Archive for April, 2014|Monthly archive page

Quandary (make that plural)

In Circus, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Poetry, proto drafts, Querying, Sanford Meisner, Theater on April 30, 2014 at 7:33 am

The moment occurs in the film The Tightrope – a master class for actors with Peter Brook, filmed by his son Simon. An actress walks the edge of a carpet. First, she is walking through fire. When she reaches the corner, she must turn and walk the rest of the way as if making her way through water – two of the trials in The Magic Flute. Peter Brook stops her several times. You don’t walk a tightrope the same way through flames as you do through liquid pressing down on all sides.

Things people tell you. Things they hold back. What to share and with whom. What they expect in return for the sharing. If all goes well in Court, we’ll have a party and you’ll be invited, he says. At which point, it’s best to laugh and pretend you’re in the scene at the European Traders’ Association dinner, where Graham Greene’s character, Wormwold, is doing his best to avoid the poisoned offerings. The scene reads like a piece of Peter Sellers’ in The Pink Panther. (In real life, the real person then said: “I didn’t tell  you about my mother’s side of the family, did I?” And went on to mention his mother’s maiden name,   and the town in which that patronym strikes fear – or, as the saying goes, respect).

I guess I’ll spend time at the library again. To my knowledge, the public computers over there should allow for a modicum of privacy – how’s that for irony – while I labor on another read-through, plus another draft query letter. Oh, and the ironies involved in that exercise. good grief.

Happens all the time

In Current reading, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Querying on April 29, 2014 at 7:39 am

Irony. The scene’s been done thousands of times? Doesn’t make it less of a heartbreaker:

a crowd of people, say, on a pier. Expectant faces raised toward the figures on deck. Everyone waving back and forth. There he is? Yes, yes, there he is! There she is! Wave, wave, oh god, thank you thank you. etc.

The wavers part like the sea in front of Moses and the Israelites. The one from the ship approaches, beaming. The one on the pier beams, almost falls over from leaning so far to reach the one approaching, approaching, walking by, arms outstretched toward another. They embrace. Others embrace. Every goddamn body on that pier seems to be meeting up with another goddamn body off the boat. Except for the one who beamed and beamed and who need not worry about looking like a fool in the eyes of others because nobody’s paying the least attention. Allez, move on, make your way out of the throng. Get back to the street, walk away with the knife doing its job to the entirety of the living landscape in your viscera.

The next trick is to make it funny. To make it something others can recognize and say: right, and I felt as if the world had ended, and sometimes, I still do. Love of my life, and all that. Live on, live on. Next project. Next chapter. Next revision. Next whatever.

Started reading Graham Greene last night – Our Man in Havana. Now, of course, I have to look up Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. Sounds like a better bet than The Lit Lamp : A Manual of Evening Devotion.

Allez. Tales from Shakespeare. Wouldn’t you know it. Written by Charles and his sister Mary Lamb. oy. I’m off to read the free  pdf version.

How Best to Gear Up for Trying Times

In Artists, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Querying on April 28, 2014 at 7:29 am

Awe-struck was I. There was the dreamer, puttering at something of relative importance when voices broke out in Rossini’s version of the cujus animam part of the Stabat Mater.

The dreamer circled round whatever impeded her view. There they stood – the papa, the mamma, young boy and his sister. A likely story, considering the family the dreamer beheld, none of whose members would know the first thing about Rossini or Latin. The father’s voice faltered at the pertransivit gladius; the boy forged on. What the hell. The dreamer kicked in too.

What’s not to like about dreams, when they serve up tales beyond the incredible? The last I saw of the boy and his family, in real-time, no one had much time to spare on the benefits of learning so there’s the added chuckle thrown in: that of the dreamer as some benevolent female figure lifting the masses up to the finer things in life. Say, Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen.

Meanwhile, it rains on, with promises of a drenched week or two during these school holidays. Take your laughs where you find them, my friend.

The title reads like one of those self-help columns in women’s magazines. Women are supposed to be experts on every non-scientific subject from knitting and sewing to gluing patchy relationships and keeping the hearth swept in summer/fuelled in winter.

Querying. The feeling associated with the word: here’s mamma with her awkward offspring, standing at the stage entrance and watching the professional kiddos stream by with their professional mammas, out on their fifth casting call for the day. “Try the pertransivit gladius again, sweetheart,” the mamma says while her awkward offspring cringes, his every freckle touching the next, as it always does when he’s about to cry.

After which reality will do what reality does with plans, for better, for worse, and for everything in between

In Artists, Circus, Drafts, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Querying, Sundays on April 27, 2014 at 7:25 am

First, I’ll deal with some of the clutter in this room. Dispose of the remains of the shelving unit that collapsed under the weight of books. The replacement, built by a friend: expected on Tuesday. By then, all the last-minute changes on the circus book will get nixed (I hope): the printer’s schedule says Delivery on April thirtieth. I feel for the person trying to get the material printer-ready while dealing with a flurry of urgent requests to add so-and-so’s shot of such-and-such. The cover art: now one huge blob of a mix-up, as far as I’m concerned. But I’m just the writer. Other folks are paying for the publishing. Their money, their say. This rule applies whether the project costs millions, thousands, hundreds or a so-called free lunch.

It’s raining hard out there. The good news: I’ve got what I need, food wise; no need to lumber down the hill for a soggy shopping expedition. Outdoor markets are cuter on sunny days. And outdoor merchants, less given to treating customers as brothers-in-hardship – the shoulder to cry on while the rain drips off their canopy and down your neck.

Ah me. When housecleaning appeals as a travel destination… maybe I’ll get a bit of desk space again. How far I’ll get toward the further reaches of the room: tricky moves involved with multiple shiftings of the piles of essential elements to four distinct work projects.

Among the plans for these few days without coaching sessions in the schools: the great Egg Hunt, of course, for the English-language portion of my writing life. Plus, if time permits, a few inquiries into short residence programs offered to writers of the French-language persuasion in various settings around these parts. Voilà.

B…oo! Whaaaaaa

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Hautvoir, proto drafts, Querying, Synopsis, Visual artists on April 26, 2014 at 7:11 am

Some of the voices, facial expressions and stances seen at an exhibition last night. The dream visitors had the same ones as they surveyed the walls of a small kitchen, stripped of its old wallpaper. Supercilious. Held back. “Yes, I see the… yes, the intent…”  A slight leaning away and to the side. A small pout. “Matisse did this so much better.” Case dismissed. On to the next painting.

Well, let them. The light in the windows was burnished gold hammered on wavy surfaces. The artists and organizers were having a good time; so were most of the visitors. We missed the official speeches, avoided a thorough drenching in a sudden downpour, and selected the pieces of art we’d own if home space and budget weren’t vital considerations.

Then, I came home and started on the next venture out into story land. This is the only way for me to deal with the business of finding a decent foster home for the now-previous story to which I appended the words THE END, followed by the place and date of completion – Graulhet, April 25 2014. The dread Agent Hunt – always affects me the way a friendly Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday would play if I were a young child fresh from listening to  an adult reading the final section of The Hunting of the Snark with the proper intonations – For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Now, close your eyes

In Drafts, Local projects on April 25, 2014 at 7:28 am

At the moment, dawdling for several minutes on someone else’s blog, without moving a finger or rushing to the next agenda item? The equivalent of a day off somewhere out of reach of phones, emails and even letter carriers. A place where no one drops an invitation in your mailbox with the clear expectation you put in a good word for them somewhere. A place for taking the time for a good l-o-n-g stretch, followed by a check on the weather, bowl of coffee in hand. Out on a porch, for instance, taking in new sights and sounds and listening to someone else putter in the background. Will this be a stay-at-home day? A visit to a spot you’ve wanted to see for a good while? A long conversation, preceded or followed by a good writing session? No phones, remember, no emails, no letter carriers, whether surly or friendly.

In the maelstrom yesterday, an unexpected break-through with a little girl. She had to learn a poem about a bud breaking free from its tight little home. To say the girl is a slow learner is to say nothing else than the obvious so we played with mime and voice. We giggled and pretended to break free etc.

French school children who learn poems in class are taught to give the title, speak the text and end with the author’s name. Every time the girl got to the name, she got it wrong. “Why do I keep saying that name,” she said. “Oh, I know!” – and out it tumbled, the whole annoying, disturbing story about her aunt’s boyfriend and how families are complicated, aren’t they etc.

After which, we went back to Bonjour! in a sing-song, until the little bugger of a leaf bud  burst forth already and we got the author’s name right.

Draft? I’d manage a read-through from end to end with no phone calls reminding me of anything whatsoever, and no errands either, I’d consider this a day well spent.

Yes, and the draft too

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Visual artists on April 24, 2014 at 8:00 am

Maybe I should hang the picture frame with the back view as front. To whit, here’s the back view :



On an earlier edition of the community blog, I’d done a photo-reportage on Stephane Abdelkader’s work. The blog got blown off the web because I didn’t respond fast enough to an anonymous tip-off about the reprehensible content I was putting online. Humans are a fascinating bunch.

Back to the picture frame: Stephane collects tin cans and bottle caps. He flattens them with a small hammer and assembles them in various ways, including a massive round mirror suitable as a shield for a mythological figure. His work is on show at the local bar where I took in some jazz last night. The picture frame is now part of my small collection of local works by various artists.

Moving back and forth between different projects. Finding the right words to accompany a collection of photos: something like finding the right words for sub-titling a movie. The action onscreen doesn’t need the annoying voice of the person in the row behind you, saying: oh look, he’s walking into that bar, don’t you know it, he’s not noticing the man standing in the corner, watch, watch, he’s going to get … etc. So it’s a question of getting things across that don’t show up onscreen, or that riff on the action to introduce another dimension. I’m trying for the other dimension aspect. When someone looks at the photo of an aerial acrobat, there’s no need to explain the aerial acrobat is working off a trapeze.

I heard a stunning and wonderful version of Summertime, last night. A lovely version of My Funny Valentine, some great reworking of Bill Evans’ material. The concert being recorded for the group’s next album. On the walk home and up the hill, I met one (1) cat who froze the way cats do in a hark! stance. I have to wonder what a cat makes of a human encountered on a dark street at night.

Falling out of bed

In Animals, Artists, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Sanford Meisner on April 23, 2014 at 7:24 am

Either Little Nemo or Krazy Kats being a good starting point, this morning. Little Nemo provides the title. Some day, when I’m grown up, rich and famous, I’ll buy the whole set of his adventures aboard the wondrous bed. (Only realize now, years after writing the scene, how that bed inspired a moment in something I wrote a few years back.) As for the antics of the Krazy one and Ignatz, I’ll own the fabulous reprint of their adventures too, when I’m grown up, rich and famous*. Patron Saints, the whole lot.

Of course I read William Styron’s Darkness Visible last night. It arrived in the mailbox yesterday, along with Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana which I’m saving for another time. Of Styron’s report from the front lines of depression, I retain his disapproval with the name the condition carries. I agree. Depression sounds wimpy; something like low-level bellyaching. Whereas when the condition strikes, it makes you wish for a broken limb or other recognizable pain you can wrap in a cast, instead of battling the urge to bash your brains in against the hardest surface available. His comment, too, about watching TV from the confines of a psychiatric ward giving him the sense that “the place where I had found refuge was a kinder, gentler madhouse than the one I’d left.” (A temporary state of mind, I might add.) This said, his slim volume could have been even slimmer – but I suppose reading about someone else’s fall into the Grips of Despond is akin to a detailed account of a dream filled with details and no sense of direction.

Falling out of bed. The let-down when the story says: I’m finished now. But I’m not finished, the writer says. Wait. You can’t walk away like this. We were just starting to get acquainted. Don’t you want to tell me what happens to so-and-so? Or how such-and-such fits in or doesn’t? You’re leaving me behind, with nothing else but the sorry business of checking for typos, and trying to convince perfect strangers they’ll want to read this one, boy oh boy, is this ever a story like they’ve never read before. (Said strangers being told the same thing by every Jack or Jill sending them a query letter + synopsis + fifteen first pages. The I don’t wanna feeling so strong in me, I don’t even want to click on the dread categories Revision, Synopsis and Querying. Just now realize I’ve been calling the thing a draft through every single re-write. Hoping for some miracle, maybe. The arrival of Little Nemo’s Bed on Stilts to carry me off to the grown-up version of Slumberland.)

Lucie and her cast of imaginary friends. There’s work to do, Lucie says. The imaginary ones couldn’t care less.

* well… maybe I can afford this one if a few more people decide to sign up for a workshop. C’mon, people. This is an appeal straight from Coconino County.

The Funnies

In Artists, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Radio, Theater on April 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

I read about the raging battle between Andrew Wylie and Monsieur Gallimard over who gets to do good by French writers. The way other people read about the marital sagas of splendiferous stars. The way I once read the funnies in the weekend papers  – Pogo, Littl’ Abner, Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie. The way I listened to the evening radio shows (before or after Le Chapelet en Famille at seven fifteen? When the faithful got to kneel in the living room and answer the rosary recited by Monseigneur Léger, directement de la Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde à Montréal.)

The evening radio soaps included Un Homme et son Péché (the man’s sin being avarice) and La Pension Velder about the characters in a boarding house owned by a Belgian lady. The writer of this one being – you guessed it – a Belgian lady. Her name was Madame Lucie de Vienne Blanc. A few years later, I met Madame when she staged the centennial event in a convent where my two sisters and I studied. My eldest sister was cast as a Muse, draped in a white sheet and called upon to recite something in a declamatory mode. Number Two sister belonged to a group scene of a happy throng greeting the foundress of the Order. I, of course, was cast as a clown – the slow-witted one among the children gathered at the feet of the foundress. I wore a red and white gingham pinafore. While the other children read along at a brisk clip, my job was to peer long and hard at the letters, and finish the sentences long after the others. The person playing the foundress was called upon to refrain her impatience, and smile with fondness on all of God’s little creatures. This constituted the moment of levity in the proceedings.

The draft – am I finished yet? I think so. Reading through to catch spelling mistakes, inconsistencies, bits that drag. After which I’ll set the date at the bottom of the last page and move on to the Fear, Trembling, Quaking and Stuttering involved in writing the dreaded synopsis and its faithful sidekick, the query letter.

I’m looking forward to participating in a workshop this summer on the Mecanics of Laughter (La Mécanique du Rire), directed by an actor in the neighboring town of Gaillac.

Last night, a diagonal read-through of a work titled Anna, soror confirmed something I’ve known for quite a while: the first woman admitted to l’Académie française, the great and formidable Marguerite Yourcenar, was not big on comedy.


The Final Shove Off the Cliff

In Animals, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Sanford Meisner on April 21, 2014 at 7:08 am

Story-wise, life-wise: same place. The place where the mother’s exhausted but the baby isn’t born yet. There’s more pushing to do, but where’s the energy for it?

On the sideboard, behind the dreamer’s head: rabbits, first one, then more. Some wild, some tame, brought in by hunters. Some quite dead, some not. The ones still breathing: ugly, without a single cute and fuzzy Easter-bunny feature. Big, brownish-grey bruisers who must have put up a fight, with teeth unrelated to those of rabbits or hares. More like the needle-sharp ones of predator fish such as pike.

Last night, the umpteenth read-through of the draft failed to ignite anything except the certainty I wasn’t there yet – wherever there will turn out to be.

I read, and read some more. The missing link. In all these words, whether spoken or held back, which ones will make the whole damn sum of work more than just another way to while away the time.

Listen. Good god, because I haven’t listened enough?

No consolation prizes for good behavior. None. That’s one possible way to fall off the wheel.

Or, in all of the murk the past left behind, a glimmer of something worth all the work. Something to salvage yet,  before the ants gobble up the whole picnic.