Weekly Wrap: The Ways We Are Marked

by Susan Henderson on October 5, 2007

I don’t have a tattoo. My generation was less about tattoos and body piercings and more about unflattering clothes. If I’d been born ten years later, I’m certain I’d have a band’s name or a boyfriend’s name inked somewhere on my body, and I’d be considering laser surgery to take it off.

Ink is only one way to mark a person.

We come into the world with markings that are very much beyond our control: Temperament. Good looks. Bad looks. Rich parents. Poor parents. No parents. The list goes on and on. And then life happens to us: Glorious things. Hideous things. Love. Heartbreak. Rejection. Accomplishments. Friendship. Illness. Throughout, we make choices: Gallant ones. Shameful ones. Lucky ones. And here we are, all marked up and unique.

Some of the marks are visible. Some hidden. Even the oldest ones never completely fade. We can be adults while still being that kid with acne and braces. A part of us still waits by the phone for that boy to call or by the window for that lost cat to come home.

But life doesn’t just mark us. We also mark life. Every day, we have an opportunity to add something good to this world, however small. And when you come here to share your stories and opinions and vulnerabilities and passions, you add something to LitPark. And to me. I thought you should know.


Thank you to this week’s guest, Pierre Berg, for giving me the honor of being the first to interview him about his time in Auschwitz. Thanks to those of you who welcomed him and to the many of you trying to help his memoir get into the right hands. Thanks, as well, to everyone who linked to LitPark this week: Pierre, Marking Time, Frivolous Photos, Ellen Meister, Claire Cameron, Where’s Travis McGee? and The Publishing Spot. I appreciate it!


Oh, wait. I meant to announce that Amy Wilentz‘s I FEEL EARTHQUAKES MORE OFTEN THAN THEY HAPPEN: COMING TO CALIFORNIA IN THE AGE OF SCHWARZENEGGER is now out in paperback. With a new afterword about the disjunction Americans feel concerning the real world of politics, foreign affairs, hunger, refugees etc, and the everyday California (or New York) fantasy world of lattes, yoga, HBO, shelter mags, celebrity culture, Internet purchases, etc. The afterword revisits some of the people and places reported on in the book: the mountain of debris from the Northridge earthquake and its travels around town; Arianna Huffington’s website; the Department of Water and Power’s bottled water consumption; Schwarzenegger and his decline from world-rescuing he-man into dull Sacramento pol…

Amy’s always up to something interesting, so I asked her for an update:

I’ve been writing too much this summer: did some stories for More mag about Katie Couric, Holly Hunter, Wafa Sultan (an Islam-rejecting, Syrian-born Californian), and now Benazir Bhutto. I contributed a chapter to a book called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary, coming out soon. My chapter is on Hillary Clinton’s yellow pants suit, and its semiotic significance. I was up in Carmel for the First Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival, which was both fun and interesting. I just reviewed Susan Faludi’s new book, THE TERROR DREAM, for the LA Times [Sunday, September 30]. And now I’m starting the academic year at Irvine, where I teach Literary Journalism, and beginning work on a new novel set in Southern California.

Phew! If you want to feel lazy, ask Amy what she’s been up to! Okay, so Amy’s on MySpace, too (and likes to remind me that it’s all my fault). You can friend her here. Have a great weekend!

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Daryl October 5, 2007 at 1:06 am

i’ve felt like a marked man most of my life; marked by a destiny to follow in the footsteps of unhappiness and unfulfilled lives of my fathers. this year though, i’ve started to believe otherwise. getting blogged by Robin Slick and getting my interview by Susan were big morale boosters. on the photography front, next week i will be shooting my first concert assignment for Spin Magazine (

on another note in a more literary vein, does any LitParker that lives in the Boston area feel brave enough to visit Eugene O’Neill’s grave to collect a handful of grave dirt for me? this deed would be of enormous benefit in helping me delve deeper into the writing of my novel.

i do feel so welcomed here in this group. you are all great inspirations to me.


lance reynald October 5, 2007 at 2:16 am

great week in the park.

good to see everyone.

xo. LR


Claire Cameron October 5, 2007 at 7:12 am

So glad to have you back.

I had a headgear like that and it marked me. I still have recurring dreams where I show up somewhere crowded, only to realize I forgot to take it off.


Heather Fowler October 5, 2007 at 8:59 am

Yes, to all you said, Susan. Yeah, what Susan said. Just a brief confirmation from a lifelong Southern Californian–it’s an odd disjointed place out here where it never snows, yet my power bills are $400+ in winter months for a single family dwelling (at less than 2K square feet); where you have children who want to be movie stars and think American Idol is their next big chance; where half the middle class goes into astronomical debt to be house-rich, money poor and yet the other half of the continental US comes to visit and thinks: You paid what for THIS? Where’s your foyer?; where the Governator is a movie star both once paid by the word in his movies and once known for being not only rudely lascivious, but sexist, too, to colleagues and random women; and where the best things about the culture and the place are never seen on television… I have felt several earthquakes. Pssst, Susan, a SoCal tip: Unless the Richter goes up so high freeway overpasses are falling down, we usually just talk about them like a cloud passing by. Did you know there was an earthquake today? No, really? Yes, only a 5. Oh, well, I didn’t even feel it. LOL! I’ll have to check out Amy’s book. It looks like a fun read. Warmest and best, as always, xoxo, H


James October 5, 2007 at 11:51 am

I tried to leave a comment for Pierre the other day, but it appears that I broke the internets.

Regardless, and in trite summary, Pierre is a champ of a human spirit.

I’d hate to follow after this interview. But Amy Wilentz is just the chick to do it.

The Park is pleasant this time of year…

Thanks, Susan. Thanks, Pierre.


Julie Ann Shapiro October 5, 2007 at 12:14 pm

I’m always amused by the descriptions of California. No, I didn’t feel the earthquake this morning. The one in Northridge years back was very scary. I remember hiding in the closet doorway in Laguna, but that pailed in comparison to the horrid fires that hit Laguna Beach. I’ll never forget the spirit of the community coming together, nor the sting of the fire in the eyes and throat.

I’ve lived from one beach town in So Cal to the next most of my life. Now in Encinitas I see the imprint of the waves, the sand, the sunsets and its mellowing influence and feel so thankful to be here. Oh and I love the little bumper stickers in my side of town that say – keep it funky! Oh yes, east coasters wonder where the rest of the house is when they visit the beach condo. Some call the downstairs garage the basement. And there is land here in some regions, but the acreage is so far away that most people don’t have it unless they’re mega-rich.

Piere’s memoir needs to be published. I’m so touched by his present outlook and love the title of his book. I have a neighbor who is also trying to get his memoir published about his escape from the Holocaust via the Siberian Express way and his time in China during the war years.


Carolyn Burns Bass October 5, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Susan said:We come into the world with markings that are very much beyond our control: Temperament. Good looks. Bad looks. Rich parents. Poor parents. No parents. The list goes on and on.

So true. And yet, beyond the marks we’re born with, we continue through life marking ourselves, sometimes with intention (tattoos, piercings, brandings); sometimes by accident (self-destructive behavior), and sometimes from neglect (poor wellness and fitness).


Jody Reale October 5, 2007 at 5:11 pm

“Unflattering clothes?” What are you talking about? I looked hot! (Uncomfortable silence.)
Thanks for re-opening the park.


Susan Henderson October 5, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Daryl – Wow! An assignment from Spin Magazine?! Fantastic!

Lance – I’ll be reading all weekend. Can’t wait to dig in!

Claire – I wish I had headgear. I threw my retainer out a window, and that was the end of my expensive dental work. Now I have to live with crooked teeth.

Heather – Amy puts a great, New Yorker’s spin on California. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of her book.

James – Yep, Amy is a cool chick. Thanks for your thoughts on Pierre’s interview.

Carolyn – I take better care of myself now, but I’ll bet I’ll still have to pay for sunbathing in Crisco vegetable shortening, and other smart decisions I made!

Julie – I was born in California. Here. For some reason, I only remember that fact when I fill out forms. I hope both our friends sell their stories!

Jody – I thought I looked hot, too. Alas, there is photographic evidence.


Susan Henderson October 5, 2007 at 6:34 pm

P.S. Aurelio, Did you see this on Enrico’s blog? It reminded me of you.


Aurelio O'Brien October 5, 2007 at 9:16 pm

HAH! How funny – thanks for pointing that out, Susan. Maybe Enrico can loan it to me from time to time. Here’s what I really want:

The Abduction Lamp

Great week in the park.

I lived in NY for three years and loved every minute of it, but my heart is here in CA. Something about the light and the fact that I can see the deserts, mountains, or beaches anytime, or watch a bobcat walk down my suburban street, and wear shorts in December makes this place kind of weird and wonderful. (I just try to ignore all that Hollywoood stuff.)


Susan Henderson October 5, 2007 at 9:40 pm

I love that!

This is what I want. All I need is a big movie deal on my book.


lance reynald October 5, 2007 at 10:27 pm



Susan Henderson October 6, 2007 at 9:26 am

Lance – I knew you would love it, too, Wondertwin! I’m reading your manuscript right now. It’s wonderful. And why didn’t I think of this before – but maybe it doesn’t matter: my roommate at Carnegie Mellon, also maid of honor at my wedding – her mother was friends with Andy Warhol. They collaborated on a book together, too, I think. I can put you in touch later, if you want. (Did you know Andy Warhol was cut from Carnegie Mellon? Also, Steve McQueen, and a long long list of folks. It was a hard, mean school.) Okay, back to reading….


Robin Slick October 6, 2007 at 10:00 am

I just want to say that this was a lovely wrap-up, Sue…beautifully done and thank you so much for your kind words. What a wonderful writer you are!

P.S. I so, so know where you got that hidden passageway link from…


Aurelio O'Brien October 6, 2007 at 10:32 am

Hey, I just discovered that thing Enrico put on his site is really an elaborate Disney/Pixar ad for one of their upcoming movies.

I like the secret passage idea. Every house should have its secrets.


lance reynald October 6, 2007 at 10:48 am

and they often do Aurelio, the trick is in the passage finding.


(and wondertwin, *gulp*…you know I’m going to be in the pantry with a paper bag up to my face all weekend.)



Nathalie October 6, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Love that cute robot and cool lamp!
And thank you for a wonderful week, Susan. Our mark on the world might be tenuous, nothing more than a spider wandering silk thread, but it is there nevertheless.


Susan Henderson October 6, 2007 at 4:34 pm

I’m going to blog about this on Monday, but here’s a sneak peek:

Robin: Busted! Again. xo!

Aurelio: Did you see the robot for babies?

Lance: I meant for your book to last me over the long weekend, but I’ll be done reading tonight. You should take that bag off your head and strut around in front of the mirror because it is GREAT!

Nathalie: I like that. Spiders on silk thread.


lance reynald October 6, 2007 at 9:03 pm

nah, I kinda like the bag… keeps me from hyperventilating.

doing that a lot, trying hard as I can to not slip into fetal curl… but, that is another can of worms and I’m trying to breathe and be worm free until I figure out “what next”…



Aurelio O'Brien October 7, 2007 at 9:11 am

Congrats on finishing your manuscript, Lance. You must be feeling all sorts of things right now. Dwell on the good ones, like what Susan just said about it. 🙂


Susan Henderson October 7, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Maybe it’s because I’ve had a fever most of the weekend (or maybe it’s just to annoy Robin), but I have had two songs stuck in my head since Friday: Iron Maiden’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, and more often, the theme song to The New Shmoo. And one of the really annoying things about being married to someone who grew up in England is that he totally does not know that song. I keep singing it to him and he doesn’t believe there could have been a show or a song like that at all.

If someone can find me an mp3 of that song, there will be a prize.


Kimberly October 7, 2007 at 6:48 pm

um… how can one not know the Shmoo???

I couldn’t find an mp3 in 3 seconds flat, but in the meantime, will this do???

(What’s my prize???) 🙂


Kimberly October 7, 2007 at 6:48 pm

ok – the embedding didn’t work – here’s the link…


Susan Henderson October 7, 2007 at 7:05 pm


Your choice: a) One million dollars or b) a gig on LitPark! We’ll put our heads together if you pick b.

(Mr. Henderson’s comments on the Shmoo: “This is really scary.”)


Kimberly October 7, 2007 at 7:22 pm

is “a” actually an option??? 😉


Susan Henderson October 7, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Well, yeah, you can choose a or b, but anyone with a lotto ticket can win a million dollars. LitPark, on the other hand, is a whole lot more selective. And no one calls up LitPark guests asking if they can borrow money. You know, I’m just saying.


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