Thursday, November 8, 2012

The writing life

I went to Paris for the first time with a man who was already ex. The tickets had been purchased, the plans made -- he'd suggested the trip when I said I could not contemplate having children yet, I hadn't even seen Paris. Between that lovely thought which sounds like he meant something by it, and the act of getting there, fell the shadow of doubt and we split.

Still, we had a grand time being separated in the city of light and love.

We were there for Bloomsday and we happened upon Shakespeare and Co., how perfect. In front of the famous bookstore and Bloomsbury group outpost was a semi-circle of sort of dun-and-brindle coloured elderly people on rickety chairs, reading aloud in the sunshine.

That, said the ex, is why print is dead. We live in a visual age.

He fancied himself quite a visionary and was deeply impressed by his previous girlfriend who was a style maven, someone we might call a fashionista. Or maybe not. She was deeply stylish apparently and so he valued style above all things. His six year old son would wander downstairs for breakfast and this man would say "looking cool man, you look cool" rather than good morning, or is your homework done. Maybe six year old don't have homework. But they don't need "cool" so much either, or so I thought at the time.

I thought of this Bloomsday episode again last night at a literary event, an awards ceremony. The ceremony itself was elegant and lovely and all the winners as earnest as their books.

Alas the crowd. Whether it comes from this ex or not, I am a dedicated follower of fashion and style and assess every crowd I'm in for same. This was definitely a bookish one. And this tribe has its uniforms.

I've met four blockbuster multimillion selling authors in the past few weeks, and three of them dressed nearly identically in  large  hoodies, jeans and if not sneakers then something like a Blundstone. It's actually a good look -- kind of louche, and the hoodies are spanking new and more expensive than you'd expect so look pretty good rather than what you'd find on the average subway ride. In fact, one of these authors, Dennis Lehane, had on a t-shirt and hoodie under a kind of blazer like jacket that was so fantastic I wanted to ask where he got it. I held back. "Stick to the book, stick to the book," I said to myself but may tweet him about it later.

But as of last night I'm seeing  some dubious trends in the women's department.  The ladies of publishing have embraced the current trend toward colour and more forgiving shapes, though they do tend to let this last thing move into shape-less. And colour tends to show up in rather alarming novelty hose --  a look best left to tweens or starving models who have reedy limbs and youth on their side. The thing about writing, reading or even editing is it often involves a lot of snacking. And this results in more red, or lavender, or yellow than these legs can elegantly handle. Top this off with an equally "novelty" oriented shoe and you've got yourself something too startling for good style.

The "it" bag? A backpack. Yes. I saw many. Too many. These are ok if you're going to the gym and I can assure you no one in this gang was heading there. And there were too many overstuffed mommy-bags. We don't need to carry our lives with us everywhere ladies, and certainly not to awards ceremonies. You don't see Cate Blanchett humping one of this filled with the ziplock baggie of Cheerios, bottle of water and umbrella in it as she makes her way down the red carpet now, do you?

The formal attire for the struggling male author? It's a version of the successful author's. A sweatshirt with a random logo on it. Usually in a colour more commonly found in a forest -- lichen grey, muddy brown, dull green.

Now, I'm loving being back close to the book business and find the stories and the ideas that make up books wonderfully inspiring. But the inspiration ends with a thud -- we do live in a visual age and wouldn't it be great if the same care and attention went into the appearance as well as the substance. That would be powerful. That would be blockbuster.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My bat Tub

When you tell people you have a bat in your bathroom, reactions vary but the range can be summed up by two endpoints: "ew" and "cool!"

Far more fall into the first category. I've heard "is it rabid?", "be careful, it's rabid", "don't let it bite you it's probably rabid"; "I hope it doesn't have babies" (yes, babies - I heard "rabies" the first time, too), "bats are vermin and carry disease" and "did you kill it? or "how did you get rid of it?".

The bat, which at a friend's suggestion I called Tub, actually resided between the screen and the barely opened window over the bathtub, not actually in the room itself. I thought for several days it was a leaf, or a leaf and stick arrangement of some sort, my eyes aren't so good these days and in fact I've often shouted at my dog for impolite behaviour only to later realize it was just a curled up dead leaf. So in the early going, Tub was just a dead leaf to me.

But then Tub was on the move, sort of stretching across the screen, showing off her amazing wings and thus came into being in my life.

My great friend who named her is an artist and artists see the world way differently than the rest of us do so her first impulse had nothing to do with my health and safety but rather "what does a bat mean? Let me find out, animals are spirits." Tub might carry a spirit, not rabies - a consoling thought.

Turns when a bat visits it is entirely good news. It has everything to do with rebirth, letting go of the past, chucking out habits that no longer serve a purpose. A bat, night creature and mysterious as it may be, is actually a harbinger of change, a move from darkness to light.

What a wonderful message, especially after two plus years of hard road and a recent really stony- straight up-steep-with-a-switchback bit. What better time to be visited by a sweet little brown bat?

I met another shaman too, right after Tub arrived, who also predicted positive change. I'm now off to Feng shui the place, and she was so right when she said "if you tell me the messiest places in your home I can tell you the biggest issue you're facing." She also suggested putting a plant in the bathroom to offset the water (some Feng shui principle, I don't know) and while there isn't enough light for a plant to survive, Tub stands in as a living thing offering positive energy.

Except Tub went out for dinner the other night and hasn't returned. I'm kind of bereft and in saying that I realize how bonkers that sounds. Still. I miss the little mouse-with-wings.

That said, she did good work while she was around. I hope wherever she is it's as cozy and friendly as the place she left.

Be well Tub, safe travels.