Posts Tagged ‘books’

[February, 1996] Lost Souls



To my surprise/relief/whatever I think I might just be over Nathan. Was in the Village yesterday shopping/job hunting (might end up working in a store about 50 feet away from Record Runner actually). I didn’t stop in. I think I was afraid if something did happen I wouldn’t care anymore. Do I still? Now that there’s Bradley… not that much. It’s better if I stay away.

Damn, I am so tired. I bought the most wonderful book, Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite. I’m only about 30 pages into it and already it’s one of the best books I ever read.

I can hear my parents arguing in the other room, about money. This college financial aid stuff is such a headache. I hate even thinking about it, I just want to be there already, in college, in Boston.

I don’t have the energy to write any more.

Blah blah blah boys blah blah now that I was smitten with a boy in Alaska I was over my crush on the record store manager blah blah.

Moving on to books. I’ve never been a big fan of vampires in general, but Poppy Z. Brite’s modern goth vampire novel really got under my skin. I don’t think I could have found anything more perfect to read as a still-newly-minted-but-quickly-becoming-thoroughly-immersed goth. It made New Orleans sound like a deliciously dark, romantic, magical place and the young vampires she described sounded just gorgeous and swoon-worthy. Plus, they listened to Bauhaus, how could I not love that? (Get it? The vampires, an icon of gothdom, were goths themselves. 18-year-old spooky mind=blown.)

As for financing college, that’s the real horror story. Things got pretty scary for a while. Dad was adamant that I apply to Ivy League schools and be pre-law or pre-med. I was interested in schools with solid liberal arts programs and wanted to focus on writing, preferably in a big city. The only Ivy I even briefly considered was Brown, but decided Providence would be too small a city for me, so I didn’t even apply there. Of the four schools I applied to, two were in Boston, which seemed like the perfect location: large enough to be bustling and diverse, but small enough that I’d find my way around easily; far enough that I’d get away from home, but not too far in case I got homesick. Getting there would be another story, though, because Dad didn’t want to pay for an education he thought would be useless instead of one that would set me up in a high-paying career as a doctor or lawyer (it just goes to show how old school he was that those were the only two professions that epitomized a lucrative career for him). Mom also worked, but her salary was low enough to just cover basic household expenses but high enough to prevent me from getting significant financial aid. It was a stressful time at home, with a lot of arguing. Apart from getting a crappy summer job and earning some pocket money, I didn’t see how I could really improve our financial situation. I just had to hope everything would work somehow work out and I’d be able to get the education I truly desired.


[September, 1995] Senior Year Snapshot


It’s David Dolan’s birthday today. I got his gift on Friday but don’t know when I’ll be able to give it to him. I’ve been keeping in touch with the mad boy for about a month and a half. He’s so cool and sweet, one of those people I’d hate to lose as a bud.

I realize I haven’t even talked about my classes. Photo is a blast. Very complicated but I’m liking it lots. Lit is ok. Want to read Kerouac already. Calculus sucks flat out. Volleyball brings out the spaz in me. Sociology at the college is fine. My project at Childers-Craine is nice. It’s mostly reading manuscripts (or parts of ‘em) and evaluating them.

Once a bookworm, always a bookworm.

Once a bookworm, always a bookworm.

I know, I know. There are so many things wrong with those two paragraphs. I’ll overlook the affectations and poor language choices if you will.

David Dolan was my neighbor in the freak hallway my junior year and graduated the year before. An actor who had bit parts on a couple of major movies in the 90’s and a starring role in a cable show, he was unpretentious and goofy and prone to getting in trouble. We were never super-close, but I always had fun with him and he was one of the few male friends I had who I managed not to have a crush on. Sure, there was probably part of me that was a bit dazzled by his cultish celeb status, but I don’t think I ever talked to him about what it was like making movies or television shows. I remember bumming around the east village with him and meeting his girlfriend, who went on to have a small but recurring role in what is now one of my favorite shows of all time and is still actin today. I don’t remember what I got him for his birthday but I do remember that he introduced me to the Armistead Maupin Tales of the City books, which I adored.

ICY projects were internships that we got class credit for. Since I was planning to be an English/Writing major in college, I wanted to give my time to a publisher or literary agent. I was offered a position with Bantam and also Childers-Craine Literary Agency (which was really one woman). Even though Bantam, a division of Random House, may have looked better on my resume and helped me find work more easily in the future, I was more interested in reading manuscripts than doing menial admin/gofer work, which the publishing houses mostly used interns for (and which I ended up doing plenty of when I worked in publishing years later, anyway).

It was rather remarkable how much responsibility I was given at the agency, taking a first pass at most of the work that was sent in. That’s right, folks, a teenager was rejecting dozens of queries from aspiring writers every week. Years later, when I went on to write my own novel and submit it to agents, I have no doubt that plenty of interns were responsible for the rejection letters I received.

As for the rest of it, Calculus would torture me for months to come, but the rest of my curriculum more than made up for it. As much as I grumble about how terrible life at Hunter sometimes was, my senior year was off to a mostly great start.

(Oh, and I did finally try reading Kerouac’s On the Road earlier this year, but couldn’t get more than 100 pages into it and couldn’t get more than 15 minutes past the film adaptation. I respect the nonconformist, hedonistic spirit of the Beat Generation, but something about Kerouac’s style and storytelling simultaneously grates on me and leaves me thoroughly bored. Oh well, there’s always Ginsberg’s “Howl.”) 


[August, 1992] Talking and Acting a Bit Wild

Wednesday, August 7th, 1992

Dear Journal,

Boston was really cool. The hotel was the best. The baseball game was totally dull but we (Tabitha, Anita, Didi and I) stayed up almost all night seriously talking and acting a bit wild. We found out more about each other and had a blast. Oh, yeah. After the baseball game, at about 11:00pm we went bowling! That was weird but kinda fun.

Who doesn't love a good slumber party?

[By “a bit wild” I mean we jumped on the beds and ate lots of junk food. There was also a bit running around the motel hallways and a late night pillow fight. And lots and lots of giggling. I know, such crazy party girls we were. Amazing we didn’t end up in rehab, right?

Seriously, though, that night was like something out of a Sleepover Friends book. While nowhere near as popular or beloved as The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High/Twins series, I briefly read these books in the late 80’s. They centered around a varied group of female friends who have weekly (…wait for it…) sleepovers. The only thing I remember about these books is that one of the characters’ favorite colors were black, white, and red (to the point where her entire room and outfits were bedecked in the three pigments) and that there were pages and pages of descriptions of the various junk foods consumed. Somehow a plethora of plots unfolded around these slumber parties, whose location alternated between the  girls’ houses. However, I can honestly say I doubt any of the books revolved around late-night spirited hijinks in a Boston hotel. Us Brooklyn girls know how to live it up.]

The next day we went to a museum and shopping at a place similar to (but much bigger than) South Street seaport.

[That trip to Boston was one of the highlights of my year. And while I ended up living there years later, it was a while before I realized the shopping center we visited was Quincy Market. To date, it was the only time I’ve been there, which is so much the better, because I’m sure nothing could have topped the small joy I had shopping for t-shirts, candy, and kiwi-flavored lip balm.]

my real first love

don’t know how I feel about Ricky Klein at the present time. I mean, if you would have asked me this morning how I felt about him I would have said that I love him.

[Insert *cringe* here.]

Maybe I did love Ricky.

[I really didn’t.]

Or maybe I just enjoyed the thought of loving him.

[Could be. I was subjected to a sundry of sappy movies and books at a tender and impressionable age.]

I do know that at one time I had very deep feelings for him.

[Lust + Infatuation = A 14-year-old’s “Very Deep Feelings”]

After all I don’t write poems about just anybody!

[Fast forward ten years and we’ll all have a good laugh about that one.]

To be honest I was all ready to include a note in the envelope with his tip that uncovered my feelings. I would have given him the poem too.

A moment ago I felt guilty and fickle for feeling this way but now that I think about it I am glad that I began to get over him before I got hurt or embarrassed. I did not tell anybody who I liked (although I think Didi pretty much figured it out) and now I don’t know if I will. I think another reason I began having strong emotions for him is because we were both born on the same day so it was like destiny or something. I guess it wasn’t.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, I was surely straitjacket-bound at that point. Luckily I came to my senses and just gave Ricky the cash. Thank goodness I had clarity and good sense in that moment when I didn’t on numerous similar occasions.

Don’t worry, though, there will be many more lapses in judgment when it comes to boys and many more notes/poems/stories and all around questionable behavior. Guess being sensible this time around was like destiny. Or something.

[June, 1992] Boring Stuff

Hummingbird on Hibiscus (this is the exact pattern I had. I know, fascinating.).

Teusday, June 16, 1992

Dear Journal,

Today is the (or should I say was the) last day of school. I’m so glad it’s finally over. Although I will miss my friends it will be great to be totaly free of responsibilities. I’m going to start camp in about two weeks so I can just relax and do absolutely nothing until then.

I have been doing lots of things. I finally visited a library and I took out lots and lots of books. Right now I have fourteen books to read. I have also been working on a cross stitch project called “Hummingbird on Hibiscus.” The last sort of important thing I’m doing is writing a book. I already have the first two chapters completed. 18 pages. I hope I’m patient enough to finish writing it. That’s about it. Boring stuff. See ya!

Hey, they can’t all be introspective/angsty entries about boys and body image and school and how my parents don’t understand me.

Being an only child (and a shy one at that) taught me to make my own fun. Watching television felt like a waste of time after a while, so around age nine I started going to the library and exploring a variety of hobbies. I tried magic, but found learning tricks remarkably more repetitive and tedious than I expected. I had a stint doing origami until I had a menagerie of paper animals and stars gathering dust on the windowsill. Mom taught me to crochet, and I decided to make a blanket, an ambitious project which I tired of and abandoned. I tried my hand at a hook rug or two (man, were those things ugly or what? Did anyone actually ever display one of those things after finishing them?) among other things.

Only two past-times endured over the years: reading and writing.

I searched through my file cabinet in the hopes that I saved the 18 pages of this novel the way I saved pretty much every other piece of creative writing from my teens onward, but no dice. I do remember a waitress living on her own in Manhattan trying to make some big dream come true. I also remember what inspired the novel: being locked out of my home. Not because forgetting my keys brought on a flash of genius, but because I had to wait hours in the lobby until one of my parents got home. I didn’t have a book on me, only pen and paper. I wish I could claim that some innate drive to share a story full of brilliant ideas brought on my first attempt at writing a novel, but in this case it was sheer boredom. The creative passion came later.

[November, 1989] Bad Ideas

November 17, 2009 7 comments



Dear Journal,

Tomorrow, guess who’s house I’m going to????


I really hate that a$%hole now. Yesterday he actually had the nerve to call me! What a s@#&head!!!!!! Maybe it will be a little fun.

Also I have a new love!!! I’m over Francis (who hasn’t called since the date) and back on the track!

His name is J.D.

He’s 15 and gorgeous. I love him!!!!

Just a few little problems.

1. He lives in Staten Island and I live in Brooklyn.

2. He doesn’t know I’m alive!

3. He’s 15 and I’m almost 12.

But I can fix all that (not the age or Staten Isl thing but the rest!).

The way I got to know him is that he is my cousin Anna’s brother’s friend and when I went over to her house I saw him there!

God I love him a lot!!!!!!

I will make sure that very, very soon, J.D. will like me as much as I like him! (maybe even more!)

J.D., I love you!

Also, me and Elaine might start our own baby-sitting club! Isn’t that great!!!! It will be lots of fun!

and Damiella's bad idea

Total word count: 189

Total number of exclamation marks: 42

Aside from my ludicrous idea of what love was (which clearly did not include getting to know the person or even speaking to him much), I had lofty goals.  I set out to win the heart of an older man and to create a babysitting empire to rival the fictional one in Ann M. Martin’s Babysitters Club series.

Not only did these books enlighten me about diabetes, they also made me believe I could easily make money baby-sitting while having lots of fun doing it. Never mind that I had no experience watching children, no business acumen, and wasn’t even old enough to drive. I had enthusiasm and a library card that caused plenty of lofty delusions.

Mom put the kibosh on the baby-sitting scheme just as Elaine and I were brainstorming flier ideas.  She did not want her 11-year-old daughter to be responsible for other families’ children and I can’t say I blame her. I was initially upset, but it did free up more time for me to concoct a scheme to get J.D.’s attention. That’s a story with another chapter to go…

[November, 1989] Sugar Problems

November 16, 2009 10 comments


Dear Journal,

Chen-chi is back in school and is doing just fine. I geusse that pill stuff was just rumors.


what's your problem?

Chen-chi told me a very big secret.

She has diabetes. That’s why she was in the hospital.

She had sugar problems.

I won’t tell a soul.

Last weekend I went to my cusins bar-mitzva and it was really awesome.

Up to that point, everything I knew about diabetes I learned from Stacey McGill, treasurer of The Baby-sitters Club. She was my favorite character in The Baby-sitters Club series of books by Ann M. Martin (and also had my favorite 80’s name). Poor Stacey also had “sugar problems” and had to give herself injections of insulin and carefully monitor her diet. She was even hospitalized a few times, just like Chen-chi.

The only “sugar problems” I could conceive of was eating too much of it, but I probably counted myself something of an expert on diabetes having read a bunch of children’s books that mention the condition. I felt terrible for Chen-chi because she couldn’t eat any chocolate or candy and had to spend time in the hospital. In retrospect, I also feel bad that there was so much gossip circulating around her, which–let’s be honest here–I helped spread. And yet despite my rumor-mongering ways (and despite being a snitch), Chen-chi was trusting enough to share her health secret with me. This time I learned my lesson and kept my mouth shut.

[February, 1989] I Heart V.C. Andrews and Corey Haim

September 28, 2009 6 comments


Dear Journal,

A few days ago I saw the movie Beaches with Rose and it was the best. My favorite movies are: Flowers in the Attic, Beaches, Big and License to Drive.

[Written in the margin:] I ♥ COREY Haim

reversal of fortunes and family secrets galore!

Reversal of fortunes and family secrets galore!

How I wish I made a list of favorite movies like this every year while growing up. And books, at the top of which would have also been Flowers in the Attic (even though it was adapted into a sub-par movie, I still enjoyed it).

Reading V.C. Andrews novels was a rite of passage for young girls in the 1980’s (and maybe beyond?). The first time I came across these books I was nine and overheard a couple of girls talking about the plot of one of the sequels to Flowers in the Attic– either Petals on the Wind or If There be Thorns (gotta love the melodramatic garden-themed titles). When I expressed curiosity about the story, they said I was too young for those books. Which of course led me to seek out all of Andrews’ novels during my next library visit.

The books of V.C. Andrews have a haunting charm but also a creepiness in their themes. There’s usually a rags-to-riches story chock full of dark family secrets (rape, torture, murder, you name it). Then there is often some incest thrown in for good measure. Sometimes it’s unintentional, like cousins falling in love who don’t realize they’re related until one of the aforementioned family secrets is exposed. Sometimes it’s a flat out we’re-related-but-I-have-the-hots-for-you-anyway thing.

All the sex, murder, and mayhem chronicled in these books was probably not appropriate for young girls, and yet I can’t think of anyone who read the novels beyond their early teens. Flowers in the Attic is something of a coming-of-age guilty pleasure classic. The plot revolves around four siblings who are hidden away in their wealthy grandmother’s enormous attic for several years. There’s something fascinating and oddly romantic about their imprisonment, the way they cope with being locked up, and (spoiler alert) the way they ultimately escape. I always wanted to play around in an attic full of trunks containing old clothes and other antique accouterments (though not as much as I wanted to be a Goonie and hunt for buried treasure).

stay off the drugs, kids

stay off the drugs, kids

As for Corey Haim, what can I say… the eleven-year-old heart wants what it wants. After being thoroughly charmed by the him in The Lost Boys and License to Drive I developed a massive crush on the young actor. While his wise-cracking best friend Corey Feldman was arguably funnier, I found his habit of dressing like Michael Jackson bizarre and did not find him cute at all. My heart belonged to one Corey only and his name was Haim. This childhood obsession devotion led me to wallpaper a wall of my room with dozens of pictures of the teen heart-throb with carefully-torn pages from Tiger Beat, Bop, and other magazines dedicated to the worship of pretty young pop culture icons.

One of the things I loved best about Corey was his penchant for changing hair colors (a habit I would pick up within the next few years). In one photo he might have gelled back brown hair; in another he’d be edgier with black spiky hair; in yet another picture the hair would be red and artfully coiffed. The colors changed but the presence of copious amounts of hair product was a common thread. As we know, in the 198o’s cool hair equaled BIG hair, and Haim’s tresses defied gravity with the best of them. Oh, and his acting wasn’t bad either.

It wouldn’t be long before rumors of Corey Haim’s drug use started floating around. I wrote him a fan letter telling him that I was concerned about these rumors, and that my love would help him through any dark days, but he either did not read my letter or chose to ignore it. In later years, his addiction would lead to him selling his hair and teeth on eBay which I frankly still can’t bear to think about.

Instead, let’s focus on early 1989, when my wall of Corey was still glossy and my innocence was being only mildly tarnished by reading books I shouldn’t have been reading. It was a simpler time, a happier time.