Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A stream of mindlessness

     This is an experiment in writing, Am I able to do a stream of consciousness blog, which is so unlike the way I write?  But having just read Nicholson Baker's quite wonderful The Anthologist,  I began to see how you can really write a simple story and embellish it with all the other wool-gathering thoughts that float through your head all day. And all night, too, in your dreams.

So let's begin with what just happened. There was a phone that kept ringing and ringing. And it stopped for a minute and started over again. My land line is right beside me and my cell is on the charger across the room. I called my caregiver to tell her I thought it was her cell, and she was just on her way back to make sure I was ok because she thought I wasn't answering the phone. This does not feel like a very auspicious beginning.

So rewrite it, Phyllis, I say to myself, and start again.

A phone was ringing and it wasn't mine. I remember Franklin Avenue, where we had a rotary dial phone in the breakfast room. That was where my Dad used to see me in the morning and say Good Morning, Mary Sunshine.  When my mother remarried, she gave that breakfast room table to her sister,because my aunt Rosina  and her family moved into our house and, I think,  her son, Dick, has it now.

I haven't seen Dick for a long time.  There were six of us first cousins, the two Kohn boys, the two Weiler boys and my brother Al and me.  I was the only girl and the oldest.  I don't know if that is supposed to make you happy or sad or have some kind of difference in your psyche.  We didn't have psyches or psychiatrists in the world of my growing up. I've learned since that they did exist, but not then, in the heartland of the country.

This is the best place to live.  I thought I wanted to live on the East Coast when I graduated from Wellesley. I had been "pinned" to a boy from Providence who went to Brown.   We had been girl -and- boy friends for years, when we had been Junior Counselors at Forest and Indian Acres. On our nights off, we walked to Ladd's drugstore in the village of Fryeburg, Maine and then we walked to the railroad station and drank beer on top of the box car. But then I met Bob Greene and, in a few short months, I found the man who would be my first choice, and I got to choose him.

Both my boyfriend and my husband are gone. So is Harry Kohn and my brother, Al. I don't much like that my mind has wandered to the sad place. Bob and Al's loss are wounds that will never heal.

A real author would forge through the valley of the shadow of death and emerge into green valleys, beside still waters.

Or  back to Forest Acres, where, when I was a twelve years old camper, Madeleine Someone from Eau Claire, Wisconsin played the bugle to wake us in the morning and owned The Oxford Book of English Poetry. She let me read it some afternoons, and I had a crush on her.

Crushes were the rage. We Form IX at CSG picked out the  Form XII  girl to have a crush on.  That meant that we hoped she might say hello to us in the hall. I had a crush on Helen Harvey and, of course, Madeleine whoever, and on poetry.

That poetry love has lasted forever.  Which is probably one of the reasons I wanted to read The Anthologist.

So, now I know and you know, I don't have anywhere near the skill to use such a sophisticated technique. But we all knew that before I struck the first key.

So, I am going to post this blog.  You certainly don't have to read it to know my name does not belong in the same sentence as Nicholson Baker.

But I am going to post it , anyway, because I tried. And I am happy that I did try.


  1. Phyllis, I'd bet almost any amount of money that Baker worked and worked to get his prose to sound as spontaneous and effortless as it does. When I worked at Scribner, one of the old boys talked about the seemingly endless tinkering that it took for Hemingway and Maxwell Perkins to make his sentences sound so simple, as if they'd just been tossed off on a whim.