Dial-Up Carrie

Why do I feel so slothful while on holiday? Is slothful even a word? My holiday brain cannot compute. Slowly, surely, holiday drains away my ambitions and intentions. I have to work to remind myself that rolling out of bed in the morning isn’t THAT hard.
Cottaging seems to strip me down to a more basic Carrie, a more primitive version of the 3.5 Carrie I currently enjoy. This is dial-up Carrie. This is Carrie attempting to cook delicious meals for nine on two wonky burners in three cottage pans (why do cottage kitchens supply such an eccentric selection of cookware and devices? and could we please ban the production and sale of all non-stick pots and pans? though I did read somewhere–in a study no doubt commissioned by non-stick purveyors–that Teflon is not absorbed by the human body, but passes right through; phew).
So, what are the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between 3.5 Carrie and the dial-up version? The dial-up version washes dishes, folds laundry, sweeps the crumbs and cleans the bathroom, and tries to get the kids to sleep at a reasonable hour. But the routine is off-kilter. This Carrie also drinks a shandy after lunch and sits in removed fashion reading a book (“Okay, Mommy, are you listening for real now?”).
Having worked so hard to develop 3.5 Carrie, I find it jarring, almost troubling, to revert to this more basic version; she has no interest in taking creative photographs (this will be a low spot in the 365 project); she has very little creative interest whatsoever; she slows to a crawl, scarcely able to force herself to keep up some reduced version of exercise. Maybe this is what a holiday is for? To vegetate and sink into words and thoughts, or float amidst them without thinking at all, to check out, to retreat.


Of course, one must also observe that “holiday with kids” is not precisely the same as “holiday.” Last night we resorted to turning out every light in the cottage in order to impress upon CJ that we were indeed all going to sleep, RIGHT NOW. It was nearly 10pm. He was wired. He’s taken to saying, “I tell you a story,” and then launching into long detailed dramatic inventions about elephants and little lions and turtles who eat persons and wear pants. He had us spellbound after supper the other night (I’ll post video footage). But well after dark, being regaled by the tales of a two-year-old is not on the holiday agenda. No. On the holiday agenda is eating some freaking amazing cheese, a ripened sheep’s milk pebbled with blue purchased at Wendy’s Wigwam, reading a book, and drinking a beer. In adult company only.


Two book recommendations: Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett, a memoir by a writer about her friendship with another writer, Lucy Grealy–if a relationship so intense can be pinned down by the word friendship. I’ve never been in a friendship like that. I am not sure whether I envy the author, or feel grateful to have been spared such a friendship. It’s also a fascinating portrait of writers in their developing pre-fame years (because, yes, both women became successful writers). Kevin’s reading the book now, or I’d look up some quotes. I particularly liked one from Lucy’s letters, in which she says that at least, as a writer, there is some measure of glamour to be gleaned from the drudgery and poverty of the occupation. I need to look into that.
The other book, which I’ve not yet finished, is a series of excellent short stories disguised by the publisher as a novel: The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman. It’s set in a newspaper, so it has the additional appeal of taking me back to my brief fling with the industry; and it’s currently on bestseller lists. But I’ll bet it wouldn’t have made it there if the publisher hadn’t cleverly marketed it as a novel rather than as what it is: a collection of linked stories. If I feel a touch of bitterness over this necessity, yes, it’s personal. The book I am currently finishing is a collection of linked stories. Maybe my agent will find a publisher who will pretend it is a novel, and we’ll find success together. But I (selfishly) wish more people would embrace the short story (and in particular, linked stories) as a legitimate and complex and pleasurable form.
Now, for the glamour. I must pour myself a shandy or something.

Lemonade Stand and Dilly Beans
Mama's Hair Salon


  1. nathaliefoy

    I loved _Autobiography of a Face_ by Lucy Grealy. I am still hesitating about reading Pratchett because I am afraid of the dark things she will tell me about Grealy. By all accounts, she was a hard woman to love.

  2. Carrie Snyder

    don’t hesitate. it’s a beautiful human portrait, very complex, a gift given in friendship. and now I must read Autobiography of a Face!

  3. isohedral

    I love short stories, possibly more than novels. There’s a special craft of parsimony in the short story. That might be why one of my favourite books is J. Robert Lennon’s Pieces for the Left Hand: one hundred stories, each about a page in length.

    Do you ever listen to the NPR show “Selected Shorts”? It’s a one-hour program of short stories, read by stage and screen actors. And I just discovered that they have a podcast. Yay!

    Oh, and to indulge in another recommendation, I’ll suggest Jean Thompson’s short story “Applause, Applause”. It probably came to mind because of your blog’s (reluctant?) examination of the writerly life. It’s in the collection Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, edited by David Sedaris. I also discovered that I have access to a PDF through the university’s library (!). I can send it to you if you want.

  4. Carrie Snyder

    @isohedral: I can read stories in digital form … just not novels (no Kindle for me; at least not yet). I’d love to read that story, so please do send it over.

    I’ve never heard the NPR program, but it sounds wonderful. I’ll have to look up the podcast, especially now that I’ve got my ipod working again.

    And hurray for fans of the short story!

    p.s. I hear you might be a poetry fan, too?? Interested in joining a small poetry book club?


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