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2012 Readings & Workshops

March 21: Berkeley, 4:00-6:00 pm: Ashby Village reading and book talk, Jewish Family and Children's Services, Suse Moyal Center, 2484 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

May 10: Oakland, 3:30-5:00 pm: "Conversations at AgeSong," The Terrace Room, 1800 Madison, Oakland

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Literatty Discourse

I recently read from Breaking Out of Bedlam at a benefit for Hedgebrook, where I met Spring Warren, author of Turpentine and The Quarter Acre Farm. I could go on and on about her books, her blog, her farm, and her food, but why not just check it out for yourself at her website?

The email she sent me after the reading spawned a rapid-fire exchange about some of our favorite topics. Turns out we have a lot in common, in particular an avid interest in rats. In case you'd like to eavesdrop on our high-falutin literary discussion, I include a portion of it below.

The stunning illustration above, by the way, is from the sketchbook Spring kept during her recent visit to Rome. It's called a Pharaoh's mouse, but it looks like a rat to me.

SPRING Warren wrote:

Hello, Leslie!

It was a pleasure to meet you the other night. I was sorry we didn't get to talk more. As is usual at big noisy crowded events I feel a little like a marble in a pinball machine, just madly beeping and bumping - then agonizing after I spin down the hole that I didn't bump and beep at the right people at the right time in just the right way.

Good writing!


Leslie Larson wrote:

Hi, Spring.

I just had a look at your website. Had I known you were so knowledgeable in the agriculture world, I would have been dogging your steps all Thursday night. I'm an avid back yard farmer. How'd you learn all that stuff?

All best,


SPRING Warren wrote:

Avid backyard farmer? How was it we didn't sit down and talk manure? We will definitely have to get together and share tomato stories or some such thing.



Leslie Larson wrote:

Tomatoes are a sore subject right now. I have a treasure trove of rat stories—indoors, outdoors, you name it. I live in South Berkeley if you ever make it to this corner of the world.

SPRING Warren wrote:

Omigosh, rats! I was walking by the hot tub about 2 hours ago and heard gnaw crunch smacking noises. I upended the step that covers the motor housing and they shot out in all directions. I felt a little bad because they'd made such a nice place there, lots of leaves, a shredded washcloth, orange peels, even a corner with shiny stuff (art collection, no doubt). It was a total ratspa! If I were a rat, there I would be, and now homeless, what a comedown in the world. Yes, they've been nibbling tomatoes, too. AND sweetpotatoes. Good riddance, now that I think about it, nasty vermin!

And if you get to Davis, come on by, I'll put the kettle on, we'll drink tea and hate rats.

Leslie Larson wrote:

Wow, sounds like you broke up a real Shangri-la. Your description of the place makes ME want to live there.

A few months ago, I was turning over the compost when a geyser of teenage rats erupted from the middle and ran in all directions. It's nice to know the neighbors DO come out of their houses when they hear screaming.

You know, people can't get enough rat stories. We should edit a book of anecdotes. Or a coffee table book of full color photos of rat house interiors like the one you described. RATPADS!

SPRING Warren wrote:

You are a genius - We'll be rich! Start collecting stories—and pictures of Ratpads—and by this time next year, we'll have ratspas of our own.

Leslie Larson wrote:

I've been thinking a lot about the rat book and I'm wondering if RATPADS should be a chapter rather than the subject of the whole book. Other chapters might be personal experiences with rats by famous writers (do you know Toni Morrison?), profiles of particular rats, and general background on rats—though I think we should concentrate on California rats (who have vegetarian diets and hot tubs as opposed to slimy east coast rats who live in sewers, eat garbage, and hang out with cock roaches). I was awake @ 3am this morning composing the introduction in my mind.

The book will make more money than all our novels combined!

SPRING Warren wrote:

Sure, that sounds good, and maybe a chapter on famous rats like Ben, Willard, Wormtail and the rats in that Disney chef rat movie, and how famous rats differ from basic rats (narcissism).

In research for a book I'm working on I found rats ate corpse's eyeballs and livers first in the WWI trenches. Hard to see how that could be

Leslie Larson wrote:

European rats sound even worse than New York rats.

SPRING Warren wrote:

Eurotrash rats must really be bad. Hot tub repairman came by to check out the gnawing problem on our wires and left a message on the phone later that "the wire that had ordered" and he would be replacing it in a few days.

I told him there had been rats in there, but I guess he couldn't bear to even speak the word rat. Doesn't go well with the image they sell of someone bobbing around in a hot tub with a Cosmo, apparently.

Leslie Larson wrote:

The rats must have been wearing their mouse masks when the repairman was there. Anyway, hope they lay off the wires.

SPRING Warren wrote:

There is now a rat in my attic, I kid you not, that sounds like it is the size of a beagle. It sits on the heating duct and gnaws something (please god, not the electric cables) and the reverberations through the aluminum flumes makes a sound akin to chopping wood. It might have been a mistake to evict the rats from the hot tub.

I'll end there, although rats, their pads, and their relationship to our own species provide endless stories—like the time I thought there was a pink, foot-long snake hanging out of the magazine rack next to the toilet, but it was only a rat tail!

Watch for RATPADS in bookstores or, better yet, pre-order The Quarter Acre Farm, which will hit shelves March 1.