I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Jem Waldo’s new book, Why Stuff Matters. I’m married to a terrible (or should that be expert) hoarder who never throws anything away. As we’ve aged we’re realising that material possessions aren’t important and there are only a few things with deep sentimental meaning that we’d really hate to be parted from. With that in mind I asked Jen Waldo what three things she’s save from her possessions in the event of a fire and she’s telling us today.
Why Stuff Matters was published on 19th October by Arcadia Books and is available for purchase here.
Why Stuff Matters
When Jessica, a grieving widow, inherits an antique mall from her mother she also inherits the stallholders, an elderly, amoral, acquisitive, and paranoid collection.
When one of the vendors, a wily ex-con named Roxy, shoots her ex-husband, she calls on Jessica to help bury the body and soon Jessica is embroiled in cover-ups, lies, and misdirection. Into this mix comes Lizzie, Jessica’s late husband’s twelve-year-old daughter by his first marriage, who’s been dumped on Jessica’s doorstep by the child’s self-absorbed mother and it soon becomes apparent that Lizzie is as obsessed with material possessions as Jessica’s elderly tenants.
Why Stuff Matters is a compelling ode to possession, why people like things and the curious lengths they will go to keep them. Returning to her fictional Caprock, Waldo turns her wry wit on the lives of those afraid to let go.
A Guest Post by Jen Waldo
If I had to evacuate because of a fire, what three things would I save? Considering that my new novel, Why Stuff Matters, addresses a small community’s obsession with material possessions, this is a relevant question. Also, fires do occasionally sweep through this portion of Texas, so the possibility of this scenario coming true is a literal concern as well as a figurative one.
The first thing I’d grab would be my laptop, which goes with me every time I spend a night away from home. Over this one item, I’ll admit to obsession. I write every morning. It is invariably what I do. Even if I were evacuated to some stale hotel while my home burned down, I’d write.
The next thing I’d take with me is woefully unoriginal. I’d take the photo albums. Not that I ever spend time browsing through them, but as a family we’ve had adventures. I think our sons would want me to rescue pictures of them as children riding camels, hiking through the Scottish highlands, scrambling around the ruins of Petra, or strolling through the tulips at Keukenhof.
Lastly, I’d dump the little dishes that hold my jewelry into my leather jewelry box that’s meant for traveling. Necklaces, earrings, rings—the usual stuff, but it’s nice stuff and I wouldn’t want to lose it.
Now keep in mind that for us, a fire might become a reality. We live amongst a lot of splintery cedar trees and undergrowth, and when there’s been no rain for a couple of months, the area becomes frighteningly dry. But there would be warning. An evacuation notice would be given; we’d have ample time to gather some clothes, pack up, and get out.
It’s not like my husband and I haven’t discussed the likelihood and made a plan. The first thing in the truck will be the laptop. Then, while I gather the photo albums and jewelry, David would be freeing the art from the walls. We’ve collected some nice oils and batiks over the years, and each piece holds a memory—where we got it, how we haggled to get the price down, the endless discussion of where we’d hang it. In many cases, we know the artist.
After all this stuff is in the truck, we’d walk through and see what else we could save—probably a few small pieces of furniture. Together, we’d lift and carry the rosewood chest that reigns from the end of the hallway, purchased in Sorrento. And another chest; we bought it in Vietnam when we lived in Singapore and ended up paying the price again in duty to get it into the country. Live and learn. We’d slide both of these chests into the bed of the truck.
And that’s it. That’s all the truck will hold.
While I’ve written about the items I hold most dear, I’m also aware that it’s just stuff. However, having said that, a few months ago David and I loaded up the truck and went on a road trip. Four hours into it, we stopped for lunch. I walked around the back of the truck and saw that we’d driven that whole way with the tailgate open. Our luggage and David’s golf clubs were still there, but we lost a box of items that I’d put in at the last minute. The box held two new beach towels, laundry detergent, sunscreen, a bottle of Grey Goose, and two bottles of a really nice Malbec. I didn’t spare a thought about how this box, falling on the highway, could have caused an accident. I was upset over the loss of the stuff. I felt befuddled and incomplete until every one of those items had been replaced. It seems I have more in common with the acquisitive folk in Why Stuff Matters than I thought.
(I think perhaps we all do Jen!)
About Jen Waldo
Jen Waldo has lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period, and now lives in Marble Falls, Texas with her husband, David and small dog Trip. She first started writing in Cairo, where she struggled to find interesting things to read and decided to write something for herself. Finding pleasure and power in the process of creating, she has since earned a Masters of Fine Art, has been published in The European, and has been shortlisted in a competition by Traveler.
She is often asked why, with her knowledge of international cultures and settings, she places her novels in a stark dry town in North Texas. It’s because it’s the place she knows best – the dusty gusts, the flat earth, the square houses, the late-summer thunderstorms. The people are stocky, stubborn, religious, big-hearted, abhorrent toward change, and suspicious of success. She’s grateful to Amarillo for providing colourful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind.
To find out more you can visit Jen’s website.
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