Monday, December 29, 2008

Just What We Needed Another Literary Hoax

Sunday Berkely Books announced that they are canceling their plans to publish Herman Rosenblatt's book Angel at the Fence. Rosenblatt, a survivor of a Nazi death camp, began some years back to tell a lovely, romantic story about how he met his wife Roma when she would pass food through the camp fence to him. It is a very romantic and charming story --- the kind people love to believe. Sort of like believing that a little girl could be cared for by a pack of wolves while she searched for her parents in war-torn Europe.

Now to be fair Rosenblatt, unlike Misha Defonseca/Monique DeWael, is at least Jewish and did, in fact, survive a death camp so he has the excuse that he lived a horrific and traumatizing experience and can be granted some leniency but.... The sad, inexcusable truth is that every time someone concocts one of these stories they trivialize and exploit the true stories of Holocaust survivors and that is inexcusable. Rosenblatt knew all along that he was telling lies --- his own son told him to knock it off. But he persisted. So, now he is exposed as a fraud and he has to live with that.

Of course, from my perspective, the real travesty is the hunger of the public for these absurd, sensational memoirs. Like “Miz-Lit” and “murderabilia” they would not exist if the public wasn't so infatuated with gobbling up someone else's tragedies. The market creates the climate for these hoaxes. Sadly, the hoaxes themselves are gobbled up and, in Misha Defonseca's case, extraordinarily profitable. Defonseca and her co-writer Vera Lee have profited hugely from the hoax and continue to do so.

As many readers know I chronicled the unfolding of the Defonseca hoax here on this blog and I continue to follow the attempts of Defonseca/Lee's publisher Jane Daniel to obtain some justice in this disgraceful situation. Vera Lee continues her attempts to have Daniel thrown out of her house so she (Lee) can sell it and profit even more than she has so far.

One of the things that one observes in watching the interviews and reading the newspaper coverage about this on-going situation is Vera Lee's claims that Daniel “hid” money in off-shore accounts and that she, with her lawyer's help, “discovered” these accounts. Now it may well be true that the actual location of the banks money was held in were never revealed to Defonseca/Lee (does Random House tell their authors which banks they keep their money in?) but the actual funds themselves were accounted for on royalty statements that were entered into evidence in court. For this reason, several of Jane Daniel's friends and supporters have been urging her to post the financial statements and related documentation on her blog and offer it to the media. If Vera Lee continues to bang the drum that she and her lawyer “discovered” purloined funds, wouldn't the best way to refute that be to just post the records? So that is what Daniel is working on now.

One of the powerful things about the internet is that there are so many opportunities and forums for public exposure. Daniel is presently working on a video that will be posted on YouTube that addresses the financial questions that surround the case and demonstrate that while Vera Lee may have figured out which banks Mount Ivy's accounts were in, the actual funds in those accounts had always been available to the court.

The whole issue of literary hoaxes is a growing phenomenon and one can't help but wonder how dumb an author would have to be to try it at this time. Defonseca/Lee currently hold the record for profiting from fraud. $33 million for a hoax that was 1.) a lie to begin with, 2.) created by a non-Jew claiming to be Jewish who was also the daughter of a traitor, 3.) a hoax perpetrated on the legal system, 4.) a hoax on the Jewish philanthropies that gave financial support, and 5.) a hoax on the publishing industry.

As Vera Lee continues her relentless attempts to take Jane Daniel's home away from her, we can only hope that the legal system, Jewish organizations, and the publishing industry will speak out. If this hoax continues to be profitable for Defonseca and Lee it only serves to support the efforts of future hoaxters.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Meet Me at the Lighthouse Christmas Morning

“Meet me at the lighthouse...” the note read, “... Christmas morning.”

The note was stuck under the windshield wiper of her car. There were often notes stuck there --- notes written on scraps of brown paperbags and the backs of envelopes. She knew what they were before she even read them. She knew when she looked out of her window and saw one stuck there waiting for her. How silly, she thought, how typical. How cute.

It was bright, sunny, frigid Christmas morning with a flurry of sparkles in the air, little fairy sparkles somewhere between ice and snow. She had coffee and cookies. He loved cookies.

The road down to the lighthouse is one of her favorite drives. A narrow road that winds and twists --- while she is driving her cell phone rings. It's her sister who says “Merry Christmas, what are you doing?” She tells her that she is driving down the road to the lighthouse. “Tell me what you see," her sister says, “describe it to me.”

Well, she says, the ocean is very blue and there are whitecaps with little bits of ice. There's a wind and when the wind skims across the whitecap the sea-spray blows back and catches the sunlight and rainbows dance up and shimmer in the spray. There are a couple of lobsterboats coming back in and they have ice on them too. There's not a lot of snow but the ground is all white. On the far shore the rocks are covered with ice and it sparkles when the sunlight touches it. I can see the stone tower of the Cardinal's Villa rising up above the trees. And there --- she points as though her sister can see --- down there is a castle.

“What kind of a castle?” her sister asks, “what color is it?”

It's gray. Made of gray stone. It's a Norman castle with towers and battlements and a Rose Window that shimmers when the sunlight hits it.

“I wish I was there,” her sister says. “I hope you have a wonderful day.”

She puts the cell phone back in her pocket and turns the corner past the pond where the swans live. In Spring they will be there with their babies, little balls of fluff floating gracefully under their swan-parents' protective watch. There is always one little wanderer, one who strays too far, who tries to go his own way too soon. He is her favorite.

The houses here are old and elegant. They are made of stone and have towers and turrets and stained glass and ornate iron gates. The road is lined with stone walls overgrown with ivy now blackened and frozen. There are bittersweet vines with some bright orange fruit still showing through the papery leaves. The beach roses are chattering in the frigid breeze and the beach plums that replace the bright pink flowers are coated in ice. Everything is beautiful. Everything sparkles and twinkles.

Where the road forks there is a small brick gatehouse. She takes the road to the right of it. The trees are thicker here but she can see the glitter of the water through them --- stone arches on the walls, wooden doors ornamented with old brass. She knows the people who live in this house. He is a well-known writer. She has had dinner there.

She drives past the tree she loves, all gnarled and twisted and battered into madness by years and years of winds whipping over the harbor. A beach, a marsh --- a marsh where she has seen all kinds of birds on other trips down this road to meet him. The branches of the trees are like black lace against the bright blue sky. Through them she can see the first flash of the lighthouse. She smiles. Her heart dances.

The gravel crunches under her tires as she turns into the parking lot. She sees his truck parked at the far corner of the lot under the watch of the tall white lighthouse. And there he is standing on a rock in front of the breakwater --- black sunglasses, hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. He never wears gloves. It's useless to tell him to.

She parks beside his truck and thinks this is the most beautiful Christmas morning anyone has ever had. He is walking toward her. There is a fine dust of snow on his big shoulders and in his moustache. He leans down to open the car door.

“Merry Christmas,” he says.

Merry Christmas to one and all. May your day be sweet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Lobster Trap Tree 2009

It just wouldn't be Christmas without the Lobster Trap tree in Gloucester and this year is the most spectacular one ever! I don't know when the tradition of building lobster trap trees began here --- they do it in other coastal towns too --- but it seems to get better every year.

The tree, which is composed of lobster traps piled up in an area in front of the police station, is usually decorated with lobster buoys but this years the buoys are exceptional. Each one was painted by the kids at Art Haven. There are lots more pictures and videos on other blogs. See Captain Joe's, Jay Albert's, and Miz Lia's for more photos. But if you are in the area, just drive down Main Street. It's a Gloucester Christmas Tradition!

Thanks for reading.

Note: The hand is getting better day by day. I am typing better and am hopeful I'll be able to knit a little soon. What a drag this has been! Thanks to all who have sent suggestions. The exercises in warm water and Naproxen have helped a lot.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beth's Shawl

My sister Beth, much to my delight, just sent photos of her shawl for the book! I'm so pleased with them --- she did a great job!

The shawl is similar to Emily's Shawl only without the deep border. It is also much longer. The fiber is 50% silk /50% cashmere from China. The colors are lovely shades of blue and violet. I just LOVE these photos. Thank you, Beth!
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cold, wounded and cranky...

It is 20 degrees outside, my right hand is still swollen so badly that I can't knit and I'm crabby and hard to get along with. Only fellow knitters can understand the frustration of having a newly arrived shipment of laceweight cashmere and some gorgeous Harmony knitting needles from Knit Picks and a right hand too wounded to pick them up. This stinks!!!

It is bright and golden but bitterly cold and today is a high moon tide at 11 so I'm going to try to at least get out with my camera and snap some photos. Until then I'll re-post a post I made back in 2005 about a bout of tendinitis. Seems a million years ago: Wounded

Later: December Moon Tide at Good Harbor Beach: (click image to enlarge)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


It is snowing and it is quiet here. I had a bad day yesterday and went to bed early. I woke up determined not to let the crabbiness from yesterday spill over into today and, as so often happens when I go looking for inspiration or consolation, I found it. This morning I picked up a favorite book, Frederick Bauerschmidt's Why the Mystics Matter Now, and I re-read the chapter on Julian of Norwich. It was what I needed to read.

Yesterday I was trapped in a blue funk having to do with many things, not the least of which is the coming of the holidays which I do not particularly look forward to in recent years, and partly because I have over-knitted in recent weeks and my right hand is suffering for it. It is badly swollen and very sore and I can't knit. I can barely type. I talked to a couple friends yesterday about my blue mood and, as I should have known they would, both of them tried right away to “fix” me. This is a thing that annoys me because I'm a firm believer that sometimes we have to let ourselves go through bad feelings, negative emotions, slumps, periods of grouchiness. I don't think pills are the answer to that. One friend is an advocate of psychological drugs --- “happy pills” she calls them. “Call your doctor,” she said, “get a prescription for Wellbutin. You shouldn't have to go through this.” Then she proceeded to give me a lecture about all the people she knew who were so much happier now that they have happy pills. I personally think that is a crock.

Now, I am not about to say that there are not people with genuine physical needs for these pills --- there are. But I think it is a relatively small percentage of the people who are taking them. There are a few things we, as a culture, ought to snap to. One is that sometimes when we feel bad we should feel bad. The bad feelings are trying to tell us something, they are trying to tell us that our life is out of balance, that we need to do things differently, pay attention, look at what our priorities have become and do something about it. And sometimes we need to just get over ourselves. That's what was going on with me yesterday --- I was blue and tired and afraid to stand up for myself by saying, “Look, can I just skip Christmas? It drives me crazy.”

Depression is a very self-involved state. Believe me, when I get into that place, I am virtually incapable of seeing beyond my own crap. Which is where Julian comes in. What struck me, in reading that chapter, was the observation that depression is best alleviated by the development of compassion --- the operative part being the “com”, the “with”. The word com-passion means “suffering with” --- with --- joining into the suffering of others. When we are lost in self-absorbed depression we tend to forget that others go through these things and we are no different. We are not special --- and yet we are.

I seem to get into a lot of discussions about God lately. So many people are so mad at God that they have decided not to believe in him anymore --- that'll fix him. And often their justification is that God let them down when he failed to do what they wanted him to do --- so the hell with him. When I was in college I had a roommate who loved to talk about her terrible childhood and how her parents had failed her. From what I had seen of her parents they seemed like really, really nice, kind, almost doting people but she persisted in her claims of neglect. Finally one night, after a few tumblers of wine, she told me the story. See, she really, really, really wanted a pony. And they could afford it but they refused to buy her one. So she got mad and decided to never forgive them. That was it.

Sometimes I feel like that with God --- he didn't give me the life I wanted, he wasn't there when I wanted him, he took Mark away, he took my brother and a friend I loved. So I'm all wrapped up in myself and my own sulking over not getting what I wanted. That's why I need Julian of Norwich to remind me that I need more “with” in my life --- with God, with others, with those who are gone but still so much a part of my life.

Last night I got out two stories I wrote this summer when I was deeply grieving for Mark. I reread them and I realized that he was with me in every word and punctuation mark. My other loves are with me when I let them be and I need only pay attention to those that I can be with. I write. And when I write I am with. So the snow is falling on the old cemetery outside my window and I am with all those who suffer the pain of loss, too. I will write about it today --- no pills,just words --- and the awareness of being with God in all of this.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lessons I Have Learned While Writing This Book

As The Mermaid Shawl & other Beauties: Shawls, Cocoons & Wraps nears completion I have discovered that I have learned as much by writing this book as I have while knitting. The biggest lesson has to do with photography, as in, PHOTOGRAPH EVERYTHING. Once it is out of your control it might as well be lost. Emily was a darling and sent her pictures but the other people I contacted and asked for photographs have not responded. It is too bad.

One of these is my sister Beth who is the owner of the blue and violet cashmere/silk shawl shown on these pages. It is a beautiful example of the rectangular design that was also used for Emily's Shawl and a have a few photos I took while I was working on it but I wish I had photographed the finished product. I have also learned that sometimes pictures can save a LOT of explanation! I have tried to explain techniques and, frustrated, I finally just got the piece and the camera and took some pictures --- I hope this does the trick.

At the last minute I've decided to add pictures of works in progress to show how I put the techniques I discuss in the book into practice.

One of these involves the fate of my Lady Eleanor Shawl. Back when everyone was knitting the Lady E, I made one too out of a combination merino wool/silk and it was beautiful but I never wore it. It seemed awfully heavy and, I don't know, it just never worked for me. So I turned it into a cocoon. So I added that to the book, too.

Well, I still have work to do on the book but the end is in sight and I am getting excited about the next one. (Oh NO! Did I say that??? Wash my mouth out with soap...)

Thanks for reading.