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Marriage Advice, a la Patti Smith

T-storm and I have both been on a reading (books) kick lately.  Travel propels us to read, as we did a whole lot during our honeymoon and the associated flights.  He’s much more of a reader than I am, and granted we both read online article and wikipedia pages to the point of saturation, but I think we both have that childhood reader in us.  Before I had a smart phone to distract me while walking through a parking lot, I had Babysitters’ Club books by the bundle.

I bought T a Nook for Christmas this year, and it did not get much use at all.  I suggested he use it for his grad classes, but to no avail.  (Sidenote: obviously husband has little energy for fun stuff, even fun books, when he’s working full time and taking grad classes at night.  Obviously.)  But then his mother insisted he read The Hunger Games, which he did almost entirely on the drive down to Key West (and then immediately compared it to the work of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King, the latter whom he idolizes).

Now he says, “I have to check out the next two books on my Nook!”  And then he found an NPR list of top science fiction books, most of which he’s already read, but he still went forth.

He insists that I have to read “The Call of Cthulu”, to get at least a rudimentary knowledge of the most oft-referenced Lovecraft monster, and I will.  I’ve read some Lovecraft, at his urging.  And at some point I’ll dally with The Hunger Games, I guess.

But my fancies turn me to a book I actually bought and hadn’t even begun on yet.  And I’ve been devouring.

I plan on later finishing A Visit from the Goon Squad, which was gifted to me by a friend and I have only gotten about one chapter into.  It seems, however, that Goon Squad is a good post-companion to Kids, seeing that Smith’s work is an honest but highly romantic depiction of New York in the late 60s and early 70s, and Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winner is about the decades-later aftermath of such.  Anyway.

Pertaining to an earlier post about marriage being about a team, there was another bit that Smith wrote about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.  Granted, they were indeed only kids when they met and were involved, and would move on to much bigger things in their own relationships and careers, but I love this description still.  One of Smith & Mapplethorpe’s first meetings/connections was over a simple Persian necklace they had both eyed at a store in which Smith worked:

The necklace was passed back and forth throughout the years.  Ownership was based on who needed it the most.  Our mutual sense of code manifested in many little games.  The most unshakeable was called One Day–Two Day.  The premise was simply that one of us always had to be vigilant, the designated protector.  If Robert took a drug, I needed to be present and conscious.  If I was down, he needed to stay up.  If one was sick, the other healthy.  It was important that we were never self-indulgent on the same day.

In the beginning I faltered, and he was always there with an embrace or words of encouragement, coercing me to get out of myself and into my work.  Yet he also knew that I would not fail if he needed me to be the strong one.

Mapplethorpe went on to seriously fuck with the government due to some homoerotic images (which maybe in retrospect, many don’t seem so jarring?) and in many ways, lay the precedent for artists like Keith Haring.  You know – the guy who made the designs for all those AIDS awareness shirts in the early 90s?  So cute and cartoonish?  And then surprisingly homoerotic when you delve a little deeper?  People can hate away, but I think the spirit of Mapplethorpe was smiling pretty big the day that Obama made his announcement saying that it’s cool if gays marry.

Anyway.  Point being that Smith and Mapplethorpe never married, but Smith went on to have a wonderful rock and roll marriage to Fred Sonic Smith (who came a long way from the MC5 commune, as described in Please Kill Me, another book I haven’t finished) before his untimely death, two kids, and be the high priestess of being an American artistic badass.

But Smith & Mapplethorpe’s relationship was obviously training ground.  Another bit of advice for relationships that I wouldn’t call failed, but let’s just say, relationships that didn’t end in marriage: it’s good to train before you hit the major leagues.  Learn how to share early on, and then even if the love of your young life ends up being the poster child for gay culture, you know what it means to be in a relationship with someone, to care for someone else, and you can still care for that first love all the days of your life.

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ng + afp = less than three

So when I was a teenager I got into Tori Amos.  We’ll talk about why or why not that is later this week.  As a result of being into Tori Amos, in college-ish I became familiar with Neil Gaiman.  After college I started actually reading his stuff (not just the liner notes for Strange Little Girls).  One year for Christmas my (not-yet-then) husband purchased me the short story collection Fragile Things, with the aforementioned SLG inserts as a part of them.  (As for his liner notes, many of them are better than some but not all of the songs on that album; sorry you guys, but Tori’s cover of “Heart of Gold” is among the worst of all time.  “Reigning Blood”, however, is a thing to behold.)

“October in the Chair” is one of my favorite bedtime stories.

Anyway.  Almost two years ago I found Neil on twitter.  And thus found Amanda Palmer, and was like “WTF why haven’t I been listening to her for years!?”  (I know why – I was too preoccupied with twee & Sonic Youth throughout college.)

I’ve been rabidly following their relationship like it’s a tabloid, proving again that people writing their own shit on twitter is so much better than 90% of mainstream news publications.  And just yesterday, Palmer posted their epic, epic wedding blog, marking their one year anniversary.


Two things that she writes apply to well, everyone and everything.

nowadays, at some level, everybody loves a bride.
and everybody loves a bride, i think, because a bride symbolizes hope.

in a world filled with NO NO NO NO NO and fear and terror and doubt, a bride fills up the space in the minds eye as a giant white tulle YES, and you don’t need to know the romantic backstory. somehow, through some miraculous chain of events, this woman has decided to throw herself into a life commitment. and it means something different now than it did 100, even 50, years ago. because nowadays she has a choice.

SIGH.  I walked down the street in my white tulle poof on my wedding day and felt exactly exactly exactly that way.

Also, this is the kind of house I want to have one day:

the third inspiration was to call upon neil’s other writer friends, michael chabon and ayelet waldman, whose home we’d already been welcomed into the year before.
michael and ayelet have a kind of a dream-home, filled with four astoundingly awesome children, random instruments, rugs, books and all manner of homey-goodness. we asked if they would have us and armistead and lance and company over to dinner and by the way get married right before we eat and by the way would rosie possibly mind being our flower girl. they said yes, and rosie, age six, began aggressively plotting her outfit. things were officially underway.

(Yeah, we plan on one day having children, and I totally want to have a cadre of little girls who aggressively plan outfits.)

Anyway, the whole piece is beautifully wrought.  Insightful and just wonderful.  This is why people still get married.

Also, a video of AFP playing with the Boston Pops, as she mentions earlier in the post.

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don’t you hate it when?

You discover a blog, or finally get onto the bandwagon, only to join them at the point where the author only posts about the book tour they’re currently on?

Looking at you, Bakerella, Regretsy, Stuff White People Like; even I Can Has Cheezburger was guilty of such at some point.  Sadly, I worry that A Practical Wedding (which is effing fantastic, if you didn’t know) might turn in that direction shortly.

Thanks to Offbeat Bride for not doing that, or if Ariel ever did, then she did it long before I found said blog.

Seeing as blog-writing is seemingly the new shortcut to getting published these days, I promise that if anyone ever wants to get me a book deal, I won’t blog incessantly about it.

I don’t plan on ever writing a book, at least not this way.  I’ve just been a compulsive online journaler since 2000.  Whatevs.

Tangentially related to such, I was really annoyed that the NY Times seemed to absorb Five Thirty Eight, aka best political blog ever.  (Next to Politifact.)

And I am encouraged that one of my other favorite blogs, East Side Bride, will likely never turn in that direction, even though she also writes for 100 Layer Cake.

(And also: STOP THE FREAKING PRESSES.  I just found this photo on the ESB blog and I CAN’T REMEMBER MY PINTEREST PASSWORD!!)

(I also need to stop reading so many damn blogs and finish reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao this summer, because it’s a freaking fantastic book.  But I read a lot and then don’t forever.  That’s the way I do most things; i.e. you haven’t seen me post here in two three weeks.)

(One more note about blog-inspired books: not that I mind these bloggers writing books.  I will probably have bought about 6 copies of Cake Pops by the time we’re all said & done.)

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Heather McElhatton is awesome.

In case you didn’t know.

My friend who goes by N (not really but y’know) bought me Ms. McElhatton’s book Milion Little Mistakes for Christmas this year.  Admittedly, I don’t read much.  That is, I don’t read books much.  I read articles and blogs and e-mails like it’s going out of style.  I profess to love books, I like to be in the company of books, but I don’t actually make good on all my professions of adoration to them enough.

But I love Million Little Mistakes.  It’s a choose-your-own-adventure book for grown-ups, and it’s wonderfully written.  It just so happens that Ms. McElhatton is also a producer for PRI, and lives in that mecca of all things public radio, Minnesota, so it makes sense that my often NPR-filtered world view and her writing style should get along very well.

I love how this book is at once a little trashy and at the same time, very very sweet.  And erudite.  Simultaneously, you’re reading chick lit, but in a kind of literati voice.  I don’t know enough about being a writer to draw all kinds of comparisons, but it’s just good writing.  You know it when you see it.

For awhile I took that book everywhere I went.  Which ends up being a problem because my car interior develops a huge build-up of well-intentioned things, and I never clear them out.  And books get easily tattered, papers go missing, cds have even ended up broken (although I think I more than got my money’s worth for my 10+ year old copy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot disc before it snapped in half).  So I’ve not been reading those millions of little adventures much recently.

Tonight, I found myself locked out of my building (again, and through utterly no fault of my own) and with a lot of time to kill.  My last stop on the Wait Until Husband-to-Be Gets Out of Grad Class tour was to the nearby Barnes & Noble, where I tried not to act too much like a hobo who hasn’t paid her past due library fines.

On the store’s grandiose second story, I happened upon the lone copy of McElhatton’s first choose-your-own-adventure, Pretty Little Mistakes, which involves not a lottery winner, as Million does, but a fresh high school graduate.  Kind of pertinent, as graduation looms big in my field.  I figured I could get away with reading parts of it there, since I knew I’d make it through at least two adventures in short time.

And I am so glad I did.  McElhatton is a wonderful writer, and has such a detached voice for the machinations she puts her second-person heroine through.  Reading about getting shot in the face or doing special favors for automobile parts & labor makes your problems seem at least temporarily less dire.

Without giving it away, I read the ending where you marry Christian, and it’s the best one (I’m sure) out of either of the books.  I was able to put it back on the shelf with a big smile and go back home, and probably didn’t rant nearly as badly about the landlord or the property manager as I would have had I not read the book.

Note to self: these books cure a number of ills.  Alternately: READ MORE, DUMMY – IT’S GOOD FOR YOU.  And visit her website.  I totally stole the image from there because it didn’t have a copyright sign underneath it.

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