Before I delve into my autobiography of sorts, I want to make sure you, the beloved reader(hopefully at least one of you exists) know why I am writing online. I have a Bachelor's in History and a minor in English from Tulane University. No journalism degree have I, nor the good fortune to be compensated for writing up to this point(a young 37). I do respect most journalists - better read or heard than seen - for their proper education and truth finding integrity. I also have the utmost admiration for editors. The push and pull of the writer/editor process more often than not, results in best story possible. Witnessing a page from a piece of literature before and after editing truly brings home that point.
So, I have neither a journalism degree nor MFA, no editor(although I would LOVE one someday). I simply have the desire to continue my love of reading(fiction, newspapers and magazines), as well as watching and listening(to the beauty in day to day life and how it speaks to me) to type away at my keyboard the writing that such experiences inspire.
What I do have is a long tenure as a journal writer. I began my first diary when I was around nine or ten and have kept one up ever since. My entries were more prolific during my youthful "Blue" period when I was searching for love and companionship. I was a certified tree killer in those days. I also have a sordid past of letter and postcard writing. At one point, only on pink paper. At university, I was always writing to one person or another - sharing, if not force-feeding, my daily machinations, dreams and allegorical heartbreak. I often, and I do mean often, become so immersed in the story I am reading that I find a way to compare myself or my situation to that of the story or heroine. Once I was the crippled daughter who is smooth talked into giving up her prosthetic leg by a hustler in Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People." from her collection of short stories "A Good Man is Hard to Find." I was ABSOLUTELY convinced I was Tereza, or the "baby in the bulwark basket" in Milan Kundera's "Unbearable Lightness of Being", emphatic about nighttime hand holding. I'm not sure if Tomas said he did not sleep with or kiss women he did not love - but that ALWAYS stuck in my mind when I was alone with a man(so did the line "all good things they say never last" from Prince's "Sometimes it Snows in April") . I also liked(this is meant to be past tense) the idea that Tereza forced Tomas to be with her, that her innocence and neediness won him over, even if he would continue to be an adutler. I had hoped to similarly succeed on more than one occassion.
Lt. Henry's first love, Nurse Cat from Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" as well as Heathcliff's Catherine in Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" were just gimmes. Dick Diver's psychiatric patient, later wife, Nicole Diver, in Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" was a Corsican sister of sorts. It should come as no surprise that my first physical relationship with a man(I mockingly now recall love) was during my college Shakespeare history class Junior year Spring, the play - Shakespeare's "First Part of King Henry the Fourth"- the boy I fell for - Harold, aka, Hal or Prince Hal as I later privately referred to him. The fictional Prince Hal, the rebellious playboy who was as at ease in a brothel inebriated with Falstaff and his merry men as at the castle of his father, was and has always been my romantic ideal(darling husband, you have more than exceeded this wish). My Hal was shorter than I, wore coke bottle glasses, a poncho and called me "Katarina." Needless to say, I thought he was the sexiest thing on the planet. He was well read - knew of W.B. Yeats(my favorite poet) and whispered Jane's Addiction's "Summertime Rolls" to me as if he were a poet himself. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Prince Hal later marries the French princess Katherine.... And so on.
Dear Reader, please do not be alarmed by the recurring psychological makeup or tragic outcomes of these fictional women I once admired(but still love in my own way). I am happy to say that the victim phase ebbed shortly after leaving university and the completion of my first magical realism book - Gabriel Garcia Marquez's " Love in the Time of Cholera." The last word of that book - Fermina Daza's elated response to her now old, but found, long time Don Juan love, Florentino Ariza - being "Forever." Perhaps the second greatest ending to any romantic novel(even such as one playing with the idea of romance) next to James Joyce's "Ulysses" whose stream of consciousness monologue by the beloved Molly recalling her early life with scorned hubby Leopold Bloom is "Yes." I apologize to you naysayers out there but any book that ends with the words "Forever" and "Yes" respectfully, are pure perfection and indicative of my turn to hopefulness, post-college, in the world of love.
But this blog is not about my youthful love life(I like you too much for that). Other qualifications I may bring is the fact that I am actually quite good at editing. Editing other people's writing that is. I have always had a knack for active voice, short sentences, and over all theme. I always seemed to be someone people could rely on for editing papers in college. Another qualification is that being a History/English student I had to write lots of papers and take lots of essay tests. Sticking to only History and English classes concerned my college advisor and he routinely asked me to "get out of my comfort zone."
Dear Reader, be warned that my grammar has always been a bit off. I somehow managed to sleep through basic grammar in the third grade and have never been quite up to speed on it since. "The Elements of Style" helped only slightly. Please do not be dismayed if punctuation or grammatical errors take place. In a better world, I will have the amazing EDITOR to help me with such corrections, but for now, I am on my own.
It should convince you of my love of reading that I had almost enough credits to have a double major History/English but wanted to only take English classes that I enjoyed, not the prescribed offerings for a major. Such "electives" usually had to do with 20Th century American Literature. I actually relished studying a novel for the second or third time as I got to dive deeper into the meaning of the story(and I could be almost guaranteed an A from my old notes). I could always uncover a new angle to an old story.
The first book that I clearly remember reading is Steinbeck's "The Pearl" in eighth grade. Not very uplifting, nor a driving force to have me read another(although I did go to Steinbeck at least once upon entering high school as at least I knew one author's name to look for at the library there). My freshman and sophomore years at a private high school were very difficult and I am happy to have survived them. Although I had been an A student during grammar school, I had not been taught how to be disciplined about reading, clearly dissect a novel, and know how to write a paper. I especially remember teasing a girlfriend who completed a "recommended" reading list during the summer between six and seventh grade. I found this demand OUTRAGEOUS and thought that her parents were trying to ruin her vacation. It was SUMMER, after all.
So, not only was steady reading and paper writing already ingrained in the freshman class I had joined(the private school began in Kindergarten), but I was one whole year younger than my peers. Lets just say I had not even begun to have a woman's body until middle of my sophomore year. Magnified by the fact that I was a scholarship student, with a wonderful but college degree less parent working on site, I was a bit of a fish out of water - not too much - but academically, definitely. When a teacher asked us to find a short story to direct for Drama class, most of the kids brought books from home, one that their parent's probably read in college. Whereas I had no idea about authors(except Judy Blume and the aforementioned Steinbeck), a classmate shows up with J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." My mind, and that of Mr. See More Glass - gets blown to bits. I had never read anything so shocking. This girl just shows up with it - like its no big deal or anything - from her home library. Yes, she had a LIBRARY at her home.
We only had a few books at home, mainly WWII history books left over from my Dad before he moved out and concentration camp memoirs from my mother. My Mom did have a penchant for Pearl S. Buck, but that was about it. So, I ended up finding a book of Tennessee William's short stories and chose one that I could convert to the stage. We had already performed scenes from Tennessee Williams in the Drama class prior ( I would like to think I was above average as the mother in "The Glass Menagerie"). Mr. Williams was one of the best playwright's in my teacher and the class's eyes(as evidenced by the number of monologues chosen to be performed by him- probably eighty percent of the class chose either "Cat on a Hot Tim Roof" or "Streetcar Named Desire"). So I went for something I was comfortable with(the short story accompaniment to "The Glass Menagerie") and an actual writer I was interested in learning more about. I hadn't yet a clue the playwright or some of his characters were homosexual. However, I did know that Stella needed to appear as if she had recently enjoyed a "satisfying romp" with Stanley in one of the scenes I was assigned to perform from "Streectcar." I knew nothing of "romps" satisfying or not, but I do know the risque edge to Tennessee Williams made him my favorite writer(for a short while anyway). This class experience motivated me to gobble up as much of his work as possible. As my former, now departed, American Literature teacher, Dr. Marie K. Stone used to say "Sex sells." She claimed there was no easier way to get a class to remember a lecture than to bring up sex at some point. The identification of a phallus was particularly powerful . Dr. Stone was ABSOLUTELY right. And Mr. Williams began to open my eyes to the joy of reading.
I don't want you to think I was not surrounded by readers - my father is an exceptionally hungry reader who reads a book every other day, but mostly John Le Carre and other spy masters. An early highschool graduate and honoree of a scholarship to the University of Illinois, the pool bug bit hard and soon enough he was off campus and on the road to hustle. I am accustomed to having almost all conversations with my father while he is reading - newspaper, more often than not a racing form, or a paperback. He did read novels in his youth and had a passion for Salinger, which he only told me AFTER I read "Catcher in the Rye". He supposedly gave my Aunt two books back in the late sixties that he told her were all she ever needed to know about men. One was JD Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" the other - "The Kama Sutra." To be fair, my maternal grandmother, Mamaw, supposedly read a new book every day, even her obituary stated she was an "Avid reader." She read mostly Christian books, the good Baptist that she was, but I have heard she went overboard for anything romantic - like Harlequin - and I bet she influenced some of those early fiction choices of mine. Thank you, Mamaw. She had a strong, passionate, loving relationship with my grandfather, Poppy. While she lay in hospice at a ripe old age and due to natural causes, she asked if there was some way my wheel chair bound ninety year old grandfather could share the hospital bed with her. It reminded me of my beloved Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza, a little, but mostly it amplified to me all of the beautiful secrets and stories each person has to offer. For Mamaw and Poppy, I could only guess. If you do not pay attention to people, those subtlties go unnoticed and in a fleeting second, you miss them. So, in short, I did not grow up with a house full of books, but there and then, at the age of thirteen, in freshman year Drama class, having been stunned by Salinger and titilated by Tennessee, I decided when I grew up, I would ABSOLUTELY, have one.
A Pool Hustler's Daughter grows up in subterranean America. She dreams big, hustles daily and loves her Daddy. With empathy, fascination and grace she navigates and inhabits every tier of society; sees beauty and hope and magic in all things; respects and lives by the "mitzvah."
A Pool Hustler's Daughter calculates the trifecta payout at the racetrack, hides money on three parts of her body, has an arsenal of "Uncles," and keeps a baseball bat by the front door. She values friendship, loyalty and experiences over "things." Like her father, she seeks to learn "The secrets of the universe" and believes "Life ain't on the square." She applauds the self-made and those who learn to "overcome" their circumstances. Her door is always open for a sofa to sleep on, a hot meal, or an eager listener for a life story.