This is a very serious blog.

Month: November, 2013


-Day 4-

Over the weekend, I lamented over the trials and tribulations of writing fiction with a friend (who is bravely embarking on her own November writing quest). We commiserated that we found it extremely challenging to suppress the inevitability of our personal experiences and meta-narratives from nosing their ways into whatever we were writing. While I agonized over trying to write today’s post, I stumbled upon this other excerpt from another one of Franzen’s essays, Pain won’t kill you:

“If you’re moved to try to return the gift that other people’s fiction represents for you, you eventually can’t ignore what’s fraudulent or secondhand in your own pages. These pages are a mirror too, and if you really love fiction you’ll find that the only pages worth keeping are the ones that reflect you as you really are.”


Write on.



Post-morning swim – June 2013, Campbell Bay, Mayne Island

(it’s much quieter than it sounds)


Farther Away from Jonathan Franzen (part 1)

– Day 3 –

2013-10-19 11.21.28 The view from Arthur’s Seat, October, 2013

As a few of you might already know, I’ve just gotten back from a whirlwind trip to UK. As I nursed this coffee and rubbed my bleary eyes this morning at the respectably normal hour of 8:32, I accepted with satisfaction that I am officially (more or less) completely over jet lag, and committed to rejoining Life as I Know it.

Saying I “visited the UK” feels a bit misleading. Actually, saying that I had been visiting anywhere at all feels a bit strange. We have been slammed in work all summer, set back after set back taking us down a myriad of foundational roads we had perhaps naively assumed would have already been constructed prior to our arrival. That old “There’s a hole in my bucket” song comes to mind as I write this (maybe compounded with Beethoven’s ninth?). Compounded with huge changes in my personal life, two moves, a bike accident and arguably the most colds I’ve had in my life (that’s what working in a hospital will get you!): it’s been a crazy year.

I feel as though I’ve had to shelve a lot of my personal thoughts to keep things together and stay focused. I’ve thrown myself into work with a vengeance and spent as much of the balance as I can outside, bike riding or swimming to take my mind off things (water heals all wounds). As we passed in our final draft report two weeks ago, I decided to ask for the Friday off to recuperate. I realized a few hours later that I needed more than a long weekend, and the next day (thanks to my incredible boss) I was able to take the following week off instead – and four days later I was in Scotland.


Reading Farther Away, August, 2013

Staring at my bookshelf this morning (I spend a lot of time staring at my bookshelf), I realized that I had just experience what Franzen was trying to achieve during his terrifically farther, more exotic trip. The title essay of Jonathan Franzen’s most recently published collection of non-fiction essays, Farther Away, is just over 40 pages long (originally published here in the New Yorker, in April, 2011). I have an uncomfortable relationship with Franzen, he’s the kind of author that gets under your skin, challenges you and makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. I’ve read both Freedom and The Corrections and loved them most for the discussions I was able to have afterwards. The bright blue hardcover dust jacket is simple, the only diagram instructions for folding  piece of paper into a boat, and the essays span from personal reflection, to activist essays on the plight of endangered birds and the panda.

In Farther Away, Franzen takes a similarly prompted whirlwind trip to Mas À Fuera, a remote, tiny island (44 km sq) located about 750km off the coast of Chile. It’s name literally means “farthest away;” the closest island is Robinson Crusoe’s Island, where the true story inspiration behind the shipwrecked survivor tale actually took place. Franzen sets the stage by describing his ridiculous trek to reach this far flung land and the abysmal weather and challenges he faced to achieve total isolation and a break from his own personal life. Effectively, this was a big part of what I wanted to do by going on my own trip. I needed to physically assert the distance I’ve been feeling with my current life, and to emotionally, professionally and psychologically completely unplug: to quite literally weather the storm. Unlike Franzen, I couldn’t commission a boat to take me 750km off the coast of Latin America, I was also physically exhausted and low on survival gear.

I needed to go somewhere where people would speak English, where my credit cards would work and where I would feel safe, but also a place where I could be afforded the luxury of knowing someone well enough I could be silent with them. Someone once told me that Rilke wrote a lover’s most important duty to another is to defend their solitude. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend in Scotland who would host me. There was no need for being “out there,” every day, being challenged by strangers and having my loneliness invaded. By being with someone with whom I could say anything, I was able instead to say nothing at all. I spent at least five hours outside everyday just walking. Sometimes I would listen to music, but more often than not I would just walk. There was physical distance and a mental grappling that needed time and physical space, wide open spaces, to process everything that has been going on over the past year. I didn’t even need to consciously think about it, I just needed to give it time to percolate. To have one other person there, a singular familiar lens with whom you can look back and reflect on your life, provide updates to, this is also helpful on crafting your own perspective. These self-made stories we tell to our old friends are effectively the tenuous threads that string our lives together through time. Franzen captured the need for these communiqués through his relationship with David Foster Wallace:

The curious thing about David’s fiction, though, is how recognized and comforted how loved, his most devoted readers feel when reading it. To the extent each of us is stranded on his or her own existential island…we gratefully seized in each new dispatch from that farthest away island which was David…fiction is a solution, the best solution, to the problem of existential solitude.

Edinburgh was the opportunity  to provide my own dispatches and updates to and from my life from a distance, to be forced to reflect back and articulate about my own island, to physically manifest this solitude and journey through seven leagues of darkness to daylight.

Please note, for readability posts this month are capped at 1000 words.

Continued tomorrow.

 Edinburgh, October, 2013

2013-10-19 11.21.05


Obligatory “So what is NaBloPoMo about?” post

– Day 2 –

Greetings friends!

I’ve taken a long, extended hiatus from blogging. I took full-time work last December (yipee!) and traveled through a gambit of return of Saturn flux over the past six months. Normally I like to reserve this blog as a place to review books and keep me on track with critical reading and reflecting, as well as a place to stretch out my writing wiles and traumatize you all with creative writing exercises. Over the past eight or nine months, all of this has fallen by the wayside, in favour of policy writing, bike rides, terrible house moves and written correspondence: but I miss it so!

And so I’m back.

What is NaBloPoMo you ask? To quickly recap the myriad of eloquent descriptions out there, it is a month where bloggers unite across cyberspace and commit to blogging every single day for an entire month. It’s kind of like training wheels for NaNoWriMo, where you crank out an entire novel.

Wow, you’re probably thinking to yourself, that’s a heck of alot of time.  And it is!!! It is way way too much time! Last year I ended up writing for 2-3 hours every day as I tried to continue hashing out book reviews for the first few weeks and then surrendered to defeat. I also was initiated into very rad little community of bloggers that I’m hoping to reconnect with! This year, I’m committing to do it the full month, just to see what happens. I read one of the posts from yesterday from Sabrina Lovejoy (The Devil Made Me Do it) . She ended the post with “everytime I’ve participated (in NaBloPoMo) in the past, I loved the me it produced. Discipline begets more discipline.”

I have no idea what will happen this time around. I have a stockpile of 8 months of undisseminated books kicking around (Vagina, The Marriage Plot, The Invisible Man, Ken Kesey), a few unpublished/unedited entries and a reserve of traumatized photos of Griz, so at the very least, you can look forward to those (ha!). I promise from here on in the only posts I sync to Facebook will continue to be actual book reviews (hopefully I will get a few more out this month!), but feel free to come back here if you want to check in on how it’s going. It’s Mercury Retrograde after all… And please continue to harass me! I can’t tell you how much of an incentive it is to have other people holding me accountable 🙂 Or better yet, join us! I’m linking up with Yeah Write again this year for motivation and inspiration. Wish us luck!

See you guys tomorrow.

~kImageDarling Griz, June, 2013


NaBloPoMo Nautical November


2:27 am

Glasgow airport.

Every 15 minutes a public announcement comes on to let us know where we can purchase designer bras. It’s mildly annoying and extremely irritating for all those trying to sleep. I’ve installed myself on the last confirmed unoccupied bench in the whole airport (the parts that are open at the moment anyway). We are actually to fly out of T2, which is locked at the moment. The airport is silent. Filled with people waiting. People sleeping. People staring vapidly, desperately, purposefully into space. And construction. Doubtlessly part of why this bench has remained unoccupied is due to the vibrant, surrealist, bright light located directly above my head. This is the only such light that has been left on in the airport, most of the other banks of benches have softer square ones, letting people seep gently into grocery-store-like sedation, but mine drenches the whole area making it feel a bit like a movie set.

I’ve plugged in my noise canceling headphones, mainly to avoid having to talk to other people. My way of putting up walls. There is no music playing. It’s quiet. I ate the pastry I packed already, but I can’t imagine dipping into the the small loaf of bread, cheese or apples I am bringing as rations for the plan. My belly is filled with wine and beer and scotch and it isn’t happy with me. I am glad to be in the waiting phase though. It takes the edge off. I’m still a nervous flyer.


 *                        *                        *

November is my hardest month.

Not cruel April, or muddy March. But November, the dreary culmination of the death drenched fall. The end of the most colourful, crispy and crystalline time. Eleven days earlier I had booked a ticket to Scotland, flown three days later, and now, already I was turned around to trek back. Mercury has retreated into retrograde, my week of reflection and wandering complete, I was ready to regroup and return to the land of the living. But this is the last part of the trip, and perhaps the most important part. Being a quiet island in public space. With all my amenities, I am my own little sailboat, removed and detached in the diplomatic ocean of airports, traceless and free. Being observed and invisible, alone. Suspended in transport, in the ether that is so familiar and calm. Suspended. A moment of weightlessness stolen from the edges of parabolic flight in the seconds before our lives change direction. Free fall. Liberation. Whenever I’m here I always think about the Heart of Gold in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when they bend space in half to make a leap and create a portal to slip through. Airports are like that. Bringing together bits of earth, skipping all that tedious travel, unbound from the chronological passage of physical geographic, replaced instead by the simple screen of sky.

This is also what I came here for.


11:13 pm.

The rain is rolling down Cook street in thick rapid rivers. The skies are stained sepia from the streetlights and streaks of sordid rain. During this quarter of the year, released from normal circadian strata, we are hatched into the night. Suddenly there is a safety in the evenings. Sixteen hours of darkness expand to fill the balance of the business day. Taking back the darkness, our coats grow long and thick and slick with rain, our eyes grow dark and wide and we reclaim ourselves as creatures of no light. Traffic transformed into some strange shape, a school of underwater sea creatures, shapeless headlights a moving flock of stars. Tendrils of tenuous traffic lights and beacons beaming from buildings form a curious coral reef of relief through which we slip and slither through the smudged, soaking air.

If we can embrace this change, it will be a good November.


I’m back! So stoked to be blogging with YeahWrite for November as a lifeline to get through this crazy month!

Check it out over at YeahWrite.me!