Sunday, July 31, 2011

Her shoes off and her quick feet wild

In the moonlight, there was an edged beauty to my mother. The round woman looked glamorous against the barren debris, the garbage, and the graves, her bosoms asserted themselves into the stenchful air, amid the corrupted stone. Her presence was like a narcotic in this dirty place; the earth rose, aroused, swirls of dust that turned to intoxicating waves of wind and imagination. I envisioned her dancing in one of her silk dresses, her shoes off and her quick feet wild, a rough star of the underground with all her boyfriends. I could see my shadow when I looked into the stone, the throw of moonlight on the graves. I was so small against the large female person who was my mother sometimes and sometimes this character from the past, as sultry and sexy as any character I might read about in the British romance novels left in the closet at One Metadulah Street. Even in the ugly field of forgotten deaths here, she looked radiant and carnal — her rippling flesh, freckles and broad, full-lipped face. It was dizzying, death and decay and my mother's perfumed, sex smell.


The evening wind went through the underside of my sandals like a tongue, my legs were shorter than hers, I thought, and I put my hand under my shirt to feel my breasts. I put my hand to touch the tiny bumps that I hope will make me like her. I studied my mother against the moonlight and the sky which made this place, like all of Israel, horrible and stunning at the same time — the graves that were strips of brittle stone, and the desiccated, naked ground.

— from The Fragile Mistress, by Leora Skolkin-Smith.

The Fragile Mistress is the retitled, repackaged, slightly expanded reissue of Edges, O Israel O Palestine. It's a slim novel, poetic and compelling.

It's a coming-of-age story, but on a few different levels: Liana's 14 and has travelled to Israel with her older sister and her mother. She witnesses a traumatic event, but also experiences a sexual awakening and falls in love. Liana's also grappling with a host of mommy issues; as much as she feels humiliated and embarrassed by her mom, she also admires her and is drawn by the mystery of her womanhood.

Israel is also coming of age in this novel. It's 1963, and there's a water war developing. There are soldiers and snipers, checkpoints and barbed wire. There are stories of the Haganah.

Quite wisely in the final chapter, a kind of epilogue, on her return to Israel some 20-odd years later Liana recognizes that she hadn't fully understood the politics of the time. Her experiences — the events, the terrain — "had my own face back then, too, my physical confusions, my formlessness."

So it's not exactly a political novel, but Israel is always present.

In the afterword, Skolkin-Smith writes:

Most potential readers, I thought and perhaps still believe, wouldn't even know there had been a world before the state of Israel was formed in 1948 or that this world included Jews, including many non-zionist Jews who coexisted peacefully with their Arab neighbors.

It makes for a vibrant backdrop and, ironically, an almost apolitical one.

The language is strong — in a rawly poetic, carnal way — sometimes almost uncomfortably so. At time it reads like the diary of a petulant adolescent, but this is fitting. Some passages verge on excessive, but taken as a whole, this is a tight novel with no extraneous bits.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spotless against the dirty sky

He couldn't go on walking until three in the morning, so he stopped along the way at cafes. A few people would be standing around a horseshoe-shaped counter, their lives suspended. Some dreamed as they drank their coffees. Others, with their elbows on the counter, stood empty-eyed over empty drinks. Nothing but magic, it seemed, would bring them back to life.

As in many Simenon novels, the protagonist antihero of The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, one day walks away from his life, steps out of himself, or possibly into himself for the first time.

Luc Sante in his introduction points out that Kees Popinga, as well as his boss before him, is something of a Flitcraftian character. That Flitcraft phenomenon is the thing that first drew me to the fiction of Paul Auster (City of Glass, but other of his works too), and it is a recurring theme in Simenon's romans durs. My fascination with this phenomenon — that's me fighting the impulse to just walk away, transferring my energy into a curiosity about the sort of people who just walk away. I mean, what kind of people do that? (And I happen to know that people do do that.)

"Just use the sink in the hall to wash up. I hope you don't mind noise, because you're going to hear train whistles all day and all night long. We're right next to a train yard."

She shut the door behind her. Kees went to the window and pressed his face against it; in the dimming light, he could make out train tracks leading to infinity, train cars, whole trains, and at least ten locomotives, from which the smoke rose up spotless against the dirty sky.

He smiled, stretched, and sat down on the bed. Fifteen minutes later, without even bother to undress, he was fast asleep.

"The smoke rose up spotless against the dirty sky" — I love that. It's so... opposite.

The train's a recurring motif; I guess it works kind of like a siren call on Popinga — the draw to leave, to be removed from wherever it is that he is, and with the appeal of the suggestion of something a little untoward happening behind drawn blinds on a train in the night.

A typo in the early pages leads to a great deal of confusion (the date should be the 23rd, not the 28th, of December); but the fact that the novel takes place over the holiday season also works to enhance the sense of loneliness and the sense of being shut out of life — Popinga's own life, but also everybody else's.

This novel performs wonderfully a bunch of things I learned from James Wood about how fiction works. We're asked to sympathize with this character from the start, and page by page he becomes more unlikable. We are as confused as he is when we first hear about Pamela's death.

The violence and other criminal acts happen off-screen, so to speak; but this is consistent with Popinga's self-delusion. It's as if he blacks out certain events, or isn't fully present in them. (I'm reminded of Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square.)

I've eased off my rush through Simenon's material — too much existential grittiness over too short a time is difficult to stomach, psychically speaking — but my fascination with the spirit of his roman dur continues to build.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crammed with shoes

It was still raining. Paris was gray, dirty, and confused — a nightmare. It was crammed with people who had no idea where they were going; crammed with streets, the ones around les Halles where people slipped on rotting vegetables; crammed with shop windows that were crammed with shoes. It was the first time he'd noticed all the shoe stores, the hundreds and hundreds of pairs on their shelves.

— from The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, by Simenon.

It shames me, and fills me with regret, to realize that for all the times I've been to Paris, I never once bought shoes there. Scarves and purses and berets, and even a haircut, but never shoes. I must rectify this.

This week I am far from Paris, and far from Montreal too. In many ways one might say my hometown is the opposite of Paris. But today, I bought some exquisite shoes, all manner of greens, from lime to olive, on gold-flecked platforms, with wide silk ribbons to swathe my ankles.

So for the moment I am content to let Simenon walk me through Paris. Through his eyes, but in my own new shoes.

Friday, July 22, 2011


What I've been listening to this week, the perfect accompaniment to heat and wind and storms and confusion.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How fiction works

It turns out that How Fiction Works, by James Wood, is not at all what I expected it to be. 1. It's very readable. 2. There's a lot in it that I find problematic.

I thought there would be more yes, you're so right, so bright, I'm such an idiot for not seeing it that way before, but instead I'm finding i) things I already know, and ii) things I don't necessarily agree with.

Really, he's such a well-respected critic, I'm surprised I have the guts to stand up to him (in my head, anyway). It turns out I don't see fiction quite the same way Mr Wood does, and rather than feeling stupid about it, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for having, over the last few years, learned, all by myself, and with the help of the likes of you, how to read fiction, and reasonably well.

The first bit is about narration and perspective, and the tension between the author's point of view and a given character's (and he calls this irony), and how you can tell a word belongs to one or the other, and what it tells us about one or the other. So far, so sensible.

It becomes clear, though, that's he's cherry-picking his examples to serve his point.

I'm not here to stage a defense of David Foster Wallace (I'm not qualified) — plenty of others have done that before me. But.

Wood excerpts a passage from "The Surfing Channel" (found in Oblivion). Wood has no problem with Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis (neither of whom I've read) making use of ads and business letters, the "media-speak" of their day, in their work. But "In Wallace's case, the language of his unidentified narration is hideously ugly, and rather painful for more than a page or two" [24]. Ugly. The same tension he's trying to demonstrate, the blurring between author and character, exists beautifully here, but to Wood the words are ugly. To be fair, it seems he's not blaming DFW, it's the language of the times he lives in that's at fault. But c'mon. Ugly. That's a fat 4-letter load of judgement.

Wood talks about verb tenses and time signatures — how things happen at different speeds, now or continuously — detail and randomness, and gives a lovely example of how memory works. Then he seems to contradict himself:

The artifice lies in the selection of detail. In life, we can swivel our heads and eyes, but in fact we are like helpless cameras. We have a wide lends, and must take in whatever comes before us. Our memory selects for us, but not much like the way literary narrative selects. Our memories are aesthetically untalented. [39]

I think my memory's pretty talented actually. All it wants to do is force a narrative on itself. I'd say my sense of aesthetics evolves from how I process my reality (I have no sense of aesthetics before I'm there to experience it), not the other way round. Increasingly it seems Wood aspires to some 19th-century ideal; Madame Bovary, c'est lui.

So I reached for my copy of Oblivion. And guided by the thoughts I'd jotted down when I first read it, I found:

I am still far from being certain of what the rapid flash of the Father's transfigured face was meant to mean, not why it remains so vivid in my memory of our courtship. I think it can only be the incongruous, near instantaneous quality of its appearance, the utter peripheralness of it. For it is true that the most vivid and enduring occurrences in our lives are often those that occur at the periphery of our awareness.

So while Wood is going on about seemingly random writerly detail intending to denote the real but in fact signifying it, I'm seeing that I favour DFW telling me the actual real, in all its excruciating, unadulterated glory.

I suspect it would take less time for me to actually do my taxes than to read DFW writing about the process of completing one's taxes. But Wood, I think, is looking to fiction for a kind of abridgement of life. Perhaps Wood has trouble sifting through his memory of real-life experience to cobble together a narrative (perhaps most people do?); he's not a writer, after all. Perhaps this is why we read, so others can string together stories for us.

Wood goes on to address character, whether "flat" or "rounded."

Is it contradictory to have defended the flatness of characters while simultaneously arguing that the novel has become a more sophisticated analyst of deep, self-divided characters? No, if one resists both Forster's idea of flatness (flatness is more interesting than he makes it out to be) and his idea of roundness (roundness is more complicated then he makes it out to be). In both cases, subtlety of analysis is what is important. [94]

I think I agree, though I suspect each reader will gauge "subtlety" differently.

Once character is firmly in place, chronology is no longer so important. Character seems also to be the basis of morality, or at least the framework across which to stretch the moral fabric of life in all its complexity.

The book gets a bit weaker as it goes along. Or maybe I'm just losing interest.

"One way to tell slick genre prose from really interesting writing is to look, in the former case, for the absence of different registers. [106]."
I'm glad to read this; it sounds like good advice. With this criteria I can confirm that George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series has some "literary" merit; it's not just fantasy.

Wood talks about language, word choice, but this is tricky stuff to pin down. Good writing at the word level means something like free of cliché, original, choosing very specific words for effect. Wood has a sense of perfect sentences and gives a few examples, but it seems no rules can be set down. We slide from here into style and metaphor. Wood continues to cite passages, from Woolf, from Roth, and he picks them apart to show how they create the effect they do. Somehow all these things must magically fit together, they must be appropriate and relate to each other (choice of words, metaphor, character, fictional world); there are no specific rules for this (and we should all be glad for that), and somehow we just know when it doesn't work.

Which, all in all, is a very sensible approach to reading. Even though it confirms to me my own abilities as a reader, I'm a little disappointed that Wood didn't reveal the grand secret of good fiction (though, of course, I'd be outraged if he had).

I should note also that this book is not about how to write. I don't think you could derive a system of mechanics from what Wood has set down here. I expect most authors are aware of all these elements, but I wonder to what degree they actively consider them while writing.

Somewhere in this book it was also considered how little control an author ultimately has over the reader, and how much the reader must also act as author in ascribing meaning to the words on the page.

The last chapter is a bit ridiculous. Amid a bunch of nonsense, it's mostly a paean to realism. It becomes clear to me that this book should've been called How (Fictional) Realism Works.

The very best part about having read this book is that I learned something about Saramago's Ricardo Reis, one of the few novels of his that I haven't read yet, about its relation to Fernando Pessoa, whose Book of Disquiet I have queued up. I have a feeling I'll be reaching for Ricardo Reis sooner than I'd expected to.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The game continues

Book 3 of the Game of Thrones books (more properly the series is known as A Song of Fire and Ice, but I don't know anyone who calls it that), A Storm of Swords, is the best yet.

There are scenes of oh my gawd, yes!, and scenes where people die, no!, why did you have to kill them Mr Martin?, and it's one after the other, and then there's more.

It's sssoooo gripping that I had to read in the car. That may not seem like a big deal, given that I'm a known bibliophile, but there are some places, like in the car, where you just don't read, much as I would like to, because it's not polite, you have to stay engaged, or navigate, or simply stare off into space as a show of solidarity, if everybody else has to sit in the car and drive, or, at any rate, not read, then you have to not read too. So it's one of those self-imposed rules, I don't read in the car, because if I did someone might tell me not to, and then there would be hours of discord. Anyway, we had this family event to go to and we're carpooling with in-laws, and it's time to go but I'm right at the part where Dany is going to be fucking amazing, but I climb in dutifully, pull out my book, apologize, I'll be with you in about 5 minutes, at the end of the chapter, and I read in the car. And Dany was fucking amazing.

Then there's this beautiful horrific bit where the Imp gives as a wedding present to the king, his 13-year-old spoiled brat of a nephew, a book, a rare illuminated tome, and Joffrey uses his cool new sword to hack it up into little pieces, and you've known it all along, but the scene serves to drive home just what a despicable little shit he is.

I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish book 3 last night. So book 4. Onward!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movies reviewed by my 8-year-old daughter

ET: The Extraterrestrial
"It's nice because it's happy and sad at the same time. But you know how it's going to end. How come all these types of movies are the same?"

Shutter Island
"That was more confusing than Lost!"

She's away this week, with my mother-in-law, but I miss her like crazy already.

Yes, I let her watch Shutter Island with me. Because I'm a negligent parent. It was just one of those days, when my I-just-want-to-put-my-feet-up-and-watch-a-stupid-movie-iveness outweighed any sense of parental responsibility.

But hey. We had some interesting conversations about the Holocaust, and mental illness, and what it means to be criminally insane. She recognized Leonard DiCaprio from Inception. Most interesting: Scenes of the death camp, the ill and emaciated and abused, had Helena asking, "Are those bad people? They look creepy, like monsters." Which points to how we tend to depict monsters physically, and the point that you cannot tell a true monster by how he looks.

And also. As to her reaction to ET, pressed to define "these types of movies," she couldn't, but I'm a little bit mortified — and a little bit impressed (proud) — that she should be at so early an age so jaded wrt the plotting of blockbuster fare.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

We're all of us muleteers travelling down the same road

This book is about Cain: "cain is the man who killed his brother, cain is the man born to witness the unspeakable, cain is the man who hates god."

And it's about God, too:
Yes, I've been using my will rather too much, as have others in my name, that's why there is so much discontent, people turning their backs on me, some even denying my existence, Punish them, They're beyond my jurisdiction, out of my control, the life of a god isn't as easy as you all think, a god cannot, as people imagine, simply say I want, I can and I command, and he can't always get what he wants straight away, but has to go round in circles first, it's true that I placed that mark on the forehead of cain, whom you've never seen and don't even know, but what I can't understand is why I don't have the power to stop him going where his will takes him and doing whatever he wishes.

And about how they just don't understand each other. They squabble:
That mark on your forehead has grown bigger, it looks like a black sun rising up above the horizon of your eyes, Bravo, cried cain, applauding, I had no idea you went in for poetry, There, you see, you know absolutely nothing about me.

Cain is José Saramago's last novel, reimagining the life of the biblical character, first son of Adam and Eve, brother and murderer of Abel, condemned to wander the Earth.

It's a short novel, but I've been taking my sweet time with it. It is quite poetic, and it's a pleasure to read some things slowly, this is one of them. But it's also very thoughtful, asks some hard questions, like who is this god person anyway, and it demands thinking about them.

It is full of gentle humour, and compassion for all its characters, except maybe god, no, for him too. It is irreverent, but humane.

The thing is, I feel grossly inadequate to be discussing this book, cuz really, I know next to nothing about the bible, just, you know, some stories, and I'm pretty sure I don't have them right.

Cain ventures into some territory I'm rather unfamiliar with. He wanders the Earth, or biblical lands anyway, but he also travels through time (or alternate presents) to be present at the destruction of Sodom, the land of Uz (Job), Mount Sinai, the fall of Jericho, the tower of Babel, the land of Nod, the sacrifice of Isaac, the launching of Noah's ark. (The bible places Cain in the land of Nod, but so far as I know, he doesn't appear at these other sites or events, even though I recall that many characters lived for hundreds of years.)

Here's a review in The Scotsman, and one on the blog My Bread and Jam.

Cain opens in the garden of Eden, an idyllic time, before all the trouble starts, and god gives Adam and Eve the gift of language, or you might say thought, maybe even free will, now we're in trouble. And they're naked. Of Eve's smile:

The angel liked that smile. In heaven, people smiled a lot too, but always seraphically and with the slightly embarrassed look of someone apologising for being so contented, if you could call it contentment.

So, anyway, Cain, not his brother's keeper, he murdered him, and is exiled, land of Nod, Cain meets Lilith. Lilith! I love Lilith! Ever since I read The War Hound and the World's Pain when I was 13. Saramago is drawing on pseudepigrapha here (I learned a new word!). Apparently there's quite a mythology surrounding Lilith and Cain and their relationship ("she would remain bound to him by the body's sublime memory"), but you won't find this in your standard religious texts.

There are a few throwaway lines that make you go, wait a minute ("he had to do the rounds of the other paradises that exist in the heavens [p 16]," or "because we human beings were quadrupeds once [p 57]"), how can that be, and you wonder if there was anything like this in the bible, and then you think, well, maybe it's not inconsistent with all the stuff that's already packed in there, it's only natural some stuff would've been missed, and it makes sense so why discount it.

Is it blasphemous? Most probably, and I'm guessing it would offend a lot of people, religious types, as it offended the Vatican, and as is the way of the world, sadly, it may be these people who would benefit the most from this kind of sincere investigation, the train of Cain's thought that we follow, into what makes god tick, whether god can do evil, and why he would, or whether there is some tacit complicity between good and evil.

Mostly it drives home what a fucked up world we live in, and that it has always been this way, where so many innocents die, and where is the justice in this, where is god in this, where is he when you need him, what is he thinking.

As for lot's wife, she disobeyed the order not to look back and was transformed into a pillar of salt. No one has ever been able to understand why she was punished in that way, for it is only natural to want to know what is going on behind you. It's possible that the lord wanted to punish curiosity as if it were a mortal sin, but that doesn't say much for his intelligence either, just look at what happened with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, if eve hadn't given adam some of the fruit to eat, if she hadn't eaten it herself, they would still be in the garden of eden, and we know how boring that was.

So it's funny, at least I think that bit's funny, in a gentle way, the humour may be mildly barbed but it's not aggressive. It's hard to imagine Saramago actually hated god, if we can assume the character of Cain might've embodied some of Saramago's thoughts on the issue of god or religion, but he did get angry, and not even at god really but at the impossibility of understanding him, that it has always been this way and will go on forever.

While the false abel is walking towards the square where, according to the old man, his destiny awaits him, let us attend to the extremely pertinent observation made by a few of our more vigilant and attentive readers, who consider that the dialogue we have just set down would be historically and culturally impossible, that a farmer with little and now no land and an old man with no apparent means of support would never think of speak like that. They are quite right, of course, however, it's not so much a question of them having or not having the ideas and the necessary vocabulary to express those ideas, but of our own capacity to accept, even if only out of simple human empathy and intellectual generosity, that a peasant from the very earliest times and an old man leading two sheep along by a piece of rope, with only a limited knowledge and a language that it still only taking its first tentative steps, were driven by the need to try out ways of expressing premonitions and intuitions apparently beyond their reach. Obviously, they didn't say those actual words, but the doubts, suspicions, perplexities, argumentative advances and retreats were nevertheless there. All we did was put into a modern idiom the twofold and, for us, insoluble mystery of the language and thought of the time. If the result is coherent now, it would have been then, given that we're all of us muleteers travelling down the same road. All of us, both the learned and the ignorant.

A new era in the aesthetics of the human body
If milk is spilled, it's spilled

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If milk is spilled, it's spilled

Crying over spilt milk is not as pointless as people say, it is in a way instructive because it shows the true scale of the frivolity of certain human behaviour, because if milk is spilled, it's spilled and all you can do is clean it up, and if abel died a cruel death that's because someone took his life. Thinking while getting soaked to the skin is not the most comfortable thing in the world and that is perhaps why, from one moment to the next, the rain stopped, so that cain could think at his leisure and freely follow the course of his thoughts until he found out where they would lead him. Neither he nor we will ever know, for the sudden appearance, out of nowhere, of a dilapidated hut distracted him from his ponderings and from his griefs.

— from Cain, by José Saramago.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Look inside, outside, peripherally

"I think what we do is intuitive, but it's also essentially about observation." He was looking down at his cup as if he was reading the tea leaves. "If your work is about observation, then it seems only natural — to me at least — that you never stop observing. You observe obsessively . . . and minutely. You train yourself to look inside, outside, peripherally. You study art and music, the way people dance, walk, lie — and tell the truth. You record your dreams and you're willing to learn from them." He put the cup down on top of the circular end table next to him. "Am I making any sense?"

"I think so. Go on." She looked at him over the rim of her cup.

"Sadly, I can't. I only know that much. Everything influences my observation — absolutely everything." He moved slightly, as if he was uncomfortable or about to stand up, but he didn't. "Sitting at the computer just now, I noticed the wear on the desk where you put your hands every day. I noticed the imprint from a ballpoint pen where you've written letters and signed cheques on the soft wood — white pine, I think. Some keys on your computer are more worn than other, and there's a slight whitening on the edge of the desk where I suspect you rub your right hand when it's itchy or numb from working at the keyboard — but not your left, because you're right-handed."

— from Erasing Memory, by Scott Thornley.

I don't read very many mysteries. And I like them, I really do — good ones, anyway. It's just that I don't know how to go about choosing a mystery with any degree of confidence that it will be a good one.

What intrigued me about Erasing Memory: the murder victim is a violinist, the cop is cultured enough to recognize the signs that she is one, and it seems pertinent to the case that she be one (interesting to me cuz I know a little something aobut violins and violinists). Also, the fact that it's set in Southern Ontario, and an area in particular that I have some familiarity with.

So it starts off as a quiet kind of cottage mystery. The murder method is truly gruesome, but the scene of it is precise, deliberate, beautiful in its way. Detective MacNiece is shown to be the sensitive type, knows his Schubert, keeps a volume of e.e. cummings on the passenger seat of the car.

The fact that the victim is a violinist turns out to be not particularly relevant, except in helping MacNiece identify the murder as being of a personal nature (ie, not random). But by this point, it doesn't matter; the writing is smooth, the characters are interesting, and the plot has taken a weird turn. I'm hooked.

By "weird turn" I mean the story shifts from the beach and the fishing boat and the marina to something more like a political thriller.

A couple trivial things that bother me. The Polish names don't ring true (and I fail to see how this wasn't gotten right, given that the area, one the author presumably knows well, has a large Polish community). One of the cops is Swetsky, a second-generation Pole, and I can't see a genuine Polish name morphing into something like that in less than 4 generations. Another cop's friend is Bozana; I know a dozen Bożenas, but Bozana is simply archaic. (I'd be curious to know how authentic the Romanian names are.)

The other thing is the Sydney Carton reference. Not because it didn't entirely make sense, but because it was called attention to in such a self-congratulatory way (something like "when's the last time a couple cops sat around making Charles Dickens references?"). If you don't think your readers will get Sydney Carton, better to cut the whole reference out entirely.

But apart from that, it was a very engrossing read.

Good chance I will give the next MacNiece mystery a go.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sleep is good, and books are better

In the turret room, as he opened the door of the wardrobe, he looked at Alayaya curiously. "What do you do while I'm gone?"

She raised her arms and stretched like some sleek black cat. "Sleep. I am much better rested since you began to visit us, my lord. And Marei is teaching us to read, perhaps soon I will be able to pass the time with a book."

"Sleep is good," he said. "And books are better." He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Then it was down the shaft and through the tunnel.

— from A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin.

I finished this book a while ago and am now into the third in the series, racing to catch up in time for the publication next week of book five, A Dance with Dragons.

Say what you will about genre fiction, it's clearly written by people who love books, and that thrill of reading is often more palpable than in fiction that's considered more literary.

Everybody had matching towels

The B52s closed the jazz festival tonight.

I don't know that they're jazz, but they are jazzy.

Glad I was there.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Big fish

Another four-day weekend. The same fishing lodge. This time we bring the kid. This could be the start of a family tradition.

While not exactly reluctant, nor is Helena enthusiastic about fishing (much like myself, I suppose). But her father bought her her own real fishing rod (by "real" I mean not Dora-branded, cuz that's for babies), and Helena's a sport for trying stuff out.

And wouldn't you know, Helena caught the first fish of the weekend, at which point she declared, "I love fishing!" to her father's great joy.

A couple days in, she caught what turned out to be the big fish of the weekend (a smallmouth bass, for which this lake is known). We put it in the livewell for a while, and Helena wanted to name it. Bass... Bass-y! But with my influence, she settled on Shirley (Bassey).

But it's when we pulled the boat up for the night that Helena's real work began in documenting our catches.

I read next to nothing (I started Erasing Memory, by Scott Thornley, in which a murder is committed, fittingly, in a cottage on a lake), and it was lovely.