Sunday, November 11, 2007


I’m reading Patricia Hampl’s I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory; so far a wonderfully thought-provoking book. She tells the story of a childhood memory and then goes back for a second draft, dissects it, finding lies in the first draft. It is her theory that the first draft is valuable for what the heart reveals, unfettered by the will; the second draft, when you go back and analyze the details of the first draft, creates symbols out of these details. “For meaning is not ‘attached’ to the detail by the memoirist; meaning is revealed.” I have never analyzed the details of the first draft of a memory. This makes me want to go back to some of the earlier paragraphs of this blog and try to winkle out some meaning from the details.

Hampl’s prose style is so good that it almost, but doesn’t quite, call attention to itself. The first two pages are brilliant.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Things I have noticed this morning: Bill and I never eat all the crusts of our toast. Why is that I wondered, and finally decided that the reason must be that it is difficult to put butter or jelly on the crusts. I noticed that our mutual handyman is at my neighbor’s. Joe has worked for Jack for 37 years, but for us for only a year. He has become absolutely essential to us. He also works for the family across the street. Whenever I see his van in the neighborhood, I feel secure. One of the three tomatoes left on the vine is ready to pick. Last May our son brought us a tomato plant in a bucket, and when the first frost was forecast, we brought it in. The tomatoes continued to ripen. We haven’t had a garden for many years although we do have our rhubarb patch and a plum tree. The squirrels get the plums before they are ripe enough to pick.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Getting Ahead

I appear to be on a roll as far as writing is concerned. I have one column finished for tomorrow’s deadline, one nearly finished for next Monday’s deadline, and one half-finished for the 19th. I have one other idea that is getting formed, and one that is formed only in as much as I have thought about it in the past. For the last few weeks I have been racing against the deadline, with nothing in view, and that is quite unsettling, so I determined to get ahead.

My son sent me an article about self-handicapping. I think I am the grand champion at self-handicapping. I get things written when someone asks me to write and gives me a deadline. My five novels have been published under those circumstances. Now I have eight novels in a semi-finished state, no one goading me to finish them and send them out to a publisher, and I procrastinate. Why is this? Fear of rejection? No, I don’t think it is that. Fear of bad reviews if they get published? No I don’t think it is that. Sloth? No, because I am quite diligent about most things. Perhaps it is because I have no reader, no one to bounce the thing off. I read bits and pieces to the two writers’ groups I belong to, but they can’t really criticize the thing as a whole, just individual details.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


The 2006-2007 Pen Canada annual report came the other day. The design and concept are quite remarkable. The report has a spiral binding, and inside there are handsome paintings of each of the detainees that Pen Canada supports. Attached to this is a tear-out postcard of the same very lively painting, already addressed to send to the relevant authority. The lettering and the typeface are good-looking as well. I seldom am as struck as I was with this production. For one thing, it did exactly what it was supposed to do, made me interested in the detained writer and determined to mail the cards. The report was created by an outfit called soapbox design. I wonder what else they have done. When I went on their website, I discovered that it is under construction, so perhaps this is a new company.