Feeds:
Posts
Comments

To begin: two women — two writers, two different centuries and countries.
Both make light of their societies. One was beloved, sought after and continues to enthrall people to this day in ways I fail to appreciate.

The other damages reputations with a whip and wit as sharp as the edge of a cliff. She cracks me up.

I’m afraid I have no sense of mass appeal because the first writer is everyone’s sweetheart: Jane Austen.

The second one is Dorothy Parker. To me, her prose sizzles.  She doesn’t waste words or effort explaining stories that are full of sentimental creatures mooning over unattainable men who end up being attainable, in set-up circumstances so similar from one story to another, that all you need to do is wash down the names and locations, white-out a few character differences, and you’ve got a new story with a slightly different flavour.

Like Austen. (Defies reason, almost.  Because I admire Elizabeth Gaskell and her cronies.)

Clearly, I have no idea what makes Austen appealing. I’ve tried, believe me. Northanger Abbey was my first. It is clear to me why the publisher who bought it, refused to publish it for a long time. Wasn’t it posthumously published? I won’t bother to regale anyone with the plot–it is trite and wasteful, predictable and Austen plunges through its climax as if it were an afterthought. I get it. It’s a bald chase mocking the frivolity of Austen’s world. I just don’t know how someone could write story after story of the same thing, dressed up in different gowns, among different friends, in different (or sometimes, the same) towns.

But then, on a tangential note, Stephen King has made quite a career of this. After Salem’s Lot and It, I had my fill of the King, with the exception of Needful Things. I know people who love him, and it’s no dig on them, but a little King goes a long way with me. Maybe it’s the monster in all of our childhoods that I prefer to leave sleeping. Who knows?

In most cases though, prolific doesn’t equate quality. Out of the few prolific writers I’ve been able to sink my teeth into, Daphne DuMaurier stands out, Ruth Rendell, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and God help me, I like Mary Stewart. I have an affinity for Agatha Christie, thanks to my grandmother. (I like how Christie referred to her method of writing as a “sausage factory”. Clearly, the woman humored herself, all the while owning her craft like few others.)

Another author I find delightful: Charles Dickens. Then I made the mistake of reading his biography. I need to stop this. The more I find out about how writers lived and what they really thought, how they worked, etc., the less their writing inspires me. The mere idea that Dickens’ character, Flora Finching in Little Dorrit (a novel I am rather fond of), was based on his real-life first love, bothered me. How dare a writer presume to be so arrogant as to use a person in such a way? And yet, he handles her with a pity that taps into sentimental care in a manner many writers don’t, so this added a lingering under-layer of insight to Dickens for me.

But I digress. Obviously.

Back to Dorothy Parker. A recent discovery. And a welcome one. She adds levity to her writing. Anyone who is quoted as saying when asked to use “horticulture” in a sentence, “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think”, has my giggles and my admiration. Not that I am anyone notable enough from which to seek out admiration. But still, this is a writer who I needed, just about now. Short stories, poems that don’t take themselves too seriously, like “Bric-A-Brac”, and letters in which her brevity is charged with honest criticisms of her own work–she knows she doesn’t run with the F. Scott Fitzgeralds.  But with her bold wit and clever honesty, she is refreshing.  Light, talented, and poignant.
Dorothy Parker

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~ Neil Gaiman

on the hanging lake trail
I grew up playing in the wrinkles of the Rocky Mountains. On winter ski lifts, the fierce contrast framed snow against evergreens as far as I could see, my lips frozen beyond speech. In summer, rugged sun-spangled cliffs slashed by falling rivers, danced in the light. Too many times I hung over the rushing creek dangling my shoes from the thick branch that offered me a place to sit and memorize the earth, the clouds, the dreams alive before my eyes. Till one time my shoe leapt into the froth below. What was a girl to do? Kick the other one in to join its mate. Having ridiculously tender footsoles, I hobbled painfully home never regretting my loss.

Now, the remembrance of the footpath, the tree, the bridge over the wide creek throws me into clarity. And fairytales become real again. Dragons can be conquered, but I have to remember that.

Earlier than Neil Gaiman, G.K. Chesterton took it deeper. He said, “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey….”

I didn’t get to read fairytales until I was old enough to read for myself. I didn’t have access to them until I was out of grade-school. (Maybe that’s why the bogeyman wouldn’t ever go away.) By then, I considered myself too mature for them. Finally, I grew old enough again to read them. And like a pent-up wind released, they gave my imagination somewhere to go.

Then, I wanted to waste nothing in the making of tales. Poetry came first. I never thought I’d be able to commit to a novel, even though it ran through my brain over and over. Poetry is a quick glance, a smile, a nod, an embrace and then you’re done. Maybe a re-visit here and there to tweak it. But a novel, now that’s a marriage. Too many novels turn pretentious at some point, woody at others, and the risk to make every single word draw the story out, seemed so daunting. When I read “Fugitive Pieces” by Anne Michaels, I knew I had to at least try.

Anne said in an interview, “You spend your time when you’re writing erasing yourself. The idea is to get out of the way of it.”

I knew I could do that…get myself out of the way.

About poetry, she said…
“…it’s such a good discipline for a novelist: it makes you aware that even if you have four or five hundred pages to play with, you mustn’t waste a single word.”

Since poetry’s my practice, this, too, seemed possible. I was aching to try. In the folds of life, word by word, Delicate winked its way out. Part gothic, part myth, history, love and revenge, it’s a fairytale that brushes against the mystic. (But isn’t that the nature of all fairytales?)

Now it’s out there, and wherever it travels, may it ignite the facets of adventure in whoever reads it.
Gryphon

“I Knew You Were Waiting” ~ Aretha and George

The purity of words.
The purity of saying the very thing you need to say, reading the word apropos to the moment, seeing the familiar call of another soul in another place who speaks your thoughts — the rare taste of the divine in the common moment, calling the common moment out.

Whitman isn’t among my favourites. Colette is, but both speak and the world quiets down.

Huntington beach@sunset

Whitman prepares, Colette illustrates.

“Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after
another as I happen to call them to me or think of them,
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,)
The poems of the privacy of the night,…
drooping shy and unseen that I always carry,…”
— from “Spontaneous Me”, Walt Whitman

“Ask me…I could tell you…the dirge, the moaning in a minor key of the two pine trees that lulled my sleep, and the youthful voice, sweetly shrill, of my mother calling my name in the garden. I could open for you the books over which was bent my forehead…and in a puff I could blow away…the dark, wrinkled faces of the pansies,…which, innocent young pagan that I was, I pressed between the pages of a book. You will hear the hooting of my shy owl, and you will feel the warmth of the low wall, embroidered with snails, where I propped my elbow. You will warm your arms, folded one upon the other…” — from “Earthly Paradise”, Colette

The particular paragraph above echoes the piece that first introduced me to Colette. A chapter from “My Mother’s House” in which her mother, from the garden and from the aching spaces in her soul, called her children home — “Where, O, Where are the Children?”. I’d never read anything quite so unsettlingly pure. It was then I was riveted with writing.
Riveted with the purity of words.

A bit of Nin…

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” ― Anaïs Nin

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” ― Anaïs Nin

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” ― Anaïs Nin

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ― Anaïs Nin

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ― Anaïs Nin

“…she is making him bold
with her words, her coal-eyed
lashes settling on her cheeks in that way,
that way that makes him
believe he can do anything,
be anything she’d ask of him.

Anything.

But he is careful,
she is not what she seems.
Not that she can do anything but be honest.
That’s the problem,
her honesty. With those eyes,
sighs, thighs, she seems strong,
quiet really.
Delightful, her laugh.

But she is not his.

A sporadic yielding, rootless,
deceives him every time.
When she whispers his name — just
his name — in that sing-song whisper,
that just-so craving she makes,
takes, breaks the subtle corners of his life.
Not so subtle. The corners he finds
himself creasing around, making,
taking, breaking his life into those
moments. They’ve come to be his life.

But not hers…

And there is that thirst, that dry-throated
thirst for more than water, as if maybe
the air offered him to breathe
is less than enough.
When she’s here, though,
it’s more than enough
and he swallows her whole
as if she might vanish before
he can breathe again.
In pieces other times,
as if her delicacies are too
rich for his palate;–
that’s when her stories spill
dark, spiced into the inky air.

“We clutter our own outcomes,”
she’ll say, mid-sentence.
That’s his cue.
She slips into her coat, —
black, paisley, —
out the door, her last kiss still
lingering on his lips.
He won’t watch her though, as
she walks down the wet street.

Her eyes (those coal-black gestures
of honesty)
he knows, mirror
the watery skies,
melt with the same intensity.

She isn’t and never can be, his…”

~from “THE NIGHT OF A THOUSAND TALES”

…is published now and available to read and share and discuss.
So, “make your choice, Adventurous Stranger, strike the bell and bide the danger. Or wonder, till it drives you mad, what would have happened if you had.” (C.S. Lewis).
Pick your passion: Print? Kindle? Nook? UK? US?

Print or Kindle US:
Buy Paperback Link_small
Buy Kindle Link_smallPrint or Kindle UK:

Buy Paperback UK Link_small
Buy Kindle UK Link_small
At Barnes and Noble:
Buy Nook Link_small
Buy Nook UK Link_small

Go, take a look! Get a sample, and another…then enjoy Anna’s romp through the Faeran Valley. Until the shadows of legend begin to unravel…

The cover of Delicate: The Alchemy of Emily Greyson

J.G. Ballard.

Is there anyone like him?

Original, imaginative, his work sets its own parameters. Stark, it builds in story and description then slams itself into you like a force of its own nature.

“The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard” begins with seeming simplicity, but grows intense fast. A tremendous introduction to Ballard’s work.

For example, from “The Garden of Time”:

“Towards evening, when the great shadow of the Palladian villa filled the terrace, Count Axel left his library and walked down the wide marble steps among the time flowers. A tall, imperious figure in a black velvet jacket, a gold tie-pin glinting below his George V beard, cane held stiffly in a white-gloved hand, he surveyed the exquisite crystal flowers without emotion, listening to the sounds of his wife’s harpsichord, as she played a Mozart rondo in the music room, echo and vibrate through the translucent petals.

“As was his custom before beginning his regular evening stroll, Count Axel looked out across the plain to the final rise, where the horizon was illuminated like a distant stage by the fading sun. As the Mozart chimed delicately around him, flowing from his wife‟s graceful hands, he saw that the advance columns of an enormous army were moving slowly over the horizon. At first glance, the long ranks seemed to be progressing in orderly lines, but on closer inspection, it was apparent that, like the obscured detail of a Goya landscape, the army was composed of a vast confused throng of people, men and women, interspersed with a few soldiers in ragged uniforms, pressing forward in a disorganised tide. Some laboured under heavy loads suspended from crude yokes around their necks; others struggled with cumbersome wooden carts, their hands wrenching at the wheel spokes; a few trudged on alone; but all moved on at the same pace, bowed backs illuminated in the fleeting sun.

“The advancing throng was almost too far away to be visible, but even as Axel watched, his expression aloof yet observant, it came perceptibly nearer, the vanguard of an immense rabble appearing from below the horizon…”

For me, I was ignited…the desire for more. And there is more…this work is massive, not to mention his wealth of novels. (I’m looking forward to delving into “The Crystal World”.)

It’s easy to grow obsessed with Ballard. He dives head-over-heels into his worlds and takes you along for the ride. Be careful. This is a serious writer who knows his craft and uses it well.