Fires, Dream Logic, and Weeding with Parker Posey…

Hi there, Lovelies,

How the hell are you? Here’s a photo from the fires (taken by the exquisite Claire Kimple). Such a powerful, quiet reminder of the ‘tude very much needed right now.

I’m sure it’s all the scorched earth… but I keep having these wildly visceral time travel dreams where I’m plunked down throughout life at my different old homes. The last one was in Vermont at a house I’d really hesitated buying. In the dream, I’m there in full-body-sensory-Technicolor-smell-o-vision. When I land, it’s always very Dr. Who and hapless as I’m typically in the yard one or two houses over. It’s usually snowing and I have to clomp back over to our house in my jams where I’m suddenly having this very David Mamet-style conversation with the new residents about having lived there eons ago. I hesitated over buying this particular house because our kids were still dinky and it was too close to the road for my anxious-mom taste. In the dream, the new people have redone the kitchen all wrong—excoriating the very heart of the house—the butler’s pantry and the dumbwaiter. And I’m there shaking my head my head at the tremendous loss when all at once, I’m physically ripped out of the dream muscle by muscle only to wake up back in NYC with my whole body clenched and sweaty. Somehow, it all feels very much like Kelly Link dream logic + Quilt Theory. (You know, from physics and the multiverse?)

Things I’ve loved this week…

  • It’s college drop off time, which comes with all manner of anticipation, grief and feeling just plain lucky. I happened upon this hilarious podcast adventure, and thought maybe this next act is The Parker Posey Phase of My Life?
  • When I want to remember how much I love writing by hand, Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel reminds me.
  • When I need solid fashion advice I check in with Grace at The Stripe.
  • When I’m at work and want to stop feeling like Ingrid Bergman from Gaslight.
  • When I want to repeat myself (like the broken record that I am) about how women in STEM can be such a kickass setting for a riveting psychological thriller, I think of only of Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand.
  • When I need to recall that the word “Hobo” comes from the phrase “homeward bound” and that they had their own mythologized code.
  • Why New Yorkers (and many other humans of the world) hate slow walkers.
  • RIP Neil Simon, because whenever I need a lift from our overwhelming world I always watch Seems Like Old Times.

Ok, back to school everyone… xoxo – gg

PS – Best shot from Seems Like Old Times

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Be the Unlikable Female Narrator You Long to See in the World…

Even if it is a cat. Seriously, Maris Kreizman uttered the above words last week and, bless her heart if they haven’t become my goddamn rallying cry.

Hi there, Lovelies. How the hell are you?

I have, quite literally, been trying to get down with my bad self… to conjure up the very worst person I could conceive of for my next book—a most rageful, strange, and despicable girl. I need her to possess just enough heartless psychopathy but without being too creepy-cool—though don’t you just LOVE Killing Eve on BBC America? I retreat often the Beeb for emotional support viewing given the rollicking media climate stateside.

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I also tend to prefer my killers a little more hapless and awkward while still fully owning their unfettered self-righteous indignation. My girl needs to stub her toe on the ottoman in the middle of a supremely venomous diatribe. She never quite makes a clean getaway. If anything, she makes a slightly gross one. I generally know that the experiment is working if I’ve frightened Ed or my dad. Fortunately, the ritual never lasts for more than a day or so…  either because I’m morphing into a nap-oriented, Frankie-type or something entirely lovely happens like this…

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I had no idea it was even going up. And of course, I still want a different subtitle…

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Mostly because I think of this book as equal parts epilepsy, anxiety, and depression… minus much of the unending despair you usually see associated with epilepsy (or all the) Sick Lit narratives. Evidently, I lost this round, but maybe it’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s the beginning. #SickGirlFunny?

Speaking of beginnings, if you have a chance to get outside today, Manhattan is practically a fresh-washed, Technicolor™ movie musical…

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I SO want to challenge a complete stranger to Bananagrams in Bryant Park but I have to stay inside at my desk and channel pissed-off lady criminals. I am in writer jail. Think Lorelai Gilmore goes a bit Grey Gardens. Have a meaningful day, people. Hold fast and don’t get chronic dry eye from Clockwork Orange-ing the news… xoxo – gg

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Big Little Sighs

Photo illustration by Cristiana Couceiro. Source photograph: Igor Ustynskyy

Hello, Lovelies… How the hell are you?

Behold, Spring. Mother nature’s way of saying, “Let’s get down!”

Amid the four nor’easters we’ve had here, I’ve found it necessary to shelter inside an emotional support meatloaf… Vegetarians, look away. This one’s a mashup of Ina Garten’s recipe tempered with the dark arts of Lipton onion soup mix. (Thereby sparing everyone the weepy misery of chopping three yellow onions in favor of a little packet of MSG nirvana.)

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It’s a blend of high and low culture that satisfies every time—much like champagne and potato chips. Oh, but gone are those days. A cheat day now and then is the best I can muster. And I’ve been cooking at the end of a long, snowy road, on hiatus from the city while I freight train through two TV scripts.

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One, dealing with neurodiversity, I’ve started and stopped at least twenty times with my writing partner… I’ll say cranky things like, “No, no, no… That’ll never work, that’s been done…”  just as he manages to pry the barnacles off and we come up with something nifty and almost weird enough to work. The other script is a single-camera half-hour rom-com series built around epilepsy, anxiety, and depression. My heart/brain still skips a beat/synapse that anyone’s actually interested, but there it is.

For reading during this latest storm/news cycle… I’d originally planned something intellectually rigorous like Diane Ackerman’s gorgeous A Natural History of the Senses. (Imma comin’ Diane!)

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Instead, I found myself retreating to the comforts of David Rakoff’s hilarious essay collection Fraud (since imposter syndrome is the central theme of my life).

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I’ve also been fangirling the eff out of some of my favorite writers on women’s pain and addiction like Abby Norman (review of Ask Me About My Uterus to come!) and Leslie Jamison.  Damn… Jamison’s words in her anti-memoir The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath “More. Again. Forever…” recalled the watery longing of mothers I knew from many a wine-soaked book club, the palpable ache for a deeper connection, more than for access to any Jack London’esque “white light” of creativity.

I’ve never been one who can write on the sauce (despite loving it). And I don’t get writer’s block as much as a kind of writer’s malaise that manifests in the form of big little sighs, working alone every morning in my pajamas, until some Mary Karr-ish language tumbles out: Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Don’t. You daft girl… Who on earth ever told you that you could do this? 

But then I go on. Here’s a great huzzah to the thrumming of buds and bugs and to a few more words.

Until tomorrow, hold fast – XOXO – GG

Little Fires Everywhere

 

Hello, Lovelies… How the hell are you?

Yet another rollicking couple of weeks for self-described narcissism expert, grief counselor-in-training, and aspiring diminutive hand model… DJT. But I can’t think about that ridiculous yahoo right now. Are you done with those college essays?

It’s been a wild few days here. Halloween was unspeakable tragedy followed quite literally by plucky resiliency. Witness this guy below dressed as a chicken telling a reporter he’s not scared.

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You have to love a town where “none of your business” means, of course, it’s everyone’s business, which somehow makes you less afraid. Everyone’s right there, so what could possibly go wrong? But then it does, which is why we have to look out for each other. If you roll an ankle in a pothole, a New Yorker will surely catch you.

I woke up and it was blustery as all get out with serious Mary Poppins antics downstairs. I had an email from my editor asking about changing the title of my book on motherhood, comedy, and neurology to appeal to a broader audience of women positioning it as Gilmore Girls-meets-neurology…which I admit, I’m kind of grooving on but need to see the cover before I fully commit. I’m still such a visual nerd.

Then, my neurologist (who lives downstairs because, of course, it’s New York and everyone’s right here) phoned up to say, “Holy cats, lady! From this latest scan, even on all the drugs, your brain is still wicked electric.”

“Aw man, does this mean all my sobriety and juicing is for nothing?”

“No, your skin looks fabulous. But yeah, it’s like there are little fires everywhere.”

“You know, you really shouldn’t say those sorts of things to epilepsy patients. They might take you seriously. I just finished that book by the way.”

“What book?”

“Little Fires Everywhere.”

“Ooh, how was it?”

“SO riveting. Celeste Ng is such a badass. The conversations about race were like finely woven cloth and the sense of maternal longing at the end was completely palpable. It gave me chills.”

“Wow, no wonder you’re sparking. Look, I’m voting we have you go back into the hospital to the epilepsy unit so we can figure out what’s going on, film your sleep, etc.”

So back I go. It will be my gazillionth time in a skullcap… It’s a tough look to pull off. I really don’t have the head for it. At my age, what you want is volume without frizz. Wow, do I really miss having stupid problems 🙂 Still, I believe in science and I believe in figuring this out. If it means playing the part of a lab rat Chez Lenox Hill for a few days, I plan to savor every tedious, annoying second of it and make it totally funny anthropology.

November is epilepsy awareness month. The types of seizures I have are the scary kind you often see portrayed in the media. Think of Will at the end of season 2 of Stranger Things and you’ll have an idea.

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Life just gets shaken to pieces. In the eight years that I’ve dealt with this condition, my biggest learning is that you think the human brain is weird but it turns out… the human brain is weirder than you can think. With little fires everywhere, it’s our last undiscovered country, our biggest, most complicated upside down.

But here I go… Stay rad and have a meaningful day – xoxo – GG

 

Laura Dern is Really Good at Being a Shark

Hello, Lovelies,

How the hell are you? It’s been a rollicking few weeks, dear readers! That bigoted sack of Bisquick is still airing his balls in the Whitehouse instead of the Big House, Hurricane Jose is en route to NYC and I turned in a book… the one about going from being a mostly-dead girl… voi-la…

 

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photo: Holly Mckeown

to a mostly-alive girl…

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I still feel like some parts of the book are missing. I keep having these epic middle school dreams where I have a line in some awful 6th-grade pageant but no pants on, which is distracting in the best of cases. Yes, the pants are the pages.

About midway through, I wrote this lazy quip “No more Laura Dern-style meltdowns for me,” and I got this big note back in black Sharpie that simply said, “Is she even known for this?” and I thought holy cats, I am so fucked! My silly book had been bought by smart, literary people who don’t watch television, which I completely, totally get. We should all be reading more, but we’re talking Laura Dern here, people!

George Saunders may have said it best: “A book is like a shark. A shark hasn’t evolved in 40,000 years because it’s still really good at just being a shark. A book is the same.” So is the human brain. It’s still the most efficient storytelling device on the planet, sending all variety of messages from brain-to-face-to-body.

This is where Laura Dern is an especially good shark. I wanted to tweet my editor all these pictures of LD melting down throughout pop culture history. Etsy even makes buttons of them…

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The other funny thing about breaking your face and having your lower jaw torn off like an act-one Stephen King character is that all your surgeons and speech therapists want you to be during recovery is Laura-fucking-Dern because those splendid facial gymnastics she’s famous for actually help you to get better.

Another note I got on the book… was “more emotion” which made me do a full-on spit-take (and I wasn’t even drinking anything). I walk around thinking I’m chocked full of emotion, but with most of the nerves on the right side of my face severed it’s no longer so wildly apparent. My mug is a little inscrutable these days and it’s not only changing my interactions with people, it’s changing my written words as well. I believe that when you stand alone on the precipice of big change, you can either fill the gaping chasm with dread, devastation or drollery. It’s not to say that you’re not afraid, not sad, not homesick for the “dear ordinary” that you knew before, the one all the therapists have you reenacting each day, but you can choose other ways to fill the abyss. I chose drollery.

There was a point in my epileptic life where I probably liked my seizures a little more than I despised them. I know it’s not supposed to work that way. In the current zeitgeist of the differently-abled, you are supposed to stand up, resistdefy, and even hate your chronic condition or illness whatever it may be. But there’s something about my particular brand of seizures that scratches this deep ontological itch I have. There’s an odd satisfaction to them I still can’t name. Why are we the only species that seems to yearn for oblivion?

Yes, I still wake up from each fit thinking “Ugh, not again…” because the crawl back to normalcy is usually such a doozy, but my seizures are also terribly gorgeous, like being caught in a tornado of stars. It’s an instance of overpowering joy that I get a snatch at, which holds almost as much allure as a drug. In this way, I feel like a traitor against the cause to cure the condition. I don’t hate it as much as I’m curious about it and long for another glimpse.

In this way, the grief I feel around epilepsy is strangely deferred, less about me, and more directly related to the fear I’ve caused the people around me. You don’t feel bad for you, so much as you feel bad for how frightened, vulnerable and Laura Dern-like you may have made the people around you feel in the moments when they were watching you thrash and flail around on the ground. It’s their meltdowns you tend to, once you are back and awake.

Maybe that’s the whole point, we’re all Laura D, we’re all really good at being sharks at one time or another, which is how we persist. I’m not sure yet. I think I need to read and stew more.

This week I have fallen head-first into Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, which is one of those books that just calls out to you at the end of the day as you come in the door. “Read me,” it beckons with its siren’s song.

 

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Ng’s prose flows like water and her witty, wry conversations between siblings are so exactly how whole generations grew up speaking to each other. I highly recommend it for this week’s weather. Or in any kind of weather.

For now, stay rad and hold tight in those crazy winds outside. XOXO – GG

Sick-Lit is Giving Me the Vapors

Greetings Lovelies,

How the hell are you?

Can you believe the world today? I feel like we’re all living in an episode of Dr. Who. (No wonder my apartment feels bigger!) Every day is like having a new case of the damn vapors…

Nervous, sweaty well wishes from The Overlook where I just finished the book. The big, long, messy book.

You’d think I’d be jubilant. Instead, I’m pretty much an exhausted husk of a human. A strange, feral being who looks like Sasquatch fathered a lovechild with the-Unabomber. My hair is Origami. And when did I decide to stop wearing a bra?

In my head, where there used to be a book festering, now there’s only an empty windowless room. It’s like I finally moved all my stuff out of that grad school storage locker on the Westside highway. You can still make out the corrosive staining of my melted MacBook on the dusty cement floor that is my brain. For years now, people have been coyly asking, “How’s the book coming along? Done yet?” which is like asking a chronically ill person, “So, how’s the death coming? Dead yet?” Lordy… words are hard.

I know a decent number of writers at this point in my mid-life, and only two warned me about how completely terrible I would feel after I hit send to my editor. Amy Poehler, who said you just get “gray” as it comes down to the wire, and another writer who just turned in his debut novel, and who is now attempting to morph into the marketing machine his publisher needs him to be, except he suddenly found himself entirely without words. Nothing left to say. He’s a husk. This rarely ever happens to me, but my brain parts are wicked tired; I’m late with book reviews, guest posts and multiple other projects I’ve been stalling on for months. But of course, instead of doing any of those things, I hit send in my Outlook and immediately raced out to lunch with the girls.

Where did I go for lunch, you ask? To the 1990’s rom-com queen of all New York restaurants, the quintessential Meg Ryan of eateries: The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, which used to have totally “meh” food and way too many people from Texas, all wearing shorts and comfortable shoes, and sporting golden rape whistles. It still has a few of those, except the mac and cheese there is now fantastically awesome! It’s like a huge flaming Baked Alaska of carbs and salt and butter fat. So restorative! And the company was fine indeed. I power-walked all the way there listening to Michael Buble to get in the mood, sweaty hair stuck to my neck, but it was SO what the doctor ordered. Lordy…

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It probably doesn’t help that my book, SPAZ: Adventures in Life, Love, and Electricity, tends to fall into the “sick-lit” category. It touches on epilepsy, the fun of breaking my face last year during a seizure and being a mute girl in here the city which is a curious business if you’ve never tried it. When you can’t talk, suddenly 8 million people tell you EVERYTHING. No wonder I’m fried!

Sick-lit is not new. In the Victorian Era, it focused primarily on heroines with tuberculosis. As a popular genre in the 1980’s, it predominantly featured young, sickly white girls who found waify redemption through handsome love interests and who wore makeup so that they could maintain the illusion of wellness until they were either healed or passed away tragically. Narratives of the 1980s also focused on a protagonist’s transformation from nerdy misfit to socially adept girl.

What makes sick-lit so complicated to write is the idea that if one depicts an illness in the wrong way, it might romanticize the condition and this can make things harder for the people actually dealing with the real thing. For my part, by normalizing something like epilepsy, I just didn’t want to diminish it or the surrounding struggles, which can be enormous. I also wanted a better narrative outcome. The electric girl should find agency, love and some degree of funny sanity amid all the thrashing about and ER visits.

In recent years, the voice given to chronic illness is borne out of personal experience and there are a lot of survivor narratives out there. Now, I love Gloria Gaynor as much as the next guy, but I didn’t want to write a survivor narrative because I just longed for some agency for the reader (and for me). I didn’t want a Lifetime Movie of the Week. (No offense to Lifetime, it’s just not my jam.) For me, the story was as much about what went comedically right as what went neurologically wrong. Add to that, my totally inadequate reckoning with both pieces of the pie, and that was what I was going for. I won’t know if it worked for a few years.

In any case, now that I’ve had my Baked Alaska of mac and cheese, it’s time to get to back to fiction, which is always easier for me since, having worked in Advertising for so long, telling big lies feels pretty on-brand.

Also, some big changes coming to GG: a new neurodiversity in NYC series, a store with snarky merch, a book club, a GG events calendar, embarrassing video from the SPAZ tour and some podcast-ish things. It’s all crazy exciting and suddenly making me a tad woozy… My stars, perhaps it’s… the vapors.

Stay rad lovelies, drink rosé and have a meaningful day – xoxo – gg

Why yes, I am a lefty ho…

Hello My Lovelies,

A quick post before the Cheeto-elect places his small, sweaty, orange, pussy-grabbing palm on a bible (leaving a stain, no doubt) and I morph back into a pre-existing condition—epilepsy. (My brain likes to spontaneously combust now and then. A genetic electrical issue, but what can you do?)

It goes without saying that there’s a definite buzz in the city this week. A reckoning humming… as though someone has strung high tension wires from skyscraper to tenement and back again. It’s a mood both distinctly electric and furtive. Like a burgeoning totalitarian regime, people pass each other on the street with expressions of crumpled worry… that say, “Are you one of us? Are you a… ahem… a friend? Oh, you’re not? Okay, no big!”

Just yesterday, I was trudging up Madison to the dentist in the freezing rain for my nine millionth root canal (that I cannot afford) when this homeless man came up to me and said, “Can I just tell you, I really like your boots?”

The snarky, jerky ne’er-do-well in my head replied, “Well then, clearly, I need to do some shopping!” (Only because these boots are from Costco. That’s right, the brand is “waterproof”)

But because New York is so bizarro-feeling these days, instead I said, “Thank you?”

And then, he launched into his whole elevator pitch, which when you’re a writer you do a lot of… but in my desire to be empathetic, I forgot that I still can’t make the right faces (post-accident) so I can mostly only look either terrified or uber cynical.

I must have looked really scared because a cabbie stopped traffic and called out to me, “Hey, are you okay??? Is he bothering you?”

And lo, in a voice that came out just like Greta Gerwig’s, I called back, “No, he just likes my footwear!” I’m a lefty ho, who’s as scared as the next person, right now.

But oy… it made me think that with all the protests and marches going on this week and going forward… we need to proceed thoughtfully, with compassion for those who think differently (or maybe not at all ) and keep a steady eye trained on intersectional politics… reversing stigma of all kinds, refraining from getting our collective dander up, being more inquisitive of each other and diffusing with humor wherever possible.

You just never know who is going to turn out to be a pal…

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If you plan to protest or march in NYC at any of the many efforts, just some handy tips!

Yours in solidarity, xoxo – gg