Tag: fiction

The Sunday Currently Vol. 6

Feel a bit gross today – could be a cold catching up or the leftover effects of Friday night (more on that later), so will save my usual rambling for the currentlies themselves!

Reading

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, the first in a series of historical fiction about Thomas Cromwell/the Tudor court in the times of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. It feels like a long time since I’ve sunk my teeth into some good complicated fiction, the last one being Haruki Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Is this a good time to confess that I’m not the most avid reader of literary fiction? Actually, my fiction reading overall is significantly lower than what it ought to be — something I hope to fix this year.

Anyway, Wolf Hall is engrossing, the sort of book I look forward to savoring in snatches of the day. It’s not the kind of book I could power through in a couple days, though I’m a fast reader. Mantel’s writing is beautiful and fluid, and takes you through dimensions of time and space and dreams in a few short sentences. One second you’ll be caught deep in a haughty cardinal’s confidences, and the next you’re drifting through the mythological origins of Britain where shapeshifters and kings of prophecy reigned. That’s probably why I can’t read it quickly; it takes awhile to ground myself again and remind myself of the complicated cast of characters, as well as what is actually happening.

I highly recommend it, and am looking forward to going straight into the next book, Bring Up the Bodies.

Writing

This is kind of cheating, but last week I started a short story set in the South Pole. It took a lot longer than I expected to finish (and was rightfully chastised for not hitting the deadline, huhu) due to getting caught up in researching Antarctica and the specific project my character was to be involved in. The project itself is called the IceCube Neutrino, designed to track the faint traces of the Big Bang as they crash into pure, unsullied Antarctic ice deep underground. The story is going to be a lot longer than expected (I’m thinking 6 or 8 thousand words, rather than the original 2) but we’ll see.

Cooking

The kitchen is more or less in order! I have my cast iron casserole (not Le Creuset, but one from Sainsburys which people on the internet claim is just as good), an awesome chef knife, and mixing bowls. Last weekend I cooked a risotto-paella hybrid, which is something my ex boyfriend’s mother made once and I have never forgotten (though hers tasted infinitely better). It’s basically risotto parmesan with paella toppings. I also made a beef minestrone soup (so good on cold days) and chocolate chip banana bread, which when eaten with clotted cream ice cream feels like winning X Factor.

Today I cooked a chicken roast dinner, but because I feel ill I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted.

Feeling

Very under the weather. Not sure if it’s because I’ve finally caught the cold that’s been sweeping through my classmates, taking them down one by one, or because of Friday night which, to summarize a thousand words, went like this:

I’m too old to be partying like it’s 1999. But it was a 90s theme party (note the wall decorations) in what looked like someone’s basement (but wasn’t), and they filled the wine glasses up to the brim, so of course horrible and amazing things were going to happen. The days of bouncing back from a hangover in time for drunk brunch are long gone.

Needing

To sit down and really sort through my goals for 2015. Because there’s only 11/12ths of it left. Lolcry.

Clicking

This article about a woman whose writing career is sponsored by her husband is a must-read. I commend her for her honesty – it’s far easier to pretend that successful people get by on their own merits. In no way does this discredit writers who have to juggle family life and jobs with writing, and in no way does this say that you have to be supported to be a writer. I think it’s saying that if you have privilege, acknowledge it. It’s no crime to be lucky, but dangerous if you pretend your success is independent of the fortunate circumstances of your life.

My truth is, at the moment, similar to hers. I am where I am not because I’m a good writer, but because I’ve had the incredible good fortune to have parents who subsidize my dreams. It’s super annoying when others with even more opportunities whine about how they got to where they are solely because of hard work. Oh, so it had nothing to do with your connections or surname or family money?

sure-jan

It seems like a slap in the face to people who actually did get to where they are without any of those.

That said, some people get their foot in the door faster than others, or can choose from more doors, but at the end of the day everyone has to work hard to get to where they want. There’s no one path to success, so why pretend yours is something it’s not?

Perhaps I’ll leave things on that rant…might try to get more tea in me before calling it a night!

[EDIT]

I didn’t really want to leave things on that rant…so here are Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for Work. We are kindred spirits, and for anyone who knows the feeling, this is for you!

Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments. #writers #amwriting

A photo posted by Bea Pantoja (@dalagaproject) on

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You

This is a draft of a short story written for one of my Creative Writing workshops. I’m working on a collection along these lines, and thought I’d share an excerpt here. It’s a bit experimental, so it may be kind of weird! 

1

They sit by the lake, as they do every night, and nurse cups of fast-cooling tea. She is good with words but only when they are used for the unraveling of her own execution. He is adamant about sugar in his tea; a half-teaspoon is enough for clear nights such as this. Above, the moon hangs round and heavy. It is the sort of night for quiet reflection or portents—a haphazard squint at the stars. Don’t be surprised if the stars explode one by one. They are wont to do as they like.

He insists; she demurs. A translucent fish with silver fins streaming like ribbons surfaces. Finding nothing of interest, it becomes absorbed back into the lake, which has difficulty falling asleep, and often simply pretends until something exciting occurs.

He insists again. “Okay!” she says, putting her cup down. He continues to sip his. Tonight his tea was prepared with a steep of broken nails. No sugar. His silence about the matter confirms her worst suspicions.

2

A little girl finds herself lost in a magical forest. She circles for hours amidst restless trees, who misinterpret her movements for a desire to dance. They pass her around from brethren to brethren and shake their leaves in laughter. Exhausted and afraid, the girl collapses onto the ground and weeps.

Drawn to the sound, a kind woodsman spies her and makes to approach with promises of aid, but the trees wrap him tightly in their roots and hide him deep beneath the ground.

The little girl picks up a crumpled leaf and wipes her face with it, and starts at the cries of dismay coming from within. She unfolds the leaf once, twice, thrice. An uncountable time later the leaf stretches before her like a meadow. On her final unfolding she pulls the leaf aside to reveal a bustling city full of miniature people.

“Oh, thank goodness!” she cries. “Good people, can you help me get home?”

“Where are your manners?” the miniature people cry back. “Didn’t you ever learn to mind your own business? Quick, close us up again. It is cold and we cannot stand the stick of your tears!”

The little girl falls silent. She lifts her foot — slam! Stomp! The soles of her best Sunday shoes thicken with blood and debris and clumps of miniature people matter. She might, at the end of her massacre, find herself beyond the leaf and safely out of the wood. Or she might find herself more lost than before.

3

Our house is haunted by a specter who only exists in foggy glass. I see him first thing in the morning when I’m on the toilet peeing. No sooner are my pants down than his form begins to coalesce in the little round window on the door.

“Pervert!” I spit out, but that’s not the worst of it. He’s there when I shower, drifting back and forth across the door, his face pressed up against the glass when I’m good and soapy. The cheek of it! Yet when I lunge at him, nearly killing myself in the process, he dissipates in a silver steam. At least there’s no foggy glass in the bedroom. Bet he’d really like to see what goes on in there!

Peter doesn’t believe me about the specter. “I wish you’d be more quiet in the morning,” is all he says. Peter blocks out his time in 15-minute increments. It helps with his productivity – or productivi-Pete, as he calls it, as he’s the one who has to work. I used to have four increments with him at night but lately I have had zero. We fall asleep in a bedroom blacked out by thick curtains.

I awake when it’s the darkest of the dark and crawl to the bathroom. “Specter?” I whisper. “Are you there?” I pull my pants down, sit and wait.

No answer. The cold bites extra much. In the apartment across the bathroom, a woman lights a candle with a newspaper. In the room next over, someone confirms in a loving murmur: milk and two sugars, thank you.

4

“He didn’t!”

“He did!”

“How could he?”

“How are you?”

They look at her with stained-glass expressions, checkered with fury and dismay and pity. She smiles back.

“I’m perfectly all right! See?”

She grips the base of her skull and pulls forward, unrolling her external skin as she goes. She steps out of the pile and kicks her former self aside. “Ta-dah! Like new again.”

They exchange glances. Some solutions are more satisfactory than others. “You can’t just do that.”

Rip, kick. “Yes I can!”

“Don’t be a bitch, Emma.”

Rip, kick. “Water under the bridge!”

They pinch her hard enough to bruise, and she’s sobbing when they’re done. Rip, kick. Rip, kick.

One wants to go further but she’s stopped by the other. Curiosity is a lottery that tempts many and rewards few, so they say. Instead they silently scoop up the discards and take them home.

“We can steam-press them and hang them up for later,” one whispers, a peacemaking effort.

The other is overcome with disapproval. She is remembering a peach she ate the other day, perfect except for a bit of rot on one end. This she had relished with a sprinkle of salt.

5

Or maybe, I amend, peering deep into the foggy glass, maybe I am the specter.

6

She, now finished, sips her cold tea. He peers down at his empty cup. He is weary for some reason, but he cannot explain himself: she is usually better with words. On that note, whose fault is it, really?

On the other side of the lake an earthquake disrupts evening television, to general confusion. The shuttering of TV screens one by one reminds him to put water in the kettle before bed. It is late. His bones ache with a phantom urge, an echo from somewhere unbidden.

She draws her attention to the moon. It is time to settle the balance of the hours wiled away. Enraged, she bats the moon out of the sky, and it splashes into a startled lake, softly bobbing. The translucent fish returns and swallows it up. Light fills the bursting fish to the tips of his scales, his pretty silver fins, till he glows unbearably.

She regrets what she has done. She dives, and fins flash coyly in her palms before flittering out of grasp. She follows the light further into the darkness, falling so deep she might as well be floating upwards, her hands outstretched for a star.

 

Featured image via eyvindwolf