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a garden of nna mmoy



"You can't divorce your particulars from politics." Elphaba (in Wicked by Gregory MaGuire)



Published: 2008-12-27T17:23:25-05:00

 



Also:

2008-12-27T17:23:25-05:00

I've been sucked into twitter. Very recently, so I don't have much up there yet, but if you are on twitter and want to keep up that way, I am andrea_mcd .

I know some of you are up there but I can't find you, so please find me!




A good time to say goodbye

2008-12-20T16:43:50-05:00

I'm working on a new blog. I've decided to embrace the bloglines glitch and use it as an opportunity to build fresh. I haven't really been enjoying the mommy-blogging or personal blogging thing for a while now, and yet when you have a lot of effort invested into a particular community and audience it's tough to let it go. Then I lost it anyway. Might as well put some thought into what I really want to do, and direct the effort there instead. Also: 1. Can be tough to get gigs in journalism when you are personal blogging under your own name. Some places won't hire you. They like their writers to have a pristinely objective public persona. 2. Have been through the wringer enough times to be aware of all of the downsides of turning yourself and your life into entertainment. Most of the relationships formed are not friendships. They're not antagonistic or anything, but it isn't reciprocal for one thing, and for another, it's entirely too dependent on trauma. 3. Getting sick of talking about myself. 4. Getting uncomfortable talking so much about Frances. (Neither of those are new, I know.) 5. Putting a lot more effort into writing for which I might actually be paid. (Yes, I know I could put ads on the blog, but the chances of that turning into a steady income stream are next to nil and totally out of proportion to the level of effort required--not to mention that those efforts aren't intrinsically rewarding to me.) This reduces my rumination time on personal matters to basically zero in any case. 6. I'd like to blog, if I'm going to, on subjects related to what I'm writing about for pay. a) good practice, b) good promotions. 7. You would not believe how shocked I was to discover the extensive and largely detrimental effects blogging had on my writing style during the first month at school. I'd get assignments back (it never struck me as I was writing) and see them as lazy, sloppy and snarky, mostly because the form of writing I'd been doing every day--personal blogging--rewards such characteristics. Maybe other people are better at separating it out than I am, who knows. At any rate, it no longer seems as harmless as it did. So, anyway. This blog will be dying a natural death over the next little while. I'll continue to read blogs and comment--I'm not divorcing myself from all of you--but I will no longer be posting here, probably after about January 1. Instead, I'll be blogging here. The first post is something I'd drafted in the summer for this blog, but it never seemed to fit. My plan for the new site is to write about the Toronto environment: local species, both native and invasive; interesting goings-on--new projects, environmental assessments, policies and legislation, conferences, etc.; eventually interviews, links to published articles, bits of research that I can't use in published articles; and playing around with on-line journalism (the occasional bit of audio or video, maybe, or flash if I can figure it out). "Zoopolis" means the integration of nature into the city, a coexistence of the human and non-human in our urban spaces. I'll write about the future we want, not the future we want to avoid. I know a lot of you won't be interested in this venture, and that's fine (but of course anyone who wants to follow me over is more than welcome to). If you'd like, you're free to write to me by email (mcdowella AT sympatico DOT ca), friend me on facebook, or even old-fashioned paper letters if you're feeling adventurous. (I love mail.) I'd be happy to keep in touch with anyone who wants to, and I'd be bereft to lose anyone I have become friends with over the years. Thanks to everyone who's followed me on this journey. I can't believe I've been blogging here for five and a half years! It feels right to be making this change on the longest night of the year, at Yule, which is so meaningful to me as a period of transformation. Happy Solstice, Channukah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Kwanzaa, and all the rest. I wish all of you and your families the best for all the years to come[...]



Strike Update

2008-12-16T10:22:44-05:00

The strike is still on-going and the university administration has confirmed that classes will definitely not resume before Jan 5, making the strike at least two months long and probably longer, but I have every confidence that it will be resolved quickly at that point, and here's why:

The strikers are sitting.

That's right, administration! Eat your heart out!

Sometimes I get the feeling that the grad students just really, really wanted to have gone to school in the 1960s. They're stepping up tactics by staging a sit-in. The scrooge-like university administrators are surely quivering in their fur-lined boots now.

Why yes, I am disgusted (and though it doesn't show in this post, I'm disgusted with both sides). The Students, they keep talking about--The Students, as some amorphous, homogeneous mass. The Students, who are all presumed to have RESPs, parental financing, or at the very least OSAP. The Students, for whom summer jobs are a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. The Students, who shouldn't mind foreshortened courses, dropped material or missed classes so long as their grades are unaffected. The Students, who aren't also in the position of trying to finance a university education while paying Toronto rents, Toronto grocery prices, and supporting dependents who may or may not require daycare. Both the administration and the union are talking about what The Students need and how the strike will affect The Students--all of whom are, apparently, twenty-year-old trust fund babies.

As The Star said on the weekend, a pox on both their ivory towers.




a milestone, of sorts

2008-12-10T14:11:04-05:00

I haven't written about Frances's size much recently; ironically, that's because it's more of an issue than it used to be. Frances is known by everyone at her school, in every grade, because she is small. As we walk down the hallway I hear older kids say behind her, "Frances is so cute. She's so tiny." And older kids and even bigger kids in her s/k class will give her a big grin and reach out a hand to ruffle her hair or tell her how adorable she is, as if she were the class gerbil instead of a fellow student, and it drives me nuts but Frances says she likes it, and maybe right now she does. In any case, her size is becoming known to her and known to her peers and relevant to her relationships in a way it wasn't before, and so it's becoming less my story and more hers, and I don't want to write about what it means or why.

Maybe one day she'll start her own blog and write about this stuff. Or maybe she'll consider it completely unimportant.

In any case, today we went shopping for new winter boots because the size sixes were too small. We ended up taking home size eights, and a bundle of socks size 4T. Her jeans and shirts now are size 3T. And while she's still way below the 1st centile line on a standard growth chart, I wasn't expecting her to be this big yet. I expected that, when she was five and starting kindergarten, she would be wearing size 2T or 24 months.

It's complicated to think about, let alone write about. She would be equally valuable, equally loveable, no matter what size of clothing she wears. But she's growing a little bit faster than the experts thought she would, which means an easier time buying a bike and learning to drive and finding clothes when she's older.

I may be the only mother I know who celebrates when her daughter outgrows a size.




Sick Day

2008-12-08T17:17:12-05:00

I don't know why I call in sick for Frances, ever. Sure, she has a bad cold with a nasty cough. She is also bubbling over with energy and I can barely get her to sit still long enough to watch Rudolph for the 92nd time this season. (Superstitious Aside: This is our first significant cold of the season, though, and it's December! Hallelujah. That immunity thing is kicking in at last. Now, to appease the angry spirits, I will ritually knock on the wooden table while turning in a circle three times and humming.) My memories of my own sick days as a child consist almost entirely of lying down on the couch, watching TV or reading stacks of novels, doing jumping jacks in bed to try to drive up my temperature before my mother appeared with the thermometer. It bears no resemblance to Frances's sick days. She took out the Ed Emberley Christmas drawing book and did a few pages of reindeers, santas, and sleighs. She opened the princess art set she got for her birthday and did a few watercolour paintings using stencils. She opened the window clingers package and started a picture of a lamb. She made a few christmas cards, used specialty scissors to cut a few other cards into interesting shapes, and made a new shirt for baby eloise out of green construction paper, metallic crayons and sticky tape. She used snowflake stamps on the cards and scrupulously cleaned each one with the stamp cleaner. And she practiced her running stitch. Backstory: A couple of months ago I bought a cheap cushion form from Ikea ($5), brought it home and let it sit on the couch while I thought about cushion covers. I could buy one (for 4x the cost of the form) or make one. I had plenty of fabric. I chopped up a bunch of old t-shirts but none of them yielded big enough pieces for the cover, so instead I took out some scrap faux suede from a skirt I made a couple of years back and whipped up a quick cover with a flap-back. Then I told Frances to draw me a butterfly, transferred it on to the front panel of the cushion cover and back-stitched over it with wool yarn, and filled in the dots with seed stitches. When I was done Frances and I had a collaborative cushion which we are both very proud of. (That's the cushion at the top of the post, along with Frances's sketch and my tracing paper transfer. I wish I could take credit for the idea but I got it from Amanda Soule's The Creative Family.) It took me probably about five hours to stitch the butterfly on to the cushion cover, and during that time Frances sat beside me, on the couch, sewing. I got her a scrap of plastic canvas, a big blunt plastic needle and a bit of tapestry thread. And we ended up with something like this. Fast forward to this weekend: Greg and I made a pile of christmas cards, and I took the opportunity to dig out all of my christmas magazines. I also had a couple of sneaky card ideas after he left that had me digging through the cross-stitch mags, and since then I've been spending a couple of hours stitching up santas and snowmen. Frances was not going to be left out, so she picked up her plastic canvas again and I taught her how to do a running stitch . I even let her graduate to a metal 22-gauge tapestry needle and a bit of aida cloth (made for cross-stitching) and perforated paper. And look! Running stitches! Nice, even, brightly rainbow-coloured metallic running stitches. She learned how to undo mistakes by going back through the hole she'd just come out of; and when I congratulated her on this, she said: "Mummy. It's just practice." My bunny. OK, so it's hard to see--look at the bottom of the beige perforated paper. That slightly darker dotted line is the running stitch. And yes, she did it all by herself. But I don't care how wholesome and productive we've been today. Tomorrow, she's going to school.[...]



with role models like these, who needs violent video games?

2008-12-04T11:47:24-05:00

http://blog.macleans.ca/2008/12/04/a-lot-of-fear-and-anger-and-hatred/

I'm glad to see we've already gone so far as the destruction of property (firebombs in BC). Maybe we can see some violence before the eighth and have a full-out civil war by Christmas!

(h/t to Ann for the Macleans link. For another take on the same issue, see Mad's comment in the post below.)

Words have consequences. We all need to be responsible for our language.

On the other hand, I'm gratified, though saddened, to have documented proof of the t-word (traitor) being bandied about.




On the count of three, breathe

2008-12-03T23:54:25-05:00

There's no point in hiding it. I believe the coalition will be a better government for Canada. Certainly it's more in line with my values, although not with my vote since I voted Green. This doesn't mean that I'm blind to its potential downsides. Yes, it will be fragile; yes, it will be less legitimate in the eyes not only of many Canadians, but also other nations; yes, it will be more complicated. No, I'm not worried about the separatism aspect, since Duceppe hasn't been given any concessions in that regard he will only support the coalition until 2010, and in return won't be given any cabinet posts, and in return for that will only vote with the coalition on confidence measures and budgets. In other words, just barely enough support for just long enough to get Canada to the point where we can afford another real election. I think that the separatists, far from being evil ghouls who appear in the night to steal our children and rend our precious country in twain, are actually basically human. I think they need to eat, which means they need to work, which means they are as concerned with the Canadian economy as everyone else is. I think they like to buy iPods and drive to visit relatives over the holidays and give their children nice christmas presents, which means they are as concerned about consumer confidence and inflation and gas prices as everyone else is. I think they don't want the banks to foreclose on their houses and they'd like their retirement savings not to disappear, I think they would prefer the glaciers not melt and drown small island nations, I think they on the whole quite like polar bears and would be sad to see them go extinct. In short, I think they have interests outside of and beyond separatism, and that not every political action of a separatist is going to be motivated by a deep and abiding need to take Quebec out of Canada. This is what we see: they asked for more independence for Quebec, were refused, and even so decided to participate in a coalition, albeit on a reduced scale. But after twenty years of collective anglophone horror over the separatist question, people can perhaps be forgiven for jumping to conclusions in this regard. For whatever reason, newspapers and the other political parties have seen fit to ignore for many years now the inconvenient reality that the Bloc is no longer so much separatist as it is pro-Quebec, and have chosen instead to continually fan the flames of outrage over the mere existence of the Bloc. Whatever (although, personally, I'm very proud of Canada for tolerating a separatist federal political party. Shutting it down would be the action of a totalitarian government. Allowing it, even nurturing it, shows a respect for divergent voices and is in my opinion a hallmark of a true democracy). What bothers me a lot more right now is the behaviour of individuals on both sides of the coalition question to their fellow Canadians, who happen to disagree. I've seen swearing, name-calling, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred for anyone who dares to voice a dissenting opinion, insinuating that anyone who disagrees must be at the very least an idiot, if not an anti-Canadian traitor who is probably in league with the Taliban. This is not cool. We're all still Canadians. Right? We're not just the equivalent of an angry young anarchist and a neocon business major forced through some dumb luck of fate to share a dorm room at university for a couple of hundred years. Right? The way some people are talking, you'd think they were willing to go to war over this. Calm down, people! It is, at the most, eighteen months of a coalition government on the one hand, or a couple of years of a limp-along Tory minority on the other, and neither of those situations are ideal but neither of them are the Nazis reborn. Yep, I'm happy to see Harper's arrogance and incompetence blow up in his face, but not because I think a coaliti[...]



don't mind me

2008-12-01T18:07:03-05:00

I'm just going to sit here, reveling in the thought of the Tories engineering their own downfall through sheer hubris, less than one month after the election that put them in power.

I shouldn't be so happy about political turmoil, but I am. Coalitions! Opposition parties with backbones! Just deserts and comeuppances for all! It's like christmas came early.




National Diabetes Month: The Good News Edition

2008-11-27T18:46:32-05:00

Today's A1c (a test measuring average blood sugar) was 6.9 (three months ago it was 7.6; up to about 6.5 is considered normal or non-diabetic).

Also, I got the paperwork signed for the insulin pump program, and very soon I should no longer have to pay for pump supplies.

I have nothing eloquent or profound to say about either of these things (as I scarf down homemade rice krispie squares that Frances helped with) since I am, right now, busier than God. (Apologies to the devout in the audience.) Whoever thought I would have less free time on strike than I do when I'm in class?

(This is how: excess free time = pressure to be productive + worry about next summer's financial possibilities + job that one can't leave at the office = working all the time and feeling guilty about not getting more done.)

(Also = wondering if I should take the bloglines snafu as an opportunity to reinvent, which = less motivation to blog right now anyway, which = less motivation for you to come by and read. I love a good vicious circle.)




The Lady with the Dog (Part I, in which I cover eight paragraphs: Character, Details, Show vs. Tell)

2008-11-25T09:04:33-05:00

I know you're all so fascinated by this that you have already printed the story out, highlighted it, and fallen asleep with the printout under your pillow. No? That's only me? Let's look at it anyway, not from the perspective of "what does he mean?" but from "how did he do it?" The meanings and intentions of fiction, even short fiction, are complex; this probably is why the discussion about clarity keeps foundering. It's all too easy to mistake a meaning for a moral, or an intention for a theme; but the meaning of good fiction is never "always floss" or "pay your taxes," even if that's what a reader ends up taking away from a particular story or novel. The meaning or intention of a good story will be irreducible in words; if it could be stated in a sentence or two, then you wouldn't have written the story, would you? And if good writing is that in which every word, every comma, every paragraph break contributes to the meaning, then there's nothing in a story or a novel that you can boil away to produce a simplified meaning or intention in words. Still, I believe that a faithful reader (and, as Margaret Atwood would say, the right reader--but more on that later) will know the meaning and the intention on a nonverbal level. Because it's an experience. The set of black marks on a page is simply the pathway to the experience. And if you were to try to communicate the experience, you would need all of those black marks in the same order again. That's why we read and write stories to begin with. The ways we break stories down are simply ways to get a handle on how those experiences are communicated, so we can learn and talk about how to do it. That said, the most common ways of breaking down fiction are: plot, point-of-view, character, diction, cadence, figurative language, dialogue, setting and structure. This is going to be a really basic application of those concepts because any one of them could (and has) fill a book. I'll tackle each concept as it comes up in The Lady with the Dog, which means we begin with: Character We are immediately introducted to Dmitri and his unhappy marriage. (I am skipping the first sentence because its function, rather than characterization, is to set up one of the story's "promises": the centrality of the lady with the dog, even though we know very little about her for the first several paragraphs, and even though she is most properly the avenue through which change comes to the viewpoint character or protagonist, Dmitri.) The following is, in my opinion, where the experience of the story begins: "he secretly considered her [his wife] unintelligent, narrow, inelegant, was afraid of her, and did not like to be at home. He had begun being unfaithful to her long ago -- had been unfaithful to her often, and, probably on that account, almost always spoke ill of women, and when they were talked about in his presence, used to call them 'the lower race.'" What comes before this is primarily factual; we are given a number of biographical details all of which could have multiple meanings and interpretations. He is married, he has three children, his wife is pretentious. But here we are thrown into the inside of Dmitri's head, where we remain, more or less, for the rest of the story. What does it tell you when you learn that Dmitri dislikes women because of his constant affairs? That he refers to them as 'the lower race'? What impression do you form of him? Someone like Dmitri, a man who uses women and who therefore has little respect for them in order to preserve his own self-image, would probably respond with "damn straight!" Whereas a woman, whether a wife or someone who has had an affair, is more likely to respond with "pig!" But note, for a moment, the presence of a visceral, emotional reaction as if to a real person: some people like and understand h[...]



Another point in the "lunatic" column

2008-11-24T10:27:16-05:00

The story of Susan Ryan's murder (her husband is charged) makes me sad and angry. So pointless, so preventable, and so little political will. It happens over and over again and not enough is done and it will happen again before the year is out, to someone less visible, less attractive to the media, whose murder will therefore be ignored.

But the story of a 4,600-year-old burial site containing a father, a mother, and their two children made me cry.

They'd been killed violently and were buried facing each other. Other burial sites from the same time found nearby, the people in them also killed violently, speak to a raid; the survivors, the archaeologists say, coming back afterwards to bury the dead. I can't help but picture their final moments, a sort of B-movie highlights montage of prehistoric violence, childish screams in the dead of night; and then the survivors returning to dig and cry over the graves.

If it were a father, a mother, and their two children killed violently today in a wealthy western city, it would be front-page news. But these murders were 4,600 years old, and so these bodies are just bones. No one will ever know their names or the cause for which they were all killed. Only that they were loved and mourned.

I want to say that they were people too, and they mattered; but I'm not sure the evidence is on my side. Given the relative weight of this story in newspaper column inches vs. Susan Ryan's, I'm quite sure that the newspaper is not on my side, and presumably neither are the newspaper's readers, and thus, by extension, most of my fellow citizens. It probably is not normal that the murder of a single person whose photograph is splashed all over the front page of major newspapers and whose name and story are both known does not affect me personally as much as the story implied by four ancient skeletons in a pile of dirt. The former I can analyze, I can see the implications, I can be angered. The latter just hurts.

Who cares when it happened? They were a family. They loved each other. They were killed. This is a tragedy.




To sleep, perchance to dream--of a giant snail-train monster

2008-11-23T21:11:12-05:00

Two nights ago, while sleeping at her father's, Frances dreamed of Frosty the Snowman carrying her onto a refrigerated box-car headed to the north pole. Long before the train reached its destination, it turned into a giant snail and tried to eat her. Poor Frosty was transformed into a statue.

This dream terrified her, and last night she woke four times before midnight. I thought this evening was going better, until I heard a whimper upstairs. By the time I'd made it halfway up, what do I see but my wee girl tucking herself under the big duvet on my double bed.

I guess, when Mom's not upstairs to comfort you but you're really in need of some comfort, Mom's pillow-case will do.

I snuggled her and kissed her and left her there sleeping soundly. I owe the novel 2,000 words, after all. But something tells me this will be another long night.




Meet Freya

2008-11-21T10:39:56-05:00

A warning for anyone who read the story I published a while ago: Freya has not aged well.

And a note for everyone: My approach to critiquing fiction is that the author should butt out. I want to know what your response is to what is actually there, not what your response is to what I tried to put there, so I'm just going to stay quiet and not say anything. But I am paying close attention to anything you say, and in fact the comments on the last one were very useful. (And Bella, you can put on your developmental psychologist's hat any time!)

Anyway. Here's the next character. I'd say I hope you like her, but I don't, really.

#

There it was, just as Hunin had said: painted in scarlet right on the largest blue Sodalite facing stone near the main temple entrance was a crude figure of a man with two obviously female bird-women flying behind him on leashes.

“You have to admire the humour of it,” Hunin said with a smile.

“I do not,” said Freya, crouching to examine it more closely. “Defacing a temple with such an offensive and unnatural image is not humorous. It’s criminal.”

“Oh come on,” said Hunin. “Let’s just clean it up and let it go. Probably that Fourth kid again.”

“Which Fourth?” Freya stood, her knees grinding, and scrubbed at the paint with a fingernail. “Do you know how much these facings cost? We should charge it to his family.”

“The family on High Street—big financial supporters of Queen Orchil. They threw that ball last year, remember? Their Fourth boy has developed a reputation—and this looks like his style.”

“Then they can afford to pay for it. How quickly can we get this replaced?”

“Weeks, I think.”

“Nothing to be done for it. Why must there be a trouble-maker in every good family?”

“Like First?”

It wasn’t even well-painted, she thought. The lines were wobbly and varied in thickness; it looked hasty and careless. If he had to deface her temple, could he at least not have done a competent job? “Yes. Like First.”

“I heard some of these radical nameists actually believe that the goddesses were all originally gods, and some massive conspiracy a few thousand years ago turned them into girls.” Hunin’s narrow neck and shoulders curved forward slightly as she laughed. “Who ever heard of a god giving birth?”

“Heathens.” Freya hated talking about this. “I’ve heard worse. Cults and sects that worship only gods and eliminate three of the elements altogether. Brother guilds where women are not allowed. Uncalled men trying to fly off of barns in the countryside to prove it’s all a trick, and crushing their legs or their spine when they hit the ground.” She chose not to mention that she mostly heard these stories from First, her brother. Freya turned away from the graffiti and pushed off the ground to fly up the temple pyramid to her quarters. Hunin followed close behind.

“Do you really think the goddess doesn’t want boys to have names?” she asked Freya.

“I know it,” she said. “She told me so.”




No Fire

2008-11-19T22:56:15-05:00

(I drafted this in August, and something happened today that reminded me of it. Maybe in a few months something else will happen that reminds me of today and you'll get that post. In the meantime, enjoy Frances's refreshing lack of pyromania.)

It was an accident; her hand slipped when she was reaching over my face for something and her forehead bonked me in the eye. Ouch. "Hey!" I said.

Frances sat very still for a few moments, her face serious and eyes large. Then she cried.

"Oh hey, honey, it's ok. It was an accident." I pull her in for a hug and notice that her nose is bleeding, get her a kleenex.

"Mummy, will you still love me even when I hit you?"

"Yes. I will always love you."

"Will you love me still even when I hit you on purpose?"

"Of course, sweetie. There is nothing you could do to make me stop loving you." I am still wiping blood from her face and dabbing tears away. "I wouldn't like it if you hit me on purpose. I might be angry and upset. But I would still love you."

She is still crying. We share another hug. "Sweetie, I am going to ask you something, and I might cry. But it's not because of anything you did, it's just because it's going to be hard for me to say, ok?"

She nods.

"Are you sometimes scared that I might stop loving you?"

She nods, and cries a little harder.

"You know, sometimes, when Mummies and Daddies break up--when they get divorced--sometimes, their kids think it was something they did. But it never is. Kids can't do anything to make mummies and daddies break up. That's an adult thing. You know?"

She nods, still crying.

"And sometimes kids think that if they do something bad, their mummy or daddy will get really mad and stop loving them and leave them too. But it's not the same thing. Mummies and daddies can't stop loving their kids. OK?"

She nods, still crying.

"I will always love you, I will always be here to take care of you. I will be here to make your suppers and clean your clothes and play with you and take you to school and everything. Always. Even if you hit me on purpose."

"Because then you would be happy again?"

"Well. I would be, I guess, but even when I'm not happy, I love you."

This goes on for a while longer. Then I make a tactical error: "I would love you even if you hit me over the head with a frying pan. I would love you even if you burned down the whole house!"

"But Mummy, that's silly, I can't do that. I don't have any fire in me!" And she waves her hands around for inspection: see? Look, no fire.

"That's true."

"I would have to get a lot of fire and put it around the whole house."

"Umm. Yes. But that would be a bad idea, so...."

"Our house would be all burned! The bricks would be burned off! C's house would be burned too!"

"Yes. And all of your toys would be burned, and we would have nothing left. So...."

"And all our money would be gone."

"Yes. So it's a bad idea. Let's not burn the house down." I sighed. "But even if you did, I would still love you."




a portrait of book addiction

2008-11-18T09:03:24-05:00

Hello. My name is Andrea. I think. I seem to have left my brain somewhere outside of Spadina station this afternoon. It's probably still gibbering about the cold. We went to the Santa Claus Parade ("we" being I, Frances, Greg, Dad, SIL, Giant Baby Nephew). Adults adored it. Frances solemnly worshipped it. Giant Baby Nephew stroller-danced to the marching bands but did not much care for Santa. Have I mentioned it was cold? High holy hell, it was fucking cold. Pardon the language. You will by now have deduced that I wrote this on Sunday 16th, regardless of when I end up posting it. Hopefully by then, whenever it is, I will have been reunited with my grey matter. As it is, I write this post while the water boils for my tea. Tea will fix me. I will drink some hot caffeine and be returned to some semblance of consciousness. (Meandering pointless introduction now gracelessly hauled to a full stop. Blog post, here we come!) I'd like you all to answer a question for me about reading: am I a lunatic? I see you asking for background. Here it comes: Last week I read in one sitting a book of Margaret Atwood interviews. In addition to being annoyed by her younger self and enthralled by her older self, I also internally marked every reference she made to two books as major inspirations for her as a writer: Grimm's fairy tales, and The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by Lewis Hyde (postscript: the interviews referred to this 1983 edition, but I see it was re-released with a two new subtitles last year). According to Atwood, the former is her primary artistic inspiration and the latter told her everything she ever needed to know about art and its value (paraphrasing. They came up in a lot of interviews). I tracked down my old copy of Grimm's that afternoon and began reading fairy-tales (inspring a few blog posts, and possibly a few stories, but you'll have to wait for them I'm afraid) and added The Gift to my very long list of Books I Want To Read and Do Not Yet Own. This list is kept in a hardcover green faux-leather notebook, along with subjects I want to research and write about, brainstorming, and market notes. Gwendolyn MacEwen, the poet I quoted on Saturday, was in fact a discovery of this kind: Margaret Atwood quoted her work extensively in her book on writing, Negotiating with the Dead, so I hunted MacEwen's poetry down and now own three of her collected works. I also put several quotes in my quotes notebook. It's bright green plastic-covered with a bright orange flower on the front, and used to be a school notebook but I had space left after the course ended and so ripped out the notes and started keeping quotes in it instead. Sometimes, Dear Readers, you know you read the perfect pithy saying to make a killing point and you can't remember where or who said it! A quotes notebook makes this all a thing of the past. (Water has boiled. Time for steeping.) I also read two of Charles Baxter's books on fiction writing, which made me want to corral several of you in real life, force you to read them, fill you all up with caffeine tablets and get you to start talking. How I'd love to have your opinions. Lovely, beautiful, contrarian books. Essays defending the pathetic fallacy, stripping conflict from narrative, promoting repetition in prose, and proposing several ways of developing fiction's subtext (or as he says, saying the unthinkable). If you're interested, they were Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction and The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot, and if you get them and read them and don't tell me my ghost will haunt you. Someday. Anyway, he refers in his books to several authors I've never heard of to make his points, and I put[...]