Les Semaines


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


*Cough Cough*

Oh god a miserable cold. A cold from Hades. A cold that sent me to my bed for five days. I can hardly believe it. I guess I am paying the price for this being the first cold I've had this year, the first in a long time--I think since last year about this time. I was fine on Monday, but had that odd feeling in my sinuses, and then bam! by Tuesday zi was all asneeze and adrip and adrift and utterly out of it. I was off work Tuesday and Wednesday with it, and probably shouldn't have gone in on Thursday, because I couldn't do anything but moan and wish I were home so I could sleep, but so it goes. I didn't go in Friday after that because I didn't wake up until about 11:00. I missed a writing workshop, too, today--an important one as it was the final session for two novels and the first section of another novel. Dammit. But I knew I couldn't cope, and I'm still pretty much a little germ factory. But I'm all washed and ready to go to work tomorrow. I hope.

Sorry not to have much to say, but about all I was able to do was sleep. And read. Oh, yes, I did read.

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My ears have been too plugged up to listen to much, alas.

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David Almond's Heaven Eyes is another young adult novel by the author of Skellig (see my November 21, 1999 entry) and Kit's Wilderness (see my September 24, 2000 entry). This is about three young orphans who live together in a home. While they're not mistreated or horribly unhappy there, they've made a career of running away, and this time they take a raft along the river and it gets stuck in the mud not far off but in what feels like a different world, and they're taken in by the strange little girl, Heaven Eyes, and her crochety grandfather into the abandoned pier where they live. David Almond writes stories that seem elemental and focused but important, like the best of Alan Garner and William Mayne. I love his novels.

Susanna Vance's Sights is a young adult novel about a young girl, who, along with her mother escapes from her abusive father. They start a new life in a small town far away, her mother has a seamstress sewing ballgowns, while the girl makes use of her Sight to tell the townspeople's futures, while the two of them try to build a new life for themselves. An interesting read.

Katherine Roberts Spellfall is another young adult novel, this about a young girl whose alcoholic father has withdrawn from life, leaving her with her concerned stepmother and her rebellious stepbrother. One day she find a spell near the recycling bins at the supermarket and a strange man tries to get her to pick it up, and later he traps her and kidnaps her--he needs her to be part of the allotted number of magicians he needs for enough power to break into the magical world next door and take it over. While I liked the characters in this one and what they learned about themselves through the story, and also found the details of the magical other world quite lovely, I found the plot of this one a little too derivative and forgettable.

Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird is a comic adult novel by the author of Behind the Scenes At the Museum and Human Croquet (see my December 12, 1999 entry). This is the story of a young woman and her mother, telling each other important tales from their lives, all woven in amongst each other along with sections of a detective novel the daughter was writing at the time of the story she's telling, and bits of novels her classmates in a university writing course were writing at the time. It has a number of delightful twists and turns and levels and surprises and bits about academic life and odd disjointed relationships and friends. I found it a delightful read.

Eden Robinson's trap lines is a collection of stories by the author of the novel Monkey Beach, which I read this summer and loved. I loved this collection of stories, as well. Unlike Monkey Beach, there's not a touch of magic realism in these, but a very cool realism, but the stories are so well told and feel so true that I inhaled them--me, who usually reads stories in corners of time (I keep fiction magazines in the bathroom) couldn't put this down. I read it cover to cover in a very short time. Wonderful stories.

Phillip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke is a young adult mystery novel set in the Victorian era. Sally Lockhart is a 16-year-old orphan with an unconventional upbringing. Of course. Her father's recent death has left her living unhappily with an elderly relative and a mystery about how her father died. She goes to her father's company to talk to his partner, and finds herself at the beginning of a mystery that starts to unravel around her. I found this story far too implausible--my disbelief was not at all suspended and so this fell flat for me. I loved Pullman's His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy (see my October 22, 2000 entry for my comments about the final book in that series), but I won't be pursuing this one.

Aimee Bender's An Invisible Sign of My Own is a contemporary novel about a young woman obsessed with numbers. She comes from an odd family, and her father has begun to fade, though there isn't anything obviously wrong with him. Her mother gradually forces her out of the nest to live on her own or else she likely would never have. She denies herself things, eating soap to stop herself from enjoying sex, and knocking on wood obsessively. When there is a shortage of teachers at the local school in her small town, she is conscripted to teach math, and thus begins a whole series of events. An odd book, that I wanted to like more than I did. I think it was a little too clever for me and not quite humane enough.

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

September 1981

[In which I move to Missoula, Montana, to begin my M.F.A. in writing poetry at the University of Montana. I am settling into a cute little one-bedroom apartment alone the river, only a few blocks from the university. Little did I know that my U.S. exile had begun. I did know my life was dramatically changing.]

1245. Moving In                            September 19, 1981

Making the place my own is not easy. I keep moving things around, shifting until tonight my eye is off, and nothing I can do is right. I'll slow for now, listen to Keith Jarrett, breathe the new air in from the window [1].
     [quote from an old obscure pop song by Bread about using the first time it rained after moving to a new place as an excuse to write.]
     I am discovering that I can live at east alone, and enjoy it, but I know I'll be better when classes start, and time is a little more full (if not too full). I will know better what to do with myself.
     I have a lot of energy, and will have to channel it a little more, rather than doing this little chores I do. I like to do these things, but I like what I am building here. This is the first home I have built for myself to live in. Lorna arranged most of our apartment (nicely!), but I felt it reflected her. Then, of course, I was too unsure of what I liked and wanted to do it myself in any case. Now I am still unsure, but am playing and gradually making this into some place I like and can relax and work in. And this is doonight for a yawn and time to relax now, and dream and fidget some more.

1246. Missoula                            September 20, 1981

I am trying to learn to think again--after a long time of not trying to be, but doing, I have to both be and do, and become. Think and dream again.
     Dream--the first dream I will dream is to be climbing the mountain road on foot: that is, to know it and not only to see.
     The second--to notice the river that we all ifnore, and cross and cross. Iti s a river that is something, that thinks and dreams.
     I will think whether or not I will learn here, whether I can think here--if indeed I am capable of it.
     Dream--I will dream that I am not threatened by the solitude that haunts me. That I could bear to turn off the stereo and the music that keeps me--I have never been so alone before, and I love and hate it as I love and hate myself.
     And here I am, living in these rooms, living, as though nothing is wrong, as though I'm not going mad.
     [Quote from Carole King's "It's too Late" about staying in bed all morning to pass time omitted.]
     and letting it out eases a little.

1247. It could only be us [2]                            September the same, 1981

It could only be us
that I've just driven past
on the Interstate outside of
Spokane. It us at There we are at
the side of the road
pulling the quills from
the porcupine. In a flash
Remember that day.
Mother, it's you looking
tired and determined,
plucking the dead beast
like a sad fowl. Father's
there, wandering, gathering
the thrown quills thrown from the
first shock gravel. But is it
really me there, indecisively
pulling the slow quills from
the back and tail as though
I were pulling them from
my own body? Even then
did I know where I
was going? This is
a very difficult mirror
-- my face is too round
and my eyes sting
in the travelling dust.
It's only us, and already I'm late
for where I've been.

1248. Seventh River                            September 23, 1981

Don't be surprised it's the one
with no (out?) water. Ann, you
can't say we didn't warn
each other.
Here I am, at this distance
meeting the river, now thinking
it's water, thinking amazed how
dry to the touch. A river
to bathe in the way we
never will again.
Did you mean when I wrote
seven robins I was writing
river robins--robins in a
river through the trees. Ann,
it's this river that bothers me.
The movement in seven pulses.
I find it, and find it
again, like it's in my
back yard, is that what
you meant
the night I met your lover,
the night you said seven
and river are/mean the same. [3]


1. Poor fool me, I didn't know that one of the things Missoula was noted for was bad air--air inversion were extremely common there. The native population knew enough not to live there--why not us?

2. I worked on this poem on and off for years but never did get it to work. It's a true story--on our way to Missoula, a convoy of me and me in my car and Dad in theirs, full of my furniture and my things, my mother spotted a rooad-killed porcupine on the side of the Interstate and we had to go to the next exit and back around to the spot and stop to pick the quills for future use in one of her Native crafts for the museum.

3. Another poem that never went anywhere. I do vaguely remember that conversation, when Ann and I talked about the associations words and symbols had for us. For her, seven and river, for me 5 and r, and other things. I'm also talking in the poem about Ann's wonderful poem, "Agapanthus", which talks about the power of lust.

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