WIP “Oceans” Part 2

The world up there was dying, and had been dying a long time. The air was dark and had a gritty taste; the soil reeked of chemicals. The winds blew unhampered over land that had been bare of forests for a long time.

The sphere creaked slowly into the ocean.

***************

A family that’s one of the last hold-outs on the surface finally makes the decision to undertake the descent into the ocean. They don’t know what they’ll find, and the father is sort of inept (Not everyone in the dystopian future is smart!). He builds a sphere. The family does test runs, immersing the sphere for incrementally longer periods in the ocean. The mother gets attacks of claustrophobia and hysteria. Will the family survive?

Worse is their fear of the unknown. The Bottom Dwelling Humans have evolved and have very little in common with the Surface Dwellers. The Bottom Dwellers have evolved fish-like gills. Their rarely used vocal chords are withering.

(To be continued)

Battle Is Joined! The Battle Between the King of the Bulgarians and the King of the Abarians

Last night, self finished finished The Death of Ivan Ilyich and it was quite a letdown.

First of all, the hero dies.

Duh!

It’s right there in the title, self!

Since the book she read just prior was Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War, she is by now inured to all narratives on deaths and/or dying.

What self objected to was the reading of an entire Tolstoy story and finding herself not moved. Not in the slightest. And furthermore Tolstoy resorts to

SPOILER ALERT!!!

a very time-worn device: the moral redemption of the hero, introducing a startling revelation an hour before his death. Which in no way made the work more edifying or redemptive and which had self going WHAT?

Ivan Ilyich realizes he should just give his family peace. By dying quietly. And with this realization, the character’s black fear of dying dissipates (Just in time, too, as he’s going to die whether he likes it or not. And, Tolstoy crisply informs us, in an hour)

This was one of the rare book purchases self has made in the last few months, and it was not cheap. But, such is her annoyance at all the eminent critics who pronounced this one of the greatest works of all time, that she’s decided she’ll leave it behind when she flies out of Los Angeles. It will be her small contribution to the intellectual enrichment of whoever picks it up next.

She then began the next book on her reading list, Voltaire’s Candide (Self travels everywhere with at least three books in her suitcase. In case she finds herself out of reach of a decent bookstore. She’s a regular Girl Scout when it comes to being prepared)

This book is the complete opposite of Tolstoy’s. It is flat-out satire. The central character is a robust (and dim-witted) lad named Candide. He is a servant enamored with his employer’s 17-year-old daughter. The employer gets wind of the servant’s amorous intentions and of course does the right thing: he fires Candide.

Then Candide winds up encountering an army and in the worst case of mistaken identity ever, the soldiers force him to run a gauntlet, not once but twice, and finally when Candide’s back is flayed open like a gutted fish, he is pardoned by the King of the Bulgarians. And, what great good timing, the King of the Bulgarians is about to engage in war with the King of the Abarians, at which point Chapter 2 ends and Chapter 3 begins thus:

Nothing could be so beautiful, so smart, so brilliant, so well-drilled as the two armies. Trumpets, fifes, oboes, drums, cannons formed a harmony such as was never heard even in hell. First the cannons felled about six thousand men on each side; then the musketry removed from the best of worlds some nine or ten thousand scoundrels who infected its surface. The bayonet also was the sufficient reason for the death of some thousands of men. The whole might well amount to about thirty thousand souls. Candide, trembling like a philosopher, hid himself as best he could during this heroic butchery.

Well, well, well! Methinks Candide is not as dim-witted as he first appeared!

Stay tuned.

March 30, 2016: Reading List Update

  • The Forever War (by Dexter Filkins): Five Stars
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Tolstoy. Self can’t even. He dies at the end. That’s IT ???
  • Heart of Darkness: Marlowe bores. Who would have thought? Skip.
  • Candide (Voltaire): Currently reading. And enjoying.
  • The Merseault Investigation: Coming Up Next.
  • Deep South: Much heavy lifting. But: Paul Theroux. Must read. Seriously.
  • Watch Me (Anjelica Huston Memoir): Self can’t wait.
  • Grey: follow-up to Fifty Shades. E. L. James. Self read the opening chapter last summer. Can’t get it out of her head. Despite the book getting the most stinging reviews ever on Amazon (Read, in particular, the three-star reviews). Self still remembers seeing the gigantic black-and-white posters of Jamie Dornan’s back on buildings in London’s South Bank, last summer. And Jamie Dornan does indeed have a very nice back. No arguments there. Just saying.

Stay tuned.

WIP: “Oceans”

They’d been preparing for this day for centuries. The day when all remaining humankind must live permanently beneath the ocean waves.

Finally, when it became too painful to breathe the air any longer, the last remaining human colonies began to send pioneers into the deep.

* ****

Why oh why. Are all of self’s writings. So apocalyptic.

She’s always had a deep fascination with oceans, however. Always.

Stay tuned.

 

Ivan Ilyich and the Servants

Dying is not a peaceful process. Ivan Ilyich’s mind is full of anguish and despair. His most meaningful interactions, during the last few days of his life, are with the servants. His wife sleeps in their bedroom. There is a basic incompatibility in this marriage, and after reading Tolstoy’s short story self thinks there is nothing more awful than being sick when one is surrounded by an indifferent family.

About the wife:

“Everything she did for him she did only for herself, and she said to him that she was doing for herself that which she was in fact doing for herself, as if it was such an incredible thing that he woud have to handle it inversely.”

“His daughter comes in to see him, just before she, her mother, and her fiancĂ©e leave for the theatre. She comes “all dressed up . . . Strong, healthy, obviously in love, and indignant at the illness, suffering, and death that interfered with her happiness.”

Ivan Ilyich is afraid to be alone.

The servant, Pyotr, has left him to get some tea.

“Ivan Ilyich, left alone, moaned not so much from pain, terrible though it was, as from anguish.”

Ivan Ilyich wishes that the process of dying could end sooner. But in the next moment:

“No, no. Anything’s better than death!”

How in the world can self get past the death of Ivan Ilyich?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Your Impossible Voice Making Its First Appearance at AWP

Come say hello to Your Impossible Voice Prose Editor Stephen Beachy and Associate Editor Kate Folk: Table # 1661, between Jaded Ibis Press and the University of Montana’s MFA Program.

They’ll be giving away copies of the journal, fielding questions about future issues, and curating an exquisite corpse.

First ever appearance at the AWP Bookfair.

Congratulations! High Fives!

Stay tuned.

The Bureaucrat Ivan Ilyich Learns He Must Die

Ivan Ilyich was a man who derived the greatest pleasure in life from routine: the routine of work, mostly.

He didn’t know he was dying until his colleagues began to have strange expressions on their faces as they interacted with him. Some of them looked shocked, some of them looked pitying.

One day, he closeted himself in his bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror, and could deny it no longer: he did indeed have the look of a man who was suffering from a grave illness. In fact, he was dying.

p. 71 of the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage)

  • Lately Ivan Ilyich had spent most of his time in these attempts to restore the former ways of feeling that had screened him from death. He would say to himself: “I’ll busy myself with work — why, I used to live by it.” And he would go to court, driving away all doubts; he would get into conversation with colleagues and sit down, by old habit absentmindedly, pensively glancing around at the crowd and placing his two emaciated arms on the armrests of the oaken chair, leaning over as usual to a colleague, drawing a brief towards him, exchanging whispers, and then, suddenly raising his eyes and sitting up straight, would pronounce certain words and begin the proceedings. But suddenly in the midst of it the pain in his side, paying no attention to the stage the proceedings, would begin its own gnawing work.

And reading this reminds self all over again about Ying, who died in 2008, less than a year after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

She was worried because one of her maids — the nursemaid of Ying’s newborn daughter, Anita — had a persistent cough. Ying decided to have her tested for tuberculosis. Since her maid was being tested, Ying thought she might as well have herself tested, too. And that’s how they found she had leukemia.

Ying died in Tel Aviv on her 37th birthday. And never ever did self hear a word of complaint from her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Half-Light # 1: Cat Stevens, “Morning Has Broken”

DSCN2461

Early Morning, Lansing Street, Mendocino

The Daily Post Photo Challenge this week is HALF-LIGHT:

  • “See if you can capture the beauty of morning or evening half-light in your corner of the globe.”

To complicate things even more, we’re supposed to include “a favorite poem, verse, story, or song lyric.”

When self thinks of morning, she always thinks of the Cat Stevens song:

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

She found the lyrics on metrolyrics.com

Here’s morning just outside the Mendocino Art Center on Little Lake Street, in February:

DSCN2567

Morning, Little Lake Street, Just Outside the Mendocino Art Center

And here’s another verse of the same song:

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

And finally, a shot of the morning sun through the window of her unit in the Mendocino Art Center:

DSCN2450

Morning Has Broken! Through the Blinds of Self’s Unit in the Mendocino Art Center, January 2016

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Husband Falls Ill, Wife Unsympathetic (THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH)

This is the kind of story where everything is told.

But after reading a paragraph or so, self thinks Tolstoy knows everything in the world, so it is okay for him to tell us readers everything.

The plot, such as it is, goes thus:

A bureacrat feels pain in his stomach, which he realizes a few weeks later seems connected to what he eats. The symptoms manifest at meal time, which means he becomes particularly nasty before a meal. His wife figures this out on her own as well. Tolstoy writes true to RL (Real Life): knowing the cause does not mean that Ilyich tries to correct this behavior, or that the wife is any more sympathetic to him.

His wife finally tells Ilyich see a doctor. The doctor does not tell Ilyich anything, but decides to run more tests:

Praskovya Fyodorovan’s external attitude to her husband’s illness, which she voiced to others and to him, was that Ivan Ilyich was to blame for the illness and that his whole illness was a new unpleasantnes he was causing his wife. Ivan Ilyich felt this came from her involuntarily, but that did not make it easier for him.

And there you have it, self’s first quote from Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Punjab, February 2012

DSCN3709

Driving to The Golden Temple in Amritsar, February 2012

Someday, perhaps, self will actually sit down to write this story.

She was heading to Amritsar with the Colonel, his beautiful wife, and the Tibetan driver. The musical accompaniment, as we crossed from Himachal Pradesh into Punjab, was “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.” Self was trying hard to concentrate.

The reason self was with the colonel was: a few weeks earlier, she’d had a huge fight with her traveling companions and parted ways with them in the small village of Bir.

Self was so angry, she remembered stabbing at some appetizers (Samosas? Pakoras?) on a plate we were all sharing, and the (Samosas? Pakoras?) kept slipping off the tines of her fork. But still she kept jabbing, thinking: I AM GOING TO SPEAR A SAMOSA IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO. And everyone was sort of mesmerized, just watching. And then finally, after a long, long moment, the woman self will only refer to as Dimples spoke up and said: “Are you okay?” Funny she should ask. No, self was most def NOT okay.

That night, self struck off on her own. On her own! In India! In Himachal Pradesh! Where she didn’t know a soul! First time in India! She couldn’t even speak the language!

She decided she’d visit monasteries and only monasteries. Which was good, because then everyone she met along the way simply assumed she was dying of cancer and was on some kind of spiritual quest.

Unbeknownst to her, the travel agent who’d arranged the trip was having a meltdown. Self called her just before she left India, and she screeched into self’s ear over the phone:

“Oh my God! It’s you! You’re alive! WHERE ARE YOU?”

Self told the travel agent: “I’m in Amritsar.”

And the woman kept thanking heaven that self was ALIVE.

(To be continued)

 

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