May 25, 2008
In a scene from the 1969 PBS miniseries The Forsyte Saga, Fleur Forsyte Mont, pregnant by a husband she does not really love but whom she wishes to please, and knowing that he desires a son, paces the floor of her fashionable London drawing room, her eyes closed and her hands moving along a knotted silk cord. “Every day, in every way, my baby’s getting more and more male. Every day, in every way, my baby’s getting more and more male,” she intones. Her father, entering the room on his daily visit, seems alarmed. “Are you praying?”
Fleur explains that of course, quite certainly, she is not praying. She is employing La Methodé Coué, the invention of French psychologist Émile Coué who believed that conscious optimistic autosuggestion could bring about desired physical outcomes. “It’s all the rage,” Fleur says of the 1920s Edwardian society she moves in. Repetition of such expressions, according to a specified schedule at the beginning and end of each day, the repetitions counted on the knots of the silk cord, will bring about the desired state. “What you mustn’t say,” Fleur cautions gravely, “is I will have a boy.” That, she says, sets up a counterproductive effect that will bring about the opposite of what you really want, “and what you’ll get is a girl!”
As it happens, Fleur does give birth to a son. But anyone watching the episode in the second half of the twentieth century would know what Fleur could not. The sex of her child was determined at conception, months before she begins earnestly telling her knots on the string resting on her protruding abdomen.
The hits on the search string for the title of John Dickson Carr’s first novel have abated. After more than one hundred on Wednesday alone, the stream slowed. Nevertheless, there were still several today. I doubt that I will ever solve the mystery of what was going on there. Less unclear is why I have had several dozen hits, not nearly as many as the “it walks by night” string but still a noticeable aggregation, from searches on variations of “bread loaf rejection,” “bread loaf acceptance,” or “bread loaf writers letter.” One was even terribly specific: “May 25 Bread Loaf notification.”
Readers were directed to the piece I wrote just after I mailed my 2008 application to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. “The notification letters are mailed May 25,” I wrote. I was quoting the reference on the Bread Loaf web page.
May 25 is today, a Sunday in a three-day holiday weekend for the United States. I know if I were on the conference staff I’d want this taken care of by Friday. There will be about 2000 pieces in this mailing. There is no mail service today nor tomorrow, and I can’t see someone loading the trays into her car and feeding the letters into a curbside mailbox one by one, or even a dozen at a time.
Those letters probably went in the mail Friday. Our next mail delivery is Tuesday. I won’t be home on Tuesday, I’ll be in Lancaster again, from mid-morning to late in the evening, about my business of writing and research (and getting a haircut too). And maybe that’s a good thing. I’ll have something to do besides sit in my study listening for the mail truck.
The raven, that bird of omen, was back at my window this morning, his message still unclear. Like the sex of Fleur’s baby, the nature of the decision on my Bread Loaf application is already set in stone, or in ink on paper, anyway. Unlike Fleur, I do pray. Every day, in every way, may I become a better writer, a better wife, a better mother, a better friend. And every day, in every way, may I continue to learn to let it be.
To be included on the notify list, e-mail me:
margaretdeangelis [at] gmail [dot] com (replace the brackets with @ and a period)