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Les Semaines

01.01.07

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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And Another New Year Begins

...with busy busy busy. We spent New Years' Eve quietly alone together as we had planned, and New Years' Day was quiet, too, with us both busily working each to our own study, mostly. Then on Tuesday it was back to work for both of us (for Jim it was a bigger shock than for me, since he'd had two weeks off while for me it was just a couple of days). At work for me it was the start of a new quarter of classes, so the week was full of questions and students stopping by for advice (my favourite part of my job!) and small problems, not big ones, luckily, as I spent the whole week feeling jetlagged because I'd let my sleeping patterns get so out of whack.

I really am not a morning person, and so getting to work by 7:30 is painful. Or it may have nothing to do with being a morning person or not, but I hate to go to bed, and I hate to get up. The worst part of it is that I could easily arrange my schedule so I don't have to get to work at 7:30, but I like how much of the day is left when I do, and so I suffer. Some days worse than others, and this week very badly as I think the earliest I could get myself to go to sleep was midnight--most nights I was up until at least 2:00, trying to quietly read myself to sleep. I get this nasty burst of energy about 10:00 and start doing things and my mind starts buzzing just when I should be getting to bed. Urk.

Anyway, the week was full of getting small tasks accomplished and beginning to catch up on the holiday backlog. And also some ongoing getting together with friends to exchange presents and generally have a pleasant time. We still have two packages of presents to sort out and now it's after Twelfth Night. Ah well.

I met again with the new (to me) fiction workshop today, my second meeting with them and the first time we'd done one of my stories. I was delighted to get some good and helpful feedback as to what needs to be done to give the story its final shape. I am really pleased with the level of writing and of criticism in this group, so it's good to have found a home.

The story I submitted is one where I was deliberately trying to use "poetic" techniques and language in a story and to take an omniscient look at four viewpoints of an event and I'm glad to have had the new feedback on how to get it to work. Of course a few of those suggestions were not to try to do what I want to do--and if I don't think the next draft or two can pull it off I still may decide not to do all this in one story--but I got the overall impression that I'm close enough that I should be able to get this to work the way I want it to.

After the workshop a Clarion West workshop meeting (a pattern that will repeat itself next month) so I'm more than a little tired as I type this. And tomorrow is the booklaunch for Blood Memory at Elliott Bay Bookstore, so I think I'm going to pack this in.

[[Personal to Steve and Lisa: Thank you for the goodies!!! I'll write soon. xox]]

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

Listening

This week both Jim and I have been utterly obsession over the eponymous debut album of a Seattle group, Two Loons for Tea. This is a combination of jazz, pop, trip hop, electronica, atmospheric guitar, and great raspy/rich vocals. I've been listening to their files at mp3.com for quite a while, but listening to the album as a whole has been a revelation.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Susan Price's The Sterkarm Handshake is marketed as a young adult novel, but I was surprised. There's no sex in it (at least described) but there is graphic violence of the 16th-century sort. So is reading about violence fine for youths but sex isn't? I love this society. Well, in any case I found this book utterly absorbing, well-written, tense, and adult. It's the tale of a woman who works for a company that has developed a time tunnel into the 16th century--not quite a directly into our past one so similar that there is little difference. The company plans to mine the coal and tap the gas and oil and other resources of the time and possibly to start tourism there. But they've come into a harsh and dangerous time in a harsh and dangerous place--the Border County between England and Scotland at the time of the Reivers, who were not unlike bandit families with a code of honour that the 21st century cannot understand. They present themselves as elves and offer to make business deals, but the Sterkarm family don't do business the way the 21st century does, as their business is raiding, family pride, and vengeance. (Well, is 21st-century business much different?) Andrea is the woman caught in between the cultures, an anthropologist from the 21st century in love with one of the Sterkarms, but also horrified by the violence of the Sterkarm's culture. A fascinating look into culture clash.

Louise Marley's The Glass Harmonica is a tale of two women, one from the near future and one from the late 18th century, who both play the glass harmonica. Both also have people they love who are physically disabled: Eilish from the 18th century has a child she used to look after who has rickets; Erin from the future has a twin brother in a wheelchair due to a generative disease. Eilish is found by Benjamin Franklin in London as she plays the glasses in Covent Garden. He brings her into the house he lives in to play the new glass armonica he has invented. She's an orphan and the money and life he can offer her is much better than the one she has, but her great sadness is that she has to leave the little boy behind. Erin is a celebrated player of the glass harmonica, playing classical repertoire and the otherworldly compositions of her brother. Her great sadness is that her brother is willing to try anything to be able to walk again, including risking the rest of his health. As they play, they see each other like wraiths. Their lives remain separate, but still they find comfort and inspiration in each other. This was an intriguing story with delightful touches, both past and future, but though it was well-written it felt to me that the story could be deeper and richer and the characters more three-dimensional.

Sheri S. Tepper's The Fresco is the story of what happens when earth is discovered by aliens. They choose Benita, the wife of an alcoholic and mother of two grown children as their envoy, and she must pass messages to and from the American government and the aliens. But the aliens are part of a confederation that also includes predator races who would rather earth were their hunting grounds than an equal partner in the confederation, and they ally themselves with far-right politicians to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, Benita and the aliens and the government must try to help the world, learn about each other, and make earth ready to be part of the confederation. Despite Tepper's usual didactism, this was a fine read, and I enjoyed the tale overall, the details of the alien cultures and their solutions for some of our society's problems. Well worth reading.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

On January 1st I opened up the file for a long poem about the village of Auchindrain that I've been working on forever. It's six pages and unwieldy, so I've been having trouble working on it. I decided to break it into sections, so I can work on it a section at a time. It's coming along.

Sunday was another writing workshop, and I had submitted one of my favourite old stories for their help finishing.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

July 1978

980. A long wandering ramble

Anaïs' journal means so much to me I can't bear to put it down. It hurts to think there are only two more volumes after this one, so I know I should read it more slowly, savour it more, but I need to devour it [1]. I wish I could be more like Anaïs. I wish I would be more like Anaïs, yet more like me. Dream has always seduced me and reality repelled and bored. Reality and its cousin, sensibility. I cannot lead a sensible life. I cannot do the things I know I should do, and cannot help from doing things that will harm me. I find my relationship with Paul disastrous, like acid eating away at my practical self, yet I enjoy the relationship, enjoy the fevered disappointment when I know he isn't going to come, elation when I see his car waiting. However I have discovered I don't like seeing him anywhere else. When he walks up to me at work I get frightened, blush fiercely [2]. When I visited him at his work yesterday I felt like I was intruding, I didn't know what to say, held Trina [3] in front of me. Today when I was where he works I didn't even go to him, ran into Pam and spent the rest of the afternoon with her. I want to see more of Pam [4]. Today reminded me of how beautiful she is, physically and in the interior. She has a constant joy, bubbling. This is something that has attracted me to many of my friends. Brenda, Pam, Gerry, Lani. They are all physically attractive, too. All women I would love to be, can admire. I can let some of their bubbliness rub off on me, some of their physical attraction, yet they make me more aware of my physical and mental heaviness. These days I have forgotten how to be fun. I am tired. I get more than enough sleep but the heat exhausts me. I think I hadn't better lie in the sun very long any more; I find it too tiring, wearing, as if as it sucks the moisture from my skin, it also swallows some of my spirit. The weather is supposed to turn soon anyway.
     I start deeply into things and immediately pull for surface. That is a fact of myself. I have spent too many years training myself for life on the surface, to be like other girls. My conversation lies on the surface. It is so much easier than digging. I must learn to share. I wish to find someone to share real friendship with. Christina is good, but she does not understand the darker parts of me, and besides, she is Paul's sister. By blood if not in spirit. They are so different. Christina has always used her mind, grew up too quickly intellectually and now is beginning to let her life catch up. She will always have a slight distaste for physical life [5]. Paul did too much living before he was ready, now he is growing up, thinking, with a distaste for intellectual life. He has still got a street kid's self-centred attitude, the materialism, the sexual detachment from emotions. Christina is afraid of her own sexuality in that her morality is strong, strict, puritanical. Christian. I envy her purity in many ways, but I know it is far too late to try to recover mine. I do not imagine I would keep it long if I did. If I had to do it again, I'm sure I would, with little hesitation, the same shrugging aside of guilt. I feel as Gerry did--like inviting God to join, it was so good. Even writing this down scares me, but I know now I can never be a Christian. I can believe all I wish but I will never live it, never submit my will. Never give up. I don't want to live in a black and white world, nor a grey one. I want to rub my eyes into the sun and taste the colours that explode there [6].

[This particular notebook ends here, but with pages of strange notes, like:] real now part of poetry not a shadow of the real thing
to apprehend the true & the beautiful
poet & prophet
a poem is the image of life expressed in its eternal truth.

a written exchange with Harold about an English project.

Quotes from Anaïs' journals, including the really annoying "feminine vision is usually myopic".

References from my psychology class, then my social work class.

A line: "Even i can drown in his shallow greeting"

A proposed schedule for finishing what I finally decided would be a double major in English Lit and Creative Writing.

Notes on a book review assignment for Psychology.

The lyrics to a Christian rock song I think called "Foolish Puppets" by Randy Stonehill.

Notes about juvenile corrections and establishing alternatives to present large institutions.

A reading list for my English class.


NOTES

1. Funny how there was so much more to her journals and I didn't know it. I've never read the journals again--or read the unexpurged ones.

2. To this day I can still remember that frisson I felt when I would see Paul walk into the store I worked in.

3. Trina was my two-year-old niece.

4. Pam and I are still in touch but don't see each other often. She still has a delightful love of life.

5. Happily, I was wrong about that. She is strict and moral, but not a Christian.

6. I later used these lines in a poem. Ha. Not one that survived.

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