Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page


In Drafts, Hautvoir on January 31, 2012 at 6:49 am

No doubt about it: there is a brief, sharp pleasure at getting your digs in. Translates well in that pumping motion matched with the hissing “yessssss” of the sports person laying the opponent to waste. And the winner is….. YESSSSS.

OK. Congrats. Lights, camera, contracts, luxury watches bigger than a diner plate. Bodyguards, maybe? Fancy kennel dogs; a few thoroughbreds, a vineyard or two. Women, if you’re into women, men, lots and lots, if those are your preference. yesssssssss.

Oops. Don’t forget the Botox. Nasty ridges developing between the eyebrows. A touch of plastic surgery, too, while you’re at it. And so on. And so forth. Spite by any other name still feels the same. Anger? Resentment? The surgery can snip off the outward signs. The laser doesn’t exist yet that can zap the stuff out of the inner makeup.

The scramble. Ever see it? Ever experience it? When everyone in a crowd decides they will get their hands on the prize (or their body through the exit) before everybody else?  It’s not pretty. It doesn’t reveal the best in people, any more than a stampede over the cliff with his buddies adds to a lemming’s life expectancy. But it’s a great illustration of the yessss and the me-first pushed to their ultimate conclusion.

Dealing with the uglier parts of the human heart, brain, bowels and genitals. Choosing how to express annoyance, frustration, aggression, spite, vindictiveness. Choosing to explore them all in ways that won’t destroy  your own, or someone else’s chances at moving on to other parts of the landscape. That’s one part of what writing is about, at least, for me. Can’t do a thing about human nature except choose my own way of dealing with it; make my mistakes, learn from them, move on. Which is also what story is all about.

Every little thing you’ve got

In Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Music, Theater on January 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

The tune was on four beats; the lyrics, in yiddish. I was sitting in a theater; people around me were singing. I didn’t know the lyrics, but I knew the tune, so I hummed along.

The first song out of my mouth when I woke: another one entirely, from a puppet show called Dans l’oeil du Judas. “Oh ciel, qui est donc cet homme à la mine grave…” (Heavens, who is that man with the grave expression) set to a discordant oom-pah, like a  small village orchestra might play.

No surprises: I was reading Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia again, last night. Bent the corner on yet another page – the last one in chapter twelve where he discusses some of the  possible neurological explanations to the “musical savants”  and other persons with stupendous powers relating to spatial, mathematical or auditory processing. The interesting hypothesis being that language acquisition in the later phases of the brain’s development inhibits the earlier ways of apprehending the world, when the brain is still wide open, and the gates of perception not as circumscribed. So far, then, two absolute nuggets for me in this book: the notion of the “protomusic-cum-protolanguage” in Neandertal (chapter nine), and the whole discussion on how the brain shapes (or re-creates) musical perception,  in chapter twelve.

Meanwhile, this brain is busy re-shaping and re-combining materials, thanks to characters who did not appear in the initial Hautvoir story. Outsiders for whom Hautvoir is not the repository of old hurts and lingering family feuds but a place; period, full stop. Meaning what? Meaning the spot in which they happen to find themselves; the one in which their life is playing itself out at that moment. The place where they must apply all their skills  or, as the lyrics go in It Don’t Mean a Thing: give it every little thing they’ve got. Now. Because now is the only little thing available; the only place where action i.e. change, is possible.

BOM-bom-bom, bom-bom-bom-bom BOM-bom-bom

In Circus, Drafts, Music, Theater on January 29, 2012 at 7:48 am

serendipity. The puppet theater in the afternoon told the tale of Drom the Dromadary to a packed house of children who clapped along, even to some of the more complex rythms in the songs. No surprise there: most of them take in at least one live show a week; many of them watch their parents rehearse for it, and are savvy when it comes to lighting, props and sound balance.

serendipity because, in the morning, we’d rehearsed the four vocal parts of Caravan – the choir divided in four, three of them doing various instrumentations, the fourth carrying the melody; the voices going round so that each group got to do the three rythms and the melody.

The youngest member in the afternoon crowd sat on her father’s lap, in the first row. She’s seven or eight months old; shows up with her parents at most rehearsals. She didn’t clap along to the songs; she bounced instead, her eyes glued to the action on the small stage.

Having trouble concentrating on words right now, because the four harmonies keep playing in my head. We sang Caravan for at least fifteen minutes, yesterday morning. No drugs of any kind required: we were all in a trance state at the end of it.

That’s the size of it for now (the bass  is getting pretty insistent.)

(Labeling this in Drafts, simply because  that’s what all roads lead back to, one way or another.)

Of ampersands and other computer glitches

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2012 at 6:22 am

what can I say

Dancing in public. Dancing in public, even when you think you are dancing in private. One of the realities the brave new world of electronics allows. You think you’re speaking to one person; you discover you’re on a one-way party line.

It’s been a rough year; or two; or five or more. Almost every day, a new biggie to deal with.

I’m not going to change anything to my way of writing; save for the fact the writing will now get done in the full knowledge my words – none of my words – belong to me only, the minute I write them down in a space others can access.

It didn’t have to be this way? Damn right. But what difference does that make now?

Am I just one more crazy, delusional bitch? Always a possibility. If I am, at least I know it; and the crazy delusions don’t affect my personal life all that much. Both my employers and my friends seem to manage fine with the way I am. Which leaves me the only option available at the moment: using my crazy, delusional self for fictional purposes.

To write is to hope. Good luck to me, good luck to all.

To Write is to Hope

In Drafts on January 27, 2012 at 3:38 am

With apologies to the writer who first used the expression serving as a title to this post. I can’t remember his name, and am in no mood to go searching for it.

To write is to hope. What does that mean? This isn’t a school essay. I’ll let others read whatever they want or need into the expression. At its simplest, for me it means staying alive i.e. refusing to give up no matter what a fuck-up your life may be, at any given moment. Writing is my way to push through the dreck. Life is absurd. May as well avoid the lush violin strains as an accompaniment to that basic fact, especially if the maudlin – an ever-present temptation – happens to give you hives.

In the most practical of terms, yesterday brought me the assurance I’d have money with which to pay my bills not only in Feruary but in March and all the way to August (another six-month contract); the guaranteed three-year contract  is indeed guaranteed, meaning it should-may-might kick in next September. When I broke down in her office, my boss told me there was no way she wouldn’t find a way to keep me. So, that part of the equation is as good as it can yield.

There was also lots of talk about addiction, yesterday at work. Not idle bar-type talk or learned discussions on the whys and the wherefores of. Factual, as non-judgemental as possible and, in some cases, straight-in-your-face talk to a person sitting in the office to whom two or three others are saying: here’s the nature of your problem. We all know it. There’s not a damn thing we can do to help you, if you don’t acknowledge what it’s doing to your chances at a real job, and  if you don’t decide to use the help that’s being offered – or find some other help, if that makes more sense to you.

As always, in my case, that kind of hard and necessary talk leading me right back to asking myself how best to cope with those parts of my life proving intractable to empathy, compassion and loving kindness and/or where combinations of those fine traits have proven as toxic as a modified strain of the common cold. Meaning: when those people I wish to know don’t want to know me; and when those I don’t want around refuse to leave.

Fiction-wise, what I can make of anything of this or of other matters, I have no idea at the moment. All I know, is that writing is the only addiction that goes on making sense to me, no matter what.

A Tangled Web

In Drafts on January 26, 2012 at 8:05 am

I can’t think of any other way to describe the storyboard, at the moment. Elements of drafts; false trails; material to be recycled or trashed outright. It’s something of a  horror show.

Life of the real kind is playing  in the same way. How I’ll make it to firmer ground, both in story and in living conditions: some clues I need to follow. Some actions I need to take. Some peace of mind I need to secure for myself.

For the time being, both in story and in real life, I have to ask myself which is worse: gleeful maliciousness, playing havoc with other people’s lives for the hell of it; or the tyrannies and tortures inflicted by a conflict of good intentions.

The Drafts from Oy

In Drafts on January 25, 2012 at 7:10 am

Right now, this very minute: oy.

The specific mix of this specific oy: wanting to laugh; wanting to whimper; wanting to go back to sleep and find out what happens after the friendly deus ex machina of dreamland hands me the piece of stone. A very specific piece of stone; no, I’m  not sharing its specificity with anyone. Deus ex machina told me nothing about secrecy; he didn’t have to.

The rest of the oy: messy drafts; blogs I’ve committed myself to put online (why? who knows; because better than playing tiddly-winks? who knows); the Wednesday work marathon awaiting – nine (9) children between the ages of eight (8) and thirteen (13), at odds with reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and vast segments of reality,  between me and coming home to the messy drafts tonight.

Current draft: What if I change her name, and move the story to another town? Or, wait. What if… The piece of stone. Yes. Right.


Say What?

In Drafts on January 24, 2012 at 7:52 am

Some people compute time by years; some by schools attended; or jobs; I tend to compute time by houses. The specific memory triggering this realization being an exchange with someone I trace back to three houses ago.

Three houses ago, I’d just completed a work of fiction I had set in a fictional town in Florida’s Panhandle. No one had ever paid much attention to my writing, save for the copy I produced for other people’s reports, opinion pieces and speeches. The attention paid to those being of the proprietary kind – the client requesting more resounding adverbs, or the client’s wife wanting a bit more attention paid to her central role as helpmeet and facilitator to her husband’s place in the pale Northern sun.

The exchange centered on risk. The exact words don’t matter. The message was: you can’t write good fiction (or good anything else), and play it safe.

Three houses ago, the issue for me then became: thank you, fine and dandy, I agree; but how do you grapple with some issues without having them explode in your face? How do you avoid the slide down into sodden self-pity, or the flaming, screaming rant against the… the… oh, fuck it, I can’t stand this! Fuck you! Go away! Let a stray meteorite wipe us out, let’s get this over with! (Lots of variations available here, obviously: animal rights, climate change – did I mention France just lost its triple A rating?)

As more and more “material” accumulates in this rough draft every day, the issue now before me is how to shape some of it into… aye, there’s the rub. Huge pieces of life itself are proving even more absurd than I ever suspected. At least one more-or-less deadpan narrator feels essential to the process, along with at least one more-or-less naive voice, such as that of a child. Ergo – for the time being, anyway: looking at the draft through the eyes of one outsider, stuck inside a place she doesn’t care for all that much, and one child, stuck inside the unanswerable riddles adults foist on their young.

The contemporary ring to the message I registered three houses ago being: no matter when the events to which they refer took place, always keep the characters on the growing edge of now i.e. somewhat befuddled, somewhat bemused, hovering somewhere between tears, laughter and plain-as-plain-syrup astonishment.


In Drafts on January 23, 2012 at 7:12 am

Edgy. You feel it when you read it, no  matter who the writer is or what the home turf happens to be. Taking chances; pushing it as far as you can take it, whatever the it may be. Meaning: whatever emotional risk is involved. At least, that’s what writing is about for me.

The risk: flatness. Falling flat on your face because you went too far. Being boring because you didn’t push it far enough.

OK. Boredom, then. Flat out snore. Wrong crowd. Wrong time. Wrong place. Ah. A glimmer of something. Wrong place; wrong person; different set of expectations. “I thought you meant…”

Why are the characters in this place? How did they get here? Do they expect to stay, do they want to move on? Can they leave? Why don’t they?

The place. Its physical layout. Where the characters live; what it says about them; how it affects the way they see themselves or how others see them (or don’t).

What they do in their spare time. Where they hang out. With whom. Doing what. What matters most. What happens when the fog rolls in, and they’re not so sure of where the edges are anymore.


In Drafts on January 22, 2012 at 7:28 am

books; in the tens of thousands.

posters of books and of their authors.

announcements for book signings, meetings with the authors, learned conferences on their work.

more books, inspired by books read, and authors admired.

People. In the bookstores, in the streets; in the stores holding their January sales; in the parks. Alone, by twos, in bunches.

Street people. Begging, entertaining, packing up their wares, or checking out the limp on their dog. Tourists snapping their own versions of the postcards on sale a few meters away from them.

Walking until words find a shape. Writing them down; most of them aren’t worth looking at twice. Walking some more, waiting for the right ones to show up.