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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Irreverent. Curious. Vaginas.

Our good friend David Farley recently held a launch party for his book An Irreverent Curiosity. The book is about Farley's adventures in and around Calcata, Italy, a bizarre village famous for once housing a holy relic: the foreskin of Jesus. In the mid-80s, the Holy Foreskin mysteriously disappeared. Farley spent a year in Italy searching for the story behind its disappearance. (It's an amazing book, by the way. It tore me away from Infinite Jest, which is not easy to do these days.)

Anyway. Back to the party! Farley and his wife Jessie—who, incidentally, was my friend way before Farley entered the scene—are friendly with Paulina Porizkova, the supermodel/writer/lovely human being, and she was also at the party. If you've been reading Finslippy for any length of time, you might remember my mentioning that Paulina's mom had been one of my midwives and had, in fact, delivered Henry. The last time I met Paulina, a few years ago, I shared this information with her. Then I got tongue-tied and couldn't think of anything else to talk about, so I backed away, waving and apologizing.

This time I felt a little more confident. Maybe it was all the wine? Hard to say. I suggested to Scott that we talk to her, and he turned this beautiful shade of lavender-gray. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but his mouth was moving frantically. I leaned in. He seemed to be pleading with me not to make him go over there.

"Aw," I said. "You're adorable! Let's go—I'll ask her if I can get her picture with you."

"No no no no," he whisper-shrieked. So cute!

"Oh, come now. At least we can say hello! Remember, her mom was my midwife. It's like we're related."

"I am not talking to Paulina. I had her poster on my bedroom wall. I… no. I will not talk to her."

But we were pushed inexorably forward by the party-tide, and soon we were abutting her circle. Then Paulina turned to us. And said hello.

Before I knew what I was doing I was reminding her that her mother had delivered my son Henry, and then I was showing her my iPhone pictures of Henry, and she was appreciating the pictures in a way that someone who has kids knows they're supposed to do. Scott was smiling and smiling some more. Also waving. But at least not apologizing, which I thought was a step forward for us as a couple. We're learning to socialize! It's never too late, kids!

I decided I was going to regale her with our favorite midwife story, which was when Scott accompanied me to a visit and I complained of yeast infections and Paulina's mom directed me never to wash my vagina with soap. (It was funny at the time.) (You had to be there.) As I was talking I realized that in order to communicate the hilarity of this story, which was not all that funny in the retelling of it, I had to 1) impersonate Paulina's mother, and 2) use the word "vagina" an awful lot. And then I became increasingly self-conscious at how much I was saying "vagina" and how the Czech/Swedish/Vampire accent I was affecting sounded a lot like I was just imitating Paulina, and not in a flattering way. I was horrified for me. Paulina looked concerned, but to her credit, she was not scanning the room for possible exits. I don't think Scott noticed what was happening, because while I yammered on he was sketching Paulina on a napkin.

To my credit, I ended the story quickly and also kept myself from telling Paulina how many stitches her mom had put in my hoo-ha. (That's polite code for "vagina.") Actually I never would have done that, because I don't really know. Maybe Paulina knew? Damn it, I should have asked her.

Miraculously, our new best friend managed to steer the conversation over to a more socially acceptable subject, for which I will be forever grateful. For the next twenty minutes or so we talked about our favorite books. The specific question she asked, which I think is kind of brilliant as a party conversation-topic-when-the-other-people-are-definitely-insane, is a three-parter. 1)What's the book you wish you had written? 2) What book do you read when you want something comforting and familiar? And 3) What book do you think everyone should read?

In response, Scott squeaked something about Noam Chomsky, and then he pulled his shirt over his head and flailed his arms about, shouting, "I'm a headless robot!" Or was that something Henry did this morning? At any rate, Noam Chomsky was mentioned. My responses were 1) To the Lighthouse, because I wanted to impress Paulina, 2) Anything by Laurie Colwin, because it's the truth, and 3) The Master and Margarita, because I wanted to impress Paulina. I'm going to have to think about what my real answers to 1 and 3 would be. The impressing-Paulina choices weren't far off, I think. I'm just glad I didn't say "The Big Book of Vaginas!" or "O, Vagina" or something equally off-kilter.

So. What would your books be?

Reader Comments (107)

1) An American Childhood by Annie Dillard. (Would have been different if I had written it, since I'm NOT American. But still. I envy her writing)

2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

3) Moby-Dick, by Melville. I wish I could gift everyone with the college lit professor who assigned me this book, guided me through the blubber and whaling chapters and CHANGED MY LIFE. The ending always makes my heart pound and my head throb, but in a good way.
August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarabande
1. Gilead - Marilynne Robinson2. Winter's Tale - Mark Helprin3. Little, Big - John Crowley

But honestly, each one would be an appropriate answer for any of the questions. I've begun a one-woman campaign to get 2 & 3 in Kindle format so I'll never be without; join me, won't you?
'A Star Called Henry' by Roddy Doyle for all three categories.

I'm bookmarking this post for future recommendations. You're right- great party questions.
August 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Blog and Kiss
'A Star Called Henry' by Roddy Doyle for all three categories.

I'm bookmarking this post for future recommendations. You're right- great party questions.

Either that or my parties are lame...
August 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Blog and Kiss
Paulina's mom was one of my midwives too. I'd transferred from another practice and was impressed when I first heard her striking accent and saw the nearly-knee-high black leather boots she was wearing with her white lab coat.

As it happens, I too came in for an admonition from her: Apparently, she thought I was gaining weight too quickly. "NO juice for you!" she ordered. Of course, I hadn't been drinking juice, but, oh well...

As for the books:1) Calvin Trillin's Alice books--because I'd love to have the zest for life and great sense of love and humor that undergirds them2) In Search of Lost Time (Proust), specifically the first part (Swann's Way)3) Oh, too many to list, but as this is a "mommy blog" something for children: Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown
August 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteruptoolate
1. The Child in Time by Ian McEwan (it is just so perfectly constructed, with a moving main plot with hilarious social commentary sub-plot: better than Atonement IMHO).2. Anything by McEwan really.3. Middlemarch by George Eliot: finally read it this summer and it is a masterpiece! I couldn't put it down. Recommend, recommend, recommend. Everyone over the age of 15 should read it.
August 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrlj
1. Mister Sandman2. Too Close to the Falls3. Mister Sandman, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
September 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim Button

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