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Les Semaines

00.12.03

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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Weary Week

Wow, I'm tired. This has been a busy week. I've been out running errands every day after work and frequently in the evenings and Sophia is forgetting what it's like to have me around. She complains by avoiding me when I am home. But the good thing is that we finally have a vacuum cleaner that works, I have a stopper that isn't cracked for the thermos I carry to work every day full of tea, and we've done almost all of our gift shopping. We both have lots of family members we have to get at least something little for, and lots of friends we exchange small presents with. I hate the stress of running around to get things, but I love the exchanges--for me it's what the holidays are really all about. And that's utterly worth it. But it has left me pretty weary this weekend.

And then I had my first meeting with the STEW workshop group this afternoon. It was great--a group of strong writers and critiquers and I'm pleased as punch to be part of it, but it was a long afternoon and I'm used to keeping my Sundays free of everything and being home all day. You see, Sunday is Sacred Writing Day, and we let very few things get in the way of that. It's part of the reason why we don't often go away for weekends. One of the reasons I was hesitant to join STEW was that they meet on Sundays and the idea of giving up my Sunday was difficult. I'm glad I decided to, but it has added to my weariness. at least it's not every week.

It's a good tired, though--I feel as though I've done a lot this week and done things I'm pleased with. The upcoming week is busy with a lot of activities including another workshop and trying to get things wrapped and mailed off, too, so we'll see how I feel at the end of that.

It was strange to retype the letter below. I remember writing it and the strange self-conscious mood I was in. Reading Anaïs Nin's journals really did have a strong effect on my need to communicate "artistically" even on the mundane level of letters and journal entries. While Phonosnout had previous most often had a slightly ironic tone--from reading too much Vonnegut, and thinking that being darkly witty was the best attitude to cop--to being rather dreamy and associative about these communications. Too artistic. Both were overlays to how I normally write but both opened my mind a lot. And like Vonnegut, reading Nin came at just the right time to explore what I was going through at the time. Vonnegut came during the end of high school; you've got to be detached and slightly ironic to survive that. Nin came midway through university, right when I was ready to make a big leap into really writing poetry, dealing with a quite complicated love life, and giving me the framework of art-as-religion to help me step away from the religion-as-religion that had gotten me through the previous years and the aftermath of my date rape and the subsequent relationships.

And in many ways, this summer was the beginning of my adult life, rather than being a young adult. It was the first time I lived alone for any length of time--I lived at my grandmother's apartment for several months when she was away visiting and after she returned I ended up getting an apartment and a roommate. My sister was divorcing her husband and had moved back home with her two-year-old daughter, and I really felt both that there wasn't room for me and that it was time for me to be on my own. So I got a job and let my life open up in a new way. The next year really changed me. I'm not sure how much of this is portrayed in the journals because I'm not letting myself read ahead, but I suspect there are bits of it there. What isn't there I'll try to fill in.

Well, back in my now life, Sophia has forgiven my absences and is sleeping on the cushion beside me.

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

Listening

In the midst of all the holiday shopping we did get two discs for ourselves: Elysian Fields' new Queen of the Meadow, I happened on when I was out looking for an Xmas present. I like this a lot--it's more like their second disc than their first ep. Sultry, lounge-y vocals with songs to match. Really lovely. There's even one male-vocals track (the title track) that I like a lot.

And Jorane's new album, 16mm arrived from Canada. I've only given it one listen, and I have to say that if anyone is going to try Jorane for the first time, do it with vent fou rather than this one. As her comments about it have said, these are not really lyrics but vocalizations. The sound is more towards the loose/unstructured/experimental than the song-oriented pieces in vent fou. In fact, once or twice I found myself thinking that moments here seemed to me a little self-indulgent. Funny, because despite its extravagances vent fou never seemed that way to me. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm happy I have this and I will listen to it (and maybe the things I don't like so much about it will grow on me) but I'm guessing that people who are song-oriented won't like this so very much. I can tell I'll never like it much as I adore vent fou. It's much more abstract.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Ricardo Pinto's The Chosen: Book One of the Stone Dance of the Chameleon is a fantasy novel set in a highly imagined, distinct world, full of hierarchies, great poverty and slavery and tremendous riches amongst the ruling class, nasty high politics and low pettinesses. The Chosen are the ruling class, masked in public and forbidden to show their faces to any but the closest family members of those of the same strata as themselves; the penalty for anyone else seeing their faces is blindness or mutilation. The world is full of rituals and purity and elaborate dressings and skin painting for the Chosen and mutilation and abject submission for the slaves. The story begins with Carnelian, son of the ruling Chosen when people from the court arrive at his home in exile to bring him and his father back to the capitol to play a political role in the choosing of a new ruler/god. The cruelty and ruthlessness of this regime is shown from the start in how the holding is stripped of food and wealth to bring back with them, leaving the population behind to starve over a long winter. Carnelian, quite rightly, hates this. Carnelian fights the order, striving to protect his half brother who is a slave. Along the way he learns more of the political machinations going on around him and makes several foolish mistakes (some of which I found a little annoying--it wasn't until fairly late in the book I realized he was just 15). The story becomes more complicated yet when they arrive in the capital city after a long and grueling journey trying to avoid their political rival's assassins. Overall the cruelty of the world was overwhelming and was both the worst and best things about the book: it was such a strange and different and horrible world that I both hated it and liked how it made me think in different ways about relationships, politics, and hierarchy. It ends with a horrible cliffhanger, but I can't imagine how else it could--this is clearly one long story broken up into printable sections. I would say that perhaps it could have done with some judicious trimming to make it move on a little more quickly but the depth and slowness with which the world unfolds is part of the novel's strength so I won't complain about it too much. In many ways it was a pretty unpleasant reading experience because of the cruelty and violence and in other ways fascinating because of the glimpse into this very other world.

I also finally finished Patrick Humphries' biography of Richard Thompson (entitled simply Richard Thompson: The Biography) which I read in bits and pieces over several weeks. Thompson was one of the founders of the English folk/pop/rock band, Fairport Convention, went solo for an album, had a strong collaboration with his then-wife Linda for several albums, had the start of a huge hit with Shoot Out The Lights with her, then they broke up and he went solo again and has almost but never has hit it big. He has a strong following but has never really taken off, though he's also considered by many to be one of the top guitarists ever, up there with Hendryx, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. The biography is full of comments by friends and fans and family and is a pretty good retrospective of his career. It doesn't offer any unusual insights (and actually I wish the author had organized his materials more tightly and made selections from or edited down repetitious sections and comments). Thompson has had an interesting life and career with a many rewards and a lot of frustrations. He's also a private man and this is clear in the biography even before Humphries starts making a big point of it. I found it interesting after reading the biography of Sandy Denny, who was also part of early Fairport Convention and with whom Richard played a lot: her biography was about her craziness and unhappiness and I think emphasized this too much over her career while Thompson's focuses on his career instead. This has a lot to do with the personalities involved and of course Sandy Denny's sad, early death making her a cult figure, but Thompson is also a cult figure in many ways. Anyway, an interesting read but hard to recommend to anyone but devoted Richard Thompson fans who are interested in the minutiae of his career.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Busy busy busy every night so no writing. Argh. But the new fiction writing workshop met today for my first time (and I've got a poetry workshop tomorrow). I am lame not to have at least written something. And I don't have a clue what I'll bring to thw workshop as the long poem I've been working on is nowhere near done. I did promise to submit a story for the next fiction workshop meeting in early January so I've got some revisions to do quickly to get the story ready to be looked at.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

June 1978

962. I write Lori

I write Lori, a strange letter, but me. [1]
     Dear Lori,
     My He always be your guiding Light! [2]
     Lori, I know i should have written before. I am w/out excuse, o howl. After that howl may a long, low note of woe be sustained through the following: I'm so sorry I couldn't stay longer at the dock! I have so much I would love to talk over w/ you. I hardly felt you were even here, just giving you a hug then leaving. I did manage to get to work on time, though I was panting. O, the burdens of a poor working girl! Ah me.
     The job is, well, interesting, though it does make me seem like an idiot ("a what? O, one of those thing with a what-cha-ma-call-it on the end!") Nancy in hardware, what could be more ridiculous? (Nancy in automotive?) [3]
     Life is tough:
          --sister is getting a divorce
          --she is driving me mad
          --my friend [name omitted] is her boyfriend
          --I am living at my Grandmother's again in a vain attempt to save my sanity
          --I am looking after a plant named George
          --I could have fallen in love if I had let myself and now it's too late. [4]
          --I was losing weight, but tonight I feel fat
          --I cut my finger
          --I have 13 Shakespearean plays to read by July
          --it is all too late, I've gone over the edge, insanity drowns my thoughts...
     I am reading the journals of Anaïs Nin. She is/was a fascinating woman, highly unconventional, Christian parents would hide or destroy her books, but I enjoy a certain elusive aura about her writing. Have you ever read a journal and started becoming that person? This is what is happening to me, and I am reading other things now to get some distance between the journals and me before it swallows me. She (Anaïa) emerges so real and so honest form her writings, a highly perceptive woman. Hmmm.
     I think this letter is going to be a rant and rave. At least i will be entertaining. I hope.
     About George: he is sitting in his green plastic pot languorously hanging over the edge of the coffee table. I am told he likes the sun so I put him on the windowsill in the morning if I am up that early. he is mostly green (amazing!) but there are places on his stem where he is wine-ish-coloured. He likes me, I can tell. His leaves are like this but rounder [drawing omitted because it's not worth including], sorta. I don't know what he is except George. [5]
     "Ah," you may ask yourself. "But where does he come from? Why is she looking after him?" The answer is, relatively only of course, simple. George belongs to Randy ("Randy who?" is of course your response.) This too is simple, and the answer runs somewhat like this "Randy-who-i-could-have-fallen-in-love-with-who-has-gone-to-Edmonton-for- several-months-who-is-an-interesting-person-who-really-liked-me-but-I- just-wasn't-sure-about-and-probably-never-will-be-and-now-probably-will- never-know-and-it's-probably-for-the-best-although-he-attracted-me-he- really-wasn't-my-type-I-think-but-don't-know. 6
     I told you I'd gone over the edge. "Too late now," I heard someone say. *Sigh* 7 I sort-of miss Randy, but I'm not sure of that either. George is a good companion. He just waved a leaf at me. Sweet George. He's got mor personality than any other plant I ever met, and 'though I've only had him for two days I feel very emotionally attached to him. There! He just waved again.
     I like being alone in the apartment (well, not totally alone, I have George now) so long as I get out a lot. So far it's been enough but not a lot. I like to be busy but there's so much reading and writing I want to do. I have hardly written anything since March, except the end of a poem that will most likely never start. My regular scripture reading bogged down somewhere in Genesis when I living in Hectic Home with Jocelyn, Catriona, and the three bears (Mom, Dad, and Brüne--the cat is never home). I lost my study book somewhere between here and there, so now I am just flitting 'round about some of my favourite passages, eg. Romans 12, I John.... Enjoyable, but easier to put aside. 8
     How 'bout some Rilke? Well, here goes, whether you want it or not:
I'm always going from door to door,
rained upon and sun-scorched.
Suddenly I lay my right ear
into my right hand.
Then my voice seems to me
as though I'd never known it.
That's from "Song of the Beggar".
     I would explain in case you are worried--I am not depressed, merely somewhere in limbo, seeking something I am not yet sure of, waiting to find how long I should seek, where and what I shall find when I find it. I am seeking His answer. I am living Now, hardly knowing where to step for fear I will start opening and closing doors on my own. I have never felt more content, full, and whole, yet aching, waiting, jumping for the next step.
     This is a strange letter. I warned you, and cannot be held responsible. George sends a wave to you. I send a warm hug and many wishes--receive many smiles, for the growth of your friendship w/ Perry, for your spirit to be filled with the job of His Spirit.
     Ah, I am again waxing poetic, hopefully not at the expense of sense, although I am afraid this is so.
     This is a letter form your literary Nancy 9. She is a growing side of my personality. She and George, growing and green and waving. Sweet George. Sweet Lori, I hope to see you soon. Take care of yourself and enjoy yourself, enjoy the sun and the Son and keep smiling and praising God.
          Your sister,
               Nancy
P.S. Tell Lani I'll be writing her soon.
P.P.S. Part of my excuse for this letter is that it's now 2 am. Love and hug.


NOTES

1. Yes, I simply copied the letter into my journal.

2. Yes, Lori was another Christian who lived in Seattle whom I'd met through Lani, whom I'd met on Literature Crusades the previous summer.

3. I had a job in the hardware department of a discount-type department store.

4. I thought. Events later proved me wrong.

5. He was a Swedish ivy.

6. He wasn't, but later on I didn't let that stop me.

7. See? I used to do that before it became common internet punctuation.

8. I was really leaving the whole Christian thing behind, but the next year was basically the process of doing so.

9. No, not literary. Pretentious. Sigh.

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