Of the many reasons we read, to be shown something you haven’t seen before is at the top of my list.  Alice Mattison’s novel, Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn, does just that. This book has at its center a mysterious friendship between two very different women — flashy, confident Marlene, and quiet, worried Gert.  From the outside, which is the way Mattison shows us the friendship, they seem an unlikely pair. Gert’s daughter, Con, whose story this mostly is, watches the two women, longs for something like her mother’s friendship with Marlene and worries – about her own daughter, her work, her lost purse, her mother’s health.  These are familiar concerns, but Mattison is such a careful, brilliantly thoughtful observer that you see these people with startling clarity, the way you see fish at the bottom of the ocean on a calm day.

 Mattison’s great subject in this novel and in her earlier work is friendship.  Although I have written and thought about many things, it’s never occurred to me to look too closely at friendship.  But for days after finishing this wonderful book, I found myself thinking a great deal about my friendships.  There’s a lot to say, but it seems appropriate, on this first day of the year, to begin by saying how grateful I am for my friendships, which are rich, interesting, comforting and helpful.  In the three years I have been writing this blog, many of you have become my friends, if you weren’t already. That I would find friendship here is an unexpected pleasure of blog writing.  

Happy New Year to all of you!

Small Steps

What is it about the cold, clear light of late December that makes us all start barking orders at ourselves? Things like: learn Chinese, get a new job, lose weight, exercise more, save more money, find a mate, be a better parent, friend, lover, worker, blogger. YAGH.

Except for the occasional moment when I think to myself, I’d better set a goal or two here or I’ll be 600 years old before I find an agent for my novel, I try to avoid bossing myself around. Lord knows, I have enough people (children, I mean) to boss around already. And so, in place of resolutions, I give you one of the simplest, loveliest pieces of advice I know. Here’s Mark Twain on getting things done, a few words that have the elegant simplicity of something that is absolutely true:

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
– Mark Twain

You know what your dreams are. Now find one small, manageable thing you can do to make them come true. And then begin.

Happy New Year to all of you.

xo, Lily