Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cooking, Composing, and Reeling from Disbelief

Cooking for me is a truly enjoyable and creative pastime. When I’m not tuned into my iPod, either listening to a book, or trying to keep from chopping off my fingers while dancing to Van Morrison, I often find myself separating eggs or stirring white sauce while composing bits and pieces of stories and blog posts in my head. I did a lot of cooking over Christmas, and two separate, but similarly-themed posts took root during this period. They both centered around blogging.

The first post was one in which I was embracing the reader in me. My reader, who is really nothing more than a sneaky, voyeuristic writer in disguise, is one who can’t seem to read anything without having one of three thoughts: a. that was absolutely horrible. Why did I waste my time with it? Certainly, I could easily have taken that [story, point, theme, etc.] and written something so much better. b. This is a good thing to read, because there’s absolutely no way on earth I’d ever attempt to write something like this, and it’s so awe-inspiring. and c. I think I’ll go kill myself now. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to write, but this author is so far superior in every way that my measly little attempts ought to be used for nothing more than lining the bottom of the litter box. Here are some prime examples to help you understand what I mean: a. Jackie Collins and Michael Crichton b. Leo Tolstoy and Margaret Atwood. c. David Sedaris and Susan Jane Gilman.

I don’t really like being this sort of a reader. Besides being extremely narcissistic, it can somewhat dampen the enjoyment of reading. However, if I can embrace it, perhaps I can rein it in and move past it, or at least stick it in some fenced-in area somewhere that it isn’t so likely to go galloping wildly about, leaving hoof prints and ripped pages between the covers of my books.

I’m not doing a very good job of reining it in, though. As a matter of fact, it’s found a new field in which to run and muck about: the blogosphere. If you take a look at the links on my blog, each and every one that is another blog, falls into one of these reading categories. Those that fall into the “a” category are the ones that are noticeably absent. These would be things like celebrity blogs, certain political blogs, and certainly many religious blogs. I waste enough time blogging. No need to waste my time with these.

So, now we get to the Tolstoys and the Atwoods of my links. I can happily read blogs like Book World, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds, Loose Baggy Monster, Tales from the Reading Room, Cam’s Commentary, Striped Armchair, The Library Ladder, Of Books and Bicycles, and So Many Books, because all of those authors are extraordinarily well-read and are doing things that I’m not attempting to do: writing extremely eloquently about books (or books and bicycling). Sometimes they write about other things (and sometimes I write about books), but for the most part they are literary critics and book reviewers, and I am not. Charlotte’s Web and Bloglily both fall into a sort of “iffy” category, but I will pretend I can happily read them, because they write about cooking (well, with the exception of today) and baking and being a mother, as well as their own eloquent thoughts on books, and I’m not writing about those things, either. Jew Eat Yet is what I would want to write if I knew half as much about the Jewish faith and culture or about film and other areas of pop culture, but I don’t, so it’s another one that can be happily read and enjoyed, knowing I’d never attempt to create such a blog. The Havens is mostly about gardening, and I’m a complete brown thumb, so I can enjoy reading her and sometimes wish she would come create a beautiful garden for me, but again, I would never try to write about gardening, not even my own disastrous attempts at it. She says to “come in and rest a while,” and I most certainly do. Mandarine is also in a category of his own, a scientist and (as I once noted) 21st-century Renaissance man, and reading his blog is very much like browsing through some of my favorite nonfiction sections of the library where I would never dream of trying to have a book of my own. Marissa’s blog is something different, as well: it’s more a reflection of her as a photographer, marking significant events in her life and enjoying her family and friends, not as a writer.

But now we come to the David Sedarises and the Susan Jane Gilmans, those who are doing exactly what I want to do and who make me feel, on a regular basis, that I ought just to close down this little blog and do nothing but spend time with them. These would be, Everything Inbetween (which is really The Public, The Private, and Everything Inbetween), Ian’s Blog, Make Tea Not War, Feminine Feminist, Froshty Mugs (well, when those two actually write), Musings from the Sofa, QC Report, and the Alternate Side Parking Reader. They’re funny. They’re ironic. They see the world the way I do (especially, for some reason, Ian and Froshty), and they are so damn talented at putting words together to describe that world.

The second post I composed while mashing potatoes, making gravy, and checking on the Yorkshire pudding was one in which I was thinking about my part in the blogosphere. It was all about my feeling so lucky to be hanging out with all these talented writers out here, wondering how I’ve managed to fall into this world and have been so accepted. I was comparing myself to someone who might have sat at places like the Algonquin Round Table as just some welcomed non-writer, someone’s little sister, maybe, living vicariously through all that talent. Or maybe I’m like Mrs. Strickland in Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, which I’ve been reading. When asked by one novelist (worried he ought to know and doesn’t) of another novelist who Mrs. Strickland is, the other novelist says, “She gives luncheon parties. You only have to roar a little, and she’ll ask you.” (Maugham, W. S., The Moon and Sixpence, New York: The Modern Library, 1919, p. 22). Am I the one “giving luncheon parties to a bunch of artists?”

This was all before New Year’s Day. Then New Year’s Day arrived, and what did I do? I checked Cam’s Commentary to discover that not only did someone list my blog as a daily read in her survey of favorites but actually included me in the same sentence as QC Report. Well, to tell you that this alone would have convinced me that 2008 is going to be a much better year than 2007 would be the absolute truth. But then, later in the day, I happened to wander over to Litlove’s new blog The Best of New Writing on the Web and was completely awed to discover I’d made it into this very first issue. I’d say 2008 is going to be a banner year with this sort of a start! So, maybe I’m the one everyone’s coming to sit with at the round table, and maybe my luncheons are so popular because people just can’t get enough of me? I find that hard to believe, but I do want to say thank you so very much to whomever it was who nominated and voted for me for these two humbling spots.

19 comments:

Cam said...

I was shocked and honored not only to be mentioned, but also (and more so) to be mentioned alongside such fine bloggers. My husband reminded me when I told him about this that I said a few days ago that I was thinking about deleting my entire blog (I've reconsidered though I haven't posted a thing in a week).

Emily, I am awed by your writing. I have laughed, cried, been moved by what you've written here. I may not stop by to read everything right away, but when I haven't visited your site, it's only because I haven't been reading any blogs at all.

The only thing that has disappointed me about Telecommuter Talk is learning that I misinterpreted your blog title: I so wanted it to be the sarcastic title of someone slacking off work by blogging while telecommuting! But I can hardly call that a disappointment because the idea still makes me giggle.

Make Tea Not War said...

Gosh Emily [blushes] how flattering! It's quite unusual for me to find people who feel they share my world view. You must be very strange indeed(in a good way!)

I view blogging as primarily a conversational medium and I enjoy your blog plus your comments because you seem like a great conversationalist- thoughtful, funny and well read.

Hypothetically speaking I'm not sure whether I'd have a seat at the Algonquin Table. On the whole I'd say not- I'd be too flighty and unreliable to to turn up on a regular basis- though I might know a couple of people at it. But I'll certainly let you be in my gang if I can be in yours!

Charlotte said...

Dear Emily, you are absolutely one of my daily reads and I have also nominated a post of yours for Best New Writing (though not the one that appeared!). You are a wonderful writer, and what I love about your posts is that they are beautifully structured - like today's one - interesting, charming, funny and always, but always, go somewhere.

May 2008 be a banner year for you!

bloglily said...

Yay Emily! I love being in the same room with you -- and being at the same table, well, that's a REALLY good dinner party.

litlove said...

Dear Emily - I think just about anyone who has any interest in writing is that kind of a reader!! You can't get away from it. But I can say that your appearance in the new blogzine was utterly and thoroughly deserved.

somanybooksblog.com said...

Emily you are far too modest! We come because your blog is full of wit and life and honesty and because you are wonderful you!

Stef

Dorothy W. said...

Congrats on the mention in Cam's survey and on Litlove's inclusion of you in her new site -- those are well-deserved honors! I'll echo the others and say that I never miss a post and I thoroughly enjoy everything you write -- and I have the added pleasure of knowing you in real life too!

baddict said...

This is my first visit to Telecommuter Talk (I came by way of LitLove's The Best of New Writing on the Web), but it will definitely not be my last. Judging from this post and the one included in LitLove's mag alone, I'd say you are, as Stefanie says, by far too modest. I look forward to reading great things here.

baddict said...

P.S. I wanted to add that I'm a jealous reader of Nick Hornby's column "What I'm Reading" in The Believer. I discovered his column just after I started my own reading blog. After reading his collection of columns Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, I wanted to shoot myself and bury myself out back. It seemed as if everything I'd ever wanted to write was already there on the page exactly the way I wanted to write it. I hate Nick Hornby, but I love him too. It's a dysfunctional relationship, but one I can't live without.

Courtney said...

Emily, first of all, thank you for mentioning me. It is humbling to be mentioned here when your blog is one of my must-reads. I admire your writing so much and often leave your posts thinking...will I EVER be that good? Will I ever be able to do what Emily does? The great thing about this whole blogging thing (which, I think, only bloggers and blog readers understand) is how welcoming, warm and wonderful it is. And how talented. And how fun. And I could go on and on and on...but seriously, you are an incredibly talented writer AND blogger and you deserve these nominations as much or more than anyone out there blogging right now...

Emily Barton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Barton said...

Cam, please, please don't delete your blog. Remember, I'm an editor: I know good writing when I read it. Sorry my title disappointed you. I guess we both had different ideas about this blog. Mine was that I'd be meeting all kinds of other telecommuters. I'm so glad it became what it is instead.

Ms. Make Tea, "very strange indeed" is a perfect way to describe me. And you and I would probably miss each other at the round table then, showing up on opposite days.

Charlotte, well thank you for nominating me,and I'm glad no one can see how much I'm blushing.

Bloglily, let's move that dinner table across the room from virtual reality into reality.

Litlove, I suppose you're right. I've always wondered what it must be like to be a reader who isn't interested in writing. One of these days, I will believe you when you say I deserve to be there with all those other fantastic bloggers (new mantra for meditation perhaps?).

Stef, "wit, life, honesty, and wonderful me." I'm blushing again!

Dorr, I feel exactly the same way about your blog and knowing you.

Baddict, welcome to the crazy world of Telecommuter Talk (witnessed by the fact that you won't find much about telecommuting here). And, oh yes, Nick Hornby is one who can definitely do that to a person. I haven't read "What I'm Reading," and am now torn between a huge desire to do so and another one to stay as far away as possible (or at least, not to do so without getting rid of all sharp objects in the house and making sure I have a bottle of bourbon handy).

Court, I read you and feel the same way. And by the time you're my age, you'll be leap years beyond me (and I'll have all your novels on my shelves). You're so right, too, about the whole blogging thing being so welcoming, warm, and wonderful ("nice alliteration," thinks the editor). Now, if one can get any darker than beet red, I just did.

6:07 PM

Becky said...

Emily - first, thank you! You are far more generous than I deserve. Secondly, your mention in Litlove's magazine was absolutely justified. Your writing is funny and wise, witty and moving, loose enough to ramble but in a structured kind of way. I'm afraid you are going to have face up to the fact that you are A-list.

Emily Barton said...

Becky, I'm not being at all generous. I'm afraid you, too, are going to have to face up to the fact that you're A-list.

Eva said...

Congrats on being in the survey and on Litlove's new 'zine! And thanks for mentioning me in your post-it made my day!

Cam said...

My disappointment, of course, is not that at all. I'm quite glad that your wonderful blog is about something other than telecommuting. :)

Emily Barton said...

Eva, happy to make your day!

Cam, I know. You don't seem the least bit disappointed, of which I'm very glad. You know, a while back I thought about changing the name of my blog, but I couldn't think of anything that would really describe it, so on a certain level, it is a somewhat sarcastic (or maybe ironic) title.

loosebaggymonster said...

Emily, I am so honored that you mentioned me! (Particularly as your blog is one that I've admired from the first day I discovered it). Keep the wonderful writing coming!

Emily Barton said...

LB Monster, you definitely deserve it and glad you enjoy reading me as well.