Thursday, December 29, 2005


We're in SF and Val was wondering how anybody had time to blog. This is a response to that.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Star Wars is everywhere!

We can't escape it.

We're 3000 miles from the Museum of Science Star Wars exhibit, about the same distance from Hollywood, and at least that far from the English studios where Empire Strikes Back was made.

We're in Sint Maarten, on the streets of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island and we see the storefront:

YodaGuy? Yodaguy.

Turns out one of the guys who was instrumental in the creation of Yoda, Nick Maley, "traded his Ferrari for a sail boat, cruised the Caribbean for almost a year and established a base" on Antigua. He paints and draws and has galleries on that island and on Saint Martin/Sint Maarten.

Unfortunately, Austin was asleep in the stroller but Mari got to see the shop:

The website is amusing, with stories of how Yoda and other creatures were built. The story of nailing a guy to the floor also has its moments. And, from his bio, I found out that Maley also directed the video for Duran Duran's "Wild Boys."

Duran Duran is everywhere!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Scared of Santa

This is a good time waster. Pictures of kids scared of Santa. The captions occasionally add humor, and are occasionally totally superfluous.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Favorite song

I'm eventually going to write something about our week in St. Martin, but until I do, an anecdote from the trip.

We were driving along the wild roads when Austin started singing "Twinkle Star." Then he interrupted himself to tell us that was his favorite song. In the quiet, we heard dozens of chirping insects and then he asked, what's that noise?

Julie told him, those are insects.

"They're singing Twinkle Star with me!"


Monday, December 12, 2005

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten Pictures

Here're some photos, not in any particular order:

Austin on the beach (Dawn Beach).Stop! In the name of love! Dawn Beach.
People on stilts, Front Street, Philipsburg. No idea why was happening, but I just managed to get a shot of them before they walked off.
Austin is a Bob Marley fan. Trying on a hat at the Marigot Wednesday market.
Santa Claus on the beach (Baie Oriental).
Splashing with Nana at the pool at the Villa Robinson.
The kids on the beach (Baie Oriental)
From the pool deck of the Villa Robinson, looking east.
Austin climbs a tree at Mullet Bay Beach (a "sea grape" tree).

Villa Robinson again.

Rosemary takes Mari in for a wade. She loves to splash (Mari, not Rose).

Okay, I took a lot of pictures from the Villa looking east (toward St Bart's). But can you blame me?

Thursday, December 01, 2005


We had a singalong the day after Thanksgiving.

It happened rather casually -- probably about the dozenth (is that a word?) time we passed some neighbors with similarly aged kids, we said, hey yeah, we should get together and play some guitar some time. And then it happened. I said to Julie, how about the morning after Thanksgiving? And the invites went out (along with some mix cds and song lyrics to try to build up a common repertoire) and the neighbors came over.

Chris on the right there, came with guitar in hand, wife and children in tow. I was impressed by the whole family: by his playing, by how well behaved their three sons are and by the fact that Judy (who sings quite well) knew all the words to the Bob the Builder theme song.

JB, Susan and Julia came over, too. There's Julia on drums. More great singing! Amy said she only wished she heard more of JB's great deep voice. The effort to actually schedule the singalong can be credited to Susan who got us to go see Dan Zanes -- his love of playing music with his family is infectious. (Oh and I should point out that JB now thinks that we have fires in our house all the time. No! Just when we have guests. Thanks, by the way, for helping with lunch JB!)

Andrew, Julide and Hector brought uncle Jonathan along and I immediately handed him a guitar (he's in the first picture up there). Jonathan is a natural for this kind of thing, no doubt honed from years of hanging out before Dead concerts.

Hermana Amy sang along too and miraculously John and Lucia slept through all the racket! That's good sleeping, kid.

It was fun, a casual gathering that had some weight, if that makes any sense. I guess what I mean is, it was memorable and we hope to do it again sometime soon.

Here's one of the songs we sang:

Study War No More (Down by the riverside)

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside, Down by the riverside
I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, Down by the riverside
I ain't gonna study war no more.
E | B7 E | E | B7 E

I ain't gonna study war, I ain't gonna study war
I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war, I ain't gonna study war
I ain't gonna study war no more
A E | B7 E |A E | B7 E

I'm gonna put on my long white robe, Down by....

I'm gonna put on that starry crown, Down by...

I'm gonna shake hands with all the world, Down by...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More Googling, Amazoning and Ira Glass

So Baldwin wrote a comment about my Google post which reminded me of a couple of things.

One, feel free to comment! It doesn't say so explicitly, but I get an e-mail whenever someone posts a comment so I do read them. Now go read Baldwin's comment so you can see what this post is about. (Wow, this is like Choose Your Own Adventure blog.)

Two, yes, finding out you've been Googled is weird. But I do it to people all the time anyway. One example, for some reason a while back I was looking up Daniel Pinkwater (probably after hearing him on NPR) and found Ducks. I didn't read the book (although I did read his memoir about raising dogs) but I was surprised to see the (at the time) single reader review by Ira Glass, who listed an e-mail that made it likely that it was the host of This American Life on NPR.

Then I did what you probably would: I clicked to see All of Ira's reviews. Only Ducks. Okay. I put the book in my wishlist just so I would remember this later.

A few weeks ago I read something in the Times about a woman stalking ex-boyfriends by reading their Amazon wishlists and Googling them.

I've never met Ira before but he seems like a nice guy and worth stalking so I looked up his wishlist. (Has it dawned yet, that Ira should get a restraining order?) Here it is. All Ira wants is the Y Tu Mama Tambien Soundtrack. Seriously?

So now I'm considering buying it for him. You know, just like a present from one of his listeners. How weird would that be? Or delightful? Hard to tell sometimes.

By the way, I just want to point out that I did not originate the Ira Glass obsession (and I even miss the show quite a bit), but rather inherited it from Hadas who once pledged to WBUR with the hopes of having Ira show up at her door to deliver a pizza. (She didn't win.)

Okay, who wants to go in on the soundtrack with me? It's an import so a little pricey.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Hey Jealousy

Amy and John and Lucia came to visit for Thanksgiving and stayed with us. Last time we saw them, Mari seemed a little jealous of Lucia when Julie held her, but as you can see in this series of photos, this time they seemed to quite like one another and liked to see what the other was doing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


This site finally made it onto some indices and can be found when Googled or A9ed. Well, "Krongblog" will get you to this page. Unfortunately, Jack Cheng, Julie, and Krong are still low on the list. That's right, Jack (or Jak) Cheng and Krong are still pointing to other sites. But perhaps if I keep mentioning Jack Cheng...

Okay I'll stop. However, I do find it interesting that Krong is some sort of Thai word or a place or something that's fairly popular. I thought I made up a whole new syllable but I (Jack Cheng) was wrong.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Confusion: The Man, Star Wars

1. Austin is learning about The Man when we cross the street. At the intersection where we wait for the light, the pedestrian sign comes up and he says, "It's the white man! The white man says we can go!"

2. The sound of Darth Vader breathing reminds him of snoring, or perhaps how we breathe when we pretend to sleep, so he now turns to me and says, "Darth Vader! We had his cereal! [Pause] He's sleeping."

3. I also haven't really explained lasers to him yet so he thinks everyone fires squirt guns at each other in the Star Wars movies.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Star Wars

We're on a Star Wars kick in our house.

In a sense, it started a year ago when Baldwin sent me the awesome four disc DVD of the original trilogy. Then Julie asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I saw an article in the Boston Globe about One Man Star Wars Trilogy. We got tickets.

Here's the deal: Charles Ross grew up in British Columbia, too far from television signals. So he watched Star Wars videotapes over and over again. And again. And again. After becoming an actor on the Fringe circuit, he developed a skit in which he performed the entire first Star Wars film by himself in 20 minutes. The skit then became a one hour show that includes Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Okay, I realize I'm a geek, but this guy is worth seeing (he's still doing the show in New York until the end of the year). He uses no props, and just uses his hands to suggest costumes (Princess Leia's "danishes" of hair, or flapping his forearms together for Jabba's mouth), or special effects (the double sunset on Tatooine [and the hair ruffling through Luke's long-time ago 70's hairstyle]). The plot is stripped to its essentials but the film is not. He sings the score and it makes you realize how essential Darth Vader's theme is to character and scene. He also spins and runs around the stage to suggest camera movements. And he is a gifted vocal mimic. He admits that "practically everyone on Earth does a better Yoda than I do" but his Luke, Han and especially C3PO, Obi-Wan and other British accents are really good. Plus his R2D2 whistling and his Chewbacca roars are terrific.

Basically, he does a great job and manages to include a few metacomments in the show as well (pointing out the one character who calls Carrie Fisher's character "Lee-ya" rather than "Lay-ya", bumbling through Obi-Wan's tortured explanation of why he wasn't lying when he told Luke that Darth Vader had killed his father ["After I cut off his arms. And both his legs. And left him to die in a lava pit"]).

What was nice, too, was that after the show in which he entertained hundreds of people who obviously watch too much t.v., he came out and gave a little talk about the show and about perseverence in doing something you love ("despite all the restraining orders"). Basically a "follow your dream" speech. It was very sweet and, I pointed out, somewhat Canadian. To which Julie replied, "Do you mean Canadian, like how nice he was, or are you implying that he's a homosexual?"

Then, this week, I took the kids to the Museum of Science in Boston for their Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit. It was really good.

We went twice.
The show consists of props from the movies, and video interviews of special effects and sound effects guys who explain how the various technologies in the movies were conceived. But then there were exhibits that expanded on particular ideas.

For example, there was a video about Luke's landspeeder. Then, there was an area where you could make a vehicle with Legos with embedded magnets. If you did it right, the vehicle would float above a magnetic track (and a text panel explained about actual mag-lev trains). Another exhibit showed how an air-powered hovercraft would work and let you sit on something akin to the puck on an air hockey table.

Other exhibits discussed robots...
...(Austin, prepped for the museum with selective viewings of the movies [if you skip the talking and the scary parts and stick with spaceflight, each film takes about 20 minutes to watch], is a big fan of Chewbacca, R2D2 and Darth Vader, whom, because he was the first Star Wars character encountered [on a Corn Flakes box] Austin assumes is a good guy [whenever he comes on screen, Austin turns and whispers to me, "We had his cereal. Yeah. Remember, Dad?"])...
... Wookies (not sure what the educational benefit of this was)...
...and prosthetics and medical technology.

I have to say, it was remarkably well done. I was expecting a few props and some tangentially related science exhibits, but the learning was well integrated and compellingly interactive. Plus there were celebrities like Kismet, the social robot. Other real world marvels included a robot eye that did a great job of recognizing where my face was (sounds strange, but it was cool), a neat demonstration of walking robots, and a state of the art prosthetic arm.

The exhibit runs to April 30, 2006 and I recommend it. Of course, I'm the sort of guy who gets a kick out of seeing how small Mari is compared to a full grown Wookie so take my recommendation in context.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Last night, I was holding Mari as she was falling asleep and trying to gently lay her down in her crib when I felt a hand between my legs, probing.

Aak! I almost dropped the baby.

Austin, what are you doing?

He had his plastic thermometer in his hand and said, "I'm taking your temperature! I'm going to stick this in your bum bum!"

I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to be sick.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Family music

On Saturday, we went to a concert. And when I say "we" I mean the whole family (well, minus Boo) and our neighbors, JB, Susan and Julia (Julia's a little younger than Austin).

We went to see Dan Zanes and Friends at the Somerville Theater. It was great! They seemed like they were having a great time and both kind of throwing things together and also palying well together. Some songs were played by just Dan and a ukelele and others featured Barbara Broussard (who has a beautiful voice) on guitar, a drummer, upright bassist and an accordianist who also played the musical saw (!). Special guests included a man who taught Dan songs at his boyhood camp in New England (he wrote some new verses about the outrageous fees that Ticketmaster charges) and Father Goose!

Susan said she hadn't seen so many adults have so much fun in a while. Everyone was dancing in their seats and singing along -- and they knew all the words. I pointed out that we've all probably heard Dan's cds more than we ever listened to Springsteen, Depeche Mode or whatever we were into when we were young, dedicated fans.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this occasion to mention some of the music that our whole family loves.

Dan Zanes and Friends, Rocket Ship Beach This is the first cd of Dan's newest career. He led the Del Fuegos in his youth, and then, after "settling down", started playing old Pete Seeger songs for his daughter, the songs he remembered from growing up. I didn't realize this was the first cd but I bought this one because of the song selection: "Keep On the Sunny Side", "Sunny Side of the Street" and then realized that these aren't even my favorites on the cd. Our family has learned an old standard "Bushel and a Peck" and when Austin was singing it for Nana and Grandpa, we found out that they knew all the words, too! Dan's original song "Hello" is also terrific. And the Caribbean tunes, "Emmanuel Road" and "Brown Girl in the Ring" are infectious, although it may take a while to figure out the words.
One great thing about Dan Zanes is that he really pushes the idea of making music with the family in the album notes and at the concert. At one point, he even told us (I'm paraphrasing here), "It looks like you need lots of fancy instruments and microphones and wires to make music, but you don't, they just make you louder. All you need are some voices," and then they sang a song unamplified, with a handheld drum and an ocarina for accompaniment. This is also reflected on his website where he gives the lyrics, chords and even melody samples of all the songs on his cds that he either wrote or are in the public domain (songs under copyright, like "Bushel and a Peck" are not included but the lyrics can be found elsewhere on the web and the music is actually in a children's book I saw last year).
Bottom line: Folk-y standards with some cutesy interstitials, gives me the feeling I'm educating the kids through the American songbook.

They Might Be Giants, No! This is strange because it could simply be a They Might Be Giants album but on this one they push the boundaries in weirder ways. There are some great danceable tunes ("Jon Lee Supertaster" is a personal favorite, and "Clap Your Hands" is fun, too), and some beautiful, singable melodies ("Where Do They Make Balloons?" and "Lazyhead and Sleepybones") and then some bizzare-o stuff ("Grocery Bag", "I Am Not Your Broom"). One of the strangest songs I have ever heard is "Violin." Sample lyrics:

Violin -lin -lin, Violin -lin-lin, Violin -lin-lin, Vi-o-o-o-o-o-lin
Mop. Mop mop mop mop. Mop.

I used to hate this song and skip it in the cd. But then it grew on me like a fungal infection and I started singing along with it. And then I realized I was hooked when Austin said, "Remember that song? Remember that man said 'Speck-a-duh'? 'Speck-a-duh-duh-duh'?" I thought I was going insane, but suddenly it hit me and I said, "You mean, 'Speck of dust dust dust, Speck of dust dust dust, Speck of dust dust dust, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!?" Yes, Austin just spontaneously remembered that song.
Bottom line: Typical TMBG, love 'em or hate 'em.

There are a few other cds that Austin requests. One is Sleeping Beauty. He calls it the "horsey song" because when we asked him what it sounded like, he said (of the third movement, I think) that it sounds like horses jumping on rocks.
Bottom line: It's fun to ask kids to interpret music; in this case, it led to an appreciation of Tchaikovsky.

Bob Marley's Legend Legend is of course a classic, but one that resonates with the kids at a young age. Mari bounces up and down when she hears the bass and Austin particularly likes "Get Up Stand Up", I think because he recognizes the words and thinks of it as one of those songs with a dance built in, like "YMCA" or "The Macarena" or "The Hokey Pokey."
Bottom line: you have it anyway, put it on and chances are the kids will love it, too.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Facing Future. Late Hawaiian superstar Israel Kamakawiwo'ole had a beautiful voice, and was perfectly accompanied by his uke. This cd reminds us of Austin's birth. When Julie was pregnant, we started regularly listening to George Knight on his WBOS radio show, Sunday Mornings Over Easy. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is his sign off song. Austin was born on a Sunday and in one of Julie's last lucid moments before labor, I turned on the radio and we heard the song. Thanks, George!
Bottom line: Too much synthesizer on some tracks, but the essential Iz is beautiful.

If you have suggestions for other music that kids and adults enjoy, please write a comment.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mari's work

Here's a link to Mari's first published modelling work, for Carter's clothes (founded in Needham, MA where Mari's grandparents live).

In case it expires as the catalog changes, here's the image:

Update: to answer a couple of questions I've since received, yes, she has an agent, Dynasty Models in Boston. They are the ones who found this job.

She was paid an hourly rate and gets no royalties.

And no, she didn't get to keep the clothes (they have a bunch of kids wear the same outfit trying to get a couple of usable shots). Her look in this shot is called Violet Steel, an homage to Blue Steel.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween 2005

In Toronto growing up, Halloween was an odd holiday. First of all, it was a long time until Christmas and Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving) had already passed a couple weeks earlier. Second, it was cold. I remember wearing a ski jacket and having to flash neighbors for candy:
"Trick or treat!"
"What are you supposed to be?"
Ziiiiiiip. Flash.
"Wow, what a great [astronaut] [king] [soldier] you are! Have some candy."

On Saturday, it snowed in Boston. At first I thought it was the usual first snow: hey, some flakes, let's run around and try to catch some on our tongues! But then it kept coming. And coming. I wiped the snow off the car, went inside to help Julie get the kids dressed and then had to wipe off the windshields again.

But by yesterday it had warmed up again (and right now the temp is in the 70s!).

Enough about me, pictures of our scary trick or treaters:
No wait, just Mari in her full fashion ensemble.

With addition of a tail and ears, fashion becomes feline.
Again, you would think this is a costume, but Austin loves wearing both hat and coat any time.

Scary! Neighbor Steve shows up as "a sleazy lawyer"! Lock up the kids!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Dental Health for Children

Following a conversation with a friend and a visit to the dentist, I decided to compile some information about Oral Health for babies and toddlers.Sources:

1. "A Practical Guide to Infant Oral Health" by Joanna Douglass, DDS, Alan Douglass, MD, and Hugh Silk, MD, from American Family Physician 70:11, December 1, 2004

2. Our dentist and her hygienist, Dr. Jolle Hami 1864 Centre St West West Roxbury, MA 02132 (617) 327-4321

3. A colleague of Julie's who did a fellowship on pediatric oral health.

Source #1 is in front of me, I saw #2 yesterday and #3 is from memory.

The main thing everyone says is not to give children sweetened drinks, i.e. juice (1,2,3). Natural occuring sugars tend not to promote tooth decay, that is the lactose in milk and dairy products and the fructose in fruit and vegetables, but sugar added to food will.

The authors of (1) also suggest limiting snacks to set times rather than having constant food around.

Brushing at Home:
Okay, so when are you supposed to start brushing? As soon as the kid has teeth (1,2,3).

And here's the part that's confusing: should you use a flouride toothpaste? Flouride is important to protect the teeth but too much is not good either. Swallowing 5 mg fluoride per kg of the child's weight "can cause nausea and vomiting." (1) [That's half a tube for the average five year old.]

That's the extreme case. A little bit too much fluoride will cause fluorosis (1,2), "an unaesthetic mottling of the teeth." (1)

This is where you branch off on the decision tree. If your water supply is low on fluoride (less than 0.6 parts per million) then your child should use fluoride supplements from about 6 months of age (1).

If you live in a municipal area where the water is fluoridated, as it is here in Boston, it will most likely be above 0.6 ppm (optimally it will be at 1.0 ppm) (1,2,3). In that case, your child is getting enough fluoride through the drinking water (1,2,3).

And they don't have to drink it. They are getting enough fluoride from the water you cook with and the water that you washed an apple with, etc (2,3).

So, if your water is fluorinated, what do you do about toothpaste? Well, you can get infant toothpaste without fluoride (Tom's of Maine makes some) or you have to get your kid to spit out the toothpaste. General guidelines will say that you should start using fluoride toothpaste when your child is 2 years old, but it's all based on when they can learn to spit (1,2).

In our case, Mari (13 months) is using toothpaste without fluoride and Austin (32 months) is using toothpaste (still kiddie flavored) with fluoride. (For those wondering, Tom's strawberry toothpaste for kids tastes like strawberry bubblegum that loses its flavor really quickly)

How do you get your kids to brush? There are articles about this in parenting magazines I'm sure, but here are a couple of tips that worked for us:

-Let them watch you brush. They love to imitate, those little monkeys.

-Sing a song about brushing that is consistent and thereby gives them a sense of how long the brushing will take (Catherine R. suggested it and Julie does this)

-Explain which teeth you are brushing so they expect a certain pattern and will wait until all the teeth are brushed (this is what I do)

-Wait until they shout "NO!" and then shove the toothbrush in. Sometimes crying is good for something.

Flossing is mostly necessary between molars (2). Austin has two molars on top and four on the bottom so we were told to floss between the pairs of molars on the bottom once a day. This should be fun.

Dental Visits:
This is something that surprised me. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that kids see a dentist by around 12 months (1,2,3). Check with your health insurance; with these new recommendations, insurers --health insurers, not dental -- are paying for dental health for children.

There are specifically trained pediatric dentists. This is a specialty and not every dentist will deal with children under 3. Call around or search the web.

The first visit is basically a checkup, to count teeth and to get kids accustomed to the dentist. The dentist also takes time to explain to parents how to brush the teeth and give advice like this.

The kids are supposed to return every 6 months. At the latest visit, Austin had his teeth polished and a fluoride treatment. He got stickers afterward and was very pleased.

The teeth: something else to worry about.

Bonus bizarre fact:
Poor oral hygiene in pregnant women is correlated with premature birth (1).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cousin Neve!

Austin and Mari have a cousin in California! Neve Cheng O'Sullivan, born early this morning to Vera and Stephen. We get to see her in December!

Empathy Imitation

A couple of days ago Austin and Mari were batting their arms at each other and stealing each other's toys. This happens regularly. They stopped (this also happens regularly). Then Austin stood up and bumped his head on the kitchen counter and started crying.

Julie sat down with him and was making sympathetic noises and patting him when Mari crawled over. I think all three of us (Julie, Austin and me) expected Mari to attack him while he was down, but instead she crawled into Julie's lap with him and then reached up and kissed him.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Austin's memory

Austin's memory is amazing. For a while, he would be be reminded of various things; we'd be playing with the Fisher Price farm and he'd say, Remember we went to the farm and saw sheep?

But then today he was playing with his spoon (we had Matzo ball soup for dinner, a new favorite). He stood the spoon on one end and said, "Remember we saw a sculpture like this? In Toronto?" Before I could even think of what he was talking about he corrected himself, "No, in New York." We think he's referring to the sculpture of a man standing on another man's shoulders that sits on the bridge between Columbia's main campus and the law school.

Oh, and about two weeks ago, we were driving and he was in the backseat zoning out as usual--except he suddenly said, "Remember we had dinner with Yang yeh yeh?" It was so out of the blue that I wasn't sure he knew what he was talking about (the last time we saw Bob Yang, my godfather, was more than a month earlier). I remember we had dinner, I said, what did we eat? Hamburgers? "No!" Austin said, "Chinese food!"

The memory is a weird thing and it's odd to watch it develop.

On the catwalk

Mari is modeling some new clothes she got from her godma Maria (it's like having a dogma, dyslexically). Rowr! Eat your heart out Lizzie. Posted by Picasa

Pumpkin carving

We went over to Ada and Pete's and ate lots of their food and then cut some up. Austin drew the face on the pumpkin on the left and I carved it out. (Hector and Andrew made the one on the right.) Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Book review: Truth and Beauty

I just finished reading Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett's memoir of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, the poet and memoirist who had cancer as a child and who's chemo melted her jaw and disfigured her face. It's pretty great, for the most part. The writing is beautiful and the "characters" and relationships are portrayed well. What I wasn't too thrilled about is the end.

If you have no idea who Lucy Grealy was, here's a major spoiler: she's dead. And she died with heroin in her body. Given that, you can imagine what the last few chapters are like--addict promises to quit, friend is happy but not sure how to help, addict relapses.

The decline feels so inevitable that it's almost cliche. But the rest of the book has by this time been so full of life--the joy of friendships, the randomness of conversation, the thrill of two emerging careers--that you are left overall with a feeling of richness, of having known two people.

This is ironic because a) Patchett makes clear that memoirs are creations (especially memoirs by poets and novelists), and b) one of the themes of the book has to do with fame, from the local fame on a college campus to television and bookstore appearances. Basically, she points out that it's very easy to feel like you know someone because you've heard about their life (or read their memoir) but it's such an unbalanced relationship between writer and reader that any real-life encounters tend to ring false.

Ann Patchett wrote one of my favorite recent novels, Bel Canto, and has her own website here. One connection I hadn't made was that her mother wrote the book Julie and Romeo; I think I briefly heard Terry Gross talking to someone about how she encouraged her mother to write a book and was slightly chagrined that her mother's book outsold her by a lot. I may be misremembering the details, but clearly it was Ann Patchett.

One of the weird, gossip-y pleasures of Truth and Beauty involves the encounters with other writers at various retreats or jobs (Elizabeth McCracken, Alan Gurganus) or Ann hearing Lucy on Fresh Air described as "repulsive"--it ties together a weird network of minorly famous intelligensia.