Monday, July 12, 2010

And Now A Craving for Plums, As Well

I know you think I've been slacking.  Not true.

I wrote a shorty story for Black Magpie Theory.  It should be up this week.  I'll let you know when.  And I've clocked my thousand words per day on the manuscript except I took the weekend off.  I finished reading Simon Tolkien's book The Inheritance.  Here's my review.  I watched an extraordinary amount of television, including ten minutes of the World Cup, but I couldn't decide who I wanted to win and started having hornet sting flashbacks from all those horns so I turned it off again.  From the old Bucket List side of things, MathMan and I finished watching the Inspector Morse series.  Yes, I've included watching British Detective Series on my Bucket List.  Look - when you can't even afford a vacation to Mammoth Cave, a Bucket List screaming "Ride a Gondola through Venice" or "Walk the Great Wall of China Backward" is just wrist-slittingly depressing.  So yes - watching an entire series of shows is attainable enough to keep me going another day.

But back to Inspector Morse.  Oh how I miss that man already.  And yes, I cried when he died and Lewis came to the morgue and kissed him on the forehead and said goodbye.  I also crave broccoli with just a bit of butter.  Are you going to draw some conclusions about my character from that, as well?

Hang on.  You don't deserve that attitude.  Sorry. 

See, what I just did there was projection.  That's when you accuse the other person of doing what you're doing to deflect attention away from the fact that you're doing it.  It's a device heavily employed by cheating spouses and politicians.  And no, those aren't always the same thing.  I've never been a politician.  But still I know from projection.  And I know it when I see it, too.

So I was projecting onto you the fact that I have been drawing all kinds of conclusions about things without even the teensiest possession of fact.  And while that might make me a viable candidate for a t.v. show on some cable station or at least makes for a neato parlor trick, it's ..... what?

Thin air.  Nothing.  Nada.  Rien.

But then, isn't that what writers do? She whines.  We make things up.

Oh dear, Harold.  Now she's calling herself a writer.  Does this mean she's going to start drinking whiskey and claiming she's Hemingway reincarnated?

I could, but I won't.  Not today anyway.

Remember a few weeks ago when I told you that one of my bad habits is searching for meaning in nothing?  Oh, baby, baby.  I have symmetry coming out my pores this morning.  But it started last night.

On Saturday MathMan and I made our weekly trip to the library (Please, as you read this, pronounce the word library the way someone who speaks The Queen's English would pronounce it.  That's what I do.)  I sauntered over to the newish books and picked up for the twenty-seventh time Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist.  I did the page flicking test as I read the first page.  Very agreeable page flicking paper.  Test one is a go.  I sauntered back over to where MathMan was reading a Sara Paretsky* novel and sat down.  I hadn't stopped reading Nicholson's funny, engaging writing.  Not even when I tripped over some toddler crawling around on the floor.  She's going to be fine, by the way.

Fast forward to last night.  Right before bed I'm still reading The Anthologist and I come across some references to Thomas Wyatt's poem They Flee from Me.  Now it's vital to this little scenario that you know and understand that I am not a great reader of poetry. I'm not even a mediocre reader of it.  In fact, sometimes I avoid poetry because it leaves me feeling inadequate.  I know some of the names, but I haven't read the poems much and, although I should be so very ashamed, I am not.  While some of you people were reading poems and getting degrees in English, I was reading and quickly forgetting a mess of French literature and poetry.

For someone who sees symmetry and symbols behind every bookcase and cloud, I simply do not "get" poetry.  I try.  I really do.  But it's beyond my reach mostly.

So anyway - I'm reading and there's this line:

They flee from me that sometime did me seek

And then I read a few more pages and Baker writes about meeting with another local poet who wants to start a reading series in Portsmouth.  I think he means New Hampshire.  Let's not go all crazy with details, okay?

Finally, MathMan finishes his Paretsky book and turns off his lamp.  I take this as a signal that he's ready for sleep and since he's the one with the job and has to be up at 6:30 a.m., I follow suit.  We choose an Inspector Lewis for our evening's entertainment and what do you know?  A little while in and someone is quoting Thomas Wyatt.

They flee from me that sometime did me seek

"Hey! I just read that line in this book!"  I woke MathMan up to impress him with my poetry cred.  He's a real trooper, that one.  When he wakes me up with his mathy eureka moments, I'm not nearly as enthusiastic.  I mean, he opened one eye and gave me a half smile, mumbled something and fell right back to sleep.

I felt like a scholar.  For thirty whole seconds I felt like I could fit in over there in Oxford.  England.

To add credence to my need to find meaning in nothing, when I opened up Firefox this morning, my statcounter was in the saved tabs.  And what do you know?  There was an ISP from Portsmouth, New Hampshire at 8:16 a.m.  "I wonder if it's Baker's poet/housepainter acquaintance Victor?" I asked the cat who had jumped up on my lap for our morning snog.  She just shrugged.  She's the least opinionated of all our cats.

I decided I'd better read the entire Wyatt poem and see if I could make sense of it.  Maybe there I would find out why exactly the universe seemed to be pointing me toward it.  (I know, that's a funny notion for a nonbeliever.)  I googled the poem and clicked the link to  And what?  What?  There's a sidebar ad for the World's Best Cat Litter!  A rebate for the entire amount of one bag!  And I was just talking to Chloe the other day about wanting to try that flushable litter!

"Look, Ivy!  There's the answer!  That's why everything transpired to get me to look up this poem at this very moment!"  I pointed toward the screen flashing the ad.

Ivy gave the ad a passing glance then looked up into my face.  Her green-grey marble eyes looked so sad.  "You seek something from nothing to fill the void, you silly woman.  You attach meaning to the abstract and random because you fear that you will die before you ever truly understand."

"Understand what?" I cried .  "Understand what?"

She just yawned,  her turkey and liver pate breath hitting my nostrils like the snap of a wet towel.  I printed out the rebate while I read aloud the Wyatt poem twice.

*Quote by MathMan, Mathematician, Pedagogue, Philosopher and Book Critic:  "Man, that Sara Paretstky sure can write a melee."


  1. You crack me up, and I adore reading something and then finding another link to it, it amazes me that I am so cool....ha ha ha, get off the floor laughing Lisa!

  2. I have watched all of Lewis. I have not watched any Morse. I am doing my British mystery viewing in a non-linear way. Are you judging me for that? I will happily pay for my projection by giving you some of my broccoli. Thought I should mention that He-weasel and I just started watching Midsummer Mysteries. Before this weekend we had never seen one before. It is lovely to have a whole new British Mystery series to get through.

  3. Sorry to disappoint, but I think the 8:16 visit was mine. And I am far from being a poet.

  4. Oh, Anita. Thank goodness I can make you laugh! And hush up. You ARE cool.

    LBR - No judging here. I'll take your brocolli and make it disapear.

    Adam - Victor!!!!! Oh, okay. Still. I refuse to be disappointed. How does one define a poet? I really don't know.

  5. Ah, tantalization. Two references to the Wyatt poem, and then the trail turns cold (as a TV detective might blandly put it).

    I came here from a snappy comment you posted at Betsy Lerner's blog. I may not return to find out how the cat litter worked out, but seeing whether you return to the Wyatt might bring me back. I promise (knowing you might not believe me) that you'll find no distracting ads if you read the poem at Bonus: there are notes and even a commentary. Second bonus: the commentary uses the adjective "Henrician."

    Well, my work here is done.

  6. John Branch - Yes, it's true. I'm a tease with the poem. But at your suggestion, I did read the commentary. Thank goodness for no distracting ads and words like Henrician.

  7. Vuvuzelas are an obstacle to watching the world cup. They sound too much like Sarah Palin. :-(

    Be careful about waking mathman, lest her revert to the dark side. ;-)

  8. This reminds me of my Mary Wickes day recently. We were talking about her on the way home from work, there was then a mini profile on her on TCM or some such channel that night and then while looking for something on my blog, she popped up in a post. Also, I need cat litter.

  9. ". . . her turkey and liver pate breath hitting my nostrils like the snap of a wet towel." Brilliant!

    Mathman's quote is priceless too. Y'all must be meant to be together.

  10. I am going to the library and I know it will not make an interesting post...only you!

  11. "Oh dear, Harold. Now she's calling herself a writer. Does this mean she's going to start drinking whiskey and claiming she's Hemingway reincarnated?"

    That literally made me laugh out loud!

  12. I spent an interesting 10 minutes on wikipedia just now reading a little about the life of Thomas Wyatt. Yow, he and Henry VII vying for the attentions of Anne Boleyn was quite the revelation, never mind the fact he saw her and her five accused lovers executed while he was serving a sentence in the Tower. See, you never cease to provide education and entertainment.

    I read all of the Morse books but never did see the tv series. Same with Dorothy Sayers; there's just something about my imagination that prefers the indulgence of a cup of tea and reading by the light of my old stained glass lamp that allows me to be there.. that, and a box of Rowntree's Black Magic chocolates :-)

  13. This post was such a pleasure, Lisa. I'd be amazed if you could get a meaning out of that poem for your life. Has Mathman suddenly decided to give you the cold shoulder? Or I suppose anyone or any organization in your life that's suddenly done an about-face on you would technically fit the bill. I mean we are writers -- we can make it fit, as you point out so brilliantly. :D

    By the way, definitely, DEFINITELY call yourself a writer. You are so deserving of the title!

  14. Your cats are so much smarter than mine are!

  15. You suck!

    No wait, I suck! Damn projectioneering.


And then you say....

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