Les Semaines

April 5, 2009

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

 §

And Taxes

My father-in-law is dying.

On Monday, Jim phoned to talk with him about his upcoming visit, booked for this Saturday. He was awake and aware and looking forward to the visit. Just a few hours later, Jim's sister phoned to say that he'd taken a sudden and drastic turn for the worst. Now, several days later, it's clear that he had a massive stroke which set up continuing seizures. He hasn't regained consciousness and the seizures only stop under powerful medication. So it's clear that it's only a matter of days now.

Jim left as scheduled and has visited him in hospital, but what was supposed to be a visit has become a vigil.

I'm sad, because I held him in a lot of affection, but the worst is watching Jim's and Devin's grief.

I didn't go with him--I wasn't scheduled to, and Devin flew over to be with her Dad, Jim's brother, and Mark and his son are also there. I feel as though in some ways I should have gone to be there for Jim, but he has them and his other siblings. I will go there for the memorial, whenever that is.

Meanwhile the weather has turned gorgeous and I'm inside doing taxes which makes my brain hurt. I want to have them done and ready as quickly as I can in case we schedule a trip back to North Carolina quickly. I put them off as long as I can each year because the combination of the Canadian and U.S. ones with my writing income is so complicated. I don't use a tax program because of that. Or I could use one for the U.S. ones, but I wouldn't know where to start with the Canadian ones. So each year I do them by hand and break my brains.

In some ways right now it's a great distraction.

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Listening

I've been reading a terrific music blog that was mentioned on the ecto music list, Wears The Trousers. It's from the U.K. and focuses on female artists. I try to give the artists they mention a listen and have already found several that interest me. It's a goldmine.

This week they reviewed tUnE-YaRdS's album BiRdBrAiNs (alas, download or vinyl only). A day or so later, Pitchfork reviewed it, too. I agree with their comments, but given that why so low a rating? I love this! Samples at MySpace. I particularly recommend "Little Tiger" (I've been particularly obsessins on that track, "Sunlight," and "Lions,"but I love the whole album.

It's wonderfully off-kilter and beautiful. Carefully constructed but allowing for all kinds of messy delightful touches. Her vocoals range from brash to ethereal. Impressive. It has been a while since an album insisted I replay it the way this one does.

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Reading

Alison Goodman's young adult fantasy Eon: Dragoneye Reborn is about a young girl who is her master's last hope to rgain his lost fortune and stature. He banks everything on disguising her as a boy and training her in hopes she will be chosen as a dragoneye. She is, but not as he thought--she is chosen by the 12th Dragon, the Dragon Dragon, who has not chosen a dragoneye in many centuries. Now everything is at stake for all of them. Set is an strongly Chinese-style setting (though there are many original touches and some points from other cultures) the book plays with a lot of old tropes but makes them fresh and Eon is a strong character. Utterly enjoyable, and I look forward to the sequels.

Charles de Lint's new fantasy novel The Mystery of Grace is a lovely, magic ghost story. Customizing hot rods is both Grace's job and her passion in life. She has a small social circle, but doesn't fall in love until just too late (telling more would be a spoiler). This is a delightful novel with all of the graces of de Lint's work: characters worth caring about, explorations into the deeper mysteries of love, life, and lore, setting that feel real, and the guiding ethos of a smart and humane writer.

Okay, I have to admit I don't get the appeal of zombies. Their gruesomeness doesn't intrigue me and they seem more icky than horrifying. Truly, I don't care much for vampires or werewolves either, though I have been beguiled by stories about them. That said, Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth is set in an interesting post-apocalyptic scenario, where a zombie plague has changed the world. I don't understand how the zombies have managed to sustain their numbers over the course of many generations especially as they're prone to falling apart, but whatever. This is really the story of Mary, a rebellious girl whose father has disappeared, and whose mother has just gone to find him and now she's certainly one of the shambling horde of deteriorating bodies outside the fence that surrounds the village--the horde whose sole desire is to either devour the villagers or add them to their number. Amidst this disaster, the boy Mary loves has asked to marry her best friend while his brother is offering to marry her, and her only other option is to live with the pious Sisterhood who help guard the village but keep many mysteries. This is kind of an up and down read. It gets bogged down in places and ends in a terribly unsatisfying way that makes me assume this is the first of a series, but there are no other indications that it is. I'm left feeling ambivalent about recommending it.

Naomi Rich's non-specifically historic novel, Alis, is set in a strict religious farming community. When her parents arrange a marriage with their forty-year-old preacher, Alis arranges a visit to another village in the community that is even stricter than her own. When she gets in trouble there, she has nowhere to go but to the city, where through happenstance she finds her brother who is making his way on the streets leading a gang of thieves, prostitutes, and thugs. Unable to bear this for long, she goes home where the consequences of the previous events and her actions follow her. An interesting read.

Joan Aiken's sequel to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Eliza's Daughter would be a far better book if she had not made the connection. I simply didn't believe her assessment of the evolution of Austen's characters, though I did like Aiken's own characters pretty well, and found Eliza's story quite entertaining. She's brought up in a household of children who are the cast-offs of the upper class. Some of her household are later educated, some are taken back into their families; Eliza herself gets sent to a girl's school where she later becomes a teacher. Gradually she finds out the story of her mother and why Colonel Brandon paid her foster mother and for her schooling, and she's determined to learn more. She's a charming character, and I enjoyed her view of the world.

Lionel Shriver's novel We Need to Talk About Kevin is a series of letters written by the mother of a boy who has commited a school massacre. She's writing to her husband, his father, to explain their relationship, her relationship with her son, what she's knows about her son and their lives together, and what has happened to both her and her son since the horrific events. It's unflinching, wonderfully detailed and written. Not what I should have been reading now, but very well done, and very impressive.

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Writing

Trying to focus on getting things done.

Did get two acceptances this week, for a total of three poems. Hooray!

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Retrospective: old journal

Saturday, June 7, 1997

Written on the Victoria Clipper [1]

Had a lovely time with Jim before the sailing. Walked along the Pier. And last night he helped me with the story, the cats behind us sleeping on the daybed.

Sitting out on the pier he challenged me to write about the witches' stone in Forres. And that made me think about the scold's bridle at the museum. Maybe I will. [2]

I hope, on this trip [3], to work on my Scottish poems, maybe add to them, certainly in note form if nothing else, and to get more background for the band's travel in Scotland in Gypsy Davey [4].

Notes
1. Leaving Seattle for Victoria to meet up with my parents.
2. Not so far.
3. To Scotland, many many thanks to the Canada Council. Jim declined to go, but my parents were willing to keep me company on my travels.
4. Yes, the same novel I am currently trying to cut by a third. I guess I did a little too much research. I also don't know which story I refer to earlier.

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