Ah, Yes! I remember it well … Atlantic Avenue, reading coffee grinds, and the French novelist and woman of letters, Colette

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954)

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth and, without pity, destroy most of it.” Collette, Casual Chance, 1964



I remember it well: my first encounter with Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Picture it.  Brooklyn. A Lebanese restaurant someplace on Atlantic Avenue, ambiance of the Middle East, redolent with fragrances of cinnamon and cardamom and the mouth-watering smell of lamb roasting.

It was 1958. We had just seen the movie, Gigi, starring Leslie Caron, which is based on Colette’s novella of the same name.  You might remember that in the early scenes Ms. Caron wore a wide-brimmed straw hat with a ribbon tied in a bow. The ribbon trailed gracefully down her back. I had such a hat and suffered the illusion that I looked just like Gigi in the film. This illusion was strongly supported by the fact that Gigi is my childhood nickname. In fact, from that day on and until her death, my mother would tell everyone  – as she did at the restaurant on this occasion – that I was Gigi before Gigi. I knew it wasn’t true. I’d read in the newspaper that there was a book written in 1944, which would predate me by six years. I was hungry to get my hands on it.

As the adults talked, I mentally replayed scenes from the movie and imagined a woman sitting at her desk writing the story that became the movie. I might have felt smart and pretty and even glamorous and certainly rather grown-up, but I would soon be relieved of my illusions. My mother allowed one of the restaurant patrons – an artist – to do a picture of me. Much to my dismay all he saw and drew was a scrawny olive-skinned kid with a rather gauche hat that sat too far back on her head. Nothing at all approaching the light, elegant, grown-up beauty of Ms. Caron. Then our supposed* distant cousin, Julia, the restaurant owner, worked her special magic.  She told fortunes by reading the sludge left in the cup after drinking Lebanese coffee. Julia would provide this service . . . “reading” coffee grounds . . . for her favorite (i.e., frequent) patrons.

*Note: Honestly, everyone we met from Lebanon was pronounced a cousin, so I’m skeptical.  Cousin in spirit and language, maybe. Blood cousin? Not so sure. 

At Julia’s my special treat was one cup of Lebanese coffee with my baklava. On this day, Mom let Julia do a reading for me. It had none of Julia’s usual romantic niceties: “You are like the sun and the moon. He is the sun that warms your heart. You are the moon that reflects his strength.” Or, “I see a key. Many doors will open for you. And, see there?  There are two bells entwined with a string.  There will be much love shared.”  There was to be no romance like the fictional Gigi’s for me. No. No.  For me there was: “See that, Gigi. Two books. You must keep up your studies. Therein is your happiness.” Maybe Julia did have something of a seer’s eye. I turned out to be better at reading books than reading men and I’m content with that.


“Then, bidding farewell to The Knick-Knack, I went to collect the few personal belongings which, at that time, I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.” Colette, Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, and Chance Acquaintances: Three Short Novels


As for Sidone-Gabrielle Colette (a.k.a. Colette), the Nobel nominated (1948, Literature) French novelist, actress, and mime, this was my introduction and the beginning of my appreciation for her life and work.

Colette was a prodigious writer of many popular literary works. The Claudine stories were the first. For La Belle Époque, Colette’s writings were racy but – perhaps unfortunately – by today’s often jaded tastes, not so much.  While Colette’s life was too much on the wild side for me, I appreciate her courage and honesty and I do love her writing, so full of an appreciation for life and so rich in perfume, color, and humor, occasionally wry.


Publicity still of Colette for Rêve d’Égypte at the Moulin Rouge.

Quotable Colette

For the romantics among us:

“I am going away with him to an unknown country where I shall have no past and no name, and where I shall be born again with a new face and an untried heart.”


The story of Gigi is about a young Parisian who – in her family’s tradition – is being groomed for a career as courtesan. A handsome, wealthy, and well-placed young man is targeted by her grandmother (Mamita) and aunt for Gigi’s first relationship. For the movie version, the story is sanitized to get by the American censors. It was 1958 after all.


“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”


Colette’s life and work are honored in film, song and story by (among others) The Year I Read Colette (YouTube video) by singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash, The White Rose by Truman Capote (describes his first meeting with Colette), and the movies Colette and Becoming Colette. Les Vrilles de la vigne is number fifty-nine on Le Monde’s 100 Best Books of the [20th] Century. When Colette died, she was denied a religious burial by the Catholic Church because of her divorces but the French people justly honored her literary significance with a state funeral.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view these trailers from two movies about Colette.

© 2019, words, Jamie Dedes; photo credits – 1.) Colette’s photo, public domain, 2.) Rêve d’Égypte photograph copyright unknown (probably in public domain), 3.) the different types of Arabic coffees with the Hejazi / Najdi golden coffee seen on the left and the Levantine black “qahwah sādah” (plain coffee) on the right 

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Neil Gaiman’s “Eight Rules for Writing”

Neil Gaiman by Kyle Cassidy CC BY-SA 3.0

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline [recommended]



Neil Gaiman (10 November 1960) is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won many awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. [Wikipedia] Neil’s Amazon page is HERE.


If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, it’s likely your have to link through to the site to view the video: An Interview witih Neil Gaiman.


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Jamie Dedes

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,  Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT for Ukrainian filmmaker’s, Oleg Sentsov, release as hunger strike approached 40 days

Oleg Gennadyevich Sentsov: Ukrainian filmmaker and writer, native of Crimea, best known for his 2011 film Gamer. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea he was arrested in Crimea and convicted to 20 years in jail by Russian court on charges of plotting terrorism acts. The conviction was widely described as fabricated or exaggerated. On 14 May 2018, he went on an open-ended hunger strike protesting the incarceration of 65 Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and demanding their release. (Photo courtesy of Antonymon under CC BY-SA 4.0)



I am currently in the process of working up Sunday Announcements, which will post by end-of-day. Meanwhile, I share this encouraging news. 

In response to the release by two United States Senators—Roger Wicker (R-MI) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)—of their letter to the U.S. president calling on him to urge Vladimir Putin to release unjustly imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker and activist Oleg Sentsov, PEN America Washington Director Thomas O. Melia issued the following statement:

“We are heartened by this bipartisan expression of support for the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, 2017 recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award. As Sentsov’s hunger strike goes into its 37th day, his health continues to deteriorate in his remote prison north of the Arctic Circle, where he is facing a twenty-year sentence on fabricated charges due to his peaceful opposition to the Russian annexation of his native region of Crimea. We urge President Trump to do as the senators request and call on President Putin to release Sentsov from jail immediately.”

*****

PEN America nonprofit logo courtesy of Mltellman under CC BY-SA 4.0

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. PEN champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Honoring Anita Shreve (October 7, 1946 – March 29, 2018)

Anita Shreve. Photograph courtesy of her Amazon page. The copyright holder is not cited there.



“I love paintings within paintings. Stories within stories.” Anita Shreve to Hillary Casavant, Anita Shreve: Solder On, The Writer, March 21, 2014

I was sorry to learn on Friday that Anita Shreve died. She was an American writer, well known for her novels, several of which I read and appreciated. She wrote quite a bit about loss, such a big part of life.

Ms. Shreve started her writing career when she was working as a high school teacher in Reading, Massachusetts. One of her early stories, Past the Island, Drifting (1975), was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1976.

Anita Shreve spent three years working as a journalist in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1999, while she was teaching Creative Writing at Amherst College, Oprah Winfrey called her with the news that The Pilot’s Wife was selected for Oprah’s book club. Since then, Ms. Shreve’s novels have sold in the millions worldwide. 

In 2000, her novel The Weight of Water was made into a movie. It was directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The movie starred Sean Penn, Sarah Polley and Elizabeth Hurley. In 2001, her novel Resistance became a film starring Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond. That same year, CBS released The PIlot’s Wife, a movie of the week. It starred Christine Lahti and John Heard.

Ms. Shreve died of cancer on March 29, 2018, at her home at Newfields, New Hampshire. She was seventy-one.


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