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Archive for the ‘Synopsis’ Category

Brush-a, brush-a, brush-a…

In and other spirits, Animals, Food, Hautvoir, notes, proto drafts, Synopsis, Tea on June 8, 2016 at 7:00 am

I’d never been up close to someone miming tears before. A remarkable feat. Eyes dry under spiky eyelashes, a woman whom I know in passing came up to me. Her cat died, she informed me. I expressed an adequate amount of sympathy, considering I’d never met the cat and don’t know her all that well either. This is where the invisible tears appeared and the quaver took over in her voice. The cat’s astral body had dropped by. She’d been pulled out of her sleep by a tiny miaow informing her the celestial transit had gone well. The cat’s astral body was doing fine, roger and out.

Great, said I. Wishing you and the cat all the best. Patted her on the arm and entered the restaurant. So did the woman with a group of like-minded friends.

This is Ramadan. The owner of the restaurant is Tunisian and doesn’t observe the fast. His wife, the cook, does. While the group at the next table moved on from their cats’ health to what constitutes a good Muslim (a good Muslim eats the same things as “we” do), the owner asked me if all the boys had the right foods with which to break their fast at night. The right foods, in his part of the world, begin with chorba – a hearty soup so the stomach can relax and absorb liquids after a whole day without, then a dish such as tagine. His message: the boys were welcome to show up for the duration of Ramadan and take home some food to break the fast.

I lost track of the conversation at the next table while I asked the cook how she managed to go without food and drink from four AM to past nine PM. Habit, she said, although fatigue does set in toward the end.

Meanwhile, four of the five tea houses on the square are deserted. Small town, everyone observes everyone else. (What? You wet your lips with tea?During Ramadan?)

The synapses go tilt on this and bring up a long-forgotten memory of – oh my god, while brushing my teeth, I… I swallowed some toothpaste before Sunday morning communion. Am I fit to receive the body of Our Savior with Ipana in my innards???

***

Writing: the latest, not even at the proto-draft stage at this point. Pulling together notes. Seeing which of the characters (regulars or newcomers) show up to claim rights on this object, or that observation.

Synopsis: literally, one word at a time.

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Round and round and round and round we go

In Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, Music, proto drafts, Synopsis on June 6, 2016 at 7:59 am

As usual, the unlikely combos and the chance associations keep me interested. In this case, a group of papier mâché puppet heads on sticks (the sticks upright in empty bottles of fruit juice or cheap vermouth), and a book dropped off in the same premises by someone. The book, Dans le secret des princes, published in nineteen eighty-six, has a professional journalist asking questions of the man who headed France’s counter-espionage from nineteen seventy to nineteen eighty-one. To say le comte Alexandre de Marenches had a surfeit of self-assurance is a vast understatement. To say his world view rested on sharp distinctions,  ditto.When boiled down to their essence, said sharp distinctions amount to the usual: what I do is right and permissible because I do it for the Right Cause. What the other guy does is wrong because…etc.

Of course, the man grew up and lived within circles of like-minded people. Whatever episodes of self-doubt he ever experienced don’t find their way into the official narrative. I read some of his pronouncements and my eyes switch to high-beam in amazement. For instance, you must never, ever hire a professional hit man for an assassination. Mark that down at the top of your list of DO NOTs. Why? First of all because most of them aren’t all that good and Lord knows a botched assassination is one hell of a mess. And second, if they are any good, these people have no moral fibre and will keep coming back for more money with threats of spilling the beans about the assassination. This will not do, of course, because then you’re stuck finding a strong, loyal and honorable member of your staff tasked with killing the assassin. Which is a bloody waste of everyone’s time.

Fascinating stuff, all about the Free World in its noble fight against…you know, the bad guys who want to grab Africa’s germanium, titanium, magnesium, mercury, molybdenum, cobalt, columbium and what have you for their military industry. Us good guys can’t allow that to happen. Our bombs are right,since they defend our right to Africa’s germanium, titanium, magnesium, etc.

The title to this post: part of the lyrics from the song Oh Lucky Man, from Lindsay Anderson’s film by the same name. Sung by Alan Price. On youTube, if you’re interested.

(Writing? Some. Synopsis? Slow.)

The puppet heads? Here:

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Experience Overload

In Absurdlandia, Hautvoir, Local projects, notes, proto drafts, Synopsis on June 2, 2016 at 8:44 am

It was past eight pm when he rang my doorbell, and dripped in with the rain. He knew my phone was out but he also knew I’d have found some way to contact him, had there been any news. He knew I had no fresh news to give him. He knew the others had told him to leave me alone already. He knew he knew he knew. He just had to unreel the usual can’t sleep anymore, everyone’s good to me, I eat, I have a place to stay, I know you can’t do more, I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate

All I could do was listen, repeat that things take time, offer to find someone else who will listen, repeat I can’t take him in for more than two or three nights – but what difference will that make? He knows he knows he knows, he just wants to know when his life will start flowing again. I can’t tell him and no one else can either.

***

A quip from the now-deceased French humorist Pierre Dac: Better it should rain today than on a fine-weather day.

Better indeed.

***

As for clearing paper off my desk. Full pause to take in the current state of the avalanche in freeze frame. Gives meaning to the title of this post. And reminds me of that old joke about how many Jewish grandmothers are needed to change a lightbulb? Twenty. One to report the lightbulb’s finished. Nineteen to say: This too shall pass.

But no. Seriously. Some things do get better while others get worse. My right hand up to…hm. I swear. Of course, a lot keeps on getting worse too and even Kafka would have to crack a smile at how much worse things can get while we change the wallpaper or decide painted toenails will make a valuable statement for Change.

***

Am I getting anywhere with the Synopsis? Yes. The rate of progress: about the same as that achieved while walking up the down escalator. I feel something like all twenty Jewish grandmothers wrapped into one. Jewish Grandmother One: “The phone’s out.” Chorus of Nineteen Jewish Grandmothers: “This too shall pass.”

onward. forward.kadima.davaï.

Why people get tired (2)

In Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Synopsis on June 1, 2016 at 8:30 am

In a morality play, I’d call him Frank Forthright. Why? Because on his fourth (or was it fifth) affirmation of his frankness and forthrightness, I decided to stop responding and let him consider me in as negative a light as he chose. My crime? He expected a confirmation of our presence last night. I thought the matter was settled already. Besides my phone is on the blink. Not good enough. I should have hunted down a phone, Frank said. He was really upset over my lack of regard for others, and being a frank and forthright person, it was his duty to tell me so. After four (or five?) apologies, and further examples of how my disregard had upset him and everyone he knows, I settled for his frank and forthright contempt because there’s only so much you can do in attempting to get through that much self-righteousness.

Henceforth, I am persona non grata with Mr Forthright. Ma foi, I’ll live with the disgrace.

Collectives. Meetings. Agenda items. Honest attempts at letting each person have his or her say. Moving toward consensus. Hearing the unspoken. The unspoken “yes, but…” or whatever mental restriction applies. As the clock ticks, giving a silent cheer for mental restriction if it means the group can move on to getting a job done. I’ve agreed to more meetings with the understanding I’m handing over as much information as I can so others can handle visits to the préfecture, or contacts with social workers, doctors, lawyers etc. The piles of paperwork keep growing on my desk. Should I fall sick, who will know what to do with the documents in need of filing, or chasing down, or renewing, etc.

Stepping back, if only by an inch. Someone didn’t make it to the meeting last night because she collapsed into deep sleep. Familiar. The body going on strike because the brain’s frontal lobes don’t get it about the infantry sleeping on its feet.

The country’s under a wide-angle shower head. Rain. More rain. Resisting the contagion of discontent gobbles up a lot of energy. To this end, I’ve added a useful artifact to the Infant Jesus of Prague’s royal attributes :

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Why people get tired

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Break - coffee, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Synopsis on May 31, 2016 at 8:51 am

At least, for the time being, there’s still a human presence behind the wicket. With a bit of persistence, you even get admitted into the Holy of Holies beyond the waiting room. Into a small room where fingerprints get recorded on a green screen atop an electronic gizmo shaped like a cube. Four fingers of right hand, four fingers of left hand, then both thumbs. Followed by an official paper attesting the holder’s  right to wander from departmental administration to municipal bureaucracy for another stretch, seeking an official address the préfecture accepts as the one and only place worthy of receiving her acceptance or denial of the right to stay for another year.

What will be the next step when The System goes all-out electronic? No more human presence to greet, treat or mistreat you and your application for a renewal of your right to take the bus to and from the préfecture. If you happen to live on the street with the rest of your family and if your French isn’t all that extensive, where will you find access to a computer? How will you fill out the electronic queries? I mean, how will you even know how to get online – assuming the library staff allows you inside in your dirty, sorry state? Where do you park the wife and kids while you tackle the screen?

Etc.

Why people get tired. Why they cut corners or ignore LAST AND FINAL notices. Why they shrug their shoulders (if they still have the energy for a gesture that extravagant) or just sit like lumps with occasional glances of the common-misery variety.

Why people just give up and let others do what they will, for better or for much, much worse.

I look at the piles of papers on the table. At the scanner the electrician managed to revive the other day. I look at the novels, the poster from Hassen Ferhani’s excellent documentary Dans ma tête un rond-point. I add  a few lines to the synopsis-in-the-making. I add a few brief notes to a story in the first-glimmer stage. I tell myself I must see the dentist and the doctor too. I look at postage stamps, the battery from my camera, in need of recharging. I tell myself I should eat a bite of breakfast, and ignore the rain, the rain, the rain.

I smile at the absurdities because if I don’t, who else will in this house? The dog? She’s a good sort but not too gifted in the smiling department. In fact, jokes and laughter worry her. She likes sad songs and vocalizes to some of them. Eh, sad songs cross the species barrier, but comedy? not so much. As for absurdity…

Synopsis-challenged

In Synopsis on May 29, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Sometimes, so much gets crowded into a brief period of living, you’re not sure on which of the mental snapshots to concentrate. Writing a synopsis is a lot like such a piece of ‘real-life’.

A funny moment: about twenty lines away from the words The End in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Major Danby says to Yossarian : “It must be nice to be in Sweden now…The girls are so sweet. And the people are so advanced.”

As it happened, the seaside cottage the group had rented for the weekend was full of “noir”-type novels, ranging from Ludlum to…a sweet Swedish girl by the name of Camilla Läckberg, represented by a novel titled The Ice Princess. Which I read in French translation – all five hundred and nine pages (although a lot of the reading was more of the skimming kind. I’m not about to knock the writing of someone who has sold fifteen million copies of her detective stories.  But…what can I say? The overall effect felt like reading  instead of watching a made-for-tv movie. Well done? Yes, of course; but that’s not the point.)

What’s the point, then? What I have written. Pulling away from it enough to write something meaningful about it.

***

Why so challenging? There’s a self-consciousness effect involved. The writer attempting to explain, and introduce the characters, like a hostess at a party: Mabel, I don’t think you’ve met Victor yet. Victor, this is Mabel, you know Victoria’s sister who sells seashells at the seashore? etc.

Somehow, something like attempting to grab a shot of a seagull at lift-off. Oops, gone. Leaving so soon?

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A post

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Current reading, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Synopsis on May 25, 2016 at 7:36 am

This morning, I type these few lines after a lousy night, sleep-wise, and after reading that unionized staff in France’s nuclear power plants are the next considering going out on strike. Never a dull moment.

So I’ll stay with the tiny and the closest at hand, since there’s not much else to reach for anyway. I need help from someone with real and practical knowledge of computers, but can’t afford the services. Everything else is at that same level of need vs available resources. The green plants are thriving and, thanks to a can of bug killer provided by a friend, the termite-like wood-chompers aren’t eating away at the base of my kitchen table this morning. There’s not much breakfast to speak of since the dog polished off my bread supply while I was out. Apart from which, there’s not much else to report on the home front.

Synopsis? Not yet, that’s for sure. I’ll leave the story alone for a while. Maybe read through a few more of the fools in Shakespeare’s plays. In the intro to my copy of Melville’s Moby Dick, there’s mention of the fool in King Lear having served as a model for the character of Pip.

Apparently, my computer has lost the connection again. I’ll assume this writing won’t get erased when I press publish. If it does, what can I do about it? Not much (ah, a little thingie shows up; it reads draft saved at 7:34:16 am. Let’s find out if that’s true.)

Once more into the fray…or not.

In Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 24, 2016 at 7:47 am

Every day (except when I shut down the phone, and close the shutters),  I meet people who aren’t blips on a screen or figments of my imagination. A lot of them cope with problems that make mine pale the same way the moon does when the sun comes out. Most days, I also read from some writer whose work makes mine seem ridiculous. Somewhere in the whole mix of uncertainties, I whistle a happy tune or crack a joke or blow off a huge amount of steam (this last in private, as much as possible; enough other people blowing off and blowing up in public, I see no point in joining that parade).

No amount of self-delusion will convince me I handle rejection well. I don’t. Rejection hurts. I don’t like pain. I hate getting the facts wrong. I hate getting brushed off. I hate ridicule, unless self-inflicted.  I forgive a lot and forget little.  I’d be better off forgetting more and forgiving less? Maybe I will some day, I haven’t found the trick for it yet.

All this is about the loathed and dreaded trio called Synopsis, Query and Rejection. Plus the underlying question: if writing is the part of the exercise I like, can I just give up on the dream of joining the Heavenly Choir of Published Ones, write on and deal with life as it shows up, period. Lots of folks have dreamt of making It – publishing, acting, singing, painting, tap-dancing, you name it. They didn’t. They did plumbing, copy writing, accounting, dentistry or gold smuggling instead. C’est la vie, and all that.

Yes, others became literary agents, editors, publishers, producers, film makers, etc. Some start off reading queries (or a few lines of same). Some read part of the synopsis. Some ask for the first ten, thirty or fifty pages. I assume most of the ones doing that drudge work are young, and, of course, on the lookout for what their boss wants. Do I have the time, patience, energy and stamina for another ride in that direction, while keeping the rest of my life from foundering on low-lower-lowest income and the growing problems this entails.

I don’t know how to describe what I write. Especially not for a three hundred word max drop-down page on someone’s web site. I’m an almost seventy-year old university drop-out. I had something resembling a career, ages ago, and dropped out of that too. I live in a run-down town and teeter on the edge of… what do you call it? Poverty? Yes, I guess that’s what you call being poor in this country*, unless political correctness strikes those words from your vocabulary. I laugh a lot. I cry a lot, too. Some of my characters do the same. Some do nasty things. Some would love to get even, and don’t. To my knowledge, none of them make it to the Promised Lands, no matter whose promises they listen to.

There. The paragraph above captures some of it, except for the laughing part. Without the laughing part, none of it is worth bothering with. If you don’t laugh, you may as well close the shutters for good, and just give up. Which would be a pity because you’d miss the saffron yellow and the orange and wine red on the curtains, the light on the bookshelf and the sight of Aly walking by on his way to the bus out of town.

*this makes for a lot of us living under the official poverty line, by the way. There’s life and lots of it, below the poverty line. But this seems more annoying than interesting to those for whom gross and net earnings are what matter – and all my best to them if that’s what keeps them going.

As the man said: “Sanity’s a hard concept to define”.

In Absurdlandia, Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, photography, Poetry, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 23, 2016 at 7:36 am

Dreams are impossible to share. With some dreams, you try anyway because they were so horrific, you need words to exorcise them. With others you don’t try, because they’re so close to perfection, you don’t want to mess them up.

The dream last night was of the second category. Rather than attempt a description, I flip through the images in my head, secure in the knowledge no one else has access to them. What? a dream of sexual fulfillment? Of world-wide fame and fortune? Nothing of the kind. A dream of someone lost between two cities, wandering in a third and what she records there with her camera. See? You know nothing about what made the dream something close to perfection.

A poem I didn’t copy down yesterday. One of the Russians, I’ll find it again. Sometimes, things you don’t copy down linger the longest.

Last night, I typed in the infamous The End on my latest attempt at fiction. Will it fly? Will anyone else catch the mix of Little Nemo and…never mind. You build your paper plane. A few strokes on a computer can destroy it. Objects built with 3-D printers have more consistency than a piece of unpublished fiction – a thing almost as fragile and elusive as a dream.

Meanwhile, in the world of real: the astounding space of a so-called service provider. With a computer-savvy someone yesterday, I spent two hours finding the access to – well, to the service provider’s automatic answering device. My query now carries a Ticket Number. No, it doesn’t match up to the number of seconds evolved since January 1st 1601 (the computer-savvy someone tells me this is one clocking device used by another entity). I may or may not receive a satisfactory explanation + adequate solution. This is the world of real where things screw up a lot, then a bit more after that.

Occasional stop-overs in dreamland: mandatory, the body decrees. Don’t even think of dealing with Real without them.

My name is…I am…years old. I come from…I’m in France since…and I wish to study…

In Hautvoir, Local projects, notes, Revision, Synopsis on May 21, 2016 at 9:54 am

The luxury of a Saturday morning sleep-in. Early morning dog walk, first. Unavoidable. Under a clear sky: a long-awaited pleasure in this cold and rainy spring. Some coffee. Some revision. A powerful beckon from the couch. A pleasant drift between sleep and wakefulness. The church bell strikes nine – twice, in case you miss the first count. The upstairs neighbor turns on her radio for the morning programs (her all-time favorite song will come later).

The movie showed a record gross in the first weekend, they say. The book went through its fifth printing in the first three months, and movie rights sold in the seven-figure bracket. The new boss was so good, they raised his monthly salary to a comfortable six-figure amount.

You are what you earn. At least, that’s the message blaring from all directions. The corollary: if you’re poor, you’re worthless. And lazy. Stands to reason.

On my neighbor’s terrace last night, we enjoyed the balmy weather. Ate, drank, talked about staying alive as musicians or as writers when success passes you by. The big recording contract. The full endorsement of an agent and a publishing house. The youthful dream of making a living from what you love.

I talked about some of the boys I’d seen in the workshop on Thursday. The workshop dealt with presentation. First hour: what others see and hear when you knock on a door, and enter a room. Sit at a table and address yourself to the others sitting around it. All the non-verbal cues – gaze, gait, mannerisms, pitch of the voice. Second hour: job interview simulations. I took notes on all eight participants. All of them provided feed-back to the others.

The boy most present in my mind this morning: a sixteen-year old from Bangladesh – with adequate conversational English and the first elements of French. In-country since February. Reason for leaving Bangladesh: family problems, he said. Reason for choosing France over England? A brief hesitation, a mild reply with eyes in mine: same family problems, he said. Code: he’d rather struggle through learning a new language and culture than join the ranks of the indentured ones. Why does he wish to train as a plumber, I ask. Same quiet voice and attitude: he doesn’t enjoy cooking, he doesn’t have the schooling or qualifications required to train as an electrician. He’ll keep on working on his French, and become a plumber.

He did the first part of his presentation in flawless French. When he ran out of French words he said: “with your permission”, and switched to English.

I’m thinking of him and others like him, this morning. You are what you earn? No. You are who you become, with the income and contacts, or without.