Monday, April 28, 2014

a big cup of the good kind of envy

This weekend I felt like I got a small toe back in the literary loop. Saturday I met Sandra Hunter at Buttercelli, a lovely little bakery that anyone not from L.A. would make relentless fun of. There are subsections of baked goods for vegans, paleo people and the gluten-free. I ate something from a menu represented by a lioness mascot. I'm not totally sure what that meant. Vegan and low-sugar, maybe?

Like buttah. Not like gluten.
(After getting good cancer-test results last week [!], but flying a little too fast and loose around the cheese empanadas at Leslie's short film wrap party on Saturday night, I think I should follow the lead of vegan/low-sugar lionesses. I should probably also talk to my therapist about the patina of control and reward/punishment issues that overlays my generally good-but-imperfect eating habits.)

Anyway, Sandra's first novel, Losing Touch, just came out, and I'm liking it a lot so far. It's about a an Indian-English man whose family suffers from motor neuron disorders. Scary hereditary diseases make for great page turners in my world. Sandra said she was interested in how an immigrant's loss of cultural identity could inform his loss of physical identity. I said I liked how there seems to be a little more room, finally, in the contemporary canon for novels that don't look at immigration (or disease, for that matter) as a stand-alone issue.

I love that tea cup.
It was nice to have a philosophical and freewheeling conversation with someone so kind and brainy and worldly. Sandra almost got killed in a riot in Uganda in the eighties, but she is generous enough to talk about my own little brushes with trauma as if we're part of the same tribe. I mean, not that it's a contest. But I guess that's what I like about her--that she gets that it's not a contest, that she dives into the world in all its messiness with a blend of joy and unblinking-ness to which I aspire.

Inspiration jolt #2 was Wendy Oleson's reading at Rhapsodomancy last night. I'd been reading her speculative novella, which is weird and funny and postmodern, and the bits of flash fiction she read last night revealed her enviable versatility. She can also do that pared-down, whole-world-contained-in-an-image thing.

Douglas Kearney doing his thing.
I was feeling inspired, and a little drunk on one of Good Luck Bar's very strong cocktails, so I gave myself permission to let the subsequent readers serve as background music while I jotted notes for a future story. But Douglas Kearney would not let it be so. His set was almost literally gripping (which I guess means figuratively gripping), pulling me out of my wordy daydream and making me think and cry. He brought dramatic/spoken-word styling to experimental work about fertility and miscarriage from an African-American male point of view. Yep, just another experimental black male fertility non-narrative.

I'm about to begin a writing date with Nicole, who's taking a couple of months to work on her memoir. I'm envious, even though she's writing about sad things and it's kind of a dark time, like when everyone at MacDowell was sitting in their respective cabins in the woods writing about suicide. But this is the good kind of envy, which hopefully at least inspires me to spend an hour at Starbucks writing about high school students.


Sandra said...

What a shot in the arm/brain/entire body it was to spend some time with you. You made it possible for me to dive back into the frustrating journal piece I'm struggling with (deadline tomorrow). Thank you for your incisive mind, your courage in striking out for new career pastures, your sheer indomitability -- and that crazy-ass smile lighting up everywhere but everywhere.

Cheryl said...

So glad to hear inspiration is a two-way street!