Les Semaines


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



I turned 42 today. Nothing momentous, people turn 42 daily, but this is an age I've thought about periodically throughout my life--it was the age I'd figured out I'd be in the year 2000. As I first made the calculations it seemed impossibly far off. And in the intermittent times I thought about it later, it still seemed so far off in the future. I couldn't imagine who I would be then and where I would be and what I would be doing. The time of 42 seemed so far into the future that I wasn't sure I would even exist to see it, or that any human would. (Remember, I grew up in the after-shadow of the atomic generation, when the Cold War was still ever-present and sneering at us, though unlike people just a few years older than myself I don't ever recall having a bomb drill. We just had fire drills and perhaps the occasional earthquake drill just for excitement's sake.) Well, distance more than fear of obliteration is really what made it seem so remarkable, and what makes it feel just a little odd that I'm actually here now.

So 42 is what I am today. As many will recall, the meaning of the universe is 42.

SCENE: Jim and I at the birthday dinner table, our guests looking on.

Me: So I'm 42. 42 is the meaning of life.

Jim: So what's 42, then?

Me: The meaning of life.

Jim: No, what's the meaning of life?

Me (impatient): 42! Which I am!

Jim: Argh! No, why 42?

Me (slowly, more patiently): Because it's the meaning of life.

Guests (laughter), me (superior grin), Jim (not 42 yet, or he'd understand).

So, anyway (sorry to all you vegetarians/vegans out there) 42 meant a dinner of lamb stabbed with slivers of garlic, rubbed with rosemary from our garden and lemon juice and roasted. Mashed potatoes and peas of course. And a Bailey's Irish Cream cake from our poet-friend the baker's (if you're ever in Seattle, check out Simply Desserts in Fremont). For Jim's birthday I bought him their strawberry white chocolate cake, and I was joking around with Phil about what we'd put on the cake and he suggested--never thinking I'd do it--the Dylan Thomas lines "Do not go gentle into that good night", a poem about death. Well, given how excited Jim gets about his birthday (meaning not) I decided to go for it. He laughed. But now he had to put a quote on my cake. He went for both poetic and fun: the top of the cake had a line from one of my favourite poets, W.S. Graham (Scottish, no relation, dammit): "Imagine a forest, a real forest"; and the side said: "girls kick ass"!

Jim and our friend Zac shared the "girls", I ate part of "kick" and our friend Tamar's slice had "as".

And so life goes on its merry way. 42. I mean it.

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


Tamar got me Jethro Tull's Aqualung for my birthday. I've been having a wonderfully nasty time listening to it again. There's other new music that I'll have to get myself together to write about, but not this week.

last week's listening § next week's listening


I've been running across occasional references to Hope Mirlees' Lud-in-the-Mist nearly as long as I've been on the net. I bought a copy using bookfinder (which by the way I highly recommend as it searches several used & new book sites including the wonderful abebooks) quite a while back, and finally grabbed the copy to read. It was one of those books that I found immediately delightful. The turns of phrase and the bits of clever, inventive ideas for the world she creates--clearly introduced but never heavy-handed--were delightful. While it's not exactly a character-based story, I still found myself interested in the characters and caught up in the tale (yes, tale does seem the right word for this story). It's the story of a land that carefully insulates itself from the world of fairy that exists just beyond its borders and ignores it to its own detriment and danger.

Sherwood Smith's entry in the Voyage of the Basset series is called Journey to Otherwhere (for my comments on Tanith Lee's see my January 9th entry, for Terri Windling and Ellen Strieber's see my March 19th entry). In this the progressive son of a progressive teacher in a boy's school takes on the holiday task of trying to educate a young seamstress, whose family, with the sudden death of her father, has fallen from the middle class into hard times. The young boy and the seamstress find themselves sailing on The Basset and learning a great deal about themselves along the way. While this is a slim book which doesn't allow much space for development I still found it a satisfyingly constructed story. Good for middle readers and up, and I found it entertaining, though I'd certainly recommend Sherwood Smith's other wonderful novels (especially Crown Duel and Court Duel, both of which I think are classics) before this addition to an uneven but overall good series.

Much to my surprise I found a book that had gotten buried in a stack of mainstream novels, all of which I thought I'd read--well, I hadn't read this one, and it was a gift from a friend of a novel by a friend, whose other novels I've loved, and so I picked this up, wondering if I was in the right mood for it. It put me in the right mood. Landed by Rita Donovan is a novel about families, and the boundaries and connections between the individual members. It's also a story about the way landscapes shape consciousness. In it the members of the Anderson family watch their children grow, the children come to adulthood and begin their own relationships with the world, and then their children do. It deals with individual's feelings of connection and isolation from those they love. Birth and death, love and distance. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming. And beautifully written and involving.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I'm still wrestling with busyness and lack of discipline--and still trying to sort through a major conceptual bifurcation in the novel. I need to decide where exactly Maddy is travelling when she finds herself living someone else's life (one that parallels her own in strange ways): is she going into the actual literal historic past or the psychological blood-memory mythic past? I keep going back and forth on this and trying to decide. Both have advantages, and both have drawbacks. Either way I go means a lot of work on the next draft of the novel (should I ever get that far). But you know, just by typing this I think I may have answered my question about what to do. The psychological blood-memory mythic past sounds so much more interesting than the literal historic past, doesn't it? And the historic past thing is done so damn often in romantic novels, and so much better than I would ever be interested in doing it.

Funny, I've been wrestling with this since the beginning of the summer, and last night when I talked about it at dinner with our friends I still wasn't clear, but now that I put the question forward here, it seems clear which would make a more interesting novel, and which is closer to the novel that I've been trying to write. Well, myth is at the center of this story. Not history. So there go I. No more excuses, not more shower-long ponderings.


last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

November or so 1977

883. Parachutists

Ambivalent goals, no know it's morning and I'm back at psychology (1st time in quite a while). Why? (How, when, who....) Here i am, some words stuck in my mind--not that my mind is working...Epstein and parachutists. Pain, i can handle pain, but not the dull ache of morning. (Good night, good morning)

884. Howl, howl, howl, howl (Lear Act V Scene?)

Help it's sociology and it's only 9:30 in the morning as it has been forever. It's windy & rainy for a change (hah!) and i'm very tired (for another change). I'm depress and have got too much work. Poor, poor me. (Whimper.)

885. Old song

As the old song goes (i didn't know i remembered it.) [Quote from Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings" omitted.] Working on classics essay (due tomorrow) and here i am struggling through a day with less than four hours' sleep. I can't cope. I'd better get back to that essay.

886. Elastic howl

Dear Phono, do you like that? Elastic howl, i mean. Sometimes i'm gonna use that in a poem. I like it. Supah. Prob'ly fit into my snow poem. Row!

887. How wanna

How wanna write a poem about the starling and how they roll like water, and how when you look up at them it feels like you're looking at a stream from underneath. How wanna.

888. Eight eighty-eight

Eight eighty-eight, just like a gate
Always open, & i'm ever gropin'
for stupid rhymes to keep in time
all my words fly up like birds
they are so bare they go nowhere
without a sound fall to the ground
bounce up again into the rain
into my pain against the grain
out of the light into the night
they meet Descartes, that drunken fart
he says "I am," they say they can
he says "I was" then all he does
is sit and more, he cannot cope
Then they say they'll fly away
he says "oh good, I wish I could"
they start to fly and say goodbye
far away across the day
across the sand in a river they land
the river will abate, it's eight eighty-eight

889,. Whiffletrees

Whiffletrees, whiffles trees, bite my knees, bite my knees
are not trees, are not trees, in the leas(t), in the leas(t).

890. Getting nervous

Getting nervous about a dumb psychology exam. I'm beginning to hate it. I haven't learned anything, I haven't tried, there's nothing to try for. Bloody hello. Paranoia will still return again. Psychology. Arrgh! Even sociology is better, even psych last year was better, even, oh, I think i'm gonna, wish I could die. Oh my goodness, suicidal tendencies. Definitely "B" type behaviour. Abnormal, whatever.

981. Major decision

Major decision yesterday. Had an approach-approach conflict. A pain. Whether to go to Vancouver as planned, see Brenda and have a terrific time, or to let Lani and her friend come over. Trauma! What to do? Well, i cancelled Vancouver, Brenda can live without me, she's got homework and stuffe. I just hope Lani makes it up despite Seattle snow.

892. Just-a sittin' here waitin'

I'm-a waitin' for Classics 'cause Socolgy was canc'll'd. Third floor lib'ry's where I'm. Nob'dy around, just me, a' in the background wigglin' chairs, rustlin' papers and book noises. I'm-a drippin' offta sleep. I'm-a time-killer. Dozy mornin' reading. Soshul Werk & Psycolgy and Ezra Poun's Cantoes. Dionysus.

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