Speaking of…

Yesterday I said that my books were all speaking to me, wanting to be the next book to be read.

Well, if you think that was wacky and out-there-ish, then look at this:

I saw this on Facebook. Allegedly, a couple of librarians created this. But who knows? Maybe the books took it upon themselves to get the message across.

Who’s crazy now?

When Your Books Start Talking to You

Well, since we all can’t go anywhere, why not revive this zombie blog and write about what I’m reading?

To be honest, it’s not much because I am catching up on my TIME magazines while finishing Maupassant’s A Woman’s Life and – boy howdy! – that book is not exactly fun. But what can you do? My OCD requires me to finish it. So here I am, sitting in my Poäng chair, feet outstretched on the foot rest, reading one page, one paragraph, one sentence at a time. Every now and then I look at my bookshelf to the left and what a sight that is: all these books I haven’t read yet! You’d think it motivated me to finish this one faster, but…

I catch myself thinking about what to read next. Rachel Maddow’s Blowout? Not likely while I still catch up on TIME magazine. That would be too much politics at once. The Charles Manson biography? Still too close to politics. I need something fictional.

In a state of trance, I get up and walk over to the bookshelf. At once, I hear all the voices escaping from the dusty pages, all yelling atop of one another, longing to be heard.

The first one sounds foreign and I see the copy of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary but I quickly retreat from that. One Frenchman just ruined my reading experience for a month. I need a change in pace.

Ellis’ American Psycho, Martin’s Game of Thrones series (should I reread the first book before starting the second one?), James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, Auster’s 4321, Ramsey Campbell’s The Darkest Part of the Woods. All unread, all screaming at me, promising me joy and thrills for hours!

Or should I go for a short story collection? I turn Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, Volumes 4-6? I can’t remember too much from volumes 1-3, but I know it won’t be necessary. Richard Matheson, Daphne du Maurier, Ray Bradbury. They all ask me whether I have a few minutes. They promise they’ll be brief.

The only book that keeps quiet is in the top right corner. It’s my trusty German copy of Stephen King’s The Stand. Is it ashamed of the current situation? I look its yellowed pages. The over 1,200 pages would be a serious commitment.

In the end, I don’t know which one to pick. They all look good to me. I go back to my Maupassant. Read one sentence. Then another. And another and another and…

There is one good thing about being stuck with a terrible book: as long as I read this one, I don’t need to decide which to pick next.

Eater of Words, Episode 4: Arthur Slade

I initially planned to release this episode around Christmas, but then Christmas happened and apparently right after that is New Year’s and things got hectic. So my apologies for the delay, especially to Art.

But here it is, finally: my conversation with Art about his Amber Fang series, Kurt Kirchmeier’s The Absence of Sparrows, Stephen King, tricky book titles, and how he walked from New York to Australia. Hope you enjoy!

Eater of Words podcast: Episode 3- Jeanette Lynes

Well, here we are again. Just when you think this place is dead, I bring it back to life – with another episode of the Eater of Words! This time my guest is Jeanette Lynes, who for some unknown reason brought me into the MFA in Writing program at the University of Saskatchewan. This time the roles are reversed though – I ask the questions and she provides the answers. Hope you enjoy.

Eater of Words Podcast: Episode 2 – Katherine Lawrence

Well, it’s been awhile. Turns out working full-time (and sometimes editing part-time) takes up a lot of your day, and once you get home, you have to do all this household stuff! I haven’t done any writing of note either! But I am starting to feel it again. That’s the upside of living in a city where you don’t know anybody and don’t have a social life: you can work a lot. So that’s what I intend to do.

Yet, as Bart Simpson used to say (and I think I mentioned this before): I can’t promise you I’ll do it. But I can promise you that I’ll try.

With that being said, here is the second episode of this thing that I’m doing where I talk to people and don’t get paid (see, this is how I distinguish this from work). Hope you enjoy!

Eater of Words, episode 2: Katherine Lawrence

Eater of Words Podcast: Episode 1 – Dave Carpenter

I’m back, baaaaay-baaaaaay!

Phew. The last two months have been hectic and exhausting and all around madness. I moved across the country, started a new job, furnished my new apartment, got entangled in the nightmare of non-Saskatchewan Canadian bureaucracy (still ongoing), went to Germany, had a cousin stay with me for a week right after I came back from Germany, and have overall been extremely busy.

But now, I’m back. And what better way to pick up again than with the inaugural episode of my podcast? The audio is still a bit low in some parts, but I’m learning.

Without any further ado – here’s the audio. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Eater of Words, Episode 1: Dave Carpenter

Cormac McCarthy – No Country For Old Men

Telegrams were a bit before my time but most of us are still familiar with their staccato style which was solely intended to transmit information (for modern comparison: think of text messages and their, sometimes odd, abbreviations). In this respect, Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel No Country For Old Men reminded me of telegrams (or text messages, if you will).

The book opens up with Llewelyn Moss hunting antelope in the Texas desert one morning when he comes across the scene of a drug deal gone awry. Everybody’s dead, except for one badly injured Mexican. He also finds a satchel with 2.4 million dollars. He takes the money and goes home, but returns to attend the injured Mexican. However, another truck arrives. From there, the chase is on.

The novel was originally drafted as a screenplay which may explain its style of mostly short, functional sentences. It indeed had the effect of reading the treatment of a screenplay: I felt like I was holding a camera, following the characters, and transcribing their actions and words. No time for poetic prose or introspection. Functionality over everything.

This narrative distance however also means that we don’t get any introduction to the characters. We are just thrown into the action and have to figure out what is actually happening and why. Who is Llewelyn Moss? Who is Anton Chigurh? What are their likes, their dislikes? What is their background? Their motivation? We really don’t know for the most part. All we learn about them is what they tell us or what sheriff Bell finds out. That is it.

However, McCarthy employs another interesting stylistic choice which actually helped me along the way: he doesn’t use quotation marks. He doesn’t even separate a character’s actions from his speech. They occur together in the same paragraph and it is up to us, the reader, to figure it out. The only help we get is that McCarthy uses vernacular spelling and idiomacy expression for direct speech (e.g. “sit” becomes “set”).

The resulting effect of this choice on me was that, as a reader, I constantly had to be on my toes. I had to read closely and couldn’t skim over a sentence or space out. Yet, still, I’m not sure I picked up every clue and hidden nod towards what was actually going on. Anton Chigurh, for example, remains a mystery to me.

Having said this, the story is actually quite engaging although there is no reason why we should care for any of the characters since we don’t know enough about any of them and none of them are really portrayed as likeable – with the only exception perhaps being sheriff Bell, who is also the only character we get to know a bit about in the form of brief, journal-like excerpts that open up every chapter.

If you enjoy (modern) Westerns or thrillers involving mysterious characters and nebulous motivations, or if you’re more interested in plot than poetic prose, No Country For Old Men is for you. It’s gritty, rough around the edges and unpretentious. In that, its style reflects the content.

New Year, New Cymaen

Hello again, my favorite people. Yes, you. All of you. It’s a new year and, as far as I’m concerned, everybody starts with a clean slate. Which means you, who are reading this, already got on my good side. Congratulations! Happy New Year!

A new year also means that SiNoWriMo is over and done with. I ended up just short of 23,000 words which is fine but only about half of what I was aiming for. I would be disappointed but I decided to be less hard on myself this year and so I just shrugged it off. It is what it is. Writing is not a matter of how fast you get words on the page. It is about getting those damn words on this blank, snow-white sheet of bleached, dead wood at all. So: good job, Simon. Give yourself a pat on the back. (Although there’s still a little devil on my shoulder who whispers in my ear: ‘get yer lazy arse back to work, ya filthy fecker.’ Don’t know why he’s Irish though.)  

So. With all that 2018 baggage out of the way, let’s turn towards 2019. And you know what that brings? Yes! The debut of the Eater of Words Literary Podcast! But hold on, why do I write about it, when I can TELL YOU?

Too bad that I have the face for radio, but not the voice. Anyway, this is what you get. Hope you tune in.

As you can also see: the wordpress part in the URL is gone. Which means I purchased this domain. Well, actually I’m renting it, I guess, since it costs me 120 CAD a year, or 10 bucks a month. Maybe I’ll need to upgrade it eventually. But for now it’s got all the tools I need.

With the new (less complicated) domain come a few changes. Change number 1: less personal rambling. Also, there’s a schedule I’ve set for myself. A weekly rotation for every month and it goes like this:

Week 1: An outlook on what I’m doing this month (basically a little personal rambling)

Week 2: A brief review of a book I’ve read the last month

Week 3: Something on the craft of writing

Week 4: Podcast Episode

Now, the tricky thing is: there are some months with five Sundays. I haven’t quite gotten around to finalize the plans on those. There’s an idea – but that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.

So, I think we covered everything, right? Right. I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men. I have no idea where I’m going with this, but we’ll see what I come up with – next week.

Until then: stay literate.

SiNoWriMo Week 2+3: Want to know how this thing is going? Two words: not good.

This is terrible. Awful. Why would you do this to yourself? Stop already. This is literally the drizzling shits. And offense to anybody who’s ever written anything.

Just a glimpse into the thoughts I go through every day while writing.

Okay, not every day. Some days I skip my writing. I know I shouldn’t. But I try to have 1 day per week to do everything else: grocery shopping. Searching for jobs. Doing laundry. Literally everything else, so I can focus on writing for the rest of the week. Maybe that’s a bad habit, but it’s an established one now. And bad habits are hard to get rid of, or whatever that saying is.

Having said all that: I’m 15,907 words in. I should be at about 35,000 words. At this point, I might as well swing for the fences. What’s the worst that can happen?

Right. So, I guess that’s all you need to know at this point. Let me get back to my writing. Because to a certain extent, I still believe I can reach my goal of 50,000 words. As nuts as that will sound to anybody who’s ever written fiction. Or anything else. I can do this. All you need is the right environment, lots of tea and a bit of an obsession with your characters and the journey they’re engaged in.

Let me plunge back in. And maybe we can get a chant going?

I can still do this.

I can do this.

I can do this.

Now you…

See you next week – with something very special. Until then: Merry Christmas from the catsitter and Balto 🙂

Balto, here seen at her least scared.

SiNoWriMo, Week 1: A Slow Start


Words are hard. Especially when they are supposed to form coherent sentences that merge into a coherent paragraph which, hopefully, blooms into a coherent text. Even worse: the longer you haven’t written on a consistent basis, the harder it becomes. It’s like working out: do it once and you’ll feel fine. It feels like you can go on forever. The second time it’s a little harder. Muscles start aching. The third time around, you start to question why you’re doing this at all. This is the point where many tap out and quit. But you’ve got to persevere.

My first week of SiNoWriMo has been like this. I’m at 6,263 words – not nearly where I should be but I’m still kind of proud of it. And it’s getting easier every day,although there are slower days when even the simplest sentence is hard work. But I keep on fighting through the pain.

On the upside, Christmas time is around the corner and I should be able to catch up. Why? Let’s be honest: there’s no sense in applying for jobs during Christmas week. Nobody will look at those applications. People are home spending time with their families and stuffing their faces with inordinate amounts of food…not that there’s anything wrong with that! I’m just pointing it out. Anyway, my point is that I will gain a week of focussing entirely on this new project and I should be able to make a good final sprint.

There’s other things I could talk about right now, but I’ll save those for next year. And I don’t want to waste too much time. I need to go back to writing.  Hope you all have a wonderful week.

PS: Yes, I know this was two days later than announced. You know what though: that’s okay. Sometimes life just works out like that. I need to stop being so hard on myself anyway. Let’s be honest: would anybody have noticed the delay? Does anybody care?

I thought so.