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They Should Tell You When You're Born: Have a Suitcase Heart, Be Ready to Travel (Gabrielle Zevin, via Puja, Sarika and Tamanna)

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About narrative arc and not-understanding.

Over at TriQuarterly, Renée E. D’Aoust says some stuff about writing that I will need to remember:

While writing my current book project, I realized that I was imposing narrative structure in the same manner as my students.  I expected to write what I was calling a traditional memoir, in which my mother and I used forest labor as a balm for grief and journeyed to a redemptive end.  Nevertheless, my instinct said that losing my brother to suicide and losing my mother to cancer would not lend itself to that arc of climbing a mountain.

I finally gave up, to encompass form in the way I encompass grief.  I open my arms.  I don’t expect an end.  Grief does not reach closure; it’s offensive to suggest we ever reach closure when we lose those we love.  The heart-door to our greatest loves must be left open. Grief is not mapped.  As a writer, I need to give myself the permission I give my students: the encouragement to explore, to jostle, and most important, not to understand.  For this writing project, I am now using a collaged approach to personal narrative that includes letters to the dead, descriptions about planting tree seedlings, and prose about Andy the Bear who opened our fridge door, took out Mom’s huckleberry cake, and ran off with it.  I had tried to impose a linear progression on the sweaty forest labor my mum and I did together, yet my memory of my experience is in no way linear, particularly when it comes to investigating and crafting grief.

Lots of stuff is in no way linear, it would seem.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[mercoledì 26 novembre 2014 ore 09:17:21] []

On thinking: Chocolate and grace.

Finish the half-finished sentence that tends to be your unit of thought.  What is your unit of thought?  Mine is the half-finished sentence and image (one thing, two things, animal, vegetable, or Ikea, real or imagined or hoped-for).  It's collage.  And the trick, I am finding these days, the good thing to do if I want to be a writer as soon as I wake up in the morning (especially when I wake up in the morning), and all the times of the day when no one is looking, not even me, is to render the image parts, in words that work.

The trick is to think in sentences.  The trick done well is when they're good ones.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[mercoledì 19 novembre 2014 ore 21:26:26] []

Fall Colors

Here’s a description of a canvas I have in front of me at the moment.  A view of the gardens at the asylum I'm staying in: on the right, a gray terrace, a wall of the building.  A few denuded rose bushes; on the left, the ochre-red of the garden soil, the ground scorched by the sun, covered in fallen pine needles.  This edge of the garden is planted with tall pines trees with ochre-red trunks and branches and green foliage made dull by mixing in black. These tall trees stand out against an evening sky streaked with violet on a yellow background, the yellow turning to pink higher up, and to green.  A wall—again ochre-red—closes off the view with only a violet and ochre-yellow hill rising above it.  The first tree is an enormous trunk struck by lightning and sawn down.  One side branch, however, soars upwards into the sky and drops back down in an avalanche of dark green needles.

This dark giant—like some proud but ravaged being—contrasts, when considered in the nature of a living being, with the pale smile of the last withering rose on the bush in front of it.  Under the trees, vacant stone benches, gloomy box, the sky reflected—yellow—in a puddle after the rain.  A ray of sunlight, the last glimmer of day, lifts the somber ochre almost to orange.  Small black figures wander about among the trunks.

You’ll appreciate that this combination of ochre-red, green made dull with gray, and black defining the contours—that all this produces something of that feeling of anguish known as "black-red" often experienced by my companions in misfortune.

— from a letter Vincent van Gogh wrote to Émile Bernard, November 1889.


But now it's 1889, his last year.  He is painting the canvas that will come to be known as The Hospital Grounds at Saint Remy when he sees a new colour.  He sees, he writes to Emile Bernard, "a ray of sunshine, exalted into orange, dark ochre...  you will understand that this combination of red ochre, green saddened with grey, black strokes encircling the outlines, this produces a little of the sense of anguish which often afflicts certain of my unfortunate comrades, and which is called black-red."

Nobody has caught, nobody before him has tried to identify, the color of anguish.

— from the book Red, by Irwin Allan Sealy, 2007.


Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds.  You mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No.  The blues are because you're getting fat, and maybe it's been raining too long.  You're just sad, that's all.  The mean reds are horrible.  Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of.  Do you ever get that feeling?

— from the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, based on the novel by Truman Capote, 1961.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[lunedì 10 novembre 2014 ore 14:26:08] []

Random Subject Change (Or Not)

Here's a line I loved from Mark Doty's Still Life with Oysters and Lemon:

...description is an inexact, loving art, and a reflexive one; when we describe the world we come closer to saying what we are.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[domenica 09 novembre 2014 ore 14:59:11] []

November Rain

This has been a hard week.  Two birthdays and one anniversary — one first anniversary.  A first anniversary is always different and extra-devastating.  The first day that I can say: a year ago today, you were gone.  The first day of a year in which you don't exist.


Akki sends a photo collage and it is as beautiful as I knew it would be.  Full of that light from your eyes and that lilt in your look and full of your smile and almost, almost, but no — the awesomest giggle in the world is gone.  I dare to look at your Facebook page.  (How many Facebook pages must there be like this?)  I look at old text messages and I look up Enid Blyton.  I find clips of my father on YouTube and I Google a man named Mahmud Sipra.  And all the while, in the background of almost every day this week, I am taking and returning calls from the lovely women at RonSped Worldwide srl, about seven cubic metres of stuff from seventy years of my mother's life, that has finally, all too quickly arrived.  My mother's wedding gharara, the dining-table I grew up with, my father's bar, the yellow-silk-and-solid-silver peshwaz my grandmother wore at her wedding. Several hundred x-rays of a woman with metastatic breast cancer. A recipe for kali daal and for Chicken a la Kiev.  A turquoise corkscrew.  And so very many elephants.

According to the bill for the dogana, the ship that carried all of this was the Río de la Plata 436.

I keep wanting that to mean something.


I make more calls to Pakistan than I thought I could.  I surprise myself.  I am good this week, up to a point.  And then, after Tuesday is safely behind me, the days collapse, and I feel like I have been holding myself very tight, and have let go.  It's not terrible.  It's not that bad at all.  It works with this weather.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[giovedì 06 novembre 2014 ore 18:51:06] []


They should tell you when you’re born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.

They should tell you when you fight with your first best friend,
begin to be gentle as soon as you can; later you'll need it for you.

They should tell you when you're failing French and the zit on your lip
looks like a booger, take a picture of this.  All of it.

They should tell you when you're valedictorian it might matter
or it might not.  Years later you'll wish you'd kept a copy of your speech,
for the way your handwriting used to look.

They should tell you what falling in love for the first time has to do
with ice-skates and movie popcorn and radio deejay dedications.
And what it doesn't.

They should tell you hurry up but do it slowly.

They should tell you things will change but if they don't you will not notice.

They should tell you to trust yourself.  They should tell you: "Don't let her down, ok?"

They should tell you when you want to learn to play a musical instrument:
pick the thing you most love to listen to.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[giovedì 06 novembre 2014 ore 14:20:04] []