Failing Toward 40: The Conclusion of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs (Part III)

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Good morning, kittens, and welcome to what people of good taste can only hope is the final installment of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs. It seemed an auspicious day for it because it happens to be—I shit you not—my 40th birthday.

But first… I want to speak about something rather delicate, my friends.

Can we bring the house lights up for a second? (Not that bright. Thank you.)

Before I begin, I thought you might like an explanation as to why I went away for six months, leaving no note about where I was going, or when I’d return? Or maybe you don’t, and that’s fine. As I’ve said before, blog abandonment is hard to talk about, but we must, since nearly every American woman I know has a blog that she is actively Not Writing.

Look, the point is that there were some serious matters of life and loss going on in the House of Rhapsody, and that’s why I accidentally-on-purpose went out for another bottle of chardonnay and forgot to come back. I know that while I was out, you’ve all waited faithfully for me, doing nothing else, just draped like a bunch of Victorian consumptives across your chaise lounges, hysterical with concern.

That’s so sweet of you. But now, your worry is over. Rhapsody is back, and this New Zealand savvie I’ve just opened is as crisp as the summer morn.

Also, to be honest, a trusted friend told me I need “a more robust on-line platform” from which to launch other projects into orbit. That’s why there’s a big pile of fiberglass and bolts in the corner over there. After today’s post, you can all help me get the high dive installed and test it out for bounciness.

Now then: let’s pull on our flowered bathing caps and begin, shall we? It’s so good to be back.

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My Life in Cookbooks: A Visit to the Rhapsody Culinary Lab

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“First, I am an amateur. If that strikes you as disappointing, consider how much in error you are, and how the error is entirely of your own devising.” –Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb.

Greetings, friends, and welcome to the Rhapsody test kitchen! I’ve moved today’s meeting to the breakfast bar for an up-close discussion of food, cookbooks and the histoire de la cuisine Rhapsodaise. This coy mangling of French is my way of saying that I’m not really going to talk about food so much as myself. Please don’t mistake this for an instructional post about serious cooking, unless you are wondering how to make Prune Whip. That we will cover.

And if you’re new to our salon, and feeling mildly alarmed, don’t fret. Just pop over to All About Me while I mix you our drink of the day: a Kir Royale (crème de cassis and Chablis). If, after a few minutes with us, you decide you really just wanted to look at recipes, they’re at Epicurious. You’re welcome.

Loyal readers will remember that we have lectured about food before at Rhapsody, from essential guidance on making vegan loaf entrees (in sum: don’t) to Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s 35 easy steps for buttering French toast. And who could forget swanning around the kitchen in our dressing gowns with Nigella Lawson?

Today, we delve into something more personal– selections from the Rhapsody Cookbook Collection, including:

  1. “Cooking in a Bedsitter” by Katherine Whitehorn, 1961
  2. “Wild in the Kitchen” by Will Jones (1961 again. I detect a theme.)
  3. “What To Cook” by Arthur Schwartz, 1992
  4. “Simple Cooking,” “Outlaw Cook,” “Serious Pig, “Pot on the Fire,” plus anything and everything else by John (and Matt) Thorne; and lastly
  5. A binder of newspaper clippings bought at an estate sale.

As a group, these items make no sense, but if I’ve learned one thing from Buzzfeed it’s that people will read anything if you present it as a numbered list, a weight-loss secret, or an arbitrary way to categorize oneself based on characters from The Breakfast Club. (Claire. And thank you for asking.)

And now that we’ve moved that important business out of the way, let’s tie on our aprons and get started! Continue reading

The Worrier’s Life: A Post From My Cabin in the Molehill Mountains

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“If you’re not worrying, you’re not family.” — Rhapsody’s sister, Andromeda

So good to see you, friends! For today’s post, I’ve thoughtfully arranged the chairs in a semi-circle so you can all see me on the screen up here, and still reach the cocktail olives with ease. The reason I’m addressing you by video today is that I’ve taken myself off for a little rest at the cabin—my retreat when the daily effort of being “somewhat difficult” overwhelms me.

Mr. Roboto and the children aren’t here; this is my time for picking wildflowers, journaling and sipping homemade blueberry wine that doubles as paint thinner.

Arm’s length seemed the optimal distance for today’s topic. With you in the salon, and me in an undisclosed location with a camcorder, I can more comfortably explain what it’s like to be a mildly depressive worrier with just the tiiiiiiiniest bit of an anxiety disorder. To save money and time, I self-diagnosed with the help of pharmaceutical commercials. My doctor was glad I confided to her that I suffer from Rich-Woman-Gardening-But-Not-Enjoying-It Disease.

You see, I’m afraid you won’t understand what I’m talking about today, and will think Rhapsody is a strange and embarrassing misfit—and that is precisely why I must come forward. As a reward for listening, or at least keeping one eye open, I’ve made you each a Rhapsody in Cool first-aid kit stocked with band-aids, emergency flares and a fifth of bourbon.

So grab your life vests, friends, and follow me for an adventure of the imagination! That’s Shit Creek up ahead and we’re putting our canoes in right above the rapids. No paddles on board, please: we’ll just scoop the water frantically with our hands. Continue reading

The Failure Memoirs, Part II: Rhapsody Goes to Writer School

Welcome back, pets. In Part II of the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs, we’ll rejoin Rhapsody where we left her in Part I, at the awkward cusp of her teen years. We’ll work quickly through high school and college and then “pivot”—meaning abruptly change topics but with a ballroom flourish—to grander failures.

By which we mean MFA writing programs.

Yes, dears, the Sundance Festilog was fun, but today it is time to put on our tweedy jackets with the elbow patches, chew thoughtfully on our pipes and ask a serious, academic question: What does it mean to call oneself a “failure?”

It is a searing indictment of the self, to be sure, but it is also a carefully calculated defensive maneuver. You can’t call me a failure if I’ve called myself one already. Ha, ha! Beat you to it. I know you are, but what am I?

A failure. You’re a failure. And a damned good one, I might add.

Before we begin, we want to offer a warning for sensitive salon-goers: this memoir is rated U for Uncomfortable. Should you find this unpleasant to watch, you can grab one of the cucumber-yogurt face masks I made (top shelf in the fridge), slap it over your eyes, and rejoin us at the last set of four asterisks.

Everyone else: pour yourself a scotch. You’re going to need it.

* * * *

While nothing awful happens to Rhapsody in junior high, the possibility of awfulness goes with me everywhere, sitting on my shoulder like a vulture. I am still writing poems, using the poem-seeing Third Eye, not that I would reveal this to anyone even under torture.

Which I fully expect will happen.

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The Rhapsody Failure Memoirs: Things I Feel Bad About, To Make You Feel Better

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(Rhapsody, 8th birthday)

Welcome back, kittens! I’m handing out the Waterford champagne flutes because we’re celebrating. Not only are we unveiling the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs, Part I: The Early Years, it’s also our twelfth post at Rhapsody in Cool.

Why mark the 12th? Because I forgot the 10th and the 100th is a depressingly long way off. But things are happening, Readers. Rhapsody in Cool has been short listed for the Long Prize, and long listed for the Short Prize.* And I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me, “That post was the highlight of my day!” Actually I can. It was twice, and by the same person. But the point is the same: Rhapsody is beloved. One salon-goer claims she “wet [her] pants” over our Title IX catalogue review, and as we all know, incontinence is the sincerest form of flattery.

And if you are brand new to Rhapsody in Cool, a hearty welcome to you, too! You may be wondering how your search of the words “Gwyneth Paltrow is an embarrassment to humanity” landed you in our salon, but I think you’ll find you’re in good company. Next time, just come right to the front door—no need to climb in the window. For a complete introduction to your garrulous hostess, click here.

And now, without further ado, the Rhapsody Failure Memoirs, Part I: The Early Years.

*Note to Fact Checkers: these are not real prizes. But rumors that Rhapsody is a shoe-in for a Pulitzer in 2015 are quite credible.

* * * *

Prologue to the Memoirs, in which we assure you that nothing truly awful is about to happen.

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