Summer Reading B2G1 Free

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.



Well, teaching the baby Chinese didn't quite work out — not his fault, of course; he's clearly a brilliant child, but I was focusing on Szechzwan dialect and my guess is he is more of a Mandarin kind of guy. And the grocery shopping didn't take nearly as long as I had hoped. So here I am, alas, facing my empty computer screen again.... At least I like my first sentence for the piece. It includes the word bunny, and I always like to start a story with at least one word I like a lot. Let's hope the New Yorker doesn???t insist on changing that to rabbit — it just doesn't have the same feel as bunny, does it? And yes, I know the story is about pigeons, not bunnies, but... well, if I ever get the story written, you'll see why bunnies fit in.

Of course, today, it's not a matter of Creative Procrastination: it's a JACKHAMMER outside my window that's been chewing up the concrete for the last three hours. I work at home these days — I have an office at the New Yorker, but since I'm living in Boston, my New Yorker office exists mostly as a little shrine to my old notebooks and a collection of Mao propaganda posters that I thought gave the place a little pizzazz. Anyway, what is it with me and jackhammers? My apartment in New York (where I lived until 2 years ago) was at an intersection that had some sort of infrastructure problems, and it was jackhammered up and paved over and jackhammered up again about ten times in the course of my life there. And can I just say that the sound of a jackhammer is not exactly helpful during the creative process? And can I also say that I thought, when moving to Boston, I was more or less moving to a quaint small town, where there would be no such thing as JACKHAMMERING. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Not only is Boston not a quaint little town, it's a town under construction. I live downtown, in an old machine-screw factory, right over the Big Dig — the world's largest public works project (I'm not kidding; it really is) — so something is always being blown up, or torn down, or dug up, or paved over. Maybe I won't be able to write this piece after all. Maybe I can just submit the word bunny to my editor?

One of you wisenheimers asked what I thought of the movie Adaptation, so, what the hell, I figure I might as well answer. I love the movie — it's hilarious and a remarkable commentary on the nature of writing and of passion itself. I am a thousand times happier to have had a great movie made from my book, even though it's not faithful to the book (well, it's faithful to the book and then goes off on its own crazy path), than to have some boring, labored Hollywood effort to "accurately" adapt the book. And having Meryl Streep play me was an out-of-body experience. Literally.

Wait — a break in the jackhammering! Back to work!

Books mentioned in this post

Susan Orlean is the author of My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere

5 Responses to "Rat-a-tat-tat"

    k. November 29th, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    Your assistant is adorable.

    I like that you like the word bunny. I like word weasel in a similar way and will look for occasion to deploy it, or its variants (weaselly, weaseled). What other words do you like a lot? Also, do you ever get homesick for Portland? If so, what is it that you miss?

    Margarita November 30th, 2005 at 7:17 am

    I definitely agree that the word "bunny" is not seen enough on the pages of the New Yorker. I look forward to your piece. If I were writing a piece for the New Yorker, I think I would try to get in "pupdoodle". And I would think that if the jackhammering were disturbing your baby that that wouldn't be very conducive to the creative process either. I know that it would drive me bonkers. Stress, stress, stress!

    Rise November 30th, 2005 at 8:49 am

    Whatever possessed you to think that Boston was a "quaint little town?"
    In this era of computer-oriented work,
    I would think you'd pick something like
    Minot, North Dakota....

    George November 30th, 2005 at 9:49 am

    Reading your blog entries is now high up on my CPTL, along with baking. I'm not doing the latter this morning, so the former will suffice.

    You did a great Orchid Thief reading here in Minnesota one cold day before Adaptation came out, so you didn't answer the unaskable question then. But the reading took place in a conservatory, and you were surrounded by greenery, a reflecting pool, and even some orchids, so it must have been among your more unique venues, for the interior/exterior contrast if nothing else. And did you know that Minnesota is the only state in the union that has an orchid (the pink-and-white ladyslipper) as its state flower?

    This probably doesn't happen with "bunny," but do you ever look at a word long enough that it stops making sense as a word, and just becomes a random set of letters? For me it happens with "milk" after I stare at a carton for a few seconds.

    Enough procrastinating for me.

    Julie Williamson November 30th, 2005 at 10:20 am

    I also had a redheaded (one word or two?) baby boy who changed my life 45 (oh, my God!) years ago. It's a great ride.

    Boston would be a great venue - wonderful schools, therefore, wonderful lectures and opportunities to meet great people - I am sure you fit right in. You can always write a story with a jackhammer as the evil protagonist ending with God Bless the Grass that Grows through the Cracks. I suppose everyone you meet has a story idea for you. Do they ever click?

    Back to eBay to make enough money for Christmas presents for my redheaded baby and others.

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at