There’s so much adjusting going on that I can’t see our situation with any clarity right now. There are very particularly American anxieties that I’m sure I’ll soon be absorbing as my own. I am writing from within the fog of flu-like symptoms of a possibly ill-advised juice cleanse I’ve undertaken. The sun is still bright, the sky still blue, the air still hot, but the rest of the news of life from Riverside will wait until I have a little more perspective. So here are things going on with me as a semi-professionalised (emerging? professionalizing?) writer & reader.
1. I am now going to be helping to produce and edit content for the Echolocation blog, so if you are interested in writing reviews or interviews, or being reviewed or interviewed, or if you have any other ideas for content, email me at ec.harmer [at] gmail [dot] com.
2. My story “No Violence” is now out with Grain Magazine. I wanted to write something about the darkness of parenting young children. Around the time I wrote I told someone that potty-training was, in all seriousness, a kind of horror. Publishing in Grain is one of those long-held dreams, since the time I used to sit in the downtown library in Hamilton as a teenager and pore over it, attempting to crack its secrets.
3. “This Great Experiment” a story about a man who leaves his comfortable life in Toronto to live in an RV with a hippy and her daughter, is out with the Dalhousie Review. I share table of contents with the lovely Trevor Corkum and Michael Prior, unstoppably brilliant poet and my partner on the Echolocation blog.
Both of the above stories I wrote while we were in Toronto, having a really hard time, and I told someone at the time that all of the stories I was writing were about “having no prospects”. Terror equals art. Now all of those scary stories are out in the world, the third being “Grievances”, published last year by Little Fiction.
4. “Attention” is coming out very soon in Little Brother no. 5, the magazine helmed by Emily M. Keeler. This issue will also feature work by another couple of talented Toronto writers: Andrew Sullivan & Naben Ruthnum. This story was an experiment where I tried to write as many of the sentences as I could as from the messages we receive daily: news reports, subway announcements, songs, advertisements, etc. And also about being trapped in a subway car. (I wish I were in Toronto for the launch of LB… :( )
5. I still listen to Q, The Current, Wiretap, etc. instead of switching over to NPR. I have not switched my interests from Giller long lists to National Book Award ones. In these ways I shall pretend to being in Canada. Jian’s Ghomeshi’s interview with Ethan Hawke really touched me.
6. I’m reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild for a book club and I cannot believe how compelling it is! It is well-fleshed-out nonfiction one can only hope to imitate, paley. I’m happy for all that the book has brought Strayed & now I want to try hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
7. Lastly, to round out my life, since it is most deeply immersed in the joys and horrors of parenting, I read this beautiful essay. It moves between the difficulty of the decision to have children, the feeling of dissatisfaction, and the hard lives many children have to face:
As I was saying all this, I was lying on the cheap platform bed we’d bought in anticipation of a steady flow of out-of-town company. The curtains were lifting gently in the breeze. Outside, there was bougainvillea, along with bees and hummingbirds and mourning doves. There was a grassy lawn where the dog rolled around scratching its back, and a big table on the deck where friends sat on weekends eating grilled salmon and drinking wine and complaining about things they knew were a privilege to complain about (the cost of real estate, the noise of leaf blowers, the overratedness of the work of more successful peers). And as I lay on that bed it occurred to me, terrifyingly, that all of it might not be enough. Maybe such pleasures, while pleasurable enough, were merely trimmings on a nonexistent tree. Maybe nothing—not a baby or the lack of a baby, not a beautiful house, not rewarding work—was ever going to make us anything other than the chronically dissatisfied, perpetual second-guessers we already were.
That’s all for now from me, another chronically dissatisfied, perpetual second-guesser.