Tuesday, May 31, 2005

War and Remembrance

From the diary: “January 19, 1985

“Well, I actually finally finished The Lost Queen of Oz. I typed ‘The End’ this afternoon. Some year I’ll do a second draft, make it really good, but I’ll be doing other stuff meantime. Am just now starting War and Remembrance. Watched all 6 Thin Man movies on Channel 2 this week. The last of LQofOz has me kinda bummed.”

So it took me three and a half years to write The Lost Queen of Oz. Hm. I still haven’t done a second draft. I think about it now and then. I have made a couple attempts, but those didn’t get past the first chapter.

In the next few diary entries I mention War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk’s sequel to his Winds of War, I’m reading it, I’m reading it, then, “I spent so much time reading it I dint write. Good book. Sad. sigh.”

I remember being disappointed in War and Remembrance, but maybe I wouldn’t have said so at the time.

These days I’m always reading several books. Back then, if I remember right, I didn’t. Usually it was one book until I got all the way to the last page. Naturally there were exceptions and I certainly read other things – newspapers, comic books – but I felt I had to give my attention to the one book.

I remember fondly watching all the Thin Man movies night by night as though they were a mini-series. The quality gradually goes downhill until by the sixth movie the only reason you watch is the charm of Nick and Nora. It helps that the first two movies are quite good so the series has real heights from which to fall.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Pet Sematery

From the diary: “January 16, 1985 – Finished Pet Sematery.”

This wasn’t the last Stephen King book I read, but it was the one that made me think his editors no longer had any power over him. It had its creepy parts but most of it (and that was many many pages) was the unhappy mundane life of a father who loses his child. I didn’t find that fun. Vampires! (Salem’s Lot) Killer car! (Christine) Girl with super psychic powers! (Carrie) – All much more fun.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Jan ’85 I bought my first gay porn mag, Mandate. I’d started the diary up again in my poetry notebook, writing brief one-paragraph diary entries between poems. In those paragraphs I kept pushing myself to buy a Blueboy. Blueboy? I liked the title.

Maybe the store didn’t have any Blueboy. Of Mandate I remember huge close-ups of penises. I still don’t find such things erotic. Frankly I think the penis looks absurd. Objectively there isn’t anything about the male body I find preferable to the female (except maybe the lack of breasts, which seem to me rather in the way). I also didn’t find the fiction erotic – the pumping and gasping and jerking, often in a public (or semi-public) place. I was taking home from the library drier sociological reading (which was hard enough for me to get to the check-out counter). I was on the look-out for what fit me.

Porn still makes me uncomfortable. Because it’s dirty? Yes, I suppose. I don’t want anybody to see me looking at it. They might think badly of me! Philosophically I have no problem with porn, but it’s always been the case that my emotions have been stronger than my reasoning mind. Intellectually I knew how ridiculous it was to think I’d die if I asked at the counter for a porn mag (or an employment application) but the part of me that knew better was in control. I almost said, “in firm control”, but firm isn’t the word -- hysterical, trembling, panic-stricken maybe.

What a struggle!

Saturday, May 28, 2005


I bought a lot of superhero comics. Some favorites: Avengers, Defenders, X-Men, New Teen Titans, Firestorm, Nova. As the 80s unfolded independent publishers started up, offering their books primarily to the direct market; there were enough comic book stores to support such non-superhero fare as Cerebus, Elfquest, Love and Rockets, and much else besides, including undergrounds like Gay Comics, Zap Comics, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. I bought more than I probably should have. But, as entertainment goes, comics were pretty cheap.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Winds of War

I watched the TV mini-series and liked it so decided to tackle Herman Wouk’s novel. Wouk was a Pulitzer Prize winner so he had to be literary, right? Here’s what I say about Winds of War January 2, 1985: “The only sex scene so far fades to the crashing waves, flowers, and a treatise on the vagaries of human, etc. Quite humorous and very prudish, not even the fainting, veiled purple stuff of modern romance novels. And precious little violence for a war novel, wouldn’t even know about the fighting if they didn’t keep mentioning it.” Curiously I added, “but I’m hooked and thrashing.”

By the way, I didn't really know anything about "modern romance novels," having never attempted to read any. I still can't say I've actually read one, not all the way through. But I have happened onto a sex scene or two browsing and those weren't so subtle as "fainting" and "veiled" suggests.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Shortly before I got the job at Books Inc I started sending my poems to Seventeen magazine. I read in a publishers-of-poetry listing that they published poems by poets under the age of 25 or 23 or 22 or something. I’d never read the magazine but I knew they’d published early Plath. After two or three submissions an editor started scrawling notes on the rejections, “Don’t be discouraged!” I remember I wrote back saying I couldn’t be discouraged!


Eventually they bought 4 poems from me ($15 apiece) and published two. Have I been paid for a poem since? I showed off the magazine to all my Books Inc coworkers. I really am a writer, see? The first poem was published just after my 20th birthday.

I had to sign a contract giving away all rights. This means if I ever want to republish one of those poems I’m supposed to ask Seventeen for permission. I didn’t like that, which was one of the reasons I stopped sending them poems. But I’d conquered Seventeen! Following in the footsteps of Sylvia Plath. My poems appeared on newsstands across the country. I even got a couple letters from readers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Asimov’s New Guide to Science

from the diary: “December 30, 1984

“Bot Asimov’s New G. to Science at Books, Inc. today. Last day. Not on the new schedule. No more money. Damn. Oh the injustice of it all.”

Books Inc was my first and so far only bookstore job. Mom knew one of the clerks and this friend said Books Inc was hiring for the Christmas season, so got me an interview. I remember bragging that I already knew the layout of the store. After I was hired and the manager asked me to go get a book from a particular section I said, “Where’s that?” And she said, “I thought you knew the store’s layout.” To which I replied, sheepishly, “I knew all the areas I was interested in.”

They didn’t want me once the Christmas buying season was over. I took advantage of my employee discount to buy the Asimov book, thinking it one of those fat reference books that was really going to come in handy one imaginary future day that would turn out never to happen.

I didn’t dislike the bookstore but I was surprised to discover working there didn’t require one be bookish. For all the literary knowledge it required the inventory might as well have been widgets or shoes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

First Leaves

In April of ’84 I started a WANT LIST notebook. The first page consisted of things I wanted to own or see or do and included such wants as “my poetry in various magazines” and “a driver’s license” and “a new typewriter” and “an ongoing intimate relationship.”

For a month and a half I recorded my progress toward these goals.

On May 6th I wrote, “First Leaves accepted one of my poems. Yay! Now I know why they took so long. They took ‘Tea for Two.’”

First Leaves was the literary magazine of Santa Rosa Junior College. This was my first literary magazine publication. What a thrill. They accepted the poem knowing nothing about me, just because they thought it was good. I hopped about the room, I rolled on the floor. I kissed the cat.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Russian River Writers' Guild

As far as a social life goes I didn’t have much of one. Besides the rather distant Oz Club I did get to be around people at the Russian River Writers’ Guild reading series which ran for several years at a senior center in Sebastopol. It was in easy walking distance of my house and people would show up from around Sonoma County, mostly the west county, that is, west of Santa Rosa. Guerneville, Bodega Bay, Graton.

I would read at the open and had a few features. There were good poets and mediocre poets and crappy poets, like in every scene. Do I remember any names? Jayne McPherson, Joe Pahls, Marianne Ware, Ann Erickson … I have the RRWG anthology around somewhere. I’ll get to it in another post.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Paul Mariah

I graduated from high school in 1983. I was depressed, closeted, and felt trapped. Mom tried to help. She helped me get a parttime job here and there but the money didn’t last long. I was practically agoraphobic, only going out of the house to the library or bookstore or to wander the town. I remember drifting about the aisles of stores trying to pluck up the courage to ask for an employment application.

Zara connected me to a poet who was running a poetry workshop in Santa Rosa. I didn’t know anything about Paul Mariah. But I needed company and Paul seemed to enjoy my writing. Though he lived near the town of Sonoma, Paul led the workshop at the home of another older poet, Helen Luster. There were typically five or six poets each time. I didn’t have a car and Mom wasn’t going to teach me to drive until I could pay the insurance, so Mom always came to the workshops, too. If she hadn’t would Paul have told me he was gay and had founded a press to publish gay writers? I don’t know. It sure seems like a missed opportunity. I’m not wishing he’d published me (I don’t think he was still running ManRoot) so much as wishing … something.

Paul would start the evening by reading poems by a famous poet – though usually not one I’d heard of. At first the workshop was the standard bring-a-poem-to-critique format but I held out for writing exercises. Man, I gotta write!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

nervous habit

So I’ve brought home boxes of stuff from my mother’s house, right? In some of the boxes are books I’ve mentioned on DIR. I flipped through The Many Colored Land and I thought, Maybe I didn’t actually read this. Then I looked at the paper edge opposite the binding. You can tell whether I’ve read a particular book by whether the pages are darkened. I fiddle with the pages as I read, which deposits oils from my skin, thus leaving a record of my progress, especially if my fingers have gotten inky from the text. I squinted at the book. Yes, there’s the smudge line. It’s about 2/5 of the way down the page. I must’ve read it.

I have the sequels. I could start over from the beginning. I could read the series all the way through.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Undecided is the end-of-the-semester collection of writings from the Creative Writing Class I’d lobbied for, which was created in time for half my senior year, and which, I was told, didn’t last beyond that. Too bad. The class was taught by Amy Glazer Connolly, the drama teacher. (What she’s up to now.) She was a lousy teacher, I thought. I remember comforting one of the sweetest girls in the senior class when Amy made her cry. Amy didn’t think much of my acting when I was taking her drama classes – I remember she tried to talk me into cutting my hair for a one-act, using the example of Vanessa Redgrave who’d shaved her head for Playing for Time, a movie in which Redgrave's character performed music for the Nazis at one of the death camps.

Amy was a teacher who had pets, the student(s) who could do no wrong. Everybody else got short shrift.

When I heard who’d been signed to teach the Creative Writing Class I almost didn’t take it. Amy didn’t have many ideas for the class, was impatient with students, and would often ignore us and conduct drama business. I became a sort of assistant teacher. I remember one time a student went to Amy for help and Amy, busy with some drama thing, waved the student off with, “Go talk to Glenn.”

I’d become her pet. Having been on her shit list in drama class, being her pet, I discovered, was much easier but rather creepy. I was glad enough to become a sort of assistant teacher because I thought at least I cared about the topic and listened and tried.

Of my own work in Undecided -- a short story, a couple poems and prose poems – there is one I still like, “The Man in the Pinstriped Suit”. I’ll probably post it over at the LuvSet blog for revision.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


I’m cleaning out my mother’s house. Everything that isn’t thrown away or given away has to come back here. (There are boxes I’m to ship to my brother in Seattle.)

I’m seeing again books I described in the high school diary. Newflash is one I didn’t mention. It’s the end-of-class anthology for the poetry workshop. The copy I’m looking at was Mom’s. She attended a couple class meetings and wrote a couple poems. Here’s one:

Arctic Nostalgia

Huskies howling, wailing,
Piercing the sharp, clear Arctic blue.
Ice floes smashing, crashing,
Roaring through the midnight freeze.
Northern lights dancing twirling
Flipping, twisting with the lightning speed.
Leaving the eye dazzled in awe.

-- Helen Ingersoll

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Are writers born or made? I don’t know. Are chess players? I think we have talents. Some of us are born with abilities that make us great at certain tasks. This doesn’t mean that the top of every profession is peopled with those born with the most talent.

To write one has to achieve literacy. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there are excellent storytellers who have not mastered literacy (even when given the opportunity) – could dyslexia be considered a negative talent? Once one can speckle a paper with a language comprehensible to others one can write. Can one write a story? a poem? a screenplay? Is it a story, poem or screenplay that works for other people? Then, do you have the stamina (or luck) it takes to get that written thing in front of all the eyes necessary to get it published, distributed, reviewed, sold, passed from hand to hand? There are lots of steps between the writing and the making a living off the writing. I write poetry. There isn’t money in it. Thus my steps don’t lead to the writing paying my bills. (A lot of poets earn their way teaching.) Still, it’s not unreasonable to think I could get a little more published, distributed, reviewed, sold (even!), etc. What I seem to have a negative talent for is marketing. I kind of laugh to myself about it. The key is doing it. Like writing. You don’t get a book if you hang back afraid of the page.

Yesterday I talked about my high school classmate Diana Hennessy. She planned to be writer. And she certainly has the talent for it. She hasn’t applied herself to the writing. Thus she hasn’t produced a manuscript and without a manuscript there’s no way to get to the book. I think she could write a book – novel, short stories, even poems. Every so often I get a card from her that says she’s thinking about writing again. She’s run a few marathons. Those are harder on the knees.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Diana Hennessy

During my senior year Diana Hennessy and I arranged an independent study class in which she and I worked on a novel. We alternated sections, which meant we each had to wait for the other to finish a part before getting to work again. How many pages did we make? More than a hundred, as I recall. I wonder how the manuscript would read today? Eventually I’m going to come across it as I clean out these boxes of papers. We didn’t have a plot or plan. We just made it up as we went along. I don’t think there were any fantasy elements in it, other than the fantasy that a poor writer could get his own apartment in New York City.

Though Diana and I had worked on the school newspaper since we were freshmen and both of us planned to be writers we had a fairly prickly relationship until the after school poetry workshop with Maureen and Zara. Then I know I really came to appreciate her writing and began to enjoy her company. We probably bonded most, however, in Consumer Ed, where we were part of the laughingest table in class. We’d failed the challenge test that would have let us skip the class. I remember staring at the test’s problems and forgeting how to divide. Anyway, it was okay. If I hadn’t ended up in Consumer Ed I might’ve had to take some AP class or something. I don’t mind having escaped that fate.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Trot of Oz

My diary writing stumbled to a stop. I wrote only once more that summer, tried to cram everything into that entry, got tired, but promised I’d finish the next day. The next day didn’t come for two years.

In that last 1982 diary entry I mention Trot of Oz, which was an Oz book Eric Shanower and I had decided to write together. I was to produce the first chapter, Eric would write the second, and so on to twelve chapters.

It took a few years, but we did finish Trot. Eric even published it in his OzStory magazine.

If you want to read my first chapter, it’s online.

When we finished the book I thought it turned out pretty good. Later I soured on it, convinced it needed a major overhaul before I could allow anyone to see it. Eventually Eric prevailed upon me to reread the thing and I decided, yeah, it was fun and I didn’t need to be so fussy. In fact I’m up for another one. Eric suggested Polychrome in Oz (Polychrome is the Rainbow’s daughter, or one of them anyway, and appeared a few times in Baum’s Oz books).

Having just done a web search I see a Nate Barlow has produced a book (unpublished?) called Polychrome in Oz. I don’t know anything about it.

Well. Titles aren’t that hard to come by. What say you, Eric?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Oziana 1982

I wrote two more Oz stories, “The Piglets’ Revenge, or How Eureka Became Pink” and “The Vultures and the China Milk Maid”. I managed to type them up in time for the summer’s Winkie Convention. David even produced illustrations for them. To my delight and surprise (nobody’d told me it was going to be published) that year’s Oz Club annual Oziana included “The Cowardly Lion and the Courage Pills”, the story I’d taken to Winkies in ’81.

The “Courage Pills” story. Any good? Um. Probably not. Last I read it I remember being disappointed. According to my diary Eric Shanower, friend and critic, allowed, “It was all right.”

Eureka, by the way, is a kitten Dorothy brought to Oz in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Presumably the cat (always referred to as Eureka the Pink Kitten) came to live in Oz permanently with the rest of the family a couple books later. Eureka was described as white in Dorothy and the Wizard, although at one point the characters are visiting an underground world where the light producing “sun” gives off rainbow-like light and Dorothy notices that the light makes Eureka look pink. No suggestion is made at the time of this effecting a permanent change in Eureka’s color. I liked the idea of writing stories that would explain apparent discrepancies in the Oz books. In Dorothy and the Wizard Eureka is put on trial for eating one of the Wizard’s mouse-sized piglets. She is not guilty, though she admits attempting the kill. In escaping the piglet becomes trapped in a vase so can’t speak up about its continuing to be alive. Since Eureka came to live in Oz likely unrepentent about her desire to make a meal of one of these tiny piglets I thought the piglets had to have figured out a way to put her off the hunt. They tricked her into a pool of pink dye! Thus Scarlet Letter’d Eureka decided to leave the piglets alone in the future. That, anyway, was what I wrote.

With the other story I decided to revisit one of Baum’s tiny Ozian countries. Lots of these odd little places are introduced and then are never again mentioned. The China Milk Maid lived in the China Country mentioned in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the China Country all the inhabitants are living porcelain dolls. Somehow the Milk Maid gets tangled up with a couple hungry vultures and, as Kent would say, “hilarity ensues.”

Saturday, May 14, 2005

“Words, words, words.”

From the diary: “June 9, 1982

“My shoulder aches. I get too tense when I play video games. [I was mildly addicted to Ms Pac-Man.] Dad arrived today. …

“We went to Cattleman’s tonight as per tradition – we’ve gone every time Dad (almost every time) comes down [from Alaska to California] for a visit. He’s [here] for David’s graduation.

“Mum and Dad danced to the music of the same organ player who’s been here ever’ time.”

The title for today’s post is something Dad said to me while I was scribbling away in the diary. I agreed, “So true.” Then reconsidered, “Who asked you anyway?”

The man who played the organ at Cattleman’s, a restaurant just north of Petaluma, cut a couple records and Dad bought them. Honky tonk, ragtime. Jolly enough. Today I was in Sebastopol again cleaning out the basement of my mother’s house. Yes, there were the records by the Cattleman’s organ player. Maybe if they were on CD I’d have brought them home. But they weren’t. So I added them to the trash can that was filling with old jigsaw puzzles, a broken chair, and video game magazines.

The next day (June 10) I wrote, “Dad bought me a book, got a book for himself and we got some ice cream. … Dad’s talkin’ about philosophy.”

Friday, May 13, 2005

The California Poets-in-the-Schools Statewide Anthology

from the diary: “June 6, 1982

“I went to read poetry at Copperfield’s Trading Post mezzanine [in Sebastopol]. Four other students from Analy [High School] signed up to read but only Christina [Kalvin] appeared. [Poet-teacher] Zara [Altair] was inspired to arrange the reading when she met Christina at Coddingtown [a mall in Santa Rosa] and Christina said, ‘I’ve written that much since poetry class!’

“The reading was fun. Christina and I read a few of our poems and some girls from Bodega Bay and Harmony [school] and some other school which I don’t remember. At first the girls were very shy about reading and would speak softly or quickly, but once they got warmed up they started reading other students’ poetry from their anthologies. … [Poet-teacher] Maureen [Hurley] got up and read some miscellaneous poems from our anthologies, which just happened to be Diana [Hennessy]’s and mine. Coincidence. Maureen started out by reading my poem, ‘Dear Aunt Jane,’ and said, rather off-hand, ‘This poem was chosen for the statewide anthology.’”

First I’d heard about it.

And, uh yeah, I drew big ecstatic faces and yippees and stuff in the diary.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I bought the high school year book every year. It seemed like an important document. I decided I needed to have it. For the future!

Last weekend I brought the yearbooks home from my mother’s house. God, they’re heavy. I guess I could flip through and google a few names. Otherwise, what the hell am I doing with these ugly things?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

From the diary: “May 31, 1982

“I’ve been reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.”

I’ve read Wolves at least twice. It’s set in an alternative England of the 19th Century. Aiken went on to publish several books set in this imaginary England, though not always involving the same characters. I tried to keep up. But I haven’t read an Aiken since The Stolen Lake or maybe Dido and Pa. I wonder if I remember enough of the setting to try the new one out this year?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The story so far

We’re almost through my extant high school diary. I didn’t write in it during my senior year. I was doing other writing. Besides, when I would reread the diary I’d not find it interesting. It began to seem merely a chore.

I’ve been awfully thorough in my review of the reading life, recording blog entries for every book mentioned in the diary, even for books I barely remember or books that didn’t interest me. Does this make for good reading, dear reader?

Alongside reading I’ve started to talk about my writing life – my lobbying for a Creative Writing class, my agonies over English class essays, stories and poems I attempted, and the afterschool Poetry class that opened the gates of poetry, allowing me to step outside. Although I feel like the same person, it’s sometimes been hard to reinhabit an earlier version of Glenn. What did I not know then that I take for granted now? My writing isn’t the same. Not radically different. But different. And I’m the other side of lots of life experience that I could only imagine (poorly) back then. Some travelling, some loving, a different perspective on the parents.

As far as reading itself is concerned, despite doing it a lot, I wasn’t so adventurous in my choices. I read a lot of comic books – though I also bought many comics I didn’t actually sit and read, often just flipping through watching the action. I read the Oz books and had a definite preference for other children’s fantasies over stories set in the mundane world. I didn’t like the world I lived in much. If I had a choice between staying in it for the space of a book or going somewhere far away and full of transformations … it was an easy choice. I did read an occasional nonfantasy novel, and even more occasionally a book of nonfiction.

Though there wasn’t much of a library in our house, we spent hours at the public library. There were worthwhile books on our shelves I never got around to reading, preferring the armload I’d bring home bearing due dates. (This is still too often true.)

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth

From the diary: “May 26, 1982"

Of one of my classes I said, “I had absolutely nothing to do. BORING, DULL, TEDIOUS, MONOTONOUS, HUMDRUM, YAWN-INSPIRING, STUPIFYING, UNINTERESTING, DREARY, TIRESOME. Reminds me a bit of dear Milo’s experience in The Phantom Tollbooth.”

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Trilogies and other series

I like series. If I’ve enjoyed a book (or movie or comic) I’m happy to know there’s a sequel and look to get my paws on it. I’ve made the investment in the characters and a sequel feels like a return on the investment.

Bad sequels are bad returns. And if I’ve read the first book of a series and I don’t like it I do feel some relief at not having to go any further. All those pages, all that commitment of time and concentration, that I don’t have to feel pressure to get with.

When the book is part of a yet-to-be-completed story, I’ve learned (big surprise) that, if there is a long interval between what I last read and the new installment, I forget. Who are these people? What are they doing?

L. Frank Baum, when writing his Oz books, seemed himself to forget what he’d said in earlier Oz books. In one book the Magic Belt can easily be commanded to do all sorts of amazing things. In another you can only use the Magic Belt on alternate Thursdays while standing on your head and whispering a goofy rhyme (or something). In one book Oz has no money. In another kids are buying lemonade with green pennies.

I didn’t start the Harry Potter books until the third had been published. Now when I read a new one I have to work my little brain to remember whether a particular character is one who’s appeared before or not. How many Weasleys are there again?

It’s easier on my creaky memory to read a series all at once (or with brief breaks) than to wait a year or more between episodes.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Many Colored Land

From the diary: “May 25, 1982

“Merit Book Center is closing forever. I probably made my last purchase at Merit, The Many Colored Land, a science fiction book. 20% off. I’m really sort of sad about it. There goes the best selection of magazines and paperbacks in Sebastopol. The economy and their absentee landlord raising the rent … combined to close the shop which has been open for nine years. We’ve been going to Merit almost every week ever since we moved to Sebastopol. I wish they could stay open.”

I bought a sympathy card and gave it to the woman behind the counter. I’d always been a bit afraid of her, especially since a few years earlier I’d special-ordered an Oz book from Merit and before it arrived found the same book in the other local bookstore (and for 45 cents less, the newest printing having seen a price increase – when the book cost $1.50, an additional 45 cents was a hefty increase). Naturally the woman at Merit was miffed. I remember crying while my mother talked to her.

When the woman behind the counter opened the sympathy card she laughed. She called over the man who worked there, too. And he got a good chuckle. I was, of course, all embarassed and everything.

The Many Colored Land is a science fiction novel by Julian May. It’s the first of a trilogy. I later bought the second book, The Nonborn King, but I don’t think I ever got the third. The book columnist for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine was ga-ga over Julian May. That guy read a lot of books. He oughta know what’s good. I wasn’t so thrilled with Land. What sticks with me most vividly was a herd animal that migrated great distances across the planet’s single continent, plagued the entire way by a vexing parasitic fly.

These days I won’t start a trilogy until all three books have been published, just in case I like the first one and want to finish the darn story.

Update: In comments D says, "Funny, that bit about the parasitic fly - I thought that was in the Helliconia Trilogy." If this is true (and I do remember working my way through the Helliconia books) then I remember nothing about The Many Colored Land. This would be why I later started the booklog. A few notes really do help one's recall. A mere title isn't enough mnemonic.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Night I Got in Trouble for Writing in Creative Writing Class

In the night Creative Writing Class we did do some in-class writing, something I much prefer to three hours (that’s how long a night class was) of critiquing. However, there is one night that lives in infamy. The night I got in trouble for writing in Creative Writing! Here’s my irked entry from May 23, 1982: “Gerry Payne scolded me in class while everyone was very quiet mulling over a poem that had just been read. I was writing away with my little pencil a poem inspired by what [had] been read, and Gerrye saw fit to batter me over the ego. … She should change the name to Creative Criticism.”

How rude of me to write! When I could have been sitting on my hands. I had no idea what to say about the poem. So I was working out on paper things the poem suggested to me. I was writing a poem “inspired by” the poem the class was supposed to be focusing its collective intelligence upon. Even in the workshops I took at Cal there were long dead zones in workshop classes. Such deadness drives me batty. When I’m bored and tired I squirm and fidget. Frankly, Payne was lucky I wasn’t banging my head on my desk. Over the years I’ve gotten better at dredging up something to say, even when it’s nonsense, even when it’s just to keep myself from going batshit crazy and running around the room whacking everybody with a rolled up poem. But I also learned that whatever you say, it really doesn’t matter much to the writer.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Grapes of Wrath

From the diary: “May 12, 1982

“I’m reading The Grapes of Wrath for which I have to not only finish (I’m 1/5 thru) by tomorrow, but I have to write a summary of it, and do the 1st draft of my Steinbeck term paper.”

I was not a fast reader. I’m still not a fast reader. I’ve discovered I can skim academic prose when I have to. And, yes, you do seem to get more out of dry jargon-thick academic prose when you’re skimming than when you’re reading word by word. I like the sound of the storyteller in my head so reading is a sort of listening for me. When school deadlines loom the storyteller voice can’t chatter away fast enough. Steinbeck wrote lots of way shorter books than The Grapes of Wrath. I wonder if I could have gotten away with Of Mice and Men or Cannery Row? I nicknamed the book, The Rapes of Grath. I remember the book fondly, if not the term paper.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Short Reign of Pippin IV

From the diary: “April 20, 1982

“[Mrs Lennox] came up to me today just before [American Lit] class started and asked me if I had had any help in writing my summary of The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck. I didn’t know why anybody would ask me something like that. At first I thought maybe she meant I was supposed to. Apparently she thought the summary was too good for me to have done it by myself without help. I was about to tell her I had written it after I returned the book to the library but I stopped myself after I realized that would sound bad. I did say that I wrote it in a hurry. (It was one of those knock-it-off-the-night-before type summaries.) She didn’t believe me. Something that good must’ve had quite a bit of work put into it. I stopped arguing with her.”

Considering my angst over the Crucible paper I was stunned to get an “A” for the Pippin summary. The Pippin summary was of less weight when it came to adding up the final grade, naturally. But why the discrepancy? I partly explained it to myself, “Apparently Mrs Lennox hadn’t read the book so she couldn’t judge it from [her own] experience.”

I was reading Steinbeck for the author paper we had to write. Pippin is an amusing little book. The character Pippin is chosen to be the figurehead king of France but he’s too idealistic to sit on a throne and say nothing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Scarlet Letter

From the diary: “April 18, 1982

“We’re reading The Scarlet Letter in American Lit. Hard stuff to get into. We have to do a lot of analyzing too. Apparently Hawthorne loved symbolism.”

I didn’t actually dislike The Scarlet Letter. I recall enjoying some of it. But there’s something about reading a book you know you’re going to be beaten about the head with that makes the reading rather heavy and unpleasant. Literature, it seems to me, ought not to be taught as a puzzle. Figure out the puzzle and you’ve got the book! Nonsense. It’s a story. Enjoy the story.

Speaking of puzzles, I’m continuing to work my way through Emily Dickinson’s complete poems. Seems to me that girl was a puzzle-maker. I find her uncommonly frustrating. Part of it, I think, is that I don’t get much pleasure out of her language or rhythms so find myself rereading to try to figure out what she means. This is a dangerous thing. If all you get out of a poem is what it means you’ll just be disappointed. Poems aren’t great guidebooks to living. It’s not like they’re banged together by championship livers.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Acrobat is Nervous; What if they want her to sing

From the diary: “April 4, 1982

“I bought a couple magazines at Merit [a bookstore] and a poetry book, (California Poets-in-the-Schools for Marin Country [anthology]) The Acrobat is Nervous; What if they want her to sing. I wrote a poem about the circus from that.”

I love the title. Once in awhile it will ring through my head even now. I don’t remember the poetry, but I think I reread the book when I started my copy-out-poems project six years later. I have notebooks filled with poems I’ve hand copied from published sources. I started doing that because I wasn’t able to answer the who-are-your-favorite-poets question. But we are looking at a time when all of poetry was new to me. It was intimidating. Already I knew I didn’t get and didn’t like a lot of stuff that was called poetry. I was hesitant to buy a book of poems for fear of finding pages and pages of the sort of thing I couldn’t stand in textbooks.

Having done the after school poetry class -- it was part of the California Poets-in-the-Schools program -- I was especially curious to see what gatherings of poems from other students looked like. The Acrobat is Nervous was nice looking, art on the cover, perfect bound paperback. Like I say, I don’t remember the poetry, but I do remember admiring the package and I don’t remember disliking the poetry. Sometimes I remember dislikes better than likes. The better to avoid future bad experiences, I suppose.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Garfield Weighs In

From the diary: “March 10, 1982

“I went to the Big Santa Rosa Plaza last Saturday and got the newest Garfield book, Garfield Weighs In at one of the two bookstores there.”

Santa Rosa had just built a huge mall. They had a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton’s. Mall bookstores. The whole huge mall thing was novel. Food courts. High ceilings. Escalators. Trees that never felt a breeze.

Garfield is probably as good a representative of mall culture as any – fat, repetitive, arrogant, a little insulting, and addictive.