Archive for August, 2010

Apparently it takes a series of power outages to drive me to blog. It’s almost quiet in my place right now—two battery-driven clocks still tick, the kids next door are singing, and the sleeping dog’s nails are tapping against the wall (he’s on his side, dream-twitching). I’m supposed to be working, but I’ve finished editing the work I had downloaded and the rest is sitting in gmail, inaccessible. The light is murky in here (I’m unwilling to open the blinds: it’s supposed to get up to 102 today), but I’ve been reading for an hour or so anyway.

currently reading:

Light Years by James Salter. It’s occasionally been a struggle to keep the pace that’s been working for me with this book. I’d like to bolt the rest of it: it’s a smooth read, not too long, with well-spaced chapters, exactly the sort of novel I usually finish in a few days instead of a few weeks. But this feels best slow, sipped a chapter a day. The book follows the adult lives of a couple, Nedra and Viri, along with their daughters and a handful of family acquaintances. Salter jumps ahead in time and between perspectives without any easy transitional help, and sometimes I am lost for a paragraph or two, confused about when we are or how the central character in that chapter relates to Nedra and Viri. But the sentences are lovely and strong, and Salter holds all the characters to account for their actions at the same time that he renders them all understandable and sympathetic, so he’s free to lose me all he wants. Twenty pages left: I’m struggling not to finish it today in the half-dark and quiet. (But why? I may have talked myself right around it.)

Washington Square by Henry James. I’m exactly one page into this book. mopie suggested I start here with James (though I’ve read The Turn of the Screw, I’m considering this the first real book I’ll be reading of his), and I am starting with James because I desperately want to read Toibin’s The Master. It seems like a good idea to have some James in my system before I read a book based on the author. I have a copy of The Ambassadors but have been told by a couple of people that it’s an unnecessarily hard place to start.

Although You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky. Halfway done, and half the time I want to call all my DFW-familiar friends and share delightful anecdotes from the book, and the other half of the time I almost can’t bear both how awful I feel about his death and ridiculous I feel to have such an emotional reaction to the loss of someone I only ever knew through paper.

–picking at the nonfiction pile when I have time (not often lately): The Compassionate Instinct (edited by Dacher Keltner) and Psychotherapy without the Self (by Mark Epstein). Both less compelling and more difficult than previous books by the authors/editors, but still interesting enough to work through over time.


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Bring on the hype, the #franzenfreude, the dueling reviews, pissy tweets, adoring blogs, pre-reading dismissive shrugs, and ARC lovefests: I am unashamed of my excitement for this book and will not be swayed. Of the two excerpts I’ve read from it, both in The New Yorker, I hated one (every fault he’s ever been accused of, even ones I disagreed with, was present) and loved one. If there are pre-release parties where we stand around at 11:58 pm with whatever the Franzen equivalent of wizard caps and fake forehead scars would be (salmon in the pants? ear-muff headphones with no music playing?), I am there. I’m not quite to the level of timing my other reading so that I won’t have anything else in progress, but I’m guessing Washington Square will have a few days of rest.

the writing:

On the one hand, I’ve set up a comprehensive support and accountability plan, with twice-a-month writing group and two other specific people to check in with about the work. I have works of various lengths in progress. There are multiple comfortable places to write, and perfect pens if I opt for paper.

On the other hand, the last day I had off (excluding a weekend during which I was entirely out of town and busy) was July 3rd. Between regular full-time work, summertime pet-sitting gigs, ongoing housepainting/cleaning jobs, and six 10-hrs/day weekend assisting jaunts, I haven’t had the sort of time I need to do a whole bunch of writing. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been writing at all: I have, and I don’t regret any of the experiences (or money) that have come from all my busyness. But I had the standard summer dreams of finishing things, whole dozy afternoons of self-hatred and short-story writing, and the small satisfaction of checking in with success tales instead of explanations and flat-out flaking. The seasonal grind is about to end; there is no assisting on the calendar for the next few months. And look, as soon as there is a little bit of space: here I am, writing things down.

edited to add: Oh, the power of coincidence. I posted this, then went to check my blog stats. While I was writing this all in the half-dark, Weetabix (one of my check-in folks, and the one I’ve been flaking on for a few Wednesdays) wrote about the writing and checking in here. I think both of us mentioning it means that we are now accountable to the entire internet. Shit.


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