Les Semaines

February 8, 2009

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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Twenty-Five Confessions

  1. I've been tagged for that 25 Things meme so many times I have a bruise.
  2. 25 seems like a whole lot to me, a hell of a whole of a lot.
  3. Thinking about these 25 Things (whatever they might be) I just ignored my cat long enough that she had to jump onto my shoulder. Good thing I am wearing a loose jacket and we clip her claws, that's all I can say. She did this because having me rub her face is not optional. I frequently remark that it's a wonder she has any fur left on her head. She must spend a lot of her boundless energy growing more. Okay, this isn't really about me.
  4. Much of the time I feel incredibly lucky about my life. I also feel that we create our own luck, but only after a certain point. I'm well aware there are people born into situations where they have no resources to make luck out of.
  5. Other times I feel put-upon.
  6. I'm more of an extreme introvert than anyone would think. Sometimes I feel agoraphobic.
  7. I'm a pantheist, and yes that means I think that things like rocks are alive. I pray, but not to God.
  8. I'm also a Romantic.
  9. These things may not be news to anyone. They sometimes embarrass me, though. Sometimes I want to be tough and cynical-and sometimes I am--but secretly I think I'm happier than most cynics and that's okay with me. I also secretly think cynicism is easy and boring. Attitude gets old. I confess that much of my recent poetry is wry, though.
  10. I used to be an incredible literary snob. I still am, a little.
  11. I still am embarrassed by the art on most spec fic. I hate carrying it around and having it in my house.
  12. I am drawn to intensity: in friends, in music, in fiction.
  13. Unfortunately, I have learned to my dismay that intensity in people often correlates to the kind of craziness that includes being abusive to friends--I learnt that lesson the hard way, and have had to extricate myself from several friendships because of it. They haunt me.
  14. People think that because I have a lot of books and CDs that I have broad tastes. I don't. My tastes are quite narrow, but I like to say deep. That's an excuse.
  15. Listening to music I don't like makes me feel angry, or sometimes sick. That's why I can't listen to music radio or anthologies. I don't understand how other people can. It's hard for me to visit some people and places because of the music they play. Sometimes I can screen it out; sometimes I can't.
  16. I also don't understand how people can read things they don't like. It upsets me. So when someone tells me it's good to read out of your comfort zone, I get sad because it makes me too crazy to do it.
  17. This makes me a narrow person. I probably have some choice about this, but I don't feel like I do.
  18. I am addicted to reading. I was the kind of kid who read the cereal box in front of me. The internet is a terrible thing for a person like me.
  19. I have a horrible memory. I have lost many little chunks of my life.
  20. I hate routine things, like showering, because there's so much involved in it: washing, shaving, moisturizing, cleaning the shower. I wish I could go through an automatic shower that would do it for me. That's probably why I can't be bothered with make-up.
  21. I never feel like I belong to any group--I always feel peripheral in any gathering. I've begun to suspect this might be intentional. It's certainly inveterate.
  22. This extends to nationality, too. I'm not an American, but I've been out of Canada for so long I'm no longer really Canadian, either. I haven't voted since 1988. Or was it 1987. When we lived in London, Ontario. That was the last time I could.
  23. I used to use the word "inveterate" to test dictionaries, because the first time I came across it in T.S. Eliot the first dictionary I looked in didn't have it. I haven't found another that didn't though.
  24. I will spend way more money than I should on books and music, but I do everything I can to squeeze out the last drop of toothpaste.
  25. Wow, 25. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Because I am lazy,I thought it would be a lot harder than it was.

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

Listening

New music, new music! I actually got a lot of new music recently. Sophie Hunger (check our her MySpace page) is a terrific bluesy contemporary folk singer from Switzerland.

I had stopped checking about local artist JR, and missed her terrific 2003 release, AfriQueen Stare. She's got such a gorgeous voice and writes great contemporary folk. I don' know how she slipped off my radar. I love AfriQueen Stare. You can find samples here.

I got totally hooked by the samples Hazel Mills has on her myspace page. The songs there are the best ones onf her Butterly ep, or maybe I'm just not listening well to the new ones.

Ea Philipp's Fierne Himle is amazing, too, but very hard to describe. Find samples here. Dreamy, but also powerful. From Denmark. Oh, and MySpace here.

I have also joined a new (to me) music trading site as lala.com seems no longer interested in trading. Look out world. Check out Music Boomerang.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Elizabeth C. Bunce's young adult fantasy novel, A Curse as Dark as Gold is obviously based on the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale, but unlike most fairy-tale-based stories is very much reimagined. In this version of the tale Charlotte and her sister Rosie have inherited a failing textile mill from their father, and need to make a go of it, not only because it's their only inheritance but also because so many in their village rely on it for their living. She also wants to keep the mill from the hands of the industrial who wants to buy it, especially after she sees what his mill does to the countryside around it and to the people who work there. But things tend go awry at the mill and always have, and all of Charlotte's efforts don't seem to be able to improve things. I really loved this. My only quibble is how easily some things could have been improved with a little communication and it seemed unnecessary to make Charlotte so stubbornly withholding useful information. There are other ways to keep the story on the edge without making your readers annoyed with your main and usually wonderful character.

Carrie Jones' young adult fantasy Need is about Zara, a girl who collects phobias. Her beloved stepfather has just died and she's despondent, so her mother sends her to visit her grandmother in Maine to recover. This is a good story and Zara a tougher and more interesting heroine, but the Twilight coincidences stood out like little speedbumps: how people react to the new girl at school, the can't-touch-you thing with boy she really falls for, the supernatural creatures that populate the novel in opposition to each other. Here it's not vampires, but there's only a nominal difference. I felt like this was an inventive story unfortunately haunted by just a few too many parallels, coincidental though they might be. I couldn't help but worry that they weren't coincidental. I wish someone had help the author edit these out--though maybe it was all intentional to hook the Twilight readers. I don't know. I think it's unfortunate.

Suzanne Collins' young adult science fiction novel, The Hunger Games is just as good as the reviews would lead you to believe. The post-global-warming world is in rough shape. The U.S. has become small colonies utterly subservient (and soundly defeated in a previous war) to a central administration. To remind the colonies how much power the administration has, they annually choose a boy and a girl from each of the colonies by lottery to fight to the death in a "survivor"-type reality show that the entire population must watch. When her beloved younger sister is chosen by the lottery, Katniss, a young woman who feeds her family by illegal hunting, volunteers to go to the games. Fascinatingly readable, even though from the descriptions I read I doubted I'd like it, I really did. It's well-told, with good characters and emotional as well as physical conflict.

Kate Morton's historical novel, The House at Riverton is a family drama and a downstairs-watching-upstairs drama. It's a series of a family's decline from the First World War to the twenties as viewed through the eyes of a maid, now elderly, recalling the tragic events. The maid, Grace, is a terrific character. We learn that she's gone on to get her Ph.D. and have an interesting career as an archaeologist and a troubled family herself. When a movie is being made of part of the upstairs family's history--a tragic death--Grace is shown the set and meets the director and actors, all of which sparks a series of taped reminiscences to her grandson who is grieving his own loss. It's a tangle of personalities and events just like a real life. In many senses I wish this had been all about Grace.

Judy Blundell's young adult novel, What I Saw and How I Lied, is set just after World War II. Evie's stepfather, recently back from the war, takes Evie and her stepmother on a trip down to Florida. They've been living with his mother and it has been difficult for all of them, but the situation they fall into in Florida is worse, much worse. An attractive stranger has been following him. And Evie falls for him--hard. An interesting story, but there were parts of it I just couldn't believe.

Wow. Toni Morrison's A Mercy is one of those novels that works like a poem. There's a narrative which keeps the story moving, but that's not the point. The point is exploring this world, these characters, and how they speak. And such a powerful ending. Books don't come much better than this. Highly recommended.

I also really enjoyed Nancy Werlin's young adult fantasy novel, Impossible. It's based on the Scarborough Fair ballad, and you know I love that. Hell, that's what I'm writing myself. In this, Lucy live with a foster family because right after her teenage mother gave birth to her, she went crazy. All she left Lucy was her foster family and the ballad, but the words strangely altered. What Lucy doesn't remember is that her mother also left her the key to the horrible curse placed on all the women of her family for generations: unless they can break the curse--and none of them have ever managed to--they will live in thrall to an elf knight for eighteen years until their daughters takes their place. Lucy has little time to save herself and she doesn't even know it.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Carving the slim, beautiful novel out of the hulk of the novel is painstaking work. I want to do it right. It's really, really difficult. A slice here, a nick there, a chunk there--oh no, did I cut it the flesh of it? Is it bleeding? Argh. I spend a lot of time just looking at it from every angle.

I also sent out four batches of poems. I need to be better about keeping them out in the mail until they find homes. I've been very bad in recent years. It's just hard to find time to do it. Of course, sending them out means tweaking.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

February 16, 1996

Tieresias, so full of knowing
"That the beefy men know less than he" XLVII
He who would delights in signs
surprised Athena in a bath blinded him
but gave inward sight as compensation
daughter Mante prophetic (warns Theban
women of Niobe's dangerous comments about Leto)
--Narcissus first prophecy
Mount Cylene, struck saw serpent mating
they attacked, he killed female w/ his staff
turned into a woman and became a celebrated harlot;
7 years later same slight same place
regained manhood by killing male snake
OR if parts of love-pleasure be counted as 10
thrice 3 parts go to women, 1 only to man

Time is the evil, beloved
Hast then found a nest softer than [curves ?]
the stars are not in her counting,
   To her they are but wandering holes
Teiresias, blind and dull as prophecy
Having spied on Athena's bath thus blinded
or else blinded by Hera, Athena or Zeus
gave him sight. Either by spying
on snakes and killing one became
a woman, if he slighted Aphrodite
he's an old woman, if the snakes he
becomes a famed harlot and so either
he deserves blindness or sight
Teiresias, even the beefy men know less
than you. Hera knows more, Athena does,
Aphrodite, well, who knows what she knows.
Teiresias delights in signs but reads
them wrong, keeps telling people to sacrifice
themselves, what does he know.
Did he have breasts and how did he use
them a famous harlot of seven years
else an old woman awarded beautiful
hair. Teiresias knew nothing, less
than Actaeon and his hounds, less than
Zeus, showering gold or waxing bovine or
the shuddering of his wings. Teiresias
either knows nothing of passion
or for 7 years closed his yes for for
the rest of his life his blindness was
willful, advice foolish Odysseus
stupider than fear to believe him
Tieresias like an old shoe, empty
and flapping his sullen mouth, his empty hollow breasts.

Notes toward the poem that became "Consider Tieresias" in Litrag and later in Blood Memory.

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