Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Don't Know How Anyone Does It

I never go to the movies. We went from being those parents who never go to the movies to the parents who still never go. It's a logistics hassle. Not a nightmare, just a hassle. Netflix is so much easier.

Last night, however, I went to see I Don't Know How She Does It, with a new friend. It was an old-fashioned get-to-know-you girl-date. Afterwards, in the car, we both agreed the movie was pretty much what we expected and not as funny as we wanted it to be.

Then I said, I found it to be stressful.

She laughed. Maybe that's because you're a mom? she said.

Maybe. It's because that shit is true, I said. And I didn't like that. I didn't want the movie to have an agenda, but it did address head on the myths and truths of working women. If you act like a man, you're aggressive and difficult. If you act like a woman you're moody and difficult. Either way, you're difficult.

But there were other things -- more subtle things -- that bothered me about the movie. I wanted Greg Kinnear's character to be stronger. I wanted him to get angrier than he did. To be less of a dream boat supporter. He was a great dad, and totally -- totally -- cute in his glasses. But his near passivity annoyed me.

I wanted it to be less of a fairy tale ending when the assistant had her baby. It was a little too "babies are difficult but they solve all of your identity crises" for me.

I would have slept with Pierce Brosnan's character. Or, okay, maybe I wouldn't have. But I would have wavered a lot more than SJP did. A lot.

One of the things I love the most about the fiction I love is when the people are really real. When they make mistakes. They make bad decisions. Things are hard for them. People get hurt. When the baby falls down the stairs because you're at work, something terrible happens. Greg Kinnear doesn't pick up all the pieces. And the baby doesn't fall down the stairs while you're working, because that feels didactic. He falls downstairs while you're right there. Watching. And there's still little you can do to stop it from happening.

I guess it felt like advertising to me. A shiny commercial for having it all, a career, beautiful kids, a hot nanny, a supportive and cute husband. The strong will not to sleep with Pierce Brosnan. I hope the book is better. But in truth, I'll probably never find out. I have too much to do. At least I can cross "blogging" off my list for today.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to School

* As of today, we are all back to school. Since last week, my life has been upside down. What began as one section of Reading and Writing Fiction at Syracuse University turned into another section of Interpreting Fiction, which meant four days a week. I'm gone every day (except Friday), I carry all my belongings with me like a pack rat or a bag lady. I have an office. It's an unexpected boon and a flurry of activity and stress.

I've spent long summer days editing, reading and goofing off.

In the past week and a half I've learned more about craft than I have in the last year, just from forcing myself to teach readings to students, from being forced to articulate what I rely on intuitively. I find myself at the end of the day, thinking about Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Anton Chekov. And covered in chalk.

One respite this week: I'm reading with poet Richard Forester at the Bright Hill Literary Center in Treadwell, NY. When they host you, they also put you up for the night. I'm looking forward to reading, and to having an evening that doesn't involve prep or grading.

Since I've been back at work we've had torrential rain. The creek is swollen and fast. It's opaque brown, and deadly. Roads are closed.

Today, in class, we discussed Chekov's darling, appropriate for a day when all it did was rain. As Kukin says, "Again!" . . . "It's going to rain again! Rain every day as though to spite me!" . . . "Well, rain away, then! Flood the garden, drown me!"

As they say, when it rains . . .

*This is a man's hand, doing math. It's hard to find my counterpart in stock images, drawing the plot arc or chalking up a storm about theme and symbol.