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A Blogophobe’s Lament

Among my wide-ranging and disparate groups of friends, I am probably considered the person least likely to, er, blog. (See, I can barely type the word—is it an actual word?—without hesitating.) This morning, in fact, when I said to my … Read More

By / April 20, 2009

Among my wide-ranging and disparate groups of friends, I am probably considered the person least likely to, er, blog. (See, I can barely type the word—is it an actual word?—without hesitating.) This morning, in fact, when I said to my husband, “I have to go work on my blog,” he burst into laughter. “What?” I asked. “It’s just so funny to hear you say that,” he explained. None of this has anything to do with Luddite proclivities or an aversion to what used to be known, in more innocent days, as “progress”: I have, and love, an iPhone. I’ve owned a Mac since 1989. I was an early convert to Gmail. And I’ve even, albeit under duress, succumbed to the weird, time-sucking pleasures of Facebook, which those same friends found both shocking and hilarious, until they realized that with rare exceptions I’d treat Facebook much as I treated email, as something to be tended once I’d finished the more pressing tasks necessary to my daily existence (which is to say almost never; there are currently 99 unanswered messages in my inbox). And I suppose therein lies part of the reasons for my blog-avoidance. I am, as my husband and mother like to remind me (sometimes kindly, sometimes not so), one of those people perpetually described as “overcommitted” or “stretched too thin,” and somehow the idea of adding another, meta layer to my days—in which I don’t just do a million things, but write about doing a million things—is somewhat too terrifying to contemplate. And then there’s a question of sensibility. As a reader, I tend to prefer long, highly structured things—Joan Didion’s elegant essays; thick Victorian novels or tart, tightly written comedies of manners—rather than brief ruminations or impressions. But I also have—and in this day and I age I hesitate to admit this, for fear of being stoned—a more philosophical aversion to the form, which is simply that I’ve always preferred to allow my experiences to remain unmediated. When I’m running in East River Park, I want to be thinking about the gray water to my left or the next scene of the story on which I’m working, not how I’m going to describe my run to an audience. I don’t keep a journal—though I’ve tried, under the false impression that all writers must—and I rarely write about personal experiences (unless they seem truly extraordinary, like answering J.D. Salinger’s fan mail or having all my family’s belongings auctioned off), or even in the first person. My novel, A Fortunate Age, is safely composed in the third person, which is ironic, considering that everyone who reads it seems to assume its pure autobiography (more on this to come).

But Jewcy has managed to break down my defenses and for this week I’ll be, yes, blogging (still painful to type the word) on the site, about a subject that I hope won’t strike you as hopelessly played: the strange and anxiety-producing weeks surrounding the publication of said novel, which happens to be my first.

Before I go any further, I should stop here and go back to that whole overcommitted thing. In high school, despite (or because of) my extreme freak status, I got myself entangled in so many college-admissions-office-impressing activities that I ended up with a case of mono that kept me in bed for half my junior year (and almost failed speech class for lack of attendance). As an adult, I tend to be perpetually on deadline. In my first years as a book critic, I went through periods in which I’d churn out three reviews per week. Later, I somehow managed to write a 500-page novel while working and tending to a baby (then, toddler), which now strikes me as complete insanity, seeing as it involved waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning almost every day for a year or two. And, thus, it somehow seems fitting that the week when that novel arrives in bookstores—and when I have any number of readings and a party for which to prepare—also turned out to be the same week in which husband, Evan, and I were given the okay to move back into our apartment. Again, I should explain: About a year ago, when we found out I was pregnant with our second child, we decided we should finally do something about the fact that our apartment—which we’d lived in for ten years after inheriting it from my grandmother—was basically falling down around us, lead paint and all. We hired architects, as mandated by our co-ops bylaws, and as tends to happen with these kinds of ventures, before we knew it we were agreeing to knock down all the walls of our apartment and start from scratch. More distressingly, we also agreed to live in a (very generous) friend’s studio while the work was done, having been told that it would take no more than three months, probably less, and would be complete before I gave birth in early December. Five months later, in March, the four of us—Evan, me, our four-year-old son Coleman, and our new baby, Pearl—were still in the studio, making a concerted effort not to kill each other accidentally (our stuff so clogged the place that a misplaced shoe could cause impalement by Gymini) or on purpose (no explanation necessary). Calls were starting to come in about the novel—from reporters and so on—and I’d ask Evan to watch the kids, then run outside to the stoop so I could talk without Coleman waving a foam sword in my face and shouting, “I’m Captain Hook. You’re Peter Pan. FIGHT, MAMA, FIGHT!” When I needed to write or do any of the weird pre-publication publicity things that all authors seem to do these days—like responding to readers questions on a Barnes and Noble message board (“Which character is you?”)—I ran to our local coffee shop, sometimes with Pearl in the stroller, praying she’d stay asleep. By the end of the month, it was all we could do not to call the contractor every day, begging him to get the place in merely habitable condition. Instead, we sent friendly, passive-aggressive emails telling him, jokingly, that he might be held liable if we were institutionalized and could he please install the shower head so we could move back in, hoping wildly that we might get settled before the true book madness set in.

But no. Four days before the pub date we were told the place was ready enough for us to sleep there, though we’d still have to shower in the studio, two floors up, for a few more days. “Are you really going to move back in tomorrow?” asked my friend Lauren, when I explained that we’d gotten the okay. “With all you have going on?” “I don’t know,” I told her. But I did. The truth was that we didn’t have much of a choice. Our friends were anxious to have use of their studio again. And we were anxious to put some walls between ourselves and our children at night, anxious enough that we would somehow, as usual, figure out how to do a million things at once. We started moving our stuff downstairs—that is, the fraction of our stuff that we’d kept in the studio, which still felt like a lot; the rest, spread between two storage units, we would tackle once things calmed down, never mind that it included pretty much all my clothing. For months I’d been risking public nudity wearing now-massively oversized maternity clothes, which, I suddenly realized, was not really going to make me feel confident and fabulous while standing before a crowd at KGB or McNally-Jackson. I’d need to either wade through an entire room of identical boxes at a Chinatown U-Store-It or go shopping. The choice was obvious. And yet, for the first time in my life, shopping felt like a burden. How would I manage this relatively simple task while moving, while cleaning both apartments, while endlessly nursing a still-new, supernaturally hungry baby, and, in the style of modern parents, focusing completely and carefully on everything Coleman—who was on spring break for two weeks, just to make everything that much more crazy—said or did or drew or made with Play-Doh so as not, in any way, to make him feel that this cute new baby had usurped our love and attention? People have much bigger problems, of course—I’ll remind you all, again, that this is maybe why I am averse to blogging, averse to exposing the silly minutiae of my life (oh my God, I had to go shopping!)—and as I write this all out, the stupidity of it, the bourgeois-ness of it, makes me a bit ill. How did I become this person, moaning about how hard it is to move and publish a book in the same week? That question, I suppose, is the same one that afflicts the five main characters of my novel, among others, and so I’ll end here. But to give you a taste of what’s coming tomorrow: drunken depravity, two accounts of actual public nudity (rather than just the risk thereof), a debacle involving Mets-themed bobble head dolls, the New Age section of Barnes and Noble, two guys named Bruce, and the moment when my difficulties turn serious.

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