Monday, 22 October 2007
After all the waiting and all the angst, I should be ecstatic. When I went to bed last night - actually around three this morning - I had to remind myself to say a prayer, and to mention therein that even though I didn't feel ecstatic, I was extremely thankful that the long awaited event had arrived.
I assume the euphoria will come, maybe when I see my signature on the thing in indelible ink. After all, this is a major benchmark on this road that I've chosen: my first publishing contract. I'm supposed to feel euphoric. The slight letdown that I'm experiencing must be the normal response to having the tension removed, of having overdone the anticipation and overestimated the joy I'd feel. The joy is there, somewhere; I know it is. So why don't I feel it?
Sunday, 21 October 2007
Jim McCulloch, on his blog Stone Bridge, in the post Ken Burns's War which, among other things, takes issue with Burns's estimates of the great numbers of lives that would have been lost if the atomic bombs had not been deployed at the end of World War II.
I've bitched and moaned ad nauseum on this blog about the (to me) interminable wait for the contract for my first novel to arrive. Moments ago I checked mail and found that my agent has forwarded the draft.
It hasn't even registered yet. I've had a strong feeling all week that the time was at hand, but since I've been struggling and floundering around in a state of emotional soup since the offer six months ago, my premonitions probably count for naught.
Now I've got to read it, all seven pages of it, and send the agent my comments. I should receive the signature copies within the week, she says.
I've only just started this novel, just two chapters in, actually, and I'm hooked. I mean, hooked in the gut. This writing is powerful, unsentimental, unflinching. I'd like to write like that, but I'm too squeamish. Apart from the compelling writing, I'm partial to exotic settings. Here's the premise, right off the back cover:
"Set in Emperor Haile Selassie's Ethiopia and the racially charged world of Thatcher's London, Sweetness in the Belly is a richly detailed portrayal of one woman's search for love and belonging. Lilly, born to British parents, eventually finds herself living as a devout, young, white Muslim woman in the ancient walled city of Harar in the years leading up to the deposition of the emperor. She is drawn to an idealistic young doctor, Aziz, but their love has only just begun to fulfil its promise when the convulsions of a new order wrench them apart, sending Lilly to an England she has never seen, and Aziz into the darkness of a radical revolution..."
The novel by Canadian Camilla Gibb is a National Bestseller and Giller Prize finalist.
Saturday, 20 October 2007
So here's Jamie Bamber. He stars as Major Lee "Apollo" Adama on SCI FI Channel's Battlestar Galactica - a show I've never seen, but when I stumbled across this photo I became a fan. No, not of BG. Of Bamber.
Since I put the ClustrMap on the blog two months ago I've been fascinated by the unfolding of the story that it tells. Back then I was averaging about four posts a week, and the map showed fifty to sixty hits a day - which included those racked up by my own compulsive checking of the blog, of course. Then I had problems with my computer, began posting less frequently, and hits dropped to under ten some days.
Overall (of the times that I checked) the highest number of hits in any one day was in the high seventies. The last time I checked the stats was almost a week ago. Tonight I checked again and my eyes bugged: Visits on previous day = 309.
Huh? Wha... When I glanced at the map itself I noticed little red dots in quite a few new locations.
This is an anomaly, I'm sure. Maybe the map - um - malfunctions at times? I'd really like some blog-canny person to explain this inexplicable surge in visits on a particular day. I've done nothing out of the ordinary, haven't visited the blog in six days, and I can't begin to come up with an explanation.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
My mother makes a huge pot of soup every Saturday. My sister drops by around lunchtime and we three eat and hang out until she leaves a few hours later. Around dusk, my mother goes over to my brother's to drop off a smaller pot of the soup for him and family. Yesterday she asked me to go with her because she doesn't like driving alone at night, and it's getting dark much earlier now. I agreed, but told her I would not get out of the car because I wanted to come right back home. That was on account of a slight headache, a book I wanted to finish reading, and my usual hermit-like tendencies.
So off we went, and my brother came to the gate for his pot.
"Who's that in the car?" I hear him asking my mom.
"It's your sister."
"Tell her to come in. We just put some stuff on the grill."
"I'm coming," I shout, almost before the word "grill" is out of his mouth.
Like most impromptu gatherings, it turned out to be great fun. My mother and I left long after midnight, stuffed to the gills with chicken, fish, chips, and the contents of a bottle of Riccadonna Asti Spumante (just a sip for my mother who, apart from having to drive, cannot hold her liquor). We also left with that relaxed, mellow feeling that comes from the sharing of food, drink, talk and laughter with people we love and trust.
So much for my resolve to not get out of the car.
"Our technicians are working on the problem, and we regret this temporary inconvenience. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming..."
Sunday, 7 October 2007
I'm the moon, it seems. I know nothing about tarot, and I don't like the aspersions about my mental health, (hello!) but some of it seems to fit, and other parts I like to believe. I'd rate it 7/10. Here are my results, if anyone wants to kill some time. If you really want to kill it dead, click here and do your own quiz.
Total number of books...
I've been cataloging my books on LibraryThing, and I'm somewhere around 150. There are several boxes that I haven't yet opened, so I'll say 300 is a fair guesstimate.
Last book read...
Letters to a Young Artist by Julia Cameron. A gift from my mother, who thought she was picking up Cameron's The Artist's Way in the store. While I don't think 'young' can truthfully describe me any more, I do have an elderly friend who addresses me as 'young lady'. Letters was worthwhile reading, since it reinforces truths about living the writing life.
Last book bought.....
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.
5 Meaningful books...
I don't want to repeat any of the books I mentioned in the Thursday Thirteen post, so I'll name five other books I found meaningful:
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - I found this book meaningful because of the emphasis on the strength of the individual, the scorn for people who batten off of other people (the 'second-handers'), and for the sheer doggedness of the protagonist Howard Roark who refused to compromise his artistic vision. I also could relate to the architectural themes. My main criticisms are: the rape scene and its premise are repugnant; the characters, especially Dominique, are not 'sympathetic', and Rand's philosophy is not entirely applicable to real life. Despite what I consider its flaws, the book is extremely well written and provides lots of food for thought.
I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven - A young priest is sent to a remote Kwakiutl village in the Pacific Northwest. He is dying but does not know it yet. In the village, he becomes a part of the Native American world, learns the Kwakiutl language and ways, and sees how their traditions are being destroyed through the influence of white men. This book is quietly profound, sad yet exhilarating, and utterly unforgettable.
One Child by Torey Hayden - Wrenching, true story of a teacher's discovery that one of her charges, a six year old, was being sexually abused by a relative. Not just another chronicle of heinous abuse, it's also the story of the miraculous flowering of a gifted child in the most unlikely of places.
The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson - This is one of those watershed works by the author of Silent Spring, the book that sounded the first warnings about the dangers of pesticides such as DDT to man and the natural world. The Sea Around Us is deservedly a classic, with its stunning insights into the workings of the oceans, the moving, lyrical prose, and the prophesies that have become a frightening reality as man continues to abuse this majestic yet fragile ecosystem.
Serengeti Shall Not Die by Bernhard Grzimek - The story of a German father and son who worked toward saving the great migratory herds of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. In order to determine the status of the herds they decided to take a census of the animals in the savannah, braving confrontations with wild animals and ruthless poachers, and, for one member of the team, (spoiler alert!) paying the ultimate price.
I'll tag a couple people I spared the last time around:
The Urban Recluse
Cheryl St John
Kanani, the Easy-Writer
Saturday, 6 October 2007
Thursday, 4 October 2007
Someone described his work as "philosophy lite". Call it what you will, his books captivated me decades ago, and his adventures in living his beliefs have helped to form - or at least validate - some of my own beliefs.
I was fascinated by the legend of this Indian writer who submitted the manuscript for The God of Small Things to a London agent who, not long after, found himself on a plane to India, contract and six-figure advance in hand. When I read the book I understood. It's the writing.
I read My Family and Other Animals when I was a child, and I was hooked for life. Durrell's accounts of his childhood in Greece, along with his adventures as an animal collector, zookeeper and conservationist, not only provided me with innumerable hours of high entertainment but also contributed to my development as a naturalist - and writer.
During my stays in Florida the highpoint of my weekend was buying the Miami Herald and reading Barry's column. The quintessential humorist and satirist, Barry is unsurpassed, imho, at exposing the hysterical insanities in everyday life.
During a short teaching stint earlier this year, I met a fifteen year old boy who shared my passion for The Bard. I wanted to hug him. When I left, he hugged me. After all, how often do you meet someone else who gets goosebumps every me s/he reads:
Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry "Hold, hold!"
I've lost count of the number of times I've read To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee captures the essence of childhood while at the same time exploring very adult themes and telling a damned good story.
I read Life of Pi last year and could not put down this improbable tale of a boy and a tiger. Why? Martel weaves magic with his words and his wisdom, holds you in absolute thrall from cover to cover. I think I want to marry him.
Her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the story of her childhood and it goes straight to the heart. It made me cry, rage, and laugh out loud. No one who has read this book will ever forget "Preach it, I say!" A marvelous storyteller.
What's funny about a housewife living in the suburbs, battling with spouse, spawn, cooking, laundry, crab grass, weight gain and her own expectations of domestic bliss? Ask Erma. If you're a wife and mother who's about to lose her sanity, forget Xanax. Erma is the remedy.
I've read her children's books, her young adult books, her adult books, and loved every one, from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to Forever to Wifey... Whatever the genre, Blume delivers.
After reading A Walk in the Woods I knew I had to get my hands on his other books. Bryson combines several of my reading fetishes: humour, the natural world, travel, and social satire. A winning combination.
I was young and impressionable when I read Fear of Flying. I found it decadent and shocking. I was older when I read How To Save Your Own Life. I found it decadent and shocking, yes, but also delicious and empowering with its siren call to Live! Love! Cast away the dross!
Here is another writer who speaks to the things I hold dear: conservation of the natural world, solitude, rejection of worldly values, the beauty and mystery of existence in all its manifestations. My tattered copy of Desert Solitaire is one of my prized possessions.
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful-
The eye of the little god, four cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
I'll admit up front that I have a morbid fascination with both Plath's tragic personal story and her poetry. There's something about suicides: you know these guys were in deadly earnest. The darkness in their work is real.
Plath had a way of delving into the recesses of the psyche and bringing what she found there to the light: Here. Look at it. Mirror does that. Here is every woman's secret dread, secret horror.
She was married to the English poet Ted Hughes, and took her life after finding out about his affair with Assia Wevill, who was pregnant with Hughes' child at the time of Plath's death. Wevill moved in with Hughes and took care of his and Plath's two children and the daughter she had by him. She later killed herself and her daughter in a bizarre reenactment of Plath's suicide.
Adorers of Plath repeatedly vandalize her gravestone by chiselling off the name 'Hughes'.
This blog is now three months old, and I'm celebrating! It's been a great run.
What made it really special is knowing that I'm not blogging in a vacuum, that people, both friends and strangers, take time out of their busy lives to come here, read, comment, and offer encouragement. Thank you all! I'm constantly amazed by the kindness of total strangers. You'd never think it from watching the news, but the world is just full of goodness.
When I click on the little visitor map on the right I get a warm feeling of connectedness to people all over the world, people who have one thing (at least) in common: love for the written word. No wonder I'm hooked on this blogging thing...