February 7, 2012
Ria Lira Levine (go look at her gallery). I purchased the set at Arisia 2011, and I assured the artist that I would actually use it for drinking tea. I don't buy things that are too pretty to use; if it's too pretty to use or too expensive to risk breaking, then I don't buy it. I do buy art that is not "useful" in a practical way, such as paintings and photographs, but if I buy a practical object such as a teacup, I put it to the use for which it was created. I do have a cup that I'm nervous about using, because the china is thin enough to read through, but what you do is put warm water in it for a little while (warm not hot) and then you put a teaspoon into the cup when you pour the hot tea in. If you don't take care, the thin porcelain will shatter on contact with hot water. This ceramic set is fanciful, and clearly made for use, but when I poured in the hot water, I did hear the glaze cracking (steady little pings). I worry a little, but I'm still going to use it no matter if it eventually means the set's demise. I select art carefully, because these are the things I want to live with.
this review of the book from someone else's blog (share the wealth, right?). I'm still thinking about the Stonecoast MFA program, what I might want to to propose as a course of study with respect to combined major of fiction and non-fiction. It's been a while since I spent this much time and energy focused on narrowing down the field of "what I want to write." I've been doing that in part by narrowing down the field of "what I like to read." This isn't easy, because for the most part, I'm an omnivorous reader, and my time is like diamonds dripping into the sea, and if I want my reading to be useful to my writing life rather than merely pleasurable, I need to winnow. I need to focus.
The winnowing has been a little bit like buying functional art. I only have so much money to spend, so I need to spend it wisely. Also, I have a certain aesthetic. I don't know enough about art to describe it in arty jargon, so I won't try. Suffice it to say there's a color palette. I have some art that completely violates the color palette (I have a Dona Nova painting that features safety orange and primary blue) but for the most part, the art makes sense as a collection in terms of color, theme, style. There are flashes of the macabre, the romantic, and the whimsical. Damask, gauze, lace, distressed brown leather, spirals, flowers, skulls, fairies, goddesses, spirits of the dead, at least one shocking nude that I take down when there are visitors. And in my house, there is usually beautiful food or plans for beautiful food. In my cupboards, there is crystallized ginger, five kinds of soy sauce, sweet rice wine, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, curry, bay leaf, dill, chile powders and flakes, coriander, garam masala, black mustard seeds, black sesame seeds, wasabi powder, and so on and so on. There are dozens of caffeine free herbal infusions, bottles of strange pickles, instant miso and five kinds of bouillon. Right now, I'm having a wedge of granular mexican chocolate (70% dark, from Taza).
Art, literature, food. Winnow, winnow, winnow.
For me, doing research on "what I want to write" is shaped like an hourglass. When I decided to give up on other art forms in order to write, I sold my guitars, put away my colored pencils, my pastels, my needlework, my sewing projects, my clay. I focused on writing, narrowed my attention to the width of a trickle of sand, and things exploded again. I could write, after all, about anything, and my focus blew apart again. I could write about books, film, photography, art, architecture, travel, on and on, my head exploding with possibility. I sat down and wrote short stories and poetry, and I meandered there, too. I wrote science fiction stories, fantasy stories, horror stories, interstitial stories, which are no kind of story and every kind of story. I sold some stories, sold some poems, and then my short stories started getting longer and longer, and no one wanted to buy them any more. I broke my body on novel ideas, and then my life got complicated and difficult, and I quit. Then I started writing this blog, and the hourglass expanded wider than ever, and I think that's what I needed for a while. I needed just to paddle along and stretch my fingers, and learn economy of phrase in a way unknown in my fiction.
I don't know what my fiction will look like when I start it up again, but I've been thinking about what I surround myself with, what I read. Art, literature, food. I've been doing readings of my short stories at conventions, and lately I've realized that most of them are about eating, or starving, or feasting, or using food as a substitute for feelings. In my stories, eating, or searching for food, is transformative. Food is not always at the center of attention, but the awareness of what we put in our mouths or don't put in our mouths is always there underneath, like the grumbling of an empty belly. Thinking about this, I looked into the vastness of the Internet, and I found these things:
From Wikipedia: "A list of some prominent writers on food, cooking, dining, and cultural history related to food."
From Mary Anne Mohanraj, a fellow SF writer: My students are reading food blogs this week. Recommendations, for your gustatory pleasure:"
From Delish.com: "Here it is: the creme de la creme of food bloggers. We've scoured the Web and found the tastiest, most delectable, most must-read food blogs of them all."
From Gherkinstomatoes.com: "Here's a very brief list of food-related novels and mysteries sure to keep your appetite whetted."
From the Online Education Database: "Read through these books to get a culinary and literary education all in one."
And it just goes on and on, into the Web, into the blogosphere. People are writing about food, fiction and nonfiction, and I can't get enough of it. I've just finished Best Food Writing 2009, and have 2010 and 2011 queued up on my reader. I laugh now, thinking about my recent posts about the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, two young adult series that approach food and eating from entirely different angles. On my desk, I have the Pat Conroy Cookbook, wherein the son of the Great Santini tells lush stories about food, each tale accompanied by mouthwatering low country recipes for shrimp, soft shell crabs, coconut cake, peach pie, benne wafers. I feel I have been circling, scribbling, winnowing myself to this place, where this blog becomes a food literature bibliography. Never mind the film reviews, you distractible woman, the music festivals, the incessant whining about anxiety and obsession.
Hitch that obsession to the plow and make it pull for you.
It's a fragile feeling. I feel like the delicate porcelain cup under the flow of boiling water. Without my protective measures, I may shatter at the heat of the flow. I am using a spoon, at present, between bouts of furious typing, but not to convey the heat away from my fragile body -- to convey chocolate mousse to my mouth. Winnow, winnow, winnow.
Art, literature, food. Heaven help me.