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Les Semaines

99.06.06

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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Enter a World

Between my recent reading and thinking about my own writing projects, I've been pondering about what it takes to get a reader to enter into the emotional world of a story and how important it is that a piece of writing has an emotional world. Not that it needs to be entirely consistent and unchanging throughout the piece (especially a novel!) but the emotional life needs to go beyond the superficial, so without thinking about it the reader is pulled into the character's lives and their choices seem to have cost and weight.

This is part of the magic that a book needs to have for me. And of course it's very hard to analyze magic--that alchemy of a book that turns it into a world the reader lives in and want to experience as fully as possible, rather than just turning pages to see how things come out. Or worse, not reading it at all.

It is mostly to do with the characters, but also to do with the world and milieu of the characters, and it also strikes me that a lot of it has to do with the author's attitude to the characters. I've read a lot of contemporary fiction where it's clear that the author thinks the characters are jerks and schmucks, or moves the characters as woodenly through events as puppets, and if the author doesn't seems to have much sympathy for the characters, how can the reader?

There are some authors I dislike because of this quality, this lack of sympathy for their own creations, or a clear sense of their own superiority to their characters. The author's detachment or own involvement from the emotional world of the novel always seems apparent to me, whether I'm projecting it or not.

When I come across an author who seems fond of her characters, well, I tend to become fond of them as well. It's a delight to find that quality, and it does pull me in. Right in. And makes me think fondly of the book afterwards.

It has its own magic.

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

Listening

I've been listening to Penelope Houston while putting together her entry for The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music. Damn, she's great--great lyrics and musicianship and she's can write tough and sweet both, sometimes in the same song. She does a highly individual kind of folkrock, and does it with the same kind of drive that she used to bring to the punk group, The Avengers.

I've also been listening to Willow's far more folky music. Her album is growing on me by leaps and bounds, and I'm appreciating her voice and songwriting skills more and more.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

On a Candace Robb binge, as a friend loaned me three of her mysteries set in Medieval York. I read two earlier (mentioned in my April 18th and April 25th entries. These next three were an interesting blend of historical events with a fictional murder, and I love the details of the medieval world included in the novels. However, I like them more for these things than for being an utterly delightful reading experience. I get impatient with them as they're so similar I get to the point where I just want to find out what the mystery is and move on.

In contrast, reading Robin McKinley's Rose Daughter for the second time was an utterly delightful reading experience. Robin McKinley writes so beautifully and has such a wonderful touch with characters and worlds and magic that I get totally absorbed in her books and at the end I'm left wanting to read them again. And charmed by her talent. I find reading her inspiring.

I also read Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain, which people have been suggesting I read for a long time. Someone even once said that a story of mine reminded me of this one. I wish I could remember which one, but now that I think about it, it might be that the poetry machine I invented for "Ars Poetica" is like the art machine to inspire lucid dreaming that one of the characters invents here. That must be it. Anyway, I found this an enjoyable read. The concept is that genetic modifications move forward, and people are able to choose all kinds of enhancements for their children--including not needing to sleep, which has all kinds of consequences for the offspring--they live longer and are smarter than the rest of humanity and gradually form a kind of superrace.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

More thinking about writing than writing this week. But that's still working, right?

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

February 1976

front of card from The Mustard Seed

216. Sounds from Outside (at Seed1)

There are sounds outside, from the street. People waking past, the occasional drunk shuffles by (this early in the evening? Guess so). Cars going by, blowing an occasional horn. Saturday night sounds, they're all right. I don't mind being alone, but i would if i were deaf (or blind). The songs of the street are mine.2 Some one just banged on the door. My heart leaped. Sounds strange, but it did.

217. A little later (still at Seed)

It's a little later, and Karen, Marijke, and Paul3 are down. Actually Karen and Paul just went for a walk, and Marijke (better known as Mike) is playing Fish with some kids. We had a game of Hearts before, and guess who lost. Oh well, i never was great at cards. Whatever. Let's have a fight! F'rout--only said for lack of anything else.Back of card from The Mustard Seed

218. Much later at Seed

Wow, am i never tired, i think i'm about to drop off right now.... Goodnight. Sort of, i'm still awake, I don't feel relaxed enough to sleep. Wary i guess, don't know why... wow am i ever babbling, what a drag. I have a feeling like this [quote from Elton John about "street kids" on the wrong side of things omitted]. So true.

219. Beowulf

Just got driven into the ground with Beowulf. F'rout, but what? Beowulf, where, who and what are you? I've got to find out. Again--so little time and so much to do. I should talk about tonight (play) and last night (concert)4 but it doesn't look like I'm going to.

220. On being an Anglo-Saxon5

All right I guess but I'd rather be a seagull. Life is good but this semester is lousy. The week drags by--maybe next week but things are looking up. Nancy--I forgot about your concert, hope it was good? Life would be a lot less complicated if you were an Anglo-Saxon, even less so if you were a seagull.
I think I'll got to the beach after school.
I think this book holds my sanity together.

221. I agree

I think i'd rather be a seagull, too, but it's really not my style. I think i want to be an aardwolf, but the diet could get a little sickening after a while--larvae--yuck! They also eat carrion, but who likes raw gazelle? Not I! Oh well, i'd still like to be an aardwolf. Life is good, okay semester.

222. Mark is at one with the world

I am one at peace in the world, and you can ask me why I am feeling so good! (I get two spares this semester). Janine was right bout Anglo saxons, but I'd rather be an eagle. Just to be free is my pursuit in life. Free as I can be within bounds. Also about prejudices, I'm am not prejudiced; I hate everyone equally. And yes your sanity may be saved through this book, that is if you are not illiterate!

223. Shaun defining sanity

Sanity is defined as being at one with the world. I am feeling sane. I would rather not be an aardwolf because I detest carrion and larvae. I'd prefer to be a rasampus. They are the fiercest animals in the jungle. Then, for sure, I would be at peace with the world!! Life is swell! Should be a good semester. P.S. The ultimate dream of an aardwolf is to become as rasampus.

224. On Sanity by Laura

I hope this book never falls into any water for Janine's sake. It's one thing to lose your sanity and another to get water on the brain (like water on the knee but more painful). To Mark--if you were illiterate you wouldn't have your sanity here in the first place (or at least I hope not). And to tie in seagulls, sanity, and Shaun (s, s, & S) I'd rather be at one with the sky, there's fewer rocks.

225. On Holding My Sanity Together Once Again, by Janine

Everyone is nuts! including me but life is more fun. I think I'll start a book because Nancy's is running out. It is 3 o'clock and alls' well. At 3:15 I turn into a seagull--my wish has come true. One more wish to go but I'm working on it. It's all in the smile, I'm told. One more day down in this trial called life. People need to learn to love in order to understand and enjoy life. Suddenly everything seems worthwhile.


NOTES

1. The Mustard Seed, the teen drop-in centre where I volunteered.

2. Paraphrase of Leonard Cohen's "The stories of the street are mine..."

3. Ah, the first mention of Paul, who will figure greatly in the next years, especially the next few months, of my life.

4. I wish I remembered what concert this was.

5. By Janine.

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