Synergy

There seems to be a connectedness between things. One thought, one vision, one line, one idea rebounds, bounces, comes again, repeats and repeats and repeats, emerging from unexpected places. So much so, I cannot help but believe there is reason to the madness of plodding.

The Story We Tell Ourselves

I am nostalgic for summer so – here is a post – that didn’t make the Word Press Transfer from that time: I spent the summer studying the human condition in literature and in doing so I reflected on my own story and the story I am trying to tell. I became lost in it, as is necessary when plotting a novel. It was a meditative summer. One of imposed solitude and some focused discipline. I ran and I read and I wrote. I should have done more of the last, but I did spend a span of time sequestered on the lake I grew up on, in a small town in central Massachusetts, gathering evidence and inspiration for my WIP, in addition to writing. And all that I thought about, took in, and studied this summer ultimately will serve the purpose of making Cold Spring Fire a better novel.

What I Read: I read a lot of things, but the centerpiece, the tome that drove me mad with mix feelings and took up many hours of my summer was Anna Karenina. Have you read it? Or just watched the movie? I had wanted to see the new film, but thought I should read the book first. Or re-read it actually. I “read” it in college and not surprisingly, as is the case when you are given a week to read such a work, I remembered little of the details. So, I sat down and took it in again through the heat waves and slow afternoons of July and August. Periodically, I would toss the book aside in disgust at the double standard for men and women in the novel and at the breakdown of the title character whom I wanted to be stronger, to be more self-confident, to own her decisions without hating herself for them. In the end, I felt sad for her, but I was surprised when I did. Up until that point I was eager for that train to come. But that lack of sympathy told me I was fighting against the trope of the crazy woman, consumed with self-doubt and irrational emotions. I have known that woman. And I wanted this MC to be less…true. In all, the characters were fairly unlikable because they were so human, but this was the beauty of the novel and why I did come to see it as a true and remarkable work of classic fiction. It revealed, unabashedly, the good, the bad, and the ugly of the intimate human sphere. It was a great experience and I recommend it to anyone willing to take a long and serious look at the human condition. But what I wonder is how possible that is in contemporary commercial fiction. We, as modern readers, want our protagonists to offer us an escape, at least in much of the women’s fiction I read. Men tend to read more realism, and how they can stand it, I don’t know. “Good Fiction” is realism – right?  I thought a lot about men and women in fiction this summer, and the variation of how they are portrayed by male and female authors. I also thought about the difference between men and women readers. But that is the topic for another post.

What I saw: I spent time in the Oxbow National Wildlife Reserve in my hometown. It was beautiful and looked exactly as I wanted it to, as if it could hold secrets and be the setting for strange goings on. I woke up every day (for a period) on a lovely lake with a heron perched on the dock, the sun rising behind him. I walked again in woods that smelled of earth and something like sandalwood where the knock of the pileated woodpecker marked the slow burn of an August day. I saw old friends come to the rescue when their own old friends were in need, listening to the darkness, to the irrational, to the dreams, the desires, and the sadness that consumes us all. It was interesting to see old friends and realize that after almost two decades, though our stories have gone in different directions, we were all experiencing some the of the same crisis of faith in ourselves, in our decisions, and in the paths we were on.

These are the threads that were already plotted for Cold Spring Fire and at every turn it was as if the universe was speaking to me, telling me I was on the right track, even when so much of it felt uncertain. And when lightening struck the tree next to my house in early September, it was again, an omen, that the story I am telling both in my life and in my WIP is meant to be.

One last thing that came from all of this – this truth that I have been sharing as much as I can ever since, is that the story we tell ourselves is the story the comes true. So, as a writer, and as a human, I urge everyone to always re-read and re-vision that story you tell yourself. When we choose to write our own stories we can avoid or at least re-arrange some of the old tropes and create something new and beautiful and right.

Walter Mitty: The Secret Life of Second Breakfast

I saw this movie over the holiday break and I loved it. It made me feel good, which is what it aims to do, but as Rooster Illusion says, without pretension. I also so American Hustle and where that was very good, I liked Walter Mitty better, because it made me feel better.

Rooster Illusion

SecondBreakfast-01

Daydreaming! Isn’t it awesome? I’m an avid daydreamer myself, and always have been, ever since, as the kids say, I was a “wee little sprog.” There are countless pros to daydreaming. If your life is dull, you zone out and go on an adventure or something like that. It helps spice up life a bit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course, there are, to counter the countless pros, a few scattered cons… Anyway, this week I’m reviewing a film that examines the countless pros and few scattered cons of daydreaming. That was the point of the intro, I guess. You’d…probably get that information from the plot synopsis that I inevitably do…oh well. Surely by now you’ve come to expect two things from Second Breakfast: a superfluous introduction and a blatant, unprofessional plot summary.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Plot: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is…

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The Devil We Love

What are the characteristics of the devil you love? What snags you up every time, leading you into temptation, suggesting you abandon all reason, and thus question your sanity? What dreams, what adventures, what lusts disassemble you? For me it is steely blue eyes with a wicked grin and the lure of a dark forest path.

The Great Gatsby – Life is but a Dream

My favorite line from The Great Gatsby is: “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” It is of course one of the most famous lines. Evoking ephemeral, romantic images is one of Fitzgerald’s great gifts to literature.

As you may know, I am an American Literature teacher and it is Gatsby season. Last Spring, when the movie came out, my students were so worked up over this novel. But this novel had finally come full circle for me. After ten years of teaching it, I felt I had a deeper understanding of the work, the author, and its place in the canon because of its relevancy across generations.

Over the past year, I read The Paris Wife, Tender is the Night, and most recently, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.  And what I come away from it all with is that truth is as diaphanous as dreams. What is truth? Can there be one truth? Or is truth different for different people? Can a truth change?

Scott was my first literary love. And as I have read and taught Fitzgerald’s works, though I often ask my students to examine the novel through a feminist lens for at least one lesson, I have always laughed at his portrayal of women. How absurd they are. Daisy is vapid, Myrtle tragically trashy, Jordan haughty. All of them careless. The men treat them as objects and yet are so utterly wounded by the ultimate betrayals and downfalls of these women, and we somehow end up feeling bad for them. The men. Especially Gatsby.

Like Daisy and Myrtle, I had always believed it was Zelda who had ruined Scott, or at least had been the unstable one. Scott Fitzgerald was to me Jay Gatsby, a sad romantic whose dreams were never quite as real as he strove for them to be, mostly due to alcohol and his wife’s need for a high life style he could barely provide. Interestingly, in Z, Therese Anne Fowler takes the opposite argument. In her notes, she acknowledges that there are two camps. One that claims Zelda ruined Scott (fueled mostly by the tales of Ernest Hemingway who infamously believed Zelda was jealous of Scott and trying to undermine his work). Then there is the camp that believes it was the other way around, and if anything it was Hemingway for all his over the top manliness that was jealous of Zelda’s relationship with her husband.

Could the truth I had been fed for so many years by the male literary establishment, be so  misconstrued? Granted the two feminist point of view books are fiction. But so is Tender is the Night. So is The Great Gatsby. So is For Whom the Bell Tolls. Both Scott and Hemingway unapologetically used the very real events and conversations of their lives the people they knew in their writing, sometimes barely fictionalizing it at all. So, where does the line between fiction and truth lie? Is there even such a thing?

I say there is no such thing as truth. Truth is a fabrication. All of life is a story, one we write for ourselves and one others write with us in it. What is real to one person, might not even exist for another. What an individual imagines can be their whole world, made true only by their undying belief. Could Daisy love Tom and Gatsby both? Could both Zelda’s story and Scott be true? Can our dreams be as true as our realities? And if we die still believing in our own truth, who is to say we anything less than what we imagined?

Originally posted on Blogger last Spring – but didn’t make the transition to Word Press:

Balancing the Masculine and the Feminine

Last night my husband and I watched a number of B rate thrillers and then Before Sunrise, that film with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, where boy meets girl on a train to Vienna and they spend a single night together. I thought it was a nice balance between masculine and feminine entertainment. And this is my theme for the new year: balance.

As you may know, this film was followed by Before Sunset, when they meet again a decade later, and most recently Before Midnight, when they are married and dealing with life in their 40s. I haven’t seen the last, but I want to. I have only seen Before Sunset once, and this was perhaps the third time for Before Sunrise. It left me feeling good.

As a woman in my mid-thirties, without children, with creative ambitions, somewhat stalled, mired in desire, self-doubt, and a hunger for change I am afraid to commit to, it is comforting for me to look back at those times. It makes me remember that always the future is before us every moment, no matter how fleeting is important to appreciate.  I was struck how Delpy’s character was so open and honest with her feminine mind, both wanting to be strong and independent and at the same unafraid to show affection and ask to be kissed. She admits she will wonder who else he is sleeping with once they part, if she has sex with him, and says no, and then says yes, and then no, and then yes again. She asks, why do I have to make everything so complicated? He says, I don’t know and then kisses her. She is kind to herself and to him. She is warm. She is unsure and doesn’t worry about saying so, but she doesn’t dwell. These are all traits I wish for in myself. Now I look at the Hawke character and think he too is a bit ideal. He listens, he talks openly, he honest, he is patient, even while he is a little self-centered, a little arrogant, and a little insecure. They talk of how men and women are. They appreciate who each other is, because of course, they are only getting started. They discuss the way couples become tired of each other when that first night, that first month, that first year has turned into a drudgery of time. They understand their single night is a time out of time and yet they wish for more, but then walk away.

As the new year approaches, many are thinking of love and relationships. So, for me and for everyone, I wish for us to find that balance between the desired ideal, to embrace the traits we wish we could be to make ourselves and others feel free and pure and good, and to accept those traits that make us human, flawed and difficult, letting them be and letting them go. Because no matter where you are in your relationship cycle, the future is before you, and right now is the moment to make what you want it to be.

Day 105 – Dirty Old Men

I love this poem. It is so great when I find circulating out there thoughts and ideas that resonate with my own. Poetry is bliss.

The 365 Poetry Project

These celebrated dead men I find repulsive-
philanderers, drunks with silver-smooth tongues-
who kept a bit of the wrong spark, it seems to me.
Where rebel-young women pity horny old men
at the bottoms of bottles and bottles,
there is more indignance here- at this hunger
for the raw types of knowledge, the unsatiated lust
for bluebird flesh, so rare,
which neither can give to satisfaction.
Such temporary crossings in mismatched hells,
feeding and sucking deeper down into the end,
until just hardened, pristine eggs are left
for the dried-out addict corpses to tap,
consoled to costar in their making.

But which of these is to blame for the dragging:
the tormented easy-exit slaves
or
the ones who should’ve known?

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Introduction, Books, and Getting the Tree

This is my first Word Press Blog Post, newly escaped from Blogger. I have followed a bunch of new folks and will be visiting as many blogs as I can. If you are stopping by, please look around, and consider Following. I am a writer with slightly paranormal leanings. A little light magic, a real world witch or two, a clairvoyant and certainly a ghost here and there.

So, I have a question for you. Do you buy books mostly or are you a library patron? When I was small, and we were poor, my mother used to bring me to the library on a weekly basis. I remember taking the bus in the winter afternoons when it was already getting dark, just like it is now in Massachusetts. I remember being able to get an arm load of books, as many as I could carry. My mother is a reader and I have told my students time and time again that one of the best things she ever did for me was to bring me to that library. So, I have always been a library patron and just like when I was little, I am accustomed to leaving with an arm load of books. I read like a literary agent, the books scattered in every room. I pick one up and if I keep turning the pages, I keep reading. If I don’t I let it go. Well, actually, this is how I was doing things. This summer, I read Anna Karenina, and I had an old copy that fell to pieces and then I took one home from school. It took me a long time to get through it and after that, strangely, I started to feel rushed by the library. If there was more than one book I wanted to read from the pile I brought home, it was an issue to have to keep renewing it. I found that I returned books just to get them off my list of things to do. Also, I received a gift certificate to my local bookstore from a generous family member last year that had me buying books for months. Now, I would rather buy them. Which is of course much better karma for me as a writer, because buying books is what keeps novelists fed. Right?

I have been reading Donna Tartt’s not most recent book The Little Friend. I loved The Secret History and would actually like to read it again. The Secret History was about college students in an elite group of eccentric Classics study and whose extracurricular activities lead to murder. It was mysterious and intelligent and I loved its 90s flavor. So far The Little Friend is also intelligent and beautifully written with a mystery slowly emerging around the death of the narrator’s brother 12 years before. She has recently released another book, The Goldfinch, which I will certainly pick up soon. I just love her author photo too.

Somehow it inspires me and makes me feel writerly. Strange?

I am also reading Catch 22 with a group of fellow teachers at school. Never am I reading one book.

In other news, keep your eyes open for some guest bloggers who also write paranormal and scifi works, all represented by my lovely agent Victoria Lee of the Aponte Literary Agency.

What are you reading? Are you looking forward to the holidays? My husband is putting up the tree right now. It is dark and cold in New England these days, time to bring in the evergreen and adorn it with light to remind us that soon the sun will begin its return.

Thanks for reading.

And remember follow me at arielswan.com.