Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
And there are those that I did read 30 or even 40 years ago which I want to reread, mostly the great Russians, but also things like Madame Bovary and Don Quixote, touchstones of literary culture that are not as vivid in my mind as I would like them to be. Books I enjoyed so much once that I would like to experience the resonant pleasure of rereading them. For if reading a good book for the first time is like drinking wine, rereading it is like drinking cognac.
When my daughter was in Grade Six her teacher, who had the kids keep a chart of every book they read and awarded stickers to those who read the most, called her a cheater for her habit of rereading favourite books, sometimes as soon as she had finished them the first time. This teacher insisted that there was no point rereading books when there were so many others one hadn't read yet. My daughter, as besotted with words as I am, reported this nonsense to me with justifiable indignation. We agreed that her teacher obviously didn't "get" reading, seeing it as a chore rather than one of life's most profound pleasures.
No one would ever counsel a child not to listen to a piece of music a second time, or not to view a painting more than once! How could anyone suggest that books don't repay a second encounter? Or even a third. You never read the same book twice, anyway, since you miss so much the first time and if the time between readings is long enough, have changed significantly in the interval.
To keep my bearings, I need to reread, from time to time, certain nonfiction texts that have shaped my deepest understanding of the world: among them Gombrich's Art and Illusion, Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses, In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott... And I reread poetry all the time. Certain poets, like Hass and Amichai, CK Wright, Rilke, Neruda, Seferis, Milosz, Transtromer--a long long list--are the stars I steer by. But I continue to feel the compulsion to go forward rather than backwards when it comes to fiction. Why is that, I wonder?
Perhaps it's the residue of having been an academic. In my youth I was driven to master the canon, and so read little contemporary writing except the odd faddish novel until I started writing poetry seriously and realized that my accent was archaic. And even then it was just poetry that I tried to keep up with; not fiction.
I have to go pick up the aforementioned daughter from gymnastics, so will pursue these thoughts further at another time..
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
was that all one sentence? no? good.
ANYHOW initially I was kinda stuck on the polarities of lyric and narrative, the former being a vertical slice of time, an exploration of all the qualities of the moment, resulting, most often, in images, while the latter is the engine of plot, horizontal, sequential cause and effect, etcetera. I've generally understood these not as genres but as aesthetic imperatives: "stop and explore the now" in tension, always, for the artist, with "go on and tell the story". But when someone at Queens' actually asked me what was the big difference for me,in my own work, between writing prose fiction and writing poetry I realized that it wasn't that at all, it was dialogue. After all, dialogue is the imitation of speech while the rest of it is unambiguously textual.
This may help me think more clearly about Bron's decision to write stories after so many years arguing that narrative poetry could do everything fiction could. Obviously her short stories are longer than her poems, and have flashbacks, and are written in sentences rather than lines, etcetera, but perhaps the polyphony -- the sense of many voices talking -- was key for her.
Have to think about this more. If anyone else out there is thinking about it too, I'd love to hear from you!!
Monday, October 15, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Emily Dickinson [1830-1886]
These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.
These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, -
A blue and gold mistake.
Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!
Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,
Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!
Monday, August 20, 2007
I love my garden. I love that everybody on my street loves their gardens (the Roma tomatoes were a gift from my next door neighbour Diana, and the cranesbill geraniums were planted next to "moonbeam" coreopsis because that combination worked so well at Christie's house across the street). I've lived in Toronto since 1977 but only recently have I begun to feel at home here, largely because of this neighbourhood. When you walk down the street everyone says Hi and invites you onto their porch for coffee or wine; the lovely old couple at the corner store gets a New York Times just for my husband and lets the kids buy candy on credit; we look after each others dogs.
Toronto is often described as a city of neighbourhoods. Therein lies its charm. It is, in a microcosm, what Canada is in macrocosm: a loose confederation rather than a staunch republic. Its outlines are hazy-- who can tell exactly where the Annex ends and Seaton Village begins, or what the difference is between Riverdale and Danforth Village? And does anyone care except real estate agents?
And yes, I'm from Montreal. Call me a traitor if you will, but I like it here. C'est pas pire.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
There once was a mariner old
who wanted his damn story told
so he fixed passers-by
with a glittering eye
and bored them to death in the cold.
Larkin sat on a train and was grim
because no one was marrying him
no girls in loud dresses
would offer caresses
to someone so scornful and dim.
A traveller in lands antique
dug in the sand for a week
when he came up for air
he was filled with despair—
“This writing’s Egyptian, not Greek!”
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
went chortling through tulgey groves
“The Jabberwock’s dead!
Beamish cut off his head!”
“So what?” said the borogoves.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
We were almost too busy to notice, but not quite. No one needed to be driven anywhere or suddenly discovered his or her soccer cleats (bathing suit, jeans) didn't fit anymore; nobody rejected a healthy home-cooked meal prepared according to rigorous nutritional guidelines in favour of Lipton's chicken noodle soup a la salt, nobody spent an hour in the shower or monopolized the DVD player night after night watching Smallville and refusing to share the obligatory glimpse of Tom Welling's six-pack.
There was more hot water, and more space; more movie-watching time, more time in general. Also a lot more quiet. A spooky amount of quiet. Which is strange because even when they are home, our kids aren't home all that much. But still.
Up and down our street people are having babies. Gosh, those babies are noisy, and insistent! They cling until they can toddle, then toddle until they fall down , then cry and cling again. Their parents are so burdened with buggies and diaper bags and toys and snacks they can barely move. By contrast, my kids grab a cell-phone and a house key and are out the door so fast I can barely get a kiss goodbye. And one day, too soon, they will take the rest of their stuff with them, and the house will not only be big, and quiet, it will be very very empty.
Luckily, not yet.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
A purple flower tends to represent success, grace, and elegance.
At times, you are faithful like a violet.
And other times, you represent luxury, like a wisteria.
And more than you wish, you find yourself heartbroken like a lilac.
What Color Flower Are You?
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Here's an article from the Times revealing the fees charged in the UK. I would love to know what it costs to be "New and Hot" "Recommended" or something "Canada Need More" of at Chapters/ Indigo.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
-- Groucho Marx
(This is when Tobytheincrediblycutedog starts getting fan mail from people who never comment on my blog. But after disconsolately wandering the aisles of Book Expo all day Monday, I'm the one who really needs a hug...)
Friday, June 08, 2007
Four Jobs I’ve Had:
- Chicken inoculator (Kibbutz Barkai, Israel)
- Receptionist (Sidgwick and Jackson Publishers, London, England)
- Chambermaid (Oxford University, England)
- Waitress (Carroll's Colonial Diner, Medford, Massachusetts)
Four Movies I Can See Over And Over:
- The Princess Bride
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Le Roi de Coeur (it's been many years since I last saw it, but I remember it fondly)
Four Places I’ve Lived:
- Athens, Greece
- London, England
- San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
- Boston, USA
Four TV Shows I Love:
- Dalziel & Pascoe
- Star Trek Next Generation (who is more adorable--Picard or Data?)
- Hercule Poirot with David Suchet
- Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett
Four Places I’ve Vacationed:
- San Francisco
- Prince Edward Island
- Quintana Roo (I just love saying that! great birdwatching.)
- The Pays Basques
Four Of My Favorite Dishes:
- Moules marinieres
- Greek salad
- A simple perfect omelette
- really dense stone ground whole wheat toast with ginger marmalade
Four Places I’d Rather Be Now:
- Anywhere on the Mediterranean, but especially Crete
- Kew Gardens
- At Les Granges, the most amazing bed and breakfast near Giverny, France, drinking Normandy Cider
- At my friend Natalie's cottage on Lake Kashebog in the Kawarthas (Natalie, call me)
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, luxury, dissipation. (well 3 out of 6 ain't bad...)
The Empress is associated with Venus, the feminine planet, so it represents, beauty, charm, pleasure, luxury, and delight. You may be good at home decorating, art or anything to do with making things beautiful. (I really love spray painting pasta gold and gluing it to paper plates)
The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.
(Don't mess with me!)
from What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Nice metaphor for most of what I do -- planting thyme in the cracks...
Here's a poem influenced by all this recent activity.
Faded, bent, and obdurate
its yellowing lace deceptive
the delicacy of old ladies who survive their mates
to work on in the garden
season after season
with arthritic fingers
who know the names of all winged visitors
and can recognize their songs across the twilight
as the nicotiana releases its scent
who plant verbena, penstemon, lobelia and monarda
for the butterflies and birds
and David Austin roses for themselves
who do not deadhead the sunflowers
so the creatures will have something to eat
who keep cats, but never set mousetraps
who use their best china every day
and jump the queue at the grocery store
because they have so little in their baskets
and no more time to waste
copyright Susan Glickman 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I’ve been thinking about what to say about this term’s crop of WIER students for several days. I was going to talk about their wit and liveliness, their love of suspense and trick endings, their wonderful ease at writing dialogue, their sophisticated manipulation of stock plots and genres (the western, sci fi, fantasy, horror, even soap opera). I intended to applaud their seriousness, the willingness of so many to revise, and at the same time, their confident defense of their writing choices in the face of other people's criticism and advice. I doubt I would have had such conviction about what I wanted to say when I was in High School! But anyone who wants to write has to be stubborn and strong and have a sense of humour, which so many of these students do.
And then there was a massacre at Virginia Tech University, 33 people slaughtered by a friendless, solitary young man who never talked to anybody but whose creative writing projects alerted his teachers to the possibility that his jaws were clamped shut not in shyness but in rage. And I started to think about how communication is not just a “subject” to study but a means of staying alive, and well, and connecting to each other.
One of the things I appreciate most about WIER is that way that it liberates kids to listen to each others’ work with attention and respond to it with respect. Obviously, some of these kids aren’t in the same classroom and would never have seen each others’ work except for WIER! But for others, the opportunity to experience someone else’s writing isolated on the computer screen, out of the busy give-and-take of the school environment, inspires a higher degree of responsiveness than usual.
So often in daily life we are distracted, preoccupied, eager to speak our own piece, impatient to get on to the next activity. WIER makes us stop and focus on someone else’s words. It invites us into the space of those words and asks us to engage only with them, to let our imaginations fill up that space. And that active listening, my friends, is a huge life skill not just for writers and editors, but for all of us, all the time, who need to connect to each other in order to stay alive.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
SO I'm on the hunt for jollification. The news re Canadian domination of the International Booker Prize was welcome, as was a simultaneous sighting of cardinal, mockingbird, grackle,house finch, house sparrow, junco and squirrel all companionably noshing at the backyard feeder. But these are transient flares of sunshine. I need more cheering up!! You are welcome to send in your jokes and funny stories as part of this ongoing campaign.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Like Mimi herself, the play is an odd combination of vulgarity and tenderness: no wonder it is such a hit with teenagers! "La Vie Boheme", a scene set in a cafe, explains charmingly that the two main incentives of its characters, as refugees from conventionality, are to get laid and to piss off their parents. There really aren't any artists in Bohemia anymore: Mark (Marcello) is no longer a painter but instead a documentary filmmaker; Maureen (Musetta ) has been demoted from a singer to a narcissitic "performance artist." Aesthetic idealism is hardly even alluded to, except perhaps by Roger (Rodolfo) who wants to write one true song before he dies.
It is the omnipresence of death, in the form of AIDS, which transforms these mediocrities into Romantic figures, because they are condemned to die for love. Of course, sex and death are the standard themes of opera, but opera usually aspires to transcendence through extraordinary music, which RENT does not attain except, perhaps, in one great song, "Seasons of Love." It is, in fact, resolutely ordinary in its singing, in its musical compositions, and in its characters.
I find this fascinating. And disturbing.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
If you're looking for inspiration you won't get it from me, but here are some things you should read:
Zadie Smith's two part essay in the Guardian Review
Orhan Pahmuk's nobel prize speech