Les Semaines

May 29, 2005

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

 §

"Vacation" and "Holiday"

Really, those words say it all. We took "vacation" to go and visit Jim's father and stepmother (and most of his siblings) in North Carolina. It was great seeing everyone. I haven't visited them in several years, though I saw Jim's eldest brother a year ago November. I would have seen his dad, but he'd had already seen Jim and left. So anyway, there we are at Jim's sister Pat's house a half-hour outside Greensboro, reacquainting ourselves with nieces and nephews, a couple of which we hadn't seen since they were quite small, talking to Jim's siblings. All of them except his middle sister (Jim's one of six, two boys then three girls, then Jim) were there. Quite the crowd and all so different except for the group of guys watching Nascar. Nascar, which is something I'd never known a soul who gave a damn about. A different world. Later we went out in the rain to visit the four barn cats, and the two horses and the donkey. As I said, a different world.

They haven't quite forgiven us for enticing Devin out to the west coast.

It's a complicated family and there are a lot of tough things going on right now so the visit wasn't without its tensions. Family's like that, though, of course. It was great to have Jim's nephew, Mark, staying with us at Jim's stepmother's townhouse, the one she keeps as her painting studio, across the street from where she lives with his father. The area has grown up to be really lovely. Not that it wasn't nice before, but now the trees have matured so the townhouses are in a sheltered setting.

It was busy and got back to more busyness, so it really felt like "vacation" rather than without the quotes.

And this weekend it's a "holiday" weekend. Which we have spent working on the good work (writing) but not so much resting. And a lot of housecleaning. And some good socializing, with more promised for tomorrow.

It's good to be home. "Holiday" or not.

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Listening

Down the hall Jim's happily getting to know the new loud and good Sleator-Kinney.

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Reading

Paul Whitcover's Falling After leaves me puzzled. Not only am I not sure I got it, but while I know I admire it (and the author's obvious talent) I'm not sure I liked it. There are parallel coming-of-age stories. In one the main character is Jack, an adolescent who has a twin, Jilly, with whom he shares a tight emotional and psychic bond. He's spending the summer with his two sisters and his uncle Jimmy, a D&D-type game designer. Uncle Jimmy teaches the twins a game where the mutes (mutants) are battling norms in a future world. The parallel story follows Kestrel, an airie, who is on a quest to battle norms with members of his pentad (four other mutes, all of whom have varying mutations and talents). However, Jack discovers that when he was drowning, suddenly he wasn't. Later time again resets itself, leaving Jack with two sets of memories: what he thought was happening, then what really happened and that everyone else also thinks happened. Is this a power of his? How does he deal with it? Meanwhile, how do Kestrel and his Pentad learn to work together to survive the war with the norms? The stories is disjunct at first but gradually start knitting together, until both character undergo worse and worse, deeper and more profound, trials. There's much to think about here. I think my hesitancies all come about with the characters' patterns of thinking and deduction which don't always make sense to me, and how I don't actually like either of them and actively disliked the characters that surround them (that dislike bled into the main characters, I think). Anyway, well-written and on many levels a fascinating look at truth and reality. A worthy successor to the strange, powerful Waking Beauty.

Robin Hobb's Ship of Magic is the first in her Liveship Traders Trilogy, which follows after her Farseeker Trilogy. This had kind of a bumpy start for me because it introduced a few too many major point of view characters too quickly for any of them to really catch my interest. I kept reading, though, and got over that, getting caught up enough in all of their stories so much that I had to immediately launch into the next volume. This takes place in the same world as the Farseeker Trilogy, but you don't know that at first. This is about a fairly well-settled frontier area with an economy based on shipping which is of course subject to pirates, and a distant, tyrannical ruler. The first generation of settlers has prospered and so others want to follow. This was limited until the ruler decided immediate money mattered more to him that long-term stability so everything is fraying at the edges. Slavery is making incursions though officially illegal. The main story focuses on one family whose daughter has been brought up with a liveship -- a magical process whereby after three generations of a shipping family have sailed a boat, the ship itself comes alive with a personality all its own, and with some of the memories of its previous captains. The only requirement is that one of its family sail with it so it can maintain a bond with it. The daughter assumes that when her father dies the ship will be hers; however, under economic pressure the father decides to leave the ship to his rigid son-in-law, who understands little about the liveships. Problems multiply from there. An absorbing read.

Mad Ship follows. I can't say much of anything that wouldn't be spoilers for the previous volume. Let it suffice that things are worse, I just finished the book a few minutes ago, and I know I have to pick up the final one in this trilogy before reading anything else. Compelling? Um, yes.

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Writing

Worked daily the week before our trip, didn't do anything there but a little more on the plane ride home. Had a session with Karen Monday night, then not much time until yesterday which was our day-long retreat with Karen and Barry. Got into the last chapter. Today I got through the last chapter, and so the novel revision is finished.

Finished.

Next step: get the copies ready to send out to my readers.

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Retrospective: old journal

Monday, August 12, 1991

Stromness, Orkney

The morning was wonderfully sunny, so we made a quick change of plan -- decided to walk down the beach again so Christina could get photos of the rocks and we could take photographs to make a calendar. The tide was in when we started. Walked out mostly along the road, stopped in at the cemetery for Christina to take a picture of the sandstone town with the doric column and for me to take a photo of nasty Ellen [1].

Then back along the beach. It was warm in town, but farther west the wind was blowing. We stopped at one really rocky place while the tide went out. Watched the waves (very high) gradually stop breaking over them. I lay down on a flat bit listening to the waves -- pulling stones on the beach on my right, over the rocks in front of me, occasionally opening my eyes to see Christina exploring there.

Gradually walked back once the tide was out. Christina gathering shells -- only one rock for me. Lots of photos, of us and the rocks. Such amazing colours -- the layers, the lichen, the rough parts and the water-worn. Finally got back about 3:30 and did laundry. Very sunburnt/windburnt face. Wrote cards then.

Had a nice dinner at the Ferry Inn -- salad and lamb. Have cravings for greens.

Quiet night.

Notes
1. By "Nasty Ellen" I mean the inscription her parents put on Ellen's tomb:

Sacred
to the memory of
ELLEN DUNN
who departed this life
August 3rd 1858
aged 17 years

Stop for a moment youthful passers by
on the momento cast a serious eye
Though now the rose of health may flush your cheek
and youthful vigour, health and strength bespeak
yet think how soon like me you may become
in youth's fair prime the tenants of the tomb

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