St. John's my middle name. The books go under M.
Yesterday was long and it proved impossible to get to India House until the Cafe Society event had been running for nearly an hour, but I arrived in time for the trilingual cabaret singer, who seemed, like the room itself, to have teleported in from a different and somewhat more elegant era. I thought of taking a photo, but I’ve long since realized that you can be in a given moment or you can photograph it, but not both at the same time, and the moment was lovely. He finished singing and floated away in his impeccable suit, and I swam into the crowd in search of conversation.
Later, walking in circles trying to find the subway station in the Financial District’s narrow streets, which were laid out in the 1600s and connect at strange angles. It’s hard to imagine a neighbourhood with a better-developed security apparatus but there’s nonetheless a sense of mystery here, dark alleys and cobblestones, mysterious doors, a weight of history. Impossible to come down here without thinking of The Cruise, still my favorite documentary short of all time, the shots of the narrow corridor of sky between towers as the tour guide ushers his charges into this neighborhood, the oldest part of the city: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to New Amsterdam.”
“You dislike me.”
“When did you think I had the time to do that?”
For people think of everything, they imagine every sort of hypothesis, apart from one—that one works and that one takes no notice of them. The Allure of Chanel, by Paul Morand.
The beauty of the winter city. Blue shadows on frozen snow on my way to work this morning, clear bright sky. I wear sunglasses against the glitter of sun on ice and the cold is such that the lens fog over immediately; within a block or two I’m mostly blind, the street blurring into soft focus and then inscrutability. Thinking that this is what the world would be like for that one character in the new novel with eye problems, the seventh guitar, walking half-blind through the wild beauty of the post-apocalyptic landscape with a traveling orchestra twenty years after a flu pandemic and six years after he lost his glasses, which would have been extremely thick. The seventh guitar is one of my favorite characters, so gentle and kind, but did I give him any lines? I’m not sure that I did.
This is my eleventh winter in New York. It seems colder than the other winters here but not as cold as Montreal. A person might argue that below a certain threshold of discomfort the difference is mostly academic, but details matter: my sunglasses fog up and then the fog freezes, but in contrast to Montreal, my breath doesn’t freeze into a thin layer of ice between my face and the scarf, and this does make a difference. Also, I remind myself, it’s colder elsewhere. In the distant northern city where my brother fixes bulldozers, Sunday’s low will be -33.
Station Eleven went into production yesterday. The final draft was labeled v26. There weren’t actually 26 successive versions of the book, probably there were only about ten complete drafts in total—every draft gets a new version number, but also I copy the Word file and give it a new version number every time I make a major change—but still, the point is we spent a lot of time together, the book and I. Both exciting and a little sad to let it out of my hands.
Station Eleven has a publication date. September 9th 2014. I’m not saying you should go write STATION ELEVEN in all caps on your calendar, but I just did.
I was honoured to see this morning that the book was included in the National Post’s 25 Most Anticipated Canadian Books of 2014 list. Also, the list is pretty great. A new Ann-Marie MacDonald? Swoon.
I like you, Tumblr.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great conversations and learned some interesting things on Twitter over the years, but (with notable exceptions!) this week my social media feeds have mostly looked like this:
"Guys, I’m eating a cupcake. YUM. Here’s a picture of the cupcake!"
"A thing I just said: _____"
"That awkward moment when ______."
”_____. That is all.”
"I just had the BEST LUNCH EVER. Here’s a picture of my lunch!"
Whereas Tumblr’s more like “Here is an insanely beautiful set of vintage book illustrations, followed by a thoughtful short essay on an interesting topic, then a poem and a photograph of something fascinating from 1925.”
All I’m saying is, it’s impossible not to notice the difference.
“”My garden is humble. A few orange trees, one or two lemon trees, a well of cool water in the center, lush grass and a room in which to sleep when it’s cold or rainy. In this room there is nothing, just a mat, a pillow, a blanket. The walls have been limewashed in blue. When the daylight fades, I light two candles and read. In the evening, I eat vegetables from the garden. An old peasant woman who lives in the area brings me bread every day at the same hour. That is my secret, my dream life, the place where I like to go to meditate. To pray and think about those who are no longer here. I do not need anything else. Above all, one must possess nothing, acquire nothing, be light, in good spirits, ready to walk off and leave everything behind wearing only a simple djellaba to cover the body.””
— This Blinding Absence of Light, Tahar Ben Jelloun (via mycolorbook)
Thinking longingly of this as I pack up my office. We’re moving ten blocks down the street in a couple of weeks. How do we accumulate so much stuff? I mean, there are obvious answers here—I like sewing, so there are piles of fabric, and also for tedious reasons involving warehouse consolidations I own something like 24 copies of every single American edition of all three of my novels, plus five copies each of all of the foreign editions, which on the one hand is extremely cool—I don’t think the novelty of seeing my work in a foreign language will ever wear off—but on the other hand presents some storage issues, because what exactly does one do with five Italian hardcovers of Last Night in Montreal? Still, box after box, and I keep thinking, “But how did this accumulation happen? I moved to this city by train with three suitcases.”