Perfection, LOL

Monday was the last day of the 10-day public holiday in Japan; there are many public holidays crammed in the short period between April 29 and May 5 every year, but with the abdication/crowning I hear the government recommended it be semi-mandatory this year.

I'm terribly annoyed seeing the pageantry in Western-style clothing. Even we Japanese don't get to see the traditional garb often; they are, or are similar to, the court fashion during the time of Tale of Gengi, and probably long before and after. Male hairs and their brides got married in them in the 1990's but who knows what will happen to succession, marriages, or what they'll wear in future.

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We asked Richard to knit Ben a sweater, and it's come up a real winner. I'm supposed to wash/finish/size it, but a) I don't know how to do it properly and must consult Youtube, and b) Ben's been wearing it whenever he's home and not sleeping, so I'll leave it as is for a while. One of the things we wanted from the start was for Richard to pick the buttons, after seeing fo his knit cushion covers and his talent for picking out striking buttons.

Once again, we were bedazzled by his choice. These are locally handmade recycled teak, roughly 23mm in diameter and 6mm thick, and they stand out without fighting the rest of the sweater, let alone steal all the attention. As Rosie pointed out, "they makes the sweater a statement piece." (I think that's what she said; I heard "statement" and my imagination ran away.)

We knew If I chose, I would have gone for the least visible, thinnest, possibly smaller, and something in darker in value, so as to make the knit part stand out. Ben would have done better, but I might have talked him out of it, or we might have compromised with, say, something made of bones or horns, striking but ordinary. I know these choices emanate from one's taste/preference in the first instance, but there's more to achieving a nuanced/sophisticated look, not the simplistic harmony/disappearance I tend to go for. How do I develop this kind of eye?

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Richard's partner is Rosie, the bookbinder, and I talk a lot about making, (although she has been far more prolific than I in recent years, in spite of her many commitments and a far bigger garden.) One of the things she brought up was the precise, (she used another word, four letters, starts with "a" and ends with 'l",) nature of her craft, desirability of perfection, and the attractiveness of imperfection. I was reminded of when I was younger and more ambitious, when I aimed to weave technically perfectly, and we laughed. Pleasingly, or perfectly, imperfect isn't easily achieved, we didn't think, so do how we investigate that? Then we laughed, again. And sighed.

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I've been looking at collages online because I want to up my game. Early Surrealists did some nicely understated stuff, and there is always Nick Bantock for visual joyride. I've always imagined good drawing skills would help to make beautiful collages, but I'm not making efforts to improve my drawing, so I'm looking at composition, proportion and reduced color palette. The problem is, I'm too in awe of work I like to be able to study them, and too many different styles at that, among them many, many simpler, not-layered look. I can't decide if that's what I want.
Told'ya I'm not making an effort. These weree great fun, though; I'm making myself a tiny bunting of Bardies next.


On Memoirs, Synchronicity Overload, Meaning of Labels, and Re-collecting

I wrote this Wednesday morning, so the radio thing happened on Tuesday. I sat on it because I felt there was too much depression talk when I wasn't depressed, and glad I did. That's almost all out.

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I check who is interviewed on Fresh Air every morning and yesterday it was another memoir writer. Too much synchronicity get cloying, and I had never heard of David or Erin Carr, but it appeared promising so I listened to Erin first, then David's 2008 interview about his memoir, (and lo, there is the Minneapolis connection,) and another 2011 David interview. That's a bit of synchronicity overload, but it was a good intermission between Ali Smith Rounds 1 and 2.

Erin Carr mentioned a family expression that went something like, "Addiction explains everything but solves nothing," which resonated with my view of depression. There's a fine line between using an ailment as an excuse, (what I call "/insert-ailment/ defining a person",) and explaining/examining it. I don't mind labeling myself as a sometimes-depressed person, because it has/does open up opportunity for discourse, and because it's like eyeglasses with which I have to keep checking myself from time to time, but it doesn't exonerate me from trying the best.

David Carr, on the other hand, was the first person I heard say out loud the creepiness of holy communion, although he remained Catholic. This used to freak me before First Communion. Then there is that ickier thing where every nun is married to Jesus and they wear wedding rings. Cannibalism and Polygamy in one go. Yeah...

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I've been wondering what to get Mom for Mother's Day and I came up with a good idea. Since I've been enjoying young adult novels so much, why not a few of these? She's joined an English Book Club at least twice because she knew all the members for decades, but didn't last long because she had to look up the dictionary too often and lost the plot, or the books had sex in them. :-D Young Adult books I read don't have sex, but they are usually "historical", (i.e. with reference to real people/events Mom may not be familiar with,) and often has magic, which isn't her thing.

She'd love Beverly Clearly books: real, current, and everyday characters and occurrences. But those, I could probably find online and have them sent to her, as well as books by one of my all time favorite authors, Erich Kästner, in Japanese. Who knows, she may even be able to talk to my niece, who is apparently turning into an avid reader. That was my thinking in the morning.

I went hunting for perhaps Ramona-like lead character in the afternoon, with not too many words she'd have to look up, something perhaps she could sit down after dinner and finish in a week, and I found two. When I went to pay for them, what do I find in front of the till but a Kästner! And they all have lovely dull yellow covers!!
(You caught me; I got one more, NZ author Maurice Gee's book he wrote for her then-young-teen daughter when they lived in town, but that doesn't have a yellow cover, so I "censored". :-D)

I'm planning to read all these without, I hope, damaging the spine, and scribble meanings of difficult words and/or make a card with a list of characters so she doesn't get mixed up.  Mom's not a reader, (she's a jock!) but I think she'll get a kick out of finishing books in English without needing a dictionary. Or she'll tell me to stop sending them.

All this talk about Kästner and Clearly reminded me something I'd not thought of for nearly 40 years. There was a time I planned to become a young adult writer, long before the concept/label became popular. I had in mind a target audience who were sentient beings with all the answers to the world but not all the questions, and sensible not to turn into an adult yet. I had to give up this goal when I realized I was too old to remember what it was like to be that way. I was heading towards 25 or 26, starting to see both sides of issues, and suddenly didn't have all the answers, but oh, so many questions. 

I can't believe I'd forgotten about this. I wonder what else I don't remember.


On Memoirs, Coincidences, Voices, and Scribbling on Cards

Lest you imagine me stomping around in my crumpled bathrobe, mumbling loudly with steam coming out of my ears, (which in a way I've done most of my life, but in another, not as much as last night's post suggests. I don't wear bathrobes, and I'm more a feotal-position-with-permanent-frown kind,) I've been rethreading while listening to new-to-me author Ali Smith.  

On Monday, I had intended to show up at the memoir class emotionally/mentally au naturale, but you know me, I like to prepare. (If only that was the case when I was a student!) I started listening to the audiobook of Mary Kerr's "The Art of Memoir", which I got when the book came out but never finished. I was reminded why: I can't relate to her life; I haven't read most books she mentions; I don't like her language in what is supposed to be an instructional text, not fiction where a bit of swearing add texture. So I thought I'd reread Stephen King's "On Writing" (of any genre), Philip Roth's "Patrimony" and the father portion of Richard Ford's "Between Them". Interesting they are all old white dudes, (which is why I picked up Kerr in the first place but wasn't crazy about two of her memoirs, either,) and I'll never touch King's fiction, don't like Ford's and only some of Roth's, but the two memoirs are lovely homage to their late fathers. Not that I want to write about my Dad, mind, but Roth's, in particular, was written as his father was dying and three years after mine passed, and perhaps I could have used it earlier but still so good. Buy these in books printed on paper, if you are interested, or borrow, nothing electronic. 

Came Tuesday around Insomnia O'clock I saw a Volume FB post praising Ali Smith's "Spring". I had heard of Smith, of course, but I usually shy away from authors modified by "new", "young" and "next", so I'd never read her. But at 4AM in a cold house, what is one to do? I clicked on one link, then another, then another, and ended up with an audiobook of her "Artful", "narrated by a character who is haunted - literally - by a former lover, the writer of a series of lectures about art and literature." In the sample audio, the protagonist drag her ex's just-arrived chair on wooden floor with carpet bunched up under it. Plus this one is read by her, (but not the newer novels,) and because I like Scottish accents, (she doesn't have a very strong one,) this was it.

I learned from the articles that morning, reading Smith requires ill-read readers like myself stopping and googling like a local/slow-train ride; there are plenty of books/authors she alludes to that I haven't read or read when I was in school, and then there are the the artworks. For now I'm content having her read to me while I rethread, and I will listen to her as many times it takes to get through the whole warp.

Listening to her, my mind wandered to Tóibín, whose voice and work is my hypnoses. I love his Irish stories read by him the best, but anything by him read in an Irish accent, or him talking about anything, makes me stop/scribble/wind back and think about writing. There are some lovely vids and podcasts online. (Ford gives wonderful presentations, also; a laugh a minute stuff with substance.)

Anyhoo, I started writing random notes on cards. Notebook pages are linear and scream out order, while mind maps are too messy, so cards I can rearrange. And I write in pencils because I make many mistakes, (my types are not unique to keyboards,) and I like the thought of my words being smudged and eventually disappearing. (Or I can recycle for another project later.) I'm even pleased my handwriting can be illegible. Except when I have to read it.

Yesterday morning I wrote on seven; five are recurring items, and what a relief to have two new thoughts. Because I so need new thoughts/feelings/discoveries.
Dishes, then rethreading.