November 28, 2010

The book, launched; others read, friend visited

Yesterday the book launch for Out To Lunch happened, in the local Paekakariki Hall. Fifty or so friends and a few relations came, many bought books. Jobs had been shared around, so it wasn’t a big preparation-stress for anyone, I think. 

We each read from our own selection for a couple of minutes, with the partner of, our member who died last year, reading for her. People ate the food, 

prepared by the same partner — her wish — with help from one of us writers and drank the punch and wine, overseen by the partner of another writer, and milled about talking to each other and bought books and had us all sign them. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the new side doors of the hall were open, looking out to a bank of flowers and the freshly-painted white church, and it was all lovely.

The whole group project, from critiquing each others’ work, to the publication process, to the launch itself has been great. Next year we will meet in late January and continue to critique each others’ writing. As the costs of producing the book were covered, we are banking the money from sales and in a couple of years will think about another project. If anyone is keen to buy a copy of the book (178 pages, $20.00) email me at pat dot rosier at xtra dot co dot nz.

Reading Cynthia Ozick has its challenges. 

She prefers “classic feminism” to what she calls “new feminism.” She’s writing in the 1970s when she says this. If I’m reading her correctly, she endorses feminism as women gaining “access to the great world of thinking, being and doing.” She does NOT go along with any idea of “’male’ and ‘female’ states of intellect and feeling.” She doesn’t, in what I have read so far, address the “how to” of women getting the access she refers to, or being taken seriously and judged fairly when they do. I have a 1993 collection of her essays from the library and am interested to find out what else she has to say about feminism. I’ll look out for her 2010 novel Foreign Bodies, which is a reinvention of a Henry James novel. (Oh dear, do I have to read Henry James?)

Other reading includes Marianne Wiggins’ Evidence of Things Unseen

As this is current reading for my book group, I won’t talk about it in detail, just say that I love the science in it and the detail of time and place. I am learning about the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is fascinating.

My friend in Auckland liked the-story-known-as-Ann and gave me some excellent feedback on it. I’m still unsatisfied with the end of this novel and her comments about it losing emotional drive in the last couple of chapters have given me an idea to strengthen it in a way I like. It will be another week before I get to actually work seriously on this.

The friend I visit who has Altzheimers has read a couple of my short stories and given me wonderful feedback on them. She has read them several times, she told me, and they get better every time. Do I have more? A collection? When am I publishing them? She had made a few notes on the printouts, perceptive and useful comments. We had a great conversation about these stories for more than ten minutes. As I was leaving an hour later, she picked up the pages and said, “Did we talk about these?” My appreciation of her appreciation of my stories was undiminished, but it was all I could do not to cry, as I said something like, “Yes, we did and I’m so pleased that you like them,” and she looked confused and put down the papers. She wanted to read more of my stories, so today I posted two to her address at the rest home where she lives and talks often of getting back to her home and garden, in the country, several kilometres from the nearest town.  What she misses most, she says, is being able to practise her "domestic arts" — her phrase — which include growing flowers and picking and arranging them in her house, cooking, entertaining, spinning and weaving. The one she can do, and does constantly in the rest home, is knitting. She says it is soothing.

She knitted me a scarf. "With love," she said.

We are having this run of sunny, calm weather which is a delight. (Last summer I remember constant wind.) So our decision to spend the summer at home — after all, we do live at the beach — feels like a good one. Any day soon I may even scrub up the barbecue that sat out on our wind-exposed deck all last summer and never got lit once. 

I notice that today is 28 November. It is my sister's birthday. She killed herself at age 56. Today she would have been 73. I am remembering you, Ngaire.

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