Sunday, July 08, 2007

the novel as cannibal

From a review of a book on Bakhtin:
...the novel, that mongrelised genre which--unlike epic, pastoral or tragedy--is entirely without rules, and which in Bakhtin's eyes is less a definable form than a deconstructive force. The novel lives purely in its dialogic modes, cannibalising and parodying them. It is a maverick anti-genre, deviantand non-canonical, a secular scripture which shows up all discourse as partial and provisional.
I once audited a course in the theory of the novel--Bakhtin was on the reading list, and I don't remember anything as interesting as this. Obviously, I needed Terry Eagleton (the reviewer) to explain it to me.
In the excavation of my office, I have reached the layer wherein my unfinished novel (the one I abandoned to write the ghost novel) lies, dismembered, its skeleton flattened by the weight of years and notebooks. Shall I brush the accumulated dust away and retrieve it from its burial place? Maybe.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

visiting the past

I've been living all day long in 1979 and 1982 and 1984--reading my journals and notebooks. Not what you're supposed to be doing when you clean, but I couldn't help but stop to read how I felt in 1977 when I was leaving my 1st marriage, or a list of things to do in 1983. Make pumpkin bread, take raincoat to cleaners, call mother, type plot summary. I had a raincoat then? My mother was alive. I used a typewriter! It's like visiting a foreign country where I used to live, the past as exotic to me as Brazil, a place where I was younger and more interested in shaving my legs (it shows up on many lists).
Here is what I wrote (somewhat later) about my writing classes:
The 1st creative writing class I took--Alberta with her birdlike turning of the head, her twittering, her steely, glinting eye. I wouldn't read my story to the class, so she did. She read it, and I felt stunned, and horrified to hear my words in her mouth.
I remember sitting in class, listening and waiting to say something clever, judging the teacher, my sometimes arrogance. I remember the university as a series of caves--cave-rooms where I studied, flirted, read, talked; and paths--English dept. to the library, library to the Cage, cafeteria to the pool, pool to bookstore. The campus a miniature world, a diorama set in the larger world of the city, places marked by my vision of myself, my long legs in tight jeans coming toward me in the dark glass of Rhodes Tower.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

notes and plans

Still in the office, still surrounded by paper, although some of it has been thrown away (so far, one large garbage bag, plus one Bed Bath and Beyond bag, and one Target bag); and some has been confined to folders. Quite a lot is still sitting around in piles though, with cryptic post-it notes so I'll keep them straight.
All this sounds onerous, perhaps, but I find that I'm having fun. I've come across all sorts of things: old letters; a Christmas card hand written and drawn in pencil by my younger daughter (then abt 7, I think); some ancient poems of my sister's; a sheaf of song lyrics written by my 2nd husband; a list of the people who were in my 1st writing group; and so on. The most fun thing I've done is to weigh the materials, drafts, folders, sources, etc., for the novel I just finished--it comes out to 26 pounds on my admittedly faulty bathroom scale. The current part of this project: entering in all the stray idea notes I've found, on torn-out pages, subscription blanks, post-its, backs of envelopes, etc. Thanks to a helpful commenter on Jadepark's brilliant blog, I've discovered Google Notebooks, where my deathless ideas will be available from any computer and preserved for eternity or as long as Google lasts, whichever comes first.
Random list of notes I found:
--title: "The School for Disembodied Stories"
--the writing group list: MB, MJ, Erieblue, Peggy, Jackie, Joe, Cory, Lisa, Michael (and Ronnie), Paige, Dale. A sunny hi to you all, wherever you are!
--a dream about climbing a rock face scored like corduroy
--a character who makes a living writing (and making up) books of prophecies
--sleeping in a room with birds in cages
--the boy who fell off the bus in Yuma
Now surely I can do something with that...