In my rambles around the blogosphere, I've had my mind on novels and memoirs, because I'm working on a novel. Here are some interesting stops along your way, if you're similarly inclined: a Wild Irish poet's book on Ireland, the Plot Whisperer, and a revision checklist. Plus a few more.
Wild Irish Poet
The Plot Whisperer
Here's a taste of my novel:
Chapter Three. Rome, Day One.
In a room one floor below the Perls, Norman and Kathleen weren’t sleeping, either. Norman was working on his laptop, for which Rick had found a power cord, while Kathleen paced in her pink nightgown and tossed out place names randomly. Norman recorded everything she said, then tried to fit each word into a table of places and dates.
“Scacciapensieri!” Kathleen said suddenly and stopped. “That’s the hotel I booked us into for Siena. I’m sure of it.”
“Really? Because you researched so many hotels in Siena, and I don’t remember that name. Spell it.”
“You’re kidding, Norman. You know I can’t spell in English. I certainly don’t spell in Italian!”
“Well, say it again, slowly.”
“Hmm. That doesn’t sound Italian. And it doesn’t sound the way you said it the first time.”
Kathleen turned and faced him, putting her hands on her narrow hips.
“This was your idea, Norman. Free association. Spelling isn’t part of free association. You look it up. You’re the researcher.”
“I’m an economist.”
“Okay, say it again.”
“Sko-chow-pan-sier-y. This isn’t going to work. I can’t remember the dates! If we don’t have the dates right—”
“We can call the hotels and ask them. All you have to do is remember which hotels you booked in which places.”
Kathleen sighed. “I must have talked to hundreds of hotels in the last six months, booking tours for more groups than you have zeros in your ledger books.”
“We don’t use books anymore, Kathleen, we use software.”
“Whatever. Everyone’s computer-crazy these days.”
“Just relax, walk if you need to. Do you want anything? I can ring the desk if you’d like a glass of wine.”
“Wine will make me sleepy, and if I’m sleepy I can’t pace, and if I can’t pace I can’t associate. Start again!”
“Forget that one. Move on.”
“Nothing. Wait! Something with an ‘m’. . . .”
“A villa. Maybe near the Boboli Gardens.”
“Good . . . go on.”
Kathleen turned and sank into the chair.
“I’m too tired for this!”
“This is when it will work best.”
“Who elected you psychiatrist?”
“It’s a technique my therapist used.”
“Huh! Is that right?”
Norman put his laptop aside, got up from the bed, and came over to her. He put his fingers on her temples and rubbed gently.
“You need a neck rub. You’re all tense in the face, which means your neck is tense. Would you like to have me rub your neck?”
Kathleen gave in for a moment and let Norman rub her temples, but then she suddenly sprang up.
“No! Not if we’re going to get more of this out of my brain. I don’t want to be up all night.”
Norman sighed, went back to the bed and picked up his computer.
“Villa . . . Cora!”
“Are you sure?”
“What the hell do you mean, am I sure? Of course not! If only Massimo were here. He’d remember.”
“Kathleen, why don’t we just look up all the hotels in Firenze and call them all?”
“Are you crazy? Do you have any idea how many inns, hotels, and villas there are around Florence? How many people are accommodated in Florence at this time of year? And how many are just lining up to grab our rooms if we don’t show?”
“I’m sure Rick will help. And Sandra. And maybe we can get a few others to make calls.”
“Norman, you would make a hopeless travel agent.”
“At least I know how to use a computer.” He said it with his head down, staring into the screen because he was afraid of his own sarcasm but unable to resist the temptation.
She didn’t fail to respond as he expected.
“You are a goddamn idiot! You think a computer would have made a difference? What if someone had hacked into it and stolen all our information? What if you had taken your stupid laptop out and the gypsies had nabbed it? Don’t give me that. Don’t act like it’s my fault!”
Her voice rose to a pitch that distressed him. He felt it had the potential of disturbing people even through the walls, but if he said anything more it would just set her off. Norman had learned that the secret of a long marriage was silence, applied at strategic moments.
Kathleen paced faster, frowning. His technique worked, because she let her feet pick up the agitation while her brain began to search again for useful memories.
“Okay, Villa Cora in Firenze. I’m sure of it, because I remember you said let’s spend the money and I said you were crazy, and you insisted that we have one really fantastic hotel and the rest of the way we could make do. Villa Cora used to belong to Tchaikovsky’s mistress or something. It’s practically a historic site itself. I’m sure we booked there. We can call them in the morning.”
“Good!” Norman typed “Villa Cora” into several slots. “Now all we have to do is call and ask what the dates are and when we have to check in to secure our reservations.”
“Okay, that’s all I can do tonight.”
“Honey, that’s great. We can do it. It will take a few days, but we can get all the information back. And then we can talk to the group about the money.”
Kathleen came over to the bed and got in. Within minutes she was snoring. Norman continued to stare into his laptop, wishing that she had at least thanked him for the idea of association, but at the same time formulating her
excuses: she was tired, she felt the stress of responsibility, she didn’t handle criticism well, she was tense in the neck.
At last he powered down, put away the computer, and got back in bed. He lay in bed beside a snoring Kathleen, who never had any trouble falling asleep. He thought about how tomorrow they would begin their life-changing adventure. When most people want to change their lives, they look forward—but not Norman. He found his key to a new life in looking back⎯way back, all the way to the Italian Renaissance.
Norman was happier in the past than in the present. He carried volumes within: volumes of economic treatises and the histories of markets. Statistics mumbled inside the vault of his skull, and he lived with numbers much more comfortably than with people. The only people he could really understand had been dead for centuries. They were the Italian artists and architects of the Renaissance, the popes and doges and civilized princes.
Like most middle-aged people, he longed for better days, which meant the past. In Norman’s case, however, it was the far distant past. His nostalgic urges were deeply satisfied by the study of history. He had found a way to indulge his nostalgia beyond his wildest dreams in forming The Renaissance Club. He had never imagined he could actually convince his colleagues to come on this tour of Renaissance Italy. But now that his great dream was coming true, he wasn’t going to let a few skeptics spoil it. All his career he had been surrounded by skeptics; that was almost the definition of an economist. He had a chance for something different now.
Rome was out there, and somewhere in it was his renaissance. Although he and Kathleen and Sandra had already explored a good bit of Rome, this was the real threshold of the adventure. He wanted to be fresh for it, but he found himself wide-eyed in the dark, wondering what the Sistine Chapel would be like and how close he could get to Bernini's sculpture of Teresa in Ecstasy. He wished Sir Kenneth Clark were with them. He had such an articulate excitement about history, an excitement he, Norman, failed at every turn to convey to his friends. But maybe Jacob’s friend George had an exciting way about him and could spark their enthusiasm. He hoped so. If he couldn’t, Norman was afraid this would be a very short adventure.