Actual Comments

Thanks to the marvelous Allison Kaplan Sommer, I actually have a reader or two! Shocking and exciting. Avi, I went to Ramah as a child. I loved every minute of it, but my God that place was a dump. Our cabins were falling apart; we had no activities to speak of other than primping for Shabbat. But I was never as happy as when I was at camp. At camp I was a cool girl, while at home at George Washington Junior High, I was a complete dweeb. I have a photo of myself with braces, a green cowl neck sweater (acrylic) and a large magen dovid balanced over what appear to be rather huge boobs. None of it worked too well for me. But at camp! At camp I was a princess.

But the kids are going to Hidden Valley Camp. I've chosen it. They have Llamas! Sophie and Zeke will surely come home with many many God's eyes.

Thanks to all Allison's lovely friends who visited.

My rant of the day has to do with Internet porn. Why why why do I get so much porn spam? So I once visited the website of someone who went to Wesleyan University where Allison and I went who has now become the guru of anal sex (okay, a couple of times, but only because it was such a riot, and my friend Amanda Davis and I used to get so much mileage out of it. And okay we did buy one of the DVDs, but only because it was so absurd -- an instructional video for God's sake. Okay, we watched it a few times. But then we sent it to someone else. As a joke.) I obviously was cookied up the wazoo (perhaps not the most fortunate of phrasing) because now I am inundated with this crap. NO, I do NOT want a big dick. No, I'm not interested in having sex with barnyard animals or dead people. NO I am not longing to plow any teenage Russian girls. Must I really change my email address to avoid this? What's wrong with the damn Earthlink spam catcher?

And NO I will not link to puckerup.com. Find it yourself.

PJs and Plumbing

My cantankerous and oddly lovable plumber is here, and I was missing a part. The guy back at Expo said he couldn't sell me the part because I didn't know the size, and after he hit the roof, the plumber told me to run (now! right now!) to the hardware store and get it. Since he charges more than my lawyer, I tore out of the house like a bat out of hell. It was only when I got to the Hardware store that I realized I was still in my pajamas.

So, there I am, in pjs, breasts flapping around (who wears a bra to bed?), my hair looking like I brushed it with the electric mixer, my breath redolent of coffee and other more horrifying things. And there was a line in the store.

Next time I moan about my book sales, remind me please that there are reasons to be very happy that I'm not famous.


Not Enough Drugs

There are not enough drugs in the world to alleviate the horror of being home alone with four children, one of whom is completely enraptured with his father.

The baby started screaming as soon as I tried to give him his bottle and put him to bed. He cried so hard he puked all over me and all over himself. Finally, after holding him for way too long (considering how fragrant we both were by then) I just put him down and listened to him scream, "No Mama, No. Daddy bye bye. Daddy bye bye." Lovely. This is what I get for having spend the first six months of his life attached to a breastpump instead of holding him. I was so hysterically obsessed with the idea of breastfeeding, that I just could not accept that this child with his malformed chin would not learn to nurse. Maybe malformed is too harsh a word. His chin never shifted forward, so it's very recessed. (What with the weak chin, the single eyebrow, and the infant moustache, he's a real looker, let me tell you.) For two weeks I basically starved him, and then I tortured him and myself by pumping ten times a day, and trying to force him to the breast. All my interactions with him were awful, and he became fixated on his father.

Now, with Michael away, I end up desperately trying to convince him that I'm not a total stranger. The one who does love me best decided that since her little brother was getting so much attention, she would join the fracas. So I've two crying, one complaining that I don't read to him like his father does, and the only one not giving me grief is the ten-year-old, and I don't even want to think about what craziness she's getting up to behind her closed door.

Is there anything as reliably entertaining?

I am in love with this blog. Really, I am. It's one in the morning, I just finished an interview with Israeli radio, and I'm checking out to see what Manolo's up to. Abie will be up at 5, and I'm looking at shoes.

This is pretty funny


Michael's Going to China

I love my children. I really do. It's just...if I didn't have any (Chas ve Challilah, poo poo poo) I would be able to go to China with Michael. I am so jealous. I can safely say I've never been envious of him before. But I want to go to China. I don't necessarily want to write a Hong Kong action movie with Master Yuen Wu Ping, although his movies are fabulous, especially Iron Monkey. Have you ever seen more remarkable use made of pork bau? But I just don't think I have the chops to write that kind of movie. And I know Michael does. But, I want to go to China, damn it!

No one who interviews me can believe I'm not consumed with envy of my husband. They just don't accept that a writer of my total lack of fame is not eating her green kishkes out when forced to confront her husband's literary success. I really am not, however. It would be like being jealous of Nabokov. You may not agree with me (although why would you be reading this if you didn't?) but I think Michael is one of the best writers in the English language. He's brilliant -- creepily brilliant. His genius is some peculiar gift that is unparalleled. I spend a lot of my free time reading, as you know if you've ever checked out my booklog. I enjoy and wax rhapsodic over all sorts of different contemporary novelists -- Ann Patchett, Philip Roth, Lorrie Moore (mostly a short story writer) -- but none of them, not even Roth, can hold a candle to my husband. He's like Charles Dickens; he'll be part of the cannon, read in five hundred years, when the rest of us are dusty and warped volumes moldering in the back of used bookstores.

So why would I make myself crazy being envious?

Okay, I was jealous once.

The only time I was envious of Michael's success was when we both did booktours around the same time. He stayed at a Four Seasons in every city he traveled to. I stayed at a Marriott. And I'm a bit of a JAP about bed linen. It was pretty irritating, to say the least, to know he was tucking himself between two Frette sheets, nestling his head against a pile of down pillows, ordering shrimp cocktails and lemon meringue pie, while I was trying not to let any part of my skin touch the bedspread. (Because do you have any idea what's been going on on those things? Gross.)

I recently read a fabulous essay called “Envy” by Kathy Chetkovich. It was in Granta, reprinted in Best American Essays. She writes about her unnamed boyfriend and her trouble dealing with both his brilliance and his success. (Anyone who couldn't figure out that she was writing about J. Franzen is either a total dingbat or just not particularly interested in contemporary fiction.) Her essay was gorgeous: funny and dark, painful in that way the best personal essay should be. I probably should have found it cutting too close to the bone. But I didn't. Perhaps it's because my literary pretensions came late to me. I was a public defender; I prided myself on my work in the courtroom. When I think about it, I realize that I probably would have had a hard time marrying a more successful and adept trial lawyer. Even when I started writing, I started with mysteries -- and not literary ones. Light reading. Something you could read while, say, breastfeeding. It was only with Daughter's Keeper that I began to think of myself as a writer, and it was only with this latest novel, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, that I began thinking of myself as ... well ... as a decent writer. Or someone who has decent in her, when she's not being lazy.

No, no envy. But goddamn it, I want to go to China.


Today's New York Times

I think it's probably me, because the paper has me in such a state this morning. I mean, what is going on with the world? Where do I begin? There's an article about donors to colleges. This cracker in Naples, Florida wants not just his parents' donation to Princeton back, but all the income it earned. Why? Because his version of public service doesn't match that of the University, and his parents made the donation to further public service. Well, guess what you ignorant slob? Just because you haven't been able to earn any money in your life, doesn't mean you get to dictate the use of the money your father and mother gave a zillion years ago. You want to donate money? EARN SOME.

Then there is this. The students at Vanderbilt have their knickers in a twist because a gay student dared to run for Homecoming Queen. First of all, if those wretches can't see that Everett Moran, standing in a dress and red elbow-length gloves on the football field, personifies courage and honor, and everything else that homecoming clearly doesn't stand for, then they don't deserve to be college students. They should take their ignorant bigoted selves back to the inbred-hillbilly holes they crawled out of. And Everett, you go girl. You're exactly what this country needs.

Here's the thing. I'm am so goddamn sick of these "red-staters." This website pretty much expresses everything I feel about those cretins: www.fuckthesouth.com. As my brother wrote in the Gadflyer, if we ever dared to refer to them the way they refer to us, we'd be drawn and quartered. But you know what? We are the real Americans. Everett Moran, standing brave and resolute in the face of bigotry, is a real American. George Soros, devoting his life and his fortune to serving those less fortunate than he is, is a real American. The citizens of California who have donated their own money to support stem cell research, to compensate for the cowardice of our Taliban government, are real Americans. The rest of them? The ones that destroy the Constitution in service to their narrow-minded and zealously self-centered agendas? Those pinheads sure as hell aren't Americans. Secession. That's what we need. Let them take their scrub-farms and stipmalls and get the hell out of our country. We'll open our doors to immigrants, to the brilliant and open-minded of the world. And we'll leave them eating dirt and handling snakes.


Old Boyfriends and Other Pathetic Things

Today I found out that I'm going to be interviewed for Israeli radio on Sunday night. (Monday morning, Israel time). What's the first thing I think of? That my book will now have a better chance of selling in its Israeli translation? That my parents' friends will hear me on the radio and be excited? That my brother will hear me on the radio and have some sense of what I do? No, No, and No. What I'm all in a lather about is that my OLD BOYFRIEND, with whom I broke up in 1991, will hear me. My old boyfriend. Who I broke up with. Me, not him. Let me repeat that: I BROKE UP WITH HIM. (Of course he then immediately got another girlfriend, sending me into a hysterical tailspin of jealousy, but that's beside the point.) Actually, maybe that is the point. Here I am, fourteen years later, and I'm all smug because he's going to hear me on the radio and I'm going to be all that and he's going to .... Whatever. Nothing. He's going to do nothing, because he probably works in a dairy barn on his kibbutz and will be out shoeing cattle, or whatever it is they do, and will not hear me at all.

The thing is, I'm in a terrific marriage. I adore my husband; he's the sexiest thing I've ever met, and the most brilliant. The last thing in the world I care about is this old boyfriend. So what's with the bizarre gloating? Who cares, really? The old boyfriend has moved on. He's probably forgotten my name and the six years we spent together. Six years in which we had dozens of arguments every day, with me doing both sides, because he was uncommunicative to the point of catatonic. Six years which ended fourteen years ago. I wish I could just grow up.


Book Buyers

Today I was working at my kids' school bookfair, signing books, when one of the typical things that happens to all writers happened. This woman came over, picked up my book, stood turning it over and over in her hands, and then, with a little moue of distaste, put it down and walked away.


Of course I felt incredibly embarrased, as usual. What's with this? I mean, I'm not asking for people to buy the books. I'm just saying that when the writer is sitting right there, maybe you shouldn't make such a big deal out of not buying the books. Call me hyper-sensitive, but it just doesn't seem polite.

Of course I'm hyper-sensitive. I know I am. I can remember nothing about my good reviews, but I can recite word-for-word my bad ones. You think I'm kidding?

"Daughter's Keeper by Ayelet Waldman is like a John Sayles' movie: well-intentioned but about as subtle as a Mean People Suck bumber-sticker."

To which I say...well, you know what I say.


Soccer Rage

Today in the San Francisco Chronicle C.W. Nevius's column is on the front page. It's about an incident that happened in Richmond, a town nearby. A soccer referee got walloped in the head by a coach. Apparently, the referee has worked my children's games:

On the Berkeley side, you have moms in folding chairs with coffee cups and a novel.

The world of soccer is a different place for Latino teams. This is so insanely complicated an issue. It brings up race, parenting, the whole shebang, and in a town where both race and parenting obsess us. It disgusts me that a coach for a kids' team would get violent. It's insane. On the other hand, I feel kind of embarrased at my smug assurance that I'm doing the right thing by not being involved in that competetive world. You should us Berkeley parents at the games. We cheer both sides, we shout "great job, Panther goalie" when the girl has just smacked back our daughter's best effort at making a goal all year. We are so careful to be even-tempered and uncompetitive. But the real truth is that on the few days when I manage to rouse myself from my paper and watch the game, what I really want to do is stamp the little blond Panther monster's head into the dirt with my daughter's cleats. My natural impulse is to shriek "KILL 'EM!" at the top of my lungs.
And at the same time I could not care less. My kids only play soccer because they insist on it. I refused for years to waste my Saturdays at the games. I don't even like to get dressed before noon. How can I be expected to be out on the field at 8? More to the point, I don't want my kids to be athletic. They are supposed to be brainy and nerdy, and completely unpopular. Shunned by the athletes in school. And there they are, strong and fit and running up and down the field. I don't understand it.
Well, at least I can comfort myself with the thought that they both SUCK at soccer.


Camps, JAPS, and the beauty of Maine

I'm am trying to pick a camp for Sophie and Zeke, my 10 and 7 year old kids and who knew it would be so difficult. Those of you who spent your summers scrabbling in the mud-filled holes they called sleepaway camps in the 70s and 80s will probably be as shocked as I am by the lavishness of summercamps nowadays. No more spider-infested bunks, now they have actual mattresses on the beds and real bathrooms. Now there are inflated trampolines in the lakes and fleets of sailboats. Now some camps have, I kid you not, YACHTS. So I'm looking at all these camps and I think to myself, If Reesa Nudleman taught me how to use a curling iron in a camp where the idea of activities was lanyards on a broken picnic table, what's going to be going on at this camp? Will little Clay and Josephine Nudelman be bringing their palm pilots and cell phones to camp? Will my nebishey little California children be ostracized because their parents don't drive Beemers or Humvees? Will they ever get the chance to go to a bat mitvah at Leonards of Greatneck?
There are actually camp consultants nowadays who will help you pick a camp. That's their JOB. They get paid for this. I don't think my parents ever looked at the dumpy camp they sent me to. And I loved it. I LOVED IT. So how do I choose, here?


Because I won't let Michael Blog

Why bother, really, now? George Bush is president, all that money we spent meant nothing, all the events we did, all the work for Election Protection. The American ether is full of people like me, who used to check Kos a dozen times a day but now find it depressing, who used to read Wonkette but now find it silly, who used to be inspired by Atrios's rage, but now find it sad. But I just caught Michael blogging, and that's not going to happen. We have a goddamn mortgage to pay, and he's got THREE books due. But I'm all done. Caught up. No deadlines looming.

And there's that Manolo blog I like so much...