Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page


In Animals, Collages, Contes d'Exil, Hautvoir, Music, Tea on December 31, 2009 at 5:45 am

It came to me as I was falling asleep last night: the way I want to re-work Contes d’Exil is with fairy-tale type illustrations to the narrative – said narrative making no particular concession to group-age as a determining factor for suitability. The stories themselves can be read either as fairy-tales gone somewhat awry (or more to the point, fairy tales before they were homogenized and rendered in nothing but the softer hues); or tales from people who sometimes stumble across the fine line between the dream world and the awake one.  I pulled out some of the older materials relating to my friend Pyotr (seen above), a handmade bear I bought in Geneva many years ago. Pyotr was the trigger to a whole series of tales I’m re-examining in this new light.  In the photograph, the writing on the page mentions two faces of the bear-as-object; the photo shows three. Not to worry since there are four in actuality, if I include the dancing Turkish bear in the frame on the table – which I must, since he also appears in one of the tales.  I’m continuing to work on these stories in French because that’s how they come to me, for better or worse.

In other news, I fell under the spell of a goofy, baroque and wonderful version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute yesterday: the one performed by l’Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, an Italian group composed of a wild assortment of musicians from nine or ten different countries, under the direction of  classically-trained composer Mario Tronco. Here’s an excerpt. Personally, I can’t help hearing the Papageno-Pagagena aria performed by ducks now.  Hear it? Something will come of it, I know – probably in the other French-language story presently in the incubator.

The only question is whether I’ll manage to concentrate on anything today while listening to the  Papageno-Papagena aria in Duck playing in my head. Yes the viruses are firmly entrenched in my throat now but there’s no saying if the damage they’ve done to the brain pan is  permanent or not. Whatever. As one of my characters is about to say to another: “I want you to realize we may not come out of this alive.” To which the reply will be: “That is a foregone conclusion.” Point taken.  Onward and so on, after suitable doses of ibuprofen and tea.

To those reading this from time zones ahead of mine, New Year greetings from Graulhet. To those reading this while it’s still yesterday …hmm… hi.

Can’t find a title to this post. A first. (No, I will not  – ducks, enough I said!)


Hallo? oh, here I am

In Animals, Collages, Current reading, RLB trivia, Tea on December 30, 2009 at 7:37 am

The fever broke around 3 am. I know because the dreams changed from viral sludge to my  usual story-type scenarios. I even made a dream-pun that woke me up; I shouldn’t have bothered, it was way funnier while I was asleep. No matter: viruses travel in bunches; whatever suited them in my neo-cortex no longer amuses them, they would rather check out my nose, ears and throat. Fine by me, I hate not being able to use my own brain to string together words, thoughts and images.

Oh, let me introduce you to Otto the Rhino (his friends call him Bismarck for laughs). Ready? Right here. This may appear to be several flying rhinos. Not so: it’s just a clever way of showing Otto’s displacements in the air. I watched Otto fly for quite a while yesterday – a good ten minutes; that was  the heights of intellectual achievement I managed to scale before going back to bed.  Even with  his little feet streaming backwards, I’m not sure the weight distribution would allow my friend Otto to attempt  intercontinental flights. A pity, that; I can well see a little cabin between the wings, with a goodly supply of reading materials and tasty bits, pillows, blankets and the ruff-ruff-ruff-ruff of the wings on both sides. (Looks like an interesting jazz festival though; I’ll have to check it out.)

I couldn’t even think about my characters yesterday but they’re back with me now. I’ve several issues to resolve – or, should I say they have several issues to resolve because every time I try to do it for them, they balk. It’s a tricky thing, being an author. You only get to lead the orchestra by letting the musicians play.

Today’s photo has nothing to do with anything. I simply enjoyed the interplay of lines and curves in it. Snapped during a pleasant stroll in Albi last summer. I was reading Jim Harrison in translation at the time (but I link to the original). After due consideration, I’ve reached my New Year’s Resolution for 2010: I will buy myself his latest. Nothing beats making resolutions you can keep.

(I clicked the Tea category for this post because I wish to express my sincere gratitude to tea growers, packers, shippers and purveyors world-wide.  Let it be known viruses don’t like tea; must try it as a gargle today.)

Muddled and befuddled – apart from which I’m fine

In Animals, Collages, Tea on December 29, 2009 at 8:25 am

I don’t have a stuffed toy available right now. If I did, I’d crawl back into bed and give it instructions for dealing with the viral ectoplasm that has descended on me. I know it’s a virus because I finished the antibiotics and the codeine last night. Have now switched to ibuprofen, throat lozenges and tea.   Got up around three am for all three. Tried some serious thinking about my storylines but   viral onslaughts don’t allow for that sort of thing. For now, I will crawl back into bed and try funny thoughts instead. Why? I’m convinced viruses have no sense of humor. Hopefully, they’ll scram and leave me alone with my virtual stuffed frog. Her name is Galipette and she knows all about the habits of blue-green algae. I hope she doesn’t feel the need to tell me all about it right this minute.

As soon as I feel a bit more energy, I’ll get back to the story because this is really a perfect space from which to work on less astute characters. So: virtual stuffed frog,  real pen, real paper, real tea.

I hope your troubles are few. (This is funny: I came across a Google page about Dante and the River Lethe . Right in the middle of it, there’s an article about gargling with le thé – probably better than swallowing all of the river. Must try it.)

Mostly story, most of the time

In Collages, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Opinion, Theater on December 28, 2009 at 8:05 am

I took this shot yesterday during a walk in the countryside. It represents a typical winter scene in this area,  snow being an exceptional occurrence around Graulhet. Given the way my mind works, the landscape ‘reminds’ me of an unwritten scene in the story on which I’m working and which involves the same type of scenery, but to the West of Montreal Island, in an affluent area where quite a few horse breeders live. For better and for worse, in sickness and in health as they say, I spend most of the time listening to stories in my head, and writing some of them down.

Had one of those “well, duh…” moments the other day – by which I mean one of those realizations so obvious to the rest of humanity,  you feel like the town retard when the knowledge finally gets to you. This beam of light revealed two things: 1) by virtue of being unfinished, every single one of my  unfinished stories will forever hold the promise of being the very best story ever written; 2) by virtue of being finished, every other one will forever fall short of what I set out to capture.

Although at first glance, that may sound like a depressing realization, it didn’t strike me that way. Quite the contrary: it felt more like a permission to fail, so long as I completed the homework. As a result (and because of Fantômette’s unexpected re-appearance in the forefront of my psyche), I’m pretty much leaving the story free to trot off in any direction it chooses. What I’ll end up with, I don’t even want to know. The story world is a strange place – a bit like the island in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but where each character would wander alone, unaware of the presence of others, most of the time.

In the world of real, I received an email I wish to share: This video from Amnesty International. Since I agree with the message, and share that core  belief in the power of words – for better and for worse – I pass it along here.

Remember me?

In Animals, Collages, Contes d'Exil, Games on December 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

I may have used this photo on the community blog but it doesn’t matter. For one, novelty isn’t everything. For another, it’s the one that best represents the scene about to happen in the dream I had last night. It’s a scene that plays out every time I go for a longish walk with my dog. After she has sniffed around for awhile, she likes to get some distance away from me (in this case, she’ll head for the middle of the road, at the end of the stand of trees). Then, she sits on her haunches and she waits for me to ‘notice’ her. At this point, I must make a big fuss about catching sight of her, and call her. She jumps up and races back to me, totally delighted. On a long walk, we can do this two or three times; just as with small children, a good part of the fun seems to reside in the repetition.

In the dream, Cybèle was sitting at a distance, waiting for me to call her back. But I knew that Cybèle was really the story I’m writing and which I need to look at from some distance – meaning, it’s time for another printout. Working on a computer is wonderful for zooming in and out of scenes, making changes and adjustments at various places in the manuscript. But it’s worthless for overall sense of how things are going.  When the dog played ‘call me back’ during our real-life walk last night, I felt that need for overall perspective on the different storylines in my story.  Knowing me, they  probably won’t do so in one neat bow tying up all the loose ends but for my sake (and the reader’s, eventually), the resolution(s)  must provide some level of satisfaction – either of justice served, or of justice eluded, I don’t know yet. Perhaps both, depending on the characters.

The other dream-inspired but story-related thought this morning was about shame –  how different people see it, what they consider shameful, what they don’t, and how they deal with it, be it theirs or that of others. For example, a beggar vs a well-dressed passerby. “Have you no shame?” the well-dressed one might say, when the beggar reels out the litany of his woes in the hope of a handout. Of course, the beggar feels shame; he feels it so well, he tries to use it as a trigger to the other person’s pocketbook. How this relates to story, I’m not sure yet but it reminds me of a scene I once witnessed in the Paris métro where  some beggars use shame as a guerilla tactic.

So the threads this morning: shame, trust, perspective,  and the child-like/ dog-like delight at recognition. Oh, and tall evergreens, mustn’t forget those.

Fantomette to the rescue

In Collages, Food, Music on December 26, 2009 at 8:18 am

With apologies to my daughter – for she was a source of unending inspiration for stories at all hours of the day – the very best audience I ever had was my kid brother. Being six years older than he was, I started telling him stories before he had a chance to build up his natural defences. He also got worked into various tales of daring escapes and wilderness survival, not to mention the cavalcades we led from the back of a once-red couch from which we charged at each other from opposite ends (falling off the horse was no big deal since you landed on the couch; if you ask me, every well-made horse should have a couch landing, and I speak of that which I know when I write this.)

Some of our very best adventures  were out at the ‘cottage’ – a turquoise-colored shack by a lake, the main attractions of which were:1) the lake, of course; 2) a tall pine tree by the water with branches specially made for lounging with a book and getting your hair full of pine pitch;3) a ‘forest’ of pine trees, scrub, poison ivy and raspberry bushes in which we played out the scenarios I concocted out of a combination of Jules Vernes, Nancy Drew, The Famous Five (Le Club des Cinq, in French), and Fantomette who appears on the bottom left-hand side of the following book cover:

I can’t say enough good things about Fantomette, so I won’t even try. Suffice it to say that, before codeine came along to send me down a slow swirl to dreamland, I had left two of my characters (a brother and his sister), contemplating the kind of derring-do my kid brother and I would have considered in the days of Fantomette meets The Tsar’s Messenger. Whether Réal and Sophie can carry off a grownup version of same, I don’t know but I guess there’s only one way to find out. And yes, only one music applies as the proper intro. Chaaaaaarge! (oops, fell off the horse. Chaaaarge. There, that’s better.)

Oh, sorry: the main photo is in honor of one of our memorable fictional expeditions to China when I was nine and my brother was three. All I remember about that adventure is  we ate Minute Rice prepared by me,  we ate it outside the cottage, and the story I told must have been really something for a three year-old because he kept looking at me instead of chewing. The time has come for me to quote my sources:  Here’s for you, G.

Dear Reader: Unaccustomed as I am to narcolepsy…

In Film, RLB trivia on December 25, 2009 at 8:58 am

Just sent my daughter a selection of virtual Christmas trees on which to  hang the virtual decorations I’d emailed yesterday. Should you be in need of a tree, please, just help yourself right here – I offer a choice of models, as you can see, all of them free.

You may also get some Christmas pageantry here, whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or a fire-worshiping devil in disguise. You may watch an excerpt of Fantasia’s  The Nutcracker Suite (in which I appear, cleverly disguised as the smaller of the mushrooms starting at 2:31 until 3:32). I also wanted to offer you one of the sixty-five videos featuring Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Andersen. But after watching a few of them, I’m afraid they simply don’t hold the magic they did in 1952 when I saw the movie in a real cinéma (as distinguished from a parish basement or a convent meeting hall).  Suffice it to say I walked out of the movie on a little cloud of happiness back then. I wish everyone at least one moment of joy as perfect as that of a child under the spell of something magical. It may seem maudlin or silly to the grownup, and the grownup is right. But the little kid doesn’t care about being right. Why? Because magic is best.

Because of the medication, I’m spending long hours sleeping, and not terribly with-it even when I’m awake so that’s it from Graulhet for now. Wishing you some magic, that’s all. If none is forthcoming, you can always make up your own, yes?

Of Scaredy Cats and the Angst of Brussels’ sprouts

In Animals, Collages, Contes d'Exil, RLB trivia, Visual artists on December 24, 2009 at 7:05 am

One of the questions I put to myself in writing yesterday was: do I really want to be published or do I just want to dream about it? I wish I could say I woke up with the answer shining forth like a message from the archangels but I didnt. “Being published” has meant such different things over the years. When I was a book-besotted little girl, “being published”  was the equivalent of dreaming myself into existence. In many ways, books and their authors struck me as entirely more dependable than ordinary humans. For one, the author’s face rarely varied from one back cover to the next.  The stories were still there whenever we wished to read them and, no matter what the genre’s requirements might entail, there was some internal logic and coherence to the whole adventure. A story always delivered you safely to the words The End. A good story then provided you with hours of material with which to re-write your own life into some semblance of a satisfactory tale.

I came perilously close to being published for real on two occasions in my younger years and immediately scurried away.   I literally did not follow through on two enthusiastic requests to send in more material, including a personal phone call from one of my idols of the time. Why? Think Groucho Marx and his quip about not wanting to be part of a club that would have him as a member. In other words, in my estimation, the world of published authors would have taken a terrible fall had it opened its doors to the likes of me.

Instead, I played at being published by ghostwriting; it was like acting with a mask on. It spared me the stage fright. I would take  on someone’s speech mannerisms and thought patterns, and spin away with them. In a way, it was fun reading myself in the paper, making pronouncements on any number of topics under this or that person’s name. In another way, I  felt like such a huge and cowardly phony  I gave it up eventually  and concentrated on writing my own material for publication again. Had a few light pieces published in magazines. My “real” stuff was a different matter. My “real” stuff is the equivalent of a kid’s drawing getting laughed at by the grown-ups for whom it was intended. The more I love my  “real” stuff, the harder it gets to send it out.  It’s crazy, I know.  Getting paid for writing things that don’t matter all that much is fine so what’s wrong with risking acceptance of something I wrote with love and care? The answer is pretty obvious: whether accepted or rejected, the ok material doesn’t count. You laugh it off or you spend the money and that’s it. Same difference as going out on dates (for better and worse), versus falling in love maybe. Truth? I’m a chicken. All right, make that a duck; ducks are funnier and they taste better, too (I’m braising one for the Christmas meal. Speaking of braising ducks, please read about the feelings of Brussels sprouts. I know my friend the shy tree would approve of every word.)

Anothe fabulous link today, thanks to someone’s search terms on my community blog: Aurélien Lepage‘s blog kept me entranced for a good while last night. I hope others enjoy it as much as I did. The photo is more footsteps in the snow, this time a local cat who hangs out on the rooftops and drops by for brief visits on the wall next to the kitchen entrance.

A few thoughts and two links

In Animals, Collages, Contes d'Exil, Music, Visual artists on December 23, 2009 at 9:02 am

Grabbed this photo on Sunday. (The snow is all gone now.) I hadn’t gone to that place on the river for a long time. Close to this spot, there’s a tree with whom (with which?) I always end up talking. He (it?) is fairly shy so I’m not providing a photograph. But he’s a fine specimen of a tree, a great listener, and I’m convinced he passes along my messages to the wind. I’m convinced of this even when I’m not on antibiotics and on codeine, as I am now. This belief is harmless for the biosphere and does wonders for my peace of mind. I’ve found messenger trees everywhere I’ve lived and like to think of them all as a sort of relay system (but the codeine is definitely at work if I’m willing to write this down and press the publish button afterwards.)

One of my characters was visiting her childhood home this morning. An interesting experience during which I learned a lot about what makes her tick.  On the piano in the living-room, there was a photo of her mother playing that same piano – she remembers her playing Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye.* Her  mother’s name was Viviane and her father, Charles, is a retired algebra teacher.

The links were sent to me by my daughter, relayed from her uncle. The first takes you to the world of  Vincent Bouillat’s White Animals. The second, to fabulous photography by Refael Bayer.  Looking at them, I can almost sense the sounds and the smells of Tel Aviv.

* I chose this  particular clip for the Cocteau drawings but Sophie remembers  playing this – le Petit Poucet – with her mother.

What is in that envelope?

In Animals, Circus, Collages, Current reading on December 22, 2009 at 5:30 am

Just read this story in Wired. (I could have read about dental work instead but, given I’ll be sitting in a dentist’s chair this afternoon, I figured reading about a diamond heist was better for my general disposition.)

If a  man starts a conversation by saying: “I may be a thief and a liar but I’m going to tell you a true story”, I wouldn’t count on hearing the whole of it and nothing but. However, odds are excellent I would be entertained. Especially if that man happened to be talking to me in the sixth year of his jail term, after refusing to talk to all other journalists, and if the write-up was well done – which happens to be the case  in this story of the biggest diamond heist in history at none other than the Antwerp Diamond Center. I haven’t read through the entire story yet but two things stand out immediately: the thief’s buddy (Speedy)  through whom the heist becomes unravelled. A thief prone to panic attacks is not the greatest ally; whatever  personality flaws one can ascribe to the main protagonist of the story, his loyalty to his buddies is worth mentioning. However the reasons that part of the story flashed red lights and rang bells at me are: 1) I’m somewhat prone to panic attacks myself and 2) I’m presently working on a character similarly afflicted. (In my story, I left said character barricaded in his office and refusing to answer his calls at the law firm last night –   an embarrassment to his partners and an inconvenience to the clients, no doubt about it. How the character will handle the humiliation of releasing himself from his own office, I have yet to discover.)

The other element that struck me in Joshua Davis’ article was the thief’s modus operandi – he studied the people at the Diamond Center first. The security features, he dealt with later.  This holds my interest much more than thoughts of diamonds and fortunes stashed away in remote places. Why? Because the only thing I truly care about  is people not only surviving,  but thriving despite the odds. Pushing that envelope a bit further, I’d even say: surviving not only despite them, but by turning the bank’s unbreakable odds into their personal escape route to sanity, freedom and the fresh mountain air of the Alps, if that’s what happens to appeal to them. I like the thought of things working out – I’m funny that way.

The title of the post is a prompt to myself: I thought I knew what was in the envelope my character dropped into his pocket. He also thinks he knows what’s in it which is why he’s locked himself away, felled by panic and guilt. But: what is in that envelope? (If nothing else, figuring it out should keep the writer’s mind off the pain in her jaw, the queasiness at the thought of the dentist, and all doomsday scenarios tripping the light fantastic in her fervid brain.)

Photo: dedicated to panick attack sufferers world-wide:


Tiger: frrrrrrr  frrrrrr grrrrrrrrrowl

Potted Plant: RIP or yea,  though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, etc