ABOUT A WRITER & STUCK IN FRENCH
by Melodie Johnson Howe
A writer I knew, Douglas Munson, died a few years ago. She wrote mysteries under the name of Mercedes Lambert. In the eighties she and I were in a writers workshop led by John Rechy. Later we would both be published by Viking and dropped by Viking. She never wrote again. Why one author goes on writing and why another doesnâ€™t is a complex question. Lucas Crown, who was also in our workshop, became the executor of her estate. Through his determination he got her rejected novel published by Five Star.
The book, Ghosttown, is out now. It has everything that a good mystery, and a good writer has to offer — two gritty, sexual, poignant female protagonists; an American Indian sub culture of Los Angeles rarely written about in contemporary times; murder; and the edgy balance between the spirituality of the old world and the desperate reality of the new. Douglas writes with a twisted beauty about a city filled with Indian ghosts, Hollywood ghosts, and our own personal ghosts. Even though the book could use one more revision, I highly recommend it. It is also a poignant reminder of how the cream does not always rise to the top in our business.
On a less serious note my new computer is finally up and running. But the e-mail spell check is in French. I know this because I was correcting an e-mail and the word my came up misspelled. Mye, or me with an accent, was suggested as replacements. I found this amusing. I began to play around putting in the French corrections. But I tired of this quickly. So I began my long arduous search for the command that would change my spell check into English.
The first thing you donâ€™t want to do is hit the HELP icon if you need help. It is more interested in confusing you, and making you feel like a fromage head or a petite merde for having your spell check in French.
Twenty minutes later ( a speedy record for me)I find the command I need. Itâ€™s in TOOLS under OPTIONS. This leads me to the word SPELLING! I click on it. A little box with the word French tucked into it appeared. Next to it is a down arrow. I know if I hit the arrow a list of languages will be displayed. And among them will be English. My heart leaps. I have tamed the tiger. I have climbed Mt. Everest. I have conquered Microsoft. And only in twenty minutes.
I click the arrow. French. I click again. French. I click, click, click. French, French, French, I click, click, click, click. French, French, French, French. My husband comes in. Heâ€™s dressed for tennis. He takes one look at me and starts to back out of the room. â€œMy spell check is in French,â€ I snarl.
He peers at the screen, then pries the mouse from my hand. â€œAll you do, Melodie, is click on the arrow,â€ he says. I lean back in my chair and fold my arms across my chest. My snarl has turned into a smug sneer. He clicks the arrow. French. He clicks again. French. French. French. Heading out of my office he says, â€œYouâ€™re going to have to call Dell.â€ Thank you. Thank you very much. The thought of talking to a Pakistani named Ralph who, while trying to help me, is also putting together a dirty bomb to kill me is more that I can stand. My e-mail spell check is still in French. Mon Dieu! Simenon! Chanel! Merde!