nonBlog: November 2007
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Letter From Planet New York, Part Deux—Friday, Nov. 30, 2007
Here’s the sequence. On Wednesday Mediabistro hosted a book party for Helaine and me in a beautiful room called The Dove near Washington Square Park in Manhattan, attended by a large number of journalists, along with our friends and family. On Wednesday we appeared on Fox Business News, where Stuart Varney, the silky-voiced British anchor I was devoted to pre-motherhood when I had time to watch TV news, was on the desk with the gorgeous Dagen MacDowell, who interviewed us. Later we tiptoed past Bill Richardson, who was taping an interview at ABC News Now just minutes before ours. On Friday our Q&A appeared on Time.com and we saw the text of the fab review that will appear in the December 10th issue of TIME that goes to subscribers. Fortune.com’s Nadira Hira blogged about us in an article about surviving the office holiday party. Later that morning we appeared on WNYC’s (New York Public Radio) Brian Lehrer Show, which so jazzed my sister Sandy that she said, “The New York Times, great. People, terrific. Time, wonderful. But the Brian Lehrer Show? Now I’m impressed.”
I am not impressed. I am in shock. The above paragraph cannot possibly be a description of my activities for the last three days. I have a real problem with good fortune, as if I were raised not in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, but in rural China. There they believe in the near-physical presence of dead ancestors, who are jealous of the happiness of their still-breathing decendants. In Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, which is my single favorite book, O-lan and Wang Lung shield their healthy newborn son from the view of any passing nasties and announce, “What a pity our child is a female whom no one could want and covered with smallpox as well! Let us pray it may die,” to ward off evil. And so I am in the oddest state of suspended emotional animation. Wonderful things are happening; actual dreams coming true. So something terrible is coming. I am filled with dread.
I keep searching the corners of my consciousness, looking for the cause of the smite-age that the Force is planning for me. Am I neglecting my daughters? Am I being attentive enough to my husband? Does my co-author Helaine know how much I appreciate working with her? I know I am doing something wrong as I steer my boat through these unknown waters. What is it?
Life Goes On, Unbeknownst—Sunday, November 18, 2007
While Helaine and I are promoting Office Mate, there is the oddest sense that normal life should not be going on at the same time, that there should be a Pause button somewhere and that if we hit it, it should work. It’s jarring to remember that the drycleaning still needs to be picked up and the bills still need to be paid. Or that my father is still in Florida, dying by millimeters.
I spoke to him today, which was unusual. He is delusional, possibly because of terminal psychosis and possibly because of his drug regimen, so his phone days are pretty much over. My sisters and I agree that terminal psychosis would be a blessing, but the one thing we know about blessings related to my father is that there aren’t any. So we can take it on faith that my father doesn’t actually have terminal psychosis. He is dying in the sense that we are all dying—that we will all die one day. But even though his eyes are sunken, and even though he can’t remember that he’s disabled and keeps trying to get out of bed, there is no reason to believe he is especially terminal. He has been about to die for four years now and it hasn’t happened yet.
In these four years it sometimes feels like all I do is meet people who have lost parents they adored. Kind mothers who died of breast cancer before their kids could graduate from college. Lighthearted fathers who came home from work and made their families feel like the fun could start, now felled by heart attacks. But my dad is alive. It doesn’t seem fair. He doesn’t want to be alive, and he won’t be grieved by more than a couple of close friends. My sisters and I made peace with his supposedly-imminent passing so many times that we have stopped re-engaging with him after he survives yet another close call. I knew I had crossed a threshold when Office Mate was published, and I didn’t even tell him.
Letter from Planet New York—November 16, 2007
I returned from the first leg of Helaine’s and my book tour nearly a week ago, but the publicity machine a-churns and I a-churn with it. Thus the nonBlog has been woefully neglected these past two weeks; apologies to all six of you devoted and gentle readers.
Since our book was published on November 6th, Helaine and I have been visitors to Planet Celebrity. The people we met last week are its inhabitants. We were quite justifiably intimidated to begin the book tour, considering the fact that we normally look like who we are, which is working-at-home mothers. In Helaine’s case this means dressing entirely in black seven days a week. In mine, Patagonia. So we did what any genuinely frightened author would do when faced with such a sad an inadequate wardrobe. We each hired a personal stylist.
Mine pointed out that nothing I owned actually fits me. (I equate bigger sizes with comfort.) Helaine’s pointed out that she owned nothing in a color, since black doesn’t qualify. Besides forbidding black, TV bookers suggest you avoid white, red, and moving patterns. So Helaine and I put a bunch of non-black, non-white, non-red, non-print clothes on our credit cards and hoped for the best. Deficit author spending.
On ABC News Now we were seated on chairs side-by-side in a room by ourselves with a camera pointed at us. We couldn’t see the anchor who was interviewing us, which increased my already considerable pre-interview panic. (On the tour we discovered that Helaine is cool as a cucumber before the interview and panicked while it’s going on, whereas I am the opposite. We haven’t decided whose pathology is more desirable.) I remembered from somewhere that when you are being interviewed by a camera lens, you tend to treat it like a human and look everywhere but in its eye while you are talking. Instead, you should fight the impulse and stare straight in. But I couldn’t do it, so my face moved up, moved down, moved left, moved right. It was a very movey face. Helaine didn’t fare any better; the monitor showing what we looked like was to her immediate right and she couldn’t stop glancing at it, so she looks rather shifty. But ABC News Now liked it enough to ask us to come back for another segment in December. Phew; we never had to do our first TV appearance again.
The next day we were supposed to appear on the Candace Bushnell Show on Sirius Radio. This required serious clothing, camera or no camera. It’s Candace. I put on the most fashiony ensemble my stylist had persuaded me to buy and stumbled in. (I was wearing platform pumps. They’re high, and I’m not graceful. You can imagine how I appeared walking around in them. The word elephantine applies.) Candace looked like a tiny model and wore an outfit that could easily have been photographed, which made me feel less silly for having dressed to the nines with no cameras about. We had a good 35 minutes to talk on the air, and after we had explored office mating Candace-style (read: no holds barred), Helaine and I opened the door to find Tim Gunn, Candace’s next guest, standing there, tall as a tree.
I was raised on Long Island and spent all my post-college adult years in Manhattan, so seeing stars in person is nothing new to me. All that time I cultivated the usual New York ho-hum reaction. But to have Tim Gunn standing in my path was simply too much. I walked right up to him and shook his hand. “Tim Gunn. I can’t believe I’m meeting you!” And with utter sincerity he (rep)lied, “I can’t believe I’m meeting you!” I told him that I was dressed this way because of him; that I had hired a stylist to help me dress for my book tour and this was the result. Helaine was staring blankly at the two of us; she doesn’t watch TV and didn’t even know who he was. And Tim Gunn said, “I can’t believe you don’t always look this good!” I decided right then and there that I could die happy. Tim Gunn said I looked good and there’s really nothing more a normally schlubby woman could ask from life.
I postponed my flight a day so that Helaine and I could appear on WNBC’s Weekend Today in New York show, our official first not-our-first TV appearance. The result was that Helaine and I switched psychoses. Now that I knew what to expect, I wasn’t so scared anymore. And now that Helaine knew the same, she was more scared than ever. So we changed our usual tactic and planned for me to answer the first question. The segment was the most fun a person can have while sitting in a tall chair. WNBC had filmed man-on-the-street interviews about people’s views on office dating (mostly negative). They had cooked up graphics and tips that flashed on a giant screen behind us. They played the theme song to “Love Boat.” And I managed to make my face less movey and Helaine managed not to look shifty. Later, when Tom put the video up on our officematebook.com web site, I didn’t wish the ground would swallow me as I watched it. For four minutes Helaine wore a color other than black and I foreswore fleece, and nobody but us knew that we were as far from our home planet as it is possible to be. Then we concluded our visit on Tim Gunn’s. It was some trip.
Carrie and Samantha in Action—November 1, 2007
I’ve always heard it said that after years of marriage, couples begin to resemble each other. Now I know that after years of working together, writing partners begin to sound like each other. Helaine and I discovered this in a recent dual interview with a reporter who was asking us questions about Office Mate. I was thinking he wouldn’t have a hard time distinguishing our voices; Helaine drags out her syllables at the bottom of her voice like Samantha in Sex and the City, while I am the fast-talking Carrie. But the reporter kept confusing us and when he said he was worried that he would give the wrong one credit for the other’s quote, Helaine said, “That’s okay, I’m happy to take credit for one of Stephie’s quotes, and vice versa.” And that’s exactly what happened.
We continue to marvel at what a healthy team we are. I’m sure there are ways in which we make each other nutty, but they are compatible ways. We fill in each other’s gaps. Today we were trying to decide if we are learning from each other or if we are each becoming even less confident of our shortfalls in the face of the other’s relative ease. We decided it doesn’t matter, and that we can put our neurosis on a schedule. We’ll write another book together and then promise each other a window of writing time following that book in which we write a book the other wouldn’t be remotely interested in collaborating on. It’s better not to scrutinize these sources of light too much; they might dim.
Today’s press: good stuff. Vivianne Rodrigues wrote a charming and favorable review for Reuters, which named us their Business Book of the Week.