Torino, Day 1: So here we are.

Originally uploaded by quiet.eye.
Turin: humid, baroque. MJ ate something at GROM that tasted like frozen marzipan. Jane is eating gelato. I'm happy with my Italian. No one has a nose job and everyone has a German shepherd. This must be paradise.



Wheels down in Torino at 14:00; wifi-enabled, with cell phone, hubby, all the luggage and one wiped-out kid, in under 90 minutes, including cab from airport. Been such a homebody lately I wasn't sure how I'd manage. Flight anxiety wholly dissipated by the time we passed just south of Reykjavik. I can still do this. More than that, I've missed it.

Lots of French spoken here. Val d'Isere just an hour away. Saw Lac Geneve on the way in.


Fry & Laurie, Really Only Slightly Mad

Over lunch today with a friend, as I was picking over ideas for a new novel, I realized I was dreaming up a mash note to psychoanalysis wrapped around a murder mystery. (Oh, come on -- what else could it be?) My friend pointed me to Fry & Laurie's psychiatric sketches. These guys sure had a lot of fun with psychoanalytic psychiatry. I see their sketch "Slightly Mad" as a riposte to the question posed in Freud's "On Creative Writers and Daydreaming": What is the difference between the "normal" work of the creative writer and the pathological productions of, say, a writer like Daniel Paul Schreber, on the one hand; and the work of the psychoanalytic psychiatrist, on the other? (The title image on that last link is emphatically NSFW, unless you work in a Dadaist art gallery. What was Penguin thinking?)

The crux is the business about writing letters to the paper, about 3 minutes in.

Freud kept the patient on the couch, kept himself out of view, and recommended only the occasional provision of interpretations. Modern face-to-face psychotherapies don't protest so much. Here's Fry & Laurie on the result -- the relevant bit starts at 0:57:

At 2:21 there's a playful reference to the "Bender Gestalt Test," which is real, but Fry's invitation to draw a line seems more like a request to play Winnicott's Squiggle Game. Laurie retorts that Fry is using "some sort of psychiatric jargon that you've picked up from the Reader's Digest," which at once notes the confusion and elides it, in a send-up of just the sort of incomplete repression Freud sees in jokes and parapraxes. At 3:00, the preamble ends on the word "masturbation," and the power struggle comes to the fore. "I'm the doctor, and you are the patient." The roles reverse dizzyingly. The question of names comes up at this point: Who is "Dr" and who is "Mr"? The rest of the session raises, only to deconstruct, every piece of stage business in the psychoanalytic psychiatrist's theater: the authority to summon the secretary, to make clinical notes, to prescribe medication, to end the session, to offer appointment times. By 4:53, the joke's on us -- but I won't spoil it. Take a look.



So I am looking at my file of "final" revisions for EASY JOURNEYS and noticing that starting every writing session with a fresh duplicate of the last file I worked on means that I now have a list of dates and times at which I actually sat down and worked on this book.

In the past year, I've made sixty duplicates. That's about one session of writing per week. Not a whole freaking lot, in other words. What has happened to the time? Did I spend all of it shopping online and eating bonbons?

And then, as I am beating myself up, I remember that this year, I also finished TWO OTHER BOOKS. And, while finishing these books, and in addition to the sixty sessions I just mentioned, I spent four solid forty-hour weeks working on line-edits to EASY JOURNEYS, a task that takes place on paper before it goes to the screen.

So, revising upward, that's a total of sixty writing "days." How many work days are in a year?

About two hundred.

But, oh yeah, I've got a kid and a husband who travels a lot of for work, which means that my time isn't exactly under my control.

And I've been careful enough to make a backup of my novel every damn time I sit down to work on it, which ought to say something about my seriousness. Maybe one day in every three isn't so terrible, given everything else that's going on. Or maybe the real miracle is that I haven't given up yet.

I wish I could be like Annie Dillard, who writes so well about not writing. But of course this is not what I am doing. I am, in fact, working hard, and I'm making progress. What would happen if I stopped looking for evidence that I'm useless? Would I write more, or would I just read celebrity gossip all day?

Either way, I suspect I'd feel better.


Yet More Hot Type! READING HYPERTEXT available on 15 August

It's official: READING HYPERTEXT, a collection of essential papers about literary hypertext, edited by Mark Bernstein and Her Nibs, will be available on August 15. I'm biased, of course, but I think this anthology fills an important gap in the hypertext literature. We don't yet know nearly enough about how links change reading, but over the last twenty years, some very smart and thoughtful people have tried to map the territory, and this book brings a number of those essays together in one place.

Mark has posted the lowdown, including the table of contents, on his blog. Snippet: "Today, we all read on the screen, and we find what to read by following links. The Web is continuing to transform the world, artistically, commercially, technically, and politically. But the Web is not print, and it's certainly not television. What makes new media new? The link: the most important new punctuation mark since the comma. How do we write for a medium when we can't predict what the reader might click? How do we read well, when we cannot read exhaustively?"

If you're attending HT09 in Turin, you'll get a sneak peek!

You can preorder a copy online -- the first copies will ship on August 15.


Post-Punk Twaddle

Oceanic sound: bass, brass, ethereal string. No matter how loud I play it, I want it LOUDER. Exercise: Draw a line from Prokofiev to The Killers.


Closely Watched Trains

Was troubled by the trains this afternoon. On humid days, the long Amtrak beep-beep is audible in the kitchen.

Incredible Shrinking Novel

Cutting continues. The novel is some 15,000 words lighter than it was a year ago. That's sixty manuscript pages, or ten ounces, if we're talking actual poundage.

6/30/08 137,000 words
6/12/09 121,779
6/15/09 121,679
6/17/09 121,457 slow, slow, slow
6/25/09 120,541
6/26/09 118,988 ring the bell, first goal reached!


Nostalgia Item

Woke up with a song in my head. When I was seven or eight, my musical grandfather taught me to pick out the melody to "Pagan Love Song" on the piano. Thirty years later, I get to wondering about the tune -- who wrote it, what for, and how did my grandfather come to hear it. No answers on any score, but I did find a YouTube clip of hoofer Jack Imel performing the song on Lawrence Welk, circa 1958.

What silliness! And my grandfather was hip to it. Did he know, teaching me that song, that he was laying down a special sort of memory of him -- his sense of mischief, of fun -- encoded through ear and hands? Doubly indelible, and thank goodness for that.

Via Boingboing.