READING: Books are my religion . . .a lesson from Ann Patchett


Charlie Smith 3

I am inserting this picture, taken the day AFTER I posed with Ann Patchett, because in THAT photo I look HUGE and AWFUL — and so, I wanted to prove I am still a hipster cat-burglar who gyms it up 6 days a week.

Apologies (and thanks) to those asking if I’m okay and why my entries have been so infrequent. I’m immersed (not to say, drowning) in yet another edit of “LIBERTYTOWN” and, too, a couple of other writing projects which came banging at the doors of my brain/heart/soul, even as I hid away, weeping, whispering, “There’s no one home!” Somehow, the stories and words inside me, or, floating around me, or, something, will not let me do what I’ve been trying to do, which is to surrender to the fact that in the same way I was not a Broadway star, not the first American Pope, not someone who was ever going to be successfully in a love relationship, not someone with an actual income and home of his own, I was also NOT A WRITER. Which, is an overly long (SURPRISE!) way of saying, “I’M TRYING TO WRITE AND I CAN’T BLOG WHILE I’M DOING THAT!” I spent hours yesterday trying to finish ONE SENTENCE, and I never really did – it is slow going, my dears. In the meantime, I am reading. And, since this is sort-of, sometimes, supposed to be a Book(ish?) Blog – thought, “Ok, I’ll catch up with that!” So, here I am, going.


Ann Pachett and Charlie

This is Ann Patchett after I told her I stalked another writer, and still, she bravely posed with me. She is a wonderful, lovely person – radiates warmth, wit, intelligence, and a glowing goodness.

Monday, March 23, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ann Patchett. She was the featured speaker at Frederick Reads, and not only was she smart, charming, funny, brilliant, engaging, and fun, she gave book recommendations and said (far more eloquently) “Books are my religion.” Mine too. In the days since, procrastinating while I ought to have been editing, I ventured to her Parnassus Books site [click here], and from there, her blog [click here], and in doing so realized I’d not spoken about what I’ve been reading since January when Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You [click here], rocked me. I am still talking about it, talked about it and wrote down the title for Ann Patchett even. But, I have read 23 books since then, and here, in brief, we go, highlights only.



I am a huge fan of the Agatha Raisin mystery series, written by M.C. Beaton and edited by Hope Dellon of St. Martin’s Press. I read #6: Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist; #7: Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death; #8: Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham; and #9; Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden. Every visit with Agatha is like Continue reading

First, I took off my shoes . . .

I first walked barefoot the summer I went to theatre camp.

Now, my family didn’t do camp. (Oh, the places I could go with that.) For one thing, we didn’t have that kind of money. But more important, when, after repeated attempts, my father succeeded in killing himself by combining alcohol and telephone pole, we survivors lived in terrifying, dysfunctional dependency; homesickness wasn’t just expected, it was required.

But, I’d known from a very young age I didn’t fit in the country, in what were still backwards-rednecky Frederick County, Maryland, backwoods. I had never enjoyed the out-of-doors, preferring my room where I Continue reading

Pentimento, palimpsest, memoir, memory (lies).

I recently said, “Eventually all is pentimento and palimpsest; truth is in the muddle.”  The sentiment was prompted by feeling the too familiar sting of  having been misunderstood, my words taken the wrong way, having given offense. Too, I am living many lives at once, layers of me, disconnected, what people know of me at wild variance, much divergent pieces of me out in much divergent worlds, and I wonder if there is a whole picture, an entire Charlie, somewhere. If I wrote his story, told the story that made me all these layers, how many people would have cavils and disagreements with it? Quite a few, I know, just from my recent history during which I have been surprised, horrified, delighted, appalled, shocked, comforted, terrified, elated, saddened, and gobsmacked by the stories I have heard have been told about me (which is another issue entirely, that “friends” feel the need to tell one these horrors, which is why I stay in my batcave most of the time, contenting myself with Twitter-folk and books), by the things people have felt free to say and do to me. And I am but a small, unknown person here in the hinterlands. What if I had been someone famous? Someone published? Which gave me to think of those books that introduced me to the words pentimento and palimpsest. Thus, this.

I was in my early teens when first I read Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento. I do not remember what made me need the book, but there definitely was a compelling reason for its acquisition, because, back then, I did not yet have the luxury of stacks of to-be-read nor regular access to a reasonably stocked library. I had only a small allowance from which could be acquired one paperback every two weeks if I bought nothing else — near impossible for an early teen, even one as reading obsessed as was I — and my aunt, Sissie, who bought me books whenever we managed to reach a bookseller together, which was less than one (this one) would have liked as neither of us drove and the nearest bookstore was in Frederick, an impossible fifteen miles away.

I suspect the purchase had to do with Hellman’s as yet unsullied reputation as defender of free speech and heroine of the HUAC-revolt. I fancied myself a revolutionary at the time because I was secretly (or, undeclared – it wasn’t, in retrospect, much of a secret) homosexual but planned to rise up and change the world. Mind you, those changes had nothing to do with gay marriage or equal rights, but, rather, an amorphous, gender-free ever-after in which it would be possible for me to play Fanny Brice in the revival of Funny Girl. In the end (and please, let the end come sooner rather than later) my revolution has been Continue reading

A cockeyed optimism . . . Mary and Kelli and Happy Days . . .

(I wrote and posted a version of this last night, but realized I’d more to say. So, updated and further explored my burst of cockeyed optimism. Love and Light, dears. Love and Light. 3/5/15 11a.m.)

True confessions: it’s coming up on the date of my aunt’s death. I am working diligently to remember all the joy she brought to me, but, I’m not terribly good at this. Joy was not a skill much valued nor encouraged in my upbringing, which was a journey peopled by those who were well-intentioned but barely able to cope, prone to disappearing for months on end into bedrooms, silences and sorrows, screams, and terrifying mood swings marked by violence, after which they would tearfully apologize, make excuses for themselves which often included an element of blaming me, and, too, there would be long nights in my bed during which Continue reading

Song of the Day(Life):I’m An Unemployed Sweetheart

The things about which I want to write and/or talk would be considered in the categories of either Too Much Information and/or My Problem I Need to Solve Myself.  Once again I seem to have done something — without knowing what it was — to cause someone to distance his/herself from me. Here’s the thing, too, if you spend an early life being trained in loss and not good enough, if you get thrown up against enough lockers, dunked into enough toilets, you start beating yourself up first so as to prevent the pain of others doing it; then, shit, it still happens. Often it’s caused by your own behavior, your own self-denigrating beliefs, you make others weary. It becomes a self-fulfilling, regenerating cycle. I get it. But, I’m not dwelling there. I have other shit to which I need to get . . .  and I’m a bit lonely . . .  and confused by it, so, this . . .