My mother wanted children for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons that stuck with me was that she wanted someone with whom to share children’s books.  She hit jackpot with her firstborn (my brother didn’t really like books or literature of any kind until college), and I was reading before kindergarten.  Every year at Christmas I got a stack of children’s literature; and the public library was always my favorite place to visit. My mother got me started with the greats:

  • Little House books;
  • Shel Silverstein poetry;
  • Tasha Tudor illustrations;
  • Winnie the Pooh;
  • Maurice Sendak’s illustrated version of The Nutcracker;
  • Little Golden Books;
  • The Velveteen Rabbit.

There were others, sure.  And then on my father’s side there was the slapstick of childhood in Warner Brother’s cartoons (he preferred them to Disney, but Disney was okay by him too if the film had actors he liked, such as Phil Harris or Jimmy Durante).

I inherited all of this, in addition to a pretty deep attachment to LEGOs, Harry Potter, and the legends of comic books and graphic novels.  I like Pixar movies.  If I could still go to story hour and not make the room uncomfortable, I would.  I love coloring books.

There are two worlds of whirling dervish right now on social media: Marie Kondo’s broadcasts of decluttering lives, and Bill Maher proclaiming that comics are something everyone should have outgrown at the age of 17 and a half.  Marie believes in ridding our lives of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” including–gasp–books, if that’s the case. Maher doesn’t care if the comic books spark joy, get rid of them anyway and grow up. Read the adult stuff, he insists, like Dickens or Melville, etc.

I have to admit a couple of things here.  First, I haven’t seen the Marie Kondo episodes on Netflix; I’m a neat freak already and I imagine Kondo would just bore me.  I do watch Maher’s show Real Time, but I watch it more for the same reason that I occasionally pick up a copy of O Magazine; I like the contributors more than the host.  I could do without Bill (or Oprah), but I’m pretty impassioned about his show; without it I wouldn’t be aware of some of the stuff that I think it’s important that I should be aware of.  Some of that awareness is despicable, but some of it isn’t.  Do I agree with Maher on his take on comic books? Nope. Do I agree with all of his contributors? Nope. Do I cringe when he puts some of these contributors on? Oh yes.

But whether it’s Kondo or Maher or someone else, I think the lighting of the hair on fire based on disagreement could be discarded unless it could be presented as discourse.  If I ever get around to watching Kondo for fun some rainy afternoon, then I’m not planning on losing my mind when she says ditch some books; that’s just the piece of the pie I don’t need to take, and then I can drop and move on.  When Bill launched into this anti-comic tirade last Friday night, I wasn’t happy (it seemed like an over-simplification, but so does the “spark joy” argument and all of the arguments against Kondo and Maher), but that’s just the piece I don’t take with me.

When did the internet turn into self-help?  There’s nothing wrong with self-help, either, but goodness, did the folks watching any self-proclaimed subject matter expert really think they should have that complete authority?

Maybe we learn something from everything, albeit not always the intended lesson of the teacher.  Kondo’s whirlwind taught me that, and she meant to teach us all how to be neater.  Maher’s whirlwind is reinforcing something in my learning; I have often thought my failures have hatched in not following the well-intentioned and/or unasked advice of others, when I should consider the various contributors.  Maher’s ranting about comics during his editorial bits teach me how important all voices are, including my own.

I don’t need to yell at Kondo to “Leave my books alone!” or yell at Maher to “Leave my children’s literature alone!” I just need to shrug and read my books, be them Melville (which I love) or Winnie the Pooh (which I still love), or watch Ant-Man (which is still the laugh I need).  Keep talking, Kondo and Maher.  Someone’s nodding in agreement somewhere, and you’re the validation they need…but I’m good on my own, finding validation elsewhere.


I finished the last of my collection of the popular “Sherlock” episodes this morning, addicted and left poised at the end with a teaser of Moriarty resurrected.  I put away the iPod and came back to my own words for a little while, knowing that dissatisfaction leads to those itches of other addictions again…dark chocolates with savories…silver…ice wine…a song on repeat (“Demons” by Imagine Dragons?  “Madness” by Muse?)…stacked up issues of The New Yorker…Rachel Maddow appearances on other people’s talk shows…baseball statistics…fountain pens…a heavy book in the hand.

Philip Seymour Hoffman movies.


I have heard many accounts of addiction in the arts (if you love literature it’s difficult to miss), and, as always happens with unexpected tragedy, the question of “why?” pops up.  We want a neat answer to a messy question.  Of a written account, addiction is best described in my mind as feeding a hole that seems to be neglected by the resources of society in general…I myself have had sex and went shopping so many times for the wrong reasons that I am continually shocked and/or grateful that I’m not dead or living in a box in the San Francisco Tenderloin.  My problem has often been “written off” to being a creative, an assessment by others that is not only inaccurate but throws the baby out with the bathwater; apparently, if I weren’t a creative or possibly gave it up I wouldn’t need my addictions, for I’d be as happy as the rest of the world.  What’s ironic in this “solution” is that if I go too long without writing or my more wholesome (but nerd-defined) passions then I start playing roulette with my body and my pocketbook again…if I were more amply supported as a creative there might be less cause for the addictions.  Knowing that not being supported in the arts triggers my addictions, however, I tend to skip the judgment these days, and therefore, for the most part, skip the dangerous slip back into the self-damaging stuff.

Was Hoffman’s addiction a neglected hole?  Did he feel inadequate despite his accomplishments, or maybe inadequate because of them?  I wish I would have known him personally to know for sure, but that probably would have prompted more pain in the knowing.  I have some sense.  I’m sure we all do on some level:  indulging in one or two or three more beers on a Friday night because the workweek was awful AGAIN and we believe we can’t find better employment…picking on the significant other because we know he or she will put up with anything and feeling powerful easily eases the pain…eating our weight in sauce-flavored potato chips in front of our Netflix marathon of “Duck Dynasty.”  The fact that Phil’s addiction was named “heroin” makes his death sexy for some and easy judgment for others…for who cares if one dies of sex with the wrong men and buying six too many handbags?  Instead of titillation or smugness, however, I am mostly saddened by the fact that his great art wasn’t even enough to keep the demons away.  I watched the television last Sunday stunned, not thinking sardonically that this was because he was a creative and “no wonder” this happens, but, since Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, instead consumed by this:

I wish I could have done something to help.  I wish the art could have been enough, and I wish all of us could have done something more to help.