One of the nicest things that happened to me when I was home was totally and thoroughly unexpected. At the Model Bakery in St. Helena, I ran into a former college professor of mine. Actually, I'm not sure how to refer to her -- I never took a class from her, but the English department at my college was small and homey, and we all knew each other. I was a department reader briefly, but generally worked solely for the ESL program, and the Department Chair in the time I was there. Anyway, I saw this woman, now in her late seventies, and thought, "Ooh, there's Dr. Youngblood!" Only I couldn't remember her last name in time to blurt out a greeting (and I just couldn't bring myself to shriek 'Barbara!' at a woman almost fifty years my senior and a teacher), so I left it to that polite smile-and-nod thing you do when you see someone you almost know.
The friend for whom we were waiting arrived and we launched into conversation, but I kept my eye out for Dr. Youngblood, and when I saw her get up, I smiled again. My friend turned around and called her over -- as the wife of one of my professors, she gets away with the 'Barbara' thing -- and though this lovely woman had no idea who I really was, she said she, too, recognized me right off and asked what I'd been doing with my life.
Well, everyone at the table flourished their copy of my book. There wasn't much I could do but laugh.
And then, that lovely person just whipped out her notebook and had us read the ISBN number from the back cover of the book to her. She wrote in perfect copperplate on onionskin paper my name, the book title, and a note to herself to order it from the Main Street bookstore. She then left, wishing us a good day.
Twenty minutes later, she was back with celebratory goodies from Woodhouse Chocolates. Napa Valley aficionados know you can drop several hundred dollars on teensy teensy tiny bags of chocolate covered in gold leaf at that store. Our little gifts weren't nearly that much, but they weren't cheap. (Lemon zest and peppercorns in your chocolate bar? But of course!) Obviously, the money isn't remotely the point, nor what we ate. Rather, it was the gesture, and the well-wishing. I was just so touched that someone who barely knew me really, really, really wishes me well, and told me over and over that she was "so proud."
Just remembering that will always be as good as the chocolates.
After a loooooong wait, Inanimate Alice is back!
(Okay, so you already knew that. Give me a break. I've been gone!)
And, if you don't know what the buzz is all about, GO. Look. Read the earlier chapters. This is an interactive digital multimedia tale that's just beyond way cool.
Via SF Signal, Terry Pratchett finally has made the jump to graphics. HarperCollins is producing The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic in one gorgeous book, which is perfect. Pratchett, I think will gain a greater audience from this. But does anyone else think Twoflower looks just a tad like Harry Potter in those glasses!?
I have a lot of respect for the power of story -- I believe unbelievable things happen when we actually listen to each other and hear words in what we believe are the silences of our own experiences. I believe that story can be even found solely in facts -- that the story of the lost kid of Guantanamo will be told and retold, and someday -- may it be soon -- his life will change. Because I believe in the power of stories, I often turn to StoryCorps and listen and laugh -- and cry, usually -- at those 'conversations of a lifetime' which occur when the people there go into the booth in various cities, sit in front of the microphone, and begin to talk.
Dave Eggers is continuing the tradition with Underground America, part of an oral history series published by the San-Francisco-based Voice of Witness project. Eggers is interviewing undocumented workers, and the stories told begin to show us another world some of us might not have imagined. "The point of the series is to illuminate human rights abuses through oral history," Eggers is quoted as saying in the Guardian. These voices aren't often heard, and the undocumented workers aren't all migrant laborers. I love the fact that the word 'undocumented' is challenged early in the book: the book's editor, Orner, says in his introduction: "Of course they have documents: family photos, diplomas, driver's licences, love letters, emails, credit card bills, tax forms, homework, children's drawings." None of us goes through the world 'undocumented,' but it may be that our documents don't matter in some places.
You may not always love Dave Eggers or find his fiction embraceable, but these oral histories -- one telling stories of exonerated prisoners, one made after Katrina, and this most recent one -- are projects worth doing, and stories worth knowing. Well done, Mr. Eggers.
While I was away, the Forest went into leaf. Check out the June Edge of the Forest! And for more endorphines, check out 'that guy Matt' and his latest Happy Dance on Youtube.