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The Goncourts

Another pretty, pretty spring day out of my window blue skies and sunshine, clearing out of mist, now sinking back into the mist & I've done nothing all day except decide on the book I'd like to celebrate for Tor.Com & read for my next chapter, & play & arbitrate between the two cats. One big old cat, one ridiculously small new cat. They get along quite well. She's a pickle, but she's breathed new life into my poor Milo. He was so, so sad when we lost our Ginger. As were we all.

Reading (recreational)

Journal des Goncourts Vol 1: 1851-1861 I know I'll never read Proust in French, just not up to it: this is the next best thing, two brothers, hommes des lettres frankly, avidly desperate to be famous, but something always happens, like a coup d'etat, or getting arrested . . . proto-Proustian diarists in mid nineteenth century Paris. (the graceful young men in the picture above not they, not even close: only a tangential connection, just pretty) At first I thought I'd have to give up, my big Collins was stumped whenever I was, and my Daddy's massive old illustrated Larousse is hors de combat, but I stumble along, getting oddly fascinated:

Marie took me to see Edmond, the great sorcerer favoured by the little ladies (of easy virtue, I surmise. No other ladies exist. Les Filles are nothing other than nasty hated rivals, really, to these lads). . . a white haired old lady showed us into a dark dining room, where we saw mounted and framed in black, an array of famous hands cut out of white, lined paper; on which you could see traces of notes in the margins. The hand of Robespierre, the hand of the Emperor, the hand of the Empress, and then the hand of Madame de Pompadour . . . as if joined by other hands, the hands of the little girls who wait in this antechamber when they come here to buy hope...

& then the sorcerer, in his black velvet robe with his big square head, comes in and sits them at a little table, the room's almost completely dark, hardly any light coming in through the little stained glass windows, just one Rembrandt-ish ray falling on this table, & he asks: how old are you; what's your favourite flower? what's your your favourite animal?, all the while shuffling the great cards, each of which has a image of a woman; a symbolic event; some kind of allegory, depicted without any art, but crudely fantastical, thumpingly monstrous, and colored brutally in black and an ugly red; and the movement gives some sort of savage and macabre life to these primitive figures, these anthropophagy . . . (Tarot, I suppose)

Another time they're drinking with Feydeau and Gautier Nope, nothing to it, far as I'm concerned, says Gautier. I get up in the morning, I have my breakfast, I sit down, I take my pen and I just write. It's my job, I just do it, my sentences are like cats, I know they'll fall on their feet . . .

(Those were the days. If only I wrote with a goosefeather dip pen, how much more cavalier and productive I might be.)

I can't work out how these two ever get any work done.

Also, my library books: The Whitehall Mandarin, Edward Wilson.

Great fun for about a hundred pages, you have to warm to a Sixties spy story when the dodgy Mandarin in the title (first female head of the Ministry of Defence) is called Lady Penelope . . . Then it went off piste, like rocks falling down a hill wildly overloaded with more period signifiers, period plot twists than you could shake a stick at (and was Hugh Gaitskell really killed by a fungus infection administered by the Chinese???) but I soldiered on & now we're calm again pretending to be fear&loathing gonzo journalist in Vietnam while secretly looking for Lady Miranda, the beautiful young junkie Maoist.

Just spotted it's the third in a trilogy: which is going to save me a lot of bother.

Proof of Concept and other publications

Three nice reviews on Goodreads, and then a bad one, she wrote it but she shouldn't have: Too much science and speculation, not enough about relationships, and then oh no, another bad review on Publishing weekly, saying exactly the same thing. Enough with this naszty science and speculation! More about relationships!

& here's me, old enough to remember that twittering on about relationships was exactly what women were supposedly doing wrong. Plus ca change . . .

But then some good news. Gothic Lovecraft, edited by S.T. Joshi and Lynne Jamneck, that I thought I'd never see, is suddenly available, Trade Only, from Cycatrix Books! I'll be so please if I get my contributor's copy (& many thanks to Atlassix for being on the case). I really liked writing my story (The Old Schoolhouse), it's full of Norfolk silence, and slightly spooky lost places i love*. Not holding my breath though. Good grief, those prices! But for the collectors, it's a wonderful looker, work of art.

My Fracking Round Up


Angus Energy caught drilling a sidewell for which they had no planning permission. Caught working all night, (night work not allowed) to plug a leak they hadn't reported. Caught claiming they'd had a meeting with the Council and got it all cleared, when there was no meeting. Surrey Council "extremely disappointed" : Outrageous breach of trust, says Keith Taylor, my MEP (for now). But there's nothing he can do. Nothing anybody can do. Our alt-right PM says fracking regulations can go to hell, and that's that. Via Ruth Hayhurst, as usual

Cheshire West and Chester councillors, meanwhile (their whole area is covered by those damned PEDL things) is trying something, adopting a new policy, a more stringent, but perfectly legal set of requirements:

“In the absence of a complete ban it offers the greatest protection against the effects of fracking within our democratic process.”

Good for them. Never give up.

If . . .

Monday 13th March

A bright Spring day, I'm trapped at my keyboard, reading online for the next chapter of "Joanna Russ", and I just found this, in a very good, very cogent article (but written in 1979, in a different world), "(she will) light a torch in that vast chamber where nobody yet has been. . . " Well, well. It comes from A Room Of One's Own, the vast chamber is supposed to be the unknown land of affectionate relationships between women, I think (and I think we're past that), but that image, that's the image Proof of Concept came from, except my "vast chamber" in that story is a much bigger unknown land, forever and ever unknown. Soon to be published, and I must add that entry to my acknowledgements, which will be posted here (no webpage)

but outside there are violets and celandines in the garden, budbreak on the Seathwaite willow thumbs of flower-buds all over the newly pruned elm in the corner. Poor elm tree, we have to cut it, "reduce" it, can't let it grow to its magnificent 150ft, but at least it's still healthy. For now. But all the elms will go, one by one. The cuts, you know. No money for fripperies, the super-rich have to be fed, and we have to keep on and on feeding them, like meadow-pipits (nearly gone) trying to satisfy a great fat cuckoo chick (nearly gone).

There've been Springs, the last few years, when I've walked home from town in the violet light of late afternoon on a clear day at this season, passing from one blackbird's song to another, never out of their spell. Not this year, or else I haven't had the chance, but how great to step out of the front door and hear the male sparrows singing out their call sign, one to another, along the bushes and the gutters across the street. How great if they were really coming back, common sparrows. When I see them hopping on the pavements in London again, the way it used to be I'll believe it.But they've been gone since 2000 & that's a very long time.

Up to London yesterday to see the Hockney exhibition. Not my idea of fun! I hate big crowded exhibitions, but Gabriel had bought Peter tickets for his birthday, Hockney in the morning, Wigmore Hall in the afternoon. I found a lot more in the Hockney exhibition to like than I would have thought. It's his Seventies stuff I don't like, I discovered (used one of the most famous, Mr & Mrs Clarke and Percy, as a signifier of false security, dangerous complacency, in Castles Made of Sand). Best bits were the gaudy blood-orange Grand Canyons, and the charcoal drawings and the mesmerising Iphone movies of country lanes in Yorkshire Wolds.

& How about that! SHELL KNEW!?!Not much of a trick, really. A lot of people knew, and have known for longer than that, but what's ironic (aside from the way nobody cares) is that the Guardian write-up includes a Shell explication that's one of the best descriptions of what climate change does that I have ever seen. Turn up the temperature under the pan, and what happens? The water gets hotter? Nah, that's a side effect. The fluid boils. The atmosphere boils.

Went to see Moonlight last week. It's not much, really, is it? A pretty good foundation year film school project, I'd call it. On the other hand, I didn't dislike it and I disliked Lalaland intensely (except for the first number, which had energy). Sickening confection.

& all this springtime & me being stuck at my desk is happening as our alt-right,Trump-hugging Prime Minister teeters on the brink of "triggering article 50". Whatever she thinks will happen next.