Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

By Cornelia Read

Our beloved friend Louise Ure is in all our thoughts this week. Please consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society in her husband Bruce Goronsky’s memory.


Well, this will be the second time I’ve written this post this morning. I’m lying in bed at my pals Sue and Glo’s house in Glendale, California, and didn’t do the intelligent thing of asking them how to log onto their wireless service before I tried to save and publish my thoughts to Murderati today. O joy, o rapture. But maybe it will make more sense this time (at least I hope so.)

The bed belongs to their son Malcolm, who’s away on a sleepover, and it’s made up with extremely cozy Star Wars sheets, so there is definitely some mojo in being wrapped in likenesses of Han Solo and Princess Leia.

I’ve been on book tour since Monday, and it’s a wonderful thing to be back on the green lush west coast when everything in New Hampshire is still very grey and mouse-colored. I’v been blessed to see dear friends at every stop along the way. I’ve been given rides to and from every airport, and beds to sleep in, and have gotten to break bread with people I love at every meal–in Seattle, in Corte Madera and Berkeley and Piedmont and San Mateo, and now here in LA.

In Seattle, Fran and Lillian blessed me with a mojo-rich leather biker jacket that belonged to their friend Lou, who died seven years ago of breast cancer. The only condition of the gift was that the little pink ribbon pin on the left lapel must always stay in place, and I am honored to oblige them in that.

The only thing that’s felt a little off about my travels this time is me. Normally, I’m pleased to get up and speak to a crowd at the drop of a hat. I’m very lucky, especially in this line of work, to have no nerves whatsoever about public speaking. This time, though, I haven’t felt as solid about what to say about my work. I think this is partly because my third novel is a tougher thing to encapsulate in a polished way. The issues in it go too deep for me, it’s too personal, and it’s become a divisive thing within my family. This is the book I worked on as my marriage fell apart for once and all, and it’s also done a good bit to shatter the fragile peace of my immediate family’s long held truce of denial. It’s a dark book, though I’m pleased and honored that the Richmond Times-Dispatch called it “at once heartrending and hilarious.”

And, too, seeing so many wonderful friends on the west coast has driven home how solitary the life I’m returning to on Monday is, by comparison. I lived in Berkeley for nine years before lighting out for New Hampshire, and I was blessed with a wonderful collection of beloved friends and colleagues in the Bay Area. I miss them all a great deal.

This year has been the first in which I lived alone, ever. I met my husband a couple of months after leaving college, when I was still sleeping on a friend’s dorm room floor at Williams. I haven’t ever been the sole grownup in a household, and I’m discovering all the ways in which I’m not very good at being said grownup, when everything’s on me. Parts of it have been really cool, but most days there are at least a few instances where I feel like a twelve-year-old masquerading as someone who knows what she’s doing in a forty-seven-year-old body.

The best part of the year has been the realization that I am supporting myself and my daughter with my writing alone, the scariest part my uncertainty that that will remain true, given the tenuous nature of this line of work. My friends have sustained me through all of this, even though most of them are now 3000 miles away from the zipcode I currently claim as home.

If you’ve found me a little more shy and hesitant at signings this time out, all of this is what’s been going through my head. And I have one more gig today, 3:30 p.m. at The Mystery Bookstore, 1036 Broxton in Los Angeles. I’d love to see you there if you’re local at all.

So, ‘Ratis, who are the people who’ve sustained you at points in your life when everything changes, especially when if feels like there’s no context at all?

At Zoe’s kind behest, the name of the book is Invisible Boy, my publisher describes it as follows:

The smart-mouthed but sensitive runaway socialite Madeline Dare is shocked when she discovers the skeleton of a brutalized three-year-old boy in her own weed-ridden family cemetery outside Manhattan. Determined to see that justice is served, she finds herself examining her own troubled personal history, and the sometimes hidden, sometimes all-too-public class and racial warfare that penetrates every level of society in the savage streets of New York City during the early 1990s. 

Madeline is aided in her efforts by a colorful assemblage of friends, relatives, and new acquaintances, each one representing a separate strand of the patchwork mosaic city politicians like to brag about. The result is an unforgettable narrative that relates the causes and consequences of a vicious crime to the wider relationships that connect and divide us all.

and the cover looks like this:


23 thoughts on “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Cornelia

    Have a ball at your signing today – give Bobby and Linda my best wishes. And – come on! – plug the book. What’s the title? What’s the jacket copy? You can’t just tell us a snippet of a review and a few tantalising details about the effect it’s had on your family and not give us the whole skinny!

    Who’s sustained me? Has to be Andy. Not very often you find a soulmate, in my experience. Best to hang onto them when you do ;-]

    Have fun, enjoy the sunshine – it will soon be warmer in New England!

  2. Rae

    Yep, Cornelia, I know just what you mean. I think anyone who’s at all introspective (and by definition any reader of fiction simply has to be introspective, or they wouldn’t be reading) feels like an impostor at some point. Or, as you say, like a 12-year-old in an ill-fitting adult suit.

    As to who’s sustained me? Well, you, for starters 😉

  3. Cornelia Read

    Zoe, thank you, and it makes me happy to think of you and Andy together. Good couples are too few and far between, and you guys are amongst the finest.

    Rae, boy have you sustained me, too. I’m so lucky to know you!

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    ANOTHER good book this month? April is killing me. You’ve no idea.
    I’ve usually been pretty independent and have toughed out a lot of stuff, but at lowest point I’d say my family have sustained me in times of need.

  5. Barbara

    When I was a kid things like listening to records, reading and writing behind my locked bedroom door sustained me during much of my family drama/trauma. After my brother’s suicide and a wrong-way turn at law school, I adopted a three-week-old black kitten, Max E Coco. In the past 18 years, he has been my constant companion, soothing me through breakups and career disappointments, and never asking for much in return, though he is terribly spoiled, but he’s worth it!

  6. Cornelia Read

    Barbara, when I was saddest the summer before last, my sister’s cat Max was an incredible comfort. He’d just come lie on my hip for a while, and it reconnected me to the world.

  7. allison davis

    Cornelia, so sorry to have missed you — was doing the responsible thing as I told you. What sustained me — wow, interesting to analyze after just going through this the last two years — is creating my physical space, art, flowers, music, like putting yourself around you to view, to see who you are. The curious thing for me was to discover what colors I liked, what dishes I picked out just for me, what things I choose to have around, what bugs me about me, and what I make myself for dinner. Sounds wierd, but getting to know yourself in the quiet solitude is a pretty great experience (ok scary too). Obviously it focuses the writing, finding you is part of finding the voice as well. You got the voice first, but I bet it is interesting to keep company with yourself. But then, I’m not 3,000 miles away from what was familiar — I got to stay in the same house, albeit a different flat.

    Have fun on the tour, they can’t all be alike and enjoy your nomad life for a while. Remember that some love to give and entertain, and it’s a gift to let them. I’m looking forward to this book…

  8. Cornelia Read

    Allison, I feel the same way about my life right now. It’s kind of great to just see what happens when I’m driving the boat, although yes, scary, too. And it’s amazing how clean my new apartment stays. Kind of stunning, actually.

    I missed seeing you, but I feel as though we’re somehow on the same astral plane at this point, you know? Hope we get to hang out over the summer…

  9. JT Ellison

    Cornelia, I’m blessed to have Randy and my parents to help me through the rough times. And the ‘Rati, of course! The reason this book is going to do so well is because you’ve put yourself in it. I wish I had your courage!

  10. Andi

    Heart-rending and hilarious. What an amazingly accurate phrase for INVISIBLE BOY. And how fucking imPOSSible it is to imagine writing something like that that woks. And it does. You may not feel it right now, but trust me, having read IB in at least what, 3 versions? it does work.
    We’ve had THAT conversation – or probably more accurately THOSE conversations about how impossible it is to feel like a grown-up and act like one and then to find out that actually, ahem ahem, you’re pretty damn good at it. Even if and when you don’t want to be.
    the idea that this is your first time ever living on your own flabbergasts me. Wow. You truly are managing it well, even on the bad days. Trust me. And holy fuck, that you are sustaining yourself with your writing. There’s no one here – fan or writer, reader or friend – who doesn’t get just how hard that is.
    You know I love you.

  11. Andi

    oh – who has sustained me when everything changed or when life has thrown huge curve balls? At one time it was my partner Bob and my friend Debbie. And my mom. In the last 20 some years, especially since I became The Medical Mystery of the Century? You know who. Stu. And forgive me for the goo, but an amazing cast of fuzzy animals who take on the burdens. Yay for Murray the small but amazing gorilla and his friends. And oh gods yes, you honey. I don’t know where i’d be without ya.

  12. Karen in Ohio

    It has to be difficult to mine your own life for pain and angst, especially if your family takes it personally. My own life has some dramatic moments that I’m dying to write about, but it would hurt my mother immensely. She’s been in serious denial for almost 35 years, and I think having to come face to face with even a fictionalized version would make her very angry with me. You’re very brave, Cornelia. I wish you great success with this book, and will look for it the next time I’m buying books.

    The cover looks very much like a cemetery I noticed on the expressway outside Manhattan. I remember thinking that there would be some rich potential for novel-writing with its proximity to the city!

  13. Cornelia Read

    Oh, Andi, my dear twin–you’ve sustained me through lots of heavy stuff overthe last few years, and I’m so glad I know you.

    Karen, I’m not sure I did the right thing with this book, but it was all stuff that I kind of had to say.

  14. Sylvia

    Your talk in Corte Madera was great and it was lovely to see you again. I thought you encapsulated both the origins of the book and why the subject means so much to you very well. Stop selling yourself short.

    For the record, I read the book in two nights and I’m bummed that I now have to wait x months before reading your next (how’s that for pressure??)

    As for what sustains me… friends with sturdy shoulders and the willingness to nod and be supportive even when they want to do is scream or yell about the whole matter. After that is probably me and the realization long ago that at the end of the day the only person I can absolutely rely on is myself. Some days that isn’t much consolation though!.

    Hats off to you and your newfound/gained living alone status AND the ability to support yourself and daughter through your given talent.

    Now, go find a nice chocolate bunny and bite its ears off.

  15. Fran

    Well now, Lillian says you’ve blown her rep as a grumpy bad-ass and for that we are never ever giving you another second-hand leather jacket from a much beloved but tragically gone friend. Ever. So there.

    Oh my, it was good to see you! And I suspect the enthusiastic reviews for "Invisible Boy" are just getting started. There’s amazing honesty in there, and let’s face it, that opening scene is just a hoot! Sweet Lady, you can really WRITE!

    Who sustains me? My family first — Lillian, Ty, Ryan and Liv — but also my friends, who have showered me with untold kindnesses and consideration. And then my books, all of which have gotten me through some really terrible times. The ability to forget what’s happening while traipsing around in someone else’s reality is a gift of the gods, never doubt it, any of you who write. You are special and blessed, and I’m honored to play in the places you’ve created.

    Thank you.

  16. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    It was wonderful seeing you today, Cornelia! And I’m glad I’ve got my copy of Invisible Boy, and I got it signed!
    Now, get some sleep already!

  17. Sharon J.

    What sustains me? My partner of 27 years, not really sure if the kids sustain me but they do distract me, our fabulous writing group because having careful, thoughtful readers is invaluable to any writer, and wonderful friends like you.

    As hard as it’s been for you to relocate to the East Coast, when you look back, you will realize that this was essential to becoming the person you are now. How many people get to start over completely in a new place and keep most of their friends and still maintain close relationships with their family?

    I can’t wait for book number four, they just get better and better. And then book number five and number six…

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