ellenkushner: (Default)

'Cole was still full of the diet question.  He now lives chiefly on rhubarb tops--they have such a "foody" taste, his son thinks.  "Dear me! Poor fellow!" Whistler told him, "it sounds as if once long, long ago he had really eaten, and still has a dim memory of what food is!"  "And spinach," Cole added, "it's fine. We eat it raw.  It's wonderful, the things it does for you!" "But what does it do for you?" Whistler asked.  And Cole began a dissertation on the juices of the stomach. . . . . As he talked Cole was eating meat and drinking wine quite heartily.  The evening was not over successful.'

-- Diary entry, June 10, 1900, of Elizabeth & Joseph Pennell
ETA:   ALSO  posted this   on my Tumblr, if you are that way inclined, for easy   Reblogging

* * *

Packing for our drive down to Hollins University to teach for 6 weeks.  Great program: summer MFA/MA in Children's Lit!  Can't wait to get there - and cannot beliiiiiiieve how disruptive it's been to plan & pack for our absence.  We are just like that.  Probably has something to do with the fact that we live in state of constant chaos, so trying to live our regular lives and trying to get everything under control that we failed to do in the past 6 months while trying to anticipate anything we might wish we had done here or hope to get done there is a bit . . . . deep breath . . . . much.

Nonetheless, we will be in a car tonight.  I go to La Guardia to pick up the rental, which I absolutely hate doing, but I hate paying an extra $200 or so just for the chance to pick it 2 blocks from my house even more. (See?  New York isn't all Fun & Subways!) We will then pack it up, drive for a couple of hours, and then hit a roadside hotel.  This is because we are incapable of getting out of the house on a road trip before 3 or so. We've tried. It's hilarious.  And then we hit rush hour traffic, and are very demoralized.  So since we're both Night people, we thought Why not just give in?  And we wake up the next morning in a dingy hotel we can't wait to get out of, and are on the road right away!

Wish us luck.

The only thing I can't figure out is how to do Priceline when you don't really know where you'll be stopping.  Even with iPhones, it seems the 21st century penalizes for some kinds of spontaneity.

ellenkushner: (*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes)
The scene: A Florida beach, where Delia, Brother & I are discussing where the Family should eat tonight

Brother: When you make a choice for a group, you can't worry; you just say, "Fuck'em if they don't like it!"
Me: Yes! Yes! I have this theory, "Some people just lack the "Fuck it!" gene! Though me . . . I mostly have it, but sometimes I don't.
Brother: May I be permitted to say that you have it, ah, unevenly apportioned?
ellenkushner: (Default)
In family condo in Florida (Sanibel Island). Dad on the phone with local computer tech help that is clearly of the irritating variety. When he gets off, I express my sympathy. He seizes a teaching moment:

Q1: How many people are below average?

A1: One half.

Q2: How many are made in God's image?

A2: O.....K.....

I think it is only fair to add that he comes up with this stuff because, like me, he is a natural snarkmeister - but has been fighting it all his life, with a little more success than I - maybe having kids makes you want to set a good example? Or maybe I need 25 more years, and a few more good koans.....
ellenkushner: (NYC: RSD)
Tonight, my cousins Paul & Debra Saltzman Hill came up from lower Manhattan, where they've been living without power since the storm; Paul, an architect, has been organizing their building to make sure everyone has water and support - including getting people to carry water up to folks on the 12th floor (no elevators!), checking on the elderly, etc.  Because of this, it's one of the few buildings in their neighborhood that didn't need to evacuate just because of no power.

Here on the Upper West Side, they got hot running water and connectivity, and sent out a note to friends letting them know how they were. I was particularly struck by this, in Paul's note:

"As you can see, we have a 
lot of problems. That is a good thing. A few years ago, our rabbi told a story (...) that ends with the moral that only people who are doing pretty well can afford to have lots of problems. Someone who has a serious problem, like their apartment being flooded to four feet by the East River or someone whose neighborhood was burned to the ground can afford only one problem, like no home. We are fortunate to have so many problems."

* * * 

We also went out to dinner with them at our favorite local Turkish restaurant.  Our neighborhood is close to utterly normal - just some gaps in the stores where the owners/workers couldn't get here from other boroughs (or NJ!).  Our mailman said it took him 3 1/2 hours to drive in from NJ yesterday, since he couldn't use a lot of the roads.  Our doorman got up at 4:30 to come from Queens, so he wouldn't have to worry about the mayor's rule that from 6am - 11pm no car without 2 passengers could cross a bridge into Manhattan.

Some of our subways are already back up & running!  Including the one from our place to Times Square - so we are going tomorrow night to see a new production of Beaumarchais' Figaro off-Broadway.

I tell you this not to boast or to minimize what's happening, but in the spirit of "Things the Media Won't Tell You:"  the News is all horror stories & images, which have frightened & worried many; I think you need to know that not everyone in NYC is in the dark.

My cousin did say, however, before she left (on the bus, which is free through tomorrow, and runs pretty much from our door to hers 80 blocks away) that we could have no idea what pure joy it was to be able to simply flush a toilet.


We were supposed to leave for WFC in Toronto today, but we canceled rather than face the possible difficulties of travel from here.  And, to be honest, I felt I wanted to be with my city while this was going on; to see my cousins & make sure they had hot showers; to help Lizza Aiken get to the airport on Saturday; and possibly to take in more friends from downtown who had to flee their apartment when it lost power, because no one can live on the 21st floor without an elevator or running water for long!

They're saying power may be back by Saturday, though.  Considering the miracles city workers have accomplished so far, I wouldn't be surprised.  And I will be proud of them all.

ellenkushner: (Bryn Mawr: Writing)
'It was Thomas Edison, I think, who famously said, after failing for the hundredth time to invent a working light bulb: “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found a hundred ways not to do it.” That is a really good principle for artists.'
-- Howard Gayton,
in his interview with Brian Froud & Wendy Froud on collaboration, Part 2,
read the entire wonderful interview here
ellenkushner: (*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes)
“There is luxury in self-reproach.
When we blame ourselves,
we feel no one else has a right to blame us.” 

 — Oscar Wilde
Ah, Oscar!  Right on the money, as always.  

I do get so cross at some peoples' pre-emptive apologetic strikes, and have been wondering why that sort of apology bothers me so much . . . . I think it is their assumption (however unspoken or unconscious) that I am blaming (and by extension, attacking) them; makes me feel unjustly accused, and somewhat inclined to snap rather than soothe, unless I know them very well.

I must strive to be a Better Person.  And I do. 

But I don't suppose you self-reproachers would consider making it easier on some of us?

Never apologize; never explain!

You'd be surprised.


Feb. 19th, 2012 04:51 pm
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
‎"Stories are always really, really hard. I think it's totally rational for a writer, no matter how much experience he has, to go right down in confidence to almost zero when you sit down to write something. Wy not? Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you."
-- John McPhee: 
The Art of Nonfiction No. 3
The Paris Review
Spring 2010


Feb. 3rd, 2012 10:19 am
ellenkushner: ("Suonare")
"I do not want actors and actresses to understand my plays.  This is not necessary.  If they will only pronounce the correct sounds, I can guarantee the results."
-- George Bernard Shaw

I'm not sure I agree with that - hell, I'm not even sure GBS did - but I sure love the line.  Gearing up for more "illuminated" audiobooks, control freak that I am, I wonder if I should back off the actors some . . . . Nah. GBS never did.  He was a complete pain in the ass at rehearsals.

I read a lot of GBS when I was a kid - over and over and over and over . . . . I had Pygmalion, St Joan, and Androcles and the Lion. I made my best friend in HS come over after school and read the best scenes in Joan aloud with me (guess who was Joan?) - and I honestly read the Introductions over and over, too. The resemblance of the end of Swordspoint to that of Pygmalion is not an accident -- or rather, it is an accident: I only realized some time after the book was finished just what it was I'd done.  

As influences go, I can think of worse.
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
Nipped over to see if [livejournal.com profile] handworn was still in the game so I can ask him about rugs,* to discover that he has been posting extremely fine quotes almost every day for awhile, among them this from Evelyn Waugh:

"Anyone could write a novel given six weeks, pen, paper and no telephone or wife."

Clearly, Mr. Waugh meant to type "and the internet" but got distracted.

Suggest you head on over to [livejournal.com profile] handworn, then, and don't miss the brilliant obituary apparently written by a lamentably lost friend of his herself.  It is long and hilarious and bittersweet.  A sample:

"She then moved to New York City and pretended to pursue a career in theater. When it became apparent that she was too lazy for a theatre career, she turned her attention to other opportunities . . . .  During those years, Miss McGarr's personal life was more interesting than her professional life. She visited her family in Alabama frequently, but good taste prevented her from disclosing most of what was going on...

"Quitting was an activity she had come to love and would enjoy for the rest of her life."

Today we meet with my agent to discuss more audiobooks.  Tomorrow we take my old Klezmer Nutcracker director & her teenage foster daughter & friend to the Big Apple Circus.  Yesterday we took my Israeli publisher to see Porgy & Bess (which [livejournal.com profile] deliasherman has either just reviewed or is about to), starting with dinner w/a young Israeli writer living in NYC whom I wanted him to meet - and they had plenty of time to chat while I was still at home desperately trying to find my wallet, which in a fit of cleanup I somehow left on Delia's desk (that's a new one!) - and then took his 80-yr-old traveling fool of a mother & his sister for drinks at B'way hangout Joe Allen's, to see the Wall of Shame (posters of shows that flopped big) - and the day before that we saw 2 movies & found a Chinese restaurant on E. B'way that was not already full or hosting a wedding party . . . .

On Saturday, we fly to Florida. Never have I looked forward to tedium, family & sunshine with more enthusiasm.  Meanwhile, if I owe you a contract or a bio or a proofread or a interview (*coffcoff* BrittMandeloErinUnderwoodNancyHoldringJoSelleVanderhooft *coffcoff*) I swear it will be done!!!!  And if I owe you a holiday card . . . Well, we're working on it. Truly.

*Rugs: A few years ago when I was whinging about it all - these being the very rugs we ended up putting in storage that we just disovered got all chewed by moths (see my previous post) - he turned out to have a vast knowledge of antique ruggery, and wrote me some useful and informative comments which I fear I'll never find again.

Also, many thanks to all for the moth advice, particularly the generous [livejournal.com profile] engarian . 
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
Absolutely wonderful piece on the author of "Downton Abbey" (& screenplays of "Gosford Park," Vanity Fair," "Young Victoria' - which we recently saw & were suprisingly impressed by; now I know why - "Emma," etc.), Julian Fellowes, in this Sunday's NYTimes Magazine.  Everything he says sounds right to me - I particularly loved this, though:

"I don't believe that most people wake up and think, How can I be horible today.  In their brain it is a legitimate response to the bad treatment they have received or some bad situation they perceive.  It's rather like when you're an actor, it's always a mistake to play the audience's opinion of your character.  If you're horrible, let them decide without you."

* * * 

Thanks for all the useful casting suggestions for the Swordspoint audiobook!  We're hot on the trail; I'll let you know how it goes.  My producer dryly told me that we could not afford ALL the people I suggested for the plum roles - but I said it was simply my Wish List, and we'd just have to pick them off one by one.

(Of course, my big fantasy is that [YOUR SUPERSTAR'S NAME HERE] is approached, and says, "Swordspoint?!  Omg, I love that book! Of course I'll do it for union scale!"

Shut up.  It could happen.)

I did my first 3 chapters in the studio today.  It went well, I think - but now I'm really wondering how long it's going to take to get up to speed and record all XXVIII of them!  I hope some are quite short.  I hope I don't have to do too many pickups.  I hope that "one more for safey" doesn't mean I'm essentially recording the same book twice!

I hope you'll be pleased.

ellenkushner: (FurCoat)
"So when a book is about a girl who is the best at something and about the boys (and/or girls) that love her and how she defeats the bad guy, well, that's because she's the protagonist. It is good and right that she be at the center of the story."

My love for Holly Black / [livejournal.com profile] blackholly  ,  it knows no bounds.
ellenkushner: (Madame J. (closeup))
I just referenced a quote on Twitter ("I think I just figured out how to write one of the novels I've been ruminating (like a cow in the contiguous shade, yeah).") and nobody picked up on it.  So I looked it up.  It's from James Thomson's 1726 poem, "Winter, A Poem."  

No, me, neither.

Here's the relevant (to some degree of "relevant") passage:

FOR, see! where Winter comes, himself, confest,
Striding the gloomy Blast. First Rains obscure
Drive thro' the mingling Skies, with Tempest foul;
Beat on the Mountain's Brow, and shake the Woods, [115]
That, sounding, wave below. The dreary Plain
Lies overwhelm'd, and lost. The bellying Clouds
Combine, and deepening into Night, shut up
The Day's fair Face. The Wanderers of Heaven,
Each to his Home, retire; save those that love [120]
To take their Pastime in the troubled Air,
And, skimming, flutter round the dimply Flood.
The Cattle, from th'untasted Fields, return,
And ask, with Meaning low, their wonted Stalls;
Or ruminate in the contiguous Shade:

Delia frequently refers to cows "ruminating in the contiguous shade," so I thought it was something well-known.  OK, she does have a PhD - but it's in Renaissance Studies!  I shall have to ask her about this when i get home (to some degree of "home" - headed back to Roanoke on Weds., to rejoin her at Hollins - but home is where the heart is).
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
"In the losing battle that the plot fights with the characters, it often takes a cowardly revenge. Nearly all novels are feeble at the end. This is because the plot requires to be wound up."
-- E. M. Forster
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin.... "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn." -- T. H. White, The Once and Future King
ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
Need a little bitter comic relief?

Howbout No Fear Shakespeare's online "translation" of Twelfth Night?

Yes, it's all so much clearer now, when lines like:
What country, friends, is this?
What country is this, friends?

For saying so, there's gold.
so clearly explicated as
Thank you for saying that—here's some money to express my gratitude.

Though my very favorite has to be:
It is perchance that you yourself were saved.
O, my poor brother! And so perchance may he be.

It was a total fluke that you yourself were saved.
Oh, my poor brother! But maybe by some fluke he was saved too.

One can only hope.
ellenkushner: (or What You Will)
Since I couldn't get the insert to play on my response to [livejournal.com profile] rosenhaus' comment in my last post, I'll print it up here:

On the Media
Find Out What It Means To Me
January 16, 2009
President Bush bid his final farewell to the White House press corps on Tuesday. “Through it all,” he told reporters gathered in the briefing room, “I have respected you.” Really? Let’s look at the record.

ellenkushner: (Default)
"Confucius said:

The best time to plant a tree is ten years ago: the second best time is now."

-- Kelley Eskridge, in her A Leader's Manifesto to her initiative Humans at Work

"Have you ever noticed how a temporary setback and utter failure appear identical at the time?"

-- Frederick, my Feldenkrais instructor. (Here is a video of my actual class! Though I'm not sure I was there that day.)
ellenkushner: (Default)
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

We did our final show today. Our final two shows, really - 11 & 1. The 1pm show was so sold out that not only were kids sitting on laps, they were sitting in the aisle, where Solomon, Sheba & I, who all made entrances down it, did our best not to step on them.

I knew it was going to be hard to say good-bye to the cast, the crew, and the whole experience. And it was. As soon as the audience had gone, we actually broke down the entire set, taking down lights & curtains & the big painted backdrop; putting away costumes & props, . . . and I stayed to the bitter end, when nothing was left, and the people who'd been patiently waiting - lighting & set plots in hand - to start setting up the next show ("The Princess of Riverside Drive" - I kid you not!) were told, "We're done. It's all yours!"

In a way, I needed to be there to hear that.

I really hadn't wanted to take my silly big grey cloak off, either. And when I did, I insisted that Delia stand by to receive it, while I recited what I could remember of Prospero's speech from Tempest (above) - not much, unfortunately; I wish I'd written it down beforehand! but of course, I hadn't even thought of it til then - and although she said, "You're a nut," she patiently listened, and folded the cloak, and took it away I know not where.

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own....

And so, farewell. A new year dawns for us all.
ellenkushner: (Latvian THOMAS)
Art is central to all our lives, not just the better-off and educated. . . I know that from my own story, and from the evidence of every child ever born — they all want to hear and to tell stories, to sing, to make music, to act out little dramas, to paint pictures, to make sculptures.

This is born in and we breed it out.

And then, when we have bred it out, we say that art is elitist, and at the same time we either fetishize art — the high prices, the jargon, the inaccessibility — or we ignore it.

The truth is, artist or not, we are all born on the creative continuum, and that is a heritage and a birthright of all of our lives.

-- Jeanette Winterson (author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit), from an essay quoted in NYTimes Sunday Book Review, 12/19/08 (line spacing mine)
ellenkushner: (Madame J.)
In what was probably a case of youthful show-offiness, 19c poet Robert Browning wrote a nearly impenetrable poem called Sordello, which made even Tennyson feel stupid when he read it. Some years later, the story goes, someone asked him to explain a particularly obscure passage - and Browning replied:

'When it was written, God and Robert Browning knew what it meant; now only God knows.'*

I have been driven lately to quote that line more than once, as my French & Finnish translators ask me whether that capital letter in Swordspoint or strange locution in Thomas the Rhymer was intentional, or just an uncaught typo.

Hey. I wrote those books a long time ago.

*If you're sure you've heard it before, it was used in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, a delicious 1931 play by Rudolph Besier which was made into a movie in 1934 (and deliciously spoofed by Emma Thompson & Stephen Fry.

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