Thursday, September 04, 2008

Imagine me singing the theme song of Mad Men and that will be the title of this post.

The blogosphere is full of elegiac posts about the end of summer today. Here, it's as if September 1 flipped a switch and it's crisp and blustery and there are local apples at the co-op. Yesterday, I biked to work in street clothes for the first time since May. There's one brief wooded stretch over the creek on my ride home that smells just like the end of every summer of my childhood, loamy and secret like the overgrown passage next to our neighbor's garage before the leaves started to fall. Like a fort in the forest when you have already had to start back to school and your jeans are too new and your shoes are too stiff.

We went to the State Fair, another harbinger of summer's end for anyone who grew up around here, over the weekend. We wound our way through the animal barns, checking out the frilled and extravagant chickens, the roosters with their alarmingly genital headgear, the velvet-eared goats, the recumbent, redolent swine. We ate french fries. The Brit could only stand about an hour of the talent show--that was the entire pre-teen division--and I can't say I totally blame him, though I would have stayed to the bitter end just to be illuminated by the fireworks. It's hard to watch painted and primped little girls screaming their heads off about love and disillusionment and ambition and shaking their butts in pursuit of a stage career. These kids are my worst nightmare as a voice teacher. You want to encourage kids who are talented and who love to perform, but the training for girls so easily turns them into perma-smiling pageant plastics with sexy outfits and phony ponies in their hair. Fortunately the judges gave the first prize to a kid who wrote and performed his own piano sonata. That gives me hope.

I plundered old alumni rags this weekend for more book recommendations, looking specifically for the submissions by the hilarious, cranky old professor who taught my Milton class. Now every day I feel showered by gifts when campus mail is delivered. I have Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (whose name, incidentally, I love), and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, which is a 1960 paperback edition with a fabulous cover that I will scan directly. I also have The Legend of John Hornby, which was central to another book I just read, Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights on Air. A stack of books feels like back-to-school. It's also part of an item on my List for this year, a non-specific item about using libraries more and reading new books. I have always read a lot but had been in a rut for awhile, not actively seeking different things to read. That's changing now that it's time to get cozy.

An unrelated item: we finally started smoking the crack that is Mad Men and this is making it harder to go out and get some exercise in the evening.

And I'm eating what might be the last good caprese of the year. In autumn, even salad can be melancholy.


  1. Read also Jhumpa Lahiri's excellent story collection "The Interpreter of Maladies." Although don't listen to me much because I'm currently reading old Judy Blume books.

  2. Dude, old YA fiction is the last word in self-soothing.

  3. Yep, my #1 choice in a hurricane.

  4. dude, this whole post was great. I have been feeling similarly inspired and productive - and it's all weather-fueled.

    i am so glad you like Mad Men and Fun Home was fantastic.

  5. I'm itching for fall; I'm spirited by it, but the endless Cali heat waves are spoiling the autumn party. My (thin) sweaters are laid out, waiting for a sign of crispness. I'll live through you until then.

    Great post.

  6. Fall fills me with sadness. But here it's been ultra hot (mid 80s for the past few days) so I'm not yet complaining.

    I like your mention of the chickens' genital headdresses.

  7. Dang, D-Land wasn't letting me know when I had a Note so I missed out on your note til today when it inexplicably DID let me know about another one (D-Land's fit and starts effectiveness is part of what endears me to it though...) and just in case you thought I was a ding-dong for not acknowledging your very salient and reasoned points, well I'm sorry. Dude, I know in my heart it doesn't make sense to not defend her from the anti-woman legions, I KNOW but also in my heart, I feel like we shouldn't waste one scrap of energy or attention on the issue because we can't - because the bigger issue right now is how all of our female rights will be trampled if they win. And that looms and overshadows all else in my mind, right now. Am I a smaller person because I am perversely pleased that her own party's anti-women policies are coming around and biting her in the bum? I guess. But if you run with the wolves who promote family first and even a subordinate role for women in the home, then don't be surprised that those same wolves will question why you aren't "family first" yourself. And she can't have it both ways. The way she decided to throw her teenage kid into the fray at likely the most vulnerable confused time of her life - but asked for privacy. She did not have to accept the offer of VP at this time. blahblahblah, oh I know you know all this and I applaud you for being a bigger woman than I, sincerely. I am too filled with fear to turn that other cheek I guess, let alone make a concerted effort to defend. It makes me hopeful that other people are more reasoned and less panicked than I and can still separate the anger out from righteous anger. You are good.

  8. Hi there. I was clicking around the internet and found your blog, and I just *have* to tell you that "frilled and extravagant chickens" has got to be the best turn of phrase I've read in months.

  9. YES to Mad Men. I smoked that this summer as well. Wish we had cable for the new season!

    Loved Fun Home as well. You might like Stuck Rubber Baby too. It's not straight autobiography but a creative fictiony non-fiction. Good stuff.

    I'll have to unpack my comic box as we just moved & see what others stick out as good reads. If you have a soft spot for the slightly creepy, Renee French's Marbles in my Underpants should be up your alley as well . . .

  10. Maven,

    Great post! I believe we both know a certain Violet of west-coast fame. I also believe we work for the same institution in the same state, and I too, enjoy the services of our great library and campus mail. Your blog is fabulous and I would totally dig being your goodreads friend, as there is nothing better then other people's book lists. Well, there might be some things that are better...


    Mme Piggy

  11. Mme Piggy, friend me up.