Posted in Uncategorized, Writing

Happy Birthday, Dave Eggers

This is from today’s Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the writer and editor Dave Eggers, (books by this author) born in Boston (1970). He grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, a city that was famous when he was growing up for having been the setting for the movie Ordinary People. He originally wanted to be a cartoonist, but when he was in high school, he worked on a project where he had to write and illustrate his own book. He found that he loved all aspects of the process, from writing to designing the layout of the book. He went on to study art and journalism at the University of Illinois, and it was while he was in college that his mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Then, just after his mother went through severe stomach surgery, his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. Six months later, both of his parents were dead. Eggers was just 21 years old.

Of the experience of losing both of his parents so suddenly, Eggers later said, “On the one hand you are so completely bewildered that something so surreal and incomprehensible could happen. At the same time, suddenly the limitations or hesitations that you might have imposed on yourself fall away. There’s a weird, optimistic recklessness that could easily be construed as nihilism but is really the opposite. You see that there is a beginning and an end and that you have only a certain amount of time to act. And you want to get started.”

Eggers had to drop out of college to become the guardian of his 15-year-old younger brother. They moved to San Francisco, and Eggers used the insurance money from his parents’ deaths to start his own magazine with some high school friends. They called it Might Magazine. It only lasted for 16 issues. But Eggers went on to start a new literary journal called Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. He wanted to experiment with graphic design and printing techniques, so he changed the format of the journal for every issue. One issue consisted of 14 individually bound pamphlets. Another issue included a music CD with a different piece of music composed specifically to accompany each piece in the journal.

All the while that he was starting up these magazines, Dave Eggers was staying up late at night trying to write a book about the death of his parents and the effect that it had on his life. That book grew into his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which became a big best-seller in 2000.

Eggers has gone on to write a collection of short stories, How We Are Hungry (2004), and two novels: You Shall Know Our Velocity (2002) and What Is the What (2006). He also founded a writing center for young people in San Francisco called 826 Valencia, which has grown into a national organization designed to help and encourage young people to write.

Posted in Grindstone, Uncategorized, Writing

On Being Read: A Dying Person’s Gift of Love

Your resident blatherer has received a very nice comment from Bill. I am wowed by the comment. “Excellent post,” he says.  Thanks to my post about Mardi Gras, he thought about something in a way he hasn’t thought about it before. This is very encouraging for me–like getting an “A” in blogging. (The old paradigms just don’t go away, do they?)

WordPress kindly gives me the option of receiving an e-mail if someone posts a comment on my blog.  When I received the e-mail, I didn’t recognized his blog address right off the bat–I’ve only just started reading his blog thanks to a referral from my home grrl at Eye Level Pasadena.

So I click on the link to see who Bill is.

Holy moly guacamole–Bill is the author of The Dying Man’s Daily Journal. Bill took the time to (1) Read my blog, and (2) Post a comment!

I think Bill’s blog is awesome. We don’t talk about death in our culture…we don’t talk about the process, the fact that it is going to happen to all of us. We don’t talk about what a good death would be vs what a not-so-good death would be.

To borrow from what my priest says, a good death would be one in which you got to say good-bye to people. The people around you would have a chance to get used to the idea of life without you around. You’d even be able to tell jokes about it (insert good family-oriented death joke here). I love Bill’s blog, because it is the chronicle of a good death.

By contrast, a ‘bad’ death is sudden. Car accident, plane crash, sudden heart attack while jogging. No one has a chance to prepare, to say good-bye, to prepare for the inevitable, yet unexpected, event.

We all know that we are all going to die, but it isn’t in our human nature to keep that at the forefront of our every thought. And it wouldn’t necessarily be prudent to think that way, either. Yes, I might die the next time I get behind the wheel of a car. But am I going to write farewell letter to my loved ones instead of doing the dishes before I leave? No. I need to do the dishes.

And maybe I need a file entitled, “Open in Case of Sudden Death” so my family has something should something/anything happen to me.

Life insurance companies have grown rich on the likelihood of sudden death. Likely and possible–but how probable? Enter the actuary…

Back to writing, which is necessary and difficult for me.  And this blog, which I use to exercise my writing “muscles.”  (All two and a half of them.)  Maybe it is about quality and not quantity after all. So what if this blog has received fewer than 5,000 hits? (Okay, fewer than 3,000…but who’s counting?) Someone I admire read my blog, and paid me a lovely compliment.

Thanks, Bill. Thanks to you, I’ll stop thinking that I blog in vain, that what I’m doing here doesn’t really matter, that no one reads me (my current readers excepted–you know who you are).

So on I blather…

(If you read Bill’s March 10 post, the last sentence, this post could also be entitled:  “See How Fast Prayers Get Answered.”)

Posted in Uncategorized

Act of a Patriot

I’m not a fan of fanaticism, especially when it comes to religion and politics.  Sports fans make sense to me (well, I guess because I am one), but viewing sports belongs in the general category of recreation.

Strict adherence to certain lifestyle things, like not wasting water and recycling and reducing use in the first place so you don’t have to recycle…well, those things are important to me.  I don’t want to be a Nazi, but saving resources is important, especially for us first world people because we use a disproportionate amount of stuff.

I try not to buy stuff made in China, because I think workers are treated unfairly there.  Not to mention the fact that your average Chinese person can’t leave the country without government permission.  So for all you shoppers out there–Here’s a link to help you buy American.  I think they are more fanatical than I am, but oh well.