Thursday, November 30, 2006


Over the last week I've missed my blogging home tremendously, but now that I'm back I don't know what to say. Much like when meeting up with old friends, it takes the time to consume a bottle of wine before you reestablish your old rhythms. I feel like I should be brimming with fresh insight and self-realizations. I have a fog in my head. I'm in the dark, fairly familiar with my surroundings by now for all this groping about but I haven't found the light switch yet. I mean, you know, life and stuff. Oh, what the hell am I talking about, sounding so maudlin.

Being away from home was lovely, in fact very much like going "home," as far as hanging out with my sister means "home," which it does quite a lot.

Helena was exceptionally charming, with only very few and minor outbursts.

We did nothing that could be called sightseeing, wandered aimlessly around Dupont Circle (several times), bought shoes in Georgetown, went to the zoo, stopped by the World Bank (for which adventure Helena has a wonderfully official visitor's pass) where we lunched (Helena chooses salad bar over pizza).

The highlight of Helena's trip was the nearby playground.

The highlight of my trip was sharing far too many bottles of wine with my sister. And the shoes. And the used Patrick Hamilton book I found.

We watched Mary Poppins. I asked Helena what she would do with her tuppence: put it in the bank or feed the birds. Without hesitation she opts for banking it. What about the birds? Who's going to feed the birds then? She tells me Michael wants to feed the birds, he can feed the birds.

That's it. I should go reflect more carefully on my week before reporting anything further.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Up and down, and up and away

1. Does anyone have a job for me? I do mostly medical copyediting, but I'd do just about anything (though preferably something vaguely editorial, and slightly more literary, at an outrageous salary please). I make a decent cup of coffee even. And I can write too, kind of. My bread-and-butter contract upped and went (I'm assured that the quality of my work was not in question, simply they have the resources to produce the journal fully in house now), which has me thinking, at age 37, (ack,) what the hell do I want to do with my life.

2. Curses on Ana Maria, and on that accursed Popword, on which I've spent more time in the last few days than pretty much everything else.

3. I feel the assault of Christmas. The commercial Christmas crap ought not to start till December 1. Leave my birthday a Christmas-carol-and-tacky-decorations-free zone.

4. I haven't packed yet, but I feel confident about getting it done in the morning. The laundry at least is laundered.

5. I've spent far too much time carefully considering what reading material to bring with me. I'm bringing The Red and the Black (Stendhal) and The Art of Murder (José Carlos Somoza). (Also Harold and the Purple Crayon and Harold's Circus.)

6. I've been reading — in an effort to delay the forthcoming pleasures of Patrick Hamilton, and to leave my vacation book alone, and to enforce some schedule discipline on myself for the group reading project book (and I'm really not liking having so many books "open" at the same time — it's a pervasive uncomfortableness, I'm at loose ends) — The Shadow of the Wind, which a third of the way in, underwhelms me. A pleasant enough comfort read, but I don't think the blurb comparisons with Umberto Eco (my recent realizations notwithstanding) or Arturo Pérez-Reverte (though I can see the Dumas-style romance adventure connection) are deserved. An example of word-of-blog run amok? To me it reads like a young adult novel (and that's not meant as an insult). — More on this when I finish it.

7. I spent a lot of time with my cat today. He's very cool.

8. I'm still thinking about War and Peace. Last week I finished watching Bondarchuk's epic film adaptation, but I haven't had the mental space to sort out all my thoughts. I liked it very much. Stay tuned.

9. I leave tomorrow for a week. Blogging will be intermittent, perhaps nonexistent or quite possibly better than you've seen it in months. I expect to have time enough once at my destination to post a bit on The Red and the Black (to chapter 21).

10. I dread travelling with small children. Every time, I dread it.

Isabella was 4 (once)!

Today is Isabella's 4-plus-30-something-th birthday. Helena crammed a muffin full of candles for me this morning. Later there will be book browsing and Chinese food and champagne, and laundry and packing for a weeklong visit with my sister in Washington, D.C., with 4-year-old Helena in tow.

(Isabella remembers that after her 4th birthday party, she wasn't feeling very well, and had to lie down on the couch.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Helena is 4!

Today is Helena's 4th birthday. Yesterday was full of giggles and family and pizza and cake and presents and antics.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tito and Rose

Helena attended a teddybear workshop today.

When I come to pick her up, she introduces me to her new best friend bear, Tito, who wants to sleep with her tonight. She advises me that Tito is afraid of cars and of Christmas trees.

Helena tells me that Rose told her to ask me to write her name both on Tito's tag and on the tag of his shirt. "Rose est presque une educatrice," Helena says. I confirm that she means Rose — Rose whose 4th birthday party we attended a couple weeks ago. Yes, because "Rose nous dit qu'est-ce qu'on doit faire."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Various charms

1. Today was picture day a la garderie, without the drama and hysterics of last year. According to Helena it went very well; she did not make faces, she blessed the photographer with nice smiles and willingly took various poses with flowers. According to the note left by her éducateur, they somehow managed to coax a smile out of her in the end. I'm just glad there were no tears.

2. I had some errands to run this morning, and very conveniently I polished off the last bite of my croissant aux amandes just outside of one of my now-favoured used book stores, so I went in. I came out with The Charmer, by Patrick Hamilton. The cover illustration is perfectly charming, and the back cover tells me it was dramatized for Masterpiece Theatre. Inside the cover I learn it was originally titled Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse (1953). The disclaimer says, "All the characters in this book are entirely imaginary. So also are Mr Stimpson's Crossword Puzzles, the clues to which the reader is advised not to be beguiled into attempting to solve." I am beguiled.

3. I said I'd take a little break from Mr Hamilton, but I don't think I want to after all. I had started eyeing another book — well, erm, reading it actually — I ordered it, it arrived, I had to sample the goods — but I'd been meaning to save that one for my vacation next week. So now I'm all in a tizzy — what do I read now, and what do I read then?

4. I've temporarily abandoned my French reading of The Red and the Black. I've been trying so hard to stay on pace, not to get ahead, that all of a sudden there was no time for it or I'd be falling behind. But this is temporary. Stendhal and I will just have to get along in English for a little while. Besides, my French edition is away on business this week with my personal translator.

5. Helena wants a Dora birthday cake. I haven't got a clue where to find one. I'd had the idea to order an "edible image" I could plaster onto a cake of my own devising, but that idea didn't occur to me till after the shipping time window had closed. I could not find Dora candles. I did find a marzipan Dora, but she looked kind of creepy, and Helena doesn't like marzipan (yet). (I remember getting marzipan "fruits" in my Christmas stocking when I was 4 and thinking them horrid.) For all the lovely bakeries in my neighbourhood, their cakes are elegant and for those of discriminating taste, like myself, but sadly not for the likes of my almost-4-year-old daughter. Her birthday is Monday; family will gather to celebrate on Sunday. I am so screwed.

6. We've attended 3 birthday parties in the last 2 months. Helena hadn't expressed any interest in a party of her own, but when invitations to the most recent fête were distributed, she asked if she also could give out cards for her birthday. My understanding is that this is not about a party per se, but that she wants to give something to her friends by way of celebration. (I've been thinking to bring helium balloons to the daycare that her classmates can take home. Maybe.) However, when I picked Helena up yesterday, little Mathilde approached to show me the billet Helena had given her — a half-centimetre square paper with a green scribble dot — to fêter sa fête. I am so screwed.

7. Just the other day I read about Adèle and Simon, by Barbara McClintock. Today I had the opportunity to turn its pages. Utterly charming! I must have this for my little girl. (But it'll hold till Christmas, I think.)

8. On my way home, I missed my metro stop, kind of; that is, I forgot I had to change to another line. I wasn't even reading, or engaged in serious daydreaming; I was simply mistaken and confused, convinced this train would take me to my doorstep. I have often imagined this scenario, but it's never happened before today.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

About Doris Lessing

The Adventures of Doris Lessing, including her condescension and contradictions, ostensibly a review of two of her books but referring to very many and with some biographical detail, as told by John Leonard in The New York Review of Books, who sums up:

Except that so often she is the only grownup in the room. For a dervish, Lessing's not exactly light on her feet. Lofty and heavy, dogged and relentless, stubborn and punitive, she wears you down. It's as if she knows so much, and so much better, that we have to carry her around — as Dann carried the snow dog to safety — all the way to Stockholm for a Nobel Prize long overdue. She has written tens of thousands of pages, many of them slapdash, millions of words, none of them mushy, one masterwork, The Golden Notebook, and may be the twentieth century's least ingratiating great novelist, whose fatalism is often difficult to distinguish from complacency, and who is harder on women than on men: there is "a basic female ruthlessness," she has said, "female unregenerate, and it comes from a much older time than Christianity or any other softener of savage moralities. It is my right."

Much to think about in this essay, and many, many more books by Doris Lessing for me to read....


Have I mentioned? I love Patrick Hamilton.

I finished Craven House this weekend. What Mr Hamilton says makes me laugh; what goes unsaid makes me cry.

Whereas the first signs of a failing brain in the average human are believed to manifest themselves in the form of odd straws, or irrelevant flowers sticking out from their persons; and whereas this in in actual fact a mainly false belief, there is no doubt whatever that, when suspicions of this sort come to centre round an old lady, the trouble first sets in around the Hat. A cherry too much, a rose too dangling, an apple too great, a bunch of grapes to the bad, and before you know where you are, you have a thick-veiled, white-booted, painted, muttering nodder, charging along the streets, mixing with the crowd, and waiting with eternal nods at street corners, to the bewildered horror of the public at large.

The concern of Craven House, then, can well be apppreciated, when Mrs. Hoare came down to lunch one Saturday afternoon, in a picture hat belonging to an unknown era, and adorned with a bright blending of large water grapes and pink ribbons, guaranteed to cause the Not All There school of nephews and nieces to toss their caps into the the air at the final and crushing defeat of their opponents.

Immediately she had taken her place, which she did with a mixture of slight coyness and a slight consciousness of being brazen, Bertha began to wheeze. This she continued to do before receiving a sharp glance from Miss Hatt, when she shook unsteadily, and remembered herself.

"Oh, Mrs. Hoare?" said Miss Hatt, agreeably, and in general.

"I sometimes wear it, you know," said Mrs. Hoare, and the company turned very pale. . . .

"Oh, yes," said Master Wildman.

"Yes. My Solicitor, you know," said Mrs. Hoare, with a winning smile.

"Oh, yes," said Master Wildman. "I see."

There was little else about the hat. In fact, most of the book is made up of such little windows on the inhabitants of Craven House.

Craven House was Patrick Hamilton's first novel, and it shows. It takes a while for the language and the characters to settle into each other. The early chapters are overwritten. It lacks polish and the precision that I felt sculpted The Slaves of Solitude, but brims with real and pathetic people and is no less devastating.

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky arrived on my doorstep last week, but I'm going to take a little break from Mr Hamilton before I start in again. It's just too emotionally bleak to read so much of him all at once.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bedtime story

It's a treat for Helena some evenings to curl up on the sofa, already pyjama-ed, with blanket and favoured plush toy du jour, and watch the hockey game with her father.

This particular evening* she shows as much interest in the game as I do (ie, none) and clambers onto my lap with a "so, whatcha reading" expression on her face.

She gingerly extricates my book from my hands, searching my face for a reaction, to make sure it's ok. She identifies all the "H"'s on the cover — front, side, and back. (It's Craven House, by Patrick Hamilton.) She riffles the pages, confirming there are no pictures within. She mischievously suggests we read it together.

"Ca c'est toi," she points at the dumpy old woman drawing back curtains from a window pictured on the cover. This is not flattering — I'm almost insulted — but "on fait semblant."**

She turns to page 1, appropriately flipping past the author info and title pages, and begins.

"Il était une fois une petite fille, s'appelle Mommy Isabella."***

Helena offers me a sentence per page. There's a witch, and she wants the little girl's magic shoes. There's also a little boy imprisoned somewhere. He wants candy. The little girl marches up the steps to her house. "Hurry, hurry, I want coffee."

Helena tells me I have to calm down, stop laughing, or she won't read any more to me this evening. I bite my lip.

Fortunately, Helena has begun to turn pages 10 at a time. The witch makes occasional appearances to thwart some action or other but she is beaten off. The little boy doesn't want to take a bath.

At page 223 Helena yawns. She promises she'll finish reading to me another night. She wants to go to bed.

*That would be Tuesday, for those of you fact-checking against team schedules.
**"It's pretend."
***"Once upon a time, there was a little girl, called Mommy Isabella."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The mysterious flame, and other crap

I like Umberto Eco, I really do. He's smart and funny. I've always enjoyed him in interview, and I've made a point of getting out to his readings and lectures when the opportunity arose. I read quite a bit of his work in the course of my studies, on semantics and the philosophy of language (I have a particular fondness for The Search for the Perfect Language).

So I like Eco. (I even wrote him a clever (I thought) letter once, regarding my copy of Misreadings, which was misbound, with some signatures missing and others repeating. He never replied.)

Then there's his novels.

I loved The Name of the Rose. Frankly, though, it's the movie I remember more clearly than the book. Different beasts, both wonderful. Full of wonder.

Foucault's Pendulum I raved about, without really understanding it, having read it when I was young and pretentious. I'd like to read it again someday.

The Island of the Day Before has languished on my to-read shelf for many years, bookmark stuck on page 55. I've tried a few times, but I can't seem to get past page 55.

Baudolino I received as a birthday present the day after Helena was born. I read it while breastfeeding. I enjoyed it well enough, but without ever feeling fully engaged. Reading while breastfeeding can do that, but some authors can do that all on their own. It occurred to me that maybe I didn't really like Umberto Eco's novels after all.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana was painfully boring, and, as far as I can tell, pointless.

The premise is this: Yambo, a rare-books dealer, suffered a stroke and lost his memory. He retains implicit memory, automatic things like how to brush his teeth and drive a car. Explicit memory is twofold: Yambo's semantic or public memory is intact — it's scholastic, general knowledge; but his episodic, autobiographical memory is gone. So he goes in search of it amid the objects in the attics and secret rooms of his old family home.

I like this idea. What am I without my memories? What do my belongings say about the sort of person I am? Yambo learns very little from his wife, family, friends, emphasizing the limits on how well anyone can possibly know him.

So the novel starts pleasantly enough, in Yambo's haze of fog. Eco quotes TS Eliot, Edgar Allen Poe, Dante, Dickens; he makes reference to all manner of classic literature, poetry, and fairy tales. I know many of these. This starts me on my own sentimental journey, wondering why I remember some things, why they resonate, and not others.

But the more references Yambo has, the less they mean anything, to him or to me. The novel quickly degenerates into a beautifully illustrated but dry catalogue of experience without significance.

Yambo has lost his emotional sense of being. Would he necessarily then be unable to react emotionally to his present? Yambo is detached from himself, and so are we. This makes for a plausible and intellectually consistent point to the story, but it doesn't make for very good fiction.

The storytelling, those loose threads strung between cultural objets, is never personal enough for me to buy into this character, to engage in his quest, to feel for him. And it's not general enough to be the cultural odyssey of everyman. It leaves me cold. It seems to leave Yambo mostly cold too.

Some stimuli do manage to spark something:
"It's not that," I said. "It's that I felt something inside. Like a tremor. No, not like a tremor. As if . . . You know Flatland, you read it too. Well, those triangles and those squares live in two dimensions, they don't know what thickness is. Now imagine that one of us, who lives in three dimensions, were to touch them from above. They would feel something they'd never felt before, and they wouldn't be able to say what it was. As if someone were to come here from the fourth dimension and touch us from the inside — say on the pylorus — gently. What does it feel like when someone tickles you pylorus? I would say . . . a mysterious flame."

Hence the title. I happen to have read Flatland, so this actually means something to me.

(Queen Loana does not make an appearance till quite far along in the book. Her image is inextricably linked to Yambo's sexual awakening and his first love, unrequited, he now believes to be the love of his life.)

Previously I mentioned that I had the distinct impression that Eco is shitting on his readers. My words were chosen carefully.

Two particular scenes made me scrunch up my face — and I'm not a squeamish person. First, shortly after arriving at his childhood home, Yambo goes out to take a shit in nature, in the vineyard, "enjoying a pleasure that went back to Neanderthal man" even while "Shit is the most personal and private think we have." Second, Yambo learns the story of his grandfather's revenge on the Fascists who detroyed his newspaper office and forced him to drink castor oil, a little lesson about talking politics. His grandfather tracked the one man for more than 20 years; revenge involved a bottle of aged essence of shit.

It's not the events per se that disturb me, it's that they seem so out of place. I don't feel like they have shock value exactly, it just feels uncomfortable, like here's a man (I mean Eco here, not the Yambo character) indulging himself, finding it somehow satisfying, maybe even liberating to be so frank, but at the expense of others.

A sixty-year-old man (Yambo, but Eco in a way too) trying to recapture his youth (granted, Fascist Italy and war stole a good portion of it from him), possibly having spent his whole life doing so, reliving his vaguely sexual, adolescent longings. After a brush with death, is that really what a 60-year-old man will devote his brainpower to thinking about — copulation and evacuation?

(It's all much clearer to me now as I write about it. The book is making some kind of sense. But it wasn't any fun for me.)

In The Name of the Rose, Jorge condemns Aristotle's Poetics, Book II, on Comedy. He disapproves of laughter. There's no doubt the man couldn't take a joke.

Anthony Burgess in his review of Foucault's Pendulum wrote, "For while it is not a novel in the strict sense of the word, it is a truly formidable gathering of information delivered playfully by a master manipulating his own invention — in effect, a long, erudite joke."

In interview, on writing such epic novels as Flame Eco says, "The real challenge is to make the writing process last as long as possible, always delaying the moment of the end. It is so beautiful to live for many years with your story, while nobody else is knowing what are you doing, and in every moment you can pick up an idea or an image from your everyday experiences… I cannot understand these authors who concoct a new novel every year. Where is the fun, then?"

Eco then is having fun. Writing novels is his hobby, his secret pleasure, all for himself, like a private joke. He plays, and he jokes, on paper and in person (I've heard him). He must live well. He's a Bondologist. I suspect he likes his women. Like Yambo, I'm sure he occasionally revels in his bodily functions, this dirty thing called life.

I'd really like to think he's putting one over on us. The Mysterious Flame sits better with me if I think of it as an old man's joke (even if I don't find it very funny).

Interestingly, the only review of Flame on Eco's official website is a negative one: gimmicky, clumsy, boring, static. This gives me hope that Eco acknowledges it as such, perhaps even wants the public to know it.

Apparently Eco has stated that The Mysterious Flame will be his last novel. I'm kind of relieved.


A clip from The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (via Maud Newton), in which the depiction of bathrooms and toilets is psychoanalysed and it is postulated that waiting for a film to begin is like staring at a toilet bowl waiting for the return of excremental remainders.

An examination of the social contract of male restroom etiquette, breach of which places the very fabric of our civilization in peril.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A red and black reminder

Go read the first 6 chapters of The Red and the Black. Then go talk about it.

Utterly and magnificently ... useless

Paul Auster on reading and writing, his acceptance speech for the Prince of Asturias Prize for Letters:
In other words, art is useless, at least when compared, say, to the work of a plumber, or a doctor, or a railroad engineer. But is uselessness a bad thing? Does a lack of practical purpose mean that books and paintings and string quartets are simply a waste of our time? Many people think so. But I would argue that it is the very uselessness of art that gives it its value and that the making of art is what distinguishes us from all other creatures who inhabit this planet, that it is, essentially, what defines us as human beings.

To do something for the pure pleasure and beauty of doing it. Think of the effort involved, the long hours of practice and discipline required to become an accomplished pianist or dancer. All the suffering and hard work, all the sacrifices in order to achieve something that is utterly and magnificently ... useless.

I am desperately hoping to find Travels in the Scriptorium under my birthday tree. Even though it won't be released on this continent for months. Even though the verdict on it appears to be "slim" and "disappointing."

One review, and some others.
Digested read.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

After midnight

The drinking's easy. Le bloguemonde is uninspiring. Better to watch Monty Python instead.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It's a screwcap

I announced to J-F that I was off to the grocery, and gentleman that he is he offered to go in my stead. You could tell though, the offer was insincere. It's unsafe, he argued feebly. I can see the back of the grocery from our front window. Oh, I have an idea, let's both go, it'll be romantic — which just goes to show that I am in fact drunk enough to forget for a moment that there is a child asleep in the house.

So I went, and picked out a bigger bottle of even cheaper red wine. For 5 minutes I stared at the snack foods, picked up a bag of peanuts, put back the bag of peanuts, picked it up again, left it behind. Then the cashier tried to tell me my coupon didn't apply to this particular wine. (Is there anyplace else in the world where flyers are delivered to one's door that include coupons for wine?) But it did, and I'm glad we got that sorted out.

Interestingly, I noted 3 individuals wandering about the grocery store aimlessly, each with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips.

The moon, hours away from full, is amazing.

The wine, it turns out, is near undrinkable, but drink it I shall.

I should've bought the peanuts.


Perhaps some clarification is in order. Ya, I wanna write the Great Canadian Novel, only not too Canadian, cuz that could be downright boring, not great at all, they only get interesting when they stop obsessing about their Canadianness, or the wilderness, and I know very little about Canadianness or wilderness, so let's just say a Great Novel. Thank you, for all the encouragement and kind words. My mentioning it was not in fact a desperate plea for attention and validation (well, not more so than blogging in general is); nor was it jumping on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon, cuz that kind of thing just isn't for me; it's just something that's come up a lot lately, as something I've always thought about doing someday, and some people advising that I may as well exert my energies on that sort of thing as on anything else, whether scaring up more freelance work or looking for a regular job or intensive language training and possibly translation studies (as, this town is bent on having bilingual editors, and I could spend hours telling you and potential employers why this is wrong, wrong, wrong, but it won't change their hiring practices, and they'll be content with bilingual publications that are "good enough" (and my French is not, though it might be for some jobs in a field that didn't actually depend on one's use of the language); English-only jobs are few and far between,) or deciding I want to do something altogether different with my life and starting over.

Plus, I heard a wonderful real-life anecdote the other day, which is just the perfect frame to hang a novel on.

Only, I started putting some things to (figurative) paper the other day, and it was hard, and it was crap.

But now I feel the pressure. Cuz about 17 people read it right here that I'm going to do this. So now I have to.

Also, I have to run to the grocery store for a bottle of wine.

Now what?

So it's National Drunken Writing Night. I don't know which nation, but it is night. I bought a bottle of wine among groceries today, but how is it that that's the only alcohol in the house? I opened it with dinner, about 3 hours ago, and had to share, and there's just a dribble left. I've had about 3 glasses, then, of crappy grocery store wine. I don't feel drunk. The kid was late getting to bed, and, oh, shh, I think she's actually asleep now. J-F's watching hockey. So that leaves me here, in front of the computer, writing, but with nothing to write about. And damn, I think the game's over. Maybe he can run out for wine or something. And damn, the kid's calling me now.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What are you doing this Saturday night?

It's NaDruWriNi!

Reading, etc

1. I finished reading Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude. I don't have any more to say than what I've already said. I recommend it highly, if you don't mind bleak and claustrophobic. The writing is exquisite and the observations sharp.

2. I ducked into a used books shop earlier this week, and there was Patrick Hamilton's Craven House, just waiting for me. It's his first novel, published when he was 21 years old(!). Like Slaves it centres on a boarding house and its motley inhabitants, but it's evident from the first few pages that Hamilton did not yet have the mastery of language and character that showed itself some 20 years later in Slaves. In the introduction to the 1940-something reissue of Craven House, Hamilton admits to it being flawed, unpolished: sentimental, wordy, and perhaps needlessly dating itself; but also that "if it can still find readers, I should still like it to be read." So read it I shall.

3. I'm about to place an order for books: something for Helena for her birthday, some Christmas considerations for others, and a little birthday treat for myself. I'm treating myself to Patrick Hamilton's Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky. Do you detect a new obsession?

4. I've been slogging through Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, when I'm not being distracted. It started off promising enough; I'm nearing the end and I do want to know how things are resolved; but the middle? The middle 200 pages were mostly boring and gratuitous, and I have the distinct impression Eco is shitting on his readers, but more on this later, when I've actually finished reading it.

5. We've been watching Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace. This of course has me going back to the novel, checking the scenes and checking over characters' words, but more importantly going over it again in my mind. Reading the book I picked bits of it apart; watching the movie is helping me put it back together again, reintegrate all the pieces. The movie's war bits are spectacular, the peace bits are rather harder to decipher (which is opposite to my reading experience). It's all very beautiful. We're about halfway; I'll say more when we finish.

6. I've been poking around the internet looking for some background material on Stendhal and the writing of The Red and the Black, and coming up short. Its plot is based on a real-life incident, and to share any details of it seems to give away the book's ending. So I've got nothing — I'll have to wait until Monday to talk about the actual text.

7. Do you think I should write a novel? I've been thinking about writing a novel. I suppose actually I've thought about it for many years, but never said it out loud, because that would signify some sort of commitment on my part. So I guess this is me saying it out loud. I'm ready.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The ghost in the crowd

My sweet little ghost in the end looked a rather scary little ghost. It was confirmed, rather late in the game, that masks were not in fact allowed, so my hooded mask masterpiece was set aside and a little last-minute improvisation was called for. Helena insisted on doing her own makeup.

But oh, she was happy, and into the spirit of the thing. I took her to daycare in the morning. She costumed up in the vestibule and made an entrance on her already assembled group with all sorts of arm-waving and oooohh noises.

I left her to meet up with J-F; with other parents we watched our disguised monsters parade about and gave them treats, and saw them off on their tour of the office building.

Helena came home beaming and with a backpack full of candy. I still don't know whether our neighbourhood embraces the trick-or-treat tradition. I'd intended that we stroll about in the evening — candy not being the objective of it, but simply to spread a little ghostly cheer — but as it was cold and rainy, and Helena'd already had hours of excitement, we simply called it a day.

I'm insanely proud of my little ghost, for her spirit, for following through on her slightly off-beat vision, for not following the store-bought princess crowd.