I finished Kenneth Stampp’s The Peculiar Institution yesterday, during a break from the Sekrit Projekt. I had to take the book in small chunks, because so much of it is sickening. If one wishes to understand America, one must look unflinchingly at chattel slavery. It’s that simple.
It took a little while, sitting on the deck with my eyes closed, for the nausea to go down. Part of it was that Stampp’s attempt at “balance”–Christ knows he probably wouldn’t have gotten the book published without it–delved into the “moral quandaries” of slavery for the owners. I have long been, and remain, completely unimpressed by the idea that whites were somehow forced to enslave others, and unsympathetic to their moaning about how haaaaard it was to do so. The sheer number of mental contortions they had to perform to convince themselves what they were doing was somehow acceptable is astonishing. It’s akin to the just-as-breathtaking contortions conservatives perform today, both in number and in kind.
Next up: Harrison Salisbury’s The 900 Days. Which is a terrifying book already, since I’m familiar with the Siege of Leningrad from other books on the Eastern Front. I’m only about a hundred pages in, and I can’t look away, the suspense is awful.
In other news, I got 3K words in on the Sekrit Projekt, did an hour of yoga (my hips felt weird afterward) and almost forgot about the new short story up for preorder. It’s one I wrote a while ago, when I was first thinking about doing a werewolf novella. Unfortunately, the narrator had other ideas. It’s not often a short story comes out in a whole, bloody chunk, but this one did on a very cold winter afternoon. Funny how I tend to write winter stories in summer, and vice versa.
Anyway, I’ve a 6km run today, and another push to get the bulk of the Sekrit Projekt done before I have to shift to revisions. The revisions are for a book I doubt the publisher will take anyway, but when professionalism demands, the writer performs. I mean, I’ll certainly bitch about it to my writing partner, but I’ll do it to the very utmost best of my ability. Roll for adulting, +3.
Over and out.
One of the parks I go through on long rambles/runs/sometimes bike rides recently sported this fellow. It’s a bower, or a shelter. Each time I pass it as the branches brown, I imagine a knight’s lady nestled in it, and what she might be thinking. I tell myself little stories a la Malory, or imagine that the fairies came through one night and this was a place for Titania to rest.
It was probably kids messing around with camp shelters, or one of the area homeless with a survivalist bent. Or maybe there was a rip in dimensional fabrics, and whoever curled up to sleep here awoke in a different place, a different time.
The world is full of stories. You can’t get away from them.
I spend a good bit of time thinking about the little old lady I want to be. From growing my hair out now (I will never, ever have short hair again, I swear unto my patron goddess) to checking my smile to make sure the lines I want will etch themselves on my face, to pricing swordcanes (look, just because I’m old shouldn’t mean I’m helpless) to working on brain flexibility–you get the idea.
I have a horror of losing mental acuity. For a long time I thought a lovely, agile brain was the only thing I had to recommend me. Nowadays I value myself slightly more, but the habit of regarding my own prospective mental loss with intense horror has remained. That’s why I keep going back to the piano, and playing around with languages. I’ve shifted to Korean and (my first love) Latin, since I’ll need to spend serious time on them both–French and Spanish are lovely, but it feels like cheating to practice them at the same time I’m studying Latin, you know? Also, Duolingo has just released their Japanese pack. That seems like a good way to spend multiple hours.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying something I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s never too late, and you are never too old, to find something that delights you. Getting in the habit of looking for delightful things and playing with new stuff is an investment in your future self. If what makes you happy is problematic or nerdy or strange, don’t let that stop you from gaining what enjoyment you can from it. We’re here for such a brief period, might as well find neat things to play with in the meantime.
People tend to calcify as they get older, and it seems such a shame. Practicing juicy flexibility now, in order to retain it as long as possible, looks a much better way to be. Besides, if one approaches things like, say, new technology, in the spirit of play, being okay with making mistakes and poking until you find out new ways of using it, learning is ever so much easier. When you’re “just playing,” a lot of mistakes are recoverable.
It helps to be in the habit of going, “Huh, I’m wrong, let’s find out some cool stuff together!” or “I don’t know, let’s look it up.” Parenting taught me that it’s okay to admit being wrong and trying again. It is, in fact, not just okay but preferable. Kids tend to respect an adult who admits, “Hey, I fucked up, let’s revisit that.” It cuts out so much bullshit.
We could all do with a little less bullshit.
So, my advice for today: spend some time thinking about the old person you want to be, or even just planning for your future self. The mask you wear will become your real face, if you do it long enough. It’s far better to consciously choose than to let it be thrust upon you, or being blindly reactive.
Also, if you see me with a cane…beware.
If you wanna read a two-buck short story about a carnivorous mermaid, now’s your chance.
Well, I’m awake, it’s a Monday, and I have a medium-long run planned. Yesterday was a silly 200-word day, but at least I got a lot of housework done.
I found a new favorite yoga pose this morning–Stargazer. It feels incredibly good to open up the side, and stretch out my ribs. I also came across this Vimeo short, Nano. I’d watch a whole movie of this, and read the books too. Hell, I’d write books about this. (In all my copious spare time, heh.)
So today is catch-up wordage on everything, and bracing for Cormorant Run‘s release day. I’m already feeling the nerves, so I’ll probably have Purple Rain in rotation and dance around my office every time “Let’s Go Crazy” comes up. That is, if I have any nerves left after an 8km run.
The current list of projects is: DEADROAD, Sekrit Projekt, Epic Fantasy, Roadtrip Z, and Damage. The last has taken the place of Dog Days, because the agent wants it. Hopefully I can get the Sekrit Projekt finished before too much longer, so I can throw its zero into the bin and move on. It’s…been a while, for that particular simmering book. I may have to break it up into two, and release the first part as a novella. It depends on the finished length, and how intense the guerrilla war in the latter half of the book gets.
So that’s my Monday. The world is still on fire, I’m still trying desperately to preserve my tiny corner of it. I have a lot of hopes riding on Cormorant–it’s so, so different than anything I’ve done before, and though I know a lot of the early reviewers didn’t “get” it, I have faith in my Readers. Who are, after all, the smartest bunch on the planet.
Smarter than me, that’s for damn sure.
Over and out.
I’m using Duolingo to brush up my French and Spanish. The Spanish program keeps reminding me I should get back to work.
No rest for the wicked, indeed.