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llustration by Maja Misevic-Kokar, from “One Thousand And One Nights” (2 volumes), translated from French into Serbian by Stanislav Vinaver, published by Matica Srpska, Novi Sad, 1989.

But you’ve always had faith in stories?

It is what I do. I mean, if you are a carpenter you have faith in carpentry.

                              ~Salman Rushdie interview by Tim Adams, Observer, 26/06/11 

One has to have faith in stories to write stories.  How simple an idea, how deep an idea. If one believes in the power of the narrative, that the act of telling a story can have significance, then how easier is the writer’s task.  Instead of imagining you’re groping in the dark, foolishly scribbling away instead of getting a real job, you can imagine purpose.  Oscar Wilde aside, we don’t value pleasure for itself.  And he was no work shirker.

Placing storytelling the context of a craft, viable as building a house, farming the land, healing the sick, is dangerously marvelous.  It implies that we have a need for a possibility spun by imagination that fulfills a void in our lives.  Can a story save a life?  It can shape a life.

Post Script:  The Private Patient was very good.

What I’m Reading Now

Getting a copy of a novel you’ve read by one of your favorite authors must be one of those treats like ice cream on a hot afternoon.  I stumbled across a discounted hardback of P.D. James’ The Private Patient, published in 2008.  What was I doing in 2008?  Why did I not pick up this plum immediately?  In the bookstore, I asked myself, had I read this before?  I must have read this before.  But Callooh! Callay! I had not.  So in I plunged immediately to the check out.

P.D.James is ninety-one, which means she might have been eighty-seven when she wrote this.  Already having written seventeen novels, after a full career of British government work, here is another Adam Dalgleish mystery, featuring the Scotland Yard poet detective.  The comfort and range  of creating a character, building his life, and those of his colleagues must be enormously pleasurable; it brings to mind the razor-sharp Dorothy Sayers and her world of Lord Peter Wimsey.

The appeal of British village mysteries, with their murders contained in an affable world, more affable because we know the mystery will be solved, the motives laid bare, maybe is akin to being inside a cozy home while the rainstorm rages outside.  That was my experience last night.  It may not be her best novel, but it is certainly a good one so far.


Image from The Art Journal The Industry of All Nations Illustrated Catalogue(London: Bradbury and Evans, 1851);


It’s Raining Men–I mean, Pollen

Outside, the wind rained pollen as if a laughing god was giving presents to allergy sufferers.  It can take three years for a body to become allergic to local pollen, so the place called home suddenly becomes a place to keep the windows shut.  Can July’s heat stop the shower?

The rose bush started to bloom–vivid red.



Kate Bush has a new album.

Here is an old song of hers:

Here are the Weather Girls:

Nostalgia just kicks in.

I dreamed that a group of writers were being made take-away lunches in wraps shaped like cornucopias. While the chef busily tells a story, the writers quickly look at one another and one by one take their meals away in a bag. A famous writer carries away three wraps, ready for serious work.

More Books!

I haven’t started packing yet–that’s for next month.  What I’m doing is sorting.  I went through my bookshelves and filled five boxes of books.  I took them to the used book stores and got rid of perhaps a third.  Now they will head for the garage sale I plan to have.

I went through my cds and sorted out a fifth to leave behind.  Half the albums will stay as well.  So what can I do now with my freed up shelf space, when it actually is freed up?  Fill it with books, of course!  I’ve already started.  Went to the big-store today and got three: a new-for-me  PD James, a newish Atkinson, and a Francine Prose that once I read will accompany the Atkinson to the garage sale.  I’ll save the PD James for my sister-in-law.

Maxine Hong Kingston once said that she wished, or did–I can’t remember–give away her books as soon as she finished reading them.  She had lost her library along with her house in a California fire.You can read about the fire in her Fifth Book of Peace. I remember her speaking on Bill Moyers long ago about how she wished to only use words of peace to write a book, in the manner Sonia Sanchez asked, “where are forks of peace?  Where are the knives of peace?”

I lost part of a library to a steam-pipe burst–twice.  I gave up half of my books in my last big move.   Before I had a library of my own, when things were still in boxes in my parents’ basement, when I didn’t yet have volumes of volumes of books, when I read every vow at least once, I went to visit a friend in her office.  She had joined as a tenure-track assistant professor in the same university I had accepted a lecturer position, after I had already been already a visiting assistant professor elsewhere; it would not be the first time I voluntarily moved down the academic ranks–in my mid-forties, to my own amusement, I found myself teaching as a T.A.

What is this post about?  Books.  When I visited my friend, who would later grow to be one of my dearest friends, in her office, I burst into tears.  The emotion was so unexpected, so perplexing.  I had come to her office and seen her magnificent wall of books.  I saw solidity, security, a sense of home, and I ached for one of my own.

The coda on Elizabeth Bishop (whose centenary is being celebrated on Nova Scotia this weekend)’s “Questions of Travel” read:

Is it lack of imagination that makes us come 
to imagined places, not just stay at home? 
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right 
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society: 
the choice is never wide and never free. 
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home, 
wherever that may be?”

Here is the entire poem in the previous post:

Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop

Questions of Travel by Elizabeth Bishop.

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