Friday, June 8, 2012

wisdom and plastic bags

Our mayor. How is it possible for a man to have spent so many years in the public eye and still be so very limited and dumb? The plastic bag hooha is unbelievable. I remember my British grandmother setting out for the shops; as she left the flat, automatically over her arm went the sturdy market basket, into which went all her purchases. For bigger shops, she towed her shopping cart. The bag whiners need a British grandmother and a reality check.

On the other hand, the blogger whined ... what will we do with our wet waste? And the kitty litter? This evening I opened my compost bucket, lined, as always, with a plastic bag, and there inside were strange items - three tiny diapers. Oh yes. I'm a grandmother now, and a very small person was visiting today, a person whose bowels make more noise than a gassy grown-up's. Explosive. Ear-splitting. He eats with great gusto; Anna made a tape of the noises he makes when breastfeeding - smacking, grunting, mmmmmmm - and it is now her ringtone. He poos with gusto, too. He will be a happy man.

So mother and baby doing really well, and great-grandmother in Ottawa also. And the roses and vegetables. And the foot is getting better, though the puffy dark grey part under the ankle bone is a bit off-putting. I can limp, but I cannot run. Isn't that a song?

Went the other night to the Word Sisters, a gathering of women who freelance in the word business - editors, agents, publicists, publishers and a lone writer - a fascinating and accomplished group of women, sitting in a sophisticated downtown apartment with raw concrete walls and floor and an array of good food. A delicious evening of talking and munching - I could have taped our eating noises and turned them into MY ringtone, if I knew how to do such a thing. As always, there was much talk about the survival of the old-fashioned book business in this electronic age. But there we all were, having survived. So far.

Just read a library book called "Courage and Craft: Turning your life into story," by Barbara Abercrombie, looking, as always, for new ideas on teaching the writing of memoir (and the writing of it, too). It's a charming little book, containing nothing I didn't know already. Here's a good bit:

What keeps memoir from being a long, slow gaze at your own belly button is that the experience is crafted by language and structure, and you came out on the other side. You didn't stay stuck in that period of your life; you moved on - either literally or figuratively, in your head and heart or in concrete ways. You learned something in your experience that the reader can connect to. As Vivian Gornick says, it's the movement toward wisdom that counts. 

The memoir, more than any other form of writing, takes a difficult personal experience and shapes it into some kind of meaning. All forms of creative writing do this to some extent, of course, but fiction and poetry wear more veils and masks then the memoir. The memoir is your experience, your truth, pretty much naked. 

The best memoir reads like a good story - the author's experience shaped into dramatic form that creates a powerful experience for the reader. We read to figure out how to live our own lives. Or how to deal with them or find humor. We read to know, as C. S. Lewis said, that we're not alone.

Love the line "It's the movement toward wisdom that counts."

Our mayor does not move toward wisdom. He moves toward doughnuts.


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