Elizabeth Berg: The Last Time I Saw You

10-12-2019 TTM pixabay CC0 african-boerboel-2138273_640Lester Hessenpfeffer awakens on a bath rug stuffed into the corner of a gigantic cage and stares into the open eyes of the bull mastiff. The dog wags his tail once, twice, and Lester feels his chest tighten with joy. Just before he fell asleep, he’d been preparing a speech for the dog’s owners about how he’d done his best, how he’d tried everything, but . . . Samson had ingested a few Legos the day before, which the owners’ great-grandchildren had left lying about. One had perforated his intestine. By the time he was brought to Lester’s clinic, the dog was in shock and the prospects for saving him were almost nil. Lester had slept in the cage with him to provide comfort not so much for the dog as to himself. He’d known Samson since he was a puppy, and he was very fond of the owners, an elderly couple who thought Samson hung the moon. They’d wanted to spend the night at the clinic, but after Lester told them he’d be literally right beside the dog, they reluctantly went home. Lester had hoped they’d get some sleep, so that they could more easily bear the news he was pretty certain he’d have to deliver in the morning. This is always the worst part of his job, telling people their pet has died. Sometimes they know it, at least empirically; on more than one occasion someone has brought a dead animal into the office hoping against hope that Lester can revive it. And when he can’t, he must say those awful words: I’m so sorry. He’s noticed a certain posture many people assume on hearing those words. They step back and cross their arms, as though guarding themselves against any more pain, or as though holding on more time the animal they loved as truly as any other family member, if not more. Oftentimes, they nod, too, their heads saying yes to what their hearts cannot accept.

But here Samson is, alive and well enough to give Lester’s face a good washing with a tongue the size of a giant oven mitt. “Hey, pal,” Lester says, “you made it. Let’s have a look at that dressing.” He rises to his knees and very gently turns the dog slightly onto his side. Samson whimpers and holds overly still, the way that dogs often do when they’re frightened. There’s a lot of drainage, but nothing leaking through. He’ll give Stan something for pain and then call Stan and Betty. By the time he’s done talking to them–he can anticipate at least a few of the questions they’ll have–he’ll be able to change the dressing without causing the dog undue distress. He thinks Samson will be able to stand and move about a little this afternoon, and imagines him lifting his leg with great dignity against the portable fireplug his staff uses for cage-bound male dogs (the girls get Astroturf). The portable bathrooms had been Jeanine’s idea; she was always coming up with good ideas. She had the idea for Pet Airways before they came up with Pet Airways, although her suggestion was that owners and pets fly together–cages would be installed next to seats so that an owner could reach down and scratch behind an ear, or speak reassuringly, or offer a snack. This was a much better idea for alleviating the stress caused to animals when they fly, and Lester advised Jeanine to write to Pet Airways suggesting it. She said she’d rather keep the idea for herself, because she wanted to start Dog Airways, as it is her belief that only dogs really care when their owners are gone. She is by her own admission a dog chauvinist, but she’s good to all animals who come to the clinic, even the hamster whose hysterical owner brought her in because she was gobbling up her babies as soon as she gave birth to them.

Jeanine also had the idea that Lester should attend his high school reunion. When the invitation had come to the clinic, Jeanine had opened it, and then immediately begun a campaign to get her boss to go. Lester knew what she had in mind–she wanted him to find a woman. . . .

*

From Chapter Two of Elizabeth Berg’s The Last Time I Saw You
Random House, 2009

“As onetime classmates meet up over the course of a weekend for their fortieth high school reunion, they discover things that will irrevocably affect the rest of their lives. For newly divorced Dorothy, the reunion brings with it the possibility of finally attracting the attention of the class heartthrob. For the ever self-reliant, ever left out Mary Alice, it’s a chance to reexamine a painful past. For Lester, a veterinarian and widower, it is the hope of talking shop with a fellow vet–or at least that’s what he tells himself. For Candy, the class beauty, it’s the hope of finding friendship before it’s too late. As these and other classmates converge for the reunion dinner, four decades melt away; desires and personalities from their youth reemerge, and new discoveries are made. For so much has happened to them all. And so much can still happen.”

“For the delightful hours it takes to read this novel, it seems that the characters jumped off the page and joined the crowd for a casual family supper.” — Chicago Tribune

“Marvelous . . . plenty of pathos and can’t-stop-laughing moments . . . readers will care about every character. — The Oklahoman

“Book groups are clamoring for upbeat yet significant works that are entertaining as well as enlightening; Berg’s latest novel satisfies and succeeds on both counts.” — Booklist

*

 

Image via Pixabay

 

Scrimshanking

“After the Edit” licensed by Laura Ritchie under CC By-2.0

At my office/coffee shop/bookstore, sitting at the computer bar at the side of the room, laptop plugged into an outlet beneath,  iced Atzec mocha against the wall where I hope it won’t spill, two industrious critique partners on my right.

I am scrimshanking.

The spell checker says scrimshanking isn’t a word. That’s what it knows.

Scrimshanking is a word, because I saw it on Dictionary.com five minutes ago, just in time to use it.

We are sixteen days into National Novel Writing Month. Writers following the plan are 26, 762 words into their projected 50,000-word  novels.

I am 75,000 words behind.

I DO NOT WORK THE NANO WAY.

Someday that will sink in.

It sinks in every year, but someday it will sink in.

 

No, No, NaNo or, Just Do It

NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month–the month* in which participants vow to write a 50,000-word novel–and some of them do–began yesterday.

The goal–if you want to reach 50,000 words and win NaNoWriMo (which from this point on will be called NaNo), you need to write an average of 1667 words a day.

I’ve registered for NaNo–there’s a website–at least three times, maybe four. Unfortunately, every year, as soon as I signed on, I became claustrophobic and began to hyperventilate. Mentally, not physically, but mentally is bad enough. There was something about having to write a novel in a month that made me feel the walls were closing in, as if I had to do something I didn’t want to do, as if someone were forcing me to write that novel in a month. No one was forcing me, but seeming can feel a lot like being.

Eugène Delacroix (1834): Hamlet, I, 2 - The qu...
Eugène Delacroix (1834): Hamlet, I, 2 – The queen consoles Hamlet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain. {{PD-Art}}

For example, consider what Hamlet** says to his mother the first time we see them together. He’s been going around wearing customary suits of inky black day after day, and suspiring all over the palace, and although his mother knows he’s grieving for his dead father, she says everybody does that at one time or another, and asks why he seems so much more miserable than others in the same situation.

He answers,

“Seems,” madam? Nay, it is; I know not “seems.”

In other words, this isn’t put on, he’s genuinely perturbed. Of course, there’s more to it than he lets on: After his father died, before the funeral baked meats, like the casseroles and tuna sandwiches the neighbors brought in, had been consumed, his mother went and married her husband’s brother, who doesn’t have much to recommend him. That would make any prince suspire. And Hamlet must be irritated that his mother is so clueless. She asks a silly question, and he sasses her. “Nay, it is; I know not “seems,” is, in modern terms, something like, Well, d’oh.

Anyway, back to NaNo. The mere act of registering gives me a serious case of the fantods.

David Garrick in Hamlet, I, 4
David Garrick in Hamlet, I, 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain. {{PD-Art}}

Hamlet could have addressed his fantods by confronting his mother and his uncle and asking  straight out what in the world they thought they were doing, but instead he takes the passive-aggressive route and pretends he’s unhinged.

I, on the other hand, have, every year, faced my dilemma head on: I’ve dropped out. No novel, no problem.

 

This year, however, I’m confronting it by plowing on through. I shall, and I will, write 50,000 words by November 30. I’ll go from beginning to middle to end, I’ll  submit my scrambled manuscript through the NaNo website, and I’ll win.

On the basis of my experience, both past and present, I’ve come up with some helpful hints I’m happy to share:

  1. After you register for NaNo, be proactive. Fill out your profile. You don’t have to use your real name. Title your book. It doesn’t matter what, just name it and record it on the website. Join a community. Then write a synopsis. If you don’t have a plot, wing it. Nobody’s going to read it, and it might end up working out. Complete these steps and you’ll receive badges. I got one for filling out my profile, one for joining my community (I told them where I live), and one for “creating” my novel. I take issue with that creating business, but if it makes them happy to think so…
  2. Badges make you feel better, so award yourself some for personal achievement. I gave myself a Plantser badge, because I usually have to write for a while before my characters tell me what they want to do (flying by the seat of my pants, or pantsing), but then, once things get going, I come up with a rudimentary framework (plotting). Plotter + pantser = Plantser. I also gave myself a Rebel badge to declare myself a NaNo Rebel!, state my belief “that rules are meant to be broken,” and admit that on November 1, I’ll “start writing anything but a brand new novel.” I could not have phrased that better myself. Plantser and Rebel might seem contradictory, but who cares.
  3. Relax. Getting all het up won’t help. By Thanksgiving you’ll be so antsy your family will make you take your plate and eat out on the porch.

Now for the Don’ts:

  1. On November 1, don’t let a podiatrist operate on your foot. It won’t hurt, but it’ll take a chunk out of your day that you should spend working on your novel.
  2. On November 1, don’t have two meetings, even if they promise to be interesting and you want to go. See #1 regarding chunks.
  3. On November 1, when you want to quit, don’t. If you feel the queasies coming on, follow Eloise’s lead: Say, “Pooh pooh to you,”***  and get over it. (Eloise and Hamlet’s mother have a lot in common.)
  4. Don’t schedule the Sisters in Crime chapter newsletter you edit (and write) to post on November 1. Before you post, you’ll have to tweak, and you’ll tweak everything, even things that don’t need tweaking, and you’ll add content, and it’s already too long, and it’ll be 9:00 p. m. before you press Publish.
  5. Don’t download the trial version of Scrivener**** that’s available to every NaNo participant. Even if you’ve used it before, you won’t remember how it works, because it’s big and complicated, and you don’t need it right now anyway, you can get it later, and MS Word is sufficient, and if you have Scrivener, you’ll open it and work out how to color code, and then you’ll spend the rest of November color coding everything from plot points to red herrings to subplots to your cats, if you can figure out how (blue for Ernest’s gray coat, much of which currently adorns my sweats, and rust for William’s elegant cream tabbiness).
  6. On November 2, don’t open your email. Don’t open Facebook. For goodness’ sake, don’t open your blog. Opening your blog will lead to writing a post, any post, because you’ll do everything in your power, even write, to get out of making up 1667 words, which by now have increased to 3334 words because you had surgery and two meetings and a newsletter on November 1. Email might not pose a problem– it depends on how popular you are–but Facebook will take you directly to Candy Crush and you’ll be lost. (Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, and Candy Crush Jelly Saga, all of which you sneered at during the years sanity prevailed.)
Screen shot of Scrivener; ready open a new project

There are other d0’s and don’ts, but I’m too tired to remember what they are. Except for the one about getting enough sleep. Last night, I didn’t. A nap is inevitable, but there goes another chunk of writing time.

Anyway, that’s my take on NaNoWriMo. Contrary to the what you’ve read here, I have a positive attitude. I’m going to make it.

Because I want to call myself a winner. I want to experience the satisfaction of a job well done. I want to finish a novel so I can go back to short stories where I belong. I want to be a winner. I want a tee-shirt.

But above all, I want Scrivener. I want Scrivener when I create, plot, organize, research, file, write, revise, prepare a final document. I want to join the legions who say Scrivener is the greatest gift to writers since the eraser. I want the 50% discount on Scrivener that winning will earn me.

But above all else, I want Scrivener so I can color code. 

 

***

* A man invented NaNoWriMo. We know this because it takes place in November.

** For a quotation, an example, a whatever, go to Hamlet. Hamlet and Mark Twain. Everything you need is there.

*** I think Eloise says “Pooh pooh to you.” Somebody says it.

****Scrivener is a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month.

***

I’ve now written about 1370 words. Only 1964 to go before midnight and I’ll be caught up. Blog posts don’t normally count, but if your main character participates in NaNoWriMo and writes a blog, they do.

Everybody’s Politics

Isabel did read Italian; if she had any difficulty with La Repubblica, it was with understanding the complexities of Italian politics. But that, she suspected, was the case with everybody’s politics. And it was not just a linguistic difference; she could never understand how American politics worked. It appeared that the Americans went to the polls every four years to elect a President who had wide powers. But then, once he was in office, he might find himself unable to do any of the things he had promised to do because he was blocked by other politicians who could veto his legislation. What was the point, then, of having an election in the first place? Did people not resent the fact that they spoke on a subject and then nothing could be done about it? But politics had always seemed an impenetrable mystery to her in her youth. She remembered what her mother had once said to her about some American politician to whom they were distantly related. “I don’t greatly care for him,” she said. “Pork barrel.”

Isabel had thought, as a child, that this was a bit unkind. Presumably he could not help looking like a pork barrel. But then, much later, she had come to realise that this was how politics worked. The problem was, though, that politics might work, but government did not.

Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith (Photo credit: Wikipedia). By TimDuncan (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

~ Alexander McCall Smith,
The Charming Quirks of Others

Creativity and Imagination

Creativity and imagination, unlike faith,
is constantly replenished
by our need to question the universe,

to give it form and purpose…
That’s why it is so dangerous
to marry the power of the church to that of government.
Only corruption can result.
                                                                ~ Meredith Lee, Shrouded

Through a Glass Darkly–eBook on Sale Today Only

TODAY ONLY

Karleen Koen’s novel THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY is on sale TODAY ONLY for $1.99.

To order, go to BookBub at  https://www.bookbub.com/ebook-deals/latest?page=2

But today only.

Through_A_Glass_Darkly_s2

Publisher’s Weekly says, “Readers will be captivated.”

 

Karleen Koen has written four historical novels, teaches writing, and has worked as an editor. She lives in Houston, Texas.

 

A Finely Shaped Head

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily. ~ Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

 

Kaye George Comes to Austin

Austin Mystery Writers were in a dither over a visit by Grand Pooh-Bah Emerita this week. Gale Albright supplies the gripping details.

Visions and Revisions

The members of Austin Mystery Writers were clustered at their literary haunt in the BookPeople café on Thursday morning, eagerly awaiting the arrival of famed author and Grand Poobah emerita Kaye George.

“Gosh,” I said to the group. “I hope she remembers the little people.”

august 15 bp 050I need not have worried. With all her usual charm and warmth, Kaye George appeared wearing a big fedora, carrying a giant magnifying glass, and blinding us with her dazzling smile.

We had missed Kaye George. Once a guiding beacon in AMW in Austin, she had moved to Waco, then Knoxville, Tennessee, too far away to attend the weekly critique group meetings.

However, that didn’t stop Kaye from being an active participant in AMW. She’s still a major player in the group, we’re glad to say.

august 15 bp 058Kaye George has been an inspiration to fellow writers. She fought hard to become a published author

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Loving Molly

Author Susan Woodring’s post “This Writer’s Wish List: A Love Story” has been on my mind since I read it two days ago. I can’t make it go away.

Susan Woodring (short story)
Susan Woodring (short story) (Photo credit: suzanne carey)

It sticks with me because what Woodring says is true. Uncomfortably so.

She says if we write because we want something–wealth, fame, a room of our own, shoes–we’re destined to fail.

To write well, we have to ask what the story wants. We must write out of love.

I have at times worked according to the love principle: when I wrote an eight-chapter satire on life in the teachers’ lounge; my first couple of short stories;  a segment of the Mystery in Four Parts for the annual Austin Sisters in Crime celebration; the daily assignments for the retreat in Alpine last year; the very first, and unspeakably horrible, draft of Molly; every post that appears on this blog. The less the product matters, the more I’m willing to consent to its requests, and the more I love to write.

My Friday critique partner and I even wrote the love principle into the title of our partnership. Recognizing that publication would not be a slam-dunk, we lowered our expectations–or as my thesis advisor once recommended, modified our aspirations–and named ourselves the Just for the Hell of It Writers. 

Somewhere along the way, however, I meandered away from the ideal. I focused on getting it right the first time, being perfect, failing to trust that something would come from nothing. I wandered away from the playground and haven’t found my way back.

While wandering, I suggested to CP that we change our name to something more serious, more business-like, a name we could take out of our tote bags and flash around at writing conferences, a name that would look good on our resumes. After much discussion, we chose Waterloo Writers. We even voted. The motion passed unanimously, 2-0.

Ah, the pomp and the circumstance. One could almost hear the strains of “Land of Hope and Glory” replacing Willie Nelson from BookPeople’s speakers overhead.

(Epiphany: As I write this, a Frasier marathon, compliments of Netflix, plays on TV. I just realized I am a Frasier. Uptight. Perfectionistic. OCD. No wonder I’m not having fun.)

Anyway, I haven’t loved Molly for quite a while. I haven’t asked what she wants, and I’ve ignored her attempts to tell me. Even when she’s yelling. She yells a lot, all day every day. And at night when I’m trying to sleep. I can’t make her–or her passel of friends–shut up. No one else hears them.

Ignoring the cacophony takes energy. And sugar. Today the shouting was so intense I plowed right through the sticky, cloying chocolate thingies my husband bought at Wal-Mart to take to work for lunch. Enough for the next two days, he thought. Tonight, to make amends, I baked brownies, which I have already sampled. If I go to bed soon, they have a chance of lasting till morning.

Obviously sugar isn’t working. It never does.

Giving up isn’t an option either. In the words of another critique partner–one I consider my mentor–“Writing is part of my condition.” I may stray from the rule, but never from the desire. The voices in my head keep clamoring, and there’s just one way to calm them.

For this writer’s brand of schizophrenia, the only effective drug is the one Susan Woodring prescribes: love.

Plus, I would add, equal measures of faith and hope. The three have a history of joyful collaboration.

*****

Susan Woodring’s latest novel is Goliath (St. Martin’s, 2012). She lives in North Carolina. More information about Susan and her books is available on her blog.

*****

Picture of Susan Woodring by Suzanne Carey, via Flickr, CC BY- NC 2.0.

Goliath cover from Susan Woodring’s blog. 

ROW80, AMW, Dorothy, & Tallulah

Promotional photo of Tallulah Bankhead.
Promotional photo of Tallulah Bankhead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I owe A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) another Wednesday check-in. Fortunately, I finally have something significant to report.

My original goals were to sleep (get to bed before midnight, I believe); eat well (get off the white stuff, processed foods, added salt, sweeteners); and show up at critique meetings with  something to be critiqued (in other words, write).

Before I discuss progress, I’ll note that Austin Mystery Writers (AMW) is alive and well. Several members have been on hiatus, dealing with other projects (such as work), another can’t attend regularly (again, work), and this week our Grand Pooh-Bah moved a hundred miles to the north. Only two non-Pooh Bahs remained to stay the course, and we considered four eyes insufficient to ferret out the flaws in our respective manuscripts.

Last night, however, concern vanished. Two new members joined us, a third has promised to drop in next week, and two others have listed themselves as maybes.

American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
American writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being in a critique has been a good experience for me. In addition to ideas and advice, I’ve received  encouragement and support for my writing and for my personal life. My partners have helped me over some rough spots in the past couple of years.

I’ve also learned a lot. Since we’ve been together, one partner has published a novel and has more in line for publication. Two others have completed manuscripts. While in one sense I’ve been stalled–scrambling down bunny trails, trying to get my plot under control–I’ve learned about the business of writing.

As to my own WIP: Pieces continue to fall into place. Listening to a presentation at the Austin Sisters in Crime meeting last Sunday, I had a brainstorm–a detail that would make a central character’s motivation much more credible. I flipped to the next page in my notebook and scribbled it down. I’ve also had another idea about reframing the novel to update it a bit. When I realized that Molly hadn’t once, in nearly three hundred pages, gone online, I pulled out Chapter One and inserted Internet.

Today I retyped Chapter One. The experts say not to do that–especially considering the number of times I’ve rewritten it, trying to get the foundation right–but I’m not revising so much as remembering. It’s been through many incarnations, and typing requires me to read more closely than I would if only my eyes were involved. I’ll continue this process for three or four more chapters, inserting new segments where appropriate (I hope!). Projected changes add originality. They give Audrey Ann, a minor character, more opportunity for mischief-making. Audrey Ann is a hoot, and I look forward to spending more time with her.

(One of my critique partners suggested Audrey Ann would make a good victim, but she’s too much fun to kill. Very much like my first intended victim, whom I couldn’t bring myself to knock off. If this becomes a trend, I’m in big trouble.)

I’ve added a progress meter to the sidebar on the left. Five percent represents progress on the current draft–in other words, what I retyped today. I’ve been working on this project, and talking and writing about it, for a long time. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve eked out just four thousand words.

Now, as to my plan for eating real food: Sometimes I have and sometimes I haven’t. I have, however, dropped nineteen pounds since the first of the year, so I claim at least modified success.

(Who am I trying to kid? I rock.)

Regarding sleep: It’s after 1:00 a.m. No excuses.

One last thing about Austin Mystery Writers: When the other left-behind critique partner mentioned we might need to put several of the coffee shop’s tables together to handle the potentially large turnout, it occurred to me that if we works things right, AMW could become the Austin equivalent of the Algonquin Hotel’s Round Table. A heady thought. Critique partner said I could be Dorothy Parker. She wants to be Tallulah Bankhead. I wish I could be the glamorous one, but with my evil tongue, Dorothy P. is right down my alley. More’s the pity. I’ll try to be nice.

*****

“I should wash him!”

“Well, then,” returned my aunt… “Now, here you see young David Copperfield, and the question I put to you is, what shall I do with him?”

“What shall you do with him?” said Mr. Dick, feebly, scratching his head. “Oh! Do with him?”

“Yes,” said my aunt, with a grave look, and her forefinger held up. “Come! I want some very sound advice.”

“Why, if I was you,” said Mr.Dick, considering, and looking vacantly at me, “I should—” The contemplation of me seemed to inspire him with a sudden idea, and he added, briskly, “I should wash him!”

“Janet,” said my aunt, turning round with a quiet triumph, which I did not then understand, “Mr. Dick sets us all right. Heat the bath!” ~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Bleak House where Dickens wrote David Copperfi...
Bleak House, Broadstairs, England, where Dickens wrote David Copperfield--Image via Wikipedia

During our (brief) study of Paradise Lost, a high school senior said, “Do you actually read this stuff when you’re home at night?”

Actually, and emphatically, No. I read Dickens.

Today marks Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, and I’m determined to get my greeting in before I have to add the word belated. That means finishing this in 21 minutes, a daunting task when William is curled up in my lap, trying to control the touchpad and the space bar, and licking my hands. And deleting things. The deleting is bad, but the licking is worse. Ick.

Speak of the devil. He just deleted the paragraph above. I got it back.

Anyway.

When I was twelve, I checked out a copy of David Copperfield from the bookmobile and fell in love. Peggoty, Barkis, Aunt Betsey Trotwood, Mr. McCawber, Little Emily, Dora, Agnes, Uriah Heep, Mr. Dick, King Charles’ head, even the nasty little pug. I followed up with A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Dombey and Son…I haven’t read all his books, but I also haven’t given up the idea that someday I’ll be able to say I have.

Author and editor William Dean Howells said that Dickens wasn’t so much a novelist as a caricaturist, and paid homage to Dickens by creating in Annie Kilburn a wrong-headed character who is always trailed by his wife and a passel of children (a la Mr. McCawber) and who frequently speaks of his Growlery (a la Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House).

I like Howells’ novels and think his comment about Dickens has its merits. But I couldn’t care less. Finding that Dickensian gentleman in Howells’ book delighted me. It was like finding an old friend.

Note that although I banged out twenty pages of lit. crit. on Annie Kilburn, I don’t remember that gentleman’s name. I never wrote a word about Dickens, except perhaps on an undergrad exam, but I can recite names from a string of his novels.

I’ve often thought that certain artists give such pleasure to so many, it’s a shame they have to leave. John Gielgud, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Lew Ayres, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Mark Twain, P. G. Wodehouse, Edith Wharton, Agatha Christie, Emily Dickinson, Victor Borge, Mary Cassatt…They’re keepers. They should be allowed to stay with us, acting, playing, reading, painting, composing, writing.

Charles Dickens is a keeper. But in his absence, books fill his place.

The clock tells me that once again my birthday card will be stamped belated.

But I don’t think the recipient will care.

Happy 200th birthday, Mr. Dickens, and many more.

***

Photo by Heron on 3rd October 2005. Released into the public domain.