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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

An Excerpt From Sally Rooney’s New Novel


 

Ivan is standing on his own in the corner while the men from the chess club move the chairs and tables around. The men are saying things to one another like: Back a bit there, Tom. Mind yourself now. Alone, Ivan is standing, wanting to sit down but uncertain which of the chairs need to be rearranged still and which are in their correct places already. This uncertainty arises because the way in which the men are moving the furniture corresponds to no specific method Ivan has been able to discern. A familiar arrangement is slowly beginning to emerge — a central U shape composed of ten tables, with ten chairs along the outer rim of the shape, and a general seating area around the outside — but the process by which the men are reaching this arrangement seems haphazard. Standing on his own in the corner, Ivan thinks with no especially intense focus about the most efficient method of arranging, say, a random distribution of a given number of tables and chairs into the aforementioned shape. It’s something he has thought about before, while standing in other corners, watching other people move similar furniture around similar indoor spaces: the different approaches you could use, if you happened to be writing a computer program to maximize process efficiency. The accuracy of these particular men would be, Ivan thinks, pretty low, like actually very low.

More here

Fireworks

 


Naomi Shihab Nye is an Arab American poet, editor, songwriter, and novelist.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Goodnight, Philip

A short story by Jordan Gisselbrecht :

I called Philip before I moved away to school and he told me to meet him at the hotdog stand, the one that served breakfast late. Even though it was August, the trees had already started to turn. I thought at first that I was getting sick because I couldn’t place the difference, but then I realized the trees were doing what they always did, got yellow, just really early this year for some reason.

Philip had already ordered his food by the time I got there, burger and fries on a scallop-rimmed paper plate, a napkin beside it, plastic knife and fork on the napkin. He had set the utensils the perfect distance apart, leaving the perfect amount of napkin around them, the paper edges of the napkin, in turn, set evenly with the plate and running parallel to the edges of the tray, so there was a perfect amount of tray around the napkin, forming a red border between it and the plate and the tray’s raised rim. He must have taken a lot of Adderall that morning. He was sitting up very straight, individually salting each bite, his wrist flicking just so as he shook the shaker, a tiny bit gay, and extremely angry.

I don’t really remember how that first conversation went. Not well.

But later that night, it got better. We were lying in the dark on his bedroom floor. His parents had gone to bed a long time ago, and it felt good to talk in the dark—we had found a bottle of vodka and drank all of it, patching things over while we drank, and now we said whatever came to mind, really softly, smacking our lips because our mouths were dry.

“It’s funny that it falls on me,” he said. “To stay here and answer for everything bad that we did.”

“Who’s been bad?” I asked. “When did we do a bad thing?”

“It’s funny that it falls on me,” he said. “To stay here and answer for everything bad that we did.”

“Any night,” he said. “Any night. I don’t know. It comes back to me when I drink a Diet Coke in the morning. Something stupid and mean that I had said the night before that had seemed well put and funny at the time. Like drunk texting your brother on your phone. Deranged. Something I need to apologize for.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Like sometimes when I’m hungover somewhere off alone. I feel the need to sit on my bed and make myself sad.”

“Right! Exactly!”

“I thought we were going to whisper?”

“I get excited,” he said, whispering. “OK. I know what you mean.”

“I do,” I said. “I really do. I sit on the floor. I dump all my dirty clothes on the floor, and then I get naked and I sit on them.”

“Your bare ass on the clothes?”

“Nothing better,” I said. “And I look up at the bed and imagine a boy there. Maybe you. I don’t know. Maybe I’m imagining you up on my bed, pretending to sleep up there, and it’s me on the pile of dirty clothes. Boner on my belly. The room’s hot from the air vent. The room smells like hot air vent and dirty clothes. You’re awake with your eyes closed, breathing.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about at all,” he said.

He rolled into my arms, very warm and very drunk. Oh my gosh, he was saying.

“You get to go,” he said. “You go to college. I stay and get nothing.”

There was no point denying that, so I didn’t answer.

Instead I said, “they say it’s like a window to your heart.”

“What is?”

“You know.”

He nodded. He knew.

“Sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes. I don’t know.”

“It’s like a bad cough all the time,” I said, reaching.

“So don’t smoke.”

“It’s like a bad cough all the time,” I said, reaching.

“So don’t smoke.”

“Or it’s like getting naked, removing your skin, neatly folding your skin over the chair. Having someone join you on the chair.”

He didn’t answer at first.

Then he said, “Time to sleep,”

“One more analogy,” I said.

“No. Goodnight.”

“OK?”

“Goodnight.”

“OK. Goodnight.”
                                            ************************

via Dirt where you can find more short stories and other stuff

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Interlibrary Loan Sharks

 

The Yellow Wall Paper



The Yellow Wall Paper  is a semi-autobiographical short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, aka Charlotte Perkins Stetson, an American writer and social reformer. She wrote it after a severe bout of postpartum psychosis. Jane, a writer and young mother, is prescribed a rest treatment by her physician husband John, who takes her to a remote country estate for the summer. She becomes obsessed with the peculiar yellow wallpaper in the bedroom he has chosen for her.

IT is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.

A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity,—but that would be asking too much of fate!

Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.

Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?

John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.

John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.

John is a physician, and perhaps—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.

You see, he does not believe I am sick!

And what can one do?

If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression,—a slight hysterical tendency,—what is one to do?

My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.

So I take phosphates or phosphites,—whichever it is,—and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again.

Personally I disagree with their ideas.

Personally I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

But what is one to do?

I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.

I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus—but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.

So I will let it alone and talk about the house.

The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.

There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden—large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.

There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.

There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and co-heirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.

That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid; but I don't care—there is something strange about the house—I can feel it.

I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.

I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.

But John says if I feel so I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself,—before him, at least,—and that makes me very tired.

I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty, old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.

He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another.

He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.

I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.

He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear," said he, "and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time." So we took the nursery, at the top of the house.

It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playground and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.

The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.

One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate, and provoke study, and when you follow the lame, uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard-of contradictions.

The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering, unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.

It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.

There comes John, and I must put this away,—he hates to have me write a word.



Learn how 'The Yellow Wallpaper' changed women's medicine



The little Peruvian guide to public speaking

While living in Lima, Peruvian American writer Daniel Alarc√≥n stumbled upon a strange little book featuring inspirational  advice for public speaking.


Aeon Videos

The Wisdom Of Alice Munro

  A Facebook Memory from 12 years ago…


“There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love, just as there is a limit to the amount of mess you can stand around a house. You can't know the limit beforehand, but you will know when you've reached it. I believe this.”

― Alice Munro

Monday, June 17, 2024

Modi government plans to prosecute Arundhati Roy.



Arundhati Roy, the internationally recognized author and activist, is currently wanted by the Indian authorities. This comes after the Lieutenant General of Delhi granted police permission to prosecute the Booker Prize-winning novelist under a draconian anti-terrorism statute called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. This statute allows the state to incarcerate a person before they’re given a trial.

Though long in the crosshairs of India’s far-right administration for her outspoken critique of the BJP (Prime Minister Modi’s proto-fascist ruling party), Roy’s specifically being targeted for remarks she made in a 2010 speech.

At a conference at the Little Theatre Group in New Delhi, Roy delivered a lecture critiquing India’s “extractive colonial economy,” and the state’s occupation and administration of Kashmir. Her critics at the time decried this as a call for Kashmiri secession.

Read more: Literary Hub

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Louise Glück Ararat

Gluck's sixth poetry collection confronts, with devastating irony, her father's hollow life and her mother's inability to express emotion.
 
As I saw it,
all my mother's life, my father
held her down, like
lead strapped to her ankles.
She was
buoyant by nature;
she wanted to travel,
go to the theater, go to museums.
What he wanted
was to lie on the couch
with the Times
over his face,
so that death, when it came,
wouldn't seem a significant change. ~Louise Glück Ararat

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Inside Alice Munro’s Notebooks



The notebooks were where Munro tinkered and experimented, made detours and sudden revisions—where she surveyed the whole field of possibility before committing herself to a full, typed version of a story.

Read more: The Paris Review

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

by Joyce Carol Oates
for Bob Dylan

Her name was Connie. She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn't much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it. "Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you're so pretty?" she would say. Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything. Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie.


"Why don't you keep your room clean like your sister? How've you got your hair fixed—what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don't see your sister using that junk."

Her sister June was twenty-four and still lived at home. She was a secretary in the high school Connie attended, and if that wasn't bad enough—with her in the same building—she was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother's sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked and Connie couldn't do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams. Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper he went to bed. He didn't bother talking much to them, but around his bent head Connie's mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. "She makes me want to throw up sometimes," she complained to her friends. She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not.

There was one good thing: June went places with girl friends of hers, girls who were just as plain and steady as she, and so when Connie wanted to do that her mother had no objections. The father of Connie's best girl friend drove the girls the three miles to town and left them at a shopping plaza so they could walk through the stores or go to a movie, and when he came to pick them up again at eleven he never bothered to ask what they had done.

They must have been familiar sights, walking around the shopping plaza in their shorts and flat ballerina slippers that always scuffed the sidewalk, with charm bracelets jingling on their thin wrists; they would lean together to whisper and laugh secretly if someone passed who amused or interested them. Connie had long dark blond hair that drew anyone's eye to it, and she wore part of it pulled up on her head and puffed out and the rest of it she let fall down her back. She wore a pull-over jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home—"Ha, ha, very funny,"—but highpitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet.

Sometimes they did go shopping or to a movie, but sometimes they went across the highway, ducking fast across the busy road, to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out. The restaurant was shaped like a big bottle, though squatter than a real bottle, and on its cap was a revolving figure of a grinning boy holding a hamburger aloft. One night in midsummer they ran across, breathless with daring, and right away someone leaned out a car window and invited them over, but it was just a boy from high school they didn't like. It made them feel good to be able to ignore him. They went up through the maze of parked and cruising cars to the bright-lit, fly-infested restaurant, their faces pleased and expectant as if they were entering a sacred building that loomed up out of the night to give them what haven and blessing they yearned for. They sat at the counter and crossed their legs at the ankles, their thin shoulders rigid with excitement, and listened to the music that made everything so good: the music was always in the background, like music at a church service; it was something to depend upon.

A boy named Eddie came in to talk with them. He sat backwards on his stool, turning himself jerkily around in semicircles and then stopping and turning back again, and after a while he asked Connie if she would like something to eat. She said she would and so she tapped her friend's arm on her way out—her friend pulled her face up into a brave, droll look—and Connie said she would meet her at eleven, across the way. "I just hate to leave her like that," Connie said earnestly, but the boy said that she wouldn't be alone for long. So they went out to his car, and on the way Connie couldn't help but let her eyes wander over the windshields and faces all around her, her face gleaming with a joy that had nothing to do with Eddie or even this place; it might have been the music. She drew her shoulders up and sucked in her breath with the pure pleasure of being alive, and just at that moment she happened to glance at a face just a few feet from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin. Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn't help glancing back and there he was, still watching her. He wagged a finger and laughed and said, "Gonna get you, baby," and Connie turned away again without Eddie noticing anything.

She spent three hours with him, at the restaurant where they ate hamburgers and drank Cokes in wax cups that were always sweating, and then down an alley a mile or so away, and when he left her off at five to eleven only the movie house was still open at the plaza. Her girl friend was there, talking with a boy. When Connie came up, the two girls smiled at each other and Connie said, "How was the movie?" and the girl said, 'You should know." They rode off with the girl's father, sleepy and pleased, and Connie couldn't help but look back at the darkened shopping plaza with its big empty parking lot and its signs that were faded and ghostly now, and over at the drive-in restaurant where cars were still circling tirelessly. She couldn't hear the music at this distance.

Next morning June asked her how the movie was and Connie said, "So-so."

Read more

Sunday, May 19, 2024

"Birches" by Robert Frost: An Optical Poem, 2024

The US poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) ponders the nature of unusually low tree branches, recognising that they must have been sunken by ice storms, but preferring to believe that they’ve been bent by the carefree swinging of children at play.


via Aeon