Cherise Bathersfield

Book News: Playdate … for Adults Only

March 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm , by

Entertainment journalist Thelma Adams’s novel Playdate, just out in paperback, explores the minefields of modern marriage with humor and sass. But Playdate is no empty romp. In addition to parenting precocious pre-teens, the protagonists—couples Lance and Darlene and Alec and Wren—are dealing with complex issues. Lance, an unemployed weatherman, is married to Darlene, a restaurateur, who maintains an inappropriate flirtation with her restaurant’s financier, Alec, who is married to Wren, a yogi, who is having an affair with Lance. Got that? If that love quadrangle weren’t dizzying enough, a fierce forest fire is menacing their comfortable upper-middle-class California enclave. We asked Adams to talk about the game plan behind Playdate.

You’ve been a film critic and entertainment writer for almost 30 years. How did that experience inform your first novel, which is about marriage and relationships?

I am a married film critic and entertainment writer with relationships. Some of which, I confess, are a little convoluted. This novel began as an idea for a screenplay: What if we melded Warren Beatty’s handsome rootless philanderer in Shampoo with Michael Keaton’s overwhelmed dad in Mr. Mom? It seemed like a funny concept. However, as it turned out, I’m a prose girl. The movie idea morphed into a novel.

With his sensitive nature and commitment to parenting, Lance is the heart and soul of the book. But he’s also having an affair. Was it hard to construct a sympathetic cheater?

Making Lance sympathetic without demonizing his wife Darlene was one of the great challenges of the book. Personally, I am the daughter of a relatively sympathetic cheater. My dad was no saint, but he was no demon either. I was a daddy’s little girl who adored her father, and growing up we had this kind of very easy, affectionate, unconditional love. And then, when I was in my early twenties, I discovered that I’d lived in a house where a pattern of infidelity on my father’s side gutted my mother. Being daddy’s little girl was suddenly a difficult position to have within the family politics. And, on top of that, when I found out about my father, I was still crying over a post-college live-in relationship with a serial cheater with whom I was crazy in love. That’s a long time ago, but fidelity, and understanding how infidelity molds a family, and a relationship, has been central to a lot of my writing. In the end, I came to understand my father, which is not exactly the same as forgiving, through my love for Lance and [his daughter] Belle. Read more

Can This (Good) Marriage Be Saved?

February 21, 2012 at 11:48 am , by

No Cheating, No Dying is journalist Elizabeth Weil’s account of the year she devotes to making her self-described good marriage even better. Weil and her husband, Dan Duane—both writers and overachievers—submitted to couples counseling, sex therapy, group workshops and more, applying themselves to their marriage as they would to a new writing assignment, hobby or exercise regimen. But being married with two children is no two-mile swim (which the couple did from Alcatraz to San Francisco). It’s complicated. For every issue unearthed, resolved and shelved during Weil’s marital spring-cleaning, another seemed to pop up to take its place. Weil shared some insights with us about her sometimes tumultuous journey to rehab her “good enough” marriage.

Q. After nearly a decade of a marriage that was not broken, what made you decide to fix it?
A. I noticed that I was being lazy-brained about my marriage in a way that I was not about the rest of my life. I had stacks of book on how to be a good mother. I kept up with the latest research on how to stay healthy. I put a lot of effort into my friendships, my work life and staying fit. But I had an attitude about my marriage that it was either star-crossed or it wasn’t. And once I noticed that attitude, it seemed silly. So I decided to change it.

Q. How did your husband, Dan, react to your proposal?
A. With horror! I’m sort of kidding. But his first reaction, when I brought it up, was “I can’t think of anything worse.”

Q. Where did the name of the book No Cheating, No Dying come from?
A. Those were our secret vows. Of course we stood up at the altar in front of our friends and family and promised to love and care for each other for richer and for poorer, in sickness and health and all that. But privately we said to each other: no cheating, no dying. We figured our marriage could survive anything else.

Q. You refer to a lot of marriage psychology publications and self-help books. Which ones did you find particularly helpful to you as a couple? Why?
A. Stephen Mitchell’s Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time really had a huge impact on me. Mitchell argues that romance doesn’t die in marriage due to neglect. Romance dies because we kill it, on purpose, as it becomes increasingly dangerous. We are so dependent on our spouses. These days husbands and wives aren’t just lovers or financial partners. We’re also co-parents, emotional supports, best friends. We can’t bear to think of our spouses as anything less than entirely predictable. And as a result we can start to think they’re boring and unromantic. But really, we’ve just put our spouses in that box. We need to take them out again.

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Making the Most of a Midlife Crisis

November 18, 2011 at 9:37 am , by

In her new memoir Running Away to Home Iowa native Jennifer Wilson, 38, does what many of us only dream of—she breaks from her hum-drum existence in Des Moines, Iowa and embarks with her husband and two kids on a 9-month long adventure to uncover her roots in Mrkopalj, (pronounced MER-koe-pie), Croatia. While Wilson delves into the rich history of the small rural town to find traces of her great-grandparents, all four of them make friends with some quirky but lovable townspeople, devour the local eats, climb mountains, and find out the true meaning of family along the way. We asked the author about her family sabbatical and how running away changed her and her family.

Q. Why did you decide to take a family sabbatical and not just a vacation?

A. Jim and I had dreamed of living overseas together when we were newly married. We’d both traveled internationally, and we’re big believers in travel as the best way to widen our friendship group and learn new things and eat fantastic new foods. But we got busy with the kids and our respective jobs. Midlife malaise had overtaken us. I felt like I was postponing my life “until the kids are older.” When I realized that I was using the kids as an excuse not to challenge myself, I resolved to make a change. From there, the dream of Mrkopalj quickly materialized.

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Ladies We Love: Danzy Senna

May 3, 2011 at 10:51 am , by

There’s not much I can think of that would make me want to extend my hour-long commute to work in the mornings, but that’s what Danzy Senna’s new book You are Free did. I didn’t want to put the eight-story collection down! I am not a harried new mom like Livy, a young woman dealing with her mother’s death like Andrea, or a troubled lonely singleton like Jackie, but there was something that linked me to those women and all of the other female protagonists in the book. Maybe it’s the humanity that Senna infuses into each of her characters.  Whatever “it” is would be a great topic for any book club discussion. Senna, who is the author of three other books — Caucasia (another one of my favorites), Symptomatic, and Where Did you Sleep Last Night? — answered our “Ladies We Love” questions.

What makes me a lady: That I insist on making my bed every morning; that I make my sons eat lots of vegetables.

Favorite guilty pleasures: Us Weekly, dark chocolate and my nightly two glasses of Chardonnay.

Three things on your life list: 1.To be able to raise my sons into confident, healthy, aware men. 2. To translate some of the ideas and themes of my written works into film or television. 3. To take care of a child who is not my own.

If I could have a superpower, it would be: The power to heal through touch.

Ladies I admire: All the anonymous women who raise their children alone, who flee abusive husbands, who take in and nurture other women’s children, who flee oppressive regimes, who speak truth to power, who find the courage to tell what really happened.

Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2011 at 8:52 am , by

86898565_563dab2319_m-1If you want to do more than hug your favorite tree in honor of Earth Day, try at least one of these 10 tips from public health and safety organization NSF International, and turn your Earth Day celebration into an everyday fete.

1. Pack Lighter: An extra 10 pounds of baggage per air traveler requires 350 million more gallons of jet fuel per year.

2. Change colors: Paint your home a light color if you live in a warm climate or a dark color if you live in a cold climate to reduce energy consumption.

3. Air-dry: Dry your clothes outdoors. They’ll smell great, and your utility bills will be significantly reduced.

4. Use reusables: Replace disposable home products with reusable ones like rechargeable batteries, washable food storage containers and cloth towels.

5. Buy used, borrow, or rent: Purchase used or recycled products when you can, and if you only need something temporarily, check with friends or neighbors to see if you can borrow or rent it.

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Ladies We Love: Danielle Evans

October 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm , by

Danielle Evans_credit (c) Nina Subin.(smaller)Twenty-six year old Danielle Evans has what most young writers crave: rave reviews for her first book, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. But surprisingly, Evans, who also teaches literature at American University in Washington D.C., says her life has not changed that much. “I’m thrilled that so many people seem to be enjoying the book, but yesterday I went grocery shopping. Today, I’m cleaning my apartment, grading papers and hanging out with my cat.” Her eight-story collection tackles serious issues like race, class and female identity in contemporary settings, but the key to Evans’ storytelling is making the seemingly-complex feel accessible. “Ultimately, I hope that my stories allow the reader to experience some portion of the world that feels new, and some portion of the world that feels familiar,” she says. Evans, already at work on her next book, answered our “Ladies We Love” questions.

What makes me a lady: A willingness to be direct about what I’d like to see happen in my life, my environment and the world at large.
Favorite guilty pleasure: Manicures and fancy bubble bath
Three things on your life list: 1. Read at least a healthy fraction of the books on my to-read list. 2. Live someplace where I can paint the walls. 3. Know that I’ve had a positive impact on the future.
If I could have a superpower, it would be: Teleportation
Ladies I admire: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Margaret Atwood, my mother

Spring Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

April 2, 2010 at 9:43 am , by

After initiating a half-hearted attempt to clean my entire apartment at 6p.m. on Sunday night, I decided that there must be an easier way to tackle spring cleaning. This list should help make your clutter a little less daunting than mine.

  • Do buy some fabric or plastic storage bins. Having a place to put things really helps to keep everything organized.
  • Do throw out junk mail ASAD (as soon as delivered). Stopping the junk build-up before it becomes a pile is always a good preventative measure.
  • Do invest in a shredder. Shredding is a lot less painful than tearing up a pile of mail into itty-bitty pieces by hand.
  • Do donate clothes you haven’t worn in over a year to charity. If you didn’t remember to wear it last year, you’re probably not going to miss it.
  • Don’t wait until spring to start cleaning next year! It’s a lot easier to get motivated if you just have to complete small tasks in a short period of time instead of a day- (or night-) long cleaning spree.

Do you have any spring cleaning tips?