Sunday, October 30, 2011

Apologies to Alice Munro

I mentioned in my last post that I didn't appreciate fiction that describes the pain of human lives but doesn't offer redemption. That was in response to a couple of the early stories in Alice Munro's 2009 collection, Too Much Happiness, where some pretty dreadful things happened, and people mostly endure. But in other stories, people respond courageously, or quixotically, or stoically, or intelligently to events, which can be horrific or mundane - or really surprising. The stories deftly sketch whole lives, where a childhood mishap can be revealed in much later life to have been the pivot around which the life turned. The title story is a fictional treatment of a Russian woman in the late 1800s who was both a mathematician and novelist, Sophia Kovalevsky, which I enjoyed very much.

A rich collection, and worth reading. So, apologies to Alice Munro for my first impressions.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How about NaBloWriMo?

Over the last few days, I've been sorely tempted to launch into the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge of writing a (50,000 word) novel in the month of November. This is true despite my lack of almost any fiction writing experience - (um, except for a few chapters of a Young Adult fantasy started probably 15 years ago and then abandoned).

The NaNoWriMo challenge began in 1999, with a group of 21 people in the San Francisco Bay area. The history of the movement is quite interesting - with the rising popularity of blogs, the information about the challenge spread rapidly in the first few years, as people flocked to join the challenge, and schools and universities joined in too.

For me, imagining doing the challenge is revisiting the old daydream of being a writer full-time. The closest I ever got was when I was doing the serious churning-out-chapters phase of my dissertation, now more than ten years ago. The rhythm of research and writing was exciting - ideas churning in my sleep, as I drove my car, everywhere where I went. I felt that something was moving through me, not that I was willfully making something happen. The ideas opened up to me - I didn't fabricate them.

But fiction? I don't know about writing fiction. I read fiction all the time - I have dreams that could be short stories, of a sort - and fiction feels like a necessary nutrient for me, somehow. Not every kind of fiction though. I'm not very refreshed by writing that reveals the pain of human lives but doesn't offer some kind of redemption.

But - isn't reading a pastime, and not a calling? Or - what is a calling anyway? What is the purpose of the calling of writing? Oh, I guess that's as silly as asking what is the purpose of breathing.

So - perhaps what I can do during the grim, gray, dark month of November is commit to writing every day in some form or other. For me, it can be the National Blog Writing Month (NaBloWriMo). Why not? Just - put my hands on the keyboard and see what wants to pop out of my brain today.

Happy continued writing, everyone!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumnal Musings - and Marriage Equality

What a sleepy weekend.  Long, somewhat incapacitating naps each afternoon.  Chilly, windy, true fall weather, but with lots of sun.  Life Partner and I actually tackled the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator instead of going yard-saling.  Laying large amounts of food from Costco - it must be the impulse to have a full larder once the cooler weather sets in. 

Friends ask me how I'm doing - meaning with the gender transition experience of youngest offspring.  Truthfully, I don't know how "I" am doing - it doesn't feel entirely real, I guess, since the person is still here, even though the boy clothes aren't. 

I have, however, been quietly steaming about the local archbishop's move to train and exhort the area priests to become  political action leaders.  He is expecting them to mobilize the faithful in support of an amendment to the state constitution to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.  This just feels so wrong on so many levels.  My own Quaker community is - and has been - working for marriage equality.  Nearly 25 years ago, the Meeting approved performing weddings for same-sex couples, after some difficult months of discussion.  More recently, in solidarity with same-sex couples who can't get legally married, our Meeting chooses not to sign the wedding certificate to legally marry anyone - for those with access to legal marriage, they need to do this as a second step.

There was a strong and well-reasoned opinion piece in today's paper written by an elderly Republican (85-year-old Wheelock Whitney) against the marriage amendment.  It gave me hope - hope that even those with differing political perspectives can see the obvious issues of human rights, and not be swayed by fear or misplaced religious zeal.

Here's the photographic fruit of our late afternoon walk in the Wildflower Garden.  Next week may be the last for this year.

(Thank you, Google folks, for making Picasa uploads so much easier!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My goodness, halfway through October!

Somehow - completely undeserved - we've just had something like three more weeks of summer in late September / early October.  I've been taking photographs along the way that document the season's change, but I haven't really believed time was passing, not really.  The last couple of days have been true autumn again, still lovely, but properly cool.

Here are some digests of blogs thought of, even photographed for, but not written:

(Early September) - my wonderful new computer - the redoubtable MacBook Air.  I spent all summer dithering between getting the Air or getting the faculty/staff personal laptop sponsored by the U, which is a perfectly dandy little Dell Latitude (business class).  Lots of power - lots of features - all that.  But I got seduced by the light weight and ease of use of my Mac.  Actually, it was the iPad that set me up for the Air - and now I don't carry around the iPad anymore.  But you'd think I would get more writing done with this sleek item.

(Early September) - the (young adult) Kid moved home - the transition from male to female is taking all of /her/ time and energy.

Cleaning and purging the boy clothes - purchased by me over the past few years - now off to Salvation Army.
(Mid September) - fall begins in earnest - full color starting up on the trees.

An early leaf - striking in its utter perfection.
(Late September) - two evening parties, both with wonderful views of downtown Minneapolis lights.  One a gathering of fellow adjunct faculty; one a celebration of Peter's church friend's 50th.  (Oh, honey - you're just a kid.)

Condo near Loring Park - Metro department party

A law firm overlooking the Art Institute for the 50 birthday bash
(Early October) - days in the 70s and 80s - warm nights - we have been transported to California.  We celebrate by going to a neighborhood-wide yard sale in this lovely neighborhood . . .

Summit Hill area house - not an option in this lifetime for me!
. . .  and several trips to our favorite tame bit of the wild, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.

May your autumn be lovely and serene.  I'll try to do some actual posts as I go along from here.