Guest Post, Kat Meads: The Fun Stuff

In a Paris Review interview Julian Barnes dubbed weekends “a good working time because people think you’ve gone away and don’t disturb you.” Christmas, also. “Everyone’s out shopping and no one phones. I always work on Christmas morning—it’s a ritual,” he said.

Sounds a lovely time for Mr. Barnes.

My ritual during the quieter-time Christmas stretch is to devote an afternoon to excavating the catch-all contents of a dresser drawer in my study. What’s in there? Eleven plus months of paper scraps on which I’ve scribbled notes, ideas, books I’ve read, quotes—whatever my reading/writing brain took in and took up during that time frame. Reacquainting myself with that cache counts as a kind of holiday gift to myself. It can spawn a plan of action, writing-wise, for the year ahead. But even when it doesn’t, there’s fun to be had in the sifting through.

Some of what I took the trouble to write down gets immediately tossed, of course. (Typically the “possible titles” category takes the heaviest hit.) Still, in the sorting process, I try to give even my bad ideas their moment of reverie, if only to recall what prompted the clunker—and when. (It’s good to laugh during the holidays, isn’t it?)

A random sample of what made the cut for further mulling, 2014:
• Remember/use: Southern phrase “Hug on her a little.”
• Remember/use: “dog bread” (Corn meal and/or various leftovers, fried)
• Remember/use: the word noctuary
• Quote: Jane Austen in letter to sister Cassandra: “I hate tiny parties. They force one into constant exertion.”
• Quote: “God is not stoic.” Jack Miles
• Quote: “…the way the color sat…” Julian Schnabel
• Quote: “Hanging on to dreams is like trying to eat a smell.” Robert Coover
•Quote: “Go ahead, Lilly. Buy a sable coat.” Dashiell Hammett
• Character names: Tick. Adabelle. Jaybird. Pess Kight.
• Title: Bugs and Adultery
• Title: The Likelys
• Title: Vic Did His Best, But
• Spam email received, subject line: your life is to (sic) empty try our drugs
• Fact: Highway Act of 1956 funded 42,000 miles of interstate highway
• A thought: Historical characters are by necessity caricatures to us.
• A thought: Irony requires funding.

In 2013, I seemed to have gone on a (by and about) Lady Caroline Blackwood binge (For All That I Found There, The Stepdaughter, Great Granny Webster, The Fate of Mary Rose, Nancy Schoenberger’s Dangerous Muse, Ivana Lowell’s Why Not Say What Happened?). Followed by a Janet Malcolm binge. Followed by an Alan Dugan (rereading) binge. Followed by a Margery Allingham binge. Followed by a Sam Shepard binge. Among the year’s one-off reading pleasures: Claire Vaye Watkins’s Battleborn, David Canter’s Forensic Psychology, Carmen Bugan’s Burying the Typewriter and Philip K. Dick’s classic Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.

And because I haven’t broken free of my Russian obsession—even though my novel For You, Madam Lenin is finished and published—I read Bertrand Patenaude’s Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky. And because a Los Angeles road trip was in the works, I hastened to finish a Ross Macdonald biography that included several of the author’s Santa Barbara addresses which I loaded into the car’s GPS for a bit of literary touristing along the way. And because as an insomniac I am a sucker for any title that aligns itself with my malaise, I read Jacqueline Rose’s On Not Being Able To Sleep: Psychoanalysis in the Modern World.

Best of the best part of my end-of-year assemblage, though, is my find it/buy it/read it note pile. The mere sight of all those titles-a-waiting puts me in a celebratory mood. If I have those volumes to look forward to, how awful can 2014 turn out to be?

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2 thoughts on “Guest Post, Kat Meads: The Fun Stuff

  • March 20, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I think your post really gets at the small wonderful parts of the writing life that can keep someone going regardless of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Taking the time to review what has inspired you throughout the year and where you have created meaning with other stories is an essential aspect to being a satisfied writer. I really enjoyed your post because it reminded me to pause and take stock of my life and the small details that get forgotten for the big picture.

  • March 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    This made me laugh. I make some of the same ‘resolutions’ and am constantly reminding myself to enjoy the little things. Thank you.


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