A Moment of Jen
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Wednesday, January 30, 2002
posted by Jen at 1/30/2002 03:12:00 PM

I'm back!

Just returned from a wonderful two-day visit to New York, where I hung out with friends, had my least-ever humiliating experience at a makeup counter, dined with my Finnish publishers (each of them taller and more striking than the last), and came home laden with galleys from my editor, encouragement from my agent, and purplish eyeliner from Stila. I also got to visit the brand-spanking new Museum of American Folk Art, which is now the permanent home of Henry Darger's writings and artwork. For the uninitiated, or those who don't want to follow the link, Darger was a hermit who produced this zillion-page volume about the adventures of seven little girls. The work is extremely unsettling and also quite amazing, and I think sometimes that I like Darger as much for his artwork as for the way I can sort of view his life as a cautionary tale for artists everywhere. You want to be true to your vision. You want to work hard. You do not want to wind up a muttering recluse with no friends, iffy personal hygiene, lots of weird fixations, and a 17,000-page manuscript they only find after you're dead.

The other semi-disturbing thing I saw in the museum was a portrait of a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer and his dog from the 1700's. The dog was a dead ringer for my beloved Wendell, right down to the speckles and the big black spots and the brown markings on his face. Except my Wendell has only a little three-inch tail spike, while this dog had a grandly fringed plume-y tail. Which got me to thinking. This dog was obviously a progenitor of Wendell's, because I know that Wendell's from Pennsylvania Dutch country (Wendell came to me via a family, which bought him at a pet shop, which probably procured him from one of the Lancaster area's notorious puppy mills). Every once in a while, someone will ask about Wendell's tail. Was it cut when he was a puppy? they inquire. Oh, no, no, I say vigorously. He's just a naturally small-tailed dog.

Except....well, if this dog was Wendell's great-great-great-great grandfather, and he had a long tail, and I know that evolution doesn't work that fast, maybe Wendell was also meant to have a long plume-y tail, and it was lopped off in his youth.

Oh, dear.

I ran the proposition by Wendell, and he just yawned and licked his right front paw in an extremely dismissive fashion, but now I'm worried that any minute the repressed memories are going to start flooding back and we'll be in trouble.


More to report later on, but right now I have to get back to work. I'll see you all at the Princeton Public Library in the Princeton Shopping Center in 301 N. Harrison Street tonight at 8 p.m.!

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