27 June 2016

0 puzzled

when i was in memphis, garebear and debo were working on a puzzle from which they knew four pieces were missing.

the circumstances of their having gone missing were uncertain, though debo whispered to me that she may have accidentally vacuumed them up.

so there was this incomplete puzzle on the table, with four missing spots of blue sky.

and yet my parents persevered. for they were going to finish the damn thing regardless because they'd paid good money for it and you don't just give up because you may have accidentally vacuumed up some spots of sky.

but oh how it vexed them. you could see it in their eyes. they love puzzles, but their enthusiasm for this one was dimmed. it was a chore, a test they had to complete because they'd embarked upon it but one which their hearts were no longer in because, once completed, they knew it would remain incomplete. parts of the picture, they knew, had been lost.

and yet they are this competitive with themselves, that they could not let it go. this is quintessentially my family. we only play games we know we can win. but stuck with a losing hand, stubbornly we plod on to the bitter end.

they finished it a few days ago. garebear called me up to tell me of their triumph. bearoline, WE BEAT IT, he said, before declaring, and then we threw that stupid piece of crap into the trash!

23 June 2016

0 maxed out

i swear by the moon and the stars in the sky, a legitimate writerly effort to fact-check a memory brought me here. but i am now HAUNTED.



this commercial asks a few questions whilst leaving many more unasked...

why is this woman in a garden?

why is she so condescending when she says that most women don't think about maxi pads very often?

do you think she thinks about maxi pads ALLLLLLLL THE TIME?

should we be thinking about maxi pads more?

why is there a table in her garden with packages of maxi pads on it?

who keeps maxi pads in their garden?

this woman, because she thinks about maxi pads ALLLLLLLL THE TIME?

is she a maxi pad designer in addition to being a gardner?

is she even a gardner?

does standing in a garden and holding two cut flowers suggest that one is a gardner?

is her being in a garden a reference to our lady gardens?

why is this GIANT manicured nail seductively tracing the crotch of this maxi pad?

does this GIANT manicured nail belong to the woman in the garden?

who caresses their maxi pads with their GIANT manicured nails?

why is the GIANT manicured nail frozen to highlight the side-gathers?

why is the vaginally freeze-framed GIANT manicured nail not enough?

why were the arrows necessary?

why is there no blue fluid?

how can we understand the functioning and efficacy of this product without the blue fluid?

16 June 2016

0 "is it in there?"

NP is in switzerland and needed me to fetch some documents from her flat. she also offered me her spare keys, if i could locate them, so's i could use their flat as a writing space until their return. this is how we came to be conducting a treasure hunt over the phone yesterday afternoon.

the documents were found easily enough, without my even having to attempt speaking german.

the keys, not so much.

i've always likened biography to detective work. specifically, to being nancy drew. but now i'm not sure.

an hour into our phone call, when we had both given up and begun to discuss our lives instead of the orange tin in which the keys were allegedly held but in which, upon my finding it, we realized they were not, NP sighed.

you were really good at finding the documents, she said. i guess that's what you have to do as a biographer. documents. that you couldn't find the keys, though... i don't really think you'd make a good detective... 

alas.



14 June 2016

0 "where are you? what's up?"


i thought telephone conversations in biography were an anomaly. which is why i wrote about this one:
As soon as they returned from Ithaca, however, Jackie began to pack her bags and prepare to leave for New York.

“Caroline and John need me to help them get ready for the new school year,” she explained to Ari.

“Your husband needs you, too,” he said.
“I know you do, Telis,” she said. “But gosh, I’ll only be gone a month.”
After she was gone, Ari phoned his old friend Costa Gratsos.

“Aristo!” Gratsos said. “Where are you? What’s up?”

identifying it as an exceptional case. because i sincerely believed this was the most ridiculous thing ever and also that it was unique in its ridiculousness. 

alas, no. this one- in another book- is maybe even better... 
Next Jackie called her mother in Virginia. “Hi,” she said. “Are you free?”
“No, I’m not,” replied Janet Auchincloss. “I’m quite busy right now […]”
“Mummy, please, I want you to come to Greece.”
“How ridiculous, Jackie. I’ve got too much to do here.”
“I also want you to announce my engagement to marry Ari […]”
“Oh, God, Jackie. You can’t mean that,” screamed Mrs. Auchincloss. “You’re not really serious, are you? How can you do this? What about the children? Please, Jackie, I think you should—”
“Sorry, Mummy. It’s too late.”
OMINOUS DRUMS!!!

the thing that has always been troubling about biography and writing critically about it is that it's impossible not to wind up committing all the sins you critique. this is a reason for writing meta-biography rather than straight biography- sticking solely in the critic camp, rather than traversing back and forth, saves you from looking like a hypocritical ass. (you still maybe look like an ass, but not a hypocritical one at least.)

no one answers the phone in my book. 

no one says, "sorry, mummy. it's too late."

i'm wonder if perhaps this isn't a grievous error. should there be more answering of phones in biography? because, good god, it sure is fun to read.

13 June 2016

0 carolyn heilbrun is my academic girlcrush

as an academic, she wrote about writing women's lives. 

under a pseudonym, she maintained a non-academic life wherein she was a writer of murder mysteries. 

it never before occurred to me to google them and see what they were all about. 

this one has single-handedly made me want to read them all.


10 June 2016

0 2.5 weeks of people

and then FINALLY, an evening alone. wherein i lolled about in my underwear, drinking white wine, doing a face mask and braiding my hair, then sent a bathroom mirror selfie of said braided hair to lindear to brag that i was lolling about in my underwear, drinking white wine and braiding my hair.

there was that moment in prepping for the pink party when i was acutely aware that i was living, with my friends, what young oline thought adulthood would be like. but there are these other moments, when i am alone and acutely aware and also grateful that underwear and white wine and face masks and braided hair are what adulthood has wound up being.

07 June 2016

1 history

as a little girl, hillary clinton wanted to be an astronaut. she wrote a letter to NASA and they informed her women weren't allowed.

as a little girl, i always pretended to be first lady, never president, because my imagination didn't extend to the impossible.

tonight, i imagined jmills' three-month-old daughter might grow up with a female president. and i was struck by how extraordinary that possibility is.

0 pinked

there was a moment in the midst of preparing for the pink party where i became acutely aware of the fact that my friend were doing- with great relish and in public- what my younger self had done many many times, embarrassed, behind closed doors.

i have somehow, as an adult, orchestrated things so that behavior my younger self felt was strange or off is publicly celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed.

the realization of how completely this has happened was the best thing ever.

03 June 2016

0 correcting


it's been awhile since i've started something from scratch. i'd forgotten how ugly it is.

with all the yellow bits screaming "FILL IN" and "TEASE OUT" and "DESCRIBE" and "FINISH" and "QUOTE IN" and "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?" and, most ominously, "...".

several nights ago, asleep in mississippi, i dreamed i was at a conference where a girl delivered a paper that was word for word everything i had written that morning delineating the differences between popular biography from super-pop. i awoke stricken with the sense that even cobbling together other people's thoughts in new ways- never mind original thought of my own- would be difficult if whole conference papers have already been written with words i'd written less than 24 hours before.

the next night, i dreamed one of the examiners saw a book i was referencing, picked it up and shook his head ruefully, as though he cannot believe anyone could possibly be this stupid, and said, miss eaton, you must work with what you have.

thus my fear that i have built a mansion on the sand haunts both the day and night.

garebear is convinced i can do this. he wasn't always. when, for the third time in a single week, i completely overhauled the plan for what i'm doing and called debo to say- for the third phone call in a row- i think i've got an idea, she let slip that, though she never doubted, garebear's faith had been shaken.

steeled by my conviction that i'm secretly a genius and of a temperament that requires a state of total impossibility to get anything done, i am resigned. but garebear was worried, though he is no longer.

garebear's new-found calm seems to have less to do with my ideas than with a dream he had several weeks ago wherein he kept running into women who seemed to recognize him. and that, finally, when he was at a restaurant, one of them came over to his table and said, i recognize you from your daughter's work for biographers international.

he called me, gleeful, in the morning. as though this were a prophecy. i'd think the endgame is to have a book published rather than to have my father recognized for my volunteer labor, but i'll take it.

when he told me this, i was reminded of how tori amos' parents are recognizable to her hardcore fans and it seemed rather lovely for my father to take his place next to edison and mary ellen in the pantheon of parents of people who have done things.

on my birthday eve, i dreamed debo and i were at the quickie-mart. every magazine on the news stand was about jackie. this seemed to auger well.

when debo returned to mississippi, as we journeyed up to the gas station that sells the good chicken, i told her about the idea i've settled upon and am working with- the idea currently stretched across a seven-page outline and twenty-two of the most disjointed pages i've written in a long, long while.

and as i was telling her it dawned on me that this idea is something i wrote about for a supervision in the spring of 2013. the thing i'm writing now is a version of what i was writing, if not well, three months into my phd.

this is either galvanizing or demoralizing and/or just laughably typical of the circularity of writing and thinking.

and a reminder that i should be better at this by now. i should've realized that when i thought, in 2013, oh, i don't want to write about that, that would, one day, be the very thing i was writing about.

that is always the way. it seems i should know that by now and yet it is one of the central surprises of writing.

it is also perhaps the central allure of writing- its ability to surprise again and again, in spite of being something at which i am ostensibly talented and, therefore, one would imagine, i know how to do.

there is both a sense of pressure (i should be better at this) and relief (actually, no, this is the way this works), which is equal parts terrorizing and freeing.

this is not so far off from that eaton family favorite saying from our mary englebreit iron-on decal days: wherever you go, there you are. a truth so simple i continue to wonder what compelled us to emblazon it on half a dozen pastel sweatshirts. and yet a truth whose truthiness i return to again and again.

for my birthday, debo gave me a bracelet engraved with a message: she believed she could, and so she did. and i thought, dear lord, it has come to this. we've reached the point in my academic ordeal where inspirational jewelry is required. then i put it on.

we've reached the point in my academic ordeal where i'll take any support i can get.

the other day, while he was still in memphis, i emailed garebear- who, simply by virtue of him being the parent who saw to my early requests whilst my mother ignored them, is my archivist. i asked him to bring two books down to mississippi so i could write about what i wanted to write about on monday morning. the email received no response.

he arrived in mississippi complaining of how he had to go digging in the attic and how hot it was up there. he also brought the two books.

that morning, i wrote about what i wanted to write about.

it's a phrase i keep telling myself every time i put down a sentence i know, once i've have my footing in whatever it is i'm doing here, will eventually be cut.

this is the way this works. all will be well. however uncomfortable or tedious, this is exactly as it should be. 

02 June 2016

0 k

i have come to realize that one of the central assumptions i make about american tv is that episodes of keeping up with the kardashians are on 24/7.

this is sadly inaccurate. KUWTK is only on for 4 hours in the afternoon. though this is, gratifyingly, double the airtime given to wolf blizter's THE SITUATION ROOM over on CNN. 

01 June 2016

0 in school, we studied langston hughes as a poet.

as an adult, stumbling upon a grizzled copy of the ways of white folks at senate house a few years ago, i've come to appreciate we were wrong not to study his prose, for his short stories are knives wrapped in velvet and his sentences marvel.

read this.