Mamma Mia

I got my brake tag Tuesday afternoon (FINALLY) and so now my car is at long last legal; six days after I bought it and drove it home from the dealership. Woo-hoo! I also bought one for two years, which I didn’t think you could do. Ah, well. There you go. I’ve also had a few almost panic-attacks over the last few days: a new car? Financing? What were you thinking how the hell are you going to pay for this what happens if this happens or this happens and how are you going to handle this and what if someone hits it/scratches it/steals it/vandalizes it and so on. I also panic when I am stopped at a traffic light and I see a car coming up very fast behind me.

Sigh. It ain’t easy being a Gregalicious.

So, I rewarded myself after getting my brake tag by curling up in my easy chair with the delightful Laura Lippman’s short story collection, Hardly Knew Her, and read the first story, “The Crack Cocaine Diet.” Originally published in The Cocaine Chronicles, in 2005, this is a wonderful wonderful story.

I had just broken up with Brandon and Molly had just broken up with Keith, so we needed new dresses to go to this party where we both knew they were going to be. But before we could buy the dresses, we needed to lose weight because we had to look fabulous, kiss-my-ass-fuck-you fabulous. Kiss-my-ass-fuck-you-and-your-dick-is-really-tiny fabulous. Because, after all, Brandon and Keith were going to be at this party, and if we couldn’t get new boyfriends in less than eight days, we could at least go down a dress size and look so good that Brandon and Keith and everybody else in the immediate vicinity would wonder how they ever let us go. I mean, yes, technically, they broke up with yes, but we had been thinking about it, weighing the pros and cons. (Pro: they spent money on us. Con: they were childish. Pro: we had them. Con: tiny dicks, see above.) See, we were being methodical and they were just all impulsive, the way guys are. That would be another con–poor impulse control. Me, I never do anything without thinking it through very carefully. Anyway, I’m not sure what went down with Molly and Keith, but Brandon said if he wanted to be nagged all the time, he’d move back in with his mother, and I said, “Well, given that she still does your laundry and makes you food, it’s not as if you really moved out,” and that was that. No big loss.

Isn’t that opening extraordinary?

Laura Lippman has long been one of my favorite writers, and every novel/short story I read from her is a revelation; every time I read something from her, I am always amazed. Reading her work is humbling for me, and yet also inspires me and pushes me to work harder, be more creative and to think differently about my own work. The way she can juggle an incredible, long-running series with powerful, creative and smart stand-alones is really a master class in how to build a successful career as an author.

This story, though.

When I wrote my first noir story years ago, the anthology editor’s instructions were simply to come up with my own definition of noir and write a story that fits that definition. For me, the definition was ‘the endless nightmare–someone innocuously makes a bad decision and things just keep getting worse, and the decisions made also get worse–as the choices are between bad and bad.” That story was “Annunciation Shotgun” (one of my favorites), but years later I heard Laura on a panel define noir as “dreamers become schemers,” which is a better definition. And boy does this story fit both definitions. Our main character and her friend made a bad decision–‘hey, we need to look hot at this part our exes will be at, so let’s do a lot of coke and lose weight’–which then leads them down a path that gets darker and darker and darker. The stakes continue to rise with each decision, with each new situation, and the surprises and twists come like machine gunfire. God, what a story. And I sure as hell didn’t see that ending coming.


Here’s a hottie for the day:

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