Away, but at work

by Marguerite

Have I abandoned this space? No. It just seems like it. As the months have stretched since my last publication and set of readings, I’ve found my voice a little muted. I’ve kept to myself, my keyboard, my bookshelf, my therapy sessions. This spring, amidst that productive quiet, and after a self-fashioned retreat at The Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver, I finished my poetry manuscript (The Endless Garment). I felt a great surge of joy … until I remembered that I have to go door to door, knocking, asking strangers to give it a home. It’s ok. I feel like this manuscript deserves warm welcome somewhere. I’m happy to do the legwork. It’s just slow–and disquieting.

In the meantime, I’ve been at work on my new project–two thematically linked novellas. This has provoked much reading in the area of novella-length fiction. In September, not long after we landed here in Paris, where we’re living for a year, I read Francine Prose’s Guided Tours of Hell–also two novellas linked by theme. So, you know, complete mind meld. Prose is a kind of hero to me, a writer who is part journalist, part novelist, part essayist, part wit, part skewer. I want to be like her… with a serving of poetry on the side. It turns out her novellas both treat North Americans in Europe (like me!) — as well as masculinity, femininity, ethnic exclusion, self-betrayals provoked by desire, the failings of the left, the anti-semitism Europeans too often leave the door open to… she’s a busy mind.

At the urging of my friend Fred here in Paris I also read my first Simenon — La chambe bleue — and happily fainted (inwardly) at his water-like French prose, his grip on the tensions electrifying mid-Century rural France. His women are … well, we can’t have everything in every book. But I loved this novel and treasure it as a guide to writing noire. Which I’m not doing. But I might. My own novellas are still so drafty, they feel apt to shift in the winds of such strong writing. We’ll see how they turn out– as I’ll see where my poetry lands, and how this great city of Paris and I get along.

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