"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How I named my blog

When I first began blogging, I floundered around a bit, in Wordpress and on MySpace and finally lit on Blogger, partly because it had that "Insert Tab A into Slot B" way of developing a page, and partly because I can have quite a few different blogs on different subjects. This was important because in addition to this blog, I have the ongoing saga of my horse, Snoopy, and his broken leg. (Go here to read about his journey back to health.)

One of the fun parts of Blogger is their "Blogs of Note", where the Blogger team of experts trolls around the pool and finds interesting blogs to recommend. I'd love to be a Blog of Note someday, but they're pretty random and I may have a better chance winning an Oscar.

As a matter of fact, this post seems random, but I'm explaining all this to tell you how I stumbled upon a blog called "synch-ro-ni-zing". It's written by a lady named Ruth, and the pictures are beautiful, as well as the words. She seems to live in a rural kind of place that sounds peaceful and lovely, and I'd probably like to live there, too, as long as I wasn't too far away from civilization.

I'm telling you all this because Ruth has asked for blog writers to tell her how we named our blogs - in a post. She is providing a link for her readers to peruse our offerings and satisfy everyone's curiosity. So here's how I named this "On the edge of the chair of literature."

I am a writer, and this blog began as a way for me to talk about the writing process. In some ways, I'd like to have a defined writing platform, as in "a romance author," or "a women's lit writer," but I don't. I write a humor column in my very local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times. I've been known to write articles in California Riding Magazine about horse shows. And, of course, I've written a mystery, Freezer Burn, which was published in August.

As a reader, I'm equally eclectic. In my misspent youth, I read anything that strung letters together to make words I could understand. Now that I'm older and realize I can't read everything, I tried to read things that are well written, no matter what genre. This explains why I haven't read any of the Twilight series. And no, I'm not seeing the movies.

But of all the genres, the humor essay remains my favorite thing to read, and James Thurber remains my all-time favorite essayist. He had a brilliant way of taking a mundane family interaction and lifting it to absurdity. In his essays, he had an Everyman kind of role, to try to live a quiet and orderly life, which was constantly tossed aside by the chaos of society.

When I visited his house and museum in Columbus, Ohio, I was as impressed by the man as I was by his writings. He was legally blind in his later years, so much so that he wore what amounted to binoculars for glasses - a large, black contraption that was strapped to his head. He used enormous canvases to draw his cartoons, and would sit very close to the work as he inked these impossibly big characters.

How many of us would keep going like this? He could have, at any time, said, "Enough. I'm blind, for Pete's sake. I'm going to spend my days sitting in my yard and listening to the birds singing." But he was driven to create, no matter what.

When I needed a name for my blog, I had to involve my idol. I re-read My Life and Hard Times and found what I was looking for in the very first entry, "Preface to a Life." In it, Thurber is bemoaning the aging process. (That he is approaching his forties in the piece is part of the humor, although I suspect it was not meant to be; these days, we are less apt to think of forty as old.) He worries that he is getting older, and is living with a daily dread of losing his way in this world.

According to Thurber, the aging humorist writes from fear rather than joy. "The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats. Afraid of losing themselves in the larger flight of the two-volume novel, or even the one-volume novel, they stick to short accounts of their misadventures because they never get so deep into them but that they feel they can get out. This type of writing is not a joyous form of self-expression but the manifestation of a twitchiness at once cosmic and mundane."

It's a funny piece, but in a melancholy way, and I think there is a certain truth to the "twitchy" factor. If you are a writer, you write because you can't NOT write. Although I did eventually make the move to the full-length (more or less) novel, I see Thurber's point about it all.

Words burn in my head, until I must sit down and release them through my fingertips. I do worry about getting so deeply into writing a scene that I cannot write my way out of it. And I would love to write Great Literature and sit with my back in its chair, but instead, I sit on the edge and write my light and lively tales.

There now, does that make any sense?


Bella Rum said...

...perfect since and a unique title for a blog it is.

Barry said...

What a wonderful explanation and the perfect choice for your blog's title.

The Thurber quote was priceless.

Ali Trotta said...

I always liked the title of this blog, and it's neat to read the backstory. :-)

Andrew Rosenberg said...


Mine is self-explanatory: The WriteRunner.

Take-off on "The KiteRunner."

I write and I'm a runner.

And I've never read The KiteRunner (tho I saw the movie).

Ruth said...

Oh, so that's what "on the edge" means. I thought maybe it was like being on the edge of your seat, anxiously listening. This makes sense. Thurber's twitchiness reminds me of what I read about in IBrain, the book about how our minds are less and less able to engage with books because we are reading less.

I doubt I could ever write a novel because I started a short story once and couldn't finish it. I think the blog is perfectly suited to my attention span.

Thank you so much for participating with this excellent post, Gayle!

sanjeet said...

The Thurber quote was priceless.

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