Last night Delores said, “I can’t live in a town that doesn’t have a shoemaker.” Delores tells me for the fiftieth time that she will be selling her house and moving elsewhere. “What are you supposed to do with perfectly good shoes?” I can see her point. This swank village is over the top. This is the kind of celebrity party/photo/gossip caption you read in the Hampton magazine: Princess Amanda Borghese and Prince Francisco Borghese at the Italian Trade Commission’s 'Young Friends of “Save Venice' dinner at Bergdorf Goodman.
I once went into Bergdorf to kill time and asked to see a handbag in a case. The major domo patrolling the floor told me pointedly that it cost 1500 dollars. “Is it ostrich?” I persisted. “Yes,” he said and finally invoked the retail rule that states: don’t judge the wealth by the outfit. He opened the case. I made him show me three more bags before walking out.
Delores is a published poet and an ironist. We used to need irony because the reality of everything: marriage, childbirth, parenthood, government, the natural bent of human nature was masked and sentimentalized to keep the citizens in the dark and maintain social order. Literalness is now so darn interesting that you could really do away with irony. There’s a shop near my house called The Irony. I went in once just to see what the heck was going on. No iron or bon mots in sight. They make decorative fences, gates and objects out of metal.
Delores is always giving me the details of writing contests that I can enter. Sometime back she gave me the Granta deadline and the Chicago short fiction rules and some drama contest in South Carolina. She said I should take my one-woman show and turn it into a short story and just send it out. Just send everything out and see what comes of it, she says. It’s about getting things out there. So in a flurry of activity, I dug out several things and sculpted a couple of stories and sent them out. The only response I got was a handwritten note from Esquire with the following message: Ms. Baehr, I enjoyed reading your story. I found the big-muscle-little-muscle speach (sic) especially amusing and the story as a whole insightful and rather clever. Sorry we can’t publish it. - B
Once I got a note from Gordon Lish who was the Fiction Editor of Esquire and created the minimalist effect that slashed one of Raymond Carver's stories to half its length. Lish published Carver, Kundera, DeLillo among others. When he sent me the note, he was responding to an Op Ed piece of mine in the New York Times. You could tell his note had been written with a real fountain pen because it was smudgy and scratchy. Here's what it said:
Dear Consuelo Saah Baehr,
I do the poetry editing here and should very much like to see yours. Please mark PERSONAL on envelope if you do choose to send, a prospect I heartily encourage, Thrive, Gordon Lish
He wrote all of that on a piece of paper the size of a Post-it, using both sides.