Collision Course

Last summer I read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife.* The story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first spouse, the book achingly depicts the couple’s struggle to maintain their marriage in Paris during the Jazz Age, surrounded by a new morality–or lack of it–and socializing with the likes of Ezra Pound, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.

The Paris Wife

While The Great Gatsby was on my required reading lists, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was not. In fact, I was woefully ignorant of Gertrude Stein’s work.

So I found it timely when recently one of her poems appeared in my Inbox. Here it is:

Tender Buttons (Suppose An Eyes)

Suppose it is within a gate which open is open at the hour of closing summer that is to say it is so.
All the seats are needing blackening. A white dress is in sign. A soldier a real soldier has a worn lace a worn lace of different sizes that is to say if he can read, if he can read he is a size to show shutting up twenty-four.
Go red go red, laugh white.
Suppose a collapse in rubbed purr, in rubbed purr get.
Little sales ladies little sales ladies little saddles of mutton.
Little sales of leather and such beautiful beautiful, beautiful beautiful.

I read it once. Twice. Yes, a third time. I’m going to just spit it out: I didn’t get it.

What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I perceive this Lost Generation legend as the literary giant she is? I held a minority opinion about an icon. What retaliation from the scholarly elite might result if my lone voice cried out in dissent?

Then I remembered. I had Google at my disposal. Perhaps I would find a kindred spirit, equally unenlightened and, dare I say it, equally disdainful.

I did, in Guy Bergstrom’s 2011 post on his blog, The Red Pen of Doom, titled “Gertrude Stein is a literary TRAIN WRECK.”

A quick quote, because I can’t resist: “The worst rapper on the planet is better than this. At least I know what he’s talking about, it rhymes and you can dance to it.”

You can read the piece in its entirety here:

Comments from both camps welcome. Especially if you are a Stein supporter, do write and explain yourself. Please.

*Published February 27, 2011 by Ballantine Books.


Make It a Double…and Hold the Milk

Excerpted from the “L. A. on Skis” chapter of A Movable Marriage:

“The Bad Ass Coffee Company had a back room filled with books to borrow and a comfortable, saggy, couch and arm chairs. Each morning Sara sat at the counter eating a toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese, doing The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink, no errors. Dave, outside on the porch overlooking Park Avenue, discussed venture capital with Keith. Me? I sipped black coffee and scanned stacks of skinny tank tops and T-shirts for marked-down items.”

Uh oh. Black coffee? Could I be a psychopath?

If you read the article, you know it’s more about bitter taste than coffee per se. Whew.

I’m in good company, anyway. Chef Graham Elliott is quoted as saying, “I’m a traditionalist, so for me, black coffee is cool.”

Bring on the Starbucks.

Starbucks Collection

In Memoriam

Today will be the first October 22nd my long time friend and “sister,” Carole Haber, will not be around to celebrate her anniversaire.

We shared October birthdays, loving all the month brings: cinnamon-scented candles, pumpkins at door fronts, the promise of the holiday season. Helen Hunt Jackson’s “October” says much in few words:

Here’s to the woman who cherished Paris, chestnut trees, family, and friends—and who always had time for one last song and dance.

Carole Haber Memoriam Pic

Garden Party

The National League of American Pen Women blog is featuring flash fiction this month, with a limit of 100 words. I’m pleased to announce my submission, “Garden Party,” was published last week and enclose the link here. Hope you enjoy. (And keep an eye out for mischievous characters in your own backyard.)

And the Winner–Almost–Is:

Twenty-two designers and two hundred and two designs later, I’ve narrowed it down to three plus three.

I have new and deep respect for those stalwart individuals who attempt to convey someone else’s nebulous and ever-changing concept with style and efficiency. What a task!

Thanks to everyone who participated, either by contributing a design or responding to my poll, and a special shout-out to

Once I choose a winner there will still be a tweak or two. We all know it’s not over until the fat gnome sings.

AMM Cover with standing gnome AMM Cover with car AMM Cover with reclining gnome

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Experts agree: a book cover which grabs a prospective buyer’s attention is essential to marketing success. Here are some classics according to ShortList magazine:

For the last few days, I’ve been running a book cover design contest on a popular site. I admit I’m both surprised and impressed by the number of designers who have responded, the quality of their work, and their willingness to respond to my requests to make changes. I love these people.

I’ve received dozens and dozens of submissions. Over the weekend, according to the rules of the contest, I must narrow down the number of people I’m working with to a mere six designers. Then we’ll settle in to the next phase of tweaking tweaks.

Sometime soon I’ll be sending out a few covers for your opinion. Please write and tell me what you think.

In the immortal words of Bartles & Jaymes, thank you for your support.