Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Slat figures gamboling in the dawn breeze

[inline:1] Ok. It's been awhile and jeff laid out a lovely lovely new blog layout for me so here goes.

I saw Pride and Prejudice opening night. I believe my first coherent thoughts were
1. being skinny in Regency England made you look ass ugly in those dresses. Keira Knightly looked like she was wearing sacks (though I believe some of that was to denote her “boyish” nature. ew.) and for the first time in my life, I realized how unappealing a woman without a bosom can be. Also It's a pity they picked a girl to play Lizzie and not a woman. Besides having sparkling eyes, Knightly was little more than a slat figured tomboy, frolicking through the dawn and twirling on a swing that was situated over a farmyard of mud.

2. My second coherent thought made me startle.- This is a script that Charlotte Bronte got her hands on. I believe I concluded this after words like “bewitching” or “incandescent” were spoken by Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. That's not the right era for those words! And Mr Darcy striving manfully through the foggy sunrise and Lizzie standing on the edge of a cliff, her boyish coat streaming in the wind? These things are not Austen- they're Bronte! Charlotte Bronte hated Jane Austen but it seems like she got her revenge after all.

3. Besides using the words “bewitching”, “incandescent”, etc., the screenwriter screwed with every precocious line of Austen's that deserved to stand on its own. I flinched whenever it happened- happy lines were usually tweeked at the end, a latin based word thrown in. To sound more intellectual? I hardly know. And not only that but they used language and thought we use today! Charlotte Lucas cries out in a passion, “Don't you judge me!” Can anyone really imagine an Austen character saying that? No! The fact of being “judged” would never be alluded to. Charlotte would painfully be congratulated and she would look down and voice some thankful line about Mr. Collins good position with Lady Catherine in response. Never ever would she yell out, “Don't you judge me!”

Hmmm…but I could just be terribly cranky about it. I did after all sit in the second to front row and could only watch one part of the screen at a time. For awhile I would watch the right side and for the other part, I would watch the left side. This all left me a bit queasy.

So despite my judgments, I believe I will go again and sit in a much better seat and criticize.

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.