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Les Semaines

99.01.03

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Beginning The New Year

Well, it's the new year, and time for all kinds of reassessments. And it's a new year when I've recently turned 40, so I've been thinking a lot about whether I should feel anything in particular about that (so far, no, I think). But all this meta-thinking and reading too many web journals recently has made me want to try it myself.

I know I'm not up for daily entries, so I thought I'd try a journal that I could build the entry for a week (or--insert wry expression of choice--more likely write once a week). We'll see--right now I'm just going to see if I can work up the basics of this enough to pull it off--it will be a while before I upload all this and tell anyone about it. I guess if you're reading this I passed that hurdle.

I just finished reading Michael Cunningham's The Hours and the level of detailed awareness of the process of emotional thought in it (just as in its predecessor, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway) made me aware of my own thought processes. Thinking about what you're thinking and feeling. It seems for a while I haven't been making this process real enough for myself (I have no memory--if I don't write things down they're often lost for me--maybe I'm a writer because I want to hold on to something of myself). Well, whatever, I'm starting this.

And the idea of including my journal from the past struck me. Typing it in, I was struck by how much my life is still the same. Much of my day is eaten by my day job just in the same way my day then was eaten by school. I have some wonderful moments with other people (much of my job is academic counselling, and it's the part I like best), but a lot is sitting glued to my computer doing "paperwork" and projects, some is bookkeeping which is still not my forté, and about six months ago I started a regular exercise program (the equivalent of high school P.E.) which I'm grateful that I'm still enjoying and able to stick with. Well, those are the charmingly superficial comparisons, at least.

I'm a little surprised that even 24 years ago I wanted writing to be my life, and that it would be one of the first things I would say about myself. It's still an avocation, though, and I don't even teach it much (though I will be teaching an online poetry workshop). After teaching college composition for two years I decided that it took too much out of the same energy I use for writing for teaching to be what I wanted to do for a living. Besides, my first friend to get a teaching job had *five* sections of comp to start with. Shudder. Death would be better. Office work would be better. Office work where I can still work with students and deal with intellectual issues and writing and editing would be even better. Hence my day job.

It's interesting that I mention stories since for many years (from university until just a few years ago) I concentrated on writing poetry, and fiction was something I merely dabbled in. Now I'm thinking about it seriously again.

Also like then, I still feel my possessions in some way define me. I wouldn't say that I am particularly materialistic, but I am a packrat when it comes to books and music I love. I have no hesitation getting rid of things I will never use/listen to/read again, though, and I don't have any particular need for the Bright & New. I guess an example is that the receiver for our stereo and our speakers all predate graduate school. That was a long time ago.

Now I have a house (shared with my husband, of course) rather than a room in my parents' basement, but what I keep in my space describes who I am and tells things about my values and my life. The thousands of books, of course. The fact that much of our art work consists of old prints, most of which are maps of places in Scotland and Wales that I love. And our rather battered genteel furniture, solid but well-used, like the Oriental rug I inherited from my grandmother, the cat-scratched loveseats (and the two cats themselves, purely decorational of course, especially now that they're old), the ratty pink shell chair that I rescued from an acquaintance's garage.

Funny that I also thought then that my music collection defined me. I listen to music almost constantly when I'm home, and have been on many email music lists since I first got online in '91-'92. Now one of my biggest projects (that I hope doesn't suffer too much from this journal project) is The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music, a collection of music reviews, compiled from entries on the ecto mailing list. I always thought that my obsession with music was of a more recent vintage, but obviously not. Well--the things you learn about yourself. This is an exercise in memory, as well. Thought and memory, the names of two ravens in some mythology I read quoted in a novel recently. Charles de Lint's Someplace to Be Flying perhaps?

next week's thinking and doing

Listening

This week I spent a long time compiling my list of favourite discs of 1998, which made me think about a lot of what I'd listened to over the year. And then yesterday and today Jim and I have been going through the jumble of cassette tapes, sorting through what we might want to get rid of, and preparing them for cataloging (yes, we're that anal). Now I have a huge stack, about 5 rows across and 23 cassettes high) to listen to see if I want to keep them.

This possession of music is a strange thing. It matters to me to actually own the music I love--which is so odd, considering that only 100 years ago this wasn't at all possible. The radio in my head is fairly good, though it rarely can carry me through whole songs. Still, I hear a lot in there. But I'd rather hear the music itself.

Right now we're listening to a rather moldie oldie--my parents first owned this one on 8-track tape: Paul McCartney's Ram. This isn't indicative of what I usually listen to at all, but I am having a really good time listening as I type. I think Ram is the only McCartney I could stand to listen to now, though at one time I owned Band On The Run.

Ah, now Penelope Houston's new one, tongue (a dear friend gave us this as it's not available in the U.S. yet). Great fun--full of sardonic lines like "I'm sitting smiling thinking of your tongue" and "you're the scum of the earth". Penelope Houston used to be with the punk group, The Avengers, then started a band doing folk/rock though I think I'd drop the "folk" part when describing tongue.

next week's listening

Reading

As mentioned above, I finished Michael Cunningham's The Hours today, and it did make me think much about the process of living through thought, living aware of living.

Not sure what I might start next--I have piles and piles of books to read, mostly fantasy novels, since that's one of the writing projects I'm working on.

next week's reading

Writing

Other the last mumblety years I've been accumulating a wad of poems that for a long time I thought was two different projects. Then three. I couldn't work on three effectively. Then I thought it might all be one. Or not. In any case, a friend volunteered to take a look at the poems and see if she could make anything of them. I was delighted that she was willing, and happily turned them all over to her, sending them filed alphabetically by title.

I got email from her a couple of days ago saying she's ready to send them back to me, and she has arranged them into a manuscript of her devising. I am waiting for their return with a little trepidation, I must confess. It was freeing to have them elsewhere, out of my hands.

I have been grouping some of the poems into chapbooks, thinking about trying some of the chapbook contests. We'll see about that.

I am also planning to sink back into a novel that I have had on and off the back burner since I wrote 2/3rds of the first draft in the summer of 1993. I'm disgusted that it's been unfinished that long but maybe now I'm ready to finish it. In the shower this morning I even had a revelation about part of the novel's world that I hope I will remember when I'm back working on it. In fact, I think I'd better write myself a note about it now.

Another plan (I hate to say resolution) is to get back into the habit of keeping my work in the mail. For many years I always had a few batches of poems out in the mail, though for the last couple of years I've only sent out two or three a year. I've been slow about sending the stories out, too. Mostly because I've been slow about finishing them. Right now I only have one story out, and nothing else, and expect that back fairly shortly as the editor of the magazine I sent it to is doing a blitz on her slush pile.

The good news is that I am cutting back my work hours by 5 hours a week, which means I actually gain 10 because I won't be taking a lunch break anymore. We'll see what effect that actually has on my productivity. I live in hope, though.

next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

Fall 1974

1. The locker

Neile circa 1974 The locker has nothing except for a few books. And an empty notebook. It stands between many other lockers, but it is different. It is my locker, outside my homeroom. It is also close to my writing class, even though it is a long way from my French class. And that's what this is all about. Class. Writing class. French class. Fooled, yuh, huh? Well maybe not.

2. P.E. is a drag

I hate P.E. Jog around the track. Twice. Three times. Now sprint. A "sure, teach," and I jiggle around once (this is a confession--please do not disclose.) The teacher's nice but she makes us play grasshockey. We also play soccer and tennis, and volleyball once. Je suis trés sportif. That's French. That means "i'm good at sports." Wanna take a guess at the truth?

3. French is next

I sit there between two guys (boys?) and i laugh a lot. (What are you going to do when you grow up?) I'm not all that great at French. I always forget (honestly!!) to do my homework. I couldn't do it even if i tried, but i'm a good bluffer. Pick a question (an easy one) and answer it. Volunteer to tell her anything you know. Even if it's not right, she thinks you're Enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is the name of the game.

4. Writing

Writing is where it's at for me. It's going to be my life even if i only teach it (those who can't do, teach). The teacher, well i can't say much about him, 'cause he might read this; contrary to that idiom(?) he can write poetry. Yessir!
    Hey Gerry, you who can do everything write poetry, too. How dare you? Gerry's a friend. More later.

5. Math now

How awful. An hour of super-drag, super work, and super(?) teaching. Ugh, team teaching bore teaching. Fifty-four people and all of them yelling at the same time, myself included (why not?). I hate that class
    P.S. I didn't do my homework.

6. Home at last

Oh boy. Nap-time. Read a book. Make a poster. Phone a friend. Friend(?) I wanna go home (right, kid!) My mommy's there, and i want her (sure, kid). Let me out of here, let me hide in my room, surrounded by the things that make me. Are me! Sometimes i think they're me and i'm not. Hah! Home, where my parents roam. Sister's gone and got married. Lost forever! Or maybe found. Who knows (me, me!)

7. Me® (oh know [no?])

I'm just me, and a few posters on my wall. And a record collection. Maybe a story and a poem or two. And a double block of math on Fridays--P.E. on Mondays. Maybe the shadow of a little kid early in the mornings. Who am i? I don't know--i'm too busy being me. What else can i do?

8. Forgive me, Kurt Baby

Forgive me, Kurt baby (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.1), I stole your style. Maybe you stole it from somebody else, but i'm stealing it from you. Only so far i haven't said anything, and even when you didn't say anything you said something. Maybe i don't make sense, but baby you don't either.

9. Mother's Musings

[Written by my mother in fading pencil so I could erase it if I wanted to.] I know you can write and write well but you really surprise me at times. Being a mother, good lousy indifferent is hard. You try to know and understand your children, loving goes without saying and yet we all need to know we are loved.

10. One chapter for story--insertable anywhere

I have said enough--more than enough. Too many words, meaningful, and foolish, ending now. There is nothing more to say. I am sixteen, and God help me when i die2 (who else?)


NOTES

1. I had just discovered Vonnegut's wicked sense of humour, and read nearly everything I could find at the time. I haven't read Vonnegut since high school, though.

2. This is a reference to a cautionary publication popular at the time, I am Sixteen and I Don't Want to Die. I don't recall now what it's about. Being hit by a drunk driver?

next week's Phonosnout

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