an abbreviated love letter to lara ehrlich, editrix

i never wanted to be a writer. because writing is, let’s face it, rather dull.

editing is where the action’s at.

but i don’t mean proofreading, which is what most people probably think of when they think of editing. to use a gross metaphor: proofreading is like picking the fish up from the butcher; editing is being the butcher. Continue reading


in 52 days, i’m presenting a paper that i’ve not yet begun to write.

my proposed title contains the following words (presented here in no order): “adventure”, “stardom”, “tabloid”, “feminism”, “narrative”, journey”, “the NEW woman”, “via”, “jackie onassis”.

it contains not one but TWO colons. Continue reading

some lessons learned

jackie - warhol

biography does not do wonders for your love life.
jackie loved parades.
the suburbs aren’t that far away.
neither is evanston.
don’t go to the dutch pancake place the day after halloween.
always follow-up.
UCLA is not USC.
pick your pen name before you publish.
know that it will be mispronounced 75% of the time.
checking out books doesn’t mean you’ll read them.
reading books doesn’t mean you’ll remember them.
accept paypal.
splurge on your business cards.
wear fake fuchsia bangs.
it’s good to have friends of friends in foreign lands.
don’t do anything stressful after giving blood.
god sleeps from 12 to 3 a.m.
don’t be intimidated by technology.
if you ask, people will give you columns.
bring extra batteries.
never ever drive to memphis.
try to remember toothpaste.
book reviews are where the money’s at.
wash your hair.
send flowers.
read the book.
say yes.
some people improve upon acquaintance.
a fortune can be built with $5 bills.

t-minus 597

Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses

the philosopher is in town. we’re standing, shivering, on the boardwalk looking out on lake michigan when he asks what exactly the end outcome of the 20.09.13 plan is supposed to be.

and i give some whole blah-bitty-blah-crap answer about how where i live isn’t going to matter and how i’m going to be as mobile as i want to be. which kind of sort of maybe is what this was about in the beginning, but is really not at all what it’s all about now.

it’s funny, how you can have such a sense of where you’re going and see so many pieces of the picture without being able to precisely articulate what it is you’re doing or what it is you see.

i see jackie. that is all. i don’t know where she’ll take me, but i’ll go wherever she leads. she’s my adventure. and, at the moment, all i want, all i crave, all i need is biography and adventure. nothing else. except maybe paris.

in light of this (uncertainty?), it’s tempting to resort to labels. to attach all hopes and dreams to a finalized manuscript or a published book or a freelance job. but that feels limiting. which feels wrong.

i don’t want to be limited. i’m too in love with possibility.

right now, the end outcome of the 20.09.13 plan is an unknown and the 20.09.13 plan itself is about suspending expectations. about seeing what may come from that. from that massive, incredibly daunting void of not knowing.

as is the case with everything, there’s a jackie anecdote for this: she’s wearing a bikini and sitting on a greek beach sipping champagne with an old friend. and she turns to the old friend and she says, “do you realize how lucky we are? to have gotten out of that world we came from. that narrow world of newport [… to] have taken such a big bite out of life.”

she says this and then she smiles.

the only thing that is certain about 20 september 2013 is that i will have taken one hell of a big bite out of life and twelve million small steps forward since 20 september 2010.

that is all i know. and it is enough.

there are things you know you need to do

there are things you know you need to do. by which i don’t mean the honorable, upstanding things, but the thoroughly stupid, senseless, impractical ones. the things people will warn you away from precisely because they seem to make no sense. or because they cost a small country’s annual budget.

this has come up before. last year i used this exact logic as justification for going to paris for 13 hours. i’m realizing that, for me, the most thoroughly stupid, senseless, impractical things are maybe always going to involve paris.

i’m not sure what to do with that just yet. except go back to paris.

come may, i’m presenting a paper at a french conference on narrative. a paper establishing jackie’s tabloid life narrative as being of feminist importance.

the conference is five months away. so far, my paper exists only as a three paragraph abstract that hits upon jackie’s feminist importance in the vaguest possible terms. this proposition is stupid, senseless and impractical on many levels, not to mention expensive. by extension, i’m ruthlessly gung-ho.

in hopes of finding inspiration, i’ve been wading through the paper piles that have accumulated during the last eight years of research. two dozen legal pads filled with old notes and random musings. that is how i happened upon this, written in february 2004:

“jackie o as feminist icon? fun book to write but too hard to prove. TRUE but no one would believe it. it cannot be done.”

my first thought upon reading this? merde.

my second thought? yes, it can.

(photographs by peter beard)

jackie is having a moment

my mother has now twice used the phrase “you go, girl.”

the first was way back in march 2010, when she heard i was having coffee with a philosopher, whom i mistakenly believed to be a lawyer. this was coming on the heels of a four-month period during which i’d spent most of my time reading twilight– so i can see how meeting a man for caffeine (regardless of the particulars of his employment) could be interpreted as such great progress that my mum would channel her inner spice girl and exclaim, you go, girl.

the second instance happened this past monday. we’re talking about a jackie idea i’ve been toying with, an idea that suddenly- out of nowhere- seems to have legs. she’s excited and i sense it’s coming. it seems only logical that, at some point, the torrent of “jackie is having a moment” is going to give way and yield yet another you go, girl.

but it’s still a surprise when she says it with such gusto, with such enthusiasm. and it’s still a surprise, the sensation i feel upon hearing her say it. the tiny thrill and very great sense of power that comes from the fact that my mother thinks i can do this and she has said, you go, girl.

(mm photo by john vachon)

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