The Holiday Stupor (which really means "stupid") descended, clogging my brain with obscene amounts of food and work-stress and several visits to The Mall. I blame the mall for the current case of writer's block. Not because I really feel that those few trips truly caused my brain-freeze, but because I prefer to blame malls for everything. My younger sister earned my eternal admiration this year by fulfilling an ambition I have stated for five years but have not yet achieved: she accomplished every bit of her Christmas shopping online, thus avoiding completely the insane crush into too few parking spaces, the plowing through mass-produced merchandise that's been pawed over by hundreds of people, the perfume snipers in the department stores, the aggressive kiosk sellers in the halls with their assortment of The Extremely Random (warm, lavender-scented paraffin wax to dip your feet in? Toasters that only toast hot dog buns and simultaneously steam a weenie? Really?)
I'm trying to rejuvenate with lots of reading. I can't remember the last time when I read three novels in a week, but I'll manage it this time. Already finished Roger Rosenblatt's Beet (hilarious; probably the best academic satire I've read since Russo's Straight Man) and Margot Livesey's The House on Fortune Street, which I found very moving and tried to learn from structurally.
I also read Billy Collins' latest book straight through this morning. I don't mind Billy Collins; I know there's a whole school of Collins-haters out there. I've never fully understood the vitriol about him. But I do have to admit to feeling that once you've read one good Billy Collins poem, you've read them all. He varies his subjects a bit, but his technique and mannerisms seem to stay so much the same that it's like eating a savory-yet-predictable dish over and over. I found nothing in the new collection to correct that opinion. (If you missed David Orr's review of Collins' last book, The Trouble with Poetry, go read it now. It's not only a clever review but an impressive piece of ventriloquism; I thought that it was fair to Collins in reporting his strengths and weaknesses as a poet, but the accuracy with which Orr managed to get the Collins voice seemed the most stinging aspect of the review. Reading it is a bit like watching someone stand behind a gifted magician and do the exact same routine, but very slowly so that you can see the moment when the rabbit's pulled from his back pocket.)
Anyway, I'm hoping to get the brain back in gear soon. It's incredibly frustrating to have a period of time for writing and no urge/inspiration to do it.
In the meantime, Beltway's new issue is out, a fascinating collection of poems on the theme of museums. I'm honored to have a piece in it.
Happy new year to all and if you've been similarly afflicted by the season, may your own holiday stupid soon pass over.