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Les Semaines

01.05.06

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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Edge of Revelation

All this week I've felt that strange sense that I'm on the edge of discovering something, as though there were a gauzy curtain between myself and the something, and at moments, when I'm not quite looking, I can get a glimpse of what's behind that curtain, but the instant it catches my attention and I look toward it, trying to pierce that curtain, it turns opaque.

I don't know what the revelation is about. Something about the network of relations that construct some important pattern in the world that I have somehow missed. Something about how a pattern of deceit can be made one of truth. How learning the worst about a person can show you their best. How looking at the best aspects of a situation reveal the dark underside. How we think we understand the meaning of the world but the pattern we perceive is not the pattern that is truly there--there is a pattern, but not that one. Not that one indeed.

So I'm sitting in my dark green study of a Sunday night, trying to understand this better. The curtain is more opaque than ever, as if by trying to explain it I've made it worse. Of course I have.

I had some kind of virus this week, and spent Wednesday asleep, which wasn't any sort of revelation, but I certainly felt better after it. I was achy in every kind of way, and sleep helped cure me.

It was Tamar's birthday the day after, and we took her out to coffee because she already had a dinner engagement. We have our favourite coffee shop in Ballard now. Though it has been there for years, we've just discovered it. They make excellent mochas, and I had a divine raspberry strudel that I ate with my fingers in sticky delight.

Tuesday was Chuck's birthday, but we'd already bought him a crapapple tree, the week before. He came over Friday to do some gardening work for our neighbours, in a little too much rain. Later Tamar came over, and I picked up take out sushi and we watched eXistenZ which I enjoyed pretty well until the utterly lame ending. Bah. Jim made her an apple pie instead of a birthday cake, and a fine pie it was, too. I don't think I have mentioned yet Jim's wonderful talents with pies, particularly apple or apple/blackberry. He can make one from scratch in 20-30 minutes. Amazing to watch and even more amazing to consume hot from the oven.

Last night we went to some friends for dinner and mah jongg, which was quite fun. I feel all socialized out, and happy for our quiet Sunday, though we did have to go and introduce ourselves to our new neighbour, Ella Shiree, all of two weeks old, who was going for a stroll down the street in the afternoon sun (in a baby carrier strapped to her mother's chest).

Other bits and pieces of news from friends, connection with an old friend mentioned many times in The Phonosnout who is now online and reachable that way, email from a friend to say that things were better with him than I had thought, news that my father is going to come visit.

Such are the minutiae of my week. No revelations, no golden birds bursting beside me, but the webs of connection, the hints of sudden meaning. The curtain may be opaque but light sometimes passes through, however altered, however mystical.

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

Listening

I know I was listening to music much of the week as I always do but for the life of me I can't remember in particular what it was. Nothing new at least. Which is probably good because I've been spending a bunch of money on new clothes.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Sara Douglass' The Wayfarer Redemption is the start of an epic fantasy with, like its relatives, a broad scope. It begins with a ill-fated love: a young noblewoman newly brought to court is to be betrothed to a warlord who is heir to the kingdom, but falls in love with his illegitimate brother, a religious warlord, who is everything that the heir is not. The kingdom is threatened by a powerful magician who sends out wraiths that drain the life out of warriors and as they are almost incorporeal, are difficult to kill. But there are even greater, more horrible creatures than these to fight, but there are also powerful allies: races of creatures the humans have been taught (by their religion) are their enemies. There is a prophecy that one man can unite all these races and will thus be able to defeat their horrible foe.... While I found the writing in this sometimes quite awkward and the characterizations a little thin I still found the worldbuilding and the quite human dilemmas of the characters interesting. And the magic and the various races are fun, the mystical side quite magical (if it appears a little more like punctuation rather than woven through the story). If you at all like this sort of thing I would recommend this. I myself am going to track down copies of the rest of the series, which have only been published in Australia so far.

William Mayne's It is one of my favourite children's books. It's about a young girl--I think she's about 11--who gets tangled up with an unquiet, preChristian spirit, whom she has to help lay to rest. What I love best about the book is how the weirdnesses slip into the children's lives in such subtle ways. No great cracks of lightning. Just reaching into a dark hole and a hand grasps yours there, and that haunts you. You poke a bit of metal into a hole and it comes back bloody. Rings keep trying to find you. I like how the weird events build on each other. I love the family dynamics between Alice's parents. How Alice admires her grandfather but feels he's left nothing for her to accomplish. How she keeps meaning to say things and always says them the wrong way--or at least a way that adults interpret as wrong. I love how people misinterpret both her silences and what she says. I love how she has an official route for her to get to school. I love how Mayne writes; how he shows the gaps between what people say and the disjointed connections they make, and how he presents the way the world seems to a child who doesn't quite understand its permutations and structures in the same way an adult does. He's one of the best children's authors at getting this across. With It the building of suspense is subtle. I'm a fast reader, particularly with books that I have already read, and re-reading it this week, I found I kept having to deliberately slow myself down to catch the nuances. Highly recommended--too bad it's long out of print.

Last night while sitting up because I had a little heartburn on the loveseat upstairs long after Jim had fallen asleep, I read J.A. Jance's Without Due Process, which my father had loaned me when I was home last fall, and which I thought I ought to read before he arrives on Tuesday to visit. In this a police officer and his family are murdered, and Jance's detective, a police officer himself, is assigned as part of a huge task force. It had the feel of all of these books to me, where the character is rather thin and stock and can only get more shape over the space of a stack of volumes in the series, and the plot is what drives the book and you read it wondering how it's going to unravel. One of those books you read quickly because there's no point in dwelling on it, or in it. I can see why people like these but they leave me feeling as though I'd eaten cotton candy. Even the Seattle setting was in name only--I didn't get much of a sense of it really being here.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Got Chapter Two of Bryony's Needle ready for the workshop group to email by Wednesday's deadline. It has been interesting getting my head back in the novel, remembering why and how I did things the way I did, realizing I don't necessarily have to do them that way, balancing between telling the story and allowing the story to tell itself.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

December 1979

And that's what
December 9th, 1979

10:61, and that's what time I wish it was. (Hoot, hoot--holler, holler.) I have this horrendous desire to verbalize, to yammer, to talk, to chat, and here I am, oh so lonely with no one to talk to and nothing to think about except work, the rain, the rainbow I saw earlier today, the Christmas lights on the trees in the "courtyard," the gingerbread house (looks yummy) and me. I most of all hate thinking about the latter (seems I'm always on my mind, we all live in a solipsist universe). (And we are all poets who have little or nothing to say....) I wonder if out there there is really an audience--I mean, who buys poetry books other than other poets? What is the value in writing what no one reads? Should I change (highly unlikely); if so, what to? (A dill pickle.) One of the useless round of searches. [Quote from Gordon Lightfoot's "Cobwebs and dust" omitted.]

1062. A Horrible Day
December 10, 1979

O, O, O. Mother opened my door on the Advent Calendar, she used up all my thread for her coat, she and Dad are grinching and I'm trying to study for exams and not to howl. How can anything get accomplished with these stupid exams tying my time? Slimy exams for slimy classes, and I've learned from them, but O, at this point of the year all I care about is writing and holidays. I want to play and to read what I want to read. Exams, what a blug. What a horrible day.

1063. Blow, wind. Spout, rain
December 11, 1979

What a wonderful wind that I love, but that I can only watch through the window as I study. A gorgeous December wind through the window. Winding, blowing in the spouting rain. All this is trying to distract me, and I will be distracted, so easily (without even trying). The slightest thing distracts me--a twig against the window, a leaf dropping, a thick fall of rain.... So now it's December arriving on the coast [1] and I haven't the time to welcome it. (Only to see it blurred by glass.) Somewhen I need to take a long walk.
     There is so much that I haven't understood yet, and so much that I will never see, I am blinded by my own prejudices (so much I don't want to see). Last night I dreamt of K.C., and then later of horrors) not a nightmare, but it could have turned into one). (I'd rather dream of K.C., O far, far rather.) Brackets and parentheses, asides and things unseen and misunderstood. We live a meager life here, studying, sheltered from the weather, from sight and understanding. I make myself sick (only mentally so far, the physical will follow). TV and the Christmas ads make me sick. All the deadlines and my exam tomorrow morning at nine o'clock, and I especially hate the save our society crapmail that someone kindly sends me (which I have returned to sender, deceased several times and still it comes). I prefer the weather.

1063. Ah, Plato
December 12, 1979

This is not a chapter in Phonosnout/my journal/my letter to you. No, this is the Form of a chapter in Phonosnout/my journal/my letter to you. (A Sears chapter [2].) Ah, yes. And my exam today was not an exam. No, you may guess, it was the Form of an exam. One of those masterpieces that the professor assures you is entirely simple, and that takes you the full three hours he was sure would only be necessary for those who wished to copy everything out twice. He said the amount of space (lines) after a question would indicate how much he expected us to write. Why then would questions worth five marks range from seven lines to a whole page? (This is surely a question fit only for Socrates, of the Form of a professor.) He asked how the contrast was made between the parts of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and left a page of empty lines to fill in. We were informed on the side of the page that this was worth five marks, so we all gave him literary essays. However, as we left the room, he told us that the answer he wanted was "white spaces and italics"! Do you believe that man? Five marks, and a page of empty lines for us to write "White spaces and italics". I am in sincere, utter, and painful shock. And I get the news that my second short story destruction masterpieces that took me eight hours to type alone earned for me 77%. I think that the man is only impressed by verbosity. He surely is the Form of a strange man. Now for the Form of goodnight: sleep.


NOTES

1. Bouncing off my own poem title, November Arrives on the Coast.

2. Sears was our code word for anything fake. I guess it got passed along from Frank Zappa. Or maybe it was just current at the time.

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