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    Notes On Starting A New Novel

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    The scenario is familiar: I am thinking about writing a book and I am feeling stupid.

    All the other authors have come up with clever constructions and intriguing plots and characters, titles that make you want to open the book in the first place. All the other authors includes…who? Oh, you know, them. They are out there; I don’t know, elsewhere.

    Having written good novels myself means nothing. Like love affairs, these novels had their unique qualities but they are over, in the past.

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    Large Breasts, Small Breasts

    Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    I was in bed with a man; it was early in the relationship. I probably wasn’t in love but I was at that stage in a relationship in which I wanted him to be in love with me.

    He said, “My wife’s breasts are 36DD.”

    His wife, from whom he’d been separated for a number of months. Suddenly, here she is in bed with us with breasts as big as my butt cheek. How much of her breasts was he remembering right now? Just the bra size? The shape? The roundness? The nipples?

    Why is it that in the presence of a lover we choose to remember the way others looked, or felt, or what they did? It’s the disease of every new couple, this recounting of past loves. Memory has authority. In the context of a bedroom, memory can become an image that displaces the reality before us – the man or woman, alive and naked and real. A memory can almost become pornographic in its representation, a means of fetishizing the body of another. In the presence of a lover, doesn’t this depreciate the person before you? Why do we do this, because I have to admit that I have done exactly the same, though not in recounting parts of the body. This seemed extreme to me.

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    The Before Picture

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    This morning I pulled on my jogging stuff, and then thought, Wait. Take a photograph of yourself because it's not likely you'll have another birthday with breasts. So, I stood in front of the mirror that reflects the windows and the garden outside, and held the phone to my eye. It seems strange that this is the first time I’ve ever photographed myself naked. People do it all the time, then forward the images to whoever they are dating. It has almost become normal to send soft porn by phone or email or whatsapp or Skype.

     

    But I’ve always been weird about such things. I remember a boyfriend who came into the bathroom while I was stretching out in the bath. We were in a hotel in Antwerp, recovering from a night in the beerhouses there. He told me I was beautiful. He got out his phone. I asked him to put the camera away—now.

    He said, “But you look so lovely.”

    His expression was as though he could not imagine why I’d object, looking as I did, being so admired by him.

    “We won’t even have an argument,” I insisted, “because I will never speak to you again.”

    Now, I stand in my own bathroom, alone with a camera. There’s nothing romantic or sexy about what I am doing. Click, click. Who are these images for? That boyfriend is gone, so certainly not for him. For whom, then? No one? Everyone? Not just for me, surely.

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    We Interrupt this Program To Bring You Your Regularly Scheduled Depression

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    I wake up, remembering my father-in law turning my first novel over in his hands and saying, "This is pornography" while I sat on the hideous blue sofa wondering how a man can judge me so wrongly, my work and everything about me.

     

    Where was my husband at the time, that young man I loved so much? Distracted, in another room, helping with the tea tray, reaching a top shelf for his mother. Doing someone a kindness, anyway. I looked up, scanning the room, the hallway, wishing he’d return and save me from his father, who stared at me through his reading glasses and spoke as though in curses, “I found myself aroused reading it because of its pornographic content.”

     

    I’d rather he’d have slapped my face...

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My Books

The Man From SaigonThe Man From Saigon

Timely and upliftingNew York Times Book Review

Emotionally rich, viscerally intense.The Independent (London)

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Daniel Isn't Talking
Daniel Isn’t Talking

One of the most enchanting books of the yearDaily Mail

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Sun Dial Street
Sun Dial Street

Witty…The pacing of Leimbach’s story is brisk and breezyLos Angeles Times

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