Good Things #19

This fall has been a particularly beautiful one.

Morning commute. This is not something I generally consider a Good Thing, but yesterday morning was the most beautiful drive. I looked out and saw fog lying low over the fields, the trees red and orange, the sun shining in that October-morning way. I wanted to stop the car and run through the fog, but imagining it was second-best.


Books. Writers’ group met this past week, and we talked about John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. “I’ve never read that,” I say, and my friend hopped up, ran to his shelf, and pulled out his copy. I’ve only read the preface, but already I’m in love. Addressing the fears that so many wanna-be-writers have, Gardner says:

Most grown-up behavior, when you come right down to it, is decidedly second-class. People don’t drive their cars as well, or wash their ears as well, or eat as well, or even play the harmonica as well as they would if they had sense. This is not to say people are terrible and should be replaced by machines; people are excellent and admirable creatures; efficiency isn’t everything. But for the serious young writer who wants to get published, it is encouraging to know that most of the professional writers out there are push-overs.

I love this. Partly because I think, “I knew it!”, and partly because I feel like I need to admit, “Yes! It’s true! I DON’T clean my ears as well as I should!” I can’t wait to get into this book.

Music. I first heard this band in my city-friend’s apartment last spring. I didn’t know who it was and I didn’t figure it out till a few weeks ago when another friend said, “Hey, I think you’d like these guys.” I like their lyrics and I love their sound. Good writing meets good music. “When Your Back’s Against the Wall” is encouraging in a not-hoaky way – give it a try.


Chickens. There was a long while where I was not grateful for chickens. I hated doing them every day, I hated how they acted like they were starving when there was clearly food in the feeder, and I did not like that I had to clean out the henhouse. While not all of that has changed (I still do not rejoice in the early mornings…), I am so thankful that I get to eat farm-fresh eggs and sell them to friends and family. It’s actually been hard to get enough eggs recently – something I’ve never had to deal with before – and I’m considering expanding the flock next spring. There’s nothing more beautiful than an assortment of eggs.

Movies. Okay, this is not so much a recommendation as a plea: I haven’t seen a good movie IN FOREVER. Are there any out there? Please.

12 Replies to “Good Things #19”

  1. Yes!
    I was hoping you would love Gardner. His writing totally redirected my literary career when it was veering toward the rocks. All the theory and abstraction were seriously starting to get to my head and I was ready to toss it all as pointless and set out for richer waters, then Gardner comes in with Art of Fiction and On Moral Fiction () and he’s all like, “Yo, these guys are dummies and you gotta take this serious, quit playing games and thinking it doesn’t matter, and if you do that, you’ll see your way clear.”
    And I was like, “Man, that’s a challenge I ACCEPT.”
    It’s been a pretty good ride ever since.

    As far as movies go, have you seen Take Shelter? It’s a couple years out by now, but it’s one of my favorites from the past decade, probably. Get ready for some narrative tension. Also, I repeatedly watch The Village in the fall.

    (p.s. did I get all those tags right? Shoot!)

    1. I totally relate to being tempted to throw my hands up in despair. I love how he write with such matter-of-factness – I feel like we’re missing that tone when we get so theoretical.

      Never seen Take Shelter, and given that you recommended my FAVORITE MOVIE to me two years ago, I can’t wait to watch it (if you don’t remember, it’s The Fall).

      Maybe I’ll gear up to watch The Village? It might be a fun movie night… 🙂

  2. I’m tempted to recommend sci fi movies to you but I know better. I’m going to give you an assorted list of wonderful movies (all available on Netflix).

    – “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is a really interesting documentary about this master sushi-maker and his absolute single-minded vision about it. Sounds boring? It’s not. It’s like watching one of those movies where a person gives up everything and slavishly trains to excel at one thing – except it’s real and the thing is sushi.

    – “Mad Hot Ballroom” is another (older) documentary but this time it’s about kids in New York City learning to ballroom dance! Ballroom dancing was a program added to (some?) New York City public schools to teach social skills, confidence, and international culture. The documentary follows three classes from three very different neighborhoods as they go through a competition. The kids are adorable, interesting, and way better at dancing than I am.
    – “The Artist” got a ton of hype and turned out to be well worth it. Silent film does not mean boring, there’s tremendous physical comedy (an increasingly lost art), and it all becomes a love letter to films that’s both earnest and endearing.
    – “Benny and Joon” is an oldie but a goodie. Joon is an artist and also has mental problems, Benny is her brother who struggles to take care of her, and Sam (played by a young Johnny Depp) is a Buster Keaton wannabe who ends up falling in love with Joon. It’s sweet, funny, and quirky. Plus, you get to learn how to use household appliances to make everyday foods.
    – “Waitress” (I don’t know if this is available on Netflix but I recommend it to everyone I can) is one of the most unusual films about motherhood I’ve seen. It follows Jenna, a waitress in a very Southern diner, who is planning to use her incredible pie-making skills (like magical realism pie-making) to escape her abusive husband Earl. Then, she finds out she’s pregnant with his baby. Nathan Fillion plays the gynecologist who she ends up having feelings for, she has two crazy diner friends who are wooed by unusual suitors, she writes a lot of letter to her unborn baby about how resentful she is that it derailed her plans, and Andy Griffith has a small role as the one person who encourages her to start her own life. It’s so funny but honest and it’s the perfect excuse for eating pie.

    1. This is awesome! I knew you’d pull through 🙂

      I’ve been meaning to see The Artist since it came out…maybe now I’ll get on it. And who doesn’t like a good documentary on sushi?

      The Waitress – I remember seeing that awhile ago. I feel like it might be the movie of our alternate lives (if we worked in a diner and were single mothers). Any excuse to eat pie 🙂

      1. Watch “The Artist!” I’m not even very into Hollywood as an institution and I was totally charmed by this sentimental (in the best way) ode to it! The only other movie that made me really think about film-making as a lovable establishment was the new Muppet movie. Which, if you haven’t seen that, GET ON IT.

        “Waitress” IS our lives. Except you’re definitely the protagonist (minus abusive husband) and I’m both of the diner friends in one body (snarky and takes no shit/super weird). Sad fact: the weird diner friend who gets with Mr. Spontaneous Poetry was the director (Adrienne Shelly) and she made the film as a way to process her feelings about her own impending motherhood. But she was murdered before the film premiered by a dude who was fixing the shower in the apartment beneath her. He stole into her apartment to take some money from her purse, she caught him, and he choked her to death and hung her body in the shower to look like suicide. His explanation when caught? He was just having a bad day. Her daughter was only two. Somehow the story makes me love the movie more, because it makes such a bittersweet movie so much more bittersweet.

          1. I don’t know! With pie? With thankfulness that she created such an earnest honest movie? With someone else to cry with you?

    2. I second “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and “The Artist”!

      Both so excellent. I’ve watched “Jiro” twice now and I absolutely love it. The filming is super sharp and there are a couple of sequences that take sushi from a food to a mythic vision. Music is also perfectly chosen. It’s just a beautiful documentary.

      1. Mythic is the perfect word to apply to it. “Jiro” is honestly a real-life samurai story but about something so real and life-consuming to Jiro and his sons and his customers and his apprentices. I watched it expecting something quirky. I was blown away by the proof that a person can actually attain the single-mindedness that seems to belong only to storybook heroes – by the tragedy and the nobility of his commitment to sushi. Sushi! How can that be?!?! And every segment added another level of wonder; just when I thought I couldn’t be amazed anymore, I was.

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