Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Four books of February...

Me n' wee Elizabeth on a bitter cold winter night, both of us bundled up!
Oy! I am so done with this winter...unbelievable how bitter it has been, and the snow....

Any way...I'm not here to rant about the weather... I have been busy editing Drinking from the Fishbowl for the last month of Saturdays so I didn't feel compelled to set it aside to do anything else...yet, I devoured books with gusto, so I took a break from the massive manuscript and finally whittled my thoughts into shape today...

First up, Grendel, by John Gardner. I love the dragon, that chapter was the best part. What is not to love about a fire-breathing dragon, lounging on a pile of treasure, and opining about free will and determinism? It’s not just about the Grendel side of the story—it’s political, it’s psychological, it’s philosophical—perfect. Grendel should have listened to the dragon’s advice, “…seek out gold and sit on it.” Grendel’s undoing is the nature of the beast—with that said, the human race will likely snuff itself out due to its nature. Nature itself has a tendency to run its course over time and zap—gone. There is no need for a dragon to come along and burn down one mead hall or a big shaggy monster to come along and eat them one by one—

John Gardner was taken from us too soon—dang, imagine what he would have written since…

While I was reading Grendel, I was also reading Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky...what a pairing of solitary characters, right? They actually went well together...played nice mostly...

Dostoyevsky is the master writer of the human document, this one is a little-big book—effectively compact. Self-awareness is overwhelming if you dwell on it too much—(especially a downfall for writers and artists of all types.) Isolation, anxiety, sends the mind to thinking—thinking too much. It’s a disturbing inclination to inventory one’s unhappiness, failures, and the harm done to you—trauma is unforgettable. Happiness is ephemeral, it flits with the wealth of a butterfly, and is gone, off to the next garden of flowers, to chase a mate, dispelled by a breath of wind, or destroyed by a predator; thus, we’re back to the grim extreme of unhappiness. Goodness knows, if everything was happy-go-lucky we’d have nothing to aspire to or to overcome. Some can play their victim card well, and move on, while others—no so much, they wallow in it, and never get beyond their misfortune, they fail to grow. There is a twinkle of humor if you read it right, the sarcasm ever so sharp—worth a grand laugh out loud. It’s a book to linger over, slow down the reading pace to absorb it, and to open to a random page to revisit for the treasures it offers.

The next pair, The Hours and Play It As It Lays were read separately, one followed the other...they blended well with one another...tho' The Hours was far more gentler than the other...

“But there are still the hours, aren’t there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another. I’m so sick.”—from pages 197-198

Illness—any chronic pain, mental or physical—can distill one’s life down to the hours—only if you’ve been in this “place” could you ever understand the terrible passage of time while you endure (or not.)

A lovely book that was made into a lovely movie—damn, it’s almost too tidy, beautifully woven and written. Perfect. Too perfect—perhaps this is a flaw, but it’s one I’m happy with. 

I read Virginia Woolf at least once a year, sometimes twice if I can get away with it.  Now I must re-read Mrs. Dalloway.

This next one blew my doors off...seriously..Wow—dang, wow! This book is so intense my head hurts. My heart hurts.this is my first time reading Joan Didion, so, I have some catching up to do...

The solitary and solace—itchy uncertainty, horrible anxiety—and then there’s ‘nothing’. There, in that deep hole of depression, you know it’s easier to sit at the bottom of that hole, feeling sorry for oneself and flipping off those who say they want to help. Oh, please, stop helping me—but if you insist… the temptation to accept the help is because there’s always that teeny-tiny glimmer of hope that things will be different this time—and then there’s the fickle finger of fate, oh fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck. The directionless, going with the flow, blow in my ear, I’ll follow you anywhere (because I have nowhere else to go)—hoping to disappear without ever leaving. 

Why do you fight?...To find out if you’re alive.—p. 196

The meaning of ‘nothing’. Nothing keeps me up at night. That’s why I write.

Other news...one of my photographs was published in The Sun magazine in the March 2015 issue!

I'm incredibly happy about it...very honored...I've admired The Sun for many years, and finally got up the guts to submit some photos and poems...I was so surprised to receive the "fat" package in the mail this week.

I have plowed my way through my manuscript Drinking from the Fishbowl...all 702 double-spaced pages of it (it seems I lost a couple of pages along the way.) I marked it up, took notes, and will do another pass through at a much slower pace, to tweak where it is weak, to cut where I think I need to cut it...I have a good sense of what I need to do, especially when I get this squirmy feeling in my gut while reading it. I will try to be brave and heed this notion, dig in, find what is bothering me about it, and remove it. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by it and lose heart, but I've come so far. It's really a good story, I know it can be better...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My thoughts regarding "Weymouth Sands" by John Cowper Powys

The sea lost nothing of the swallowing identity of its great outer mass of waters in the emphatic, individual character of each particular wave. Each wave, as it rolled in upon the high-pebbled beach, was an epitome of the whole body of the sea, and carried with it all the vast mysterious quality of the earth’s ancient antagonist. – page 1 (When I collected these words to include in this reflection, I started to read the book all over again!)

The realm of John Cowper Powys is dangerous. The reader may wander for years in this parallel universe, entrapped and bewitched, and never reach its end. There is always another book to discover, another work to reread. Like Tolkien, Powys has invented another country, densely peopled, thickly forested, mountainous, erudite, strangely self-sufficient. This country is less visited than Tolkien's, but it is as compelling, and it has more air.—Margaret Drabble The Guardian, The English Degenerate, August 11, 2006

John Cowper Powys is adored by a loyal type of reader who once they’ve found him will be forever grateful, yet he is often scorned by other readers with the trite accusation “Nothing happens!” Indeed, reading Powys is like taking a long rambling walk through a landscape—if you enjoy lingering over mosses and funguses, meadows and forests, absorbing birdsong, the wind through the trees, the rattle of pebbles on the beach, and becoming immersed in mysticism, psychology, and the legends from long ago, you will love Weymouth Sands

It is enchanting—haunting—provocative; the complexities of the human puzzle, made up of eccentric misfits and lonely monsters. There is a beautiful sense of place, the wonders of nature, the transcendence of the ordinary; the passionate love of home, the reassuring familiarity with landmarks; obsessive-compulsive behaviors, emotionally overwrought to the point of being tenderly maudlin. The epic longing for a cup of tea at most times equals the yearning for the attentions of a woman, or the overwhelming desire to cave in the head of the miserly richest man in town with a pebble stone—all this in the day-to-day lives of the population of Weymouth. There is more going on in the lives being lived—much of the antics of the residents could be considered madness—and apparently, it’s chronic enough that a place dubbed “Hell’s Museum” exists. It is a place where unsettling rumors about a laboratory in which vivisection is secretly performed on dogs is a worrisome outrage that lingers in the back of most of their minds.  There are moments of bawdy comedy, perverted and hilarious, that mesh with the intimate dramas disseminated throughout this human document. No one’s perfect, on the surface they put on a proper façade in order to exist in society (such as Perdita Wane, Magnus Muir, and Mr. Gaul and the assorted elder ladies of the town), while some are clearly of the “fuck it, I am what I am” sort (such as Jobber Skald, the brothers Jerry and Sylvanus Cobbold, and Gipsy May) who have embraced their nature and go about with a ‘come what may’ attitude.

Only he could write such a formidable tale with such intense characters—he is a writer’s writer. The words flow from his pen, coming into existence—Powys followed his bliss. Can you imagine, the constant vision, the outpouring of thoughts, the compassion, the persistence, the intensity of his mind (the exhaustion) to create everything he wrote? (I can.) Turning on the creative spigots and leaving them on is a deluge with an understanding that human nature is complicated and not everything is going to be resolved from beginning to end—tho’ it is certain that Weymouth Sands is a story in which a pebble stone starts out riding in the Jobber’s pocket as a bludgeon with intent, to becoming a paper weight with a final resting place—everything else that happens in between is incidental.
A few moments from the dog-eared pages.

How well he knew this spot! It was one of those geographical points on the surface of the planet that would surely rush into his mind when he came to die, as a concentrated essence of all that life meant! –Page 10 (Magnus Muir)

…as if by the mere hugging of her knees between her arms she could return to that unconscious state in which twenty-six years ago she lay, an embryo-mite, before she was born into a world like this; a world in which for a woman not to be beautiful, not to be seductive and appealing, means after all a series of futile desperations, of shifts and make-shifts, of pitiful and sorrowful turnings to the wall. (Perdita Wane) Page 49

Sue Gadget suddenly felt as if all the waves of the sea did not contain water enough to wash out the pity and trouble and pain and weariness of being alive in this world.—page 578
For further indulgence you may enjoy this lovely website “tour” of Powy’s Weymouth—I didn’t come upon it until after I finished reading the book, upon finding it this morning, it confirmed my vision: