24 April 2007

Text and Textures, and the BCLA Conference

A few exciting things lately. First of all, a poem I wrote is up on display at the Terrace Art Gallery with a companion photograph. The exhibit is called Text and Textures, and the idea was to create a piece of writing or art and have other writers or artists get inspired and create something related. I wrote my poem, "Down," after seeing Sylvia Johnson's photograph "Foxgloves" (self explanatory but very beautiful). I'll try to get a photo of both pieces up here before the exhibit ends in May.

Second, I got to attend the British Columbia Library Association's Conference on "Envisioning the Future." It took place in Burnaby, and it was a great opportunity for me to meet other librarian types and see what's happening technologically and idealogically in the library field. The keynote speaker was Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for you and a very entertaining guy. The most interesting idea that kept coming up in the sessions was the future of the library with regards to the patron's perspective rather than the librarian's. No matter how much we try, we can't make libraries stay in their traditional roles when Google and other internet revolutions are making everyone in the world a semi-qualified researcher.

There was also a session on discovering what type of novel to recommend to a patron based on a novel they've previously enjoyed, which I found fascinating from a librarian's, writer's and reader's pov. I do love the multi-tasking.

12 April 2007

Goodbye to Kilgore Trout

Kurt Vonnegut was one of those.

Those [th ohz] -pronoun

Defined as: writers who make it look so easy you could puke, but you don't puke, because you're too busy enjoying their writing.

Even Stephen King doesn't make it look easy, though he does make it look good. Kurt Vonnegut's books have an aura of "I just sat down one day and wrote this, what do you think?" They also manage to be brilliant without feeling like the cocky result of an English professor's year sabbatical to France.

I should be completely honest: they don't make a lot of rational sense to me. I didn't read Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse 5 and then say, "Oh, I get it." His characters are usually some kind of insane and I'm going to risk committing slander and say he wasn't the type of writer to outline a plot. But I always came away from his books with something, and it was a good thing. I came away amused and heartbroken and interested and human. It's like he was writing to a me underneath the academic me, and that me got it.

So thank you for the Tralfamadorians, Mr. Vonnegut, and for all the rest. I'm glad you existed.

04 April 2007

Snow days

My internet connection has been a bit moody for the last two weeks. I've written a frustrated message to my service provider, and therefore expect to be cut off entirely at any moment. In the meantime, here's a writing exercise I did when I had no connection at all. I didn't have a purpose in mind, except that I was trying to be honest.

This week my entire city lost electricity. Lines down between here and the next settlement, stretched and defeated by snow. It happens.

Gas stations, grocery stores, stop-lights, government buildings, everything looked like it had been forgotten. Even on statutory holidays you can usually find a corner store lit up and ready for business. I walked down an unnaturally quiet main street, watched several cars skid as they tried to turn corners without instruction, and thought of a dozen horror stories. There's something about unusual quiet that is the opposite of peaceful. It disturbs something in the belly, something that usually can't be heard over traffic and deadlines and the rush from errand to errand.

As a collective species we tend to be afraid of the dark, and even as adults we spend much of our unplanned dark time telling ourselves that we're silly for our fear. Every night I turn off the lights and fall into bed, but last night when the lights were turned off without my permission I lit candles and eyed shadows that played with my mind. There's little comfort in unplanned darkness, and something malevolent in the idea that it won't be dispelled by a quick fumble for that switch. Our heavily constructed modern lives are balancing on those thin black wires from pole to pole and city to city. We glance from television to computer to microwave oven, forgetting for quick moments what can't be used when lights won't respond. And here, the snow is falling deeper.

Now it sounds like the fridge has clicked on and the heaters are working again, but my connection to the internet continues to blink in confusion. It's daytime and the world is still out there, there's nothing to be afraid of, but I have an urge to call friends and family to say hello and make sure they still exist out in the white drowned world.
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