I’ve been part of fiction workshop groups for nearly a decade now, and sharing early draft fiction with other writers has become easy, even when I expect (and receive) a lot of constructive feedback and… More
The joy of a good nap cannot be outdone. I woke from one this afternoon feeling keenly aware that I haven’t napped since I traded two or three part-time gigs for my shiny new full time job. This is bliss denied me by the Nine to Five Anti-Nap Pro-Productivity Brigade. grr!
…Actually, I’m sure my workplace would allow me to get forty or so winks during a long lunch if I came in earlier or left work later, so it’s 100% my own urge toward nine to five industry that robs me of a decadent mid-afternoon siesta. In the 50’s there was the “nap and nip” for businessmen — a doze after lunch, followed by a highball before dinner. Today, I ride out the afternoon blahs with a strong cup of coffee.
For me, a nap involves dozing off on a couch in a sunny room with the window open. I require some kind of natural white noise to sleep mid-day — a fan won’t work, I can tell that a recording of whale sounds isn’t an actual whale in my bedroom, so it’s just distracting. I can only nap really well in our living room, the sunniest room in the house. The open window means breeze, and the rhythmic knocking of the shade against the frame. It means kids on the playground at the end of the block playing basketball during recess, groans of defeat, squeals of joy, and the teacher’s whistle to usher them back to class. Birds squawk, planes whoosh overhead, car chassis clunk over the too-high speed bumps. A nap divides the day, and when I take one, I feel more productive, energetic, and happy in the hours I am awake. My ideal day would involve rising at 7:00 am, napping at 2:00 pm, staying up ’til 11:00 pm (for work and/or play): that’s nine hours of sleep, with the other fifteen split into manageable chunks of seven and eight hours, respectively.
In Sleep Thieves, scientist Stanley Coren reports on an experiment illustrating how people sleep when they’re left to do so whenever they feel like it. Once acclimated to this kind of sleep-when-you-feel-sleepy lifestyle, untethered from the manufactured rhythms of the workday, most subjects started taking 1-2 hour naps every day. Check out the list of more recent studies on napping in the footnote. Summed up, their results indicate that a lack of sleep causes premature aging, decreased memory function, delayed motor function and reaction times, and other generally negative results. The studies suggest that daytime sleep, in particular, contributes to sustained long-term learning, relaxation and alertness, and promotion of “attentional stability”. Humans’ circadian clocks would have us falling asleep between 1 and 4 am, and again between 1 and 4 pm. Hence, the necessity of that coffee bump after lunch.
As an aside, I would like to point out that it was the Victorians who gave us day beds — and what seemed to be the deliciously debauched concept (for the UK/US middle class) of sleeping during the day — in accordance with the Victorian cult of domesticity, an interior space curtained off from intrusion. The day bed meant that naps were secret, furtive, but also important enough that there was a class of furniture made just to accommodate them.
“On Lying in Bed”, GK Chesterton
“If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals… The tone now commonly taken toward the practice of lying in bed is hypocritical and unhealthy…For those who study the great art of lying in bed there is one emphatic caution to be added. …if you do lie in bed, be sure you do it without any reason or justification at all.”
One famous napper once said, “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination.” If Winston Churchill approves, I guess I’m in.
Research on Napping:
A nap to recap, or, how reward regulates hippocampal-prefrontal memory networks during daytime sleep in humans
And an article on Coren’s research:
<big yawn> Has it really been so long…again? Lately, I’ve been thinking about writing a fashion-focused blog, but every time I begin to plan it out, I also begin to break out in hives. I’ll run out of things to say about clothes, I’m certain of it. I love getting dressed, but it’s not that interesting.
Here are a few things I’ve done since September 2014, and even though my twitter feed is still far superior to my memory, this time I’ll rely on memory so I don’t barrage you with minutiae:
- I graduated my Master’s program and promptly got a job as a librarian at a small subscription library founded in 1854. I’ve been there since August and I love going to work every day — well, almost every day. Which is not bad when you consider how hard I dreaded going to work every day when I worked in finance just seven short years ago.
- An award for writing excellence from LITA & Ex Libris was presented to me at ALA conference in San Francisco, and the paper I submitted will be published in a peer-reviewed library science journal in December. It’s not the Paris Review or anything, but I’m pretty proud of my first publication.
- After finishing the initial draft of a new novella (163 pages) in 6 months flat, I drank some champagne with my fiction critique group-mates last week to celebrate. Don’t rush me; I’ll start revisions next month.
- Races have continued to be a fixture: one every few months, all of them of the nice & easy 5K persuasion. I like to think of myself as a hedonist when it comes to athleticism: run only as long as it feels good. And eat a cupcake afterward.
- I went to a couple of professional library conferences this year, as well as a writing conference in Minneapolis, where I dined solo at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant. I highly recommend both La Belle Vie’s elegant food and ambience, and the experience of luxury dining à soi-même, if you have the inclination and don’t mind breaking your piggy bank for the splurge. Donna Meagle & Tom Haverford would approve.
- And, oh yeah, I’m a blonde now. It’s even on my driver’s license, so it’s true. I can confirm that blondes don’t necessarily have more fun, but more people do stare at them, which I assume is because the brightness is blinding, yet captivating, like a solar eclipse.
<dust> <dust> The bricolagerie is back in business. Again…
At the moment, I’m working on an assignment comparing the collection development policies of two libraries (an academic library and a public library). Since my personal library is gigantic and beginning to leak out of the den into the rest of the house, I decided it’s time to write my own collection development policy. Boiled down to basics, here’s what I came up with:
For the reference use, edification, and entertainment of Ms. HBT.
- Short Stories (DDC 800)
- Technology (DDC 000, 300, 600)
- Science (DDC 500)
- Writing Reference (DDC 000, 800)
- Libraries and Information (DDC 000)
- Music (DDC 700)
- Graphic Novels (DDC 700)
- Art and Large-Format Materials (DDC 700)
- Poetry (DDC 800)
- Novels (DDC 800)
- Fashion (DDC 300, 700)
- History and Society (DDC 900, 300)
- Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion (DDC 100-200)
- Books in French (400)
- If I have a special connection with the author, subject matter, or individual work: keep it.
- If I want to read it but not necessarily to own it: keep it on the “for now” shelves. Make it a priority to read these items and then get rid of them.
- If I’ve read it and not adored it, or not read it but it’s easy to check out of the library, or not read it and not sure why I bought it in the first place: DESELECT!
Since I quit working at the bookstore, my acquisitions have tapered off significantly. Recent additions to the collection include: Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig. I’ve purchased two books in the last month. Contrast that with the two books per shift I’d purchase when I worked at the bookstore. [I can’t be trusted with a debit card and a shipment of new books.]
Going forward, additions to my collection should be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Certain authors are required reading, e.g., Karen Russell, Chris Adrian, Phillippe Claudel, Fred Vargas.
- New-to-me authors whose work has been highly recommended by those whose reading tastes are similar to mine may be added to the collection.
- Materials needed to enhance my work should be purchased as needed, including literary journals and library-related materials both practical and theoretical.
- Occasional imprudent purchases are fine — sparingly.
Using my new collection management policy, I have so far weeded more than 150 items from my library. Next up, I need to determine what to do with them: sell, donate, or some combination of the two.
Here’s what. I’ve been obsessed with Animal Crossing: A New Leaf. So obsessed that I did the final project in my Web Usability summer class (A+) on how to improve player interaction with Blathers. It’s very annoying how he goes on and on and on… Let’s just say he is aptly named. All I want to do is donate a fossil, okay. TAKE MY FOSSIL, PLEASE!
Anyway, everyone in my town is saying I’m a fashionista because I change my outfit every day that I play, and I just dyed my hair white and got it cut like Anna Wintour’s.
Last weekend I went camping, for the second time ever. I felt a little bit like Miss Piggy. Y’know how she’s always dressed to impress and gets huff-and-puffy when she isn’t reclining on a divan in a lovely dress eating bonbons? Well, I guess I WISHED I felt more like Miss Piggy, because I was wearing some frumpy cutoff jeans and the only huffing-and-puffing I did was up a “moderate” slope that didn’t stop going uphill for about 40 minutes. There were s’mores though, and that’s kind of like bonbons, so okay.
I sound like I’m complaining, and I did think I actually might die of a burst-open lung on the hike, but the shower afterward felt like heaven at a quarter a minute, and it was really fun being with friends for the weekend in the great outdoors. So it was worth the suffering.
Anyway, it occurred to me that camping is sort of like Animal Crossing. There was a bluejay who kept screaming for his friends to come join him in stealing our trail mix. There were some grumpy squirrels who kept throwing acorn shells at our heads. And every single neighboring tent BYO’ed their dog. These IRL animals didn’t have the same level of manners that my Animal Crossing neighbors have, but it was still nice to wake up to their twittering, and to have them chuffing around the campsite while we cooked potatoes and drank a billion cups of good coffee from Four Barrel.
Speaking of twitter, it was kind of nice not to have any cellular service. Except when that 6.0 earthquake hit and we didn’t know if it was the apocalypse or what, so we just went back to sleep after confirming everyone was okay and not crushed by a falling rock.
The other thing I did was, I brought a book with me, because I never go anywhere without a book to read: just in case. The Bear by Claire Cameron begins with the brutal mauling death of a mother and father by a bear, leaving their infant son Stick and barely verbal, pre-school daughter Anna to make their way to safety off the island campsite, solo. Not such a great book to bring on a camping trip. I mean, there’s a photo of a bear caught on film by motion-triggered cameras in the visitor center of the state park we were camping in. Still, I read it all, and it’s a good book, written wholly in the daughter’s voice in a compelling stream of consciousness style. Anna doesn’t know what has happened or what’s going on, but the reader does, and that builds the appropriate level of tension to sustain the story as the kids bumble through the forest and encounter dangers they can’t fully comprehend. I give it many stars.
Speaking of stars. We went to a star party, which is even more awesome than it sounds. But I’ll leave that for another post, since it’s not animal-related.
I have a bad habit I’m constantly striving to overcome. I love to shop. Window shopping kills me: I always find at least three things I am certain I MUST HAVE NOW. I feel a little bit like Veruca Salt when I go window shopping. Which is why, as a rule, I don’t do it.
The other day, I had to buy a couple of specific things I need for an upcoming vacation, and came home with neither of them — the luggage was too expensive and there were no zippered straw beach bags to be found anywhere in the world. As some sort of consolation, I did buy a badass straw fedora with a big girly bow, a pair of earrings that look like they were made in the Hadron Collider, and a canary-yellow wristlet. I justify my purchases with the “but it was on sale” principle of self-deception.
I blame Émile Zola.
Au Bonheur des Dames is Zola’s novel about shopping, and could almost have been penned by the writer who gives us the Bridget Jones books. Modeled on Le Bon Marché department store, the plot of The Ladies’ Paradise hangs on the unlikely relationship between a shop-girl and the owner of the department store, whose primary aim in his business is to exploit women by creating desires that would not have originated without the assistance of the store’s psychologically manipulative sales techniques.
Part Cinderella story, part treatise deconstructing desire and consumption, Zola is always a good read. But if you don’t feel like reading — presumably because you’d like to get more quickly back to shopping — you can watch the BBC’s Paradise miniseries, a pretty good rendition. Don’t be afraid of Zola, though. Yes, he was dauntingly prolific and, sure, The Ladies’ Paradise was written in the 1880’s, but it’s surprisingly modern and there are no paragraph-long sentences or tricky grammatical constructions or anything else you might be terrified to encounter in 19th century capital-l literature. Easy reading, and wry.
I suggest you check it out of your local library though. If you go to a store to buy it, you may just come back with Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop and a Niccolò Ammaniti novel, like I did when I was informed that The Ladies’ Paradise wasn’t in stock at the moment.
Au bonheur, indeed. Happiness is a well-used book.
Sources to Explore
Here are a few things I’ve done since September 2013, according to my twitter feed (which is far superior to my memory):
- Road trip to a) Disneyland for a shot of pure blissed-out, kid-again stuff, b) Grand Canyon for stellar (get it) stargazing and camping surrounded by mating elk, c) Vegas up-til-morning gaming debauchery, and d) back home magically in one piece.
- Continued revision on my novel-in-progress.
- Ran two races: terrible timing because I quit running in earnest to write term papers for grad school, but a great time because running is fun.
- Batkid came to our fair city and saved the day!
- Adopted an orchid for my birthday, which it took me a full three months to kill: a record for me.
- “Birthday” has officially become my go-to Beatles Karaoke Night song.
- Got my wisdom teeth removed. Tweet from the third day after the surgery: “I’m tired of pudding.”
- A person I love and helped take care of as a newborn (my nephew) graduated from high school — Magna Cum Laude! So proud I could burst, it goes without saying.
<dust> <dust> The bricolagerie is back in business!
I sent this to a friend the other day, someone experienced in the work and worlds of Haruki Murakami who has recommended his books to me a time or two.
I started reading Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World today.
First couple of pages I was thinking, I dunno if I want to keep reading this. By the end of the first chapter I thought, hrm, I’m slightly interested. End of second chapter, I was compelled to continue out of confusion. End of third chapter? Completely, utterly HOOKED.
Line & Sinker.
What I love most about this book is the delicate balance of I have no idea what is going on here, juxtaposed with: ah-ha, I’m starting to see what might be going on here. Some authors try to spring something on you, as if a trick twist you could never have predicted in a million years is some kind of a mark of literary honor, with no reverence for Chekov’s gun. But the gradual revelation of method in what seems like madness is, for a reader, beguiling enough to keep her reading straight through to the end. Like I did.
This book folds and folds on you like a delicate meringue-based batter. It’s thoughtful, hilarious, disaffected, weird, beautiful. And I’m a sucker for a book populated by librarians.