This blog has moved. I’ve got a real website. With, like, my own domain name and everything! So take note and update your brains: this blog is now officially (and only) at www.aliteralgirl.com. Thanks!
This is exactly how I feel right now. I don’t mean right now in this moment; I mean right now in general. I mean this sums up the sense that I have constantly. I’m both scuppered and free. At any instant I may hit a brick wall or discover opportunity. In a way this is how things always are. Impossible, amazing. How do you reconcile the fact that you always want what you don’t have with the fact that you have something special? You don’t, because this is how we have always been, this is how we always will be. You just sit there and thing, everything is impossible, anything is possible. You think that until you don’t know what anything means anymore.
Then, I suppose, you go from there, wherever there is. Is that right? I don’t know.
What I do know is this: a few weeks ago, the Man showed me this article about luck. I don’t often react well to things that he shows me. Perhaps I’d like to think that I don’t need guidance; that I could do better; that he’s not-so-subtly trying to tell me something. In any case I want to see flaws in the articles he shows me, and I saw a thousand flaws in this one. I saw this one as a personal attack. If you’re naturally negative or naturally anxious (and who can deny that I am both?), I pretended the article was saying, you’re fucked. He tried to tell me that wasn’t it at all, but I was in a foul mood, and I’d convinced myself, and that was that. (That’s always that).
But then last night he said to me, you’re more positive lately than you have been. You’re happier. It’s nice.
Yes, it is nice, and yes, I am, and no, I don’t know what it’s related to, exactly, but I do know that on the “everything is impossible/anything is possible” scale, I’m leaning towards the anything is possible side. What this means, specifically, is vague, and hardly matters. What it means generally is what he said. More positive. Happier. Nice. Everything is so bloody hard. And at every moment there’s the possibility of something. I can just about deal with that. I can just about feel the tremble of possibility. Who can say what luck’s got to do with it?
*Thanks to a good friend for helping me work this one out tonight…
…all shall be revealed tomorrow, but do know that I’m at work on something exciting!
In the meantime I remain busy and tired. I look tired, and I know I do because several people have remarked upon it with both grace and innocence, and it’s hard to explain how this is good tired, as opposed to bad tired, but it is. The last few weeks have been full of writing, reading, working, running, plotting, researching, and socializing, punctuated by a few frantic bouts of cleaning and resting. If I were to wake tomorrow and discover it already winter, I would hardly be surprised; part of me is still stuck back in springtime, while the rest of me feels as if time has sped up. The book is coming along well; I no longer know what my deadline is but I’m working towards it every day nonetheless.
We’ve spent the weekend in the countryside, under a rare blue sky. Yesterday I went for a run along country roads; the early evening silence was stunning, and the smell of wheat and sheep dung and grass was delicious. Descending back into the village, I had a whiff of warm barbecue smoke, and could hear the hum of pub-goers and children playing before dinner.
So if I’m tired, at least it’s in the name of something good. I’ve never felt so energetic about my own weariness before. And the silence on this blog is deliberate, because I’m stretched wonderfully thin.
A few days ago, on recommendation of my father, whose music advice I trust blindly and without fail, I listened to these guys, and I’m playing “Black Tables” over and over again on my computer this morning (morning in terms of proximity to sleep only, I hasten to add–I’m officially on vacation, and it’s actually past noon now). It occurs to me as I sit here that nearly every artist or band that I have had a lasting and meaningful auditory relationship with was introduced to me by one or both of my parents.
A huge part of my writing (and, indeed, thought) process involves moments like this: a repetitive soundtrack, a window, a seasonal spark of inspiration. Music sets my mood; or my mood sets the music. I can never decide which. I have an uneasy relationship with music; tender on the one hand, fraught with pitfalls on the other. Like most things, it’s a relationship which didn’t become complicated until my teenage years. My memories of music prior to my 14th birthday are simple and, to a certain extent, poignant (in a distinctly generational sense–I doubt anyone who isn’t my age could consider Michael Jackson “poignant”): listening over and over again to the Free Willy soundtrack in the living room of our Laguna Beach mobile home (yes, really, like the TV show, and yes, really, a mobile home) as a 5-year-old. Bouncing up and down in my seat as we rumbled through the deserts and mountains of Utah in the Volkswagon bus, Mozart (played by the orchestra at St. Martin in the Fields, a poetic name that I liked even then) blaring. Developing a fierce love for the Counting Crows a few years later, trying to play “Sullivan Street” on my keyboard, writing the lyrics as I heard them (for some months I believed that the song “Rain King” was actually “Rain Gauge,” which didn’t strike me as at all odd). Playing a Hootie and the Blowfish tape in my dad’s silver toyota 4×4 as we drove in search of planks of wood, toilet seats, faucet fittings, cabinets, bathtubs (my parents were building a house now). My mom’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” mix tape, which featured at least four versions of said song and which she listened to sometimes on the way to school, lending a morose east-coast sound to our blazing-sunshine west-coast commute.
But in high school it all became something different. I met people who would judge you based solely on what was in your portable CD player (these were the days literally just before the iPod, when we still carted around heavy nylon cases full of well-loved discs). I met a boy, who I desperately wanted to impress by my savvy (who once asked me, in dark and derogatory tones, “exactly what CDs do you own?”). After our adolescent adoration dissipated and we decided, for no good reason at all, that we would never be able to speak civilly with each other again (less than a year later we were comfortably friends), I fell into a strange and uncharacteristic punk phase, dyed my hair maroon, wore Doc Martens with fishnet stockings and a plastic studded belt. A close friend and I went to Warped Tour, which visited the seaside park in Ventura in summertime, ate french fries and joked nervously that maybe we would get closer to the mosh pit next time. In our black converse and messy eye makeup we saw Green Day at the Santa Barbara bowl and bounced up and down on each other’s feet, shrieking out the words, convinced that we were cooler by miles than anyone else we knew. Late one school night her father drove us to town so we could see a band called No Use for a Name play at a now-defunct venue called “The Living Room”; I remember being dissapointed that they didn’t play my favorite song at the time, “Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me?”, but I bought a sweatshirt that was six sizes too big for me anyway, and duly wore it to school the next day, with my obligatory headphones and walkman.
In the secrecy of my own room, however, I was listening to things that I foolishly felt I could never share with my classmates. I sought solace in Belle and Sebastian’s album “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” which my mom had purchased on a whim after hearing them on KCRW; on the gravel pathways between classrooms I was humming “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” and before track practice I heard Stuart Murdoch’s dulcet tones reminding me stars of track and field you are beautiful people. I borrowed all of my parents’ Van Morrison albums, learned through my mom to appreciate Leonard Cohen and through my dad that the pop-punk that I so loved would be nothing without The Clash (I still remember going to the Anti-Mall in Orange County with him, stopping at the music shop to buy “The Best of the Clash” so that he could educate me).
By my third year of high school, I had an iPod (first generation, a birthday gift from my dad, technology still so new at the time that I was literally nervous the first time I brought it out in public at school lest my colleagues deem me hopelessly geeky–ah, the glorious irony) and an infinately more refined taste in artists and songs. I was still plauged by the people who, now, would judge you based on your playlists, but now I wore a Belle & Sebastian t-shirt every other day and at least my hair (after a brief period of being black) was back to its normal dark brown colour. I would grow increasingly confident about my own ability to make musical choices ever after, apart from a period in college during which a boyfriend continually told me that the artists I liked were invariably “whiny” and during which, therefore, I decided that in addition to my usual litany of favorite artists, I also liked 50 cent, Dispatch, and, confusingly, Ashlee Simpson (that was not a proud moment in my personal history).
I know they say that smell is one of the most evocative senses, but I also have a memory that’s littered with song. Standing high above a lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains, watching the cold black surface as someone sang Coldplay’s “Spies” in eerie tones; a summer spent playing the same Death Cab for Cutie album over and over again as I wrote hundreds of pages of incomprehensible notes about a monthlong tour of four Greek isles; playing Rilo Kiley’s “The Execution of All Things” as I drove away from a hotel on my first morning as a high school graduate. If I play Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes” I can still see the Man’s bookshop, now shut and empty, where I spent hours circling him, listening to the books and smelling coffee and stealing kisses in between customers.
(I like to close my eyes sometimes and feel bits of my own life come to the surface in response to a few notes.)
We made a few sausages today. We’re making more tomorrow. All I’ll say for now is, PIG INTESTINES FEEL SO WEIRD. I stood there unraveling them (they’re puzzles), rinsing their insides with water so that we could fill them with minced pork, and all I could think was, this is way, way better than play-dough.
I’m doing a reasonable amount of reading at the moment. Revisiting Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy (secretly thinking, ok, if she can win a Booker, why can’t I?), alongside heavy perusal of a book called Shell Shock: Traumatic Neurosis and the British Soldiers of the First World War by Peter Leese. This may or may not be research for something; it remains to be seen (or admitted).
Also finishing Beloved. My opinion of it this time around is cloudy at best. It’s a shame, because my hatred for it was so pure for so many years. Overwritten, overwrought, over-hyped. Simple. Now I think, there may be no joy in reading it, but maybe I was a little hard on Toni Morrison, because sometimes there’s something just this side of beautiful about the whole thing. Maturity breeds indecision, it would seem.
Also on my mind: Pico Iyer’s The Lady and the Monk, which I’m strolling through for structural and narrative inspiration (this may or may not be the reason for my recent obsession with seasons).
*The title of this post refers not to “Reading” the place but in fact the act of “reading” a book, to clarify any possible confusion…
What is it about television shows? I’m not an addictive person by nature, but I find it impossible to simply watch TV. For starters, it mostly bores me, and I’ve never been very good at watching without doing something else at the same time (eating, primarily, but also, at various stages in my life, playing computer games, writing, researching, doing homework, doing sit-ups, you get the point…).
But then, every once in awhile, something jumps out at you. Someone recommends a show and you rent a DVD (this is usually a few years after the show has been popular), or you stumble across something (again, this is usually ages after everyone else has discovered it), and, suddenly, without warning, without being given a fair chance to stock up on canned foods and powdered milk because you’re not leaving the house anytime soon, you’re hooked, in a seriously unhealthy way. There’s something that happens in the brain, and all you can think is: I. Must. Watch. Every. Episode. Of. This. Show. That. I. Can. Get. My. Grubby. Hands. On. NOW.
It’s a fickle addiction, though, a fragile relationship, and before you know it you’ve watched every single episode ever made, and all the outtakes, and all the special deleted scenes, and all the interviews with cast members, and all the tribute videos on YouTube, and there’s a brief period–a week, maybe–during which you feel bereft, as if a piece of your soul has gone missing somewhere amongst the empty Chinese takeout boxes in your lounge. And then you’re so over it. Like, come on, give me something good to watch.
So you tumble into a new addiction and stay up all night watching your beloved characters negotiate their way through whatever new scenario has been created for them, and when you finally fall into fitful sleep, you dream of them, you become one of them.
I guess you could say that I’m not a casual television-show-watcher. A casual drinker I may be, but I never have just one watch. There’s no such thing as just one watch. If I like a show, I have to have it all. I’m not saying it’s healthy (and I’m certainly not saying it’s as destructive as other addictions, so I guess I should count myself lucky), but that’s the way it is.
Over the years, I’ve had these obsessions often, and over the silliest things, sometimes. It pains me, as someone who considers herself well-read and literary, who doesn’t own a television, who believes that you can never have too many University degrees, to admit that at various points in my life I’ve loved and watched with religious but transient intensity South Park, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, the X-Files, Law and Order: SVU, NewsRradio, The Office, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and dozens more, some of them even more embarrasing to name (I refer, as I sometimes do, to the quote in my “About Me” section). With the Man and I, it’s been House, Gilmore Girls, Spooks, CSI, Mad Men, Teachers, and, most recently, 30 Rock, which we’ve been watching with great zeal ever since we reluctantly agreed that, since everyone else though it was like, the best thing ever, we should, for the purposes of remaining culturally aware, probably take a look at it. And sure enough, within viewing the first few episodes, a hundred previously-puzzling references suddenly became clear in my mind.
Of course there are always those classics–for me, The West Wing comes to mind–that stay with us longer than a week. But for the rest of it, well–it’s all in the name of cultural education, really it is.
(and yes, you get two posts today, because I broke my [already rather tenuous] resolution to write one a day yesterday!)