Les Semaines

January 20, 2008

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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In Which I Pose a Question With No Foreseeable Answer

I have a cold. Just Thursday I was thinking how Tamar had had the cold, Devin had had the cold, Jim had had the cold, but I had managed to dodge the bullet. Friday, I was sick.

Luckily, it's not a horrible cold. No fever, and I don't feel like I'm going to die. I just can't write. Or I think I can't write. Or I'm letting myself think I can't write.

Possibly because I haven't been sleeping well with the sneezing and the coughing. I keep waking myself up.

I've been doing a hell of a lot of reading, though. Inhaling young adult novels, mostly. Most of which are pretty darn good and a few of which aren't. I've bailed on a couple. I have 36 books out from the library right now, which is insane. I've been juggling which can be renewed and which have which due dates and all. It's been pretty funny, except I have a couple of books that I own that I haven't been able to read because of this passion for putting library books on hold that I seem to have. Time to stop soon.

The second check for my Canada Council grant arrived. I'm pleased with the progress I've made with the project thus far, but this arriving has made me realize that I need to figure out if I should do some more traveling to complete it. I know that I don't need to go back to Scotland however much I'd like to, and it's really expensive right now. I would like to go back to Haida Gwaii/The Queen Charlotte Islands, and Jim would really like to, but the longest I could get away would be for about two weeks, and six days of that would be eaten up with traveling there and back unless I can justifying spending the money to fly and rent a car. And just where would I need to go there?

Maybe it would be better to just do some west coast touring. Vancouver Island or the coast here again (holing up at Kalaloch sounds pretty damn good). I haven't been along the Sunshine Coast since I was a kid, and oddly enough I set one of the poems for the collection there. I'm not sure why, just did. So maybe I should go there.

It's hard to figure out what would really be helpful at this point.

Wherever I go, it has to have woods and sea and moss. There's plenty in any of these places.

So where is guaranteed to spark a dozen folkloric poems that I wouldn't have written had I not gone? There's a question. Ha!

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

Listening

The Dorothy Scott entry just went up on The Ectophiles' Guide with no comments from me, but I do quite like her idiosyncratic energy and style.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

T.K. Welsh's young adult historic novel The Unresolved is narrated by Mallory, a teenage German immigrant who died in a 1904 fire aboard a tourist ship off Manhattan when well over a thousand people died. At first her boyfriend is blamed by other jealous and prejudiced boys. She haunts and listens and passes on information till the truth about who was to blame come out. Eventually both the person who really started the fire and the neglect (and corruption) of the multitude of people in charge of the ship is laid out. I was quite bothered by the lovely, lyrical prose here. It was quite wonderful. However, I didn't believe it for a moment as the voice of a 1904 teenage immigrant. that kept me from really enjoying this. Why oh why not just tell it in close third person?

Meg Rosoff's young adult how i live now is intense and vivid. Daisy is 15, anorexic, and her father have sent her to live with her cousins England because he and his new wife are having a baby. Daisy immediately connects with her cousins, particularly Edmond, with whom she seems to share a psychic connection. But when her Aunt Penn leaves for Oslo and to help prevent an imminent war the cousins are left to fend for themselves. Then war does break out. I found this strong and highly evocative.

I didn't mean to start reading Sherman Alexei's young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian yet. I just picked it up to look at it after I brought it home from the library, but I was immediately sucked in and read it straight through. It really is that absorbing. It's the story of Junior, a smart kid on the Rez, who decides to try to get a better education in a school in the nearby white town. There he has to learn how to get along as the token Indian. Worse, he has to try to negotiate his changed status on the Rez. To try to belong to both worlds.

Gabrielle Zevin's young adult novel memoirs of a teenage amnesiac tells how Naomi falls down the stairs only to find herself with no memory of the last four years--during which her parents divorced, her mother remarried and had a child, her father got engaged to a tango instructor, she and her best friend are co-editors of the high school yearbook, and she has acquired a tennis-playing boyfriend who is part of the in-crowd. A new boy at school, James, is the one who finds her and she's strangely attracted to him and re-evaluating everything in her life. Clear and real. Recommended.

I'm not a fan of vampire novels. Not much attracted to all these new books coming out about demons and werewolves and demon and werewolf hunters, so I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed Richelle Mead's Succubus Blues. Her main character, Georgina Kincaid, is a succubus with a quota, a succubus who doesn't really enjoy her job, though she needs the energy it gives her. She's careful to stay away from the nice guys, so what does she do when there's a writer she admires who comes to town and he's cute? And then a gorgeous guy comes and rescues her from an awkward situation? Worse, someone is killing some of the lesser immortals in her community, and at first she's blamed for it because she had an argument with one of the victims shortly before his death. Pretty fun, and an interesting heroine.

Ekaterina Sedia's fantasy novel The Secret History of Moscow begins with Galina's pregnant sister going to the bathroom, then Galina here's a baby's cry. She goes in to see what has happened, and there's a baby there but no sister and a jackdaw swooping around just outside the window. Then Yakov, a policeman is watching a man walking a dog, and suddenly there's a crow being chased by a Scottish terrier with no one holding the leash. His boss asks Yakov to investigate and Galina tells him to come and meet an artist--and suddenly they find themselves in a new world underneath Moscow. Galina wants desperately to rescue her sister. Yakovwants to find out what's going on. The artist wants to find a Gypsy girl who has haunted him since he met here, and she's here, underground. As is Yakov's English grandfather, who has been missing since the late thirties, and many creatures and gods and goddesses from Russian folklore. And souls are being stolen. An interesting puzzle of a tale. My one disappointment is that I never got close enough to any of the characters to really appreciate the sacrifices they were making.

In Deb Caletti's young adult novel The Nature of Jade, Jade is trying to deal with anxiety disorder. One thing she does to calm herself is watch the elephant camera at the zoo, and one day she notices a very cute young man with a toddler and she gets intrigued by him. Another time she's watching it at night and sees that he has snuck in to watch them alone after closing. She starts hanging around the elephants herself to meet him, and finds herself volunteering to work with them, something she grows to love. And she does meet the boy, and finds herself falling for him. This is an unusual novel that deals with all of these issues clearly and without the usual "issues" feel. I enjoyed this one.

Kirsten Miller's young adult novel Kiki Strike: Inside The Shadow City is a pro-girl energy action adventure story. One day there's a sinkhole in a nearby park and Annanka goes to explore it, having first seen a small, muddy person crawl out of it. Later, she see a pale, small girl in school, Kiki Strike, who suddenly intrigues her, so she follows her to find out who she is. Then she finds herself recruited to start the Irregulars, a group of young girls with particular talents who go to explore a forgotten world of secret tunnels they find underneath Manhattan, but the mysterious Kiki seems to have created this assault force for her own mysterious reasons and not simply to explore the city. A fun read full of unlikely plots but good butt-kicking almost comic-book-like action/adventure.

E. Lockhart's young adult novel, Dramarama follows the newly named Sadye and her flamboyant gay best friend, Demi, to a summer theatre school where they begin to find out what their talents are. Sadye feels overshadowed by her roommates, who turn out to be much more experienced than she is and then even more so when it becomes clear just how talented Demi is and how well he fits into this new world. This captures the emotional appeal of those intense summer experiences well--all the heartbreak and ego-building and -breaking, and especially how very intense and important and transformative they feel. And how much you learn about yourself.

Jake Wizner's young adult novel Spanking Shakespeare is a vivid portrayal of a clever teenage boy coming to terms with high school, learning to whet this writing skills, navigating the dangerous shoals of first girlfriends, and coping with having a name like Shakespeare. This felt pretty real.

Robin Brande's young adult novel, Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature follows Mena, who has been ostracized from her church (and thus by her parents) for having followed her conscience. Now she's starting high school, and all her former friends hate her, revile her. The saving grace is that she has a terrific biology teacher who pairs her with one of the smarter boys in the class and they start working on a biology project together, just the class begins covering evolution, prompting all her former church friends to start a religious protest. The meaning of science and what it means to be a Christian who thinks felt very real to me, given that I went through my own Christian spell in my teens. A thoughtful, interesting (and fun) read.

Lisa Shanahan's young adult novel the sweet, terrible, glorious year I truly, completely lost it has a more fun title than the book turns out to be. It's an odd book, partly realistic, partly too over the top to be realistic. I also keep finding myself thinking it was set in the sixties or seventies rather than being contemporary--something about it just seemed like it belonged to a slightly less ironic era. I think the over-the-top stuff was supposed to be funny, but it just seemed false. Anyway, Gemma's sister is getting married and is hysterical about making the perfect wedding, she's shy enough that when she has to talk in front of a group she throws up but she will still turn out to audition for a play when a boy she's interested in suggests it to her, but there's a boy from a "bad family" in the wrong part of town who is auditioning, too, and he wants her to practice with him (boy, these auditions go on a hell of a long time). Let's just say this didn't work for me, and I can shut up about it.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Tried to write at Karen's and my usual Thursday afternoon time, but couldn't get my head around it, even after I had a brief nap. Frustrating. But that evening when I had a shower I quickly sorted through the obvious options for forward motion and I think I figured out where it's going. Touch wood.

Then for our usual Saturday session my cold struck, putting my brain on pause.

Dammit.

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Retrospective: old journal

June 23, 1994
Orkney → Inverness

Jim's Journal

Used by permission; Neile failed to write anything about the rest of this trip.

AM--on ferry
PM--on train

Jens left us on train at Culrain. He was going over the Skye. This night he was staying at youth hostel in castle.

Got to Inverness at 3:30. Checked into hotel. Looked around town. Two record stores pretty useless. The one bookstore James Thin didn't have much selection.

Had high tea at hotel.

Tired, in bed by 8:30.

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