Friday, July 6, 2012

Hemingway Observes Writers

People who write fiction, if they had not taken it up, might have become very successful liars.

A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.

If you have a success you have it for the wrong reasons. If you become popular it is always because of the worst aspects of your work.

Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Before I entered the blogosphere, I don't think I realized how much I wish everyone would just get along. Maybe that's because on the internet, even if you sign your real name to a blog post or a comment, you're usually a safe distance away from anyone who might be enraged by your comments, so people seem to feel safer in expressing dissenting opinions. And maybe these people would express these opinions in person, too. I've certainly met a few of these at parties, but then I was able to walk away, forget what they said, or tell myself they were joking, etc. On the internet, their words sit there in the comments section, to be read and reread by anyone whose blood boils because of them. I've gotten better, over the years, at not letting these things ruffle me as badly, but whether I'm the one being disagreed with or not, I always wonder: Why do these people want to fight?

Before I keep going, let me just say that the blog-fighting I see is usually not highly political. Human rights generally aren't involved, unless you count the human right to have opinions. People just like to quibble about how time is best spent, which books are worth reading and which aren't, and often involve people who obviously have blinders on to the fact that every human has his or her own life, and they don't all have to live the same way. There are sites I visit where I just don't read comments anymore because so many people are there spitting venom. There are other sites, though, where the discussion starts sensible but gets ugly when someone decides to get on a high horse. It usually bothers me not because they disagree, but because they so forcefully disagree. I can get really upset about it. It isn't healthy.

And that's what I'm starting to realize: I don't think blogging--writing, reading, and/or commenting--are healthy for me. I'm tired of getting angry that people are so rude and self-important, and I'm tired of acting self-important, too, feeding my ideas into a computer to have them be read by my husband and a couple of friends. So I think I need to get away from it for a while. I think it will make my life a lot more peaceful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

This weekend, my husband and I saw Safety Not Guaranteed starring Aubrey Plaza, Jake M. Johnson--both TV actors who, as far as I know, had never before held starring roles on the big screen (Aubrey is currently best known for her role on Parks and Rec and Jake stars as Zooey Deschanel's roommate in New Girl)--and Mark Duplass, whom I'd never seen before but whose voice is strikingly similar to Aaron Eckhart's. None of them have huge box office draw, but they all play their roles well and I couldn't think of any big stars who could have replaced them (it did occur to me that Aubrey's role could have been played by Ellen Page, but I don't think it would necessarily have been better). And really, that was part of the appeal of the movie for me: the fact that none of these actors have yet become movie stars. A big part. Because the plot, while embellished with much more hilarious details, kind of adheres to an old romantic comedy standby. An ad (see above) is put in the paper, and three journalists (or one journalist and two interns) set out to do a story on the ad placer by going under cover to find out about his time travel plot; naturally, the girl is chosen for the job. Naturally, the relationship between the girl and time-travel guy blooms, and when he finds out she's a journalist reporting on him, things blow up. Seeing the commercial, I couldn't stop thinking of How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days and its ilk, but since Safety Not Guaranteed did not include Kate Hudson or Matthew McConaughy, plus it involved time travel, I still wanted to see it. And, without spoiling it for you, let me say that it did not disappoint me. It did not surprise me, but it did not disappoint me. So there's that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Writing Exercise: The Action of a Sentence

I've never read any of Natalie Goldberg's fiction, but I've read Writing Down the Bones several times. She's always good for a word of encouragement, tips on how to keep a good work ethic, and writing exercises. One of my favorites, when I'm feeling like my language is a little dull, is on page 87 of her lovely book. She says:

Fold a sheet of paper in half the long way. On the left side of the page list ten nouns. Any ten.

pom pom

Now turn the paper over to the right column. Think of an occupation...List fifteen verbs on the right half of the page that go with that position.

Open the page...Try joining the nouns with the verbs to see what new combinations you can get, and then finish the sentences, casting the verbs in the past tense if you need to.
The music typed its notes on the air.
Mermaids advised the sailors with their songs.
The blossoms scolded me with their harsh colors.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How To "Potty Train" Yourself

We have a few friends in the area who are trying to get their kids potty trained. One couple has worked out a reward system: Whenever their son uses the potty, he gets a reward (sometimes a chocolate chip, sometimes a sticker, etc.). I haven't seen them bribe him with the prospect (e.g. "Do you want a chocolate chip? Well then you'd better use the potty.") but it seems he knows by now that a job well done deserves a little celebration. I think that's a good thing to remember. I've lived twenty-five years longer than that little boy, and either I never learned that basic principle that he already knows, or I've somehow forgotten.

When I want a chocolate chip, I don't have to use the potty (metaphorically speaking, of course). I can get in my car and go buy chocolate chips, as many as I want, and eat them until my stomach bursts if I choose. I can go to Burger King or see a movie--whatever. Easy access to "rewards" diminishes their capacity to be rewarding. So when I finish writing a story and watch a TV show to celebrate, it's not as special because of all that other TV I've watched. The success is good but the celebration didn't lure me to it, and doesn't feel so special once I get there. I must withhold the treats or else they lose their treat-ness.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sick Day

One of the strangest things about working from home, for me, is when my husband takes a sick day. For most people, a husband laid up at home doesn't necessarily affect productivity, but imagine taking your sick spouse to work: setting him up with a blanket and a cup of tea, hearing him watch Star Trek on his laptop while you try to get your work done.

On one hand, I love having my husband at home. On the other, I have to get certain things done in order to feel I'm earning my keep. The chores aren't so hard to accomplish when he's here; the writing is almost impossible. You see, even though I have an office in this new apartment, it does adjoin the living room, and it doesn't have a door. This morning, I slept in late (I usually get up with his alarm and then walk him to work for my morning exercise, which I also missed), cooked him breakfast, and watched an episode of Warehouse 13. If this were Saturday, I'd say it had been a good morning. Too bad it's Monday.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Janet Fitch on Torture

“The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.”

--Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writing Exercise: Convince Me

I am in the process of writing a novel. Part of the "fun" of writing a novel is that it can surprise you, even when you think you're in complete control. Unfortunately, not all those surprises are pleasant. For example: I recently discovered that I don't really like my main character.

For a while, I tried to fix the problem by ignoring it. I'm working in a multiple-POV format so I just wrote chapters from another character's point of view. But though they get to speak, no one is as central as this one character I suddenly don't like, and as much as I tried to work around her, I found I couldn't. So then I stopped writing for a couple weeks. When I came back, as a warm-up, I decided to write a monologue from her point of view. I asked her to convince me that I should like her.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Get a Job

  1. Watch How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Memorize the song "How to Succeed."
  2. Now forget all that nonsense. It's 2012. Window washers who trespass and impersonate businessmen get tazed. Plus, if you're already a window washer, you already have a job, right?
  3. Don't play it safe. Fill out the applications, talk to the managers, even if it scares you.
  4. Apply for jobs you would never really want. If Murphy's Law plays out, one of them will hire you. And then there's that whole all-you-need-to-get-a-job-is-another-job thing. Or does that only apply to dating?
  5. Don't get bogged down in the details. Most jobs are going to suck the life out of you one way or another, which means there is no perfect job.
  6. Find a role model to emulate, like Eleanor Roosevelt or Alexis Bledel.
  7. Make a suit-wearing business doll. Tell it lovely things about yourself every night.
  8. Loiter outside the Home Depot.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Inevitability of Change, or My Break-Up with Caffeine

Me and my two best pals: sugar and caffeine.
When I was a kid, I loved moving. I loved getting a new bedroom, a new school, a new opportunity to be a new me. I felt much the same way about school years. Each fall promised not a return to last year's grind, but a fresh new new world. In a certain sense, I was never disappointed: the walls were undoubtedly new and the courses one notch more difficult. Then again, I was always disappointed: no matter what happened, I was always me.

Before I moved across the state, I told my mother that I was afraid I would end up living the same life, only a few hundred miles away. She told me I might be right; that seems to be the way things go. It's possible that I can link all the new changes in my life to that very conversation and my dread that my mother would be right (sorry, Mom). Maybe that's why she told me that in the first place: She knows how stubborn I am and that, when told I cannot do something, I'll probably try to do it (in which case, thanks, Mom).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Iris Murdoch on Literature and Love

Dame Iris and her husband, John Bayley
“Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” 

“Art and morality are, with certain provisos…one. Their essence is the same. The essence of both of them is love. Love is the perception of individuals. Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality.” 

"Literature could be said to be a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions."

“We defend ourself with descriptions and tame the world by generalizing”
“Human affairs are not serious, but they have to be taken seriously.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Assemble a Cabinet (with the Help of Your Cat)

1. Buy the damn thing. Lift it yourself, though the box clearly states that you should ask a sales associate for help. Load it into your car by yourself, too, though the box is torn and it's raining. This is about empowerment. You will be fine.

2. Bring it home to your cat. Let her sniff it, rub it, make sure it's the right one. Once you've got her approval, dump out all the parts on the carpet. Find all the tiny pieces and put them in a bowl.

3. Get your cat to stop eating the Styrofoam.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Musings in a New Apartment

Last night, as I tried to make out a shopping list, I could not remember what kinds of food my husband and I normally eat. Ian took the lead and began scribbling down a few things. Fruit, I said. We've been eating a lot of strawberries. But I had to ask him what he wanted for dinner to remember some of our standby recipes. Sweet and Sour Chicken, he said. He wrote a few things down.

We've moved into our new apartment, in the sense that all our boxes are inside. The kitchen is fairly well unpacked, as is the guest bedroom. Every once in a while, as I'm organizing a cabinet or applying for a job online, the cat will let out a mournful meow from down the hall as if she's lost or forgotten where she is, and I call to her. At the sound of her name she comes trotting, and stays near my feet for a while.

There is a walking path that runs most of the way between our apartment and Ian's office, just over a mile away. I've gotten up early to walk with him these past two days despite my tendency to laze in bed: I'm trying to develop better habits. Because that's what a new home promises, isn't it? A new start, a new life. In a couple months, the walking path will be lined with blackberries; right now it's lined with slugs. There's a bunny that lives near the dumpster at the path's end. I've named him (or her) Fred.

Today, I'm going to organize my office. I've never had an office before. I've always thought that with an office, I could do amazing things, write ten times as much and twice as well, concentrate my thoughts to the ballpoint of my pen. But first I need to put the legs back on my desk.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Five Lessons I've Learned from My First Marital Move

Our engagement photo, back when we owned so little junk...

1. Moving for two is exponentially (and I do mean that mathematically) harder than moving for one, especially when the two in question have lived in the same place for five years. Between the wedding presents that came gradually to us in the mail and five years' of Christmas and birthday presents and the little pieces of furniture and brick-a-brack we've bought, it's taken maybe ten times more effort to pack everything up, and we haven't even tackled the moving van yet. Plus:


The new issue of Phoebe is up today, including my short story, "Shoplifting." Check it out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movie Stars Reading: Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Ten Reasons You Should Stay Right Where You Are

Scout knows best.
Change stinks. Ask my cat. When we moved into our current apartment, she peed herself. I expect she plans more of the same come Saturday when we move across the state.

You know all that stuff they say about greener pastures? The grass is always greener on the other side and once you get to the other side it will still be greener on the other side, meaning where you just were/some other pasture over another fence? Yeah. That.

You know that song that goes, "Love the one you're with"? Same goes for places. Love the place you're at. Love the place where you are. Love--whatever's grammatically correct.

The Simpsons have lived in the same town, the same house, and even the same age bracket for over twenty years. What's good enough for the Simpsons seems good enough for me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Collagist: Issue 34

Issue thirty-four of The Collagist is up now! It includes some great fiction and poetry as well as book reviews (including one of Thirteen Fugues by Jennifer Natalya Fitch by Yours Truly). Check it out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Couple That Reads Together

While on vacation in Ireland, my husband started reading The Hunger Games on his Kindle. He was about halfway through it when I finished the book I was reading (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and got bored and started reading over his shoulder. I didn't protest if he took an especially long time on a page or if he moved on before I was finished (one of us--I suspect him and he probably suspects me--has a very inconsistent reading speed). I'd come in on the middle of things and had at least the basic information from the movie so I knew the basics. I didn't ask him to wait for me when I had to go to the bathroom. In a few hours, we'd finished the first book--we'd finished it together.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Weekend Reads

I don't know how it is where you are, but here in eastern Washington, the weather is finally fine! The tulips and daffodils have bloomed, the grass is green, and it's warm enough to walk without a sweater. It's hardly weather for staying indoors, reading, but I suppose you can't stay outdoors all the time, or if you can, it's always nice to sit and read in the sunshine. Some suggestions:

An apt review/discussion about The Five-Year Engagement (may contain spoilers...)

Some poetry by Lisa Fink at PANK.

A potentially unanswerable but very real question: How do you protect your daughter from your mother's BS?

Flash fiction by Laura Lampton Scott at Monkeybicycle.

A cool essay on coaching, encouragement, and kids.

Book recommendations from Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City.

On pregnancy and privacy and fear.

A letter/recommendation regarding a book I want to read.

And, to get you back outside again, how to do a cartwheel.

Virginia Woolf on Facts and Fiction

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.

Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Short Story Month: Stories from Willow Springs

Sarah Hulse
Matt Bell

Diane Lefer
Apparently, May is short story month. Maybe it's that I'm no longer in an MFA program and thus not in on these things, but I haven't heard much about it--not even on my writer-saturated Facebook feed. I guess I get it. It's not like NaNoWriMo, where people challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in thirty days, or even National Poetry Month (April) when at least a few poets I know (and me, this year, though I failed miserably) attempt to write a poem a day. You could write a piece of flash or micro fiction every day for a month, I suppose, or attempt to write a whole collection of stories if you wanted to mimic November's word count goals, but more likely you'd take the opportunity to write a single story in a month. Which isn't such a monumental, brag-worthy feat.

Except the poets and the novelists aren't expected to have finished products at month's end. A story would have to be completely finished, wouldn't it? And though I've written many stories in under a month, it always seems like six months later I have a flash of inspiration and go change them. Maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Disquieting Muses

Last month was National Poetry Month, and, dutiful rule-follower that I am, I read some poetry. Wrote some, too, if you can believe it. One of my favorite poems (of the three books' worth I read) was "The Disquieting Muses" by Sylvia Plath, and I thought I'd share it with you:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

With the Wild Things Now

You might have read in the New York Times that Maurice Sendak died today at age 83. Only two weeks ago he was listed among Flavorwire's 10 Grumpiest Living Writers, quoted for his vitriolic opposition of ebooks (“I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book! A book is a book is a book.”) and where I discovered this interview with Stephen Colbert. That was the first time I'd really thought about who the man behind the wild things was, and now, so quickly, he is gone.

I'm not going to get emotional here. Sendak lived a good, long life (as Maude said, eighty seems like a good age) and I am only familiar with two of his books (the famous Where the Wild Things Are and one of my absolute childhood favorites, Pierre). Instead, I'm going to get curious. The little I've learned so far about this fascinating man who provided me with two of my favorite kids' books but who hated to be called the "kiddie-book man" has got me ready to do my research. It's the only way I can think of to pay my respects: to find out who he was and what he lived for.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Buying and Selling

Trinculo and Ariel in Shakespeare Walla Walla's production of The Tempest
For the second story I ever submitted to workshop as an MFA candidate, I did some research. The whole story was based on a news article I'd read, and to make it as accurate as possible I maintained an email correspondence with a local policeman and beat a pumpkin with a ketchup bottle, the pumpkin standing in for a human head. All this was done to ensure that I would not hear that most odious of workshop phrases, the one that has dogged me my whole writing career: "I don't buy it."

Unfortunately, it didn't work. The research I did with the cop (which I printed and brought with me in case anyone questioned the fictional policeman's actions) failed me; one of the first negative comments a classmate has was that he "didn't buy it." My research didn't make a dent in this opinion. It didn't matter to my readers what would and would not happen in real life (and they were convinced what the cop told me was a lot nicer than what he would actually do) if it didn't match the image the readers had of cops in their minds. I thought this was pretty unfair, but I didn't want to be that person who argues at the end of a workshop, so instead I told them about my Mythbuster's-style attempts at finding the effects of assault with a ketchup bottle. Always leave them laughing.

Eventually, I dumped this particular story (especially since it was about a pregnant woman and I really doubt I'll be able to understand pregnancy until I've experienced it) but I did learn a valuable lesson from the argument surrounding it. Stories rely on common knowledge. You could say they rely on stereotypes, cliche, and prejudice: all things we are taught not to use in our writing. Veer too far away from what people already have in their heads, and they will squawk. To get away with it, you have to convince them. Start with what people think they know and mold their ideas from there.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Flannery O'Connor on Writing Habits

Don’t do other things. Sit at your machine.”
It is my considered opinion that one reason you are not writing is that you are allowing yourself to read in the time set aside to write. You ought to set aside three hours every morning in which you write or do nothing else; no reading, no talking, no cooking, no nothing, but you sit there. If you write all right and if you don’t all right, but you do not read; whether you start something different every day and finish nothing makes no difference; you sit there. It’s the only way, I’m telling you. If inspiration comes you are there to receive it, you are not reading. And don’t write letters during that time. If you don’t write, don’t do anything else. And get in a room by yourself. If there are two rooms in that house, get in the one where nobody else is . . . I will not tell you anything interesting to read as you have no bidnis throwing away your time in that fashion.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

For the Sensitive, Bookish Mom: Five Mother's Day Gifts

How about some vintage carved bookends? Find these and more on Etsy.


Probably the shortest my hair's ever been, circa 2005
I may well have just changed my gender.  I have taken the scissors to my hair—eight dollar Goody scissors meant specifically for the purpose, not the orange-handled office kind—and now the trash can is full of dirty blonde curls.  And the sink.  And the floor.  I’ll be feeling the scratchy shards of it on my shoulders for days.
It started with just the bangs, but people with curly hair haven’t pulled off bangs since the ’80s.  Then a few chunks came out of the sides: once you start cutting your hair, you can’t just stop.  You have to keep snipping and snipping, trying to find that hairstyle that you imagined when you first began.  You have to find the sculpture within the marble, the bob within the mass of curls.  You cut one bit just a little too short and then have to trim the rest to match, eroding your mountain of hair until there’s practically nothing left.  You start out methodical—measuring the strands against each other, trying to work in sections—and then you get artistic.  You chop and hack.  You feel instead of thinking.  You’re not just cutting off your hair; you’re setting yourself free.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vacating the Vacation

Do I list my "Pour the Perfect Pint" certificate under awards and honors or education?
Ian and I have never vacationed on an island. The closest we've come to a tropical locale is Disney World. If we were to visit our friends and family who live in Hawaii, we would probably spend more time hiking or museum-going than we would on the beach. This is partially due to the fact that neither of us is particularly gorgeous in a bathing suit, but that's not the whole story. Our problem with the lounge-chair vacation is that, well, it's so sedentary.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ways To Write Without Really Writing

Write a to-do list. Make it as long and detailed and possible. Create categories and sub-categories. Make little boxes next to each item, to be filled with check marks.

Write a long, detailed email to your mom (or dad or sister--whoever). She'll (he'll) appreciate knowing what's going on with you.

Find a passage from your favorite book and copy it, word for word. If you're looking to kill time, do this longhand. (Silly as it sounds, this is actually a valuable writing exercise, as it forces you to slow down and figure out the sentence structure and cadence of writing you admire.)

Create a file detailing all your story/poem/essay submissions, including notes on each one explaining how you felt when you were rejected, if the rejection was just, why you'll never submit there again, etc.

Saying Goodbye--Again and Again

In nineteen days, I will be leaving the town I've (begrudgingly) lived in for seven years. (For info on why I've lived here, see other blog posts I've written on the topic--I'm sick of writing about it now.) I will also be giving up my coffeehouse lifestyle because our new apartment will have office space for me and, let's face it, lattes are expensive. I keep thinking I'll get a jump on my new life by saying goodbye to my local coffeehouses now, as a way of gradually easing into things. I've also started packing a few small boxes every day. Unfortunately, I've so trained myself to write at coffeehouses, I'm having a hard time giving them up.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The "Snake Fight" Portion of Your Thesis Defense

For those of you about to defend your theses: a little guidance from the folks at McSweeney's.

Job Description: Full-Time Fiction Writer

1)   The majority of your duties are outlined in your title: You are a writer of fiction. As such, you will write some fiction each (work)day, producing significant chunks of new material each week. Your fiction may manifest in the form of novels, novellas, short stories, flash fiction, or even prose poems; any length is acceptable as long as it’s fiction.
2)   Every bit of fiction you write will need revision, most likely in-depth. Revise as the project demands.
3)   Every week, you will read at least one book; these books need not be entirely fiction. Poetry, nonfiction, and plays can supplement your fiction reading and increase the capacity of your fiction-writing brain. Reading fiction is like running; poetry and nonfiction are the stretches you do before and after.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday at the Movies

Ian and I love going to the movies. It's one of the few perks of where we live: the movies are cheap and we get free popcorn with purchase of a drink because of Ian's alumni card. We love our lagniappes.

Last week, when we were in Ireland and getting a little sick of all the tourism, we popped in and saw The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! or The Pirates! Band of Misfits as it's called here. That cost a little more, obviously, but we got our movie fix and saw a British film before its release in the States (or at least its release here, which might not be the same thing). This week, I want to see The Five-Year Engagement. Now all I have to do is convince Ian. Maybe with this:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.


Yesterday was my first day back in the States after a two-week vacation in Ireland with my husband. We rented a car and drove around the island, starting in Dublin and working our way back there, clockwise. My husband became an expert in roundabouts and driving on the left, we saw about two thousand castles, and we drank our weight in Guinness and Smithwicks. Also, as is my habit, we poked around a couple of bookstores and brought home a few of my favorite types of souvenirs: books.

I was pretty proud of myself for my literary haul. I found story collections by Edna O'Brien and Colm Toibin, plus a novel translated from Irish by Padraic O'Conaire and an illustrated book of Irish legends. Then, in Donegal (pronounced something like Don nay GALL--not DON uh gull), my husband and I stepped into a little pub, and my opinion changed.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I have a confession to make. I've probably seen the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany's fifty times; I've never read the book. Of Truman Capote's small oeuvre I've only read In Cold Blood, which I would recommend to anyone who isn't too squeamish. But Breakfast at Tiffany's--I believe I once picked it up in the bookstore, read the first page, checked the price, and put it back down again.