it is when women writers keep beating the horse of relentless gender identification as a badge…how can’t we just for god’s sake all be feminists and all be writers and all progressive literary folks should intrinsically be on the same side already and can’t we stop having to talk it into the ground. I remember feeling like some of this SheWrites stuff seemed a little dated, and wow, isn’t PW allowed to sometimes have a male-heavy Best of the Year list and all that. Now I’m re-evaluating. Lately, it seems like I was in some serious denial a few years ago. Lately, it seems surreally hard to have a vagina in the lit world. Christ, though, this is boring. When do we get to be done with this nonsense already?
Chicago has to defend that we have women who write here? In this city of millions? Like we’re rare spotted unicorns? What, did all the women writers fall into those fucking sinkholes or something?
Wow, this was a weird week. Feel awful now? This will cheer you up.