[Daily Prompt] Good Tidings: Positively Dickensian

Today’s Daily Prompt-Good Tidings:

Present-day you meets 10-years-ago you for coffee. Share with your younger self the most challenging thing, the most rewarding thing, and the most fun thing they have to look forward to.

This is my contribution!

Positively Dickensian

Two women sit across from each other at a table in a coffee shop. They take their tea the same way: Earl Grey, strong, two sugars. Turbinado, please, stirred clock-wise.

Their conversation goes like this:

2004 Mae: Hey, why are we blonde? We haven’t been blonde since we were seven, and we both know that was way more than ten years ago–yours or mine.

2014 Mae: We’ve met before, right? We’ve been radically altering our hair every few months since we were twelve. Some things don’t change. Wait until you get to 2012. That was a great hair year for us, even if we got sick of the Miley comparisons.

2004: Who is Miley?

2014: Never mind. We’ll know soon enough, and we’ll wish we didn’t.

2004: Oh, okay. Anyhoo, this is kind of weird. Why are we here, again? Do you have big news for me? Because I’m not sure that I want to know. Even if it doesn’t suck.

2014: Good, because I didn’t plan on giving you specifics, anyway.

2004: Well, what if I changed my mind? What if I want to know now?

2014: Too fucking bad. It doesn’t work that way.

2004: Did you bend time and space just to have tea with me? Honestly, that is kind of creepy. Is this some next-level Miss Havisham shit? Future me is so bereft that she finds a way to come back to a point when life was better? Oh, my god. Do I really turn into Miss Havisham? Seriously, is my future that pitiful?

2014: I’m not wearing a tattered wedding dress, am I? So, no. I forgot how kooky we can be.

2004: Wait. Wait! Do I-do we-become…normal? I’d rather be Miss Havisham.

2014: Haha, no! We’re amusing, too!

2004: Hey, don’t take credit for that line! I said it, so I am the amusing one. Continue reading

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[Forgotten Gems] Free e-books Edition: Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey

Cover of the Second Edition of Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1823

Cover of the Second Edition of Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1823

A Year in Books/Day 223: Swanson on Swanson

  • Title: Swanson on Swanson
  • Author: Gloria Swanson
  • Year Published: 1980/This Edition: 1981 (Random House/Pocket Books)
  • Year Purchased: Mid-1990s
  • Source: Antique Barn, Ohio State Fair
  • About: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”-George Bernard Shaw. Every Hollywood memoir should come with the preceding GBS quote as a disclaimer. That, or the generic perception is reality. Either will do. With that out of the way, we could get down to the important business of enjoying good Tinseltown autobiographies for what they are: damn fun entertainment. Underneath the ego and the stage-managed pathos, these one-person exercises in reputation preservation usually contain heaping amounts of self-deprecation, humor, and memorable industry anecdotes, with the self-subjects somehow, through a strange, magical process, coming across as down-to-earth and larger than life; normal and privileged; lucky and talented; flawed and beautiful. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 214: Me

  • Title: Me Stories of My Life
  • Author: Katharine Hepburn
  • Year Published: 1991 (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.)
  • Year Purchased: Summer of 2010
  • Source: My momma
  • About: Dear Kate: You were such an iconoclast. I know, I know; what an over-used word. I’m not proud of trotting out something so stale, especially in reference to
    English: Photograph of the actress Katharine H...

    English: Photograph of the actress Katharine Hepburn in the 1932 play The Warrior’s Husband. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    someone as amazing as you were. Really, though, what choice do I have? What else is there? Rebel, nonpareil, maverick? Nonconformist, idol, icon? Legend, paragon, nonesuch? They’re all too pale, weak, humourless. You were too kick-ass to be so neatly boxed-in, anyway. Now let’s get to business. Continue reading

A Year in Books/Day 169: Almost There The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman

  • Title: Almost There The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman
  • Author: Nuala O’Faolain
  • Year Published: 2003 (Riverhead Books)
  • Year Purchased: 2005/2006
  • Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
  • About: I love O’Faolain’s straightforward and elegant prose style, proof that readability does not have to equal simplicity. Almost There is a follow-up to Are You Somebody, her searing and evocative first memoir. I loved it so much that I was truly giddy when I found this volume in the middle of a stack of clearance books. She is one of those naturalist prose-poets of the everyday, recounting the events of her turbulent life with warmth, grace and a total absence of pity or dramatics. Her candor is believable. True or not, it is a remarkable feat for a memoirist to achieve-and not once, but twice. To feel the full import of her story, and the rare beauty of her spare writing, I suggest reading the books back to back.
  • Motivation: Are You Somebody is one of my favourite contemporary memoirs.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 55: “I had waited to go on in a small dressing room, almost paralyzed with fear, because I knew my reputation and my family’s and Nell’s was going to be changed by the interview, and my standing with colleagues and bosses and former lovers and the nuns who’d taught me-anyone I could think of. But there really is such a thing as grace. It’s the word I want to use, anyway, for a rightness of behavior that kicks in out of nowhere.”
  • Happiness Scale: 8

A Year in Books/Day 168: An Unfinished Woman

  • Title: An Unfinished Woman
  • Author: Lillian Hellman
  • Year Published: 1969/This Edition: 1999 (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Year Purchased: 2003/2004
  • Source: Unknown
  • About: The Children’s Hour. The Little Foxes. Another Part of the Forest. Watch on the Rhine. The lady knew how to craft plays strong enough to withstand not only their first march across the footlights, but so brilliant as to be timeless decades later. In An Unfinished Woman-the first of three memoirs written in her twilight years-she breaks off pieces of her jaded public persona until something of the real Lillian shows through. Exactly what is anybody’s guess, but the feeling of rightness is there. Her writing is so forceful and engaging, and seemingly forthright, that it is easy to forget that any writer’s autobiography is by nature (if to varying degrees) a study in fiction. Writers are their own best characters, after all. She weaves such a fine story that the ratio of unadulterated fact to pure fiction to soaring imagination is basically immaterial. Her tale, her viewpoint, is riveting. Facts may be found elsewhere; this book is where the entertainment is located. It won the National Book Award. The foreword to this edition is by the incredible Wendy Wasserstein.
  • Motivation: I love plays. Love love them. As in, I want to go steady with them kind of love. Got it? They are my second favourite written medium. I also love weird, strong, talented, crazy-ass smart, contrary women.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 43: “I would like to say these many years later that I remember his questions. But I don’t, and for a good reason: he had already decided on whatever he meant to write and the questions were fitted to his decisions. So most of the time we didn’t know what he was talking about.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

A Year in Books/Day 158: Bloomsbury Recalled

  • Title: Bloomsbury Recalled
  • Author: Quentin Bell
  • Year Published: 1995 (Columbia University Press)
  • Year Purchased: 2002/2003
  • Source: Unknown
  • About: The author was the younger son of Vanessa and Clive Bell, two central figures in the Bloomsbury group (which was really just a loose network of friends, family and acquaintances). His aunt was, of course, novelist Virginia Woolf. Bloomsbury Recalled is his brief but excellently engaging memoir of the fascinating adults who formed his parents’ social and professional circles from WWI to the start of the next  great international conflict at the end of the 1930s. The little boy who grew up in a sticky web of conflicting personalities and crossed goals became an accomplished polymath with a distinctive, intelligent and highly amusing voice. His relaxed nature, probing wit and compelling birthright give this book a sparkle that the average Bloomsbury retrospective sorely lacks.
  • Motivation: Bloomsbury? Check. A relatively unbiased insider’s view? Check. Writers, artists and theorists? Oh my! Seriously, this book covers one of my favourite literary periods. That is reason enough.

    English: Portrait of Clive Bell

    English: Portrait of Clive Bell (Photo credit: Wikipedia). The author’s father.

  • Times Read: 3
  • Random Excerpt/Pages 11 & 12 : “I was not alarmed. I was convinced that I was not really consumptive; also, apart from the cough and high temperature, I did not feel at all ill. I enjoyed some fierce arguments with a clergyman, managed to do a little painting, and embarked upon historical research on the principality of Monaco for which I was totally unqualified.”
  • Happiness Scale: 10

A Year in Books/Day 147: Bare Blass

  • Title: Bare Blass
  • Author: Bill Blass
  • Year Published: 2002 (HarperCollinsPublishers)
  • Year Purchased: 2010
  • Source: My lovely momma
  • About: The loosely structured autobiography of the great American fashion designer is a fun, quick and riveting read. His perspective on national and international society of the mid-to-late 20th-century is considerably more interesting that what I expected. His retelling of his journey from the Indiana boy he never quite left behind to sophisticated man-of-the-world is complex, humorous and compelling, with detours that I never suspected. Yet, his writing voice is exactly what you would expect: barbed, candid, and smooth. By story’s end, it is obvious why he was welcomed with open arms by high society. Bonus: The book includes his apparently famous recipe for meatloaf.
  • Motivation: It was $1.00. My mom knew that I would find it interesting, as I am  a fashion history hobbyist. Well played, Momma. Well played.
  • Times Read: 1
  • Random Excerpt/Page 72: “Actually, what I was shooting for was swagger-a cross between Damon Runyan and the Duke of Windsor, or what fashion editor Sally Kirkland, after seeing my first show, called “the Scarsdale Mafia look.” I loved the expressive masculine style of the thirties. I didn’t give a damn about tastefulness.”
  • Happiness Scale: 8