Thursday, August 31, 2006

road trip

I'm off to the wellspring of my novel, which sounds like something Henry James or George Eliot might say, don't you think? Logan, in other words, which so far as I know is unchronicled by James and certainly not by Eliot. There was a Logan native poet, but I can't remember her name just now. Alice something?
It seems like a good time to go, novelwise--I'm in the limbo between draft and revision. I gave myself a month to do ordinary things like start my classes and go grocery shopping and buy some new shoes--revision starts on or about September 17. Otherwise, it's always a good time to go to Logan, because my daughters and grandsons live there. They've gotten pretty good at sliding down the slide--which takes skills you probably don't remember acquiring--but they don't climb up ladderlike steps yet, so someone (me, for instance) has to lift them up as far as possible so they can slide back down. Plus, there's swinging.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Here's a wonderful memoir-essay by journalist-novelist Andrew O'Hagan on reading and writing, which I found through Light Reading. An excerpt to show the flavor, both nostalgic and acerbic:
There weren't any books in our house apart from the Kilmarnock telephone directory, which had its uses (especially the Emergency pages). I once bought a children's encyclopedia in 10 volumes at a jumble sale for 50p, but one of my brothers wrecked each of the set by trying to cut a square hole through the middle pages so that he could use it as a stash for stolen matches. (He observed the technique in one of the James Bond films.) The books were in ribbons before I got to learn about the sun rituals of the Incas or the combustion process in a car engine.
I'm working on a short story, which seems like the strangest animal in the world after all the time I spent with the novel. Or like living in a small room after inhabiting Severance Hall. Or, or, or--

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I'm still in a not-writing state, which is strange, but restful. I'm reading a lot, and yesterday I went to East Harbor beach w/o so much as a notebook or a pen and spent a whole afternoon with D--lying on the almost deserted sand, running into the waves, taking photos of my Evian bottle and the back of D's head.

I've found some interesting stuff while internet trawling. Here is Quickmuse, a site with poems written in 15 minutes. Various writers are asked to write a poem about a given topic and their efforts are on the site both as a finished product and as they are being written in real time (or rather recorded real time). I read a nice poem on decapitation by Mary Jo Salter.
And for the terminally cluttered booklover, I found BookMooch, where you can list books you don't want anymore; when someone requests a book and you send it to them, you get points so that you can get someone else's book. I found this on BlogLily, a highly entertaining and literate blog.
Kate's Book Blog has an interesting post on signpost books, books which are not necessarily life-changing, but significant in some way. Of Books and Bicycles has a post on Colette, one of my favorite authors. And Tales from the Reading Room has a post on Virginia Woolf (another favorite), claiming that reading VW is like "taking an extremely safe form of narcotic."
More on influence: here, Jennifer Egan (author of The Keep), discusses 5 books that have influenced her. I'm so with her on The Wizard of Oz. (I found this mentioned on Bookslut.)
And finally, the Wayward Armadillo has a great list of writing exercises.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

post-novel tristesse

But actually, I don't feel any. Is it like Emily Dickinson--"a formal feeling comes/The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs"? Probably not, but I love that poem. I looked it up just now to get the quote right and found it on Quotations, a carelessly literate site where they called it "Poem lyrics," and misspelled Tombs. If you want to read the whole thing, it's here, spelled correctly, and with Dickinson's dashes intact.
Ahem, you may say, you are meandering, and it's true. I am happily unfocused, at least for a while. The novel is living in another room just now--we're separated. I'm planning a reconciliation in a couple of weeks, after school has started and settled down, after Charley O has read it and told me what he thinks; after my sister and I have talked it over. It's not you, I told the novel, it's me--I need some space. And the novel took it well, retreated to its disks and CDs. It's biding its time--it knows I still love it.
Since I wrote The End (metaphorically; although why didn't I? it would have been fun), I've been to the Catskills for my niece's wedding. (I took the novel disks and CD along in my plaid bag, because what if burglars broke in, etc.?) I've worked in the garden (lots of weeds, few tomatoes), and tomorrow D and I are going to start canning the motherlode of peaches from his father's 2 trees, planted on his tiny Parma lot (along with an apple and a pear tree). Plus I'm doing some fascinating reorganizing of the majors' files at school. Is there Life After the Novel? Yes, but it's a strange and cloudy life. I think I might write a short story or two, but the novel is tapping its foot. Remember me, it's saying. Or else.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


626 pages: a fat draft waiting to be cut and cosseted and lovingly revised.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

ultima thule

I’m quite close to the end, and this is terrifying, actually. The terror consists, I think, in two things: that I won’t be able to write the end; or that I will, and it will be over, for better or for worse. (Maybe there’s a sub-terror to the 2nd one—that I’ll finish it and the end will be awful.) But of course, I comfort myself, it won’t be over—for there’s Revision; and if it’s awful, Revision will answer this, too, as well as it can.
I've realized that's there's a time problem with this last part I'm writing: that I envisioned the last scene happening as dusk is falling--the time when it's not day any longer, but not quite yet night. And I've already written myself into the dark in the scene just before the last scene. But this doesn't seem too impossible to fix, and I even think that I'll leave it for Revision.
Will the last scene say anything like what I want it to say? I have no idea. It's to have the dusk in it, and a white dog, some ashes and a china cup--which sounds quite poetic, and frankly I'd like to write a poem instead of a scene, because it feels as if it would be easier (apologies to my sister and all other poets everywhere: I really know it's not easier to write a poem).
Here is one of the white dogs who were my secret models (that's her at the top, too, in a more pensive, evening mood).

Friday, August 04, 2006

various sorts of bookish news

I've been procrastinating the headlong and furious writing of the last pages of my novel by bloghopping, and am pleased to offer the following gleanings:
Book Kitten says that Nicole Kidman is going to play the beautiful and evil Mrs. Coulter in the movie of The Golden Compass (1st book of Philip Pullman's trilogy).
I found some great pictures of writers' homes posted by Danielle at A Work in Progress--from a book, American Writers at Home. I am envious of Mark Twain's library that opens into a conservatory--two of my obsessions in close proximity.
Here's a wonderful bit of witty dialogue from Dorothy Sayers's Strong Poison, which I read (although not for the 1st time) on Kate's Book Blog:
‘Well, I wouldn’t have the muck in the house,’ said the Captain, firmly. ‘I caught Hilda with it, and I said, “Now you send that book straight back to the library.” I don’t interfere, but one must draw the line somewhere.’
‘How did you know what it was like?’ asked Wimsey, innocently.
‘Why James Douglas’s article in the Express was good enough for me,’ said Captain Bates. ‘The paragraphs he quoted were filthy—positively filthy.’
‘Well, it’s a good thing we’ve all read them,’ said Wimsey. ‘Forewarned is forearmed.’
‘We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Press,’ said the Dowager Duchess; ‘so kind of them to pick out all the plums for us and save us the trouble of reading the books, don’t you think, and such a joy for the poor dear people who can’t afford seven and sixpence, or even a library subscription.’

The Master Procrastinator Award to Samuel Johnson, who became overwhelmed with the work required to put together his famous dictionary. He completely stopped working on it for a while (possibly several years). New research suggests that it was "only a threat to break into his house and seize the manuscript - which the publishers mistakenly thought was almost finished"-- which got Johnson back to work." Read the article here (I found this 1st in Maud Newton.)
Cleveland's independent bookstores have a website that maybe everyone else knows about, but which was new to me.
Here's an interview with Charles D'Ambrosio on Bookslut. His last collection of stories is called The Dead Fish Museum, and even if I didn't already love his work I would have wanted to read it because of that title. My sister will know what I mean. ****
There's a One Book meme going around--one book that changed your life, one book you'd take to a desert island, etc. I've read several, all interesting, but my favorite so far was from Mark at The Elegant Variation--check it out here.

***this is the 2nd time I've borrowed from Kate--I hope she'll forgive me for being such a mooch.
****for a wellwritten review of one of the stories in Dead Fish, see Plan B.