I’m supposed to be writing additional chapters for the paperback version of Cherries in Winter, which will be out in mid-October. However, I’ve been doing everything but that, and I can’t even blame it on procrastination, the only sport at which writers excel.
No, this is plain old garden variety interruption. During the Nor’easter, we mopped our leaky living room constantly. Post-storm, the flooded basement had to be cleaned out, which required several visits from the man with the water extractor. And each time, guess who had to let him in? Me, otherwise known as Ethel Mertz.
Then there’s a dog to be walked, mud from the dog walk to be cleaned up, laundry to be done, a Hubbins to be fed (thank you again, Jamie Oliver, for the kedgeree recipe). All this with an hour gone thanks to daylight savings time, the point of which is lost on me and the entire state of Arizona, which refuses to recognize it. I got so miffed and frustrated I almost went right back into my “feh” state, despite the sun shining for the first time since our four days of nearly Biblical rains.
I was driven to pick up my copy of The Merry Recluse, a compilation of essays by Caroline Knapp. She was one of my favorite writers–she was witty while being very truthful, and she had a profound impact on my desire to write memoir and non-fiction essays. (That, and the fact that burnt toast writes fiction better than I do. You’ll see when I post my unpublished novel, one page at a time, this summer.)
I randomly opened The Merry Recluse to a list of things Caroline hated. One of them was errands: “Don’t you feel sometimes as though life is simply the stuff that happens during the few small spaces when you’re not doing errands?” she wrote. Another was returning stuff you get from catalogues–which begat another errand. “It is disappointing enough to order something from a catalogue and have it fail on you (wrong size, wrong color, bad fabric), but then you have to repackage the whole thing, schlep it to the post office, and pay to have it shipped back, which not only adds insult to injury but also involves an errand.” And then Caroline hit the nail on the head with my favorite F-word: “Feh.” No wonder the woman is one of my literary heroes.
I’ll admit that this is the first time I’ve opened The Merry Recluse in the several years I’ve had it, even though Caroline is one of my favorite writers and inspirations. She died in May of 2002 of cancer, and, knowing that not much more of her work would be forthcoming, I’ve been hoarding this collection of her essays.
Until now, that is, when I’m being driven mad by errands, when all I want to do is utter “Feh” with the same gusto as Caroline Knapp did in her heyday. If I can’t write because of all the stuff that’s going on around me, I can read what she wrote in between the errands.