I just finished a book that many of you would like, called Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is an Australian author whose book on immigration The Arrival made a big splash a few years ago. His books are published in a kind of picture book format, occasionally going for an even artier design with stories integrated with the text as in his story 'Distant Rain' about what happens to all the unshared poetry in the world: It collects in a big ball that floats in the sky and eventually disintegrates in the rain showering everyone with bits of 'accidental verse.'

Barely visible, but undeniably present/To each reader they will whisper something different: something joyful, something sad, truthful, absurd, hilarious, profound, and perfect./No one will be able to explain the/strange feeling of weightlessness/or the private smile that remains/Long after the street sweepers have come and gone.

This story is presented with the pictures integrated with the text pasted together in different fonts and handwriting, almost like a ransom note.

On steel-toed wedding boots, and consulting the buffalo... )

Shaun Tan also has a beautifully designed website containing his books and some of his other work, the suburban landscape seems to be one of his regular themes:

Splitting by Fay Weldon - Not sure what made me decide it was time for another dose of Weldon, (usually she's the antidote to overt sentimentalism) but this book about a divorced woman whose multiple personalities help her get through the crisis, bored me. Weldon is one of those writers who rewrites the same book over and over throughout her career. I love her sarcasmic wit and biting insight; but in the case of this particular book I recommend reading her autobiography Auto da Fay, instead. It's pretty much the same material, but worked over in a more interesting way. (Complete with narratorial split from those portions of her life that require psychological distance.)

Catherynne M. Valente: The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden - I've heard so many good things about this book, I read through my initial disgust at the overly adjective-laden style (purplish prose being one of my main objections to fantasy) and discovered I liked it. It was the Bear's Tale that won me over. I was kind of annoyed that there weren't more bears in the book total. I loved the idea of Bears-as-Astrologers. I enjoyed the nested tales. I liked Valente's pro-female read on fairytales. I liked the transformative element and focus on monsters. I would highly recommend the book to some of you ([livejournal.com profile] ashfae), but probably not mention it to others. I will definitely read the second volume, The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice, which is due out Tuesday.

But I'm also a little disappointed that this seems to be the only way that fairy tales can now be published. The nesting at times seemed a little contrived, and I wondered if I'd like the tales more or less if they stood slightly more independently. I guess I'll have to wait until finishing the second volume to make up my mind. Recommended for those who enjoyed the fantastical elements of Sharon Shinn's The Shapechanger's Wife, an elegant little volume that I recommended to a great many of you.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale - This 'true crime' book about the murder of a three-year-old in mid-19C England was interesting because of everything that was NOT the murder. Summerscale covers the inner-workings (and inventories) of a Victorian home, the emergence of the detective, and the influences of this case had on literature.

Needless to say I adored the trivia in this book including the extremely high statistics on child murders in this era and how many people got away with it, weird legal proceedings, outrageous newspaper reports, and generally the sense that life then was not any better then it is now and was in many cases a heck of a lot worse.

But the best part of the book is the author's discussion of the impact this case had on literature from the period. (And of course early rumblings of what was to become the birth of psychology. I need to learn more about 'alienists.') This is one of those books that is the payoff for being a well-read person. I couldn't be written or read by anyone who didn't have some passing familiarity of 19C literature and it opened up some of those global connections I like to explore.

It also gave me nightmares about being a nanny in a household where children had been repeatedly murdered or disappeared. My job was to protect my charges from murder or vanishment; but as no one knew WHY the previous children had been harmed (or by whom) it turned me into a paranoid wreck. It was not unlike Turn of the Screw... I was afraid to sleep or let the children out of my sight for a second; but the dream offered one aspect of humor: Russell Crowe played some kind of visiting somebody who's always turning up at these country homes. The question was whether he was a sympathetic ear intended to soothe the nerves of a restless and over-imaginative governess, or a MURDERER!
Nightmares last night had me up before the dawn chorus with the lights and radio on reading No. 1 Ladies Detective trying to get it out of my head. I almost left the house to try to find coffee, but I didn't think the Waffle House or Village Inn would improve the situation, so I waited it out 'til sunrise.

I dreamt I was in summer school and haunted by a spirit that wrote on things. First it was in books and on walls, but then one morning I woke to find symbols carved in my back. Rarely was it in English. Usually it was in some kind of ancient, unknown, script (like cuneiform, but no one knew what it was,) and I kept running around trying to find someone who could decipher it, even though I didn't want to know what it meant, I just wanted it to go away. I'm not sure which was worse: the discomfort of the words carved in flesh, aching from the cuts and stinging with disinfectant, or having all the linguists and scholars poring over my back like I was a lost artifact. ::shudders::

Incidentally, I did have beef for dinner last night.

Yesterday I had a walk where everything I saw felt like news: the geese out with the goslings, pooping all over the sidewalk and hissing at passersby; the pelicans swaning about the lake eating the stocked fish; the heron, rising like a ghost from the reeds; the wild iris glowing on the riverbank, tiny and brilliant gold flashes among the green; the wild roses, bloomed this week with a scent spicy and sweet, like the memory of something beautiful, just outside recollection. Oh yes, and the beaver felled an absolutely enormous tree, blocking the path and forcing the parks people to come cut it into smaller pieces and clear the way. For some reason I found this highly amusing, first imagining the ambitious beaver gnawing away at the trunk nights, and then totally frustrated when it was tampered with by people. Did he plan to cut it in smaller pieces, or had he figured out some way of dragging that entire tree into the river for a dam? (Beavers have moved from the lake, back into the river, much to the chagrin of the parks dept. who are constantly busting their dams to prevent flooding.)

On its own this is a list of natural occurrences. But it felt like news in the absence of someone to share it with.
I am feeling absolutely pummelled with nightmares this morning. I haven't had a night like that in months. Waking seemed to carry no relief from dreaming, and sleeping only entailed return to the dreams. The general theme seemed to be decay. I can't even remember everything I dreamed about, just the feeling of being worn down.

The last part had to do with a memorial service held each year in memory of a friend that had died. It was an enormous affair with large round tables and name cards, like a wedding, but all centered around the death of a girl. Each year we were confronted with her image. She never aged while we all got older. The grief did not abate. Each year I was sadder and more ripped up, spending the entire evening weeping. My happy memories of our childhood friendship were totally subsumed by the layers of recollections from her memorial service. We were remembering her longer than she'd actually lived, and instead of getting lighter, the grief grew heavier with each passing year.

Unforgiven: The Eastwood obsession continues... )
Last night I dreamt it was raining. Seeking shelter, I visited the homes of various friends who told me they wouldn't let me stay. Couldn't I see the water was rising? No, their homes would surely be swamped by the rising waters, I would be much safer somewhere else, anywhere else, but in their homes. I was turned out into the rain, almost as though I was considered a cause or a curse of the deluge, thinking I would drown in the downpour long before I was lost in the flood.

More about Vincent. )

P.S. I got another present in the mail yesterday, but I did not open it because a note on the outside said not to. I suppose it might be nice to still have some gifts when the day actually comes, but my attention keeps straying; what is in the box?
I was involved with a man whose wife had left him. He sought my company for comfort and companionship. We'd been friends before, but I was hesitant to go in the direction he was pushing the relationship because I felt like he was still hung up on his wife.

He begged me to come out riding with him. He'd been working on a ranch and had access to horses. We planned to pak out into the wilderness several days via horseback. After a few days of travel, we came to a free-standing butte in the middle of the prairie (not unlike Pawnee Nat'l Grasslands). With the help of climbing equipment, we hoisted ourselves to the top where there was a view of the prairie stretching for miles, more sky than grass.

It was getting towards the end of the day, he said it was time to climb down to and make camp. So he made his way down, taking the rope with him. Then he tied the lead for my horse to his and rode off, leaving me stranded on top of the butte, miles from anywhere, with nothing but the clothes on my back.

"What happened?" I called after him. "Why are you leaving me?"

"My wife's coming back," he yelled back at me. "I didn't know how to break it to you." And he was gone. Standing on the top of the butte, with the sun low in the sky, I watched his dust fade into the horizon.

I don't know how to explain the heat or dryness of the high prairie. The hearty flowers that grow out of rocks. The abundance of rattlesnakes (often living in crevices in the rocks, definitely a hazard when climbing a butte) or that these rock formations are often the nesting grounds for raptors in a place where the only trees are usually scrubby and low to the ground. One doesn't really need climbing equipment, just a lot of grit to get up and down one of these things, but for all that, it might have been a solitary tower with no stairs and no door.

There is also no way to describe the way the heat evaporates at the end of the day. The stillness, or emptiness of the landscape. How cold it gets, or how numerous the stars. Or dry, interminable hushing sound of wind on brittle grass.


Oct. 2nd, 2006 07:40 am
Another wedding dream last night in which I ripped the battery and hard drive out of the laptop of an entitled bride as bargaining collateral. On the subject of weddings, I think I've officially crossed the line from "has issues" to "morbidly obsessed." The dream was pretty much a revenge fantasy about ruining weddings.

Last week, I said to someone that one of the crappy things about karma is that even when the seeds of the perfect revenge are already present in any given situation, (like T & 2nd Bridesmaid) one probably won't be there to see it happen. Worse, even if one is present, in the time it has taken for the wheels to turn, one is usually no longer hoping for revenge.

Justice works kind of the same way. As well it should. Justice should never be about passionate motives like revenge.

I think revenge is an under-represented theme in literature. Could you name some of your favorite books on revenge. (Besides The Count of Monte Cristo.) I would particularly like to see more YA about revenge, because let me tell you, next to boys, revenge was probably what I spent most of my time thinking about at that age.

(There was an interesting YA book about fast food and revenge I read several years ago featuring a "condiment troll." I can't recall the name of it at the moment, but have just been kicking Amazon because it should have a search function for statistically unlikely phrases (or whatever SIP stands for) because "condiment troll" would surely bring this up. I can even remember the cover and the publisher (Candlewick), the author has had several other well-received books. What the heck is the title?)

Further to that - there are not enough YA books about work. (Joan Bauer does some great work titles.) Most the time when I read YA I wonder how the heck these kids ended up so priveleged as to just mope around thinking about their problems. I spent all my time working, studying, (okay, I never studied, but I spent endless hours on "projects") and partying. I didn't play sports, because I had neither the time nor resources (sports are expensive!) but I did compete on the forensics team. Oh yes, and I was doing regional theatre and voice competitions. I was not moping, I was having a frickin' nervous breakdown!

At the time work seemed like a big problem, between mean bosses (I worked for the Verns whose restaurant was shutdown about two years ago because they owed years of back taxes. The employees showed up for work as usual to find the restaurant had been seized by the IRS, the owners had skipped town, and they were never paid their back wages.) weird co-workers (I had someone conspire to get me fired, but that was not nearly so uncomfortable as the usual string of convicts, vets, and drug addicts that work in the food business) or how to make enough money to be able to socialize w/ my friends and buy my own clothes. (I was lucky grunge was hot.) When my mother was out of work (this happened about every two years) I would help with bills. Forget saving for college, there wasn't enough money for that. Which is why I'm still broke now. And I didn't have a car, which is another thing that mystifies me about teens today. Neither was I some kind of ghetto kid, though our neighborhood had fairly regular busts, and one time a SWAT team came through, which was uncomfortable, and there was lots of domestic violence.

I'd like to know statistically, how many teens work, earning how much, and doing what. In college (where I was still working) I remember some grownup giving me the whole, "just wait until you're in the real world" lecture. I'd had it with that particular lecture.

"I'm working 35 hours a week and taking 16 hours of credit," I said. "I'm guessing I could tell you a thing or two about the 'real world.'" I passed that comment off as a joke, which is why I got away with it, but I was absolutely serious.

I still stand by that comment, although I can tell you the difference between then and now is endurance. All through high school and college it was a sprint. All you had to do was get through the next 3-6 months before your situation would change completely. I think I became an adult when I realized it was all about endurance, that things could go on for years without a shift in circumstance.
I dreamt my family was staying with Secret Lover's family. I knew that eventually I would run into him, and dreaded seeing him again. I worried that when I saw him I would try to kill him. Our families were unaware of the extent of our involvement.

Instead, when the inevitable occurred, I was surprised to find there was still love and longing. An anguished attraction was still rooted in my heart.

He kept returning things to me. Tiny personal effects: nail clippers, time pieces, pocket knifes. After the third or fourth pocket knife I finally said, "This isn't mine."

"Of course it is, don't you remember? You gave it to me for safe-keeping," he said.

I got out the box where I'd kept all the things he'd returned (none of which I'd recognized) and showed it to him. "How many knifes can a girl have?" I asked.

Waking, the feelings linger. It's like the tree in front of my house that refuses to die. Cutting it down, treating it with tars and poisons, still it keeps growing back. Just because we've cut off whatever grew in our hearts doesn't mean the roots don't remain.

I was struck by the image of having to dig up an oak with a pocket knife. How many trees in the forest have been felled whose roots still survive? Is it better to cut off a love affair in full flower, or to let that love wither and die?

The worst part is that last night I knew I would dream. I didn't know what it would be about, but I stayed up later and later trying to avoid the inevitable.
Several weeks ago I had a dream in which I became involved with a vampire. I justified this decision by telling myself that one couldn't be SURE he was a vampire. I mean, he had a creepy castle, and capes, and bats, and all the other cheezy vampire accessories, but did that mean he himself was a blood sucker?

He was tantalizingly vague on this point, so I stuck around waiting to find out if he was truly one of the damned. "All I need is evidence," I said, "I need to know once and for all if he's really a vampire. Once I know for sure, I'll leave. In the meantime, it would be a shame to abandon such charming company on a mere suspicion."

The weeks passed and while there was all sorts of circumstantial evidence, I couldn't be sure that my new lover, despite his pallor and owlish habits, was really what I suspected he might be.

Finally, one night, after repeated requests on my part that I be allowed into his chambers, he took me to his room. There was a reassuring lack of coffins, and best of all there was a mirror, prominently placed, in which we'd be able to see each other entwined.

"At last! Evidence that my lover is not a vampire!" I thought. After all what person would put a mirror in such an obvious place if he didn't expect to see his reflection?

We sank into the bed, and into each other's arms. I glanced up to see our bodies reflected and was shocked to find only his image staring back at me.

"What's wrong?" I thought. "Where is my reflection? Could it be possible that I am the vampire in this relationship?" Then the cold realization, as my flesh gave way beneath his teeth, that the reflection was actually mine, and he, through his arcane vampiric powers, had stolen my own reflection as a way of being able to admire himself.


Jul. 5th, 2006 09:57 am
I just woke from a horrible nightmare in which someone in a petty feud filled an upstairs room with instant porridge and then added water. The ever expanding porridge threatened the entire structure, a cathedral with barrel vaults had stood through the centuries to be endangered by porridge. The man who had done it failed to see what the problem he'd caused. "Certainly it's an inconvenience," he said, "but after all it's only porridge." Meanwhile, the cathedral ceiling buckled and bulged. Bits of plaster came raining down and stonework began to crumble.
I continue to dream with intensity. Last night I dreamt about the death of a friend. It was a horrible dream filled with mindbending grief, I kept trying to remember the Edna St. Vincent Milay poem Dirge Without Music

Finally, I decided to cut my losses, sell my home, and get out of dodge. There seemed no other appropriate response. But as I informed second tier friends (people who knew my friend, but who weren't those she'd been in regular contact with) something started to grow again.

As I ended the dream several people had come to my house to come help me fix it up for sale. They did a wonderful job. As I was complimenting their work, they kept telling me, "We've never seen such a beautiful house, YOU'VE done a wonderful job keeping it up." Then they told me they wanted me to stay, and that they'd fixed the house in hopes I would decide to live in it again.
I don't even know where to start posting, I've got a lot of thoughts racing around my head as though it were a particle accelerator.

[profile] muphf made a surprise visit last night, which was greatly appreciated and extremely comforting.

Our copier has been out almost every day at work. The guy shows up in the morning. It runs for the afternoon, and is broken by the end of the day. This has been going on for two weeks. Yesterday the repair person didn't show.

I've been having very strange dreams. Last night I was living with a married man who had three children. My room was in the attic. A variation on the Rochester dream?
In the fifth grade, the most popular book was Ivy Ruckman's Night of the Twisters. We scared ourselves silly with this book, and bonded classwide, taking turns to let the kids who hadn't read it, have a chance to check it out from the library.

I haven't thought about this book in years. Last night I dreamt about tornados.

Then, after closing the windows and some of the howl from the wind rushing through high tension power lines (not to mention it was an exceptionally heavy night for freight on the tracks running by my house), I dreamt all my friends had a giant party in my honor. It was a going away party, because I was going to be insistutionalized.

So, even though I'm exhausted and would like to sleep more, I decided (waking, looking at what appeared to be a disembodied arm, but was in fact my own) that I would get up.

The sun has a peculiar color this morning.
Last night I dreamt about the end of the War. (WWII) There were soldiers everywhere marching home. Prior to the war I'd worked with a German-Jewish aeronatics professor whose lab was at the top of a marble tower. He'd been killed early in the war in a bombing raid, it was no longer safe to go to the lab. I was making paper airplanes to entertain a small child while we watched the Germans retreat. Two soldiers stopped and showed me variations. I was sad because they were kind to me, but still considered the enemy. I wished my professor was still alive. I felt sure he would be able to overlook nationality because his first love was science. But there was a sense, pervading the dream, that it was too late, for anything, everything. I was given work handing out supplies to POWs. These people were not interested in aeronautics, or anything but survival. Even though the war was over, it no longer had a place for dreamers, or people interested in anything but the absolute basics of survival.

I also dreamt that my mother was the owner of a metaphysical store from which my brother and I were constantly stealing tiny stones and fetishes. Symbolic, that one, but not so interesting. She was convinced we should buy these things like anyone else. We could not understand, as her children, why we shouldn't be given them for free.
So I had weird dreams about anti-war protests last night, sparked, not doubt, by The Fog of War. Leila and I were meeting in Washington for some reason. I'd sent out an email about where I was going to be, as well as some rumination about conscience. We kept running into people on the streets, including childhood playmates like Bruce and Dan.

Bruce (whose a deeply conservative policeman) was also upset by what he was seeing happening, though he was very uncomfortable with the political climate. Dan came, I think, to see me. We were in the middle of a rather intense conversation about priorities when I woke up.

The lawns were being prepared for people who planned to burn themselves. Apparently, the grounds keepers were tired of finding blackened spots on the lawn and were spraying some anti-inflammatory, so the lawns would be undamaged even if the people followed through.

"Don't think they'll back down. These people are prepared to go through with it," Leila said.

"But what are they hoping to achieve?" I asked. "They are against the War, but they need to focus on a positive outcome. Shouldn't they start with something achievable, like insert name of government official releasing list of information that is available to the public in an ordinary democracy, but was being witheld in this situation.

This part of the dream was probably sparked by a discussion last night with my mother about teen civil disobedience.

I must be wired for intensity. It's the only answer of why I can't even SLEEP without grappling with this stuff.
I just woke from a dream in which I told Rosebud it was okay she was selling "Green Gables" because it was time some other girl be able to dream from that window. None of my dreams had come true and I didn't want to spoil the view.

I talked about my disappointments, among them 2nd Bridesmaid, and I how I couldn't forgive her for what happened with T.

This phrase about forgiveness woke me to a sweat. It's supposed to be my theme for Lent; I don't know I'm up to it. I never realized until G asked me about my book how much T's departure changed me. Something was extinguished and I haven't quite recovered, yet.
Last night I had horrible dreams. One was about a mean cat. Another was about Jason #3, who was visiting. We were together again, but he had all these plans that didn't involve me. He asked me to drop him somewhere and was angry when he found someone had graffitied his truck. "That's it!" he said, (using ruder words) and went stomping off towards a nearby corrections facility, where I discovered he'd warehoused his previously non-existant daughter.

I guess this fits with the Mr. Rochester theme that has developed this year. My teacher has encouraged me to let the madwoman out of the attic. So I arranged a jailbreak, which involved: a marching band; West Point cadettes with rifles; Yale cheerleaders, who wouldn't stop barking; and lots of knitting. There were also various and sundry convicts. It was utter, beautiful, chaos, totally dangerous, and I spent the rest of the dream gleefully trying to escape the forces I had unleashed.

I have always loved "governess" novels, and still have a pechant for gothics, but I have only just realized that in books Jane Eyre the governess and the madwoman in the attic are really different psychological manifestations of the same person. (Duh! But how come I have never heard anyone talk about it?) There is also a strong Beauty & the Beast tone to the kinds of stories I love. These themes have haunted me since I was a very young child. I need healthier models for relationships. In the meantime, marching bands (which I have always slightly feared) will have to suffice.

Wolf dream

Jan. 11th, 2006 07:28 am
A man came to town with a wolf, demanding tribute or he would set the wolf loose to terrorize the town. He wanted a wife. It came down to me or the daughter of one of my friends.

"I'm hardly a virgin," I said the man.

He laughed. "This isn't blood sacrifice. What would I do with a virgin? Give me a woman with a little meat and experience."

I didn't like the man, but I didn't fear him. I was, however, a little afraid of the wolf, but as no one had ever seen it, how could we be sure it was real?

"How do we know your wolf is real?" one of the townspeople asked the man. "And if it's real, why should we fear it?"

That night several of the town's animals were gruesomely slaughtered. The next morning the stranger announced that he would be putting on a show in which he would be displaying the beast.

Curious, I kept following blood trails, hoping to catch sight of the animal away from its master. I found her. She was small, about the size of a coyote, and white. She was covered in welts and lacerations. She was scared, angry, undoubtedly dangerous, but the blood spilt throughout the town was her own.

"Poor bitch," I thought as she snarled at me. It was then I knew we had nothing to fear from the wolf, and everything to fear from her master.



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