Friday, January 6, 2023

practicing podcasting

 I'm trying to fill in a few gaps while scores of people write and ask me where in the heck the book is, which they ordered last October of November, maybe even December, with the promise of December delivery. It's coming, really, within a week. Some people reply, "So is Christmas," and while that was true for a few weeks, I'm afraid that's passed and not funny anymore. The publisher told me a few days ago that they are being delivered. Yes, but when? Soon. But when? Like, next week. I will get my carton, say the package tracking gods, on Monday. I'm pretty sure yours will follow.

Meanwhile, the gap... Maybe this podcast will entertain you for a few minutes. Or for a half hour should you commit. I think it went pretty well.

Podcast on Chomsky and Me 

Thanks for staying with me!  

Bev


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Upcoming Reddit AMA - on r/chomsky

I'm not exactly sure my title makes sense to you, but this is what I'm trying to say:

Stay tuned for a r/chomsky AMA - Ask Me Anything. I set up several of these for Noam over the years, so I thought it would be fun to do one myself to answer questions about him, what it was like to work for him, travel with him, how he reacted to difficult situations, did he have a sense of humor, what kept him up at night, did he like sports? What did he prefer to eat or drink or watch on TV.  (Did he watch TV?) Or really, anything you want to know about him that you probably can't find in a book. Except mine, in soft cover for now, which you can hold in your hand in (I'm told, and I hope it's no later) December. 

You CAN, however, pre-order the softcover now at a 15% discount. In the spring '23, a hardcover will be released (this was not originally the plan), and later in '23 the soft cover will be available in stores as well.

https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/chomsky-and-me/

Questions can be submitted to r/chomsky subreddit beginning on Noam's birthday, December 7th, which also happens to be the one year anniversary of my open heart surgery. And Pearl Harbor Day.

Bev



Monday, October 24, 2022

CHOMSKY AND ME: A Memoir

IT'S A BOOK!

This post should be decorated with lights and graffiti and colored banners and balloons. But I'm too pooped to make them appear.  Many of you have seen my announcement in a group email or on Facebook, so if you're getting this for the second or third time, forgive me. Let's just say the publisher made me do it!

You can order Chomsky and Me: A Memoir through the publisher, OR Books, at a discount, using the link below. Stay away from Amazon for now. There will be a hard cover in the spring, but right now the ISBN number has to be updated. If you would like to order my book or E-book or both 😀 it's best to use the link below. There are photos. Who doesn't love photos? Not to mention Chomsky's quirky sense of humor that so matches mine, and my mother's inimitable Waltham accent :-)

Chomsky and Me: A Memoir

I feel like I've been in labor for ten years. Thank you all for holding my hand and reminding me to breathe! If you pre-order now, they tell me you'll have the book in your hands in December. It will be in stores in the spring of 2023.

xoxoxo



Friday, May 27, 2022

Misguided Grammarians


        Bear with me here...

I am not proud that I have always been a card-carrying member of the word police. I cringe when I read a text from someone saying they were “to” tired to go for a walk, that “John gave cookies to my friend and I,” that “there” friends don’t care about the news “there” listening to. Even in casual correspondence, I have to hold myself back from wielding a red pen and crossing out misused words, adding letters to misspelled ones. Trying to subtly demonstrate, I have been known to write back, for instance, “I’m sorry you were too tired to go to the bookstore talk. You can watch their recording online...” 

I was almost shaking one day after a friend wrote “I and my friend went to the beach on Saturday.” My hand hovered over the keyboard, wanting to reply, trying not to, valuing the friendship while wondering how I managed to become friends with a person who would write this. I knew why – this was a friend I met when I was nine, not a friend I’d made as an adult. I am not proud of this realization.

Thinking this, I felt like a word snob, or worse, a word bully forcing her agenda onto others, though this is something I come by naturally. My mother was a word snob from childhood, correcting friends’ spelling and pronunciation errors, full of pride at being the best speller in her class. In a grade school spelling bee, squaring off with one last student, her word was “division.” Without taking a breath, she blurted, “Division: d-i-v-i-s-o-n,” followed by her audible wide-eyed gasp as she realized she had left out, in her reckless, overly-confident rush, the third “i.” She knew, as most of us do, that it is against the rules to correct oneself in a spelling bee. I heard this story as many times as I shared my horrible childhood memory of assigning two syllables to the word “tongue,” pronouncing it “tong-goo.” I had been out sick the day my class learned the word, and was humiliated at being corrected. This was the only mistake I recall making in grade school. 

Word misuse, like these stories, can make for fun discussions between like-minded pals, but friends and strangers who use the wrong words and don’t care “to much about there problem” (which probably happened over time, and not "all the sudden"), don’t appreciate being corrected. They blame my working in an elite university for nearly forty years, while reminding me of my humble Waltham roots. (Some old Waltham friends are also word snobs.) In fact, most of the women in my writing group have similar reactions to incorrect spellings and word usage. We can’t help ourselves.

While having a good chat with myself, I remembered the flicker of a discussion I’d had with Noam two decades before, and wrote him to check it out. Since I’d just had a conversation with a writing friend about word order, I threw in another question. 

I wrote:

     I was telling a friend yesterday about Gene Searchinger's Language Series, and the fact that a child knows instinctively to say, for instance, "red ball," and not "ball red." But she threw me a curve ball: what about in French, where the syntax switches to "balle rouge?" Does the child instinctively say it correctly in French because of the rules it has picked up and applied even at two? I'm probably not explaining this well, as I'm obviously not a linguist... 

     Also, I recall you telling me why "my friend and me [went to the park]” is not incorrect, since it's the way a child might naturally say it. Am I remembering that correctly? 

Noam replied:

    Children know instinctively that they can construct the unit {red, ball} (a set, with no order).  But whether it’s “ball red” (as in most languages) or “red ball” (as in English) is a choice determined by experience, a parameter in technical terms.  Same with “read books” (English) or “books read” (Japanese).  There’s by now a large and important literature on how parameters are set by the child, quickly and with very little evidence.

     What children naturally say is “me and my friend were here.” That’s because they are speaking English properly and ignoring Victorian social conventions.  Misguided grammarians tried to force children to speak a Latinate form of English that they invented, and to impose the social conventions, so you’re supposed to say “my friend and I were here” in a language that does not exist and with social conventions that you do not follow naturally.  Causes endless confusion.  That’s why you hear people say things like “between you and I,” overgeneralizing the error of misguided grammarians. A lot of it traces back to Bishop Lowth, 18th century prescriptive grammarian.

**

        This was not the first time I was left with more questions than answers as I rode the endless train of lessons at the feet of Noam Chomsky. I did some research. The first article I found mentioning Lowth was in a May 6, 2016 issue of the journal The Conversation. The title: Grammar police belong in the 18th century – let’s not inflict their rules on today’s children. 

I wonder how that’s working out? I could ask Noam more about Lowth, but maybe better to ask my grammar school neighbor. She’s less likely to send me away with homework. 

 


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Open-Hearted - Part II

December 6, 2021

“What’s your name…Do you know where you are?” If they didn’t know, I was in trouble. Where was the gratitude I expected to feel when I woke, alive, from open-heart surgery? Bewildered at being asked to engage in a drug-infused conversation, I mumbled confused replies in a pained whisper. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I don’t remember my partner Laura’s afternoon visit. 

In the ICU, not only does time not fly, it does not move. Changing positions my first night was impossible with an IV in my hand, a main port with tubes dangling from my neck for middle of the night blood draws, and I would later learn, a tiny camera monitoring my heart through a neck incision. Other monitors covered my chest and abdomen as a catheter collected urine. I couldn’t roll over to press the call button, since I needed help rolling over. Desperate for sleep between blood labs, electrolyte drips to help the blood thinner reach a required level so I wouldn’t have a stroke, and compression cuffs around my lower legs to keep my blood circulating so I wouldn’t have a stroke, I watched the clock crawl toward midnight. I dreamed in snippets until a nurse shined a light in my eyes, as she had every hour, to make sure I hadn’t had a stroke. When she left, I wondered how long I’d slept. One hour? Two? I looked expectantly up at the clock. I had dozed for ten minutes.

Hours later, the nurse pricked my finger for a blood drop, following up with a shot of insulin. I asked her why. “The sugar water we float your heart in after we stop it is absorbed…” I closed my eyes and tuned the rest out. 

My surgeon likes to see his patients sitting up, and I complied on my first post-surgery morning, my drugged head bobbing forward and back, in retrospect not a bad exercise after being stretched out as if on a crucifix for a good part of the day. After teetering in my vinyl, easy to clean recliner chair for a few hours, a PA helped me to lie back on the bed. “Damn, who tied these so tightly?” she asked, pressing a small pair of scissors into stitches in two sites in my upper abdomen. I told her I had no idea, as I had been unconscious. She finally got me unstitched and pulled out two long drainage tubes. I only know this because she told me, not because I’d asked. Certainly not because I’d watched. I’m not that type – I’m too squeamish. If you’re gonna stop my heart and lungs and replace my heart’s mitral valve with a pig’s valve, I’m better off without a visual, without specific details. 

I used to wonder how it would be to have a near-death experience from a car accident or a slip in the shower. Would I reflect on my life and move forward with renewed appreciation? The day after this surgery, a doctor asked, “Do you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck?” I did, but before I could see the gift in it, I had to survive.

On day two, Laura arrived with Jay, who, in a reversal of long-ago roles, coaxed applesauce into my dry mouth with a plastic spoon. This sweet, fleeting offering, a singular moment in time, was one reason I ate, the other being that I wanted to show my son that I intended to stay alive. When they left, my nurse suggested I order my meals using a phone I hadn’t known I had. Holding it, I had no clue how to call the kitchen. I spent hours – or maybe minutes – staring at a cup of water and a tiny can of ginger ale on a tray six inches beyond my outstretched arm. I'm not sure how long I stayed in that position. I do recall doing some imaginary math to figure out how many thousands of these cans were distributed each day,  hoping the hospital recycled. I had been warned to use my arms minimally, so even if I reached the tray, I wasn’t allowed to pull or push it. “What are the four sternal precautions?” my young OT had asked after reciting them once, loudly, as if I were hard of hearing. I answered hesitantly, because I could barely remember. Also, the breathing tube had scratched my throat, and the tissues around my heart and lungs were still inflamed, so it hurt to talk. 

1. No hands over my head

2. No lifting, pulling, or pushing anything over five pounds - a gallon of milk weighs eight pounds

3. Only one hand behind me at a time 

4. (I couldn’t remember the fourth, except that it suggested putting out of my mind the fact that I had arms)

That afternoon, feeling as stable as Oz’s scarecrow, I took a slow-motion walk with my nurse. I got as far as my hospital room entry and turned back, winded. Was this my real life? That evening I went into AFib, or atrial fibrillation, meaning I developed an irregular heartbeat. My surgeon visited often, and in my oxycodone haze, I argued politics with him. He had been a sniper scout in the Arab-Israeli War in the late 1940’s, and was not, he said, a Noam Chomsky fan. I told him this didn’t surprise me, and pointed out, I suppose as a retort, how curious it was that he – the surgeon – had been liable for a number of deaths, and was now saving lives. He offered good- naturedly that those of us in the U.S. who haven’t lived in a war-torn country and experienced suffering first hand, should do so for a few years, to expand our point of view. I decided it was wise to end the debate, since he hadn’t yet finished saving my life. With a welcome change of subject, he voiced puzzlement at my AFib, since he “had removed a useless heart appendage that should have prevented it.” Uh huh.

Just before dinner, another PA helped my nurse get me back into bed. More stubborn stitch removal, and a long, thick gauge pacer wire emerged from my abdomen. I asked what else was in there, hoping this was the end of that treasure hunt. I’d slept on a soft pillow the first two nights, not knowing that Laura had wrapped her down jacket inside a hospital pillowcase during her first visit. This time she brought my pillow from home, in a case printed with a dog park scene. Both pillows were, as I think back, my security blankets, grounding me when my surroundings – lights and beeps, bed, johnny, my own body, my sense of sanity – felt unfamiliar and elusive.  

Time remained illusory. By day four I was feeling invisible, abandoned, with bouts of paranoia from sleep deprivation. Every once in a while a puff of anesthesia pushed itself from my lungs and out between my lips. Better out than in.

A strong core is vital to muscle control, injury prevention and basic life activities. A strong core is also vital, I quickly learned, to rocking armless-ly back and forth to get your feet to the floor to totter to the bathroom, to the vinyl chair, to walk the ICU with a nurse. Each day I improved slightly. Despite my cardiologist’s forecast of two days in ICU, then three in a regular hospital room, I was released on day nine. 

At my two-week post-op checkup, my surgeon – Dr. B – played for Laura and me a life-sized video of my first echocardiogram. “See here, these two parts of the valve, like parachute wings, were not meeting after each beat. See the blood leaking out at the top? Your leak was severe. Now this is the post-op echo.” Watching my heart beat again on the screen was akin to a horror movie. “See here how the new valve closes nicely after the beat?” Uh huh. “And look here at the wires holding the two halves of your sternum together.” I heard myself say, “Note to self: Faint later.” Dr. B laughed. I gripped my chair’s arms, breathing, trying not to have a stroke.  

As a grand finale, he unscrewed a small jar. I prayed he was about to share left over applesauce from lunch. “Look, this is a pig valve just like your new one.  Go ahead, touch it. That orange plastic piece comes off before we put it in.” The orange part looked much like a Lego my grandson Declan might use to build a structure. It was grounding, something I could imagine as familiar. I touched the valve lightly. Poor pig. Or was it? Apparently it had been living its life with a stronger heart valve than the one I’d been going about my business with. “A pig gave its life for me” is a sentence I never thought I’d utter, but when I did, I sent a mental note of thanks.

Walking our neighborhood block, Laura held two dog leashes, while I cautiously navigated undulating tree roots and asphalt swells. When I imagined tripping, my hand flew up to protect my healing wound and sternum. Bundled up and shuffling forward in a long hooded coat, I must have looked like a drugged up relative on furlough from an institution. After eight nights in ICU, this wasn’t far from the truth.

April 6, 2022

At four weeks post-surgery, a cardioversion (shock to the heart) failed to return my heart to normal sinus rhythm. Now, three months after that, I’m still on AFib meds, curious about whether, and how, I might be weaned off. Will I take blood thinners requiring blood draws for the rest of my life? These questions aside, after spending my energy staying alive, I’m finally feeling surges of that elusive gratitude at simply being alive. 

Now for the big reveal, which isn’t really so big. Before my surgery, as I wrote in Part I, I wrote Noam to ask his blessing for my book project. I wanted a simple quote to share with publishers and agents wanting his approval. His reply was exactly the reply I’d expected. He said it was not up to him to decide whether I should be writing the book, but that it was up to me. He said he trusted Jay Keyser’s good judgment. 

Reflecting on this, I realized that if I hadn’t known for sure he would answer the way he did, I had no business writing this book. It is, after all, about my reading between his lines, about our silent communications, and what he called my “uncanny” intuition and tact handling visitors and crews worldwide. It is about the mutual trust we’d built during our years together. Of course he would trust my rendering. 

As of today, I’m waiting to hear from a NY publisher about whether he will take me on. If he says no, I’ll keep moving forward, because I’m here, and I can.  I just wish Laura would stop making pig jokes. It’s too soon.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Open-hearted - Part I

Facing major, scary surgery last December, I was fighting a decidedly non-Buddhist stare down with fear and the inevitability of death. Even after several pre-op procedures, walking through a hospital door toward open-heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve required a level of intestinal fortitude I did not possess. Plus, Christmas was a few weeks away. I took a last look at the pre-surgery notes I'd scribbled down on a pad of paper: wash with a special cleanser, don’t eat after midnight, hold off on meds, and the rest. As I put down my notepad, I noticed that the bottom of each page was inscribed with the name of a funeral home. Not a good sign.

For two years before my surgery, I had tried to summon a different kind of strength, one requiring that I face my doubts about my book project, and so, about my writer self. Would my observations about our quirky, serious, silly, life-altering (for me) twenty-four years together at MIT’s Stata Center be of interest to readers outside of my MIT world? Or to more than the staunchest fans of my long-time boss, Professor Noam Chomsky? Hadn’t I already worked through this question of self-worth? What scared me the most was one vital and inevitable question I had to ask him. Would he reply favorably? 

My fears had me half-heartedly finishing my book proposal, a necessary step toward finding the right agent to put my manuscript into the hands of an enthusiastic publisher. Noam had read a few of my blog essays in the past, and liked them, saying things like, “You have stories to tell about your adventures here, and you write them well. Keep it up.” This was generous of him, considering he was a main character in my stories. Since that initial nod of approval, others followed, usually with a humorous remark like, “Why don’t you put that in your book? Why don’t you write about how you follow two old men around to fix computer problems and find lost things?” But his life circumstances changed. He and his new wife required privacy, and although I had carefully chosen my words and scenarios, writing only from a place of affection, respect, and discretion - not easy when trying to publish a book these days - I worried how I would go forward with my project, should he not give his final blessing. 

I pushed forward and began querying publishers, receiving dozens of remarkably positive and encouraging rejection letters, but when a few asked if they could contact Noam about my manuscript, I discouraged them. A rookie mistake? I thought I was being honest and straightforward by citing freedom of speech and asking why I would need anyone’s approval, just as I had seen Noam do a thousand times. But my response, my doubting mind imagined, may have signaled to them my fear that Noam, in the end, might not approve, and what publisher wanted to face that possibility? For two and a half decades I had watched him recoil from anything shining a light on him, even as he gathered and shared globally the truths of political and human rights matters. He wanted his writing and lectures to be the focus, not himself, but that didn't mean I couldn't write to reveal this world-renowned luminary as a real, mortal human being, a mensch, as the Yiddish would say. I had learned from hundreds of responses to my blog posts that making the person behind this great mind more accessible, showing him enjoying family, boating, friends, gave other activists permission to do this hard work without burning out, as many before them had, some dying by their own hands.

So now, as I was about to endure what would turn out to be a nine-day ICU experience at the Mt. Auburn Hospital on the other side of Cambridge, not far from MIT, I found the courage to ask him that question. What did I have to lose?

I’ll answer this question next week, when I'll also share a peek into the wild world of the cardiac ICU, as viewed from inside my mind, through my own quirky lens.


💝


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Feet to the Fire - Meeting ee cummings

Summer, 2021

I had forgotten the story behind our friend Anita’s family’s summer home on the pristine Silver Lake in Madison, New Hampshire until she mentioned it at dinner our first night there. The rustic all-wood home, named Shawmut when it was built more than a century before, had a surprise history. You had to climb onto the roof – we would take her word for it – to see the initials of one of its builders etched into the cement at the top of the chimney: EEC - poet e.e. cummings. 

As a writer now going through the merciless process of preparing the materials needed to query agents for my book - including the endless book edits - I felt comfort in Shawmut’s rustic simplicity from the time its screen door reverberated behind me with the loud slap of my own childhood screen door. I felt reassurance in the woody smells of pine and cedar ceilings and walls, and quarter sawn oak floors. Original windows opening to views of the woods and lake still slid perfectly across their wood frames.

After dinner I lay my hands on the large stones, all in shades of gold and gray, of the vertical outside wall of the Inglenook, a partially enclosed rectangular fireplace with a benched nook for sitting. This put your body inside the hearth area, six or seven feet from the fire. I imagined e.e.’s hands touching those same stones, and asked him for clarity on how to improve my memoir manuscript. It couldn’t hurt. Could he visit me in a dream and throw me some good publishing karma? A dozen London agents and publishers had written that they’d loved my book. They’d even loved what they referred to as its idiosyncratic nature, which was fine with me, since I’d agreed with others’ portrayals of me as a “wonderfully quirky storyteller.” I wasn’t sure what they thought was specifically idiosyncratic, nor would they say. Were they referring to my writing style and voice? Did they consider irreverent my attempts at lightening up an atmosphere where serious and even catastrophic world issues were at the core? At any rate, the fact that my writing strayed from “conventional” books about my MIT boss, linguist, activist, author Noam Chomsky, rendered them unable to gamble on publishing in the UK. Best to begin in the US, they’d suggested. I didn’t want my memoir to fit into a box with most other books about Chomsky. My writing was meant to shed light on the reluctant icon as a human being, on my twenty-four year relationship with the man beyond the pedestaled deity.

That night Anita pulled two books from her bookshelves – “When I was a little Girl,” by e.e.’s sister, Elizabeth, about their childhood on the lake, and another about the history of the lake’s houses. Shawmut, I learned, was one of a triplet of houses designed by Edward Cummings, e.e.’s professor-reverend father. The two of them had helped an experienced and well-known local builder and mason build the houses. 

In the morning I walked the short path down to Silver Lake, where at least three members of the Cummings family had found solace, and inspiration for their writing. This is exactly the kind of place that inspires a writer – the beauty of the clear water slapping at the shore, the mountainous backdrop, and the mournful calls of the loons. Halfway there, I noticed a short trail leading to a gray-shingled pump house partly hidden by pines. I thought of the times I’d wished for a writing space of my own, free of my much-loved pets asking for attention, of a neighbor’s knock, an urgent text, my partner Laura’s Zoom patients’ muffled lamenting tones coming from her office next to mine. Maybe I would charge my laptop and grab the key to the pump house the next day and write in there, balanced in the quiet on a folding beach chair. A few cobwebs for the price of an hour or two alone to free write, delete, edit my manuscript for the next round of agent queries. The whole soul-sucking process generates doubt about one’s writing in the face of the financial bottom line of the publishing industry. A bottom line that fears a book about the man behind a world-renowned activist adored and hero-worshipped by 1.6 million Facebook followers might not generate enough revenue. Is this how it was for cummings when he wrote his poems, or for his sister, Elizabeth?

The Cummings family had eventually moved into Abenaki, one of the houses – large cottages, really – that they’d built along the shore next to Shawmut. Curious to see the place up close, the four of us – Anita, Laura, our friend Sharon, and I, took off on foot down Shawmut’s dirt driveway, swinging left up a steep, undulating drive toward Abenaki. The family who had bought the house from the Cummings’ had driven Anita off their land decades before when she tried to introduce herself. We noticed fresh tire tracks right away, but soldiered on, fingers crossed that they weren’t home. I surreptitiously imagined asking e.e. cummings for great writing insights while the energy of his childhood home hovered. As we neared the penultimate crest, we heard someone approaching and called out, asking if we were trespassing, knowing full well we were. The body of a pre-teen boy appeared like an apparition above us. Hoping he hadn’t been warned never to talk to strangers, even an innocuous gaggle of four older women, Anita explained that she was his next-door neighbor, albeit a quarter mile away.  He – we would soon learn his fittingly old-time nickname, Hap – shrugged noncommittally and turned to lead us back toward his new home, answering our barrage of questions with just a word or two. When did you move in? Are you related to the Cummings family? Do you mind if we come closer to have a better look? He worried something with his fingers as we walked, and I imagined a young e.e. cummings using his finger or a stick to etch his initials into the wet cement at the top of Shawmut’s chimney. At the house, he fetched his mother, Chelsea, who emerged from inside with a toddler. Hungry for adult conversation - Hap turned out to be the oldest of four boys – and eager to know more about the history of her home and others on the lake, she welcomed us in, where the two middle boys were lying on mattresses, reading. She told us she and her husband had bought the property weeks before and pulled up the “No Trespassing” signs, to Anita’s great relief. 

The first two floors were mostly void of furniture except for Revered Cummings’s enormous writing desk, purchased from the previous owners. I felt a detective's thrill riffling through the notepaper, maps, and watercolor nature drawings tucked into the desk’s drawers and the hutch’s upper cubbyholes. With fireplaces on every floor, the scent of wood and ash permeated this cottage as well. Sadly, their first floor inglenook had blocked the kitchen and had been partially dismantled, but they planned to respect and honor the home’s original architecture. The third floor’s sleeping porch had the feel of a tree house with its long span of sliding windows overlooking the lake. I could almost see canvas bedrolls, cots, and wool blankets lining the outside walls.

Back at Shawmut, while the others headed for the dock to read and swim, I took the pump house key from its hook. When I opened the wood door, I let out a gasp at what I saw: a beautiful room with pine post and beam walls and exposed ceiling, with a large quilted bed, a smaller one for pondering, a blue leather sofa for more pondering, and a simple rectangular desk with chair and lamp. A total of fourteen windows looked out at nothing but trees, lake, and distant mountains, and there was plenty of light. My own writing retreat! I locked up and ran down to the water to take a quick kayak ride followed by a swim before the predicted rain. Afterwards, I changed into dry clothing, grabbed my laptop and notes, and returned to my private retreat to write a little, and to read more of Elizabeth Cummings’ book to the sound of a light rain tapping, on the roof. I imagined e.e. cummings’s fingers drumming to the same rhythm on his own desk as he searched for just the right word to fit the meter of his newest poem.

The elder Edward had written his sermons in a nearby cabin overlooking the lake. As I was closing up the book to prepare to hike up the ridge to see it, an article from 1985 fell out. Sitting on the floor, I read that e.e. cummings’s unorthodox, unstructured style had put him out of favor with many other writers and poets of his time. Although initially largely self-published for this reason – his writings had been published in Harvard’s newsletters, where he’d studied – he was eventually published professionally with almost three thousand poems. He is still remembered for the eccentricity of his punctuation and untraditional word usage. With this in mind after dinner, my own idiosyncratic writing now a badge of honor, I took a seat inside the Inglenook and put my feet to the fire to create a list for updating materials – synopsis, intended audience, chapter summaries, a list of folks to ask to write a book jacket blurb, marketing plan, and the rest – to query more agents. I slept in my dream retreat overlooking Silver Lake that night, and woke to work at my laptop for another hour, with e.e. cummings drifting about, cheering me on in some wonderfully idiosyncratic and unconventional way. Now that we’d met, to borrow a phrase from a personal favorite of his poems, I’d carry him in my heart.

By the way, e.e. cummings was a pacifist who’d spent time in jail for his political actions. Chomsky would have approved. In fact, they would probably have been friends.