Temper Your Idolatry

Yesterday, someone showed up randomly at this post and told me (and other fans) that we needed to “temper our idolatry” of Marlon Brando. My response was a pretty basic, “No.”

Also, naturally, I had to immediately change my banner. I can be obnoxious like that.

A bit of background before we get started. In the past, on my site, there have been times when certain readers got a little unnaturally fixated on me. Most of these people are gone, because they either got sick of being ignored, or they became so disgusted with how I wrote and what I wrote about that they decamped forever. This doesn’t happen so much anymore, this was back in the early days of my site. I wrote more personal stuff back then, and there were times when people (guys, mostly, although there have been a couple of creepy women as well) got fixated. It manifested itself in many ways. I suppose you could say they had Internet crushes on me, but I have Internet crushes on a ton of writers, many of whom I read on a daily basis, and I don’t have such weird responses to these fine gentlemen. I just like “hanging out” in their vicinity on the Internet. But these guys of which I speak seemed somehow personally invested in me, and, worse than that (because someone responding to me personally is what I want, that’s the best compliment a writer can receive) – needed my approval. They needed to at LEAST be acknowledged. If I wrote about James Joyce, they wanted me to at least give the props to Tom Clancy somewhere in the same post so they wouldn’t feel left out. (My response? No.) If they liked it when I wrote about politics, and then I took a week to write about Bogart, they would chide me in the comments section: “This is boring. When are you getting back to politics?” They wanted me to be what THEY needed me to be. A lot of the times it was people with a cultural chip on their shoulders (“Well, I don’t know anything about ‘literature’, but I don’t need the liberal elite to tell me what to read …”) OR it was more self-consciously high-brow people who LOVED it when I talked about literature/foreign films – but who balked at some of my populist tastes. (“I thought I knew you, Sheila. I can’t believe you are reading the Twilight books.” Or: “How on earth someone as intelligent as you seem to be can also like the movie A Walk to Remember is a mystery to me.”) There was the notorious case of the guy who told me he would no longer read me because I was writing about Square Pegs. Apparently, the Scroll function had been deactivated on his computer.

Years ago, I got two contemptuous comments on two different posts in the very same week. One accused me of being “elitist”, and one accused me of being “shallow”. It was a great week. If I was so pissing off two totally different groups, then I must be doing something right. But it was also a great reminder to just write what I wanted to write. If I wrote about American Idol or Oscar night fashions, then the high-brow types called me “shallow”. If I wrote a 10,000 word post about Sylvia Beach and James Joyce, the cultural-chips-on-shoulder types would sneer at my “elitism”. Yup, that’s me. Bringing Shallow Elitist Content to you since 2002.

These are more topic-driven objections, but then there were the real scary ones – only a couple – who seemed to feel I owed them something/I should reveal more/I was being “vague” just to frustrate them/I was looking for a Knight in Shining Armor and it was clearly THEM I was yearning for. These are the ones who took my site totally personally. If I wrote about a guy I was interested in, and mentioned I loved a specific body type, these guys (people I had never met) would pepper the comments section about how I needed to branch out, and consider other body types (clearly THEIR body types). I am not exaggerating. “So … a skinny guy wouldn’t have a chance with you, is that what you’re saying?” these people would ask, when I had written about some beefy-bodied guy I was in love with. As though I would ever answer, “Actually, yes, I am now going to totally change my personal taste in order that YOU will be in the running as my Prince Charming.” One guy sent me a photo of himself and he wasn’t wearing a shirt. The message read: “Would you consider this blurpy?” (“Blurpy” is my word for the male body-type I am most drawn to. Don’t think “fat”, think Dylan Moran or a young Bill Murray. Blurpy.) Like: this guy was really worried that he wasn’t blurpy enough and sent a STRANGER a photo of himself asking her opinion. I didn’t respond to these emails by the way. But they creeped me out. They treated my writing as though it was one long Personal Ad, as opposed to the nerdy hobby of a woman out there in the world who loves/needs to write. I wrote a sad post once (this was years ago), and within 45 seconds I got an email from some guy saying, “I wish I could race across the country and take you in my arms.” Holy shitballs, sir, please don’t do that. I know the opposing arguments, and that all of this is somewhat flattering, but it can also make you want to hire a security detail. I would write something, an opinion about a movie I didn’t like, and someone would rail in the comments, “Hey!!! I LIKED that movie!” Uhm, so? Good for you? Why does it shock you that you and I, total strangers, are not 100% in agreement?

I want to be clear that the “temper your idolatry” man is NOT in this category at all. He is just a driveby guy, a random commenter, not one of those long-lasting creeps who continued to read my site even though they repeatedly told me that they “couldn’t stand actors”, they “hated James Joyce”, and they “despised the East Coast.” (Methinks if you hold all of those opinions, then this site is clearly not for you. Why drive yourself so insane by making daily visits to a woman whose very EXISTENCE you find strangely compelling and yet also deeply irritating?) I think the bottom line was: these dudes wanted desperately for me to acknowledge them/their tastes/their concerns. They couldn’t stand being “left out”. I said to one of them once, “I am expressing MYSELF on this site, NOT YOU”. But for whatever reason, they visited me constantly and yet still would shiver with rage every time I wrote something.

So. There’s the background for those of you who might be new-ish to my site. But my friends and long-time readers know the struggles I’ve had in the past with these weirdos who would squat on my blog and wait for me to say something, ANYTHING, that would annoy them so they could jump right on that! Because nothing says “I’m a big tough guy” than anonymously railing at some strange woman who never did you any harm on the Internet just because she is writing about Square Pegs.

After the “temper your idolatry” comment came in, I posted on Facebook:

Some dude showed up on my site today and told me I needed to “temper my idolatry” of Marlon Brando. My response? No.

People started responding. I liked Beth Jean’s comment: “HEY YOU ON THE INTERNET. LIKE THAT THING LESS!”

That thread is now 165 comments long, but that is mainly because of what happened when my friend Carrie started commenting. Carrie and I have been long-distance friends (although once we were in person) for a long time, and she’s been reading my site from almost Day One. With no prompting, she began weaving a long tale about a guy who had a Travis-Bickle-esque fascination with me, and who took it to extreme levels. What is amazing to me is how much this woman REMEMBERS about what I have written. I had forgotten half of this stuff.

I tracked down supporting links this morning, and while this is all quite narcissistic, I’m okay with that. Just add it to the “shallow” and “elitist” list.

Carrie’s first comment on the FB thread was an amusing warning:

Yeah, Sheila, less of the divisive rhetoric that is tearing us apart these days. Seriously, you need to temper your idolatry before someone gets hurt. Dial it down before the wrong person reads it and does something we all regret!

And then, out of nowhere she began. I have cut and paste her story here, and filled up the text with supporting links, which makes me even more gob-smacked at everything she has remembered. The cab drivers! The eyeball!

This is what happens when you get too invested in what one individual dares to write on the Internet.

Carrie, I stand back in awe at your genius.

Temper Your Idolatry
by Carrie

He was wearing a tight tee-shirt, he had oranges for a smile, he held the cat a little too tightly, he rode a horse into revolution, but the worst was his singing; he’d been reading too much Sheila O’Malley and all his neighbors were starting to get concerned. It was when he started talking about time travel and wearing shiny suits that they knew he was lost. He soon began to stick mimeographed copies of the Constitution under the windshield wipers of the cars in the parking structure at his place of former employment. This was to be the last straw.

He stalked Dean Stockwell at art openings; he moved to Venice Beach and advertised himself as a babysitter of chihuahuas and finder of exotic Russian women, with a sideline in bedazzling leather suit vests. His own wardrobe, however, consisted mainly of a bathrobe and clear jellies.

He would go into the desert, he would bring his camera with him, he would mumble, he learned to be without empathy for others, an inner man, a Richard Bone. HIs head swirled; the idolatry overwhelmed him. And still, Sheila O’Malley insisted on inserting herself into the story.

He began to think maybe Ted Hughes wasn’t such a bastard after all, and then he wished he too had seen 1776, the musical, when he was at school. He only saw the inside of her eyeball. He heard voices. They said, “Don’t even try, CHiPs.”

And that is where they found him, sprawled outside the giant toilet in front of the Charmin courtesy stop. If only the idolaty had been tempered, if only he hadn’t been infected, if only she had blogged just a little instead of a whole lot, if only she had never waxed enthusiastically about Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando, that was where it all began, it was too much, it was all her fault. She was a voodoo priestess and he was the dolls; her words were the pins that drove him.

If only she had idolized Robert DeNiro instead.

It was Diary Friday, and he was on edge. It made him feel as if he and Sheila O’Malley were one. This trembling, this sense of.. of… words could not describe. The look back. He found himself wishing, instead, for an anecdote about John Wayne and John Huston, even if he’d heard it before. He began to talk like Cary Grant.

This meant pratfalls, poorly executed on his part.

His dates complained that he only took them to Iranian Film Festivals. Or, he imagined that they complained; he imagined them. He didn’t speak Persian, but that didn’t stop him. He chattered ceaselessly to random taxi drivers, making them nervous, he couldn’t understand it, they all talked to Sheila O’Malley, why wouldn’t they talk to him? If only she had tempered her idolatry, he coulda been somebody. He coulda been a contender. Charlie, it was you, Charlie, it was you. Heartcrack. His heart cracked. He played the bongos, cursing Matthew McConaghey.

And then. He began to send letters to Renee Zellwegger. He was truly infected now. He called her “Apple Doll” and “Scrunched Up Face”. He wasn’t nice. He asked was she sprinkled with Bland Spice. He saw it as his quest. To take down Renee and her lack of eyes and abundance of cheeks. His letters became more effusive, more frequent. He felt he was truly getting somewhere. This was his calling.

And then.

Sheila O’Malley changed her mind.

He felt like he had been attacked by Nihilists, as if his rug, and his car, was stolen, and he was without a Walter to ask, “Is this your homework? Is this your homework?”. He felt as if Karl Malden had shoved his head under a running shower. As if he looked in the mirror, and realized he wasn’t an Angel, he was the Devil. As if he really couldn’t eat strawberries after all. And, worst of all, that the taste of cigars actually repulsed him. He remembered that Sheila O’Malley had never finished her promised essay about Men and Mirrors, and what it all means, he felt bereft, without answers, his anchor afloat in a sea of false idolatry. Was it really all for nothing? Was it really all down to the fickle whims of a passionate blogger? If only she had tempered her idolatry, if only her answer didn’t ring like a laconic, “Whatt’aya got?”

If only he liked Metallica.

He started to care about what happened to Marshall Mathers in real life.

He quoted Emily Dickinson on the subway. Dammit, Sheila O’Malley, you and your maps of Kazakhstan and Original Serbia! He wanted to avenge the crimes of 300 years ago. He saw crosshairs and hated her denials, her 404s. He saw patterns and realized they all revolved around the letter “B”. He cried when he heard La Marseillaise, and was surprised to discover real tears. He wanted jowls. He still did not know how to whistle.

The thing was, he didn’t even like firemen, but found himself secretly pleased when he was woken up one evening by three of them pounding on his door. He even invited them in.

He didn’t like Obama; he didn’t like cats – he was more a dog man, himself, before. Before Sheila O’Malley. Now, he had pictures of cats, everywhere. Cats stretching in the sun. Cats giving him dirty looks. Cats looking far too satisfied with themselves. Cats who were arch. In his kitchen, framed, in red, blue, beige: Hope. Yet he himself did not have a cat. Allergies.

The photos made him feel uncomfortably inadequate.

He took long walks along stormy seas. Endlessly long walks. He froze. The waves taunted him; he couldn’t swim.

He started patronizing his local Dunkin Donuts. Not for any pastries; it was coffee he was after, in warm styrofoam cups he would drink barehanded sitting in his car, in empty parking lots. He didn’t really like coffee, he would have preferred tea. He was driven, he was out of control. He mailed himself packages of Dunkin Donuts ground coffee, and was strangely ecstatic when they arrived in the post, even though he knew he had sent them to himself, and he did not own a coffeemaker.

He was a man possessed. Yet everything he did only pointed to his own shortcomings. He was the opposite of everything he did. He collected dollar bills in various denominations and kept them in his wallet like they were photos of friends he could not forget. He would sit in the most comfortable chair in Borders and read self-help books he could not bring himself to actually buy. He admired Julia Roberts but didn’t actually like her. All of this was something that could have been avoided, if only Sheila O’Malley had tempered her idolatry.

But she didn’t, oh, no, she didn’t. She kept writing, she threw caution to the wind, it was like she was oblivious to his very existence, worse, she didn’t even care, she said, “So what!” and “This is MY blog, not yours”, she didn’t understand the impact her words had on the mentally vulnerable, she didn’t understand mind control, she didn’t care about the Grammarians. She just. Did Not. Care.

He spent a week watching nothing but William Holden movies. And then he spent another week watching them again. Such an under-rated talent. Sigh.

She wouldn’t even consider writing about someone he did like, like Johnny Depp or Mike Myers.

But then she would write about something that he felt was totally beneath her, like, American Idol. American Idol!

He talked to her all the time, but she never talked back. This was a situation he was familiar with.

He hid naked pictures of Marilyn Monroe under his mattress next to his copy of Death of a Salesman. It was his attempt at symbolism which then escaped him as he forgot they were there.

He was sick of Fionnuala Flanagan. Really, really sick of her.

Yes, I said yes, I will, yes, No, I said no, I won’t, a thousand times no, Dean Stockwell, Mickey Rourke, Jeff Bridges, Marlon Brando, Bananarama, she was a square peg and he was a round hole, temper your idolatry, the Grammarians don’t understand, how can you temper idolatry, it is a contradiction that is impossible, it is a flourish, it is a man who doesn’t understand and what man doesn’t understand Brando for god’s sake, Brando, this was his problem, and how did he end up anyway but fat as two houses and that is why Sheila O’Malley should temper her idolatry! Brando! I mean, really, Brando! He wished it was as simple as the Founding Fathers. He didn’t understand bookshelves.

He especially didn’t like Oprah’s.

He once paid a stranger to rap his neighbor’s window at 3 in the morning. The next day, he paid another stranger to rap his own window. He then tried to get the stranger to crawl into his apartment through the window. When the stranger did, he acted like he was really scared. nd then he really was scared. There was a stranger in his house at 3 in the morning and he wanted more money than what he had originally agreed upon. And he didn’t want to spend the rest of the night talking to him.

The worst part of it was, he wasn’t even in Chicago. He had never even BEEN to Chicago. He lived in Minnesota.

He wore overalls and a funny hat.

There was no one in his life to put the brakes on him. He was careening, skidding across the road, bouncing off the walls of the motorway, he was no Bogart. He had nothing. Not even a roll of duct tape. He couldn’t even pretend he was living in a video game. His jellies made his feet sweat. And still she kept writing.

He watched both versions of True Grit and became very confused. Conflicted, even.

He wished he was blurpy.

Finally, even he couldn’t take anymore. It was like she made up her own words. Her sentence constructs, though understandable, did not meet his standards. Who did she think she was, liking what she liked and speaking her mind without a care to what anyone else thought? And then she wouldn’t dial it down. She wouldn’t see where her rhetoric would cause division. She mocked him! She wrote of watching Grizzly Man in open contempt. She wore lipstick! She talked about getting great haircuts but never posted any pictures of them. But she did post photos of her alter egos, which underlined his thesis of mind control, especially those big giant sun glasses. Something had to be done.

He created a Twitter account.

His first tweet: “I hate actors.”

His second tweet: “I hate actors!”

He was upset that he couldn’t edit his tweets and felt foolish for retweeting the same thing, punctuation corrected.

He tweeted a photo of a cat.

He tweeted another photo of a cat.

He took a walk around his block and took photos of signs just so he could tweet them.

He had no followers.

He went to the library and took photos of the bookshelves and tweeted them as if they were his shelves.

He was beginning to get the hang of this Twitter thing. He tweeted about William Holden. He really did like him. “Ted Hughes is unfairly misunderstood by all the Plath fans. It really isn’t fair,” he tweeted.

He secretly started to like Twitter. Really, really like it. He tweeted: “Hd lnch, gd. Dnr l8tr. Nd nap. CUWWBU!!!!1 LULZ”

Are his next tweets going to end up in a YouTube video or will this have a happy ending?

Well, what he discovered from Tweeting on Twitter was his own voice. He started to write what HE liked. And he started telling people to piss off if they didn’t like it. And he found he really liked that. So his tweets became a mixture of random details of his day, like his new Swiffer and how much he liked it, or the joy of Netflix, and telling people to piss off. Some days it was more piss offs than about setting up his electronics. Other days he just tweeted about what he liked to eat.

Sheila O’Malley, however, was the pea to his mattress, the pebble to his shoe. No matter how hard he tried to shake her, she still managed to irritate. And anytime he thought he’d forgotten all about her, she would do something like post about Laurette Taylor, or Abraham Lincoln.

Because he still had to read her blog. And she never tempered her idolatry of Brando.

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33 Responses to Temper Your Idolatry

  1. Kerry says:

    I can’t get over how brilliant and hilarious this is. And how closely she has been paying attention. And how many of the references make me realize how closely I have been paying attention as well. :-)

    • sheila says:

      Kerry – she pulled up stuff I didn’t even remember. And how she worked it into her tale – turning it into something terrifying!

      She’s so awesome.

      • sheila says:

        Kerry, it took a little digging to find the comment where I said I was no longer going to be mean to Renee Z, but I found it! You are the cause! :)

  2. george says:

    The besotted types might be helped/encouraged with a convenient link to eHarmony. The others should have Carrie sicced on them – may God have mercy on their souls.

  3. Dean Esmay says:

    One of the things I love about your blog, Sheila, is the fact that you *are* one of the few remaining “old school” bloggers, or at least one of the few remaining whom I see: writing what you want, when you want, for whatever reason you want. Blogging has reached a new level that isn’t always good; too much of it is professionalized, depersonalized, channeled toward specific subjects. The “realness” isn’t there anymore, with so many of them. Part of that is I suppose Facebook; the other is the relentless quest to pursue money rather than passion.

    For reasons it’s hard to go into, I can no longer write as much about personal stuff as I used to; I wish I could, though sometimes a little can seep in through the cracks. And I’ve had to deal with the obsessive creeps too, although my chosen ways are different; I still can’t get past the need sometimes to argue with the fixated and obnoxious creeps rather than just ban them, and that’s something I have to work on. The utter condescension of some people, who presume to talk down to people they’ve never even met, often hidden behind a nom-de-plume: it’s astounding sometimes, but at the same time, maybe it’s just showing the seedy side in human nature for how common it is.

    Anyway, at some point we all have to make the choice: is it the biggest audience we want? Or is it to express ourselves as we are? You express yourself as you are–not in all things, but what is there is as real as it gets, and that’s too rare a commodity in this world.

    You write with passion about your passions. I love that about you. It’s too rare these days.

    I’ve had people actually tell me I need to change X, Y, or Z when I blog, and I’m rather blunt about it: I tell them that when they’re paying me to write, I’ll write what they want. Otherwise they need to get a life and read someone else.

    I have less readers these days and I’m glad of it. It got so bad at some point I had to hide my email address and I still don’t give it out. I like it better that way. You either like what I write or you don’t. Sure I wish everybody in the world loved everything I write, but how silly is such a desire?

    I’m rambling but… no, please don’t temper anything. Keep being you. Not enough people are in blogging these days.

  4. Jaquandor says:

    Huh. Temper your idolatry? That would be a shame for those of us who have been idolizing your temper.

  5. Kate says:

    Oh my! What an opus!

    As a newcomer myself I sometimes feel as if to read is to pry, but one thing I’ve learned is that the only thing one can do, essentially, is live her own life. If that life happens to be enriched by someone else’s words, wonderful. If not, oh well.

    Once a woman gave me the address to her blog. I thought it was an invitation, so I looked at it over the next couple of days. Then the woman posted something like: “I hope that voyeuristic librarian has gone back to shelving her books and will leave me alone.” Shocked, I wrote the woman an actual letter that I sent in the mail assuring her that I would never read her blog again. And I haven’t. I haven’t even been tempted. I was creeped out by her insecurity.

    Instead I have found that in the best cases, the blogging world is rather like Bloomsbury or the Inklings: a group of writing, thinking people loosely tied together. One or another person in the group can call out a title or a name or write a snatch of poetry and the rest will nod and say yes, and have you considered . . . and the conversation runs on and on.

    So, thank you for letting me join the conversation. And thank you for sharing your idolatry with all of us!


    • sheila says:

      Kate – God, I’m upset for you about that story about the blogger. That’s really scary, actually. You just never know what buttons you’re going to push in people. Ugh.

      I’m very glad you show up here from time to time. Your comments are always very nice and very interesting.

  6. Fionnchú says:

    You mean our Carrie did not comment yet here? Cheers to her genius and your own.

    • sheila says:

      Carrie is now, apparently, working on a sequel on Facebook.

      • Carrie says:

        The Shadow Man lives. I just bet he will show up here now and again randomly, in the comments of course.

        I love the idea of this guy who actually tries to do the things he reads in your blog, who feels compelled to, even though it makes him do things he clearly does not like nor understand and is not very good at. And then blames you for all of it. Because, of course, it’s all your fault that he carries an Almanac with him so he always knows what has happened On This Day whenever he needs to, and has developed a mild case of back strain as a result.

        It is so much fun to write.

        I’m remembering all the things I forgot, like how he went to the Sciencetology Center to get audited for a joke and ended up a cult member, or the time he drew a swastika on his forehead with a Sharpie (it was backwards and lasted for 4 weeks). How when he dressed up as Sharon Tate for Halloween everyone thought he was Sissy Spacek but none of them had heard of Badlands and he didn’t understand why they were talking about pig’s blood. He had also taken to keeping a jug of blue water in his fridge for when he wanted to test women’s sanitary products and compare their ability to absorb. He bought all the Tampax he could before it sold out.

        You see, it’s like a ball of string.

        Delighted you liked it, Sheila, thank you so much for putting it on your blog! xoxo

        • sheila says:

          // . He had also taken to keeping a jug of blue water in his fridge for when he wanted to test women’s sanitary products and compare their ability to absorb. He bought all the Tampax he could before it sold out. //


          Yes, it’s so pathetic and terrifying imagining this guy TRYING to be into what I’m into – even though he doesn’t like any of it.

  7. mutecypher says:

    Temper Your Idolatry?

    I say continue to Idle Your Temperance!

    Sheila Straight, No Chaser.

  8. Jaquandor says:

    Whoa…wait a minute…the weirdo in the story wears overalls…I wear overalls…well, nothing else lines up, so far as I can see. Whew!!

  9. amelie says:

    In your introduction to Carrie’s *hilarious* story, I found myself eagerly anticipating which posts she’d reference, and I was delighted by the choices!

    Never a dull moment here, no matter what the topic. I’m so glad I was introduced to your blog, Sheila!

  10. sheila says:

    Just a quick note: In general, I don’t like it when bloggers bitch about their own commenters. It seems ungracious. And to be clear: the comment about “temper your idolatry” didn’t anger me, or throw me – worse has been said to me! I just thought Carrie’s spinning of this into a tale of insane obsession was too good not to share.

    Additionally (and this is really in response to you, Dean): my stories that I told at the beginning of the post literally stopped happening on a regular basis in around 2004, 2005, once I decided to make it my business to get the readership I really wanted. I completely changed the folks on my blogroll. I got rid of 99% of the folks there. I started commenting on film blogs and book blogs, and so got a better readership (better meaning: more in line with at least my interests, if not my tastes). So these are old OLD tales, and I find them amusing rather than a current annoyance. I handled the problem. It took some doing, but I did it! Many of the old-timers (including Miss Carrie herself) were there back then – and many of those people have become true friends – Cara, Emily, Dan, Tommy, DBW – Stevie – a couple others.

    The biggest problem was when I started writing primarily for the naysayers. It’s a terrible writing style, used by many, and it’s a huge turn off. Starting with an argumentative tone: “I know none of you out there like Joyce, but I do, and so here’s another post about him!” It’s like bear-baiting. So the bears kept coming out of the cave. Once I completely started IGNORING the comments from the people who hated what I wrote about – they really did get tired of talking into a void. And slowly but surely they became outnumbered by the new folks, who were, in general, more fun, total film buffs, book-lovers, and culture-hounds. My peeps. It became, almost by osmosis, a LESS welcoming place to those who only came here to nitpick and argue and criticize. So I’m really happy with my site now. And happy I have people who visit me every day. I love having readers. I like hanging out here myself.

    And come on, let’s GIVE IT UP FOR CARRIE.

  11. sheila says:

    Oh, and check out my blogroll if you’re looking for some new reads, if you feel blogging is somehow depersonalized now. Many of them, yes, are geared toward specific subjects. But these are good writers, with vibrant comments sections, great conversations going on all day – I find that people who only hang out on political blogs have a hard time adjusting to how people talk to each other outside that toxic belljar. But once you leave that world where everyone is shouting at each other all the time, the air is much clearer. Lots of nice people, lots of excellent writers.

  12. Debra T. says:

    Does Mr. Hughes follow Scientology now?
    I loved reading your friends opus. For me the favorite part of your blog is all the places you take me that I never knew existed. Thank you.
    Deb T.

  13. Serena says:

    Wow! That was exhilarating! Wow! What a trip! Sheila, I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years and have never commented before. I don’t know who Carrie is but she is one clever writer. Thanks, that was great.

  14. Charles J. Sperling says:

    And I thought Stephen King’s Carrie was powerful!

    Three cheers and a tiger (or a frabjous day, calooh callay, if you prefer, for I chortle in my joy) to you, Carrie.

    (What was your prom like, Carrie? Dare I ask?)

    As for you, Sheila, it’s your blog and you should keep it yours, with one caveat: no bear-baiting with real bears. Literature is against you! Think of the lesson Kester Woodseaves teaches in Mary Webb’s *Precious Bane* (“Bear-baiting’s bad…”) and how it’s a sign of maturity when Fergus Markham grows out of bear-baiting in Anne Bronte’s *Tenant of Wildfell Hall.*

    Saw the Coens’s “True Grit” on Sunday and didn’t leave it “conflicted, even,” but I could have sworn that Mattie Ross speaks first of a sister named “Victoria” and later of a sister named “Violet.” Could this be an homage to “Shane” where at the end of the movie Shane calls Joey Starrett “Jimmy”?

  15. sheila says:

    Charles – yes yes yes I noticed that too. Violet/Victoria – you are the first person who has also mentioned it (that I am aware of). Maybe something was cut out, mention of a nickname or something like that, and so that disparity remained.

  16. sheila says:

    Charles – I have not read either of those bear-books you mention, although John Irving, with his obsession with bears, has given me enough warning.

    But seriously: if you write for the naysayers, then you’re just asking for trouble – unless you WANT to have a raucous free-for-all political blog – or you want to create an environment along the lines of 4chan – then the bear-baiting appears to be what it is all about. Draw the bears out by addressing them directly (and passive-aggressively – as though you really DON’T want to be talking to them), then watch as they all howl forward screaming and spluttering in outrage, and then calmly coolly cackle with contemptuous glee that you’ve made them reveal themselves. Seems quite boring to me, but hey, obviously people must enjoy that kind of badinage, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

  17. Charles J. Sperling says:

    Trouble was Philip Marlowe’s business (and even he admits to being tired of saying that by the end of the novella of that title): I’d much rather have discussion along the lines of a sermon from the good Dean Jonathan Swift:

    And when with grief you see your brother stray
    Or in a night of error lose his way
    Direct his wandering and restore the day.
    To guide his steps afford your kindest aid
    And gently pity whom you can’t persuade;
    Leave to avenging heaven his stubborn will,
    For, O Remember, he’s your brother still.

    Are there no Cider House Rules for commenting?

    So I didn’t imagine “Violet” and “Victoria”! I was kidding about a nod to Alan Ladd’s goof with Brandon de Wilde above, but the Coens did name a movie about one not made in “Sullivan’s Travels” in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and when they made a film noir in”The Man Who Wasn’t There,” the department store was named “Nirdlinger’s,” which was the actual name of the femme fatale at the heart of “Double Indemnity” (as Phyllis Nirdlinger, Barbara Stanwyck would have been more fatale than femme; the switch to Dietrichson was a sensible one: I wonder if it was Raymond Chandler’s idea rather than Billy Wilder’s, as Chandler was one who pointed out that James M. Cain’s dialogue, while right on the page, would have been less effective on the screen), which could mean that like the eye patches John Wayne and Jeff Bridges wear on different eyes in the two versions of “True Grit,” we’re, er…

    Meant to think of Iris DeMent singing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in light of Lillian Gish singing the same song as Rachel Cooper in “Night of the Hunter”? Or be waiting for her husband Greg Brown (who also knows about movies, particularly “small dark” ones!) to join in as Robert Mitchum’s Harry Powell joins against?


    Ah, Mary Webb. Stanley Baldwin writes an introduction to *Precious Bane* and Pressburger and Powell make one of your other books (*Gone to Earth*) into a movie, but you’re still as obscure as Jude, despite Simone de Beauvoir citing *Precious Bane* in *The Second Sex.*

    Next in my train reading is Denise Giardina’s *Emily’s Ghost,* and despite the subtitle calling it “A Novel of the Bronte Sisters,” I’ll be very surprised if Anne gets as much attention as the authors of *Wuthering Heights* and *Jane Eyre.* As Citizen Dick had to make due with a big record breaking in Belgium, Anne pretty much has to fall back on George Moore’s rave for *Agnes Grey.* No life from Mrs. Gaskell, no song from Kate Bush for Anne.

    And even Moore wasn’t too pleased with the epistolary format of *TheTenant of Wildfell Hall.*

    Exit, pursued by a bear-pun!

  18. Anne says:

    Is this the place to mention that I came across a book the tagline of which was “If you could date anyone in history and had access to a time machine, who would you date?” and thought of you?

    (Can’t say whether it’s any good, haven’t read it.)

  19. sheila says:

    Anne – hahahahahahahaha You’re one of the old-timers, too! Love it!

    Speaking of historical crushes, have you seen this? I do not believe your dead boyfriend (if I am recalling correctly, it was Edmund Burke?) is on there – but check out who’s number 1!!

    I feel strangely vindicated, which makes me legitimately insane. Like, NONE of my feelings are valid. But still: what a great site.

    Always love it when you show up. Are you blogging anywhere these days? I miss your voice. :)

  20. Anne says:

    I love it that Stalin is on the same list. He does look weirdly hot in that photo. I’m not blogging anymore, but still attempting – at glacial speed – to write some fiction.

  21. Charles J. Sperling says:

    This puts me in mind of the abstinence campaign in which it was recommended that girls pretend that Jesus was their date.

    “What are we going to do tonight, Jesus?”

    “I thought I would perform a miracle with loaves and fishes and you could wash my feet afterwards.”


    “You liked it last time.”

    “That was last time! And don’t you dare talk about healing the sick! I had nightmares about that leper for a month!”

  22. sheila says:

    Anne – Oh, I am so so happy to hear you are writing fiction, at whatever pace it is. I still remember some of the pieces you shared on your old site. I really clicked with your stuff. I hope it’s going well for you.

    So nice to hear from you!

    And yeah, that Stalin was a hottie, right?

    But Alexander Hamilton is OBVIOUSLY the “Jake Ryan” of Bangable Historical Dudes. Cleary, I am biased.

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