Snippets and Frontiers

2 May 2001

There's a new issue of Speculon up. It's got a book review by me, editorial stuff by Timprov, and short stories by two of my favorite writers, Kate Fossback and Tim. I don't know the authors of the other two stories, but they're cool, too. Go read them. It'll be cool.

I'm settling back into the rhythm of knowing nothing about the status of my book. It's somewhat more comfortable, when I think about it. Somewhat more like the status of any given short story. Lots of which are out there, and I manage not to drive myself nuts over them. Well. Not much, anyway.

Today, Ben and Jerry's is giving out free scoops of ice cream. Baskin-Robbins is doing it tonight. So you can go get yourself some ice cream. They donate to charity over today, and it's a literacy-related charity. How could you lose? Little kids get books, and you get ice cream. Now, if little kids got ice cream, and you got books, well, that'd be good, too. But they almost never have book give-away days at the big bookstores. Go figure.

I've been reading Christopher Fry's Curtmantle. It's about Henry II and Thomas Becket. It's not as outstanding as some of Fry's other stuff, but I like the contrast with Murder in the Cathedral so far. Curtmantle is an ongoing wrangle between two friends, so far; it has no dimensions of Greek tragedy, no chorus of Canterbury women, nothing like that. Which makes it bigger, in a sense, because you can get inside the characters' heads better. They're more real. It's different enough to be worth bothering about. And, of coursre, it's Fry, so that language is purty, although I haven't run across anything as purely delightful as some of the passages in The Lady's Not For Burning or even Venus Observed.

When I looked up Christopher Fry on Amazon, most of the results were for stir-fry books written by someone named Christopher. Ah, the joys of the internet. I suppose this is the advantage of being named Marissa Lingen. (Or even Marissa Gritter.) Anyway, as I said when I bought another of his plays on Saturday, Fry is way underrated. Ignored. Etc. Playwrights may have it better than poets, but only barely.

My poetry education in school was pretty awful. It was clear that most of the teachers who bothered to deal with poetry didn't really love it. Except maybe the Gabester, and our taste was, ahem, different. I ended up having to do a paper on a poem entitled "Poverty," which began: "The poor are blessed; poverty is not. It is a nostril clogged with unwiped snot." It went on from there. Woohoo. Way to make kids love the language in all its varied forms. So now I mostly read poets recommended to me by friends. I have very low tolerance for bad poetry. The Diane Wakoski book I finished was the first time I've managed to branch out on my own and not get burned.

My tolerance is not as low as La Michelle's for stupid textbooks, of course. I don't know how many times I heard "Aiieeeeagghhhh! (thump)" as her Linguistics text went sailing across our section lounge.

I kind of miss "Aiieeeeagghhhh! (thump)" Maybe I'll make her read something really awful when she's out here in June, just so that I can hear it again.

Evidently Michelle and David never heard of May Baskets. Never did them. Deprived childhoods. They're lucky they weren't here, or I'd be hauling out ribbons and scissors and such and sitting them down at the kitchen table. I can imagine Michelle sighing and giving me that look and rolling her eyes and saying, "Yes, dearie...."

It's going to be a good summer.

Yesterday I found out that one of our neighbors is from Afghanistan. She's been sweet and neighborly ever since we moved in here, and her granddaughter is an adorable, happy, bright one-year-old who is fascinated with my toes. I've always been glad they're here. But I didn't know they were Afghani. Now I'm really glad they're here. I keep imagining that baby girl growing up in walls and black cloth and...oh, it gives me the shudders.

Sports writers are so zany. Yesterday the sentence that had my brain chasing its tail was, "This is the first time the Twins have finished April with a winning record since July of 1999." Go ahead and parse that one. Get back to me when you've got it, because I'm still not sure how it works.

Mark wants me to say people are zany when I think they're totally nuts in a bad way. He thinks it's more polite.

I've also been reading about planned communities and neoclassicism in suburbia. I think one of the things that bothers me about this movement for planned communities is that they assume all human beings are agoraphobes. I think one of the ways you can divide people down the middle is agoraphobes and claustrophobes. It's a pretty good division, actually. Claustrophobes build new societies. Agoraphobes give older ones stability. The authors I've been reading have noted that the western U.S. developments are more likely to insist on wider roads, more space. They don't seem to have a clue on why, and they just throw it into the category "cultural differences." I think that's a mistake, a fundamental misunderstanding. It assumes that the psychology is the same but that the proportions are just bigger. I think that the western states are closer to being frontier, not just historically but emotionally. More likely to feature claustrophobes. And I think if we're going to be doing planned communities, we need to recognize that you literally can't plan an architecture that pleases everyone -- not just as a matter of taste, but as a matter of the psychological needs these developers are so fond of discussing.

This would not be a problem if we were working a little harder on a new frontier and giving claustrophobes somewhere to go.

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