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Les Semaines

00.05.14

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Helluva Week

Argh. I'm so glad I survived this. This was the second week of visits from dean candidates, with all the attendant events (seminars, meetings, hallway and office discussions). So absorbing and tiring. I'm so glad this was the last week of these visits and the process will soon be over--I'm not sure I can wait until it's done and I can feel free of the responsibility. It has taken up so much of my time and attention since last August when the meetings began that I am exhausted.

Add to that that one of my bosses is organizing a conference that will be held next weekend, and she's a procrastinator (rather like me in that regard) and she's behind and the usual odd bits of things are going wrong, and I've spent more and more of my work time and overtime helping out with bits and pieces of that, including writing two speeches about women that will be honoured at the conference (way above and beyond the call of my regular duties, plus I found it difficult given the other demands on my attention).

Add to that the pressures of trying to get all the things finalized for the publication of Blood Memory, which should be going to press next week (well, literally this week, now), well, I can hardly believe I'm conscious, or that I accomplished (and read) as much as I did or that I actually survived all this, though I confess to a relatively high level of angst and anxiety, and I even picked up a minor but still irritating, stress-related illness.

How do I feel about being so busy and pressured? Confused, mostly. I worry so much whether I'm getting things right, saying things that I ought not to say, stressing about making the book sound just right, that I'm in a constant whirlwind of trying to figure out what I should be doing right now and trying not to worry about all the other things I should be doing that have fallen through the cracks.

My study is a mess again, already, Sophia sleeping in the midst of it. I feel like my life has gone out of control, and I hate that. I spent nights worry about al the things I have to do and where I might have messed up and I really can't cope (I just sent myself an email message to work to remind myself to do some paperwork tomorrow morning). Thank heavens I have these ways of reminding myself! The scrap of paper thing just doesn't work, and I have them all over my study and my office at work. The worst part of that is when I get around to looking at them in a couple of weeks I can never remember what they're all about--whose phone number that was, what that date was noted for, what exactly it was I was supposed to see Gail about...

Oh, and add to that that I have to make corrections in a book I was designing for the Feminist Caucus of The League of Canadian Poets tonight so I can express mail it to the person who is taking it to the printer tomorrow. She actually needed to receive it tomorrow. Ulp. But I didn't get the corrections until about a half hour ago.

So, um, bye for now.

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Listening

A new obsession: Jorane, a Quebeçoise cellist and singer. Really amazing music. It's unique, but to give a point of reference, to me it sounds like Iva Bittova meets Kate Bush. Jim says she sounds like early Lion and the Cobra-era Sinead O'Connor to him vocally. Whatever comparisons you can make, this is compelling, beautiful, experimental, and just plain lovely. The stuff of obsession. Some samples are available from her website, which you can get to eventually through http://www.jorane.com or more directly through http://www.tacca.com/jorane/index.html.

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Reading

Well, I finished Perdido Street Station all in a burst on Sunday night because I couldn't bear to put it down. This is a fascinating, exciting book, both because it's an interesting, complicated story, but also because it's written in an interesting, complicated (though not difficult to read) style. I don't mean that the style is annoying experimental or anything but the way he uses language is distinctive. Though the story is very dark and complex, the imaginary city it is set in, I didn't find the overall feel off-putting at all. And while parts of the story were horrific, the novel didn't feel like a horror novel to me. I don't know how China Miéville transcends that, but he does. The plot is difficult to describe because there are so many threads involved--the main idea could be phrased as "a scientist unwittingly unleashes a dark power" or "the various interdimensional powers of a multiracial, multicultural city battle for dominance" or "little, unknown outcasts unite to save their city". Any of these can describe a large part of what's going on here. This is highly recommended to anyone who like dark, absorbing, complex, rich (and lengthy) works of fiction. It struck me as the kind of book I might begin to use the word "genius" about.

Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of those books that has been recommended to me many times and by many different people. Even though people usually describe it as a horror novel, I decided to read it right after Perdido Street Station because it's short, and it had recently arrived in a group of books I picked up from the public library. It's a odd novel, horrific but not in any usual sense, of two sisters whose family has been poisoned by arsenic. They live in an old house with their uncle, disabled by his exposure to the poison, isolated and hated by the people of the nearby village, but they are pretty content until a cousin arrives and everything changes. A fascinating play of characters and circumstance, unrealistic in many ways that somehow made the story seem more real, if that makes any sense. I understand why this story has intrigued so many readers, especially those how are also writers. Funny how it wasn't at all what I had expected.

Sheri Reynolds' Bitterroot Landing is the third of her novels that I have read recently, and I read this backwards to the order she wrote them. They are all three beautifully written and intriguing stories. I think I liked this one the least of all three of them, but I still rate it very highly. It's mainstream fiction pushing into psychological fantasy, and is really quite lovely and redemptive. It's the story of a young woman who had been raised in an isolated backwoods community in the south, where she had been abused by her relative and the people who came to their store. When she kills the relative (was the woman her mother? her grandmother? we never know), she winds up being taken in by a man who runs a store on the river for boaters, and there she works and stands in for his long-dead wife, in all ways. Through a series of circumstances that I won't relate so I don't spoil the novel, she finds herself removed from this situation and able to start again in the world.

Margaret Buffie's The Dark Garden is a young adult novel about an amnesiac girl who finds herself haunted by a woman by the past and astonished by the people who claim they are her family. She has visions of the house they live in, but with turn-of-the-century furniture. She remembers a "papa" who doesn't live in the house any longer. The novel is about her discovery of herself and of the complex events of the past and her discovery about her current family. I thought this was well-handled and well-written, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes stories about the past intertwining with the present.

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Writing

Worked and worked and worked on the final text for the back of my book. This isn't something I've ever had to do before, and it was hard to get it to sound intriguing and not like something for a grant application or essay. I'm not sure I got it yet. Also, as noted above, wrote speeches for one of my bosses. Correspondingly, not a good week for getting any other writing done. Frustrating, that.

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

January 1977

675. No change

[Obnoxious quote from a Larry Norman Christian rock song deleted.] Learning constancy in spire of the wanderings, in spite of hiding my face in the sands. I like to be so far away from home. [More Larry Norman omitted.]

676. Could have

I could have been halfway to where i'm just going now. I could have been walking on my way to there. I need a little time of peace. Desperately. There are a few wounds that have to finishing healing. Could have been at that place of peace. Could have. Would have?

677. Stop me running [1]

Hold me down, keep me still, hold it. I don't want to keep running away. I have to learn to accept the time i ran, have to learn to accept you. Forgive me, help me forgive myself, don't let me keep fighting. I don't think i can carry on. I feel completely lost and lonely without you.

678. The poor in spirit

Poor in spirit. That's me. Back to square one, beginning again. I'm weary and burdened again, i'm coming to him for rest. (You won't find me there next time.)

679. For you, sir

Crawling slowly, painfully, out of myself and my depression. Running lies both in the past and the future. Not in now. Today there's only slow crawling, discovering ground. I'll make it. [Paraphrase of a Michael Omartian song about fish making their way upstream, things getting better, deleted.]

680. Blue shoes white!

[This whole entry consists of the lyrics to a delightful Larry Norman song, which puns sole/soul and uses the whole shoe image allegorically. It's really charming.]

681. White

Getting white, dynamite. partly green, growing. [More inspiration Christian lyrics deleted.] Monday morning, and i'm cheerful on my way back home (gonna fly!). So much to do, whatta day, whatta week (i can hardly wait!). [And yet more lyrics deleted.]

682. On having nothing to say

I have nothing to say, but we had a fantastic bible study last night. Getting close to those we wouldn't normally be. Very interesting. Seeing the Lord. Growing together. Funny how the similarities outweigh the differences. People are changing, and i only want to be out and forgiven. Learning to walk.

683. Head knowledge

Head knowledge is growing. So much head knowledge changes the head, rearranges the mind. Burns the soul a bit, just around the edges. But with the right perspective, you can do anything. The right distance makes everything clearer, light lighter, dark darker and the shadows in between disappear.

684. People falling

There are people falling into the same hole i just got myself out of. Finally out of a four-month depression. (It took long enough.) Someone else is falling into the depression i just left. Sincerely kills, truth throws you. If that can make it then i can... But that depression was so real, i don't want anyone else to find it.

685. Phono losing flavour

Phono is losing its flavour, just as my sense of humour is dying. Phono is growing too big for itself. Phono can't find its way out of itself. Phono breathes too quickly. The bittersweet has over-bittered the sweetness, the sweetness swallowed all in sticky glue. Phono's lost its flavour, and ain't got much in its favour.


NOTES

1. A variation on I think it was Randy Stonehill's song, "Keep Me Running".

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