Wednesday, February 24, 2010

... with apologies (sort of) to Garrison Keillor

And here is the HimPlus Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday. It’s the twenty-fourth of February, two-thousand-and-ten.

It’s the fifth day since Friday, when Michael and Sheri met two other couples for dinner. Ate thin-crust pizza garnished with feta cheese and walnuts. Listened to a guitarist whose play list ranged from Edith Piaf to Pearl Jam. Talked about Italy and gender roles and about what to call contemporary music made in the classical tradition. The couples at the table all writers of some sort – a couple of novelists, journalists, literary translators, and one who works with sounds rather than words. All Him+ couples, too: Him+10, Him+15 and Michael and Sheri, Him+17.

[deep, noisy inhalation]

It’s also the 130th anniversary of the year Robert Louis Stevenson married his beloved Fanny, a woman ten – or maybe 11 – years his senior. Stevenson, author of classic books such as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Met Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, a married woman, an American, while on a trip to an artist’s colony in France with his cousin, Bob. Pursued her to California, where she divorced her husband, married the penniless writer and joined him for a honeymoon in a shack in Northern California. Their love affair continued until Stevenson’s death in 1894, and included a sitting for Stevenson’s friend, the painter John Singer Sargent.

[deeper, even noisier inhalation]

It’s also five months until the birthday of Raymond Chandler, author of detective fiction including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, and husband to a woman 18 years his senior. Chandler was thirty-five when he married his wife, who was fifty-three. She marked her age on the wedding certificate as ten years younger, and told Chandler that was her age. He believed her. When Cissy Chandler died in 1954, Raymond drank himself into alcoholism and attempted suicide. As quoted in Judith Freeman’s history of their affair, The Long Embrace, Chandler wrote of his despair to a friend: "My only problem is that I have no home, and no one to care for if I did have one."

And now here are a few lines from “The Older Woman”, a poem by Cathleen Calbert, published in The Southern Review, Summer 2007.

The Older Woman

means a younger man. Without him, she ' s just sipping cappuccinos alone at some canal-side restaurant in Venice

or lobbing a long one to her unfaithful yet age-appropriate, career-compatible significant other

or curled up as the cupie-doll sweetie-pie of Monsieur LaRue, sensitive if impotent lover seventeen years her senior.

She needs him, that fine-looking fly-boy, the babe who hasn't seen Casablanca,

who's had women bosses and not squawked,

who spoon-feeds her scrambled eggs, who buys her a tiny diamond chip, who says things like, I'm ready to commit,

because, by God, he is. He doesn't know he’s not supposed to. Where are his brother-men?

An excerpt from “The Older Woman”, by Cathleen Calbert, published in The Southern Review, Summer 2007. And that’s the HimPlus17 Writer’s Almanac, for today, Wednesday, February 24th. Be well. Do good work. And keep in touch.

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