Sunday, July 27, 2008

Quick Trip to West Virginia

I've not been writing much in this--what with my online class to write and then do people's "papers," which are digital, and working on the new collection of Appalachian Stories and preparing Love Palace to the agent's specifications, and soliciting for the West Virginia issue of the Hamilton Stone Review.All this on the hot third floor, and meanwhile, Joel came and went on his way to Israel, and my mother here to see him. I drove her to West Virginia yesterday, Saturday, and back today. I don't think I've ever done it in two days-- I've made the long drive from Kentucky one day and then from Shinnston back, but this was fast. I've been in Shinnston in March, in May, in June, and now July. I love being there: the seasons not so different from New Jersey, but the life very different.

Mom and I took a walk after arriving yesterday, which mostly consisted of me standing and smacking horseflies while she wandered through back yards of East Shinnston distributing dog cookies. We had nice visits with Sally Butler and Linda Zuspan Holler and others in cars, on porches. There were so many lovely flowers, people make their houses lovely with verbena and petunia pots and black eyed susans.

During the drives, I listened to a lot of Teaching Company lectures, this time an introduction to Poetry . I especially liked the lecture on free verse, which pointed out the King James Bible as source of 19th c. American Oratory and of the Bible and oratory as a source for Whitman’s long perorations which are the invention of free verse– use of Anaphora, which is repeated beginning word or sound or phrase at the beginning.

Today, more lectures, more heat, the drive a little longer, and I called Mom from the driveway, knowing she would be worried because it took me longer than yesterday. Lots of haze-- the mountains blue and gray , and you could see the storms gathering. I took my little five minute hikes at Sideling Hill in Maryland and two at rest stops on I-81 in Pennsylvania. Saw distant Amish carriages moving along at a good clip, from church I expect. Motor cycles, so many motorcycles! And in Pennsylvania, a lot of them without helmets.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Email Follies

Here’s the thing about emails: very very safe, but no body language or voice tone and no follow up questions. I’ve embraced it all, of course, and the other technological computer stuff I’m surrounded by, but there are losses. You are reminded when you read older novels and other narratives of daily life.

I'm reading Mary Lee Settle's memoir of her years during the Second World War in England in the WAAF as a 21 or 22 year old. Not the best written of her work-- fascinating but repetitive and depends on swoops of rhetoric and generalizations like "one of that type of English lady who..."

Smoking and partying, conversation as entertainment. More boredom, at least among the upper classes, ennui among the lower in their repetitive tasks.

Today, we’re in a buzz cloud haze of messages and images. Sometimes I think it’s the technology depressing me. Sometimes I think it’s just weariness or a night of bad sleep, or maybe it's old age opening up in front like the mouth of a cave, sloping down, and surprisingly bright, but bright that loses some details.

Here's an interesting corporate take on the etiquette of email.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Microsoft? Really the Devil? Or Just His Spawn?

I couldn't get online last night and, to make a two and a half hour story short, I found out from Verizon (our DSL provider) that Microsoft had sent out a recent automatic security update that was "interfering with some customers' ability to get online." There were calls to Microsoft, there was disabling Zone Alarm, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but they did tell me, finally, how to uninstall the security update. I'm beginning to agree with nephew Greg about how Microsoft really is the devil...

Meanwhile, Joel is about to make the next big change in his life: he's finishing up a year as a software engineer, coming to see us, visiting Israel, starting graduate school. See below for where. The view is of San Francisco from their window in the apartment they'll be leaving soon.

June 30, 2008

Well, I just finished a decent draft of a short story called “The Roy Critchfield Scandals.” As usual, the hardest but most necessary part, especially in a short story, is to cut. HOWEVER! I have now officially found a great use for journals and blogs! I'm going to put my best outtake here!I took out one of my favorite passages in the story for slowing down the pace-- it'sll all philosophy and travel memories. So here’s the passage, which is in the voice of a woman named Ann Harding, who mentions both her late beloved husband John and her present boyfriend, Abe, who takes her to Europe:

One of the things John Harding taught me is that growing up means learning to live with many truths and many falsehoods in the same person, including yourself. So I try not to complain about some of the nonsense people believe at the First Baptist of Kingfield because there’s so much I value there: the words of the King James translation of the Bible, a fine peroration at the end of a solidly argued sermon. Old fashioned hymns that put you in the spirit whether you take it literally or not. I love the whole thing, although to be perfectly candid I consider it as much of an artifact as great painting or a bridge or the Parthenon in Greece which I hope to visit someday.

Or the Pantheon in Rome, which I have visited. Abe and I stayed in a hotel on our last trip overlooking that domed church that was originally a temple to the Roman gods, and is still called “All Gods” even though it’s a Catholic church! This amuses me no end, how people can keep the sense of the sacred but change what the thing is sacred to.

Mostly, though, that Pantheon was simply the most beautiful human-made building I’d seen up to that point in my life. The window in our hotel bathroom opened directly overlooking the dome, and in the evening, I pressed my face out at its huge dark curvature, nothing between it and my face but air. Voices and car horns came up from the piazza and someone’s apartment was nestled in next to the dome on the other side, and pigeons flapped rose up into the immensely dark blue sky.

Abe said "Let’s go eat, Annie," and I said, "Not yet. "