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Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

More character-building

In Film, Food, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm

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Something interesting always happens when I move from fleshing out my main characters to my (supposedly) secondary ones: I start getting into the real dynamics in the characters’ lives versus the apparent ones contained in family trees or other conventional charts. As in: who’s the real boss in the office. Who holds the veto power in a couple or a group? What unspoken, unacknowledged events drive the characters’ decisions  – be they catastrophic or life-saving in their implications?

In the real world, husband, children and grandchildren just left for the Bordeaux region – a three hundred kilometer road trip that entailed more planning than the launching of a small expeditionary force  against the Tuareg of the Hoggar.

Meanwhile, Cybèle and I will attempt to live a reasonably healthy life over the weekend, while I pursue the inner  secrets and hidden dynamics of my bunch of imaginary friends.

***

17:25 I’m not sure it’s called a nap when you come back from walking the dog in 42° weather  (102.7° F)and fall asleep before your head connects with the pillow. Maybe recuperation is a better word for it.

Two photos grabbed today of the tannery I call The Bearded Building. First, a lateral shot, showing the old mill in the background:

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and this one I’ll call the ‘full-frontal view for adults only’  out of curiosity for what that descriptor will trigger in the wordpress automatic post generator (+ I’d love to see the look on peoples’ faces once they take in this ‘Stunning Full Frontal View for Adults Only’ of  The Bearded Building):

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Nytol, I’m off to give Cybèle her last chance at a pee, before watching the first movie on my double-bill for this evening. It’s called Cry of the City and should go great with a sandwich and a beer.

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Character building

In Current reading, Summer Story on July 30, 2009 at 4:33 am

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Summer story: Just as it’s hard to imagine an American literature that would be blind to issues of race (for example, try to picture an American police report that doesn’t mention the perp’s and the victim’s color of skin), language defines identity in Canada. Simply by choosing to write this story in English, the entire reading shifts, both of the land’s geography and of its history. In fact, should I ever bring this story to completion and should it ever be published, my decision to write it in English would be a central issue in any critical appraisal it would receive in my native land. And that is why a writer is well advised to hunker down and concentrate on the job at  hand, rather than think about how the work will or will not be appreciated.

I’m deep in the process of building the characters at the moment.  There’s not a single event in these people’s lives that isn’t colored by their accepting or refusing to see the world through the language divide – along with their choice of which side they’re on. (Denise Mina does a great job on the Scottish/Irish, Protestant/Catholic  divides in her own stories. The issues become inescapable when the fault lines run through your own definition of who you are.)

Family: the worst of the jet lag seems to be abating with everybody finding their bearings and their comfort level.  I write, cook, chat for awhile and get back to story. The crew is off to Bordeaux tomorrow for a visit to the other side of the family. Robert is driving; we’d already agreed I’d be staying here with Cybèle. So I’ve got almost four days of alone time coming up – a fabulous luxury.

Official weather readings had the temperature at 36° over here yesterday. They lied. It was 44° out on place du Mercadial. After fifteen minutes, Cybèle considered us both fully baked, turned around and headed back to the house. (In the above photo, the head duck is interpreting Cybèle, the second one being me, straggling behind.)

***

12:10  Summer story – Main family tree (probably as interesting as the Hanoi phone book for everyone except the writer)

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(this is funny: the automatic ‘related posts’ generator is starting to refer me back to … my previous posts (in this instance, ‘Plotting’. I’ll be sure to read it with utmost attention.)

RLB on family

In Animals, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 29, 2009 at 4:53 am

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There’s a reason why every authoritarian regime intent on thought (ergo: behavior) control places the family at the top of the sacred values – along hard work and love of the father/mother-land. Simply stated, if a sufficient number of people can be convinced  family defines happiness the way Coutts-Hallmark covers emotional expression,  the majority of them will be  busy hiding to the world the dysfunctions in their own family unit and their failings as parents and/or children. Keeping the lid on the  messy parts is  a full-time occupation in itself. If you add to it the quest for the adequate paycheck, you have a definition of the  impossible dream. Meanwhile, the leaders are free to rampage while the people pop their meds and seek solace for their failings from Oprah, their psychiatrist or the local bar & nudie show.

This was Renée-Lucie Bourges on the topic of family. Her next presentation will be on the subject of Holy Matrimony – or maybe she’s already covered that one.

The folks came back from Albi frazzled to the point of combustion – except for Rohan who’d slept through most of it. As happens when parents and children are tired, Charlotte threw a tantrum. Her parents were embarrassed and insisted she apologize to grand-maman. Charlotte refused and went into orbit. Feeling  like abject failures, her parents tried to save face by negotiating with a five year-old in total meltdown. Ha! After an hour of shutting up during this nonsense, I removed myself from the proceedings and decided if only one person in the house was going to get some sleep, that person would be me.

I hear Rohan babbling and laughing to himself in the next room. At this point, his parents are either flat-out unconscious or staring up at the ceiling wondering where they took the wrong turn: when they met? when they married? when they decided to have kids?

Off to have some tea while it’s more or less quiet.

The photo is one of the series I took of the crumbling tanneries yesterday, during my quiet time with the dog. Maybe I should submit it to Coutts-Hallmark  for a cute card on the theme of  Family Values?

***

12:00  The best way to be miserable? Try to be what you think people expect from you. The best way to get folks to relax? Be who you are and let them do the same. Everybody’s adjusting to the fact this grand-maman is not the same as the grand-maman back home, and this grand-papa doesn’t get pushed around for very long. From which it follows that this grand-maman has a book to write, no matter what. And this grand-papa will not drive three hours to a crowded beach on the Mediterranean, at the peak of the tourist season. Everything else is negotiable.

Pictured here: the passage from the kitchen to the living-room, in low traffic conditions i.e. one dog, one adult, one child:

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15:25 – Oh, and this adapted to: how wonderful it was having visitors.  No, I don’t think I’m more  unpleasant than the average person – just more outspoken about it. Besides, my dog loves me just the same and twenty years into the relationship, some people even grow to like me. Off to walk the dog and snap pictures of decrepit buildings. (Yes, I’m laughing – working on my  Coutts-Hallmark portfolio, you understand.)

What a difference twenty years make

In Food, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 28, 2009 at 8:22 am

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Sara discovered the peculiar mindset of the Graulhétois yesterday. She was telling someone how much she liked the local rosé. The person responded with a blistering put-down of every grape ever raised in the Gaillacois. Afterwards, I explained to her how the folks in Graulhet like to take the initiative in destroying their own reputation. They see it as a pre-emptive strike against nasty comments emanating from others – a disconcerting trait for well-intentioned outsiders.

We may (or may not) be going to Albi today.  You don’t do things the same way when young children are involved. In this instance, there are two issues: with babyseats in the car, someone will have to take the bus to Albi if we all go. Plus, Rohan is teething. Anyone who thinks of childhood as a time of blissful uncaring doesn’t remember much about it. He’s got one of the bigger ones breaking through the gum right now. It looks painful, notwithstanding all of Cybèle’s sympathetic tail-thumping when he cries.

I cooked up a small mountain of turkey scallopini last night. Once the children’s share was ready, I finished the ones for the adults with fresh basil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and another of limoncello. Served with seasoned bulgur and some of that despicable Gaillac rosé. Followed by some of the apricot sherbet I made a few weeks ago.

The best moment came after, when Fred told me to stay put, he would do the dishes. My god, what a difference twenty years make. He washed and talked about old times and former girlfriends. I learned that when he broke up with one of them, she told him she’d miss him all right, but she’d mostly miss his mother. Meaning me.

This probably sounds like one of those endearing Coutts-Hallmark moments. Truth is, Fred  was almost seventeen when I landed in his life. His mother was (and still is) a paranoid schizophrenic. He didn’t have much use for   mother figures of any kind. He was used to bossing it over his two brothers and butting heads with his dad (figuratively speaking, but the figures of speech were loud and colorful, believe me). It’s fair to say our relationship was contentious. When he left home, he said: “I’ll never like you. But I have to say I respect you.” I told him that was good enough for me and we’d probably get to the liking part later. So, Fred washing the dishes in my kitchen last night?  And being patient with his little ones? Smiling at me? I’m pretty  happy about it. Does that sound immodest? Yes, answers Mother Superior, please go to confession immediately.

Sleep and work patterns are pretty skewed right now, obviously. Taking it as it comes. Jotting down every second expression coming out of Charlotte’s mouth. Filling in background information on characters. If we don’t go to Albi, I  may get some more scenes sketched today. No, scratch that last comment. They’ll get sketched, one way or another, but the typing may have to wait.

***

15:30 Little children soak up every bit of freefloating energy they find in their environment. I’m not used to it anymore.  Bowed out of going to Albi with the others.  Took a nap, then a walk with Cybèle. A nap. (Translation: I ‘sat down’ on my bed. Woke up an hour later.)

Reading

In Current reading, Music, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 27, 2009 at 7:08 am

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When I stop reading to look at the book as if I’d bumped into a long-lost school buddy, I have to check out the author a bit more. Apparently, Denise Mina moved twenty-one times in eighteen years while she was growing up. I figured it had to be something of the sort; you don’t get that clear an eye for group behavior and the telling detail unless you’ve been the outsider many, many times in your life.

On my third go-round in my native town of Québec City, I was  thirty-six. At that point, I’d moved  over fifty times. Whether you want to or not, you go through some form of identity change every time you land in a new environment. While you’re trying to break the local code on our-way-is-the-only-way,  the landlocked ones are gauging you. Will you fit in? On whose side and at what level?  How will the group benefit? Are you  a threat or an asset to the power structure? Why? Can you be used? How? Do  you offend, titillate, intrigue? Are you dangerous or harmful? An amusement? An asset? Should you be shoved aside, bought off, courted, groomed as the new leader.   Should you  be ignored?  quarantined?  Allowed to settle somewhere on the outskirts of the group, not formally part of anything but there anyway? And so on – while you, of course, try to figure out who’s who, what’s what and how to make the best of what you find.

The main character in the draft I’m working on  has only moved once but it was a decisive break with the town and its inhabitants.  Back to help one of her sisters through a tough spot, she finds herself  unintentionally setting off trip wires to ongoing scandals – trip wires delimitating what the community has collectively adopted as its blind spot. I’m having fun working Tasha through the trip wires, as I’m not sure myself exactly what she’ll uncover in the end.

The photo: I took it yesterday morning as I went down to market. Love the play of light and shadow in it.

Everyone seems to be sleeping at the moment. Fred and Sara slept in the other upstairs bedroom with Rohan – at least they tried to,  while Rohan cried until about 4 am. We’ll make it a slow day with them all while they adjust and  Charlotte regales me with her storytelling. She ‘reads’ her books by looking at the pictures and making up stories for them. She and I may not be related genetically speaking, but we definitely belong to the same tribe.

***

10:00 The whole gang is sleeping. I’m building family trees and timelines while listening to music from over there and back then. Plus  gorgeous bits of trivia such as this one. Never mind Brigitte Bardot or Elvis Presley – according to the nuns, watching this already put you on the direct access ramp to hell. I swear. As we used to say (long stretch on the first word then short, lower tone on the second): Mon dieu.

Not to mention  the humongous and unforgettable Lucille Starr herself. Mon dieu, mon dieu, mon dieu. In the english too? This is way too much sinful.

OK, I’ll stop now. But after my daughter posting  The Beatles at Shea Stadium, I wouldn’t give the world Les Baronnets à Montréal? Come on!

***

16:10 Just sent an old colleague an email. He doesn’t know it but I’m going to work   this song of his into the story I’m writing. I even know where and  how it will happen. I know who will be singing along, and it  will be a funny moment in an upbeat way. A lot of people (including myself) make fun of this kind of music; I also know a lot of people who find solace in it.  I bet nobody’s ever heard of Georges Hamel outside French Canada  where he’s known as ‘le gentleman’ of country music. Which is exactly what he is – a gentleman. Folks like Georges are the journeymen of the industry; I have a whole lot of respect for most of the ones I’ve known in my life.

Reading materials for backstory today, I discovered Georges has just been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. In the photos posted on his website, he’s being  honored by  the present leader of the Québec Opposition, and  none other than one of my former bosses – who went from actor to politician. Oh well, Pierre, nobody’s perfect.

Steady as she goes

In Current reading, Food, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 26, 2009 at 8:15 am

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In about two hours from now, this living space will be a jumble of voices, luggage, jet-lagged people, excited dog and pleased/anxious hosts. I’m following my daughter’s advice: big breath in, big breath out, repeat as needed. I do a good impersonation of sociability. Truth is, a little company goes a long way for me. Same for conversations. Some are fine, at least for awhile. But with most of them, pretty quickly,  you feel as if you’re  stuck near the sound system in a disco. A lot of sound but not much sense. In many ways, children are easier to take than adults in that regard.

Mina: you know the writing is good when the scenes meant to lead you away from the main action work so well you forget about the plotline while you’re reading them. She did that twice to me last night – the characters were so interesting I didn’t even care  if they were moving the story along or not – although, three chapters further, it was clear they had done so. Something about her reminds me of Denis Lehane, even though the worlds they describe are continents apart and their plotting strategies are different. (Specifically? Later; have to re-read some Lehane first and now’s not the time.)

Summer story: had a panicky  moment yesterday when I realized the story is set in a real town where real events occurred. Suddenly had a cold sweat at the thought of someone taking my fiction for reality. Considering it’s at the drafting stage,  that  kind of thought is like being onstage and wondering if you turned off the stove  in your real kitchen. Not useful.  Only solution is to ignore the distraction and plunge back into the real world of imaginary occurrences. Besides which the reader is responsible for his own head, just as the writer is responsible for his or hers.

Off to market to stock up on fresh eggs, tomatoes, eggplants, peaches and melons from my favorite supplier. He’s pictured above. Nicknamed ‘The Vicar’ because every time he  heads over to the café for a drop or two, he says he’s off to listen to the Sunday sermon. He sells the cheapest (and best) tomatoes of them all.

***

12:00 The first thing Charlotte did after giving me a hug?

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She also explained the difference between a peach being ‘très bonne’ and ‘délicieuse’ and told me the trip had been ‘as long as this room, so not so long.’ In other words, we hit it off immediately. Fred looks younger than he did five years ago, Sara is even more gorgeous than she was and, for the time being, sixteen-month old Rohan looks both cute and jetlagged.

While the crew went off to market , I wrote a  confrontation scene for the story.

The visitors are now off to bed, totally jetlagged. So lunch for the natives, then maybe time to sketch one more scene.

Off to meet the Snark

In Current reading, Film, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 25, 2009 at 8:28 am

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In French translation the opening scene in Denise Mina’s The Field of Blood is slightly less than four pages long – approximately eleven hundred words.

I read them several times last night. Moved on with my reading; came back to them again. Then put them aside and read on. This is the first book in which we encounter the two Paddy Meehans, apparently. Interesting to see how the older Paddy re-appears in the later novel. Clearly, a defining figure in the author’s landscape.

What impresses me in the opening scene is everything Mina has compressed into it. I couldn’t help comparing with the few pages I’d read earlier by Stephen King. Mina’s opening sequence involves the  killing of a child by other children. King’s, the beating of a wife by her husband, causing a miscarriage. In Mina’s four pages, I had Conrad’s Heart of Darkness compressed to radioactivity. In King’s I had trigger words used as emotional vehicles. The kind of treatment that leads to:  “oh, how awful, oh, how sad, oh how… could you pass the chips, please, I’m reading right now.” After reading Mina’s, you shut up and deal with the resonances and implications.

I dreamt of Mina’s four pages. Which may sound like a nightmare but it was no such thing. Quite the contrary:  I felt secure in the knowledge it could be done. You can bring the reader down to face the beast. And you can bring the reader back up and out again. What you can’t do is stick a plastic dinosaur behind crinkled paper and say: “Lo, ’tis the beast”. Whether it takes fifty, eleven hundred or three thousand, each word must work.

Lastly, reading it recast my own exercise into a form of personal writerly challenge. I like challenges. Why? Because, when I feel challenged, I forget about cringing and whimpering. The Snark is a Boojum,  you say? Hurray, hurray, hurray!

Visitors: All breakables are now out of reach of little ones. We’ve borrowed high chairs, car seats, a crib. Stocked up on diapers, cereals, chocolate (…)  powder for milk, as requested by the mummy. DVDs from the médiathèque, pile of books from the neighbor. Writing it down feels as if I’m reporting all the prelim measures taken after a hurricane warning: windows boarded up, all garden tools and furniture safely stowed away, gas turned off…

The part I’m most looking forward to is taking the two children to the médiathèque – how’s that for a surprise?

***

10:00 Assuming readers of this blog are as book-minded as I am, please note the additional link I picked up at DeeDee’s literary  hang-out, Le bâtiment de la lumière et des ténèbres (the blog itself is in English):  Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind looks at book marketing (crime fiction, but not only).

***

19:20 I don’t know about anybody else, but I crack up every time I hear Mary Astor saying:  “I’ve been bad. Worse than you could know.”(At 1:26 on the trailer.) Go ahead, Mary. Convince us.

Best to one, best to all.

Plotting

In Current reading, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 24, 2009 at 8:29 am

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Although this may look like a pretty nature scene (and is) its main purpose is as place-holder for a thought. I was standing at this point yesterday at Miquelou when I found an important plot point. I’d left my pen and notebook in the car so I used the camera to set the visual cues leading back to it. The scene to which it refers in the story has nothing to do with green waters, trees and clouds. Those just happened to be in front of me at that moment.

Finished reading  Denise Mina’s The Dead Hour last night. Something about the experience gave me a greater sense of self-assurance in my own writing. I don’t know Denise Mina. As a person, she may be a bundle of insecurities. But as a writer? Her voice rings clear and unapologetic.  Like it or  not, if you look at the world through her eyes, this is what Glasgow looks like and this is how people behave in it.

On a more specific note, the woman knows a lot about  lack of sleep . The full landscape of it, as a matter of fact:   both at the blurred and confused end of it and  at the  break-through points into hyper-clarity (and attendant recklessness). You can feel the bodily disconnect when she describes Paddy falling asleep in the waiting room   before  her hearing. Or the muddled, disjointed way she makes contact with Burns – neither clear in her intent nor in her delivery of the invitation.

I’ll read a bit of the Stephen King in a few minutes. Feels more like a piece of homework than anything else – and it is. I felt at home in Mina’s words. Not so in King’s, but that’s the whole point. Like listening to music you don’t care for, but that one of your characters would enjoy.

What I most like about creating characters is you can allow them to be as intense, boring, despicable or wonderful as the story calls for. Most of ‘real life’ is about muting, fudging, downplaying and keeping the peace. That’s the price humans pay for living in society. The only escape hatches being dreamtime, lovemaking and art. Being a human is complicated business.

This shot has nothing to do with story. Simply grabbed it in Lavaur on Wednesday because I loved the greenish light emanating from the trees and how it colored the facades of these two old houses:

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Voilà. On to Stephen King’s Rose Madder (or excerpts thereof) as a waystation into parts of Bruce’s mind. Then more plotting and writing, while making the house baby-proof at the level of all the lower shelves.

***

18:30 yay! Another Denise Mina at the médiathèque: The Field of Blood (Le  champ du sang). Am I conflicted choosing between Stephen King and Mina?

Pas du tout as in: not in the slightest.

Bonjour, bonsoir et bonne continuation.

Knick-knacks

In Poetry, Sanford Meisner, Summer Story on July 23, 2009 at 7:24 am

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(Title of Composition: Isa’s Hand With Knick-Knacks)

Started work last night on a confrontation scene between the one who’s my main character (at least, at the first draft stage) and the piece of human refuse that’s her brother-in-law. I find this display of doggy toys perfect inspiration to conjure up some of my finer memories of such individuals. The whole point being that, despite the horrific things they will say and do, they themselves are often more like alien life-forms than anything else. Can you hate an alien life-form? Fear, yes; loathe, definitely. But hate?

A bit of Sanford, maybe? Then a poem. Then, spend some time with Isa who’s leaving this morning. Then back to the draft.

Sanford:

“What does it mean that you can’t be an actor and a gentleman?”

(student answers): “You’re allowed to do things onstage that you don’t do in life. You’re permitted to express yourself on stage and don’t need to hold yourself back as  you must in life.”

“What does it mean, ‘to hold yourself back?'”

“To censor yourself. Society sets the standard, but that has nothing to do with acting.”

“That’s true, but what do you mean?”

“Acting doesn’t have anything to do with everyday life.”

“It has to do with truth,” Meisner says.

“It has to do with truth, yeah” (the student says), “but it doesn’t have anything to do with conventional life outside the theater.”

“That’s true.(says another student). I’ve heard Maureen Stapleton at a party talk like a cultured woman. Who’s she kidding? That’s not what she lives by on the stage.”

“Well, they’re two different things.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you bring your special self,  your actor’s self, to  your work, and it’s different from the way you are outside.”

“You  bring your real self, right?”

“Your truthful self. That’s why you should never pick material in response to our ambition or your intellect. You should pick material that comes out of your gut. Unless you need a job,” Meisner adds, and the class laughs.

Sanford Meisner On Acting

(I specially like the distinction made between ‘real’ and ‘truthful’.)

***

This poem, after visiting Henry and his wife yesterday afternoon. They hardly go outside anymore, and spend their days bickering at each other from their respective pools of  aches and pains.  At least, with visitors, they  turn their attention elsewhere for a little bit. Madame took Isa and I on a tour of her life through knick-knacks, while Robert and Henry thundered back and forth against City Hall, Madame so-and-so and other outside sources of aggravation.

O, FLORIDA

This is the old country,

A land of statuary herons,

Where chevron squads of pelicans patrol

The glittering green shallows of the gulf.

Where color schemes are chiefly melon,

Flamingo pinks, and tropical pastels.

Where all day single-engine planes buzz by.

Their block red-letter advertisements scroll

Across those beefy, milk-white cumuli:

EAT SHRIMP AT RUBY’S-BY-THE-BAY.

RAW BAR AT JACK’S. ALASKA KING CRAB CLAWS.

ENJOY WORLD FAMOUS KEY LIME PIE.

Ponce de Leon, is this that paradise

You sought, whose tonics might restore

The potency and thrust of youth? The truth

Is that the old grow older here.

Their bones go frail as balsawood.

Strokes slur their speech. Their eyes become

Diminished lakes. We watch them dodder

Down grocery aisles. We see them heft

Their chronic coughs and aches along the beach.

Their sorrows all metastasize – they must –

And yet we seldom say a word

Or spend much time imagining ourselves

In thirty years. Shivering and sweating.

A lukewarm spittle on the chin.

Wide-open hours of waiting and regretting.

The air-conditioned room of our hotel

Looks out on swimming pool and sea.

We’ve paid good money for the view.

We seek the boredom that they know so well.

Back home, it’s thirty-three degrees,

The March rain changing steadily to sleet.

We’re only here another day. And if tonight

We eat at Ruby’s-by-the-Bay

Or Jack’s what difference will it make?

The beach boy, having closed up shop,

Has faced his bath chairs to the west

In regimented rows. Beside

The ponderous and receding tide

Three toasted, golden teenage girls relax.

They’re sitting cross-legged in the sand

and posing for a picture that a fourth

intends to take. Each tosses back her hair

Then feigns a fashion model’s runway stare.

Cotton blouses. An almost chilly breeze.

That blush reflection of the sinking sun.

Just listen to them shriek and laugh.

Let memory and love arrest them there.

Daniel Anderson, from  Drunk in Sunlight

Pushing on

In Current reading, RLB trivia, Summer Story on July 22, 2009 at 5:49 am

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At La Bousquétarié yesterday afternoon, workers were setting up the sound system and props for the annual pageant. This year, it’s called “Les Mystères du grenier” (The Secrets in the Attic).

For over an hour now, a man has been monologuing loudly on rue Jean-Jaurès. He’s probably calling home i.e. Tunisia, from the sound of it; pouring his heart out in waves of anguish. From across the sea, someone  – mother, sister,  friend – tries to soothe his mind. He makes listening sounds, then bursts forth all over again.

Myself, I lie there wondering why I can’t be a better person. R’s eldest will be here on Saturday, with  his wife and two children. Chances are  I’ll be feeling like an even worse person before this month is out, after trying to be available and light-hearted and pleasant and wise and loving…plus whatever else I consider grandmothers are supposed to be. Being all these wonderful things, while keeping a storyline moving along in my head, because I can’t just be a decent human being, I have to be a writer, too.

Denise Mina is excellent. Better than excellent. She’s spot on in capturing the mood of confusion brought on by extreme fatigue, the sounds and smells of dead-end lives. She’s unflinching and relentless in the acts of violence; all her characters are believable; as for the newspaper crowd, it’s anthology material.   I haven’t finished reading the book because I preferred slowing down to pay attention to how she works her territory.

I’ll probably never manage anything that good with mine but it can’t be helped; I know I’ll keep on trying. If I could only get it straight in my head that there’s nobody out there who’s got it figured out; nobody who’s the perfect wife, mother, lover, granny and Pillsbury doughgirl, all rolled into one. I know it, intellectually. Yet, at four in the morning, when a man is wailing his heart out in Arabic and I’m caught between what I want and what others expect,  I just wonder why it all has to be so tough.

Almost six now. From the feel of it, it’s going to be another hot one. The unbearable lightness of being? I only wish.