Up Against the Wall, Mother.

Lynne Murray says:

I don’t have children unless you count the four-legged ones with a copious dusting of cat dander. I have, however, reached the point in life where younger people relate to me as Like My Mother or Like My Grandmother as in: “My grandmother has a lot of cats too” or “Wow, you’ve got a whole bookcase full of mysteries just like my mom.”

Getting older in our culture can be a time to celebrate a harvest of accomplishment and status. Or one can find oneself tossed onto society’s compost heap, scrambling with limited energy to find a way to self-recycle. I’ve been working on the latter scenario. Reinventing myself is not a new experience. I’ve done some of my best thinking backed into a corner, although the options are more limited with increasing age. At the moment it looks like I will survive, so I turn to my other central obsession–how to communicate when no one wants to listen.

I don’t intend to stop writing, but how to avoid being dismissed as a delusional old person with a tenuous grip on reality, muttering to herself in the streets. I’ve tried a few things (web page essays, blogging, ebooks) but so far I have no answers, only observations.

My friend, Barbara, who also just turned 60 this year, gave me a copy of the We’Moon ’09 Calendar published by Mother Tongue Ink.

I love the bold color graphics, ideas, lyrical prose and poetry. I felt a healing energy from the central concept that we are At the Crossroads. I also loved the materials relating to the power of older women, such as the The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.

This is a concrete example of how invisible, disposable people can band together and make their voices heard. I also admire the staff’s insights in passing the torch to a younger generation, reaching out through We’Mooniversity and other such projects.

At the opposite end of the cultural spectrum is “Novel Adventures.” Because I write novels and I adore readers groups my attention was caught by this series of TV and web-available vignettes about a fictional women’s book group.

Well sort of about a book group. Unlike real life book groups, where people read the books, these five-minute microdramas use a book group setting to try to sell Saturn automobiles.

The women in these book groups are too hot to be caught reading books. They get a vague idea of what the book is about, and then jump in their cars (Saturns, I guess) to have adventures such as going to the beach, meeting men or shopping. They did have “a feminist adventure”–learning to pole dance!

Even as a trained fiction writer, I could not make this up. Quoting from the website with grammatical atrocities intact:

The girls discover their book club is reading an autobiography of a feminist named Betty Friedan. Laura recounts her perspective on things. Lizzie gets worried that Mike is on the computer a lot and ponders what a feminist adventure could help that. Amy gets an idea and they end up going to a pole dancing studio.

I must have missed the chapter on lap dancing in The Feminine Mystique.

These little snippets could be amusing in an actual novel, e.g.:

Lizzie picks up a book by beatnik author, Jack Kerouac. Will she open it? Will she read a page? Um, no. Laura tells her that beatniks used to hang out in coffeehouses. The title of the book is On the Road. Amy gets an idea. The girls take their car on the road to the mall where they buy berets and drink coffee at Starbucks for a beatnik experience.

Repeat twice more as a running joke and you get the impression that the girls have the attention span and mental range of fruit flies. Fruit flies with credit cards. Maybe this is the commercial’s target audience.

The project’s website (see link above) does provide links to find real book groups. Maybe some women will join reading groups because they see the “Novel Adventures” girls having a good time, although the message seems to be “drop that book and go do something more fun.”

Hmm. When I had books in print to sell I did a bit of what I call tap dancing–events, promotion, etc. So I recently contemplated whether it would worthwhile to join forces with other discarded women authors to try to create a buzz for our work. Perhaps create YouTube performances of The Naughty Novelists–Pole-Dancing Literary Ladies of a Certain Age. But, my Inner Hermit protested strenuously. And frankly, the effort would be most likely to swamp my fiction writing without reaching actual fiction readers, while the buzz would most likely sink like spit in the Internet ocean of information.

The words that keep rising in my mind are: “Storytelling is eternal. Stick to your knitting.” So I pick up my ink-stained printout and pull the strands of story along a little further. Working blind, following the thread to the heart of the maze. Hoping and fearing to meet the monster.