A couple of months ago, I wrote an homage to you, my Magpie readers. In writing it, I realized that I carry you with me every day, all day, my personal Helicon, my own chorus. Your comments and emails tumble through my thoughts; your names routinely recur in conversations with Mr. Magpie and my mother (“did you see the comment from Anna today?”); your interests lead me to consider styles and topics I might not otherwise have examined; your observations and encouragements and brave admissions (Elizabeth Schimmels!!!) humble me; your often gentle and diplomatic though occasionally deservedly sharp words of caution or surprise shape my musings, offering me guardrails when I am at risk of drifting too far.
This is writing: me, in conversation with you. Each post half-formed until you’ve received it. I often wait, tender-footed, until your comments appear in my inbox and I can assess my own writing through your reactions to it. Do you know the tremendous role you play in my writing — in all writing, for that matter? For centuries, humans got this wrong. For generations, we positioned the artist as a gifted god on a pedestal, Her Word as Gospel. Our role was subserviently exegetical. It wasn’t until the 20th century and its attendant wars and the havoc that they wrought on our understanding of The Way of The World that we shed those old-timey fictions as to The Order of Things and thought: “Maybe The Artist is not in fact all-knowing. Maybe, actually, her intentions don’t matter at all. Maybe art comes alive when the reader breathes life into it.” Literary theorists took many of these new “truths” a bit too far for my taste in positing that, actually, there is no stability at all in meaning. We interpret what we interpret; we create and uncreate art as we bring our own experiences to it. I do not believe this is wholly true. I believe that the artist has a perspective and the reader has a perspective and when those forces meet, a kind of magic happens, even when that magic yields anger or opprobrium or — the most hurtful reaction of all for a writer — dismissal.
Am I flying too high right now?
Let me rein myself in with this conclusion: you are the patron, the chorus, half of the creative spirit behind this writing. I sense your contours as I write. Mr. Magpie has often told me that when he played ball, there was something gorgeous and mystical about when the baseball hit “the sweet spot” of his bat.
“It kind of radiates through your body,” he explained one day. “It just feels good. And the sound. It’s a specific sound — the ball connecting with the bat, and the whole thing echoes through your body.”
That’s how I feel, too, when I’ve written something on pitch with you, your eyes over my shoulder, your head nodding: something connects, aflare, electric.
Thank you for this gift.
Post-Script: The 8 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2018.
In honor of this gift, I am sharing the most popular blog posts I have written thus far this year:
- A Love Story.
- Ladybird, Loss, and the Visitation. I have a hard time with this post. Is it narcissistic or masochistic that I re-read it every few weeks, crying? I even one time recorded myself reading it aloud and I don’t know why. There is something in its emotional timbre that I wanted to hear back. Oof.
- The M Series: Landon Lands in Lyon.
- Le Ultimate Fall Wardrobe.
- The Best of Everything: Beauty.
- 10 Things I Love that I Shouldn’t.
- The M Series: A Prelude to Love.
Together, the popularity of these posts tells me a few things: first, that you enjoy my M Series and that maybe I need to jump back in that saddle. I dubbed these posts the “M Series” because they were part memoir, part “magic” — magic in the sense that I took artistic liberties in the presentation of the details. Everything happened as I described but writing gave me the space to order and fine-tune the minutiae in a way I’d never have been able to if asked to share the story of us verbally. I spent long draughts of afternoons reflecting on those days in Lyon in particular, conjuring the exact feel of the city, the thrum of first love, the tenderness of separation. I wrote the series first because Mr. Magpie is the love and joy of my life but second because I saw it as a kind of calisthenic to prepare me for writing fiction. Fiction is a wholly different beast than the kind of memoir-ish writing I usually share here: it’s a different headspace, a different lightwave. I saw the M Series as a bridge between the two. And it proved helpful: I have written long sections of a fictional piece I hope to one day share when it’s in a more polished form. It’s a love story (what isn’t?) but it’s also about the age-old tension between fate and personal will, a topic I have long grappled with from a feminist perspective in that women have had specific kinds of holds on their “will.” It will one day be called Maiden’s Choosing, the title of the third book within George Eliot’s masterpiece Daniel Deronda, and when you read it, you’ll understand why. I digress, but — your readership of my M Series has put more wind in my sails to persist in this project.
Second learning: the popularity of my post grieving the death of one of my best friends from high school reminded me that we all have suffered our own devastations, and that it is a beautiful, restorative thing to sit alongside others in mutual acknowledgment of those heartaches, even when we don’t say anything at all, and even when we still occasionally cry about them, eight plus years after the fact. That post was a stunning kind of shiva for me.
Third learning: y’all is chic! I love that amidst the heavier fare, there were well-loved posts on trends. Everything in balance, right? The asymmetricality of this blog is a reflection of who we are: yes, we wear our hearts on our sleeves and think deeply about our worlds and our roles, but we can also go crazy over a pair of shoes and talk long and deep about the virtues of Ole Henriksen’s truth serum. (<<If you buy nothing else from this blog this year, please indulge in this.) Which brings me to…
Post-Post-Script: The 10 Most Popular Products Featured on Le Blog in 2018.
- Instant pot.
- One-shouldered bow mini-dress.
- Acupressure mat.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. (One of my favorite books this year. It has stayed with me, its depth doubling back on itself.)
- My faux Goyard iPhone case. (I’m anticipating my new laptop case will achieve similar celebrity status.)
- The absolute best round brush ever.
- My glen plaid blazer. (Available now in more colors…)
- Vintage Hermes scarf.
- My $70 shades.
- The boho dress I wore literally all summer long (<<on sale! Actually currently wearing it since it’s 75 degrees out and muggy today…yes, in mid-October.)
Together, these items remind me of the breadth of your womanhood: you are attentive at home, you read a lot, you aren’t afraid of a fashion statement, and you blend the high-end with the budget buy. I think we would get along famously.
+One of my personal favorite posts this year was this one on turning 34. It is some of the most honest writing I’ve ever found in myself.
+In my most recent order from Amazon: these highly-reviewed toothbrushes (my dentist insists we should only use “soft bristle” brushes; these have 5x the normal number of bristles AND people rave about the hectagonal shape of the handle, making it easier to keep on an angle); this silicon alternative to bacteria-riddled loofahs to use with my new favorite body wash; this broom set for mini, which she LOOOOVES; and a spool of one-inch satin ribbon, which I go through with shocking velocity when wrapping gifts, tying up treats, etc.
+I need these alpaca ornaments for my tree this year.
+If you can’t tell with the reference to Mount Helicon, I’m midway through Madeline Miller’s Circe, our book club pick for this month, and I’M DEAD. IT IS SO GOOD.