My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Jenny Offill and Colum McCann

I’m looking at my daytimer – and today’s blank, except for “Carole boot camp Y 9 a.m.” Dear Carole is teaching a tough class at the Y in half an hour. I will not be there. At one point, I must have imagined wistfully that I might be. No.

Because you also probably have time on your hands today – just sweeping up paper and pine needles, perhaps, doing the rest of the dishes, eating leftovers – Christmas hangover – I present you with this: a beautiful very short story, a true story of course, from the New Yorker by Colum McCann, about family and writing and legacy and truth. 

I finished a superb book last night: Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation,” which is on many top ten lists. Excerpt below, to give you a tiny taste. It’s intense, distilled to the essence, and so profoundly, soul-searingly honest about a woman’s life – a writer and writing teacher who marries, has a child, whose marriage barely survives the affair of her husband – that it’s hard to believe it’s fiction. Either she’s an extremely skilled, talented and imaginative writer, or else … she is all those things and also her marriage barely survived the affair of her husband. Highly recommended.

(As you click on the Paris Review, below, please note that on the right side of the page they offer you Fiction, Interview, Poetry and Portfolio. Something is missing, no? Also, under the interviews, there’s “The art of fiction, no. 222,” and “The art of non-fiction, No. 6.” That means, presumably, 222 interviews about fiction, and 6 about non. Welcome to the real world, Paris Review!)

Offill quotes famous writers and thinkers throughout, to great effect, including these two, my faves:

What Rilke said: Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further.

The Zen master Ikkyu was once asked to write a distillation of the highest wisdom. He wrote only one word: Attention.
The visitor was displeased. “Is that all?” So Okkyu obliged him. Two words now.
Attention. Attention. 

May you keep busy doing the best possible thing on Boxing Day: Read your socks off, friends.

P.S. Not to mention the many great films that have now hit the cinemas. Here’s my list, which I’ll try to cross off this week: Mr. Turner, The Imitation Game, Wild, and the Globe Theatre’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Also two documentaries: the National Gallery and Matisse. And tomorrow, I’m taking my dearest friend and handyman John and his family to the theatre to see “The Heart of Robin Hood.” So little time, so much to do!

Not to mention, yes, the glories of television. Last night, I watched the Christmas special of “Call the Midwife,” one of the best TV shows ever. Wept. Of course.




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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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