I spent quite a lot of this weekend rereading Ellen Emerson White’s The President’s Daughter, the updated 2008 edition that has email and cell phones that are curiously underused. (The original, which I’ve never seen, was published in 1984. Hmm, liberal-fantasy presidency 15 years before West Wing?)
I took it with me to get the car’s oil changed. I read it on the porch with many glasses of ice water. (I read it in the bathroom.) I finished it tonight in the back yard, while Sang worked on a story and hummingbirds navigated the lilac boughs overhead. (I speculated that the small-even-for-a-hummingbird male might be this year’s nestling. “Is that why we keep having to duck?” Sang said. “Do they need a tiny DRIVER IN TRAINING plaque?”)
Oh, thorny teenage girls named Meg! Oh, large number of commas, and pets who get patted instead of petted. I love how friends and family play in this book: deadpan verbal jousting, with one taking up the other’s lead.
I first read this in 2009. (My note then: “Nice to read a book about a rich girl that’s not all glitz and shopping.”) But it’s this time around that so much of it reminds me of President Obama’s inauguration. Meg and her family spend a lot of time deciding what to wear–remember how it was a big deal that Malia and Sasha wore J Crew coats to the inauguration? And the first time Meg and her brothers tour the White House reminded me of the Obama girls talking about the Bush twins showing them around, and how nice they were.
But the Vaughns don’t get a new puppy.
It does make me wonder how this book would read to me if we’d had a Hillary Clinton presidency instead. More echoes? Maybe not, though, as Chelsea wasn’t a kid anymore in 2008.
I hadn’t really planned on reading the whole series again, necessarily, but now I know I’m going to.
A few sweet things have happened in my writing life lately:
- I got a call from the director of Write Around Portland, asking for permission to reprint the first piece I ever published in a WRAP anthology, back in 1999! It will be in an academic book about writing and community. I read my piece over and did not cringe. I wouldn’t write that way now–too much of the Cryptic Yet Meaningful–but it’s not horrible. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about early writings. Partly because my bus book is Henry James’ The Ambassadors, and it is so very different from my beloved Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians. Partly because I am painfully aware how much less open I feel writing on the internet now than in the early days of my LiveJournal. I don’t think it’s only me. And partly because I’m reading Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father and it seems so, so candid! I can’t imagine someone writing it while knowing a Presidential campaign might be in the cards. And he didn’t know. Yet…he was a U.S. senator-elect when it was published, far more prominent than I expect ever to be. It makes me want to have the courage to be more open.
- I emailed my former workshop instructor at the IPRC and he wrote me back to say my stories had really stuck with him! There is little that could make me happier to hear than that.
- I got a rejection from One Story for “Non-Nutritive Boyfriend.” Granted, this is not as sweet as getting an acceptance, but it means I can proceed with assembling the chapbook edition and putting it up for sale. One sub-project I’m psyched about is making a light box for product photography.
In non-writing news, I walked through the western rose garden in Ladd’s Addition this morning and was swept off my feet by a hybrid tea called Voodoo. I don’t usually like coral-colored roses–they make me think of lipstick–but this one was gorgeous and smelled sweet and complex. Fragrant roses get harder to find in September.
Today I finally sat down with a post-it note and figured out what I want to read for the letter O. (I still have a few chapters to go with Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, which had to be returned to the library and then come back to me, and a significant amount of listening in The Time-Traveler’s Wife, which is my housecleaning audiobook and you know how much housecleaning I do. But it’s high time to start tucking some O into my library queues.)
Joyce Carol Oates, After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away
Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father
Robert C. O’Brien, Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH (reread)
Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death
Sharon Olds, Strike Sparks (collected poems)
George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
Cynthia Ozick, Foreign Bodies (have to read Henry James’ Ambassadors first because that’s what it’s based on. Oh twist my arm why doncha!)