Les Semaines

Monday, January 19, 2009

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

 §

Belated

Wow, wasn't last Tuesday amazing? I doubt the world has ever been more grateful for the start of a new leader's era since the end of the Second World War. They kindly set up a place to watch it all at work, and I stayed to almost the end. Got to hear Aretha, which was lovely, and of course I couldn't resist singing along for a bit with the real words, which are "God Save The Queen."

Listened to the poem, which despite all the online quibbling I thought was quite good for the time and place (though I don't envy her having to read after Obama).

Obama's speech was everything I could have wished for, including a quiet repudiation of Bush's tenure and a call to the nation. I was quite emotional about it, but I had to leave during the national anthem, because I'm Canadian after all.

Though Obama is pretty centrist, I still think he's farther left than the current Canadian Prime Minister. This might be a first.

And some of the hopes are already coming true. He's not resting on his laurels. If only he could do something about the deep uneasiness so many are dealing with with the economy. Most people have taken some kinds of hits, from actually being laid off to the whole range of smaller hits. The evidence is everywhere of cuts and threats of greater cuts and the threat of the death of a million cuts.

In the meantime we've had a few gorgeous sunny days breaking into the January grayness, bright sharp January light.

And a touch of snow.

I feel like I should have more profound things to say on all levels, from the political to the personal, but really I'm watching things from A - Z, trying to get the Real Work and the surreal work done. Trying to make sense of things as I always do, trying to keep up, trying not to get lost, trying to accomplish something, trying to keep my head about water, trying to keep the pulses racing. Trying not to run out of meaningful words.

I also added a few picture to my January 4th entry.

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

Listening

I've been obsessing with two artists entirely new to me: Sophie Hunger and Hazel Mills. While neither make a blazingly new sound, their seem to me pretty interesting takes (respectively) on what folk and pop are doing now. I'm buying some music by them both.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Richelle Mead's Shadow Kiss is the next installment in her young adult Vampire Academy series. In this one, the ghost of a dead friend is trying to tell Rose something, but she doesn't understand and tries to dismiss it--she's got plenty to think about without that between school and life's demands. Telling more would spoil the novel and/or previous ones, but this is interesting fun.

Ellen Klages' children's novel White Sands, Red Menace follows The Green Glass Sea, with Dewey and Suze growing up in a new small town in New Mexico, right at the very beginning of the U.S. rocket program. The focus is on the girl's emotional life here as they make new friends and navigate their way in a post-war world. Intriguing look at a time that is rarely shown.

I really like Holly Phillips' short stories and appreciate it that she's a writer who doesn't spell everything out. Heck I read a lot of poetry, so I'm used to reading nuance to fill in gaps. However, in her second fantasy novel, The Engine's Child, I seem to have kept reading the nuances wrong, and feeling in a cloud even when I read things more than once. There were enough wonderful things in the novel (the world, the main character) that I kept reading and about halfway through the book the opacity stopped bothering me (I suppose through acculumlation things gradually became clearer) so then with only a minor speedbump I raced through to the end and enjoyed the book overall. But boy, I really wish the beginning part hadn't been quite so opaque. I know that a lot of the story here is about the characters not understanding the whole picture themselves, but I got lost. The writing is beautiful and I enjoy that, but when it makes the reader look so closely at details that they obscure the big picture, well, I didn't think I'd finish it. I'm glad I did and now that I have I would be sorry to have missed it, but it was a close call.

I can see why Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader is such a big hit. It has it all: a troubled young heroine with a mystery in her past, a nice guy hero, powerful elder women, a charming magic (reading the future through lace), a cool house, an interesting community and town, a well-described setting (Salem, MA and the islands around it), witches, evil fundamentalists. It's a quick, good read for those interested in novels that contain these sorts of things.

I liked Christopher Barzac's first novel, One For Sorrow, but didn't love it quite as much as so many other readers did. However, I loved his second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing. It's about so many things: the meaning of home and country, death, loneliness, love, loss, all the big things. There's not really a core story or characters, but they're all loosely connected, from the kitsune girl to the suicide group, the ghosts, the guy in the band, etc. A powerful, emotional experience. It reminded me of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten mostly, and a little of his Cloud Atlas. Smart stuff, well handled, but also emotionally resonant.

David Peterson's graphic fantasy novel, Mouse Guard, Fall 1152 is charming. In it four brave, young guards have to stop a plot to take over the centre town of their force. Expressive drawings carry the tale.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I have launched into a drastic cut-or-die-trying revision of Gypsy Davey. Wish me luck. I've cut 3% of what I need to. Hmm. Going a little slowly, no?

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

January 26, 1996

How stuff + life + life + visitors + Christmas take all my energy away from what I'd rather think about. Did get five chapters into Bryony's Needle [1] revision, which thanks to Nina is much much better, but how to make time to finish it and get back to Gypsy Davey?

She had rain that poured from her
   cupped hands,
rain and something that sparkled
   like mica
caught light then turned it away
   so you saw her
then she was long gone, hidden
   into twigs and mud soil

She had feet covered with dust dust on her feet
    hardened w/ travel
through on the rags of her shoes
insert > her toes gnarled and tangled like roots
   but the grace of
   her ankle arcing
like a wing, like Mercury, a messenger
   of travel, blessing, or ruin

She had built a house of the rain
   and soil not much bigger
than the stretch of her fingers
shelter and darkness, twigs stolen
   from nests and hoarded
against the forests and whatever
   lives beyond the firelight
those eyes [2]

Note:

1. Long bottom-drawered first novel. I still figure someday I'll bring it out of the drawer and it will see the light of day.
2. This turned into "Kilmarnock Jeannie" which appears in Blood Memory.

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