Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Packing for Paris

I leave for Paris tomorrow, so I have been doing a fair amount of planning of what I want to bring. As a reader and a writer, that means I've spent most of my time trying to figure out what books and projects to bring along with me. (I'll handle the clothes and other incidentals later. I mean, the flight doesn't leave until, like, 8 or something.) Packing, as a reader, is all about balance. You never want to be stuck without something to read and you don't want to pay the extra fee for having too heavy of a bag. Furthermore, you need to leave at least a little room for the books you are going to buy on vacation, because, let's face it, you're going to buy books on vacation. Paris poses an extra problem, because along with being one of the great walking cities, eating cities, and drinking cities, it is also one of the great sitting cities which naturally leads to being a great reading and writing city. So, with all that in mind, here are the books and projects I'll be bringing with me to Paris.


The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Eventually, I'll find myself back in my hotel room winding down from a long day of coffee, cheese, wine, and walking, and I've always found big old critically acclaimed fantasy epics relaxing to read before I go to bed. Hurley's series has come highly recommended by a number of people I know who read more fantasy than I do, so the first volume was a natural fit. I've also, already read about half of it and have really enjoyed it so far, so I know it's a safe bet for the nightstand in the hotel.

Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson
Anne Carson is a genius. That's just science. Eros the Bittersweet is her exploration of the idea of of “Eros” in classical literature and all the ideas of language, metaphor, and storytelling that grow out of that exploration. Though the content is challenging, the book is organized in relatively short chapters, so it's easy to incorporate into a coffee-sit. You can read a chapter, look up, watch the people around you, talk, stash it back in the satchel to take with you to a park, read another chapter, rinse and repeat.

I love Jesse Ball and the galley of his new novel is the perfect packing size. Furthermore, as I as was chatting with another bookseller at Porter Square about my upcoming trip she said something to the effect of, “It's nice to start something on a trip." I don't entirely know why this was a compelling argument, but it was. Also, read more Jesse Ball. 

Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert
My original packing list was just the three books above. For reasons lodged in the mysteries of consciousness, I wasn't particularly motivated to read a Paris-themed book in Paris. But then I was shelving at Porter Square and came across this fucking thing. I mean, just look at it. I mean, according to the jacket it was “embraced by the young Situationists as a kind of manual for living off the grid.” What the fuck else was I supposed to do? I'm not made of stone.

I'm not setting any goals and I'm not sure if I'll do any writing, but as with reading, I don't want to find myself inspired to work and not have anything with me. Furthermore, Paris has been so important to so many English-language writers, including some of my heroes (Joyce and Stein), that it would feel almost sacrilegious to go to Paris without a notebook and a few drafts. Also, if you're curious what I'm working on, well, here's your answer.

Side Project A: The Biography of Alisoun
This is a novel that (at the moment) will be composed of two distinct parts. The first part, which is the one I'm working on, is composed of vignettes of varying length and set at varying times in the titular character's life. The second part will be (at least at the moment) a linear narrative of a particularly dramatic series of events in Alisoun's life. (Chaucer fans will take note of the spelling.) Because it's told in vignettes this is a really handy side project because I can basically write about whatever is in my head at the moment I feel like writing for as long as I feel like writing about it. Though I do have some vague hopes and goals, the current state of this project is very much anything goes. Which makes it perfect for hanging in the satchel while I wander around Paris. Also, in case you can't see from the picture, this was the notebook I got for attending the sixth Winter Institute.

Draft of a Chapter from the New Novel
Specifically, the “Coyote Casablanca” chapter if that makes any sense or is in any way intriguing. I decided I didn't want to bring my laptop so made sure I had drafts that I could read and edit if I felt so moved. This way, progress doesn't have to stop completely on my novel. Furthermore, drafts can be easier to pick away at if motivation comes in little bits and bites and fit a lot better in my satchel.

Draft of Short Story: "The Morning Skate"
Because the first thing you think of when you hear the word "Paris" is “Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.” This actually began life as a chapter in an essentially abandoned novel. I've been chipping away at it for a few years now and I think I'm almost done. It's about a youngish, sports journalist, working on a feature-length story about his home town's junior hockey team. One of the reasons I like to juggle a lot of different writing projects is that I always want to have something to work on, regardless of my mood, energy level, or ideas. And packing a bunch of drafts is a lot easier than packing a bunch of notebooks and a laptop.

Draft of a Short Story, "The Summer Slip"
This is actually a story my father started that I'm going to finish. It's about a family opening their summer camp for the first time after the patriarch and grandfather of the narrator died. They struggle a bit early on to remember all the steps to getting the camp ready for the summer, which they eventually connect to the idea of “summer slip,” the stuff students forget over the summer. It also features of a short collection of classic Lewiston Quebecois swearing. I purposely set this draft aside a few months ago with the intention of letting it rest for awhile.

The Satchel Notebook
Everything else, should there be anything else, will go in the catchall satchel notebook.