Les Semaines


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


In A Fog

This week has been characterized by thick morning and evening fogs and I feel a part of them. Jim came home with a horrible cold and has stayed home all week, except Monday. We'd planned it before, but had planned it as vacation time, writing time, but instead has been feeling terrible. I did go to work for the short week and then like most people living in this country took off the four days for Thanksgiving. I thought I'd write a lot, and get ready to start things for Christmas. Instead I spend a lot of time playing on the computer and in quite a funk. A fog. A funk. Same thing.

It all means inability to write, a general sense of irritation at the world and not much interest in anything. But that's only off and on. I clearly managed to get interested in a lot of reading. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving: had a quiet day roasting a turkey and watching the four-hour DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring and then the first of the "making of" discs that accompany that before we burned out. It was lovely. Lovely having no demands other than to feed ourselves and the cats. Well, Sophia rarely demands anything but Zach was in demand-overload with the turkey. He has the most obnoxious loud yowl that there were several times I found myself yelling "Shut UP" at him. It usually worked. For a second or two.

You know, I really hate this mood thing. I guess I can't expect to feel even all the time but I get so sick of feeling tired and depressed. Of feeling ineffectual and frustrated.

The most difficult thing right now is the short fiction keeping coming back. I can't push it to the next level, somehow. I keep bumping against my own limits, thinking I'm past them. Or something. I know I need to just keep working at it, but it's hard to want to keep going, to believe that it's worth it and not to just despair. It all matters too much to me because of the novel. If no one wants the novel it will really be painful. So I start deciding not to work because then I won't get closer to that big rejection.

Or something like all this. It really could just have to do with Jim being sick, the weather being foggy, having some down time and taking it to actually be down in preparation for the rush that the next month is going to be.

Well, I'm tired of writing about this, and I'm sure you're tired of reading it, so I'm stopping here.

For something else to read, I just finally uploaded my journal from when I attended Clarion West as a student in 1996. Happy reading--it was a wonderful time for me.

Jim, Neile, and the trollJim, Neile, and the Fremont troll, from this summer. Photo by then visiting friend, Judy McCrosky, which she just sent us.


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


More Ivá Bittova, and a fascinating Czech cello duo, Tara Fuki. They're kind of like a mix between Ivá Bittova, and Jorane. Really lovely, haunting, unusual stuff.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Well, I guess that dam burst and I started finishing the books I was reading again, eh?

Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold's Donnerjack is a near-future story, where the virtual world has become a universe of its own, though connected to the real world. The novel begins with Donnerjack senior making a deal with Death, and rescuing his lover from the Deep Fields, a successful Orpheus tale. As part of the deal, Donnerjack promises his firstborn to Death, believing that since he was of the real world and his lover of the virtual, that there could be no such child. But then a child is indeed expected and the world goes ever more askew. There's a lot of magic in this, and gods messing with both the real and virtual worlds. There's much imagination, but somehow the over tale didn't quite work for me. I certainly found it interesting but not compelling.

I wasn't expecting much of Jonathan Carroll's new novel, White Apples, because while I've liked his recent books when I was reading them (see my September 26, 1999 and February 18, 2001 entries), in retrospective they have paled. Actually, I loved some of his earlier books so I've been a little disappointed with his recent work. But this may be my favourite of his yet. It's about a philanderer who suddenly discovers that he's dead. He's been dead for about six weeks, but he doesn't remember dying and now no one remembers that he's dead. Except this strange woman, Coco, who he's just started seeing. They have this relationship that he thinks he's totally in control of, and suddenly, she tells me and he realizes it's true. Then he finds out that the woman whom he thought was the love of his life is pregnant with his child and she wants to see him. The book gets stranger and stranger with some wonderful surreal moments and profound moments and horrific moments. Incredibly imaginative and real. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.

Maureen F. McHugh's Nekropolis is the story of a woman who has willingly become jessed: had her brain adapted so she will be faithful and happy serving the master who buys her. She works for a couple where the wife doesn't like her and there she also finds herself first repelled then attracted by a biomanufactured servant. The wife finally convinces the husband to sell the jessed woman and then she decides to take command of her life again. An interesting tale of a foreign near-future culture. (See my December 19, 1999 entry for my comments on another novel by this author.)

Nancy Springer's children's novel, Rowan Hood, is the tale of a young woman whose mother is killed, and so she sets out, dressed as a boy, to find her father, Robin Hood. For some reason this didn't work for me--I found the choices she had her friends able to make so unlikely as to spoil the story for me. Outlaws don't have that comfortable a life. And where do outlaws find the ovens to bake bread? (See my January 27 and October 13 entries for my comments on other novels by this author.)

Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris' Girl in a Cage is a children's novel about the historical figure of Robert the Bruce of Scotland's daughter, Marjorie, whom Longshanks, the King of England, imprisoned in a cage at an abbey in the early 14th century (see my June 3, 2001 entry for these authors' previous collaboration). This is a clear evocation of the events that led to her imprisonment, and of the emotional repercussions of her situation. My only quibble is that Marjorie seems more naive than I would have thought a twelve-year-old in that household in that era would have been. Recommended.

Christopher Priest's The Prestige begins with a young reporter suddenly summoned to investigate an unexplained event, when he discovers that he has been summoned for an entirely different reason--because of a feud between his grandfather and a woman's great-grandfather--both magicians--and the repercussions that the feud is having in the present day, or at least in that woman's childhood. The novel then switches to his grandfather's journal, which describes his career as a magician and his feud with the other magician. Then we have the granddaughter's point of view, then her magician ancestor's journal and then finally back to the first man. An interesting story of illusion and reality.

Molly Gloss's Outside the Gates is a slim fantasy novel where people with "shadows" (psychic and magical abilities) are tossed outside the gates of their country to fend for themselves or die. This is the story of a young boy, who can communicate with animals, who is tossed outside. He is taken in by a man who can work weather and they live a humble but comfortable life together until one day the weatherworker disappears, and the boy discovers he has been taken under the powers of a man who has the ability to hold others under his will. (See my February 7th entry for comments about one of her adult novels.)

Frances and Joseph Gies' A Medieval Family: The Pastons of Fifteenth-Century England is a nonfiction book which puts into context a collection of letters surviving from this family. It's fascinating to see what they were dealing with as an ambitious up-and-coming middle-class family. The letters mostly deal with business, but also with attempts to arrange marriages and other family matters. One of the things that struck me strongest was how people even at this level fought over property, laying siege to houses they thought they had rights to. It reminded me of the 11th-century battles in King Hereafter (from November 17th's reading) more than anything. So this is what life in Medieval times was really like.

last week's reading § next week's reading


A depressing week of rejections to add to last week's. No NEA grant, and another story bounced. Sigh. I would like to say that it's rolling off me but it isn't right now. I am getting ready to send the story off again. I need to send some poems out. I say this and don't do it.

It's really got me in a writing funk. I've been struggling with a new piece. Had time to write and couldn't do it.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

November 1986

1475. Madrigal
November 2, 1986

She loves small
and wild. Her face
pressing into yours
turning away. her
flesh damp with fear
and love and body's
warmth in the night.
She nuzzles into you
like a warm animal
waking you. She
won't rest. Moves
over you approaches
your other side, her
hair tickles your face
makes your skin
itch and recoil. Her
breath is warm
on my your cheek
hand and your shoulder
legs beating against
yours restless and
light. It is love,
her anxious hands
on your should
nervous lips on your face.
It is love coming
and going away. [1]

1476. Fragments
November 2, 1986

Pound: "Dryad, thy peace is like water
There is September sun on the pools"

1477. "out of all this beauty something must come"

1478. What is the poison named?
November 2, 1986

Named pity? Named love?
Or madness. We
are the ones who would
name it madness.
What light comes out of
the covered sky that makes
the pines shine like
this? This is what
we should ask. We should
tell stories, clear and true
that equal what we would say.
I say it isn't that easy.
What light makes the trees
so green on such a dark day?
Our shoes stick in the mud.
The red-gold dog runs ahead
of us, runs behind, his mane
tangled with needles and cedar
twigs. Your fingers are cold
when they touch mine.
The sky is grey through and through.
Within the ravine the light is even
less as the trees lean up the banks
where they can. Mist collects
and falls from the tips of
branches like an offering
to the thirsting god. We
could be them. Could live
on this distilled ambrosia
of fir. The plaid of your
shirt in front of me takes
me home, and I remember
this morning not speaking
how you stretched it over
your brown shoulders and turned
away. It isn't much, this
sharing. This is what of you
you let me see. We keep walking
down into the darker ravine
and I begin to walk slower
falling behind till I feel
alone in this thicket and
it's rising so green around
me, shooting into the sky,
however grey. Bursting above me.
Step out, and you're waiting.
The dog offers us each an
end of his stick and we take
it and laugh. You think I tell
this story to create itself. You say
I say these things to make them
true. [2]

1479. To November
November 2, 1986

What is the charm I could
have hidden in my bed?
When the nights grow longer
dreams thicken and hold
me closer. I only dream
I can escape the smothering
warmth. Outside it is colder.
Frost blooms on the window
panes and what sings like
birds? The starlings still
come to talk in the chestnut,
teasing the cats to the window
ledge, taunting aloud. It's
my breath warming the glass.
Mine rising from the sheep-like
comforter all down and wool
settling like some great sorrow
and binding my limbs
I wonder why the year turns
like this, empties us into
this sack of grey sleep
where we turn and tangle
till the sun finally spills
us out into the spring and we
can test again our weak
and trembling limbs legs.
Hold us up again and we
will walk, newborn, without
a charm against the change
of the world. [3]

1480. Wind and Cold
November 9, 1986

The leaves are being pulled from the tree by the wind and soon our window will be naked to the glare from the gas station across the street and to the roar of the traffic. We have blinds and curtains now. The cats play with them.
     I have just read The Singing Creek Where The Willows Grow because Bette told me to buy it. It was an interesting book. She was an amazing child with her names and her vision and her animals. Bette said she was me, but not really. Only a little of me was like her. I was a far more ordinary television and playschool child of the '60s. But anyway I loved the forest she did and at two would take expeditions with Buff, the dog from next door when we lived at Craigend. I wish I could recall the way I saw then. I would love now to know. Children as such mysteries because we don't know what they know, what connections they have made that we wouldn't think of making. And connections are what my craft (or sullen art) is all about.
     Jim is in his closet, smoke Black Russians [4] and writing. We had a spat when I printed the Table of Contents from one of my disks. Then I worked on BN, about a page worth. I'm ~1/4 into Chapter 4. Maddy and I have loves and now she cuddles half awake beside Zach. Sometimes she looks at me. Early this afternoon we had a long think and nap in the warm sun on the bed--it was amazingly warm for such a cold day. Delight. I had such trouble waking up. I'm going to stop this now and finish my letter to Susan and start one to Brenda and think about getting a box to send the stuff of Bette's and Bill's that they left behind Tuesday here after their visit for Galway Kinnell.


1. This was originally about my cats, but later became the third section of my poem, "The Lovers in Grey" in Blood Memory.

2. This, revised, became "Into The Ravine" in Spells for Clear Vision.

3. Understandably, this never became anything.

4. Jim used to chai while writing. Ugh!

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