Les Semaines


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


Happy Happy Happy

I spent several days this week sleeping off a virus. It was one of those that sneak up on you, so you're feeling more and more tired and everything you try to do feels more and more impossible and you worry that this is permanent, that you're always going to feel horrible, until you get a little better and start trying to cope with life again, and suddenly, a day or two later, you realize that you feel fine. You have energy. You can accomplish things again.

It was quite a revelation to me on Friday--I had really begun to worry.

So now not only am I feeling better, but Friday was my last day at work until September 1st. I'm feel so free I don't even mind that I had to bring home a big editing/desktop publishing project with me. I am home and have no plans to do anything but stay home and get things done. That means, of course the Novel.

I started the Novel started 1993 when I got a small grant to work on poetry, which meant I didn't have to worry about taking on extra work that summer and could concentrate on writing. I was supposed to work on poetry (and I did at other times of the grant period, but not July and August). The summer was gray and rainy, and I spent most of it indoors, working on a novel that had seized my mind a few months before when I was at a June Tabor concert and she sang a version of the "Gypsy Davy" ballad--a song about a rich man coming home to find his wife gone and run off with a gypsy. He follows her and tracks her down, and she declares how she'd rather sleep on the cold, hard ground with her gypsy lover than on silk sheets with her rich husband. She happily leaves behind everything from her old life--including her baby.

Well, the song caught my mind, and I wondered why a woman would give up even her child for a lover and the travelling life. I found myself thinking about it, concocting various scenarios than roamed rather far from the original story, but one of them stuck in my mind and that July I began to write. I wrote furiously, nearly every day, or rather night, for I'd mostly start writing about 10:00 at night after checking my email and playing a few computer games. Several times I wrote all night--the story caught me that hard.

But then September 1st came and I was back at work and I never did manage to get back working on the novel though it nagged at me all the time. In 1996 I went to Clarion West in order to finish the novel--but managed to get sidetracked by learning to write short stories instead. A couple of times I've tried to get back into it in the scraps of summers left over from travel and house painting and visitors, but at last I have a blank summer: a summer that my main--and the most important--thing I will be doing is finishing at least the first draft of this novel.

And I will.

It only took me six years to get back to it.

And the third happy is that Jim took Friday and Monday off, so we're having a lovely few days home alone together. Heaven. Well, most of the time. Heh. And I've already got his present for his birthday on Thursday arranged. I'm very pleased. I hope he will be! [To wish Jim Happy Birthday email jmg@serv.net. He'll hate me for it!]

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Agnes Buen Garnas and Jan Gabarek's Rosefole is, as I say in The Ectophiles' Guide entry I have just created for it, is "Dark & Northern. Simple. Haunting. Unique."

I also got a new Waterson:Carthy album, which is quite delightful--and has a version of "Raggle Taggle Gipsies" on it. Nice reinforcement, I must say.

last week's listening § next week's listening


William Mayne's Earthfasts, Cradlefasts, and Candlefasts are a trilogy of ostensibly young adult novels. The first one is about two teenage boys who hear a strange drumming in the ground and another young man emerges from it--he is from the 18th century but thinks he has only been underground for an hour or so. He doesn't believe them when they try to tell him what year it is. And they're locked in a mystery of trying to find out how the young man travelled through time and what is in that tunnel. Cradlefasts is about one of the teenage boys' sister who died with his mother in childbirth, and a disabled girl who thinks she is that sister. This is an odd book, describing shifting relationships and levels of truth as the boys grow older, and the young man they had found in the first book tries to fit into the twentieth century, and the mystery of the tunnel deepens. Candlefasts has them finding a new way to shift through time and working out the final mystery of the tunnel and its place in the world.
     These are unusual novels, probably better for quite mature readers as the language and the relationship material and the plots lines are deeply woven and occasionally a little difficult to follow--but they are well worth any effort required and truly mysterious. William Mayne at his best is one of my favourite writers, and I think these three novels are classics. It's too bad the last two have never been published in the U.S.--they deserve a wider audience but perhaps a slightly more sophisticated one than the one they are marketed for. (I have talked about other William Mayne books in my August 15, 1999 entry, and my February 13 and February 20 entries from this year.)

John Banville's Kepler is an historical novel about the life of the scientist, Kepler. It tells the bleak tale of his marriage, his financial struggles, his fight to be accepted as a scientist, his difficulties with patrons, and only at the end of the book does his life seem to become a triumph as the scope of his work becomes more clear. An odd book, that I would find hard to recommend except to those very interested in either Kepler, early scientists, or bleak novels.

Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost is an odd book, about a young female pathologist who returns to Sri Lanka, her homeland, as part of a human rights inquiry into the deaths caused by the ongoing political struggles there. She works with an archaeologist, a painter, and their lives intertwine as they try to find out the identity of a skeleton they discover that could prove the government's participation in the deaths. It is beautifully and carefully written, and I found it fascinating throughout--and it handles its story with delicacy unlike similar political novels. Probably one of the best mainstream novels of the year, and deserves all the awards it will surely be winning.

last week's reading § next week's reading


See my thinking section for mostly what I have been doing, which is thinking about The Damn Novel.

I also have news that the preliminary copies of my poetry book should finally be in my publisher's hands next week. I am trying to be patient. In good news, his press is joining Canada's Literary Press Group, which means my book will actually be getting some promotion in Canada this fall. I am very excited about that!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1977

743. 3rd floor

Sitting at the 3rd floor of the library. It's quiet here, i've got no excuse for not working (what a pain) so i write in Phono. That makes me feel i'm at least doing something constructive, whether or not it helps anything. Phono? Help anything? I doubt it!! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Descartes is busy existing, watching my philosophy prof's budgie snarf grapefruit juice. [1].

744. On wishing time would stand still

(But only for a while.) I need time to catch up to time. It's been passing too quickly; i need time to reach the minutes i'm supposed to be in. (I missed a few second a while back and ever since then it's been going downhill.)

745 Psychology 100 (February 25, 1977 edition)

The Romeo-Juliet Effect--you want something more if you're not allowed to have it. Interpersonal attraction (whatta thrill). Euphoria pays (aha) suspension bridges and a female interviewer... meanwhile day is dawning... yes? Sure? TAT test? Emotionally aroused? What you say? Say something please, Judy.
     Can i say it in French, that's on my mind, too.
     Sure why not, Phono's had French. Phono dropped French, too, but understands.
     Good. If you are phono, can i be mono or stereo?
     I'm not Phono, Phono is an appendage and a friend. If love means being apart by forces unknown, uh, i guess i'm deep in it???
     Love means apart? I don't understand.
     Well, join the club, we will never fully understand, we are not J.C., are we?
     No, but he's my best friend [quote from the theme song from the TV show The Courtship of Eddie's Father omitted.]
     Can't one love the best friend or do i not understand?
     Having a best friend is loving. Have a friend is loving. Liking is loving (for "God is Love and Love is God's command")
     Yes. So what now can i just say. I can just say i want to learn much more and i have a good idea with who.
     Yup, yup, yup,...i must fill up this page. So back to Psych and sex roles ("Healthy person describes as male")??? What? Stereotypes. I'm the villain. [2]

746. Good grief!

Harold warned me this would happen! Now it has. WHAud TWAmp has invaded Phono (W.H. Auden, The War Amputee [3]) Hello, my name is W.H. Auden. I am a war amputee. I have invaded, and am not going to relinquish this territory.

747. Fierce battle

It's been a fierce battle, but i have regained possession of Phono. I'm not sure how long i will be able to hold out against WHAud TWAmp, but i'm surely going to try. I offered WHAud TWAmp my Descartes essay but he said he wasn't interested. Back to battle and Descartes.

748. Where is my head?

Where is my head, what have i been doing? Who have i been playing games with now? Why? What's been happening? Playing games with everyone, especially myself. Fighting fierce battles for a dead victory. Life filled with sludge again, i thought, then jump out to freedom, only to lose myself in sludge. Am i too a Hagar, a bondswoman, and not a Sarah? [4]

749. Larry Norman concert

Plenty great. Rob came, so did Judy. T'was nice, T'was pleasant, but most of all, t'was great. Yay Larry!!! Anyway, sure was worth it, and rowdy. Glad Rob came. Saw many (!) people that i haven't seen in a while. S'nice. And found out Tim's coming!! [5]

750. Harold writes

PHONO. I have experience death. Not lightly, not YOKO
      O,NO,PHONO, but death. I will run it by. Death is light brown. Death is the rain. Death is the Titan closing the doors in Cornett [6]. Death is WHAud TWAmp. Death is Rankin, PHONO, PHONO.
I've never written to you before. How are you? How are your eyes? Burnt out? Hi, PHONO. We ADMIRE RAINSTORMS. What colour is your hair. I do not recommend Breck Shampoo The Gold Formula the formula the oil the drip and grind. They call this PHILOSOPHY. I will spell
it out
P-H-I-L-O-S    O    F-I-E. I have armloads of beans. The titan is on my side. He says,
PHONO. I too have experienced Death and it does not agree with me, at all with me. I renounce it. I renounce death. I renounce budgies, grapefruit juice, and Rankin. PHONO.
it's morning. Good

751. Bad morning (to Rob)

Hi, it was nice seeing Gerry this morning [7]. It was nice reading The Martlet [8]. It was nice up on the 3rd floor talking. It was not nice coming to Philosophy. Definitely not. Obviously Rob's not talking in Phono) today. He's busy Listening, Taking Notes, and being a Conscientious Student. (Poor boy.)
     Rob was unaware that he was allowed to talk in Phono. He waits to be asked (most of the time). Nancy has no sympathy for conscientious students--she will soon commit me to a home for Unwed Third Year Vegetables.
     Nancy? Who's that? Sometimes i look at my name and wonder if it's me. Those letters mean me, belong to me? But they belong to so many other people. I don't belong to so many other people, so is Nancy me? I am entirely sidetracked. I must say now that i wouldn't commit Rob to a home for unwed 3rd year vegetables, but perhaps to one for fanatical notetakers who wore their fingers off, or conscientious students who lost themselves in Philosophy and Poli Sci and so were never found again.
     Found again. Thank you Phono for proving Nancy wrong, if in fact Nancy is really Nancy. I must be "found" or I wouldn't write this--would I, unless I didn't exist, in which case... maybe I am lost.
     The things is, Rob, you're not quite lost yet. Only you will be soon if you don't manage to get Out. Getting Out is the only Answer for you. You are into notetaking and being a Conscientious Student too far (would you skip English like i do?) [9] But then again, i'm registered in all my classes as Nancy, so maybe i'm not really registered at all. I always wanted to be Neale (or Neile). If i was a guy i'd be Neal [10].
     In first year I skipped out of half of my classes, and ended up dropping one (Poli Sci) because I hated it so much [11]. Maybe I've lost the art of Getting Out. Is it an art? Or a science? Maybe I just never learned it?
     Neale--Would you honestly want that name? It would be hard to live with in Grade 1. I always wanted to be an Adam, or a Nigel. What is going on up front? Is anything going on up front? Maybe it's all relative?

     Getting Out is definitely an art. (I detest science--esp. Philosophy and Psychology and Poli Sci--they are not for me. I can never follow logic. I am illogical--part of my peculiar people bit, though (P.T.L.) [12] it is not a trait of all peculiar people. Only the R.C.s--Rowdy Christians. Rob, your problem with Getting Out is being interested in science. It'll do it to anyone.
     If i were Neal i'd hate it, and would want something else (like Nancy) but since i am Nancy i'd rather be Neale. Rob, you'd make a good Nigel. But a better Rob.
     Nothing is going on up front. There is a sound that is causing your hand to write on the paper in front of you. That's all.
     The thing about science (and I, too, detest it) is that it is utterly illogical--you can never refute this. Yes, you are illogical, Nancy or Neale, or whoever you are--illogical and therefore fascinating [13]. Who/what is P.T.L.? Rankin is getting tricky. If no-one answers his irrelevant questions, he asks people. I am no longer Rob (for 10 minutes). I will deny it.
     Oh. Fascinating? Good grief what does that mean? Oh well. Oh.
     Oh. I like that word, meaningless and yet, and yet.... P.T.L. = Praise The Lord, since i'm not the kind of person who jumps around and says that (in a way i wish i was) i write the letters occasionally. Adds a little class in a classless mess of writing. He knows, He understands. Maybe He'll change it.
     No, it is not meaningless, and yet and yet. I'm glad you're not that kind of person, but then, maybe there's a contradiction here. If you write it, you can probably say it, too, since you obviously feel it. That is why you are fascinating, which means, to me, perplexing, interesting, and more fun than science.
     Aha!! I have said it, but i can't say it. It hurts. Understand? I feel it, but... and yet, and yet.... You're interesting too, but i haven't tried to figure out why. That would give too many answers too soon.
     Exactly. But I don't understand why it hurts. You'll have to explain, sometime. I learn a lot in Philosophy, but not from Rankin. I have tried to figure out why you're fascinating--but I can't. Maybe I don't want to. If I do, you probably won't be fascinating. I definitely don't want to (even assuming I could, which I doubt).
     Oh. Maybe sometime i will tell you why it hurts. But then you'd probably understand too much, why i am two, three, or four people. Can i borrow your notes?


1. I don't remember where the budgie came from, but the grapefruit juice we were talking about was because Rankin once came in with something yellow spilled down his shirt and we decided it was because he'd been trying to snarf grapefruit juice. We were very silly.

2. Pity the poor Christian girls.

3. Yes, this was silliness, No, we actually liked his poetry. We were manic.

4. From the Biblical story of Hagar and Sarah. Sarah was Abraham's wife and though Abraham had children with Hagar she was sent away.

5. Tim was a friend that I met at the Symposium of high school kids who was a Christian. See my May 9, 1999 phonosnout entry. I also just did an entry in The Ectophiles' Guide for Larry Norman.

6. The Cornett building at UVic were damn heavy doors that required the battling the Titan holding them to get them open or closed.

7. See the January 10th Phono entry for a little on Gerry. This is not Jerry who was the friend I followed into the Philosophy class.

8. The Martlet was the university paper.

9. A friend in the class and I had worked out that I would go one day, she the next, and we'd both go the third day each week. It helped make a painful class a little less painful. I never thought that English could bore me, but that class did. I was taking another that same semester that I never missed.

10. WOW. I had no idea that had occurred to me that early. I felt like I changed my name very suddenly, almost out of the blue, in 1980, and had made a very quick decision about what to change it to. Funny how the memory focuses in on only part of some things. Wow.

11. Rob ended up a Poli Sci major.

12. Somewhere in the Bible it says that Christians are to be a peculiar people and I took it literally.

13. Woo!

last week's Phonosnout § next week's Phonosnout

Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week

Email comments, questions, and complaints to neile@sff.net § Neile's main page

3840 people have wandered through this week with me