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

Sunday briefs … or, sweatpants, actually …

I need to get a grip – TOO MANY THINGS GETTING MY GRIP! Breathe.

Coke homophobia

I need to get a grip. Therefore, I am NOT heading out for a New York Times today. I have huge piles of un-read magazines and New York Times I have not yet read dating back to … never mind. I’m going to DEAL with this backlog.

I need to get a grip. I am in mourning because this Wednesday is the FINALE of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN and I will now have to wait none months for new Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters deliciousness from Ryan Murphy. PLEASE KILL ME!

I need to get a grip. I have been eating in a less than optimally healthy way and slacking on gym visits; on a steady decline since Thanksgiving, blaming holiday season, snow and depression. Enough.  Therefore, once I finish this Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tart (box) – which will be today – I “take care of your body” ways. Back to daily gym and good-bye to sugar, flour, gluten, chips, cookies. carbs and Slim Jims; I will miss you all. It’s been fun.

I need to get a grip. I got a question from someone, a request, actually, for some advice, about faith, about not believing in god, about how to recover from not being loved the way you thought you were/wanted to be. I’ve been working on a response – carefully working – but it becomes increasingly difficult for me; ME, who spent DECADES being a sort of “go-to” person for those in need of therapy who couldn’t afford a therapist; ME, whose office and days and life were filled up with people needing a safe place to talk or be; ME, who put his own stuff and needs on hold to tend to the stuff and needs of everyone else; ME, yeah, that ME, now has a hard time advising, counseling, answering. Lots of reasons, not the least of which is, often, what I sort of understood before and eventually came to see with terrifying clarity is, the people doing the asking all too often are not seeking an answer to the “questions” they are posing or a solution to their “problems” – but, really and rather, they are looking to develop what amount to tactics for deluding themselves into “happiness” and “acceptance” that fits into this ridiculous pseudo-reality we’ve all made in which “happiness” has to do with conforming to idiotic and un-achievable economic, romantic, socio-cultural standards. I can’t pretend to care about that shit anymore. And I can’t encourage people to do things to conform to it. It is now IMPOSSIBLE for me not to say, “You see that what you want is brainwashed bogus bullshit you’ve swallowed without really examining, right?”

So, grip. Yeah. And brief. I meant not to go over 500 words and so – I SHUT UP and offer a few videos worth seeing. Two to make you think. One to make you really think. Happy Sunday.

… how is this possible … GOAL WEIGHT 1, achieved (with wine and whine)…

Well, I gave in to my – whatever it was last night – that combination of hurt feelings and ennui and frustration and fury into which I fall that sends me into those paroxysms of “CRAZY” and had two glasses of wine and took another of my now frequent late night walks and yet – well – read on.

Here’s the thing – or – here are the things, without going too much into detail:

2010_Alamos_Malbec1) MY ADDICTIONS: Chemical/Diet change. My greatest concern when I quit smoking in June was that I would gain weight. I didn’t. But I did spiral into a really intense and terrifying and friend distancing depression. This was exacerbated by an increase in drinking after I quit smoking, an increase I – idiot that I am – did not recognize as me substituting one addiction for another. So, I also cut the Tequila and way back on wine and beer long around July/August. More chemical changes. All this time, I have been hitting the gym religiously, and have, somehow, managed to replace cigarettes and tons of alcohol with daily hours at gym.

2) BUT I STILL HADN’T LOST WEIGHT: And, in fact, I had gained a pound in the last few weeks. So, I took inventory of my DREADFUL eating habits and my TWO glasses of wine a night and said: ENOUGH. And I have begun a new diet with a diet buddy. We’ve cut out most white sugar and flour, most unhealthy carbs, red meat (we had very little anyway) and cut out ALL alcohol and Dunkin Continue reading