Wednesday, June 26, 2013


My friend Jason got a kick out the word "epistolary" when he saw it in the Acknowlegments section of Chainsaw Jane.  But that's what Jason is, a close friend whom I have never seen.  We send each other letters the old fashioned way.  He tells me about his problems; I tell him about mine.  It started with a collage he submitted to me when he thought I was still editing Collages & Bricolages, the international litmag I founded and slaved over (with joy, mostly) until I was too exhausted to keep going.  But Jason kept writing to me, and I kept answering. He shared his writings; I shared mine. He asked for my critique; I gave it to him.

The day when we became really close was when he told me why he was incarcerated and sent me the papers that explained his crime.  This, I will not share with you.  But I can tell you that it was a very important moment in my life.  That a prisoner used to rough times and distrust open up this way to someone he had never met was a profoundly moving experience.  From then on, not only was I the friend but the eccentric aunt. I was family. Yes, even though he calls me "Mademoiselle," that's how Jason sees me and I love it.  Jason is young enough to be my son.

His writing has grown tremendously and I like to believe his eccentric aunt is partially responsible for it. On Friday, I will talk to him on the phone for the very first time.  With his permission, I would like in the near future to share some excerpts of the memoirs he is presently working on right here, on this blog.

Should he agree to that, I would love for you and you and you (lots of you) to respond.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Yesterday at a party a friend who had just finished reading Chainsaw Jane asked me what character represented me in the novel. Usually, when someone asks me a question like this, I find a smart ass response such as: "Zoe's rat."  I didn't play that trick to my friend, however.  For various reasons that I won't mention here.

But is a novel really a self-portrait of some kind?  Literary novels can perhaps be seen as such.  But what about genre fiction like thrillers or mysteries?  The author may want to associate herself with a detective or, in my case, with Jane the temperamental medium; but how about the gruesome murderer?

Still, all these characters, sympathetic or villains, have come out of our minds.  We have given them life, so they must belong somewhere in our psyche. Our own negativity has been transformed on the page into a murderer and the detectives pursuing him or her are our conscience clearing the path. The rest---our creativity and imagination---exploits the whole thing to create a book.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


It's torture when you are a mother and you know your child is suffering.  No matter how old the child.  My own daughter is not allowed to rest properly, sleep properly, as this is when pain is at its most strident and invasive.  She has scoliosis and arthritis in her neck.  The care she is receiving at the moment is either insufficient or inefficient, or both.  Love is helping handle this, so is her courage and her positive attitude. Getting up in the morning demands excruciating efforts. Walking at times demands excruciating efforts.

Her heart has been broken time and again.  Now that it is mending, her body is not responding.

Is there a lesson in this?

There are days when I don't want to learn.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


If you're looking for porn, this isn't it.  Sorry.  Maybe another time.

But I love my bed. I could spend my life there, crawling in it, moaning because I like it so much, and looking at the trees through the window; hearing the birds during the warm seasons, the silence in the winter.  I can't resist the nesting feeling.  Getting up is torture.

Of course, when my feet are on the ground, I am non-stop: writing, exercising, cooking, running after the little bitches Colette and Simone, cleaning Beckett's cage, listening to Pierre (tough task, listening to spouses), etc.

But truly, am I a lazy bum in the closet?  A bed potato?

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Have you seen the film called Multiplicity? With Andy McDowell and Michael Keaton.  I saw it in the 90's but never forgot it. An entrepreneur is overwhelmed with work and doesn't have enough time to spend time with his wife. He meets a guy who invented a machine capable of duplicating human beings. So Keaton's character decides to try it. The first copy of himself is a bit macho, but leads the enterprise efficiently. Mr Macho finds himself overworked as well, so he makes a copy of himself, which leads to a weaker version of  himself ---the first copy. There's still plenty of work, so the copy of the copy makes another copy, and we end up with someone mentally challenged. It's a hilarious comedy, as every single copy is attracted to Andy McDowell and wants to jump into bed with her. Andy cannot tell any of the copy from the original, except for some weird behaviors.

Why am I telling you this? Sometimes, as a writer, I wish I could multiply myself.  My passion is writing, and marketing, albeit interesting, is taking time away from what I love to do.  I still haven't found a way to balance book marketing time and writing time.  Any pointer?  Besides finding a magical machine that may lead to more trouble than solutions, that is.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


My pet conure Beckett recently discovered sawdust baths. He goes to the bottom of his cage and shakes it all around into the wood particles, and is a happy boy. So everyday now, mom finds out that her study has been transformed into a barn. With all that, she is welcomed with a charming "Hellooo, how are you?" It even comes with a French accent. It's not that Beckett wants me to admire his decorator abilities; it's just that he wants his "crackers." (Any kind of food is a cracker for the bird.) For which he waits patiently as he imitates the spraying noise(pshh, pshh) of my cleaning bottle.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Monsieur Wolcott,

I must admit, your article was très amusant.  I am French by culture, Basque by blood, and married to a French guy who breathes advice. Were his advice device disabled, he would become apoplectic (while I may breathe more easily, bien sûr.) He thinks it is an active part of listening. You have a problem; I will find a solution for you. It's just part of our pragmatist background. The fact that the solution may not work is, of course, irrelevant. It’s participation that matters. Opinion. Show me a French without an opinion, and I’ll show you a Martian with only superficial imitative skills.
    As for your remarks on les femmes, cher Monsieur Wolcott, they seem to come as canned as bad sardines. France is a country of individualists, and you will find as many different women as you will find female inhabitants. That goes for the Parisienne as well. While an author like Helena Fritz Powell will make assertive statements about her characteristics (the Française or the Parisienne), you will find a dozen who will assert otherwise.  As for the late-in-life virgin Sophie Fontanel, you may find her next year at the Folies Bergères celebrating the coming out of her new book on very special soirées. Eh oui, the French like to make noise, get attention to sell their books (oh, non!), or simply be agents provocateurs.
    In any case, Monsieur Wolcott, merci for amusing a French woman with your own amusement. Next time, however, don’t mention Russian actors like Gérard Depardieu. S'il vous plait.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Is fear controlling our life?  Fear of what the neighbors will think?  Fear our expressing our own opinions? Fear of thinking what we're thinking? 

On Facebook, cute pet and kid photos are far more popular than hard topics such as environmental pollution or other political issues.  I sorta get it, there is that need to have that light conversation with the neighbor, exchange family news, feel alive even though you don't see the person in the flesh.  Sometimes I feel it's a "like" contest.  How many people will have pressed the "like" button for my topic?  I get caught in the game from time to time.  But I feel there should be a balance between silliness and heaviness, between humor and seriousness.

Facebook should be a place where participants should show they are engaged into these extremely difficult times.  It should be a place where they should be able to express their opinion without fear.  It should be a place of debate---at least more so than it is now.  Liberties have been removed from us little by little so we hardly realize that we are not as free as before.  Is that what prevents us from expressing ourselves?  Is this culture encouraging small talk (discouraging analysis) on purpose?

Diane Feinstein says of Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's Patriot Act that "[i]t's called protecting America."  Reassured?  Comforted?  If you check your history, you will see that protection is the justification of most dictatorships.

Fear at this point is a luxury.

Friday, June 7, 2013


What the --- Last night I dreamt I was with a group about to be executed as enemies of the regime.

Does this have anything to do with our president who seems to be confusing his job with the one of James Bond? He's spying on us, damnit! I haven't trusted him for a long, long time, and this is one instance when I hate being right. I didn't vote for Romney but I didn't vote for him, either, this last time. Third party candidates are there to show the establishment that we are fed up!

My Noise on Terry Temple Williams' When Women Were Birds

Frankly, I don't know how to describe my feelings about this book. I knew how I felt at the beginning. I fell in love with the poetic and philosophical first steps, the empty pages reflecting the silence of the journals of the author's mother. How daring, how true, I thought. How whimsical. What an adventure this is going to be. And in a way, Williams does take me into some epopee. From one chapter to the next, I don't know where I am going to go or where I am going to land. While the language is always clean and simple--and when at its best, pure-- the author's mind travels from the abstract and complex to the tactile and familiar, and back. There are descriptions of nature, of difficult and/or colorful personalities as well as references to thinkers like Barthes and Cixous. It is a bit like a buffet of tastes and ideas. It reminds me somewhat of Rousseau and his mind wanderings, for When Women Were Birds is also impregnated with ecology. Unlike Rousseau, however, Williams puts her money where her mouth is.

Although it is presented with numbered chapters, its eclectic content reads like a journal. And I wish it had been called so. When Women Were Birds, A Journal by Terry Tempest Williams. Or: When Women Were Birds, A Mind Voyage by Terry Tempest Williams. When Women Were Birds, Fifty-Four Variations on Voice leads to confusion. I'll tell you why in a moment.

Here and there, Williams attempts to unify the book with two basic themes: giving women a voice; extracting the meaning of her mother's empty journals. In her attempts to give women a voice, she fails because that's not what the book is about. Furthermore, these returns, as in the recapitulations from the movements of a sonata (and she refers to music as well), are occasionally discordant. Her variations are not so much variations as they are separations.

This is a book not so much about giving a voice to others as it is about re-defining one's own. Her own. In her attempt to fill out her mother's blank pages, to give these pages a reason to be, she has spent time in the desert, somewhat lost. This is a book about seeking, not finding. We all face empty pages, existential pain. And Birds is ultimately a treaty about existential pain--albeit accompanied with a very real, brain related angst, as the author explains. Even the title reflects a wound, a damaged --or broken?--wing.

Although the prose is in itself highly pleasurable as well as profound for the most part, I wouldn't recommend this to the confused person trying to find her way and her voice, for this might confuse her further. Like the bird who skips here and there, flies from one tree to the next, sings now and stays quiet a minute later, the writing is graceful, beautiful scattering. But it is still scattering.W

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


What do you do when someone asks you to write a review of a book inhabited with either grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes every three lines or so?  Usually, the books I am given to review have received a minimum amount of revision.  They are not only readable but deserve publication as well.  Here, for the first time, I was faced with a writer who had rambled plots rather than organized them, and had them published without a second thought or, obviously, a second look.  To add flavor ---and not the right kind--- there was a racist and homophobic subtext in some of these stories. 

I could have given a bad review to the book.  I chose to ignore it.  In this new world of publication, where Indie authors are at different levels of fame or professional conscience, I thought I was doing my part: discarding what, frankly, needed to be discarded.

What do you think?