Wednesday, June 01, 2005


I have two intense kids. This became immediately apparent when, 20 minutes after they came home and Brian retired upstairs for a well-deserved nap, they had me running around trying to satisfy their many needs. I had to stop while filling drinks orders and take a deep breath and reassert control over the landscape. One thing to work on with the kids this summer is patience--theirs, not mine.

I'm pleased with the results of the writing weekend; the scene map did not get finished, nor did the character definitions, but I think they are the kind of thing I could work on in the odd hour without needing to be in touch with the creative muse. They are homework, and one doesn't need inspiration or excessive quantities of caffeine to accomplish them.

My next task is to hit up the two grannies for regular writing time. My mom isn't working this summer (though she seems to have a tennis game scheduled every other day) so I'm going to suggest a regular morning date with her grandchildren. Depending on her response, I will then approach Granny Kathy with the suggestion too and see how much writing time I can guilt them into providing me.

Round 2 of Greek composition grading is about to begin. Comp grading seriously cuts into my fiction reading time, so I am making sure to really enjoy my time with a novel before I have to ration fiction-time to the hour or so before bed. I'm on a Shields kick after loving The Stone Diaries. I'm about 1/3 of the way through her last novel, Unless. So far, what I most admire about this book is Shields' ability to avoid sentimentality; it reminds me a little of Atwood, but is less acidic and more sympathetic, yet still very sharp. This story could easily slide into mush territory due to the subject matter (lost daughter told from the mother's perspective), but at least once on each page (and sometimes more often) she has her narrator make some observation that pulls it back from the edge.

Here is an example from Page 47, at the end of the chapter titled "Wherein":
I want. I want. I want.
I don't actually say these last words; I just bump along on their short, stubbed feet, their little dead declarative syllables--while buttoning up my coat and making my way home.

A more sentimental writer would have ended the chapter with "I want. I want. I want." And it would have been a pretty damn good way to end the chapter too, but that isn't Shields--she pulls you back into her character's self-consciousness about her own tendency to dramatize the situation and has her comment on it.

And for those of you wondering about the office color--I bought a gallon of blue. The peach was fine, really nothing wrong with it, but it didn't feel right for the space. And it occurred to me that I have wanted a blue room since I was 7 years old and my father vetoed the idea and made me paint my North-facing bedroom yellow. Yup, yet another pathetic little grudge I hold. So
finally I'll get to satisfy my little 7 year-old self and have a blue-room of my very own.


freddyknits said...

To quote my friend and your neighbor Nancy, peach is never the right answer.

And to quote Lorenz Hart:

"We'll have a blue room, a new room, for two room, where every day's a holiday, blah blah blah..." Just don't wear your trousseau or get little blue chairs, or it could get scary.

I got a million of 'em.

Edward Vielmetti said...

Kate - I can recommend Larry's Party if you are on a Carol Shields run.

Anonymous said...

I second that about Larry's Party.

I loved "Unless," too, and you've distilled Shields just right with that excerpt. One more reason to love Carol Shields is that she created a lovely body of writing while raising five kids. "It was my knitting," is how she explained finding time to write during those years. (Which I guess means she didn't knit; oh no!) She died about two years ago; we lost her too soon.

I had a blue room growing up. My older sister chose the color, perhaps as compensation for being forced to share a room with me. It was a very powder-puffy blue, a shade I just know you'll have the good sense to avoid for the office.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I must read Shields's Collected Stories right now. Maybe we could read Larry's Party together?

I would love a blue bedroom or bathroom, a steely sky sort of blue. But that would require my painting, wouldn't it? I think I'll just admire your blue room from afar!

Kate said...

Oh a read-along sounds fun! Especially since I don't think my book group would appreciate my current feeling that we read only Shields' books till we have read them all. Let me know when you finish the short stories and I'll do the same for Unless and then we can start Larry's Party together. Just to warn you, I probably won't be a speedy reader right now since most of my reading time is taken up with the Greek Compositions.

Obviously, if anyone else wants to join us, the more Shields' readers the merrier!

Anonymous said...

Great! Collected Stories is on the hold shelf at the library for me, and when we get to Larry's Party, I'll keep it next to the rocker in Camila's room so I won't be tempted to read it all in one sitting (as if I would ever have that much uninterrupted time!). I'm so looking forward it.