Saturday, June 11, 2005

Rockets Away

Rockets Away

The First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. Mitch's paraphrase: Y
ou can't get something for nothing – but you can always try.

There was something wrong with my family. I was certain of it. If we were a normal family, why were we on a bumpy road, heading for a week of Christmas vacation on a remote Mexican beach? Had we been bad children? That could not be it; Santa had left plenty of presents. But there was no telling about a father who blew up rockets for a living, and I knew he had it in for Christmas. Our new Hanukkah menorah was huge, while the Christmas tree was reduced to a table-top twig.

This is the opening of my book, Rocket Lessons. It's no wonder I wound up confused about my religious orientation, not to mention about life. As a role model, my father made a good explosives expert. I learned how to demolish a lot of things, and also how to jury-rig my own metaphysics.

I've been thinking about this as I turn from a recently published poetry collection back to prose and wonder what to write next. A dreadful creative pause occurs after the publication of a book -- rather like the ocean withdrawing too far from the shore to be natural. It may be followed by a tidal wave of ideas, or a tidal wave of silence. In my case it's followed by the growing awareness of a drawerful of unfinished projects. An old book on pilgrimage, new essays on India and chapters from Rocket Lessons in the midst of being rehabbed as stories to send out.

The creative tide withdraws; the creative tide storms the beach. Why can't I just watch television? Everywhere I find words that spark other words, and I need a new focus. I need to start another book. I need a new burst of Rockets Away!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Thoreau's blogging

Don't know if you're a way-back fan as I am, but -- who knew? -- Henry David Thoreau's blogging. Can it be that the author of the simple life has discovered the Internet? As he said in today's post:

My practicalness is not to be trusted to the last. To be sure, I go upon my legs for the most part, being hard-pushed and dogged by a superficial common sense which is bound to near objects by beaten paths, I am off the handle, as the phrase is—I begin to be transcendental and show where my heart is.

Thoreau's heart, apparently, is with the new online frontier. Marca Bradt, on the Utne Reader site: writes, "In a time when insightful pondering and deep reflection seem passe, along comes a visionary blogger posting the daily musings of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's journal entries will fortify your day, every day of the year, with wisdom that resonates profoundly 150 years later." I'll second that.

Question of the day: if you were a famous diarist, which one would you be? I hate to admit it, but I used to think I'd be Madame de Sevigne. Then I decided Anis Nin. I outgrew that, and Thoreau too -- I thought. Now I want to be Thoreau again, especially the going home at night to have his mother cook for him part. (Did you know that? My kind of naturalist!)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Beyond Trebizond

I'm indebted to my friend Beverly, a retired travel agent, for turning me on to this hilariously serious book. The NY Review of Books summarized the 1956 travel novel this way:

"'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass." So begins The Towers of Trebizond, the greatest novel by Rose Macaulay, one of the eccentric geniuses of English literature. In this fine and funny adventure set in the backlands of modern Turkey, a group of highly unusual travel companions makes its way from Istanbul to legendary Trebizond, encountering potion-dealing sorcerers, recalcitrant policemen, and Billy Graham on tour with a busload of Southern evangelists.

Read the full review.

I sandwiched it between Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake and the birthday gift book, Helen Vendler's Poets Thinking. Those are both nice books, but Trebizond is something else. Get a copy. Summer is just starting, and you can only stay in the water for so long ...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Mailing things as Mary Poppins

I had no idea how much of my life Femme au chapeau would consume. Not just the plugging and blogging; there's the order filling and inscribing and carrying around copies in great big handbags that make me look like Mary Poppins. I feel the need for a great big umbrella more and more. Perhaps if I were Mary Poppins, I could rise up into the sky over the city and sprinkle Femme au chapeau in a pleasant cloud of fuchsia-covered volumes that would strike the Golden Gate Bridge, the gardens of the Yerba Buena Center, the Berkeley campanile, Orinda's square, Jack London Square (pigeons off!), the modest, somewhat Tuscan clock tower that overlooks Walnut Creek's Tiffany's, the main streets of Sebastopol, Petaluma and Santa Rosa. If I had a big flying umbrella and a book-filled valise, I could just jet my way over to deliver books in person, ringing the bell with the tip of my umbrella and presenting each person who orders one with a crisp, freshly unwrapped but cleverly inscribed book, faintly smelling like fresh bread, and nod my head civilly, click my heels together -- no, wait, that's someone else! -- and say, "Home, James" to my umbrella. Or whatever Mary Poppins said.

Instead, I'm afraid one of these evenings I'll bubble-wrap myself in my sleep. But even in my sleep I'll have the correct postage, because it's indelibly etched in my brain: three 37-cent stamps and two 23-cent stamps. Three flags and two Georges. And don't forget to tuck in the postmark.

I may open a store if I get really good at this. Or a press. Or a magazine. I could get addicted to mailing things.