Category Archives: books

Pause without intending

It’s been hot. Very hot. I’ve been walking Finn early and late to avoid the worst of it. I’m even watering the trees at this point.

My writing workshop resumes next week and so I am collecting prompts, cleaning my work area, and thinking about the writers who will hopefully be showing up. I ordered a few books in anticipation as well.

Not shown: Peter Elbow’s WRITING WITH POWER
Paris Collage Collective visual prompt plus quilt with writing and more. Used dianaphoto app

I hope I get back in the blogging grove soon, but it doesn’t seem to be today. (I meant to say “groove,” but I like the idea of a blogging grove!)

The above collage was produced digitally, then printed out, and marked with white and regular pencils. I am excited about this. Maybe I’m excited about this all out of proportion to the technique, but it feels like a new direction, one that might yield unexpected and interesting results.

Walking after dinner

The torrential rain woke me repeatedly last night and each time in my half-awake state I thought, The world is ending, isn’t it?

I can’t take the gummies as a sleep-aid anymore because of what they do to my stomach. Maybe this second purchase is contaminated because the first order didn’t bother me at all. I don’t know. Last night I was awake past two. The same two nights before, except maybe it was three o’clock. And one night recently I didn’t sleep at all.

My phone always has a book on it. Library-kindle is a boon. It means I can stay in bed and read.

Yesterday I finished Oh, William!: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout and started a Maggie O’Farrell. Some of you have read O’Farrell’s extraordinary Hamnet, I know. This one, I Am, I Am, I Am, is a memoir told through a series of near-death experiences.

The Strout book was told by Lucy Barton. She is looking back on her first marriage and spending time with her ex in NYC where they both live. They make a road trip to Maine. Her second husband has recently died and her ex’s third wife leaves him early in the narrative, so it isn’t that odd that they might seek each other out. The novel has this distinctive voice, with frequent insertions of phrases like, is what I mean to say or I’m not going to write another word about that. And even though not much happens really, it was hard to put down.

I read acknowledgments now. Lo and behold! One of the agents Strout gushed over at the back of the novel supplied my most recent rejection. That soured me on the book a little. Aren’t I mature?

Finished Ann Patchett’s gem of an essay collection this week too and it left a slightly bitter side note as well. She describes winning this and that prize like I talk about running to Home Goods to pick up a cake platter.

I’ll get over myself. Honest. The essays are very much worth reading.

In other news, the lake afforded a cool reprieve yesterday. I made a delicious potato salad and so-so brownies (old chocolate?). We finished watching The Outlaws.

We’ve been taking Finn around the “figure eight” after dinner lately. I’ve hit over 10,000 steps quite a few times recently because of it.

In case you can’t tell, that’s a brag!

Raining flowers

It’s that time of year again. The catalpa drops its flowers, sometimes with such frequency it becomes like weather — a genteel snowfall, say.

The miracle clematis sent forth another flower. I think I can die now. The vigorous spider plants have been dug, divided, and resituated. Check.

So much of daily writing is valorizing getting small things done.

To do: finish This is Happiness. Spend time with happiness. Open the cover of happiness.

Sorry. I’m easily distracted. Finishing an unbelievably well-written novel only gets a slot on the To Do List during heavy news weeks, when most of my reading bandwidth goes to keeping up. Lately (or is it always anymore?): holy shit.

I’m almost (but not quite) ready to get back on the query saddle. Ugh. It helps that I’ve added writing contacts on twitter so that even when I’m avoiding publishing, news about it slides across my screen and gets my attention. Sometimes, the info crosses over into race and misogyny. See: James Patterson.*

It’s cool today and K works from the kitchen table. I have a mole check later but otherwise the day is mine.

Adding smoke to this quilt – 2 silk, 2 polyester

All of a sudden it looks like rain, real rain! Will that send the excited elementary school kids inside? This month’s year-end celebrations include a bull horn with a siren feature. Nice.

* * *

This tweet was part of a Looong thread listing current white male bestsellers.

Once you wade through the outrage, one statement emerged that seemed true: it’s harder for everyone to get published now than it was say two years ago — but the institutional advantages for white men hold.

Another heat record?

Boston is headed toward another summer of record-breaking heat.

Four of the five hottest summers [in the US] have now occurred since 2011. The summers of 2021 and 1936 hold the first- and second-place rankings, followed by 2012, 2011 and 2020, respectively. Fox29Philadelphia

One of the most on-point novels about the climate crisis that I’ve read is The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. Okay, I haven’t read all that many novels on the topic, but here’s why this one is so good. It plausibly and with a lot of detail imagines how rising temperatures will impact us and it plausibly and with a lot of detail posits the solutions.

Of course the solutions are only plausible if climate deniers are removed from power and an extraordinary and unprecedented cooperation occurs across the globe. Maybe far-fetched then?

It’s long and not every reader will want to invest the time. Luckily there are two articles in The New Yorker that might appeal to you instead. The shorter article offers a 19 minute audio and the longer article is accompanied by a 55-minute audio.

The shorter article begins by describing the book’s opening scene: a lethal heat wave descends on India, with vast, horrifying consequences.

A recent news story echoes this premise.

From YaleClimateConnections.com

I laughed when my brother’s partner suggested we plan an upcoming visit to Los Angeles in September instead of July because it’s so hot there then. It’s pretty hot here too, I told her.

When we moved into this house in 1993, for the first many summers there were only a couple of weeks, maybe ten days, that were unbearably hot. You could get by with a window unit easily.

When the boys were little and we had one window AC, we’d all sleep in one bedroom like refugees during those dog days. Afternoons, when we weren’t swimming at Crystal Lake, we’d go to the movies or the mall just for the chilled air. The heat spells were relatively brief and manageable.

And then it changed. The heat started earlier in the season and lasted longer. Much longer. I had to campaign for central air because it’s expensive. We have a supply of window fans to cool us on the borderline days, but it’d be really hard to get through a Boston summer without central air anymore.

I’m planning to write upstairs with AWA friends this morning (via zoom of course) then spend as much time outside as I can stand later. I have a beautiful fresh bundle of dill so maybe a cold cucumber soup is in order!

From prognostications of doom to menu planning? Yeah, that’s me all the way.

Have a great weekend all.

Focus and restriction

Focus and restriction can yield relief. After a few days on the BRAT diet, I am feeling better. Blood and stool lab work all came back negative. Phew. So a re-set. I can do that.

Focusing on the history of our young nation through the lens of John James Audubon also makes me feel better. I’m reading a second biography and taking notes. I’ve read two biographies about his wife, Lucy.

Okay, okay — so much for keeping secrets. But you probably would like to learn that at one point the Audubons owned close to a dozen slaves, yes? And that for some reason, historic mentions quantify nine as “a few.” Let me reality check. Would YOU refer to nine of anything as “a few”?

You cannot read about Audubon without getting fantastic descriptions of huge sycamore and chestnut trees, of paddling down the Ohio, of camping with the Osage, and of course birds. Birds, birds, and more birds.

Audubon loved them all which makes him even more appealing somehow — from the humble warblers and wrens to the spectacular eagles and rose-breasted grosbeak.*

Here’s what I’ve learned about JJA as a husband. He was hyper-focused on his drawings and investigations of nature, which meant he roamed the woods for weeks and even months at a time. He was an abject failure at business and also given to confabulation (DID he study with Jacques-Louis David, for instance?). In short, he was unreliable.

He presents the weird mix of fate and innate capacities that produces works of genius. But you also get poverty and extended periods of isolation for Lucy. For substantial stretches of their marriage, Lucy supported them by teaching.

It’s chilly this morning but supposed to reach 100 this weekend. Huh?

Had dinner with friends last night. Seven of us. We didn’t hug even though it’s been a while but if someone was sick, we’ve all been exposed, hugs or no.

K is on a conference call with China. They tend to be endless, which is part of why I’m outside. He goes into the office three days a week now, I think I’ve said. It seems a little pointless — the commute and diminished sleep the cost of collegiality?

All the annuals are in pots now.

* Under a Wild Sky, John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America, by William Souder, pages 90 – 93.

All 3 collages from Paris Collage Collective’s weekly prompt