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Before Bed

I find that the best, most luxurious time of the day to read is just before I go to sleep. The house is quiet, the dishwasher might be running, the candles are lit, and everything is solemn and flickering and drowsy. There's a brown chair that is tucked into the corner between my mammoth desk and my bed, and when you sit down there's no getting up. A pillow for your back, a blanket for the legs you can prop up on the foot of the bed.

Some nights I read Rebecca Fraser's Story of Britain, a chronological history. (So far I've just passed the Battle of Hastings, which I've always enjoyed because of the family legend that we're descended on my mother's side from a Norman knight, St. Clair, who came over with William in 1066, and from a Viking. I have a few more opinions about Vikings, those destroyers of architecture, churches, monasteries, schools, villages, literacy, farms, crops, flocks, herds, and households - but that can wait.)

And other nights I read from Lydia Davis, recently hailed as "master of the American short story". Some stories so short they are only a paragraph, or a sentence. Ms. Davis is coming to the Seattle Arts & Lectures this Wednesday night and I am hoping to see her - but we'll see...because I may have chicken pox.

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A friend once said that the thing she loved about Japan was that the Japanese loved every season, and made a great effort to celebrate holidays and seasons with specific rituals. As a person who enjoys holidays, and who finds meaning participating in the ritual of the Christian year, I feel a kinship with the Japanese. As humans, we respond to the larger, uncontrollable mysteries of life with stories, with food, with a renewed sense of connection to each other and to the world around us.

It is easy, with the early darkness and the frost on our windshields and the necessity of coats and thicker socks, to complain about the dying of the year and the coming of winter.

Here is a must-read this time of year: Tove Jansson’s Moominvalley in November. Where her other Moomin books have been characterized by happy bohemianism and quirky, midsummer adventures, this book is not afraid to deal with the stark and empty season that comes once a year.

It is raining steadily upon the tall dark trees. D…
There’s a sudden late surge of warmth in the rough winds today and it’s the perfect day to read one of John Clare’s best sonnets:

November

Sybil of months & worshipper of winds
I love thee rude & boisterous as thou art
& scraps of joy my wandering ever finds
Mid thy uproarious madness – when the start
Of sudden tempests stir the forrest leaves
Into hoarse fury till the shower set free
Still the hugh swells & ebb the mighty heaves
That swing the forrest like a troubled sea
I love the wizard noise & rave in turn
Half vacant thoughts & self imagined rhymes
Then hide me from the shower a short sojourn
Neath ivied oak & mutter to the winds
Wishing their melody belonged to me
That I might breath a living song to thee
I’ve a short story in the latest edition of The Stinging Fly, which is a brilliant Irish literary journal. If you’d like a copy (or if you like Claire-Louise Bennett or Kevin Barry or Danielle McLaughlin or Colin Barrett, who’ve all been published by SF) you can get it here Or, you know, go to Dublin.