Les Semaines

September 4, 2005

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


Back To School Again

I had my last few days of freedom. Stayed up till 3:00 finishing the book I was reading. Slept till I felt like waking up. Did a little more line-straightening on the kitchen painting and finally surrendered to the unevenness of life, giving all the brushes a final wash out. Most things that belong in the kitchen are back in there. And all too quickly it was Thursday morning and September again and I was getting up at 6:00 and wham at 7:30 there I was back in the office as though I'd never been gone. Even though I'd spent several hours on email over the last couple of months, it still took me the two days to finish reading everything in my work email inbox, mostly because I tried to deal with as much as I could as I went along instead of following my usual practice of reading through the whole mess first, intending to get back to response to things and never quite making it.

Like everyone, we have been obsessing on watching the news from Louisiana. I've been reading the bloggers and news sources from the area, waiting anxiously to see news from acquaintances in the area (luckily, I have heard from everyone and the news is as good as can be expected -- no one I directly know lost a loved one or lost everything, which I think has more to do with the fact that I don't know many people from the area -- but that's not the case with friends of friends, and friends who loved the city are mourning deeply). It's so hard to understand why people had to wait so many days for rescue and to think that there are still people there waiting -- they've been bringing people out today, almost a week after the storm. There are people there for whom the clock ran out. I wonder if we'll ever know the true numbers of those.

For me it has been as shocking as 9/11. I'm going to shut up about it, as there are other people far more eloquent than me about this.

Meanwhile, life continues as normal here and I think a little about what happens when the projected big earthquake hits here. Like many other people, I'm going to start planning that we'd be on our own for a week at the very least.

Chronicles of Sloth:

  • 380 messages in my email inbox (messages filtered and now residing in other email boxes remain uncounted)
  • 310 messages in my email inbox -- that's 70 fewer! (I also dealt with a myriad of messages in my other mailboxes, but to add to the joy, my mail program crashed and I spent several hours re-deleting & refiling messages)
  • 1 novel not yet ready to go out
  • novel still not ready, but I'm 1 third the way through the synopsis
  • 1 kitchen to finish painting
  • kitchen abandoned to wiggly lines
  • 18 poems sitting at home waiting to go out
  • 18 poems still sitting
  • 2 large stacks of CDs to ready for review
  • 2 large stacks still needing attention
  • 1 huge pile of papers to sort through + 1 papered-high inbox of perilous proportions
  • these are still untouched
  • 1 rack + 12 personal CDs to sort through (keep/toss/add to ectoguide)
  • 1 rack still there but down to + 8 personal CDs to sort
  • 1 red cloth bag of tapes (+ a bookcase)
  • 1 red cloth bag of tapes has about ten fewer (bookcase untouched)
  • 2.5 friend's novels to read & critique
  • still waiting
  • more but that's all I'm going to talk about for now
  • more still doesn't bear thinking about

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


This week I discovered Sufyan Stevens's Illinois. What a terrific collection of wonderfully constructed pop songs. They're the kind that seem immediately familiar but at the same time they're inventive and not clichéd. It makes me very happy to listen to it, and Jim is shocked that I've been obsessing on a disc with a male lead singer. Stevens's intention is to write an album for each of the 50 states, and this is his second, the first being about his home state of Michigan. It's almost as good as Illinois. Devin has some of his earlier stuff that I want to give a listen to. Jim's been listening to all kinds of things that Devin loves that just don't do much for me, so we're all three happy that I really like this.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Helen Dewitt's The Last Samurai is about a young genius and his single scholarly mother who to entertain him teaches him how to learn languages, so he can read several modern and classical languages before most children learn to read. Both of them are obsessed with Kurasawa's movie The Last Samurai and then the son becomes obsessed with finding his father. This is a fascinating, smart tale with a lot of intellectual energy. Highly recommended.

Alice Hoffman's Blackbird House is a series of loosely connected short stories about people who live in the same area of Cape Cod, starting with settlers and moving to the present day. It is full of lovely places, realistic characters, and the dreamy way life with all its horrors and wonders continues. A dreamy collection that kept me up till 3:00 am reading (though that may say more about me than about the book).

Jeanne Williams's Daughter of the Storm is an historical novel set in Scotland at the time of the Clearances, when the landlords were evicted tenant farmers (crofters) who had lived on the land for hundreds of years so they could run large herds of sheep on the land (or rent forest land out to hunters). Christy's mother was one of these evacuees, who gave birth to her and died before she could tell anyone where she was from. She was taken in by Mairi Mór, a harpist and heroine who tried to defy the evictions and in doing so lost her own child. Christy craves Mairi's full love, but Mairi doesn't seem to have it to give her. Christy turns her affection to Mairi's son David, who has an unfortunate fall off the rocks while trying to rescue a lost lamb and loses the use of his legs. The story tells how Christy comes of age and learns her own strengths. While this was full of wonderful historic detail about the way of live of the crofters, it was emotionally unsatisfying as so much of the characters' inner lives was told rather than dramatized.

Jane Louise Curry's young adult novel A Stolen Life is set somewhat earlier in Scotland, shortly after the battle of Culloden, when Scotland first was so greatly defeated by England and the clan system that had sustained their way of life was gradually replaced by English lords. Here the young upper-class daughter of an outlawed survivor of Culloden is kidnapped by "spiriters", men who took children and young people to the colonies to sell as bond slaves. Jamesina's adventures getting to and surviving in the New World and the picture they told of life then were intriguing.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I've mostly been dealing with a couple of copies of the manuscript's worth of typo corrections and have started seriously sweating out the synopsis from a framework abandoned several years and drafts ago, before I had actually written the end. Had a really productive day working on it on Sunday (we were off a day so Karen could go to CascadiaCon), and then a great lunch with Karen while she gave me her wonderfully insightful, useful critique. Yay.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Still on hiatus.

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