Les Semaines

October 2, 2005

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



Classes started this week, and I had three more orientations and my Canada Council grant deadline, so it was a busy week.

Very busy with students. Lots of talk talk talk.

For such a busy week, I sure have read a lot, possible because sleep seems optional as I've been so wired.

The weather has really turned now, though the days can be warm when the sun's out. Yesterday we finally turned our furnace on, and today is rainy and I feel a little chilled. My nose is cold. But whatever, I love October.

sunsetOctober sunset.


Sophia is learning to like affection. This is good. Zach is still hanging in there, though his legs are wobbly and he gets louder every day. We've realized he's a little s.e.n.i.l.e. Don't say this in his hearing because he's not that far gone.

Looking forward to going to the beach for a writing retreat and for my birthday. Yay! Ocean. I don't care if it rains.

Chronicles of Sloth: Episode 4

  • Email inbox down to 278 messages (down from 286 last week and from 380 when I started tracking this about a month ago)
  • Still working on novel revisions, and synopsis is 90% done
  • Grant application completed and mailed
  • Have to clean out car and advertise it for sale now that it's all fixed. No more excuses. Having three cars for two people is nuts. (Anyone want a very easy-on-gas vehicle?)
  • Three medical appointments for me to arrange (I took Sophia in to the vet this week)
  • Haven't touched 2 large stacks of CDs to ready for review but the extras on top are really thinning out
  • Moved two items off the huge pile of papers to sort through + 1 papered-high inbox of perilous proportions still untouched
  • Went through a couple more of the CD pileup (keep/toss/add to ectoguide)
  • 1 red cloth bag of tapes (+ a bookcase) not diminished this week
  • 2.5 friend's novels still waiting to be read & critiqued
  • and there's still the lurking, unexplored more
  • last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


    I've been listening to all kinds of scraps of things. A student in one of my programs made me a mix CD, and I especially fell in love with two tracks on it, did a big search for them and neither google nor ecto could help and finally the student told me what I had fallen in love with was Hank Dogs. Folky, tricksy music was terrific vocals.

    last week's listening § next week's listening


    Cecelia Dart-Thornton's The Iron Tree is one of the more frustrating fantasy novels I've read in a long time. There is so much to admire about it, and yet it fails in so many ways. It's the story of a terribly handsome young man, Jarred, who lives in a desert area of a land rich with strange magical wights, some good, some evil, some tricksy, many indifferent, inhabiting every bit of the earth. He has been left an amulet by his father, who was from another land and lived with the desert people for a few years before traveling on again. Jarred and several other of the community's young men decide to go adventuring. They travel through several adventures to a marshland, where Jarred falls in love with Lilith, a beautiful young woman whose grandmother and mother both suffer from a terrible madness--they think they are being pursued by some horrible thing, and can hear its footsteps behind them. An interesting set-up, no? But I have many complaints: all the episodes with the wights have no discernible effect on the plot; the deep love that is supposed to be the center of the book is only ever described in physical terms and thus feel somewhat hollow; the plot is basically quite simple and the makings of a much thinner book--this feels densely padded with what turns out to be extraneous material when I kept thinking it had to be going somewhere (though in the last 50 pages a few events in the previous 340 seem to have been meanderingly building up to something after all; it's hard to figure out how the community thrives so well economically in a marsh; the characters are supposed to be peasants, but speak in arch, latinate language; the book is highly overwritten to the point of occasionally being laughable ("sable petals of damp hair radiated from the flower-face" talking about a sick woman). Sigh.

    Cecil Castellucci's young adult novel, boy proof, is the opposite. It's set in the real world, the character feels real and dimensional, and the writing is crisp without a wasted word or scene. It's the story of Egg, who has taken the name of a character from her favourite movie. She's a loner and works to keep herself that way, with only minimal contact with others at her school until a new guy arrives at school to challenge her academic pre-eminence. This is a fine and engrossing coming-of-age story. Recommended.

    Pete Hautman's young-adult novel, godless is about Jason, a boy raised in a religious family who decides to invent his own religion, worshipping the water tower that presides over their town. Things get a little crazy when friends join him, and they hold their first ceremony up there, with unexpected consequences. This book has realistic characters and events, and reads well. A good read.

    Janette Turner Hospital's Due Preparations for the Plague is a terrifically intense novel. It's about the children of people killed in an airplane highjacking; the main character, Lowell's mother was killed, and the other main character, Samantha, was herself on the plane but was released with the rest of the children. They have grown up under the shadow of these events. Lowell knows his father was in intelligence, but after his father dies, his father's psychiatrist gives him a dufflebag of binders and tapes which Lowell knows document things about the highjacking. Samantha has been searching for this information, putting pieces together from documents released under the freedom of information act. Gradually, we find out more about many of the people involved from the double agent to the parents, to other characters on the flight. A fascinating, terrifying, emotionally wrenching read. Janette Turner Hospital's novels are always excellent, this was powerfully disturbing as well.

    To recover from the last novel, I let myself read Kenneth Oppel's Skybreaker, a book I was sure I was going to love, and sure enough I did. This is another adventure of the characters in the terrific Airborn and this one is just as good. Here Matt Cruse is on a rather decripit freighter airship as a trainee, when the freighter is flung by a storm into higher altitudes than humans (and the airship) can really handle. There they catch sight of a legendary airship that disappeared 40 years before, which is rumoured to carry treasure. The altitude is such that the freighter barely escapes, but later Matt is convinced to join an expedition to try to find the ship again, but there are others who want to know the location that only Matt knows. A great adventure with winning characters. Wonderful fun.

    last week's reading § next week's reading


    Got my Canada Council application off in the mail.

    The novel synopsis is almost done. First draft, I should say as I'm sure I'll be doing more.

    last week's writing § next week's writing

    Retrospective: old journal

    Tuesday, August 13, 1991

    Went to Kirkwall--looked at the Bishop's Palace and the Earl's Palace--interesting but not captivating places.

    Kirkwall viewLooking at Kirkwall and St. Magnus Cathedral (right) from the Bishop's Palace.


    Then went to Tankerness House Museum to see the things there. Then shopped at the jewel gifts. Had a quick lunch at a place with William Morris wallpaper and drapes, then went to catch the Go-Orkney tour.

    Began that with the Gloup, a sea cave (long, narrow) that collapsed. Interesting view. Then walked to the Brough of Deerness. A clamber up and down but lovely. Not so interesting ruins, but the site is charming. Then drove along the Churchill barricades, stopping at the Italian Chapel, built by POWs during WWII. Went on to the Tomb of the Eagles. First the museum--small, family, but very wonderful. The woman talked about what they'd found and how they found it. Let us hold the stone tools, the skulls (I was missed on that one [1]), the beads, while she talked. The tomb was found by accident and they spent years trying to get someone to excavate it. Finally did a lot themselves. Found bones of over 300 people, with eagle claws, and one with eagle bones beside it. The tomb was used for 800 years, and the would simply put the skulls in the antechambers when it was too full.

    Holding the beads, the little knife, a piece of pottery decorated by someone left-handed really made a connection. A different experience. Handling Stone Age artifacts. 200 generations ago.

    Then her husband took our group, first to a Bronze Age house. Had a central water pot (stone, square) that they would put rocks from the fire in to boil. Diverted a stream to run through, so constant water. Threw their old rocks cracked with heat to one side and built a ridge. It was excavated in the 1970s by archaeology students.

    The tomb itself overlooks the sea, and the entry faces it. Have to crawl in (loaned knee pads). Long, narrow. New concrete top. Still bones in one chamber, sealed off with plastic, and one pot there. Weird, wonderful place, and both guides (Mr. and Mrs. Simison) were wonderful, too.


    Tomb of the EaglesSea cliffs and the Tomb of the Eagles

    Opening to the Tomb of the EaglesThe opening of the Tomb of the Eagles.


    Watched seals swim in the bay up front.

    Then went and had High Tea at a nearby farmhouse. Wonderful.

    Home tired, Christina had a headache. Late.

    Notes: 1. But not the next time I visited the site, several years later

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