Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Other Doppelganger

Last year when I was toying with starting a blog and trying on names for size, I settled on Bitty as my handle because I was fascinated by the idea that a grown woman would have such a name. Bitty! It’s like being named Baby! Or Tiny! Or Princess! Yet there were real people with the name and at least two Bittys out there in TV land, actress Bitty Schram and Bitty O’Sullivan-Smith, dialogue editor (wish I knew what that is but don’t care enough to research) whose charming name always caught my eye in the credits for Sex and the City and who, it turns out, has quite the impressive resumé. So, me too! Me too! I wanna be a Bitty, too.

Anyway, as one of my students loves to write, I digress.

Bitty all by itself wouldn’t be blog name enough, it seemed. It took only a few moments of brainstorming for “back porch” to appear, and to appear as the perfect choice. My fondest wish is to have a back porch, although that porch dream keeps morphing between the grand and the reasonable: a full-on extra room, no, a lanai, no, a sunroom, no a screened porch, no… (and all sadly now pushed at least 7 years in the future -- because I really need to work toward a new car first -- by which time I may be in a Halliburton Concentration Camp over my liberal views and it won't matter anyway, so look at the money I'll save; but anyway, I digress…)

Bitty’s Back Porch: friendly and alliterative.

Not very far into my blog journey, I Googled the name, eager to see one of my posts come up in a search.

Imagine my surprise to find another Bitty’s Back Porch, not a blog, but a restaurant in Alabama.

Imagine that “Bitty’s” even bigger surprise some time later to apparently Google herself and find my blog.

Some time back I was visiting over at Waveflux and noticed what had probably been there all along, a Bio link. Clever ol’ Waveflux introduces himself by introducing all his doppelgangers, all the people he’s not. And that reminded me of another Google search I did a few months back.

My real name is – so far – unique. Not the first name, but the combination of that and my last name, Former Husband’s name really. (Why I kept it would lead to another digression, so let’s save that for another day.) Google my real name and you get me. *

One day I had the bright idea to Google my maiden name. Well, not really my name: my first name and stepfather’s last name. (Again, let’s go there another day.) I expected – well, nothing, really. It’s a unique name. Not the first name, but the combination of that and my stepfather’s last name. Or so I thought.

The search turned up 2700 hits.

There’s something really odd about seeing “your” name in a context utterly unrelated to you, the feeling that people must get when their identities are stolen. So if I’d read that Other Bitty was a real estate agent or wine broker or escaped convict, that would have been unsettling enough.

Instead, I read that Other Bitty is something I always aspired to be, and still vaguely do: a widely published writer. Widely, as in many of the 2700 hits were in foreign languages because her books are published all over the world.

Granted, she writes children’s books and books of scholarship about children’s literacy, not the genres I had in mind. But them’s books just the same, and obviously her bliss.

Other Bitty is living the life I wanted to live, and she’s doing it with my name.

And I’m left with the odd feeling of having taken the road less traveled.

*I wrote this a few months ago, but didn’t post it. I don’t remember why. In the meantime, I did a search (not a Google, someone else) and discovered THERE IS another person with my real first and last name. If you knew how weird my last name is, you’d be as surprised by this as I am. However, since this doppelganger is in Maryland, where both I and Former Father-in-Law grew up, she must be some distant relative or in-law of Former Husband.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A book meme-thingy

Meowkaat has tagged me on this meme, and I'm perfectly happy to comply. It gives me a prompt, pushes me out of the I-have-absolutely-nothing-to-say-and-no-time-to-say-it-in mindset, even if the second part of that description is too true.

1. One book that changed your life- hardest question first.
Except, for me, this is the easiest question: The first one I read, whatever it was, because it lit the path for all the others. But my first “book” probably wasn’t a book. I could read when I was two, said my grandmother; all I can add is that I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t. I have two theories about that: it was a skill left over from a previous life OR I was so bored in my playpen, where Grammie penned me up until I was more than two because she feared I’d get hurt, that I broke the code on the cereal boxes she put in my playpen to entertain me. I like the second theory best.

For a more specific answer, however, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I first read it in 1980. ((Not as) Faraway Daughter was an infant; that's how I know the date.) At that time, I was an unfocused reader. I read, just as Meowkaat described, whatever was handy, and that wasn’t usually anything approaching brain food. (My mother-in-law, for instance, had an impressive library of Harlequins – paper bags full – so I too got my fill of that genre.) FLW had been a big bestseller in the then not-so-distant past (which in retrospect amazes me; I can’t imagine an America that literate…), and I thought I’d give it a try. Be warned: John Fowles knows words not in your bookshelf’s dictionary. He knows a lot of them.

So I struggled through this book with the honkin’ big words and (to me, then) abstract themes and plotting about as far from Harlequin as books get, and I hated it. Hated it. Hated it.

Fast forward, 1995: my last semester of undergraduate work. I took a course called “The British Novel.” On the list? The despised FLW. I dreaded and dreaded it, but the day came when the novel must be cracked.

Two pages in, I recognized that it was brilliant.

The book didn’t change me, but it proved to me that I had changed. And that’s just as good.

2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison, the best book of the 20th century. If I get two choices – and who says I don’t…who’s Hall Monitor here, anyway? – I’d add The Scarlet Letter, the best book of the 19th century. There’s far more going on in that little adultery book than the Letter A. And no Demi Moore in sight.

3. One Book That You'd Want On A Desert Island.
I'm practical. My complete works of Shakespeare would keep me busy a while, and it’s all there: “comedy,” history, tragedy. Plus it’s annotated, so I’d be able to follow the obsolete words and customs even though I (presumably) wouldn’t have internet access. Before I finish, I hope to be rescued. And if not, it’s always best to give Shakespeare a second read.

4. One Book That Made You Laugh.
They aren’t really funny books, but I enjoy Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries, starring Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey often makes me laugh. Garrison Keillor’s books make me laugh, too, although I’d rather hear him read them to me.

(Scary – my first thought was something I read decades ago: Joan Rivers’ Having a Baby Can Be a Scream. But it’s not my answer.)

5. One Book That Made You Cry.
Bel Canto. That’s one.
Othello. That’s one.
Whichever of the Little House books that featured Mary's going blind. That’s one.

6. One Book That You Wish You Had Written.
The one I’ve been trying to write my whole life. I suspect if I ever do, I’ll be the Grandma Moses of the literary set.

7. One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written.
George W. Bush’s playbook.

8. One Book That You Are Reading Right Now.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but since it’s my “car” book and I only read it when I go out to eat alone, I’m not getting very far. And it’s quite a hefty tome.

9. One Book That You Have Been Meaning To Read.
Cued up and ready to go, but unread: Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle and Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight. Looks like I’m leaning toward memoir. And yes, once again that’s more than one. I’m an English major, not a math major. Or a control freak. Oh, and What’s the Matter with Kansas? I have the books. That’s not the problem…

10. Tag five others that you would like to do this meme. You and you and you and you and you. You know who you are. Feel free to post here in the comments if you don’t have a blog, Alanna.

Sure sign you're tanking in your English class

...when it's the fifth week of classes, you show up, and your instructor has no idea who you are.

I'm lookin' at you, Thomas.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Those were the days!

Overheard on campus this morning, sixty-ish man talking to younger man:

I wanted to go to law school, but in my day I wasn’t the right race or gender to get in.

So I got elected to the state legislature.

I wasn’t good enough to study the law so I made it.


Those were the days.

From where I sit, it doesn't look like anything has changed, actually.