“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
– Jack Kerouac
Here are some random things I’m learning during my research on my (hopefully) next book:
1. The earliest use of “bitch” (at least in the negative as relates to women) goes way back to the 15th century. It referred to promiscuous or sensual women, “a metaphorical extension of the behavior of a bitch in heat. Herein lies the original point of the powerful insult son of a bitch, found as biche son.”
2. Putain is French for whore.
3. Some interesting Victorian slang words for “down there” aka “vagina” – crinkum-crankum; quim whiskers. Not very attractive but I never liked “vagina” either.
4. Early forms of douching (sorry, but it is kind of interesting) were thought of (hoped for) as a pregnancy and STD preventative. Some of the substances used were boracic acid, vinegar, fragrances, etc. Later, Lysol was recommended. Some devices, made of bone, ceramic, wood were called “irrigators.”
Victorian era douche
There is one marvelous, useful and common design that came out of all the wonderous displays at The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. We use it every day giving little thought to the genius of it.
Invented by a Brighton plumber by the name of George Jennings, he designed “Monkey Closets” in “retiring rooms” of the Crystal Palace, the building in Hyde Park that housed all the exhibitors and technology wonders. These were the first public toilets that flushed. About 827,280 people spent a penny to use them at the Exhibition. I don’t know why they were called “Monkey Closets” but I do know for that penny one got a clean seat, a towel, a comb (huh?) and a shoe shine. A penny sure went further in them days. After that, instead of saying “I gotta take a leak” or some such, one said they had to “spend a penny,” meaning well you know now.
So, there is some, probably, useless information you’ll never use again, but you might read about in my next book.
Writers need to learn about all kinds of crazy things, which got me thinking about how crazy writers are in general. Here are some facts about writers (none of which I have time to verify):
Victor Hugo wrote without clothes. I think he started this when he was working on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and he told his loyal valet to hide his clothes, so he could not leave his house and would be forced to write. Or nap, like I sometimes do. So, if you re-read that classic, think of the nude Hugo, hunched over his writing desk pouring it all out for ya, and keep in mind the look on his servants’ faces. (he was known to sleep with some of the maids)
Honoré de Balzac kept the words flowing with over 50 cups of coffee each day. I’m not going to worry about my espresso addiction. Gonna pause here to go brew a cuppa.
Stephen King doesn’t remember writing a great portion of his many bestsellers. Addicted to drugs and booze for years he admitted he didn’t remember writing “Cujo.” Good to know he’s totally sober and says that the myth of the writer who needs booze to write is “one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time.” King also wrote one of my all-time favorite books (not to mention how great his tweets are about Trump) on writing called “On Writing.”
Those few mentions don’t even address all the writers who ended up killing themselves (don’t worry I’m not going anywhere): Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Hunter Thomas, Sylvia Plath, (possibly) Jack London, but he was an alcoholic, bipolar and addicted to morphine, so who knows.
There were (are?) a lot of drug addicted writers who were also geniuses; Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe. (I don’t do drugs, nor advocate doing it while writing. Writing is too hallucinogenic as it is.)
Then there were the ones writing while afflicted (and often going mad and dying because of it) with syphilis; Tolstoy, Karen Blixen (her husband’s fault) Charles Baudelair, Gustave Flaubert, Nietzche, Guy de Mapassant.
Writers are an interesting bunch. . .
Where I write in Italy.
Spent a day with Little Person No. 1 at the BNP Paribas tennis tournament in Indian Wells. We lucked out and saw Nadal, Federer, Serena Williams (who had to quit mid-way through due to a virus), and the number 2 women’s Simona Halep, a Romania powerhouse. I always find athletes inspiring. I’m not taking up tennis but going to exercise more. I just walked up my hill.
Ball people – I’d like a few running around my house fetching things.
The most fun was driving around visiting various Desert X installations. My favorite was a big pink block.
Dive In at Desert X
I was super proud to be a speaker at the 2nd Annual International Women’s Day Event in Santa Barbara speaking about the marginalized and stigmatized women I write and make documentaries about. These women have all inspired me; the way they have overcome so much adversity to thrive. My talk was about them and all that I have to do to make their stories come to life (i.e. get published and get produced) I spoke of how to turn “no” into what one needs to “know” to succeed. Do not accept “no.” Turn every “no” into what you need to do to pursue your dreams. (Edhat covered the event and they have a great article about all the incredible women that spoke) Thank you ShelterBox (an organization we support) for co-hosting. ShelterBox is starting a new campaign “She” which “sheds light on gender disparities in disasters and conflict.”
Spring Break! Its kids and mom gone wild in Italia!!! Zipped over here for a couple weeks of rest and relaxation and eating pasta and hikes up our hill (“hikes” is an exaggeration. Everyone knows I DON’T “hike.”) We have geese (they hiss at me) sheep, chickens, a rooster (love him!!) and two beautiful turkeys (none will be eaten). So far pretty warm and gorgeous. Cold nights and mornings so we wake to a fire roaring in the fire place (one Little Person suggested it would be awesome to build a fire in the middle of the salon floor! Ah, NO) while I sip my many espressos, read and doodle.
If your BOOK CLUB would like me to visit via Skype I’m available on the road or when I’m at home. It’s been fun coming into your homes, sending specialty FAN cocktail recipes before for you all to try. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to join in on some Fun FAN talking. A questionnaire is available on my website to download for your Book club.
And lastly what I’m reading or recently read
for complete list, I have everything on Good Reads
as I can’t remember them all!
I’ve made a goal of 4-6 classic books I’ve never read for the summer. I’m cheating a little as I just started “Anna Karenina.” My list includes “War & Peace,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “On the Road,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Villette.” I downloaded more on my Kindle, so we’ll see.
My current recommendation is “The Storyteller’s Secret.” After suffering multiple miscarriages a woman goes in search of not only her identity but her mother’s when she makes a visit to India after a death in her family. Really good. Great weaving back and forth between the story of the grandmother (the storyteller) and the narrator (a journalist).