Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Things, Recent Preoccupations

Listen to this. Beautiful. Beautiful.

Who dat? Well dat's me, pony-tailed and serious about something I no longer remember. This was taken in our living room (on an auntie's hand-me-down couch), which has become my new office. I do all my heavy thinking here.

Sure, I still sit at the desktop in the back room I painted a purple to match a public service/ lightbox Metro-stop advertisement I did for a Smithsonian Libraries' exhibition back in 2001, but for the most part, I work while looking out the front window at the bird feeder. I grade papers, I prepare lectures, I revise fiction on this sofa by the light of our Depression-era floor lamp, which you can see in the glass of one of our prints--and yes, Mom, the lamp is re-wired. Occasionally, I watch the UPS man drop off boxes of books to review for Library Journal. He knows I don't answer the door, so he never bothers to ring anymore. Why do I not answer the door? Because of things like this. And this. The Dalai Lama could stand on our porch, but I won't open that big wooden door unless it's my husband or my father.

To the left? Those are apple dumplings (a.k.a. last night's dinner...see the bowls?) I made them when I got home from work and after I submitted a few stories.

About that....I'm back to writing daily now. At least an hour every day, shutting out all the other distractions. I revised "The Fascinator" once more, so we'll see if it's accepted this time. I've revised it twice at the suggestion of one editor. The story still involves magical realism, but the characters' specific motivations are now more sharply illuminated. What started out as a horror/folklorish tale, written for a yet unpublished anthology, now contains as much human drama as it does surreal detail. We'll see...we'll see...whatever will become of it.

About a year ago, I purchased a slender volume of essays on Flannery O'Connor, including one by Guerilla Girl Alma Thomas. I'm enjoying that right now. I'm a great fan of O'Connor because I recognize in what might be perceived as caricatures, in the dark parables, something more genuine than reality, which too often flickers with misleading illusions. O'Connor references these illusions, but lays bare the less noble motivations that fuel them. Also, O'Connor does not resolve the conflicts, nor does she offer tidy endings, knotting loose ends or flattening complexities to ease comprehension. It is this that makes her work authentic, genuine, and fascinating. When she says "Don't let anything take you away from your words", I hear, and I heed. I excavate my brain for memory fossils that should be collected and examined. Here, a story, there a vital detail. Observe, collect, and organize.

My father is going to have two stents put into his coronary arteries--ones behind his heart--this Friday. The doctors will be inserting just one this week, and the second during another, later surgery. He is taking it easy this week, since he is not allowed to do anything that would increase stress on his heart. I have sent him music, Max Richter's beautiful Blue Notebooks (in which I can hear the landscape of Bavaria, almost as if it's sliding by train windows as I travel past). He is reading Carl Sandburg's biography and talks about it excitedly when we chat on the telephone in the evenings.

Now, back to preparing the lecture for my evening class (at right, one of my two supervisors, sleeping on the clock again). I'll have some updates about some upcoming appearances in the next post. In the meantime, the last paragraph from "The Fascinator":

"Lorraine’s chest, which felt, over the previous days, as if it were filled to her collar bones with lead shot, was struck now by a sharp burst of white heat, by a sudden alertness. She wobbled as she lowered herself towards the floor and knelt reluctantly beside Kitty, who was already mouthing a nearly inaudible prayer and pushing the charms into the baby’s flaccid, ashen flesh. When Lorraine looked at her mother and saw that she, too, gazed open-eyed and without praying at the pine boards beneath her, Lorraine knew that Buella was thinking the same thing. Behind the heavy dread they both carried, out of the sudden radiant terror Lorraine experienced, there came an expectant relief and a damnable hope for freedom."

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