2003

06.08


what I'm thinking and doing

what I'm listening to

what I'm reading

what I'm writing

retrospective: old journal


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Home Again Home Again

Well, I'm back home. Struggling with getting my body's clock lined up with Pacific Daylight Time. Got back Friday noon-ish and haven't left the house since. It has been hot. I've been unpacking. It took me until this morning to catch up just with reading my email (of course I haven't answered it). The good news is that I'll shortly be able to put up my travel journals from my trip because I kept them going as I went since I had my laptop with me.

It was a good time out of time. I got some writing done, saw some lovely sights, got wired up shopping in Istanbul. Fell in love with Topkapi Palace, partly through Christina's children's novel which is set there, partly through seeing a tiny part of it myself.

The flight home was loooong, but I totally lucked out and got an empty seat on both flights, the one from Istanbul to Amsterdam and the longer one from Amsterdam to Seattle. This meant I could put my feet up and arrived home without swollen ankles for a miracle.

Getting up for the flight home was a worry--had to catch a taxi to the airport at 4:00 am. At 12:20 I woke up and thought it was 4:00 and woke Christina before I realized what time it really was.

Then when it really was four and we got all ready we went downstairs and saw a weasel leaping around the street. So very odd. When Christina first pointed it out in the dark, I thought it was a cat, but once I saw it again it clearly was not.

It's weird being home.

 

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

 

Listening

Came back to a few discs that had arrived while I was away, most notably for me so far, Kirsty Stegwazi's Jailbirds, which has that strange artful artlessness that Cat Power, Tamara Williamson, Kat Terran, and several others have. Almost casual writing, but you know it's not.

 

last week's listening § next week's listening

 

Reading

These are all the books I finished before I left on the trip, and while I was gone (didn't read much then) and since I got back.

Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles is the story of a young unemployed man who gets involved with a strange cast of characters when first his cat disappears and then his wife. Is his politically ambitious brother-in-law at the bottom of all of this? It took me a little bit to get into the story, but once I got hooked, I loved this. It's an odd story, clearly very influential on several contemporary novelists.

Jonathan Carroll's novella, The Heidenburg Cylinder is not one of his best efforts. In this story a man finds two angels at his door--they tell him that hell is taking over his neighbourhood. There wasn't enough space here to really care about what was happening. Carroll works better on a broader canvas. (See my September 26, 1999, February 18, 2001, and December 1, 2002 for comments about his recent novels.)

Karl Schroeder's Ventus is the story of a world terraformed by extremely advanced scientient nanotechnology. The humans who arrived after the world was terrformed have always had an uneasy relationship with the Winds--the powers that keep the world growing and changing and building. They treat them like gods. A young man is suddenly disturbed by strange, realistic dreams, then finds himself kidnapped by an odd woman, whom he gradually realizes is not from his world. This is a wonderful, absorbing and compelling novel with fascinating characters, a kind of combination of the forms of epic fantasy with the details of science fiction, and morally complex--each of the several sides in various conflicts have their own, reasonable positions. A fine, fine novel. Up there with Kim Stanley Robinson and deserving of far more attention than it has received so far. (See my entry for comments on his second published novel, which I didn't like as much.)

Liz Williams's Empire of Bones is an intriguing near-future novel about a young woman from the Untouchable caste who becomes a rebel leader for her people, who are being suppressed again by the upper castes and have fallen victim to a mysterious illness. Throughout her life she has heard voices in her heard--and she learns that the voices are those of aliens. I quite enjoyed this one.

Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful is a rather awkwardly constructed fantasy novel about a young woman in musician's training, who meets a mysterious new student and discovers that the powerful in her country have used magic to fight a war and through it have drained the land of its power and harvests are failing and there is hunger everywhere. This was interesting enough to read but I don't think I'll pursue the sequel(s).

 

last week's reading § next week's reading

 

Writing

Hey, got a lot of work done in Bulgaria. Came home to two rejection slips, one in fiction, one in poetry and received another poetry one yesterday. Need to get those back out in the mail.

 

last week's writing § next week's writing

 

Retrospective: old journal

April 1990

April 9, 1990
Ottawa

John picked me up at the airport and drove me around the city a littler--Parliament, etc. Then went back and had tea and talked--unwilling to stop--until about three. Not talking about anything in particular, just our relationships and what we are presently involved in.
     Yesterday we got up quite late and were moving slowly. Didn't feel alive until I'd had a shower.
     Then we walked a couple of blocks to drop something off at a friend's bakery--or to a friend who works at a bakery. Lovely houses in this area, near the Governor-Generals'--it's called New Edinburgh and seems very open--as does the whole city. We walked back to the apartment along the river. Still patches of snow in the brown grass, but the sun was bright. The wind was cold but not uncomfortable, and I walked with my coat undone.
     Then we met two friends from when we lived in London, Ontario at the National gallery. They both seem happy here, involved with their new jobs though being on contract doesn't necessarily suit them well.
     We first went to the Chagall exhibit--wonderful First a book of etchings based on Old Testament stories: very solid, movement almost emanating from the figures (very solid). Much lamentation, angels on the ladder, Abraham mourning Sarah, Lot and his daughter, David hovering over Bathsheba, Bathsheba beseeching for Solomon to be king, Solomon asking God for wisdom. Amazing figures and a flat composition that nonetheless seemed to have great depth Jeremiah at the last.
     The second series was of Daphnis and Chloë--amazing colour. Similar forms, this time in intense colour. The green when the shepherd found Daphnis, the yellow of Pan in the corner of one picture, intense red when they are discovering eros and yellow after, when lying together. One of my favourites was the three graces, nymphs, standing together. Another Chloë and Daphnis lying together. Very funny statement about how when an older woman initiated him, he was eager to teach what he learned to Chloë.
     There was a third section on Gogol's Dead Souls: Les Âmes Morts, but I didn't want to add a third to my already overwhelming sets of images, and the contrast between the Old Testament and Daphnis and Chloë was so wonderful.
     We went then to see an exhibit of painting, most very small, by J.W. Morrice who lived mostly in Paris, and travelled with Robert Henri and his circle. The paintings were very good--the small size of most made what he accomplished in them amazing. I was taken by one of Venice at night, and a street scene of Marseille--wonderful light. Went downstairs to their open storage and found a wonderful portrait of Emily [1] and work by various painters including many by the Group of Seven and many very good but to me lesser-known painters.
     Wandered upstairs through the contemporary collections, holograms, brillo pads, amazing casts of people, then went to see the camels (charming) then wandered through the Milnes, the Carrs--saw "Clearing" and another also wonderful forest scene that I hadn't seen before, and the Rideau Chapel.
     Then as the Gallery was closing we parted, The Gallery itself is a wonderful building--light and airy. In parts I felt as though I were in an architect's drawing, but I soon forgot that. Loved standing under the pool looking up at the water.
     We got gelato and went to Blaine's for a wonderful meal--he's a very good cook, soup and seafood pasts. talked. He has a wonderful house all dark wood and character.
     Went to see Beautiful Dreamers, a Canadian film about Walt Whitman visiting and stirring up London, Ontario. Very well-acted and produced, but a little over-romantic. Enjoyable, though.
     That back for salad and the gelato.
     To this morning, when I sit drinking tea and trying not to be nervous.
     Later: Walked and looking around, back by the river, then walked back to get my hair cut then walked by the falls. Now I'm looking at poems and may take a nap.


NOTES

1. The Victoria painter, Emily Carr.

 

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