Sunday, May 16, 2010

State of the Clairification Nation

I've been rather delinquent since finishing the Not-a-Werewolf Book, which still doesn't have a real title. I've had that horrible impotent feeling: I want to write, and I don't want substitutes, but when I sit down to make words, they just don't feel exciting.

This does not stop me from making words. I don't do writer's block. I do, however, crave like a drug the ultimate exultation of making words that are really good.

Hence my excitement today: finally getting somewhere excellent with "Railway Guns of the Northern Rockies", which has been kicking around my brain for a few months. I am going to love this story.

Other stories in progress:

"Forty-Nine Days in the Intermediate States, with Extracts from the Great Liberation by Hearing": needs attention, but it makes me sad to work on it. I think I'll get back to it next month.

"Rush Lane": Almost done, and shaping up nicely now that I know what the hell it's actually about.

"Seven Postcards from the Garden of Earthly Delights": About to be razed to the ground and rebuilt from scratch with the same floor plan yet a totally different architectural style.

"Sovereign Cure for Pneumonia": Advances on this story have been made, but mainly in my mind, which does not count. I need to polish it properly, and soon.

Oracle of the Dashboard: on Chapter Three, which, now that I think of it, is not bad for a novel I only started writing in March.

And that, my friends, is a bit too long for a works-in-progress list. By contrast, my completed inventory consists of only two saleable stories. Which, yeah, I need to sell.

I met a MRI tech recently who says volunteers are always needed for imaging studies. I would truly love to see what my brain looks like when it's fully at work. I'm convinced there's something different going on, when the work is really sublime--something that would be objectively visible if you could just look with the right eyes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In which I get sentimental over Heathrow

I began this morning reading an excerpt in Harper's from Alain de Botton's new book, A Week at the Airport, written about his stint as Heathrow's poet laureate. I remember the concept making news at the time, and thinking how delighted I would be if I landed in a country and discovered that even its airport had its own poet.

The book, if this section is anything to go by, will delight me just as much, and move me, too.

I travel frequently and I find it such a strange intersection of pampering and deprivation. I can provide myself with a stack of magazines and an iPod playlist, my powder compact and Kiehl's lip balm and a glass of wine, but I am powerless to reach my husband and my cats.

I once sat in the departure lounge at LAX talking to my father on my cell phone and hearing the news that he'd had a hospital bed moved into the living room. I knew he wanted to die at home; I hadn't known, until then, that it would be before the end of the month.

Since I am a very privileged person, I could at least get myself a packet of kleenex and a Starbucks coffee, and I could chat with my boss, who told me that on my return I could take time out of the office to help care for my dad.

This privilege helped immensely, but could not change the fact that right then, I was still on the other side of the continent and my flight had been delayed. I felt simultaneously powerless and blessed beyond deserving.

So today I read this, from de Botton, about being greeted at arrivals, and it undid me a bit:

"Even if our loved ones have assured us that they will be busy at work, even if they told us they hated us for going traveling in the first place, even if they left us last June or died twelve and a half years ago, it is impossible not to experience a shiver of a sense that they may have come along anyway, just to surprise us and make us feel special (as someone must have done for us when we were small, if only occasionally, or we would never have had the strength to make it this far)."