Category Archives: Ramblings

Salon du livre de Montréal du 18 au 23 novembre 2015

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Cette année encore, j’ai passé beaucoup de temps au Salon du livre de Montréal, du 18 au 23 novembre. Par contre, je n’ai pas fait de compte-rendu quotidien (juste pas le temps!). De l’ouverture du Salon mercredi soir avec la parade de la fanfare et des dignitaires, jusqu’à la fin de l’après-midi de dimanche où j’ai quitté vers 17h00 pour rentrer souper à la maison (et rejoindre mon “veuf du Salon” qui ne m’avait pratiquement pas vu depuis cinq jours), j’ai fait de multiples découvertes, beaucoup de rencontres, et bien sûr, une bonne pile d’acquisitions!

Mes coups de coeur de l’édition 2015:

  • L’évènement Cuba du vendredi soir: une façon différente de découvrir certains auteurs et des éléments de la culture de Cuba, avec des lectures de différents auteurs, accompagnées  par de la musique et des chants (live!). Lectures très enlevées de Natasha Kanapé Fontaine et Rodney Saint-Éloi. Animation très professionnelle de Tristan Malavoy.
  • Monique Proulx: Personalité attachante que j’ai vu discuté de sa bibliothèque avec Claudia Larochelle et à Confidences d’écrivain avec Gilles Archambault. M’a donné quelques idées de lectures, entre autres ses propres livres… Est responsable du poids du sac de livres du jeudi soir.
  • Larry Tremblay: Toujours intéressant de l’entendre parler de L’orangeraie. C’est ce qui m’avait fait acheter le livre l’an passé, que j’ai lu avec plaisir d’ailleurs.
  • Audrée Wilhelmy: Un vent de fraîcheur, à Confidences d’écrivain avec Gilles Archambault. J’ai hâte de lire ses livres Oss et Les sangs.
  • Joseph Boyden: Encore à Confidences d’écrivain avec Gilles Archambault. Très intéressant de l’entendre parler de la création de The Orenda. Il était à Montréal pour promouvoir la traduction française. Cet évènement était en fait un peu bancal parce que Gilles Archambault s’entretenait avec Joseph Boyden en anglais et essayait de résumer ses propos de temps en temps. Finalement, on dirait qu’il a abandonné vers la fin. J’avais serré la main de cet auteur la veille pour lui dire à quel point j’avais aimé son livre. Comme il était pressé de partir  (selon les dires de la personne qui l’accompagnait et qui parlait français), je n’ai pas vraiment eu le temps de parler avec lui. Dommage…
  • Élise Turcotte: Que j’ai entendu parler dans au moins deux panels. Bonne conversation quand elle a dédicacé ma copie du Parfum de la tubéreuse. Elle est vraiment sympatique.
  • Autres rencontres d’auteurs: Fanny Britt (j’étais sa première dédicace du Salon!), Tristan Malavoy, Gilles Archambault, Jacques Boulerice, José Acquelin, Patrick Nicol, Pierre Nepveu, Louise Warren, Brigitte Pilote…
  • J’ai aussi fait dédicacer ma copie du dernier livre de Dany Laferrière. Contrairement aux années passées, il y avait tellement de monde qui attendait en ligne que ça en était gênant d’engager la conversation, alors à part un petit bonjour et une poignée de main… J’ai eu ma dédicace avec un dessin…
  • Ma plus belle rencontre a été avec Dominique Fortier dont j’avais entendu le nom de plusieurs écrivains. Son livre Au péril de la mer est une petite merveille (que je me suis empressée de lire et je vous en parle bientôt). C’est son quatrième roman et je me dépêché d’en acheter deux autres…. On a discuté de son livre, de son travail à part d’être écrivain, de ses études, de ses sujets de mémoire de maîtrise et de thèse de doctorat… Personne fascinante! Et très gentille. Je lui ai parlé de mon blogue et la dédicace d’Au péril de la mer dit: Pour Sylvie dont le monde est une bibliothèque, une petite incursion  dans le scriptorium du Mont-Saint-Michel, Amitiés… Je n’ai jamais eu une dédicace aussi personnalisée, j’étais vraiment touchée.

Ouf, que d’émotions… et maintenant beaucoup d’heures de lectures dans mon antre.

Tuesday Night Ramblings: all over the place, really

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I am listening to Chopin nocturnes up in my room and feeling kind of blah… I won’t start boring you my readers with the multiple causes of that. Just let me say that sometimes the many uncontrollable events that make up daily life start crowding me in a bit too much, and seem to down out my attempts at keeping up a happy, upbeat outlook on things.

So let me dive back into to my fantasy worlds for a bit and give you an overview of what is going in Sylvie’s World (the part that really matters here!). I finally dove into the latest Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last, an avatar of her online Positron project. It was published on September 29 in Canada, around the time I got back from vacation. I promptly got a copy but things got busy and it had to wait until the beginning of November. My impression so far? It’s got funny moments, the plot is coming along quite swiftly, but… I don’t like the amount of profanity in it, the language is less “crafted” than I would expect from Margaret Atwood, and the world she constructs in this book is no match for the complex, textured universe of the Maddaddam trilogy. So I am a little disappointed. I even miss the pigoons. I had not read the online Positron stories, so I went into the book with little prior information, and I think, no preconceptions, but certainly high expectations. So, there, blah… I think I will have to concentrate on the satirical aspects a bit more and get a sense of where this book stands as social commentary.

I’ve also been reading a small book of poetry called La plaquette cubaine, a collection of poems by three authors, José Acquelin, Bertrand Laverdure, and Yannick Renaud. I’ve run into José Acquelin at a few events in the couple of years (he was at the FIPTR last month) and he won Governor General’s Award last year. He will be one of the special guest at the Salon du Livre de Montréal next month, so I will most likely hear some more from him. La plaquette cubaine was written by the three authors following their participation in a Québec/Cuba cultural festival in Havana in 2007, and published by Le lézard amoureux (small publishing house that does poetry). I stumbled upon this book in a used bookstore near UQAM in downtown Montreal on an evening I decided to walk part of the way back home after work. When I do that, I always end up walking into bookstores on the way. I did that tonight as well by the way, but did not buy anything (that requires will power). I have Acquelin’s book that won the GG, Anarchie de la lumière, but I have yet to crack it open. The other work of poetry I am been “sipping”, is Colin Will’s The Propriety of Weeding, published by a small house from Northumberland in the UK called the Red Squirrel Press. I find the name of small publishers quite fascinating, especially the ones specializing in poetry.

Jane Austen’s Emma is the other novel that has been capturing my attention of late, but I am not sure that is ideal reading for the noise level in the metro. I am finding it quite a challenge to follow the convoluted, wordy and sometimes totally illogical conversations that Emma gets into with her relatives and friends, not to speak of the ones she unsuccessfully tries to prevent.

I have been perusing the latest issues of Lire magazine that cover the “rentrée littéraire” in France for both French authors and foreign authors in French translation, looking for what will strike my fancy to add to the TBR pile. More on that later in the week!

So, yes, there is all this reading going on. And I have started the NaNoWriMo challenge. So far, the word count is just below target, I have an outline of sorts, but it is quite conceptual and there is not really a plot. We will see where that goes. The idea might take better shape as I write. If anything, I might be able to rescue some of the material into short story form… or not. Oh wait, maybe I’ve got it wrong, that makes it sound like short stories are just failed attempts at something else, when they are really an art form in themselves… My main objective is really to get me to write more continuously than I have been doing with the blog, as well as to change my daily habits. Instead of getting out of bed in order to get ready to go to work in the morning, I get up to write and I go in to work a bit later. That is part of my trying to actually live the principle that I work to live, rather than live to work.

Dirty Little Reading Habits

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I have loved reading these posts from other bloggers so I will jump on the bandwagon as well.

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

There are at least two. The first one is a very simple IKEA chair right by the front window in the living room. I can lift my eyes from my book to watch neighbors walking their gorgeous, energetic dogs past my house. The chair also happens to be just the right height to rest my feet comfortably on the ground. I used to get somewhat frustrated to have to read somewhere else after sundown because we had no lamp in that corner of the living room but I eventually bought a floor lamp (at IKEA, where else…) and I can now read there any time.

My second favorite place to read is my bed where I like to read lying on my belly propped up on my elbows. No, it is not good for my back and shoulders. And they say you should only use your bed for sleep and sex and not for any other activity, if you happen to suffer from sleeping disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea, which I do, but being something of a rebel I don’t follow all the rules I am given.

I also have to admit I will pick vacation spots, or select a vacation home rental, based on whether I expect to enjoy reading there. On our last vacation, I rented a villa in Andalucía and it had a large covered terrace at the front so there was always a shady spot to read at any time of the day. I took the picture below on the single cloudy day we had over a nine-day stay… I spent hours and hours on that terrace.

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Bookmark or a random piece of paper?

Anything that falls into my hands but I do have a folder full of cool bookmarks too. My sister has this habit of giving pig-shaped presents and I do have a lovely pale pink pig-shaped silicon bookmark. Postcards make really nice bookmarks as well.

pig

Can you stop reading any time, or do you have to stop in a certain place?

I do a lot of my reading in public transit, so the reading has to stop when you have to get moving, as I don’t read while walking or going up and down stairs, for safety reasons.

Otherwise, I do prefer to stop at a logical place rather than mid-sentence or mid-paragraph, and I will often go back to the earliest logical starting point on a page rather than try to find exactly where I stopped reading.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Nothing better than a quiet read with my morning coffee on the weekend, or a cool glass a white wine before dinner.

Can you read while listening to music/watching TV?

No, not really, I much prefer silence.

One book at a time or several at once?

Oh, always several! Several fiction books, some poetry, and some work-related non-fiction. I love reading but I will get bored by just about any book at some point so I like to be able to switch from one to the other as it fits my mood.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

I love to read poetry out loud. For other things, not really, unless I decide to read a passage of a book in some kind of strange made-up accent, which I will only do in English as there is no way I can imitate any accent other than my own in that language.

Do you read ahead and skip pages?

Hardly ever, I am a pretty compulsive cover-to-cover reader. Karen at BookerTalk calls it the “hairshirt approach”. That made me giggle. I will start jumping around when I fear I might just have to give up the book. I did that recently. The book had fifteen chapters. I read the first two. I read the last one. I picked one in the middle. Naw… that was not going to happen.

Break the spine or keep it new?

I don’t really think about that honestly.

Do you write in books?

Far more in non-fiction rather than fiction. When I bought my first e-reader and it has that annotation function I was all excited that I would be able to annotate books electronically. However, I soon found this function so unwieldy that I soon gave up using it.

I do a lot more highlighting than writing, but it has its drawbacks. I don’t always remember why I highlighted passages.

The last paperback I annotated is L’art du roman by Milan Kundera, but I am only about a quarter through. No matter how interesting I did find it, I ended up putting it aside. It is still lying on my desk though.

Those are my confessions and secrets. Now how about hearing from you. Any secrets you care to share?

From others:

Marina Sofia at finding time to write

Cleopatra at Cleopatra Loves Books

Thursday Night Ramblings: The Giller Prize Shortlist and Other Things

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This has been quite a hectic return back from vacation, full of workshops, meetings and travel, and hardly any time to read… or breathe, for that matter. Flew back home last night and I am happy to be sitting at my home desk but somewhat lacking energy to write.

The Giller Prize short list was announced this week. You can see it here: http://www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/finalists/2015shortlist/.

I bought my Giller-related selections for 2015 out of the long list and none of the books I bought made the shortlist. So here is what I have to read:

Marina Endicott, Close to Hugh

Alex Hawley, All True Not a Lie in It

Patrick DeWitt, Undermajordomo Minor

I already had a copy of the original French version of Arvida by Samuel Archibald, and the English translation did make the Giller shortlist. I should get to these four books at some point in the next year. And I will mostly likely buy the Giller Prize winner when it is unveiled.

I had to give up reading a book this week, which I hardly ever do and I felt really bad about it. There were no particular reasons why I should not like this book. It was a family saga, set in a country of some interest to me, with quirky characters, and it explored the changing social and political context this family lived in. But I just couldn’t connect with any particular character, did not care about what happened to them and found myself just trying to turn the pages faster to get through the book. I read the first two chapters, the last one, tried for a random start in the middle of the book, but I finally had to give it up. It was The Walnut Mansion by Miljenko Jergovic, written in 2003 and coming out in English translation with Yale University Press towards the end of October. I am sure this book will be of great interest to people with an interest in literature from Eastern Europe.

I am off to the Trois-Rivières International Poetry Festival for the next couple of days, and the weather forecast is decent if a little cool, but that should work out well with rushing around town from one venue to the other.

Thursday Night Ramblings: Not finding time! Or wasting so much time! And not enough reading and writing! And much hand-wringing!

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Of all the things that stress me out, not being “productive” will send me into a tail spin. I drive myself crazy over not getting enough done in a day and having that nagging feeling that I did not accomplish anything. And no, I am not talking about work, but about my bloody personal life. I did not read X number of hours today, I am not getting through the TBR pile, I cannot get started on my Australian literature reading project, I am drifting away from my beloved Swedes, I am three books behind with blog posts. I have also given myself the additional challenge of reviewing books on Net Galley which means I have to keep track of books requested, publication/review dates and the occasional interaction with author or publisher staff.

Ok, I need to take a deep breath right? Yeah…

So here I am, sitting at my desk, drinking my organic decaf green tea and just trying to pound the keyboard and form sentences to get me going. I do have to thank Marina Sofia for a bit of inspiration.

I think I know an additional culprit for this latest bout of angst: I am stuck in a book, deeply mired in its slow-moving plot, unable to admit defeat in the face of gluey prose and strangely stilted dialogue, and while I can occasionally get carried away by its premise and the similarity to many other fascinating novels where a group of people are going across their known world on a wild quest, it is mostly a painfully slow read because I have to really work at it. And of course, if I try to read anything else (as relief), I feel terribly guilty… A thousand apologies to Kazuo Ishiguro but I cannot love The Buried Giant. I am similarly bogged down in Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World.

Here are the books I am working through from my Net Galley bookshelf:

  • Katherine Reay, The Brontë Plot
  • Paul Brown et al, The Fear-Free Organization (nonfiction)
  • Joseph Fiksel, Resilient by Design (nonfiction)
  • Roger Daniels, Franklin D. Roosevelt (nonfiction)
  • A. Higgins, Lightless (done reading, review to be published on August 25)

From my own library:

  • Milan Kundera, L’art du roman
  • One book on current trends in workplace learning
  • One book on talent management

And I have one book on talent management and another one on change management that I read but still need to review and integrate in the annotated bibliographies in the “Read for Work” section. I have recently changed roles at work, which always spurs me to increase my work-related reading. It helps me to think and put the new things I am learning by doing in context.

It is getting late and I should get away from the evil light-emitting, sleep-pattern jarring screen of my laptop computer and focus on relaxing so I can have a good night sleep… and not dream of gigantic piles of books toppling over my bed or characters violently slipping out from between the covers to chase me around the room, slashing the air with whips of string cheese…

Good night everyone.

Friday Night Ramblings: Crisis in Sylvie’s World

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On Wednesday, big day at the office and I am on my way back home… I get into the subway and once on the platform, I take out my Kobo to get back into the latest novel (Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster). For some reason, at some point, I felt I had to take out my iPhone to look at my e-mail.  I am carrying my purse, my computer backpack, and now I have my Kobo and my iPhone out. Yes, you might be thinking there is way too much technology involved in this scene.

Fast forward to the bus terminal. I am waiting in line for the #1 bus to take me home. I am struggling with the stupid iPhone that keep giving me an error when I try to reply to a colleague’s e-mail who has a question I can answer quickly. However, it is now anything but quick… So I get on the bus, still carrying purse, backpack, iPhone in one hand, transit pass in the other. Picture this: long black skirt, flowing red tunic with ruffles, back asymmetric cardigan, and carrying all that stuff. No, I was not trying for the scarecrow look.

The Kobo has not been seen since.

What? Noooooooooooo!!!! Where is my Kobo?????

The only thing I can think of is that I put it on my lap when I took my iPhone out of my purse. My Kobo lives in a soft turquoise leather pouch. It must have fallen to the ground when I got up and was gathering my things and making sure I was not getting a wardrobe malfunction with all this fabric floating around me.

I’ll have to stop by the lost and found desk in the central hub station on my way to work on Monday and see if they have it. At least, it’s right on my way to the office. The transit company website says you have to wait about 48 hours before you inquire about lost objects.

Sunday Ramblings: Do I need a focus?

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I have arrived at a point again where I am trying to read too many books at the same time. And it causes stress. Every time I sit down I wonder which one I should get into. I worry about reading rates and when I will manage to finish another book so I can blog about (as if anybody cares about that really). Several people read my blog but I am sure no one waits impatiently for the next post.

Whenever this happens, I have to give myself a good kick in the butt and remind myself why I read. Because (1) I love getting into a good story, (2) it’s a way to learn something, (3) it’s a great escape from my day-to-day work life, (4) it’s an exposure to another world, another mind, another way to use language. And in that context, there should be no concern about speed of execution; it should be all about enjoying those moments.

As displayed at the moment on the blog: I am reading Pérez-Reverte’s El tango de la guardia vieja, a good story with some mystery to it. It has what I could describe as a “X” shape construction. It tells a story about two people, a man and a woman, describing in parallel for a while the past life and present predicament of that man. It eventually dips into the past of the woman as well, after they meet again in the present time and start revisiting old times together. So you have the four segments of the “X”, man-woman-present-past, eventually meeting in the middle, where presumably all makes sense (I still have to get to that point) and we can progress to the future, if a (common) future is possible. Nothing is so certain… Both protagonists are rascals of a sort, one with money and one without (I will let you guess which is which), which obviously provides them with different resources and choices in life.

So I am about one third of the way through this fairy large novel, which I suspect is about a 15-hour read. I have also gotten about 20% into the 7-hour long Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, the 2014 winner of the Giller Prize. I have read some of the short list and at least one long listed book, so here we are with the winner. So far, I failed to be entranced by the book and its protagonist, a somewhat self-centered Russian scientist who invented the theremin, this electronic musical instrument that is used for the other-worldly Star Trek theme. This one is on my Kobo, so I have mostly been reading it in public transportation.

It’s been a slow start on Guillaume et Nathalie.

The event of the week is that the new book of poetry by Rafael Courtoisie (Parranda) that I ordered through the Libreria de las Americas in Montreal has finally arrived after a four-month wait. I had called for an update about 2 weeks ago and they told me it was arriving that week, but they did not call me back until Wednesday of this week to tell I would pick up. A big order to unpack perhaps? It is a tiny bookstore with a small staff and not very long opening hours. I dropped by yesterday to get my book, and bought a couple more since I was there (one has to encourage small niche businesses, right?).

Now, look as I may, I cannot find a publication date on Parranda. The front does say that is the winner of the 14th Premio Casa de América de Poesía Americana, but the copyright page does not explicitly say it was published in 2014, save for the legal deposit number including the number 2014. That is not the way it is usually done with other books, so I was puzzled.

So Parranda won a poetry prize for poets from the Americas which is handed out at the Case de América in Madrid. It is published in Spain by what seems to be a fairly small publisher and one whose books are difficult to order in Canada. Rafael Courtoisie is an Uruguayan writer who was recently named to the Academy of Letters of his country and has had so far an interesting career both a writer and teacher, and more to come I hope. I have had an interesting time exploring his work so far and I am in the process of formulating a study course on Uruguayan literature (which I hope will be a good preparation for a vacation in Uruguay in 2-3 years from now).

The other course of study I am pursuing is the short Coursera offering on Australian literature, a six-week exploration of Australian literature fundamentals with a professor from the University of Western Australia. So far pretty interesting, although I have already fallen being and am trying to catch up. The first week was about varying perceptions of land and space from current and early writers, as well as from aboriginal culture. The second week focuses on the original of Australia as a penal colony and how this theme as been used in literature. The main part of the course are the video lectures and little actual reading (short extracts only) which makes it a good introduction but certainly invites one to more in depth reading. In terms of workload, it is much less daunting than the 2 previous lit courses I did on Coursera which required reading a full-size novel each week (or the equivalent in smaller works).

So, my head is all over the place… Oh well, back to reading (and cooking and housework, as it is Sunday and there are other demands on my time as well).

And here we go for the humorous link:

Sheldon (The Big Bang Theory) playing the Star Trek theme on the theremin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YYABE0R3uA

Visite au Festival international de poésie de Trois-Rivières 2014

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Ce festival existe depuis maintenant trente ans et j’en avais entendu parler à maintes reprises, mais comme Trois-Rivières n’est pas à coté de chez moi (au moins une heure et demi de route), je n’avais jamais mis cette évènement sur ma liste de priorité. Par contre, avec mon intérêt toujours croissant pour la littérature et les événements littéraires, ainsi que la nature plutôt orale de la poésie, j’aime de plus en plus entendre les poètes déclamer leurs poèmes plutôt que de me contenter de les lire (à voix haute toutefois de temps en temps).

Le festival dure dix jours, englobant deux fins de semaine. J’ai choisi d’y aller pour la dernière journée, un dimanche, qui s’est avérée être une superbe journée ensoleillée où l’on se promenait dans les rues avec plaisir. Les évènements prennent place dans les restaurants et les cafés du vieux Trois-Rivières ainsi que dans certaines institutions publiques telles la Maison de la Culture.

Voir Visite au Festival international de poésie de TroisRivieres 2014 pour mes impressions du festival et quelques photos.

Thursday Night Ramblings: Long Book Titles Must Be In Vogue Or Something

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This is the time of the year where I am just itching to buy more books (yes, more than I do usually). It’s literary prize season. So I have been looking at what is getting some attention out there and I am ready to take on new authors and do more exploration of contemporary fiction. Here is what I have picked up based on long lists or short lists as the case may be…

Man Booker Prize:

Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (7)

Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves (6)

National Book Award:

Anthony Doerr, All The Light We Cannot See (6)

Richard Power, Orfeo (1)

Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2)

Scotiabank Giller Prize:

Padma Viswnathan, The Everafter of Ashwin Rao (5)

Shani Mootoo, Moving Forwards Sideways Like a Crab (6)

Heather O’Neill, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (6)

So the mode is 6 (Stat 101 anyone?); I was too lazily to compute the average. The median is 6 as well. I thought that was in interesting factoid.

I also stocked up on some highly touted offerings of the French “rentrée littéraire”, which all happen to be far more economical title-wise:

Emmanuel Carrère, Le royaume

David Foenkinos, Charlotte

Eric Reinhardt, L’amour et les forêts

Jean-Marie Blas de Robles, L’île du Pont Némo

This collection promises some good times, in addition to my other quirky choices for no good reason like the authors I systematically read, the attractive design or cover art, the cute author, or the promise of a really dismal dystopia.

The Joshua Tree (inspired by Karen Russell)

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This is a story of how life meets literary obsession. Not that I could really tell at the time…

Some years ago, my husband and I took a short vacation in California in the middle of the winter. We stayed in Orange County, the area I knew best through a series of business trips. We did do some of the typical touristy stuff in LA: the Getty Center, Universal Studios, and Hollywood Boulevard.

At the time, my sister and I were playing a trick on a colleague of hers. She was a lab technician in a college and one of the physics teachers she worked with had designed an experiment that involved the use yellow rubber duckies, the kinds that kids play with in the bath tub. She stole one of the rubber ducks and I traveled with it around the world, wherever job and pleasure travel took me and took pictures of the duck in various locations. I then sent pictures of the duck back to that teacher in question, through an anonymous hotmail address, something like globetrottingduck@hotmail.com. I had pictures of the duck in various circumstances in India, in the suburbs of Washington, DC, as well as with the little siren in Copenhagen (not quite the literary connection I really want to talk about though).
One of my goals on Hollywood Boulevard was to find Celine Dion’s star so I could take a picture of the duck with it. Oh, sweet success…

Celine Dion

The thing about the duck was not the literary obsession… My sister was trying to duplicate the garden gnome travels as pictured in the Amélie Poulain movie, where Amélie’s friend who was a flight attendant carried around a garden gnome from the garden of Amélie’s father and mailed back custom postcards featuring the garden gnome.

Roadrunner

While in California, we also went to Palm Springs where we visited this zoo/botanical garden place called “The Living Desert”. There I ran into what I never thought really existed… well, I did know the TV version, but I thought it only existed as a cartoon character and somehow never thought it was a real bird… yes, you got it, the famous Roadrunner! I had to chase this little guy around (they really are not that big) for quite a while until I could snap a picture.
Meep, meep!
So we got the show biz connection, the movie connection, the TV connection… we will eventually get to the literary connection.
One of the excursions I wanted to take while we were in Palm Springs was to see the desert. Our hotel had a stack of pamphlets of course, some of which features off-road trips in the desert in a Hummer… I booked one really quick, before my husband had the time to say “over my dead body”… and off we were in a Hummer.

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We drove off a side road from the main highway that goes from Palm Springs to Palm Desert and went into the Joshua Tree National Park. Desert as far as you can see and big skies… Lovely cool day.

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Lots of desert plants. Like what we had seen at The Living Desert, this was typical of the Mojave Desert, each desert having its own characteristic ecosystem and variety of plants and wildlife.

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There were these funny taller ones, gray trunks with vivid green tufts on the end of arms.

Wait… you mean, THAT is a Joshua Tree? What a let down… I thought a Joshua tree was a large tree, something big and tall, with lots of shade… Not these sticks with tufts on the end. For a long time, I was disappointed. But the images stayed with me, and I often thought about that experience in the desert.

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And reading Russell’s “The bad graft” with Amy possessed by the spirit of the Joshua Tree,

Her heels grind uselessly into the carpet. Her toes curl at the fibres. She stands in the quiet womb of the room, waiting for a signal from the root brain, the ancient network from which the invader has been exiled. She lifts her arms until they are fully extended, her fingers turned outward. Her ears prick up like sharp leaves, alert for moisture.

She is still standing like that when Andy comes home with groceries at 10 p.m., her palms facing the droning light bulb, so perfectly still that he yelps when he spots her.

Just like that Joshua tree:

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Those are my real vacation pictures. OK, the order was rearranged somewhat to match the narrative. But really, the final picture with the two branches looking like upraised arms was not retouched in any way… Just too weird.

Reference
Russell, Karen. “The bad graft”, The New Yorker, June 9 & 16, 2014, pages 92-99.