Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Me Today in Popula

It's unfair of me to announce the (month-old) arrival of Popula just when it's about to go behind a partial paywall, but there it is. They some excellent writing and if you can subscribe, you should.

I have two pieces on there, in a category they call Me Today. Just people around the world writing about the things that happen to them on any given day, the mundane, the fantastic, the sheer everyday-ness of living one's life.

The first one is about bees and the most recent one is about that eclipse in January.

I enjoyed writing these more than I have nearly anything else in the last year or so. I am grateful when the words come. 

Friday, April 20, 2018


Though you wouldn't guess it from visiting my blog, I feel a surfeit of everything: bad news, books, music, media, emotions, people. 

I've been stepping back everywhere; I don't know what's left to step away from. Yet it seems possible to withdraw just a little more.

A month from now, approximately, it will be another blog birthday. Then actual birthdays. Then departures. Tempus is fugiting away.

I mean, others work harder when they realise they don't have much time left. Me, I chew my nails with a little more dedication. 

It's not like I don't have things to do. They're just not very productive things. They keep the wheels of my life turning; that's all.

Looking at these lines, I feel like I've achieved a kind of Thirukural-like pithiness of line and length* so I'll stop right here.


* In drafts. On the blog it looks like someone chose to ignore Thiruvalluvar's line scheme. That's the line between intention and execution.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

All Fools Day

I looked forward to birthday month. It turned out differently. 

It turns out that there are more things I can't talk about than I can. 

What I fool I've been. What a relief that this month is over. What a long summer, long year ahead.

I don't know so many things, but I know I don't want to talk. 

So maybe until May or thereabouts. 


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exit Man-Child

I watched Phantom Thread a few days ago. In the theatre! The last film I watched in the theatre was probably Nil Batte Sannata, but this was Daniel Day-Lewis' last, so I had to watch it on a big screen, etc etc is why I put myself through all that going to a mall to watch a film entails.

(That was a complicated sentence. I will keep it simple for the rest of this post).

In this interview with middle school girls, Anderson says that he wanted to work with Day-Lewis again, and so over the course of a few months, the two of them sat together and figured out the story they wanted to tell.

So here's the thing: this story of a grown man surrounded by women propping him up in all things great and small is the role Daniel Day-Lewis wanted to be his last, before he retires forever from cinema.

That is even more disappointing than the film itself.

I'm not going over the plot. It involves clothes, Day-Lewis looking quite hot, the women he dresses not so, and a weird twist in the tale in the last ten minutes that was - how shall I put it? - very difficult to stomach.

You'd think that a film where most of the speaking roles belong to women, where in fact, there are more named women characters than men, would be a good thing. Nope. Not if, in all their actions, the needs of this great big man-child are the only important thing.

He needs silence at the breakfast table. Scrape butter too loudly, crunch toast, pour tea from an unacceptable height, tell him he's expected to attend a wedding, and the man's a nervous wreck, his day ruined and his inspiration in shreds. He asks a woman out and talks about his dead mother the entire time. Worse: he removes her make up at a restaurant because that's how he likes to see her. 

And so creepy the way his sister grooms this woman he brings home to be his muse (someone said on twitter, men having muses is nothing more than a way to conceal an erection beneath an education): how softly she should eat, how she must not introduce the slightest variation in his routine, etc etc.

I think this is supposed to signify the man's fragile genius. 

Poor Daniel Day-Lewis. If he needs to remove every male character from the script (bar one doctor whom his character tells to fuck off), if he needs to play a man who has to have women mother him and protect him and stand like mannequins around him, and be jealous but not so jealous that they impinge on his life in any meaningful way, all in order to garner a final Oscar nomination, then that's just pathetic.

If he wins, I think I will be capable of one more level of disappointment. (Personally, I think Timothee Chalamet should win in this category).

(I had more to say but now I'm just bored with how silly this film is. Now that this is out my system, I hope I will stop saying, "Another thing about Phantom Thread' to myself at odd moments during the day.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dancing at the Edge of the World: RIP Ursula le Guin

Ursula le Guin died last night. She was 88, and she lived the kind of life many would wish they had it in them to lead. 

I first said I wouldn't say much and instead spend the day reading her. Which I will, of course, but I am also awash with a feeling I am finding it hard to describe. It's not sorrow and gratitude doesn't come close. It is what it is and maybe I need to say these things aloud in order to notice this feeling properly and give it its due.

On a personal note: I started writing so very late in life that I feel some residual envy for those who are so accomplished so early in their writing lives. I feel also, as a sort of balance to that envy, a certain kinship with writers like Jayanta Mahapatra, who also started their true lives late.

Taking my first steps in poetry as much as into the world that the internet opened up, I found her website and spent a lot of time there. Then I found a post box number and instructions for fan mail (enclose a SASE; writers find it hard enough to make money, and Ursula walks to the postbox herself because her friend who acts as secretary comes in only once a week. Also, there were default dragons).

Naturally I wrote to her, as I have done to other people from time to time, with my heart beating loudly as I wrote. I  enclosed a SASE, stamped the envelope and went to post the letter. Naturally I expected no reply.

I had written to her about my beginning to write, and how her work had inspired me. I sent her a poem I had written that I thought she might like. It was short, just a few lines long. It would fit on twitter even in the 140 days.

Some weeks later, I got mail from Portland, Oregon and I knew instantly that it was from Ursula le Guin. Today, I looked for that letter, and I see that I had opened it so carefully that all the glue is preserved and the letter has stuck itself back as if it were still unopened.

I opened it carefully. Then and now. It's a typed letter, two paragraphs long, and is filled with warmth. But the words that I have held in my heart all these years are these: 

I love your poem. I'm going to put it up over my desk. And here is a poem from ancient China that a friend sent to me:
[poem from ancient China, with one correction and the name of the poet and translator, in her hand]
Looking for this letter, I realise that there were more. I can't imagine why I kept bothering her and why she was generous enough to reply, even if briefly. But I am grateful for her generosity and encouragement and for showing me a way to be with other writers when my time comes, if it comes.

Outside of the personal, there are so many things to link to, read, discover (even now. One word: podcasts). Most of all, there are the books. 

I found out recently that there is a box set of her entire Ecumen series. I added it to my wishlist on Amazon, and then I remembered her speech at the NBA

A week or so ago, I ordered her last book, No Time To Spare. Via Amazon, though (I am sorry), at a time when my mother was travelling and wouldn't realise that things were being bought for her birthday. 

My mother still doesn't know about the book. I still haven't read it, because she should get to read it first. Me, I am going to re-read The Word for World Is Forest starting today. 

The amazing thing is, how much there is to read and re-read. Her work will last a long time.