radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-07-22 09:11 pm

Classical doodles

Wednesday after work LB and I hiked in to the lake. We took a more strenuous route than usual, over rough ground, but nothing requiring high endurance -- or so I would have thought. The moment I got home, however, I lay down on the couch and did not rise until night.

The last few days have been like days of recovery from illness -- not soreness or fatigue so much as a sort of muzzy-headedness I dislike much more than pain.

Therefore, I have not done much writing or reading.

I did manage to read Insomniac City, Bill Hayes' memoir of his relationship with Oliver Sacks. It's a lovely, gentle book, a kind of idyll of daily life in New York -- lots of drinking wine on rooftops and talking to strangers in the park. Hayes invokes the sensory detail of their life together with the attention you'd expect of someone who could properly appreciate Oliver Sacks.

I'd read Hayes' description of a piece of music -- Beethoven's Op. 133, say (The Great Big Fugue) -- then cue it up on YouTube and listen -- or look up a meal they ate or an artist Hayes admired. In this way, the book became a delightful multi-sensory experience.

Reading or writing for work and other projects, though, did not seem to be on.

When writing is too difficult, I draw. One of my comfort activities is attempting loose copies of the exquisitely strange radial creatures from Haeckel's Art Forms in Nature. Listening to Beethoven' bright, angular notes, I thought -- why not try to draw this as well?1

Under the cut are a few creatures drawn out of the music, though they are not perfect synaesthetic renderings of these pieces or anything -- more a fusion of what I was looking at, what I was hearing, and what I could actually draw.


Musical Drawings )

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1. I do see a little colour to music, but it's a very limited palette, shading from blue-white through golden brown to dark brown, and probably has more to do with the colour of the piano whereon I failed to learn to play music as a child, rather than any intricacy of brain connections.
radiantfracture: and i know which way the wind is blowing (barometer)
2017-07-16 02:09 pm

Up through the atmosphere

Yesterday I learnt, through observation, that it is better not to paraglide when the wind is blowing away from the sea.

(===)
 \    /
  \  /
    o
    L


Saturday was a bright, fine, windy day. All down the long hill of Moss Street, from the art gallery to the ocean, artists had set up display stalls. On the lawns behind and the driveways between, entrepreneurial children set up lemonade stands while their parents sold pottery. This is the Moss Street Paint-in, almost certainly the best-attended event of the local calendar.

There are a few elements I always look forward to -- artists whose work I've been following for decades, a vintage garage sale halfway down the hill -- but you must be prepared for dense (if friendly) crowds and a certain uniformity, or at least consistency, of subject and technique. (When I first attended, this meant oversized portraits of flowers in watercolour; now it often means glint-eyed ravens in encaustic.)

Yesterday, once I'd braved the art gauntlet, I sat down on the grass at Clover Point and, diffusely inspired, tried to sketch, but the flat lines of clifftop, sea, horizon, did not yield much to my lazy pencil.

Below me, nearer the cliffs, a paraglider was busying himself folding and unfolding billows of red and white fabric, so I tried to sketch him instead. For a long time I couldn't tell if he was packing up or setting out.

Finally he harnessed himself and hopped briskly up into the air. Immediately, the wind lifted him and set him down deeper into the grass, rather than swinging him out over the sea. Think of how you might move a small child or a kitten away from danger.

I thought, hmm, that doesn't seem right, but I suppose he knows what he's doing.

Soon I no longer supposed this. The next hop took him higher, but also directly out over the traffic on Dallas Road. This traffic was not insubstantial, but at least it was sightseeing-slow. A double-decker tour bus braked for him, and he went out of my sight for a moment. When the bus pulled away, I could see his chute woven into the telephone wires.

It occurred to me that I ought to go and see if he was all right.

He seemed to be. He was standing, unharnessed, talking with surprising ease to one of the traffic officers from the Paint-in.

I sat down on the fence to observe the chute extrication. A fire engine arrived, and then an ambulance. After long consultation, someone went into the back of the truck and meticulously set out two orange traffic cones. After this came a long lacuna, and eventually I left, so I can't say how it all turned out.

Anyway, here is a small pictorial tribute both to a day of public art and to the perverse human urge towards flight:



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radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-07-12 08:54 pm
Entry tags:

Finishing Class and a Short Story

Twice now I’ve been to Finishing Class at a terrific little workspace called Good, started up by a wonderful arts organizer and her partner, who recently moved back to town.

Finishing Class is a monthly event wherein you show up to sit down at a long hand-made table with other people who want to Finish Something. Once greetings are given and tea is made, together you each set to work on your Something, and try to get it or some stage or draft or piece of it Finished by the end of two hours (but this is not strictly enforced).

At the end of Finishing Class, you get a gold star. At the break, you get a home-baked treat made by the proprietor herself. Last time it was a perfect brownie. This time it was a maple butter tart.

Even though the process is more than half a game, the focus and the title and the deadline function, underground in the mind, to make you want to Finish your Something.

Last time I had no idea what I was going to work on, and felt a bit nervous about that, and then my brain very kindly offered me the use of a short story idea. Without the class I don't think I'd have written it at all. Last time, I drafted the story to the end, and tonight I second-drafted it and patched the ending together a bit. And by posting it here, I finish my Finishing for tonight.

I like that it arrived, I'm glad that it stayed, but I don't know what it amounts to. Not that it has to amount to anything. It was a happy thing just to make it.

Anyway, here it is.

The New Sea )

Cheers.

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radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-06-29 08:43 pm
Entry tags:

Non-Confidence Vote

Oh, and we have a new government! The Liberals lost the non-confidence vote, so the Lieutenant Governor has asked the NDP (with the support of the Greens) to form the government.

A positive change from business as usual. I hardly know how to account for it.

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radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-06-29 07:47 pm
Entry tags:

June Reading Post

This was a busy month at work, without much time for pleasure reading. The rest of the summer is less officially busy, but contains plenty of requirement for self-motivation in the direction of reading things and also understanding them.

I've got two academic reviews to write. Both books tie directly into my courses for the fall, so this also counts as prep. And there is much prep. My reading may of necessity become less haphazard in July and August, or at least that is the plan, so I've enjoyed letting it take hazard for June.


Re-Reading

Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book (1972), because it is a sure pleasure. I had remembered the simplicity of the prose and a few of the incidents — the water tank, the rich man’s house — but I had forgotten its complexity, or else not registered its intricacy fully in that first reading.

What strikes me this time is the celebration of the grandmother's perspective — her intuition about how to be with and of the land. There's an obvious connection to the North American ecological and Indigenous writing that I've read.


Books of the Moment

George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo (2017). I liked this, though not the ending, which seemed interminable and unnecessary. However, my reading was rushed because I was about to get on a helicopter, so I can't say I gave it the ideal level of contemplative attention.


Quietly Uncanny British Novels

This is the genre closest to my slowly thumping heart: ordinary events told with such clarity and intensity that they seem irreal. Two more Barbara Comyns — The Skin Chairs (1985) and Our Spoons Came from Woolworth's (1982). I think Comyns has joined Penelope Fitzgerald and the Other Elizabeth Taylor among my favorite novelists. I liked both of these novels better than The Vet's Daughter, and maybe Woolworth's best because it is about Bohemian Life in the 1930s.


Nonfiction

Ben Blatt's Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve (2016). This is data-driven literary criticism/journalism. I believe it is a collection of pieces from Slate.com. It reads like that: a series of short statistical studies of various literary works and genres.

Blatt's conclusions are generally thoughtful and generous. I wanted a bit more critical complexity on both the literary and the data side -- for example, he analyzes the use of -ly adverbs and finds that, indeed, prose broadly considered as having higher quality does use fewer such adverbs. However, I don't recall his drilling down on the precise use that is most often objected to — describing how people say things. It seems to me there's a distinct literary difference between over-description of speech attitudes and modifying action in general — but maybe I speak inaccurately.

Blatt uses a lot of fanfiction for his analysis, which I liked — as a paraliterary genre, it often doesn't get that kind of attention, and yet it's an enormous galactic body of collective imaginings. He also scrupulously points out interesting exceptions to the rules, even the -ly one, which leaves room for hope.

Some of the pieces I found illuminating, and some dull. I'd recommend reading the bits of this that look interesting to you and skipping out the ones that don't.

I think of myself as a reader of Serious Nonfiction, or maybe a Serious Reader of nonfiction, but GoodReads tells me otherwise: this was my first nonfiction book of the year.

The Enchanted Places (1974). This is Christopher Milne's account of his childhood and youth as A.A. Milne's son and as the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh books. I'm just finishing it. It's very English. Quiet, melancholy, celebratory of the countryside.

I like it. I knew some of it contents as literary rumour before reading it. And once I saw a Fringe play in which Christopher Robin goes off to the War and betrays Pooh to the Germans. "Das ist Ihr Schwein?" they keep shouting at him.


Speculations

Anansi Boys. (2006) I think that ends my Neil Gaiman revisit. I liked the mythworld in the novel very much. I found the main storyline rather flat. It also has some problems with the narrative's portrayal of consent, which I suppose can be explained by a) its having been written before the latest iteration of that conversation, and b) its being about gods, who aren't very good on that sort of thing where mortals are concerned.

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radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-06-29 05:51 pm

Solitary Walks

1. North

Waking at 5:30, just on that borderline between "much too early" and "interestingly early," I put books and vests into my backpack, and carrying in one hand a small green paper bucket of strawberries (a little aged but still edible), I went out to seek my fortune.

I peered into a couple of Little Libraries and left a few books here and there, happily disburdening myshelf. Then I walked up to H.'s to drop off the vests and the strawberries, since she leaves for work around 8.

Then, because I was in a good mood, I climbed the hill to the Secret Park, where the scattered playground equipment stands hip-deep in wild grasses.

From there, up even higher to the aquarium store. It was not open, but I like to visit the salt-water tank in the window. At first, you think you see some dark rocks and a few bright fish flickering between them. Then you realize that everything you thought was still is moving, and everything in the tank is alive. Every surface is really a living skin. Everything is twisting, very gently, in the artificial current -- leaning, opening, retreating, closing. All sorts of eyeless mouth-riddled life.

There were some new crabs, white as delicate living bones of the inner ear, and something like a crayfish with a bright stripe and shocking white antennae typing out rapid messages on the rocks.

If I'd had my notebook and provisions, I'd've set off into the world, but I didn't and I was hungry, so I went home and checked on the no-confidence vote (no result until this evening).

I knew H. wanted strawberries because we ran into each other last night at the neighborhood market; she was hoping for berries but found none, and I knew I wouldn't eat all of mine before I left to visit the fam (today or tomorrow -- tomorrow, as it rolled out).

I know that writing "I can't eat all of these strawberries" makes sense only grammatically, but I can't help it. I cannot account for myself. I will not try.

It's a fine feeling to have done so much before nine o'clock in the morning, though I never can sustain such motion over a full day.

2. East

For the day's second walk, the Walk Proper, after much map-checking and bus-aligning, I simply followed one of my usual routes, more or less due east towards the sea.

(I mean, it's the sea in all directions, obviously, though north would take you a while. It's more that the only thing of note to the east is the sea -- north is tracts of suburb and farmland and tech park (and sea), south is gardens and castles (and sea), and west is downtown-and-sea. So -- east to the sea and the white sand.)

The beach was very crowded for mid-day on a Thursday, but then normal people are probably on vacation. I bought a cherry popsicle, which broke as I walked, thereby requiring some nearly obscene acts of consumption.

Then I lay down under a tree and dozed to podcasts of clever conversations until the shade moved, and the sun, clapping me full on the face, ordered me to rise and walk again.

To the library to return a shamefully unread volume of poetry, and then home. I washed all the dishes and put away all the clothes, so the house won't run wild in my absence.

I've spent a number of the sunnier days over the last few weeks inside, working -- and perfectly all right with that -- feeling even a bit mole-ish, a bit dim-underwater-denizen-ish, a bit relieved to have a reason not to go out -- but I had full use of the sun today.

3. South

This is only an errand -- to get a bus pass for me and bus tickets for LB, but the day is so fine that every errand risks translation into some almost ethereal, light-soaked realm -- you might, at any moment, suddenly and helplessly transubstantiate into your radiant plasmatic true form.

It's pretty out, is what I'm saying.

I ought to have a fourth walk west to round out the compass, but I may simply end up returning to center.


{rf}

ETA: Oh, also it is moving season, and the curbs are piled with treasure. I found four brown IKEA bowls and three semi-matching IKEA plates on the way to H's. This is a great boon from the universe, as I would very much like to have simpler dishes, but I have no funds to replace my existing set, which I bought while in a post-divorce fugue.

EATA:

4. West

And then LB roused S. and I to drive West, towards the sunset (and the cruise ships) for a last night walk, so in the end the compass is complete.
radiantfracture: and i know which way the wind is blowing (barometer)
2017-06-20 12:01 am

Half wakeful or half wake-empty

I gave my students a midnight deadline for their online exam, and then extended it to one a.m. because I was worried that so few of them had submitted it.

Now I'm sitting up in case someone sends me a desperate last-minute email.

Or else I'm sitting up waiting for the latest podcast episode of Twin Peaks Rewatch to drop (it's by the inimitable Idle Thumbs reviewers, from whom I would listen to discourse about anything at all, and indeed often do, because they discourse so well.)

Or else I'm sitting up waiting for my antiquated old MacBook to copy over some music files (it is so old it can't properly cast my music unto the cloud.)

Or else I'm just sitting up.

{rf}
radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-06-11 05:45 pm

Of a Sunday (walks and TV)

It's a stunning Sunday evening: the blue-violet sky is still hours from sunset; in the sunlight white paint is burning like tungsten; and insistent birdsong corkscrews through the still air.

I'm preparing for work tomorrow -- marking, musing, making things up -- and waiting for Episode Six of Twin Peaks to drop. I'm intrigued by "I know where she drinks."

So far, the show is sort of an anthology of experimental film-making techniques. I feel like I'm in a brilliant seminar about the possibilities of visual and sonic form. It has such scope, depth, and weirdness --

[Looks up a bunch of measures of intensity]

-- It rises to the top of the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. The watts per m2 shatter glass. All the candelas are lit and blazing.

Stuff like that.

However -- I'm really unhappy about and disappointed in the way the returning series has dealt so far with the female characters and their physical being. spoiler )

I'm hoping for a payoff in the end, but I hoped for that with True Detective, too, and spoiler. )

Ok, why not -- True Detective.

I felt like with True Detective I finally understood the difference between direction and writing.

The cinematography, the sound design, the actors' chemistry -- amazing.

Yet I think if I had the script in front of me as bare text, it would read weak.

Apart from Rust's arias, which I loved, (I was all like "finally someone on TV who speaks the truth!") the dialogue isn't actually very good -- instead, it's illuminated by the way the words are performed and articulated.

Further, the plot is full of loose threads, and the show raises, then forgets about, all kinds of essential ethical questions, yet the whole always looks and feels like something full of meaning and revelation.

Season 2 -- same writer/showrunner, different directors -- utter pants.

Resolution: Fukunaga, not Pizzolatto, made Season 1 a work of art -- which I think it is, though deeply flawed, and in some of the same ways Season 3 of Twin Peaks seems to be.

Now. I'm just going to walk down to the store for marking/viewing snacks.

My first walk today was a loop down a beat-up minor artery flowing by irregular ways to the sea, then along the ocean and back inland to commit some mundane errands.

The solstice will be here -- then past -- before I can prepare any ceremony worthy of it (and anyway it might be cloudy), so I'll celebrate today. Hurray.

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radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-06-08 08:23 am

(no subject)

Hullo Britain. Good luck. Please vote if it's possible.

I love this, which I see many folks pointing to (and adding to) today.

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radiantfracture: (Butley)
2017-06-06 04:47 pm
Entry tags:

Month of May Reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates -- Black Panther #1

I thought this was really well-written: morally intricate and self-critical about its own backstory, without collapsing into postmodern cliche. I enjoyed it. I hadn't really followed the character previously, so I can't compare him to previous incarnations.

Barbara Comyns -- Sisters by a River, The Vet's Daughter

I'd like to read more Comyns. She turns over a deep weirdness you want to dig further into, but she's also a little forbidding -- to keep with the gardening metaphor, there's something stony about her writing. I don't see loving her books, but I definitely appreciate them.

Sisters by a River does a clever thing with the voice which I won't spoil here, except to say that it's quiet and tragic. I don't think I've seen an author do something so specifically narratively interesting with the character's diction. River is Comyns' first novel, and the structure has problems -- the story just sort of wanders off until it's out of sight -- but you can see an original mind at work. I'd quite like to read Our Spoons Came from Woolworth's next.

Jane Gardham -- The Hollow Land, Bilgewater, Old Filth, The Man in the Wooden Hat

(A Long Way from Verona was technically April.) Gardham is very good on Being at School in various incarnations. Old Filth might be the best of these books in being about old age rather than youth, and thereby being both wryer and more sobering, but I found that novel less warm than the other books. Filth is the only masculine protagonist -- I don't know whether that's a factor or not, as my sample size is too small.

The Man in the Wooden Hat is the same story as Old Filth, told from the wife's perspective. The warmth was there, but not quite the same depth, and for whatever reason the device of repeating the same scenes (I think verbatim) from Old Filth didn't work for me. They did not feel newly illuminated: just repeated.

Gardham was a pleasure to discover -- not quite the revelation I had with Penelope Fitzgerald or Elizabeth Taylor, but good company.

Gardham has some distinctive structural habits -- the story proper is often contained in a brief framing device. Old Filth, for example, is bracketed with brief faux playscripts of characters discussing the dozing Filth within his earshot.

Oh, I liked what Gardham did with time in The Hollow Land -- it was unexpected, and, though the details are not quite right, plausible.

(I'm not being mysterious to be annoying -- I'm just too tired to write a proper spoilery review.)

G. Willow Wilson -- Ms. Marvel #1 & 2

As comics, these were less my thing than Black Panther, being goofier in tone and especially in visual style, but I liked the stuff about millennials responding to being unvalued.

Other bits

The Prose Edda had to go back -- who, I would like to know, had an urgent need to consult Snorri Sturluson? I wish they told you where your books were going when they got recalled.

Better news: Lincoln in the Bardo came in. I've heard some people say the novel's structure is brilliant and experimental, and some that it's "like a party trick" (Lissa Evans) -- a form put on for show, without being integral to the story.

It's early to say, but I think I may come out somewhere in the middle on the question. Which is to say -- so far I like it.

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radiantfracture: and i know which way the wind is blowing (barometer)
2017-05-29 08:22 pm

So, but, the election!

You may remember that the province I live in had an election two weeks ago, but we didn't know if anyone had actually been elected or not because a) close races and b) massive pile of absentee votes.

The final counts and recounts happened, and the seat distribution is the same: Liberals 43, NDP 41, Green 3. No majority of seats, no government.

Today, the best possible thing (from my perspective) was announced: the Greens will support the NDP, giving a combined total of 44 seats. (It's not technically a coalition, apparently, but a "Confidence and Supply Agreement".)

Since this better represents the preferences of a majority of the voters, my sense of fairness is satisfied as well as my personal glee.

Various things can happen at this point. I know because I asked my proximate political wonk for a telladonna1.

[ETA: I had two different points confused, so this is an amended list. Thanks to [personal profile] redbird for the query.]

1. The premier resigns and the Lieutenant Governor asks the NDP (+ Greens) to form the government.
2. The premier doesn't resign, the legislature takes a confidence vote, and she's, I guess, removed. The Lieutenant-Governor asks the NDP (+ Greens) to form the government.
3. The premier does resign, but the LG for whatever reason decides another election is the better choice. (My consultant says this would be unprecedented, though.)

Obvs. I'd like #1, though I'd take the high drama of the no confidence vote. (Well, you know, high drama in Canadian terms.)

[ETA (June 6): Sounds like it will be #2!]

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1. Awesome @westwingweekly reference
radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-05-19 10:35 am

Yesterday's Poem

Here's the poem. You may recognize the camas.

[Eta: Still tinkering]



No Ideas But in Things


i.
 
The landlord’s son ranged this
Thicket of bonsai
Around my front door.
 
The kid had two concussions
In six months of hockey.
They had to pull him out.
 
Now he's taken up acting,
Played the Boy in Waiting for Godot.
The bonsai grow as they like.
 
One's a pine, long needles.
Don’t know the species.
Maybe it's spruce.
 
Nine inches high, gap-toothed
As an ancient goalie
Tiny shudder of percussion when it storms
 
Dots and dashes
Of needle and leaf
Mark out a path in negative space.
 
One day they'll clear it all away
Or I'll move, and I won't remember
He played hockey, the drums, or the Boy.

Not even important
To me, these
 
Awkward little figures
I trip over in the dark.

 
ii.
 
Wild roses and buttercups
Arise again in the park.

I crouch down to let him read the smells
On the stone, awkward monument
At knee height
 
Press my fingers hard
Against intaglio letters                      
Welting forms in reverse

iii.

DOOTS ECNO HCIHW NOPU

He expresses a pungent opinion


iv.
 
The field of blue camas nods, nods.
radiantfracture: (Obstacles)
2017-05-11 11:37 am
Entry tags:

Also, An Election

Our provincial election took place on Tuesday. Well, I say it took place, but the absentee and special votes won't actually be counted for two weeks. There are something like 175,000 of these votes (of about 3.2 million), and some of the races came down to tiny margins -- in one riding on this fine Island, the candidate won by 9 votes (or did she?).

So the election is still in fact taking place, and it's impossible to know the outcome, which is a strange state of affairs.

There are three parties of note in this election: the Liberals, who used to be considered centrist, but are now on the right; the NDP, who are left; and the Greens.

The Liberals came to power sixteen years ago, and that was a moment of revelation for my young radical self. "The parties are all basically the same capitalist powermongers," my rhetoric went, "and it doesn't really matter which one is in power." The advent of the Liberals was the way I found out what you already know, that it matters a hell of a lot, materially, on the ground, in real people's lives, who is in power.

If it isn't obvious, I vote as far left as I feel I can do and still have some chance of bringing a left party to power.

On Tuesday night, at my suggestion, LB, S, and I convened to watch the numbers. (Superstition might have told us not to, given the results of the American election and the number of leftover tacos.)

At first, it looked grimly like a clear Liberal win. Yet as the counts increased, weird things began to happen. Ridings flipped and then flipped again. The Greens began to take more seats. The NDP pulled ahead in ridings they had to win in order to shift power.

LB was on the phone to her mom for part of the time, teasing her about the Green win in that riding.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Greens split left votes away from the NDP. However, S. took a different position throughout. Like C.J. when she said Bartlet's approval rating would go up, he held the position that vote loss from the Liberals to the Greens would reduce the Liberal lead. That seems to have been at least partly true.

Right up until the "end" (really a cliffhanger before a hiatus), ridings kept flipping, and for two brief beautiful moments the screens showed an NDP lead.

"So this is a tie. This election is a tie." I said at one point. This ended up being not quite true.

There are 87 seats in the legislature, and right now the count looks like this:

Liberals 43
NDP      41
Greens    3

-- a hung parliament, technically, though it's being called a Liberal minority government.

And now we wait.

{rf}
radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-05-11 09:58 am

Book Sale Haul and Material Culture Post

It is a morning like wearing an upturned iron pot that drips condensation directly into your mind. The Beautiful Shed refuses to be warmed or comforted. There's nothing for it but to make a book-buying post with minor material culture notes.

The local newspaper's book sale happened last weekend. You will be delighted to know that the sale is usually held in the curling rink. Cheap rent, big space, authentic cultural aura.

The sale is one of the iconic events on the city calendar, with the Moss Street Paint-In (local artists line the titular way with booths and demonstrations) and the Symphony Splash (the symphony plays on a barge in the harbour, culminating in the 1812 Overture with real cannon fire from the nearby naval base).

I have to be careful, faced with the rows and rows of heaped books, with more stacked in boxes beneath the tables, or I get trapped in discovery anxiety -- you know: must look at everything so as to miss nothing. Instead, I try to surrender to serendipity. I try.

There are themes in every sale, and one can't help but speculate -- who moved? Cleaned house? Split up? Got together? Who died (peacefully, after a brief illness)? Who grew suddenly tired of old preferences and began anew? -- all to create this momentary pattern. This year there seemed to be a lot of A.S. Byatt, which is admittedly not a very dramatic finding.

I spent more money (and concomitant time) than I intended, for they had two levels of paperback pricing: pocketbook and large-format. However, the prices are still fantastically cheap, so I escaped at the cost of a pricey brunch. My only quibble was finding out afterwards that I'd paid $2.00 for a Dover Thrift Edition of Bartleby that cost only $1.50 new. (It's all in a good cause.)

The 2017 Haul

  • Annharte. Being on the Moon. (1990) Annharte, an Anishinabe poet, is one of the poets in the anthology I used in teaching Indigenous Literatures and Oratures. I don't know her work well, so this presented an opportunity to deepen my knowledge. Signed by the author!

  • Byatt, A.S. The Game and The Shadow of the Sun. (1967, 1983) (1964, 1991) -- honor the pattern. Also, they were about British academics. (Goodreads is not so sure about my choices.) Sun is one of those nice solid Vintage editions that came out I think with/because of Possession. Game is orange-spine-era Penguin.

  • Clarke, Lindsay. The Chymical Wedding. (1989) I had no prior knowledge of this book's existence, but John Fowles claims to have liked it, and Michael Wood said "the very craziness or the Hermetic Quest is turned into a sane metaphor, representing a glimpse of how symbolic the world actually is, how much it is made in our image, littered with fragments of our dreams," and I thought "Yeah, all right." (Goodreads is fairly positive.)

  • Eliot, T.S. The Sacred Wood. (1960). As booksales are for the cheap acquisition of classics, and as it is fun to read old criticism. A dramatic University Paperback with vermilion woodcut trees on age-stained ecru air.

  • Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. (1984, 2001). To remedy my lack of having read Erdrich. When opened at random, full of beauty.

  • Lathers, Marie. The Aesthetics of Artifice: Villiers's L'eve future. I'm actually not that interested in artifice-for-its-own-sake -- more in self-creation and inhabitation -- but I picked this up and read from the Foreword (by John Anzalone, a person of whom I know nothing): "Defiantly unconventional, despite his deep-seated traditionalism, Auguste de Villiers de l'Isle-Adam produced a body of writing so uncomfortable for canonically determined hierarchies that for a time it seemed in danger of disappearing altogether." This is a convergence of an author, a forewordist, and a subject I have no knowledge of whatever, but sometimes these convergences produce beautiful inkblooms in the mind, where mystery must be filled in by supposition.

  • Le Sueur, Meridel. The Girl. (1982) Seems to have been damaged in a fire: a river of smoke runs up the gutter of the dedication page. (Goodreads cautiously approves.)

  • McEwan, Ian. The Cement Garden. (1978, 1980) I'm not a particular fan of McEwan, and I don't know his oeuvre that well -- I found Sweet Tooth a little disappointing -- but I liked the film of this book a lot when I saw it in my hazily distant past. A nice old weird-looking Picador edition.

  • Melville, Herman. Bartleby and Benito Cereno. I really just wanted to have actually read "Bartleby," rather than nodding and chuckling knowingly whenever someone says "I would prefer not to."

  • Meredith, Richard C. We All Died at Breakaway Station. (1969). One of two purchases from the SF table. Here's a sample from the back cover copy: "these brutally injured officers had been restored to temporary, artificial life ... because no intact man or woman could be spared from the main conflict" (to take a hospital ship back to Earth). Um, yes please.

  • Merril, Judith (ed). Judith Merril's England Swings SF. (1968) -- for this, I broke my rule about no dilapidated/stained/smelly books. It was dusty, and someone had spilled an alarming substance on its first few pages at some point in the 1970s, but it is an intoxicatingly self-delighted artifact of New Wave SF. (Only 12 ratings and one review on Goodreads! A true Find.)

  • Tonks, Rosemary. Bedouin of the London Evening. (2014) Bloodaxe Books. Poems and an interview with Tonks in the back. I believe I first read of Tonks' poetry and this collection only a few months ago in the TLS, so this was fortuity manifest and was obeyed. (Her name always makes me think benignly of the Harry Potter character.)

  • White, T.H. The Book of Merlyn: The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once and Future King. (1988) There were actually two copies of this -- one in a random fiction pile, and one with SFF. This scholarly edition (U of Texas P) is an unbeautiful but intriguing artifact in a bright vermilion cover. (Vermilion again!) Prologue by Sylvia Townsend Warner (!!)

  • Yeats, W.B. The Poems of W.B. Yeats. (1966) A nice little hardcover, just a hand high, green, smelling of horse-glue. Probably the best artifact here for material culture. The owner's signature on the flyleaf in black ink has imprinted its mirror image in yellow on the inside front cover: M (E? G?) Y (F? J?) Williamson, in an upright but emphatic hand. A Macmillan (Canadian) edition. I wanted a proper Yeats -- my last one is a Dover all marked up from class.



There are more important things to be said, but they cannot be copied from the copyright page of an aged book, so they will have to wait.

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radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-05-02 06:38 pm
Entry tags:

A note of appreciation, and a bit of a books post

My Dreamwidth reading list has had some really excellent posts on it lately. I ought really to comment on each individually, with specific points of praise and affirmation, but for now I'll just have to make this broad statement of appreciation. From political posts, to book and show reviews, to daily-life updates about cats or moving or cooking, I've really appreciated and been nourished by what you've been writing. Thank you.

I'm afraid I did nothing much for Mayday except teach a class and play cards with LB and S. There are thoughts of some kind of eccentric behaviour for the weekend, though.

I finished Jane Gardam's A Long Way from Verona and Barbara Comyns' The Vet's Daughter (1959), both Backlisted recommendations.

I liked both books. I liked Gardam's voice better -- though there was nothing wrong with Comyns', only I felt that pleasure in Gardam's book of a kind of perception I recognized.

The voice of Comyns' book was more alienating, but it was supposed to be. The Vet's Daughter seems like an almost lightly told tale, but it isn't -- it quietly depicts profound alienation, trauma, and domestic tyranny. That makes it sound grim, which it -- well, it is, but it has this clarity and sense of weightlessness, almost a dreaminess.

(All this imagery is obviously informed by the events of the book, which I will not -- quite -- spoil here.)

I liked very much the way the surreal or supernatural aspects were so naturalized, and how Comyns braided this in with the enforced ignorance / silence for women about sex and desire in Edwardian England.

Here's a remarkable bit of information from Wikipedia, though really from Comyns' own introduction to the novel: "[Comyns] dreamt the idea for The Vet's Daughter whilst on honeymoon in a Welsh cottage lent to her and her new husband by the Soviet agent Kim Philby in 1945."

(I do like that old t-spelling of the past tense -- "Dreamt" or even "dreampt", though maybe only Shakespeare can get away with the latter.)

Well, now I may have talked myself around to liking The Vet's Daughter better. Still, it's Gardam I wanted more of. In a lovely convergence, Gardam wrote the (other) introduction to my edition of Daughter.

Some very clever person(s) at the library purchased almost the whole lot of Gardam's novels in the recent Europa editions, so I have The Hollow Land and Old Filth from today's run. In fact, I'm halfway through The Hollow Land.

It's been an odd day -- I didn't sleep well, so all I've really done is go to the library, read The Hollow Land, try to take naps, work on lesson plans, and reheat some meatballs. I didn't feel right until about 3:30, after the more successful of my two naps.1

I should get back to it. To sum up: hello; happy May; here are some books; and thank you.

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1. And now, I guess, I've written a blog post, so.
radiantfracture: (john simm)
2017-04-29 10:01 pm

Update from Planet Quotidia

Coughing and/or sleeping

Sick again all this past week. It seems to be lifting.

For two nights I couldn't sleep. After the first night, I was strangely energized; after the second, I was all in ruins.

The next night, I worked out I could sleep if I sat on the futon (which sits on the floor), then propped my torso up on the bed with pillows and quilts. This way, I could lie upright but completely supported. I listened to the soundtrack of West Wing episodes all night and finally slept, not heavily but at least for a reasonable duration. Last night I slept in a more usual position and it seemed all right.

I've had these happy dreams the last few days, jumbles of community and confusion, with Mild Peril but a general sense of positive action.

News in noises and images

I'm starting new courses on Monday. I'm running an online course for the first time, and tonight I finished a super goofy little audio intro for the course website. I open with the distinctive harmonica line from "The Times They are A-Changin" -- distinctive in this case for being almost unrecognizeable when played breathlessly upon my bent harmonica. This, because the long text for the course will be Alan Moore's Watchmen, and the Dylan song is, of course, played over the opening credits of the film version.

I want to watch the new MST3K, but I don't want to re-sub to NetFlix. LB & S & I are contemplating American Gods as our next group viewing project. Also, there are two episodes of John Oliver to watch.

Booking

Because of Backlisted podcast, I'm reading Jane Gardam's A Long Way from Verona, and it's really pretty wonderful. I've never read anything by Gardam, but I like her voice and I'm already seeking out more.

Mild spoilers and peril )

Money and planning and grimacing adulthood

I have been making a budget, a proper one, for the first time, well, probably ever. It shows me I am terrible with money, which I knew, and yet it grieves me. However, it also offers me scope for reform.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was so committed to procrastination that I actually wrote two poems and sent them out, thus doubling my submission rate as compared to 2016. So I did *something* for poetry month.

Next up: meal planning.

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(Edited to correct spelling of Gardam's name and the title of her book -- I keep muddling it up with A Far Cry from Kensington, which I own -- somewhere -- but have not finished.)
radiantfracture: (Default)
2017-04-26 05:34 pm

Photo Post - Solitary Walks through Distinctive Ecosystems

In the week between classes, I've been trying to take proper long rambles each day, to make more space in my head and all the spaces in me.

Trying isn't the word, really. I'm compelled up and out of the house to wander the earth. Fortunately this bit of the earth is damn pretty right now.

Here, then, are some photos from various park-hunting expeditions of the last few days, organized around the theme of awesome local species rather than chronology, because I'm too tired to explain the chronology.

Distinctive Regional Species and general springiness )

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radiantfracture: (two)
2017-04-25 11:27 am
Entry tags:

TV Post: Legion

Recently LB & S & I finished the first season of Legion.

The visual and sound design are amazing – particularly the sound, actually, which was reminiscent in parts of (what little I know about) Gaspar Noé’s soundscapes – for example, the use of low-frequency tones that make you tense and/or vaguely nauseous.

Legion is giddy and intoxicating, and each night when we were finished I walked home in a genuinely altered state.

Several Spoilers for Legion Season 1, and Some Points of Critique )

To sum up: brilliant sensory experience, clever structure, rollercoaster-of-the-mind plot, and slightly disappointing lack of risk-taking with the characters/focus, given the other accomplishments of the show.

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Notes

1. Though certainly the Kerry/Cary dyad doesn't split along traditional gender lines.

2. To be fair, that might actually be true, but it's not necessarily something to revel in, narratively.

"Emotional problems" might not be the right term here, since the story is at least ostensibly about mental illness, but Legion felt preoccupied with David's negotiation of his powers, rather than with the lived experience of mental illness itself. Then, I don't know where they're going with David's identity, or how close it will be to the comic character.
radiantfracture: (writing)
2017-04-20 11:06 am
Entry tags:

Audioblog - From the Archives

This morning I tried recording a longer story, one from deep in the archives.

It is an old story (circa 2004), and I would do some things in it differently if I wrote it now, but bits still make me laugh. I made some minor cuts for the recording (textual jokes that didn't translate and some narrative colour that, in my contemporary opinion, didn't.)

It was a challenge to record at this length, and I can hear where I start to struggle -- where I lose the specific rhythm of the narrative, or start to lose volume. I made some edits, some of which are almost seamless, and some, yeah, not.

Anyway, it was worth the attempt to learn more about the form.

The story (about 11 minutes long) is here.

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radiantfracture: (Robot Love)
2017-04-18 07:08 pm
Entry tags:

Language and love

A very quiet weekend, without much ceremony, but a small deep thing happened nonetheless: this weekend I babysat my nephew for the first time.

I have a baby nephew, aged 8-1/2 months. He was born with a heart defect, though he throve much more than expected right from the start. He had surgery at six months and he has healed amazingly. His energy has doubled. He is not quite crawling, but he wriggles very quickly.

Monday night I babysat him for the first time. I was very nervous, because I hadn't babysat in -- perhaps 20 years? -- and I showed no aptitude at the time. Rather the opposite.

The elder nephew, aged 19, was also at home; however, he had to go to bed early to get up and be a lifeguard at some ungodly hour, which is why my presence was necessary at all.

(Note: Be grateful for your lifeguards, please, and do not be rude to them about the placement of lane markers. They are young, and they had to get up early, and they are just following instructions.)

In the evening, I got to feed the baby a little, and also to see him starting to understand that if he signs for something, he will get it. He only knows the sign for milk, because that's really the only sign the rest of us are clear on.

I noticed he had started making the milk sign, a little squeeze or clap with the fingers of one hand1, and I tried to reinforce it by bringing him the milk bottle every time he did it, though he did not really want milk all that much -- he is more excited about solid food right now.

This same small nephew has come to a point where he does not want to go to bed. He loves people and attention and socializing. He loves having his picture taken and always smiles. He hates to leave all this in order to sleep.

Yet on Monday it fell to me, least experienced of sleep-guides, to put him to bed.

There is a whole routine. It involves a diaper change and a sleep sack and a last feeding and a prayer and a song and a story and some declarations of love and some firm instructions to sleep.

None of this was remotely convincing to Small Nephew. He cried and cried in that profound outrage babies can express so crushingly. His body taut as a bow, he would not be comforted.

The thing to do, of course, was to put him into the crib and leave, but I knew I could not, quite, put him down in a state of such distress without trying to remedy it at least a little.

But how, without language to explain, persuade, convince, argue, command?

He was so so so so sad and angry, and he did not want to go to bed at all, and I was not his dad or his mom, and what was I even doing there, and what was even going on?

At one point I put him down on the floor, which is not part of the routine at all. He looked very surprised and then flipped over and started worming in his sleep sack along the carpet. He crawled towards the crib and grabbed its leg, then stopped, and I thought to myself you dolt, you're just making it worse. So I put him in the crib.

This was no better. Then he signed at me for milk. "Milk?" I checked. He intensified the noise, which I took for yes.

So I gave him the milk, and he drank it, furiously.

And he did not stop crying entirely, but I think he felt a little better. So I said the words and left the room, and in ten minutes by the baby monitor's reckoning he was asleep.

Surely what he wanted with his mother or father, or to feel properly comforted, or not to have to go to bed at all, but he could not ask me for any of those things, and I could not have given them to him if he had asked me.

Yet he could ask me for milk, and I could give him that.

It just seemed like the whole human condition, right there.

I once read a lot of Lacan, and his sort of interpretation comes easily2, but this exchange also felt like something simpler -- the way we want and are not answered, and we see and recognize want and cannot answer it, and therefore we end up exchanging something else entirely, because it's the best any of us can manage.3

Once Small Nephew was asleep, I tried to be "helpful" by tidying up the kitchen. I unloaded the dishwasher into weird places, as people who don't understand your kitchen always do. It's like an Easter egg hunt, but for your dishes. Then I loaded the dishwasher all wrong, because no one can load anyone else's dishwasher properly.

And then I wrote this down, checking the monitor periodically to make sure that in recording my Meditations Upon Watching the Baby I was not forgetting to actually watch the baby.

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1. The sign derives from milking a cow, but I prefer to think of it as one hand clapping.

2. A Lacanian reading would be something like this: you cannot have your heart's desire (the return of your mother), and in fact you cannot even have that desire properly recognized and answered, because it happened before language, and neither the asking nor the answer can be properly expressed or understood -- only the absence. Once you learn language, you still can't have your heart's desire, but you can have something else. You can call something to amend the absence, and have, not the satisfaction of your desire, but the satisfaction of calling for a thing and having it come to you -- the power of language. The endless substitution of the signifier.

3. Or, you know, maybe he was hungry.