Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week in Seven Words #65

I'm relieved to step into my apartment at the end of the day, shut the door behind me and shut out the world for a little while.

I appreciate her kindness when she offers me a cup of tea. I sip at it as I wait outside, listening to the rise and fall of voices.

I stalk around from one place to another - a corner of the cafe, a public computer, an armchair at the library - as if any one of those spots will contain an escape hatch.

We tend to clump together at every meal, the comfortable bunch of us.

Fat bumblebees have emerged in full force, rocketing out of rhododendrons, evergreen shrubs and porch eaves.

The last day of the holiday we go for a walk. Sticky blossoms shower down on our heads; we pick them out of our hair and off our shoulders.

I know what the outcome will be, even before I hear it pronounced. I spend the rest of the day frustrated and exhausted, trying to sketch out the bright side to myself and half-succeeding. Good can come out of this. I just wish I'd known what to do early on; it would have saved me time, energy, and this sinking sensation that I still won't get it right.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Good Short Fiction: The Cask of Amontillado (E.A. Poe)

Title: The Cask of Amontillado
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Where I read it: Great American Short Stories: from Hawthorne to Hemingway (edited by Corinne Demas)

Cruelty, catacombs, and revenge for unspecified slights. No amontillado in sight.

Some reasons to read it
  • Poe is terrific at writing psychotic narrators. The one in this story is basically going to trap and kill a man while in effect inviting the reader to watch. The question isn't whether or not he'll do it; the story reads like an elaborate revenge fantasy where the outcome is assured. The question is how he'll do it. The narrator is dramatic and depraved, with a mix of elegant manners and some moments of howling insanity.
    It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

  • The story is all the more disturbing for the fact that the narrator seems to have a few stirrings of unease at what he's doing. He carries on regardless...

  • Poe's use of details. Everything from the victim's name (Fortunato) to the description of the catacombs with the damp air and the niches in the stone walls. Such a crisp, cold and chilling atmosphere. The jingling of the bells in the last paragraph is a shivery moment. There's some dark humor as well.

  • The delicious language: palazzo, roquelaire, flambeaux.
    We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.


Other stories in this volume include The Birthmark (by Nathaniel Hawthorne), The Flight of Betsey Lane (by Sarah Orne Jewett), and Paul's Case (by Willa Cather).


"The Cask of Amontillado" also appears in this anthology.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I've guest-blogged today

I've written a post on my "passion for the possibility of words" over at the blog, Come Sit By My Fire. The post also includes a few of my photos.

Relyn, who runs that wonderful blog, has been hosting guest-bloggers this month and inviting them to write about their passions in life (I thank her for inviting me too). It's a great blog to visit generally - she posts good poetry that she finds, shares her beautiful photographs, discusses family, teaching, art (a range of topics), and writes about living life creatively, passionately, with all your heart and soul.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week in Seven Words #64

At different points in the seder there are songs waiting to be embraced, spun around and tossed laughing into the air.

He corrects his younger sister on a grammatical error that he used to make not too long ago.

A warm gray afternoon, drizzle on the magnolia blossoms, mud drying on concrete. We seem to talk in echoes from a previous season.

The holiday begins, and work for the moment ends.

matzah balls
She makes the best kind – the texture, consistency, and flavor are indescribable.

I contend with phantoms sometimes.

It's us three. We have a lovely time, though we also miss the people who couldn't come.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Week in Seven Words #63

Words are deposited like sediment on the page, pebbles and boulders and fine silt.

When I find myself slowing down on the keys, not typing with the speed and spirit I need, I watch a few minutes of Eleanor Powell tap-dancing – her brilliance, rapidity, rhythm, innovation, and ever-present smile get my fingers moving.

Papers and books fan out from my desk, like trees flattened by the impact of an asteroid.

Single-minded and unsocial, most of my thoughts caught up in work.

At the library they unpack their lunches from rustling brown bags. From each rustling brown bag they produce rattling bags of chips and sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. They crunch on the chips while peeling away the aluminum foil and taking long slurps from bottles of neon-colored liquid. They whisper loudly and wetly at each other. Their chairs squeak.

It seems like when we meet we discuss the same things over and over. They don't make any more sense the third time around than they did the second and first.

In preparation for Passover, she helps me tidy and vacuum, stock up on food, tweak the books and papers into piles.

Seven Incarnations of a Spinster

It looks like I'll be late again posting last week's Week in Seven Words (hopefully it'll go up tomorrow); what with lots of work and the Passover holiday starting, I've been busy.

I do have something else to share - a piece of flash fiction I wrote, Seven Incarnations of a Spinster, is published in the online journal Word Riot (I also sent along a very short bio with a link back to this blog, but I'm not sure if they received it). It's a piece I wrote last year for the writer's group I participate in.

The opening line:
I’m an evil overlord, though my campaign of villainy is coming to a close.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Week in Seven Words #62

The daffodils bob their heads in courtly greeting.

A tree on the plaza is alive with blossoms, a foamy pink haze. The next day I see a juggler and young children beneath the blossoms; the sun is bright on the petals and the white stones underfoot.

How will I get everything done?

It's very good to see them. They behave in familiar comfortable ways, and my place feels more cozy.

At the start of the meal I'm not sure what we'll talk about, but about ten minutes in we're surprised to discover that we both write. When we talk about it we sound like two people who have both vacationed to the same wonderful place and are now recounting all its delights and plotting our next trip back.

His words come out in a tumble about gifts, toys, cupcakes, volcanos.

It's a sky-blue and pink-blossom day outside, and I'm watching it through a set of thick windows.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Guggenheim Grotto

Last year I enjoyed a live performance by these Dublin-based musicians. They're coming round to my neck of the woods soon (they're playing at The World Live Cafe in Philly), and though I won't get a chance to hear them this time around I thought I'd post a couple of the videos from their Youtube account.

The Universe is Laughing:

and this is the artistic, imaginative video for Her Beautiful Ideas:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Week in Seven Words #61

I'm loaded down with work. In response, I start considering all the movies I'd like to watch.

The weather is a slap to our face, spring giving us a cold shoulder.

What happens to the emails I send that don't arrive? I see them dissolving at high speed, the words turning into a sparkling dust.

It's possible for the brain to feel grungy, like it's been sitting in a bucket of mop water.

Peeping out from the tortured syntax and the litter of logical fallacies is a glimmer of truth.

I don't know what it is about a spoonful of whole milk vanilla yogurt - a bit of peace and calm in every corner of your mouth.

The sentences look as if they're trying to cohere into paragraphs but can't. They're too spattered. Sort of like a jellyfish trying to walk on land, it won't happen. There's a ways to go yet, in their evolution as solid structured papers.