|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Today was kind of a wash. I spent fifteen minutes on hold with my bank before I pounded enough 00000000s into the phone to connect me to a real person. I was convinced this fraudulent entity called SBUX on my statement was slowly and erroneously taking money out of my account in $4 and $5 increments. I was extremely put out that I had to spend my time dealing with this. I was really outraged.
It turns out SBUX is Starbucks. I had to hang up on the customer service lady because she was being smug.
Unrelated: Did you know “Pomeranian” is an adjective referring to Pomerania, an area divided between Poland and Germany? Maybe that’s why Pomeranians look so much like Grandma.
Life is logistics. You’ve got to learn to deal with these daily annoyances, Mat. You’re too hard done by.
Me, I make lists. You should make a list each morning and then follow it carefully.
I just put three hundred Christmas lights (so cheap off-season!) on a tree that’s barely three feet high. If I look at it and then look away quickly, little dots swim across my field of vision. It’s pretty excellent. In other news, the lady across the street keeps her blinds about twelve inches raised, so that when she’s just out of the shower and her lights are on, I can see the swath of her upper thigh to her lower abdomen, and her pubic hair is a wild, distracting show. It’s like the classic ’70s pubic hair that you just don’t see anymore.
The Brazilian bikini wax craze has had a really pervasive and detrimental effect on vaginas, Harry. This kind of thing is a rare occurrence.
Needless to say, I’m tremendously visually inspired right now. What’s new with you?
(Don’t tell Mom about the tree.)
Two resounding thoughts from my weekend.
One: There was a woman in the newspaper saying she doesn’t like French-kissing. This has caused problems in her marriage, but she just can’t bring herself to do it. I feel somewhat vindicated by this. But I won’t say I told you so.
Two: I watched basketball for a while on TV and had the realization that fouls are bad, not good! You don’t actually want to make them. That clears some things up for me about seventh-grade gym.
Anyway, that’s all for today—I’m off to grade some disappointing papers.
I don’t remember you telling me you don’t like French-kissing, but I’ll let you tacitly tell me so. I just got home and these were the contents of my mailbox, so I made a list. I don’t like what this says about me, it doesn’t seem true.
A. Two Ivy League alumni magazines
B. Two New Yorkers
C. Two New York magazines
D. One Economist magazine
E. Two artist residency rejections
Then I had to have some bourbon.
The boyfriend reads the Economist? I give you two seven more months at the outside.
I’m sorry you’ve forgotten that I don’t like kissing, but I’m sure you do remember that I like to get all my important correspondence out to folks on Tuesday mornings, as that’s when they’re most likely to read and respond. Tuesday between 10 and 11 a.m. After coffee, before lunch haze. So hopefully I have your full attention right now.
I think you’re having bad luck, to be sure, with this residency stuff, but I also think your energy isn’t in the right place. I just read this great book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. It teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.
Try it, M. Here are some chapter headers:
The Waste of Free Time
The Rules of the Games of the Mind
Flow through the Senses: The Joys of Seeing
Disorder in Consciousness: Psychic Entropy
Now go make some work! Make, make, create! Don’t analyze it, and don’t yell at bank operators.
Also: I saw an undergrad with a bowl cut and high striped socks on campus today, and it reminded me of you in your field hockey glory. You know, sports are a flow activity, too.
One more thing, Matilda—bird-watching is also a flow activity. You can get iBird Explorer for your mobile device. Then you can identify birds.
And lay off the bourbon, please.
Great tip on the bird-watching. Remind me again when I’m fifty and live in backwoods Maine.
And keep your eyes off those coeds.
I remembered where I got the bit about creating and not analyzing—from John Cage’s Rules for Students and Teachers:
Rule #8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.
Do you know what rule #9 is?
Rule #9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.
I tell this one to my students all the time.
#9 is a made-up lie. Do your students call you on it?
I fell asleep with my headphones on last night. I woke up with my music still blaring, in a cold sweat. The lyrics I woke up to were about terror and stagnation:
You don’t really care about the trials of tomorrow
Rather lay awake in a bed full of sorrow
Do you ever feel like the universe is giving us hints about our future all the time but we’re unable to understand?
I think these signs happen more often to you than to the rest of us.
I think you’re right. I get the signs but not the message. I’m like a highly attuned, extremely useless oracle. I’m surprised you’re lacking this ability, Harry. Our twin genome is failing you. I wish we were exactly the same, but you got that pesky Y.
Guess what? I found out today the head of my old grad school art program has retired and taken a job as a real estate broker. Compared to that, wedding photography doesn’t seem so bad. At least it’s a stone’s throw from actual art. A groom even told me last week “don’t hesitate to be artistic.”
It could definitely be worse. I like to remind myself that teaching writing is highly related to actual writing.
Yes, teaching writing is perhaps the gateway to writing! You should probably write something, though, to prove the rule.
Oh, I’m writing all the time. Just mostly in my head.
If I looked on the bright side, my thinking would go like this: It’s a good thing that I accidentally grabbed the laxatives instead of the ibuprofen this morning, because now my system is cleaner than it has ever been at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, and I can eat some extra veggie burger because I’ve cleared room for it.
If I looked on the dark side, my thinking would go like this: This bride thinks I’m a drugged-out freak because I keep running to the bathroom during our business meeting, and not only will I not book this job, but I’ll have to skip my dinner date* too because it may be OK to take three ibuprofens but three natural and good-for-you laxative tablets take a full twenty-four hours to churn through.
*Which was my idea to bring romance back into my relationship and now will seem like “poor follow-through,” one of my major issues, according to him.
You wouldn’t believe this bride, Harry. Her name is Catherine and she’s marrying someone named William! I think she was affecting a British accent to capitalize on the coincidence. She gave me relationship advice, too. Told me to ditch the boyfriend and wait until I’m ovulating (only she called it being in heat, like a cat, because we’re all mammals after all) and then go to an expensive bar with good clientele and wait for men to approach me. She said that hormones always work.
Groundbreaking advice. We ARE all mammals. Mammals who will mate and then die, never to return. Only our spawn will remember us. Until they also die.
I just got back from the Poconos for my men’s retreat. The Poconos strike me as very Jewish, but the experience was goyish. Far too many Utz and Kraft products were being bandied about. Remember the Lenny Bruce thing from the seventies? Here it is in case you forgot.
Jewish and Goyish
Dig: I’m Jewish. Count Basie’s Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantor’s goyish. B’nai B’rith is goyish; Hadassah, Jewish.
If you live in New York or any other big city, you are Jewish. It doesn’t matter even if you’re Catholic; if you live in New York, you’re Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.
Kool-Aid is goyish. Evaporated milk is goyish even if the Jews invented it. Chocolate is Jewish and fudge is goyish. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jell-O is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.
All Drake’s Cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes, goyish. Black cherry soda’s very Jewish, macaroons are very Jewish.
Underwear is definitely goyish. Balls are goyish. Titties are Jewish.
Celebrate is a goyish word. Observe is a Jewish word. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh are celebrating Christmas with Major Thomas Moreland, USAF (ret.), while Mr. and Mrs. Bromberg observed Hanukkah with Goldie and Arthur Schindler from Kiamesha, New York.
PS Why don’t people say “dig” anymore? I’m going to take it up.
I feel like you need to be fifty and just off your second failed marriage before you even consider going on a men’s retreat, but we’ve been over this.
I do like Lenny Bruce. If I’m not mistaken, he is dead like all the good poets and artists and the rest of us (eventually). I’ve made a Jewish and goyish version of this in honor of my brides:
Dig: I’m Jewish. Tents are Jewish, banquet halls, goyish.
If you make a long toast, give wet lipstick kisses, or have chair dancing at your wedding, you’re Jewish. If you’re married in Newport, RI, you’re going to be goyish even if you’re Jewish.
Fondant icing is goyish. Manischewitz is goyish even though the Jews invented it. Prosecco is Jewish and champagne is goyish. Seltzer is Jewish. Jägermeister is goyish. Shots of Jäger are very goyish.
All veils are goyish. Pantyhose are Jewish. Stockings are Jewish. (But if you call them nylons, they’re goyish.) Bridesmaids are goyish. Maids of honor, Jewish. Ring bearers are goyish, dog ring bearers very goyish.
Sobbing fathers are all Jews. Mothers dabbing their eyes are goyish. Bands are Jewish. DJs are goyish, even if they play Paul Simon.
Vests are definitely goyish. Bow ties are Jewish. Garter belts, Jewish.
“Wedding” is goyish. “Marriage” is Jewish.
Film is Jewish. Digital: goyish. Video: extremely goyish.
Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Bradley are pleased to announce the wedding of their children.
Mr. Max Hirsch and Mrs. Rose Beckerman request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter.
Thanks. You know I enjoy praise from the internet.
I think I’ll purchase www.praisefromtheinternet.com and each day put up an encouraging thought. E.g.:
You have exceptionally nice hair and teeth.
Da Vinci was underrecognized once, too.
Wouldn’t that be good for the world?
It would be. I might add:
There’s still time to be famous!
You’ll definitely get tenure, don’t give it a moment’s thought!
Home-front malaise. I painted the hallway a delightful buttercup yellow this weekend, and Nate showed not the slightest interest in joining in the improvements. Haven’t you seen the paint commercials? The dads and boyfriends ALWAYS help. They LEAD, even.
I’m always surprised when I see the undergrads on campus moving into their dorms with diligent fathers towing their dressers and duffels. Seems like an alternate world of responsible men, it’s quite foreign. Speaking of, have you heard from him lately?
Oh yes, we had our quarterly email exchange about death and futility.
Hi Matilda! I was just looking at a picture of a retirement home on the seashore. I imagined myself there in 30 years. I’ll be almost 95. Then I thought, “Wow, Matilda will be 62!” I imagined you as aged as I am now. Then I had to write to you—before you get any older!
I was moved by our conversation a few months back at Grandma’s. It was deep—psychologically and spiritually. Love, death, the possibility of human choice in our lives. We were on the same wavelength. I said how choosing one path meant we lost forever all the other possibilities foregone. You said, “Yeah, it’s like dying!” When I thought back later on this, I laughed heartily. I recognized your response as what I often say as well. It’s genetic! Amazing, and wonderful. I’m so happy you are alive on this earth!!!
Ah, that’s a good one, thanks.
Also: why is it so cold outside?
I’ve been a little aimless of late, or maybe just distracted by the nippy air. I don’t want to put on pants again. I can’t leave the house.
I need to locate the midpoint between a loafer and a boot. What are you up to?
Nothing much doing here. Grading papers. I went ahead and bought that online genetic test I told you about—the price went down to $99, so I figured it was worth it. It will give the part of me that was good at high school biology a little thrill, I think.
It’s pretty amazing what science can tell us about our ancestry now. I’m so curious to imagine what our forebears were up to—maybe it’s the writer in me, but I find it totally fascinating. It’s so odd that most people don’t know anything about even two generations back.
That just shows you how quickly our own grandchildren will cease to give two shits about us. Maybe that’s why Grandma is so intense.
Will this test tell you if you (but mostly I) will die early of cancer? I maintain a lingering and not-insignificant fear that I will die early of Mother’s breast cancer, or will it be Grandpa’s Alzheimer’s? If I start thinking too much about it I can’t breathe right.
You know—I don’t even know my blood type, which is a tragedy because I can’t do the blood-type diet. Although periodically I read the rules of each diet and decide which one sounds like me and then I fantasize about the diet I should be on to give me lots of energy and lifepurpose™. I think I should be a B-type blood, because those are the folks who can eat cheese, lots of it.
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Hey Harry, A Matilda, an epistolary novel by Rachel Hulin.
1. How did the epistolary structure change the way you read the book? Did you like the flow of emails to tell a story?
2. Can you relate to Harry or Matilda in their experiences of becoming adults? Is there one twin you find you relate to more?
3. As a reader, how was your experience in watching Matilda’s lie unfold?
4. While to focus is on the relationship between the twins, how did the other family members and romantic partners play into the story for you? Were there any familiar characters or behaviors that read true to your own experiences?
5. How did you feel experiencing the duality of the twins in their art?
6. Vera has a complicated relationship with Harry. How did you feel as their love (and challenges) evolved in the book?
7. The author, Rachel Hulin is also a photographer who used photos on Instagram to tell the story, as she wrote it. How did the integration of photography enhance your experience as a reader?
8. Matilda and Harry have dry and quick sense of humor. What were the funniest moments and exchanges for you?
9. The ending of the novel can take the reader by surprise—what did you think of the ultimate fate of the twins?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
She waltzed inside the room, sporting a yellow jumper. "Hullo, there."
I was excited to read this book, but it left me wanting more.