That's Why They Keep Them Around

With our trip to Greece slowly approaching, I’m starting to think about my summer reading list. I suppose it’s a bit formal to think of it like that, but books will be hard to find abroad, and even though I know of a good English bookstore in Athens (and a gorgeous one in Santorini, if I make it down there), books are much more expensive in Greece. So, I’m going to devote a substantial amount of space in our luggage to books. In my day-to-day life, I have a tendency to favour novels on the slimmer side. It’s hard to sustain the focus required to read something long when your reading is limited to short blocks of time. But, in Greece I’ll have the luxury to read for longer periods, so I’m looking forward to tackling the thick kind of novels that really infiltrate your brain and weigh down your shoulder bag when you’re walking around town. And, because I’m often self-conscious of the fact that I didn’t take any English literature courses in university, I want to take advantage of this time to fill in a few holes. I have Ovid’s Metamorphoses ready to go and Moby Dick. I have Robinson Crusoe. (Yes, the adventure at sea theme is also deliberate.) We’ll see what else gets added to the pile.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what goes into the process of creating a long piece of work. The thought of writing something that turns into a 500 page paperback is not just daunting, but seemingly impossible. I’m hoping that by immersing myself in these kinds of works, I’ll learn something.

I spent two evenings last week watching Joanna Newsom perform at the Ukrainian Federation in Montreal. I had initially bought a ticket for the first show, and then because I still felt the urge to see her, did some Internet sleuthing and found a ticket for the next night’s sold out show. I shuffled my way back to the church, grabbed a seat, and watched. Her last album, Ys, came out when I first moved to Montreal. I still had a few clients in Toronto, so I often took the train back and forth between the two cities. I would always take out my computer and tell myself to work, but then hours would pass and I would still be listening to music and looking out the window, laptop off. I was usually listening to Ys. I was curious about whether her new album, Have One on Me, could have the same effect. It’s a triple disk, most songs longer than 6 or 7 minutes. It sounds excessive and for some people (my husband, for instance), it is, but I’ve been enjoying the feeling of sinking further and further into the music. Slowly learning the lyrics and seeing how the songs open up, and these are the kinds of songs that blossom big if you’re patient enough. It’s a gorgeous and thorough piece of art, the musical equivalent of a 500 page novel. How the hell does one make something like that?

I’m starting to get the urge to work on my novel again, the one I started more than a year ago. I jumped into it a little too enthusiastically and then lost some steam and realized that the foundation needed some serious rebuilding. By then the thought of trashing and reworking many, many, many pages was exhausting. So I set it aside. I’m wondering if maybe I’m up for the challenge again. Maybe. I’m working my way there, and I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. Speaking of writing novels, Meggy, who I’ve been a fan of since she made zines and personal websites, and now co-writes an amazing fashion blog, has started another blog about writing novels. It’s thoughtful and well written, and if you’re reading this, you would probably enjoy her site too.

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