Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)


Process Journal, 7 am: “OMFG, this is such a happy moment.”

I think I start to cry at 9:30 am. Jesus fucking Christ.


The less said about Monday, the better. No, really. Let’s move on.


I don’t know. Good, bad. Mixed up. Sad, ugly. The dominant theme is “abandoned,” which is interesting but I’m not quite together enough to explore it. And a fevered Ender—he needs to be in my arms, most of the day. But that gives me rest, is good.

I read Vladimir Nabokov’s Letters To Vera, an antidote and simultaneously a poison.

Cinder and I have a fight, sort of about math, ultimately, about power. I think we both lose.

I cry some more.



I want today to be a better day, and I have pretty damn impressive will power. I do. Granted, this week it seems drowned by a flood of tears, but surely? I know the tips and tricks, tools and techniques to pull it off, pull it out.

The question is, do I want to?

I think, much as I disliked the past 48-72 hours, I needed them. Maybe I need one more sloppy, wet, weepy day. In Bone, Marion Woodman has a line:

“Don’t worry about my tears,” I said. “Better rolling down my cheeks than blocking my kidneys.”

Maybe this particular dam just needs to to… fuck I don’t know how to finish that metaphor, it’s stupid.


I do some of the things but Ender has a relapse, we cuddle on the couch. You come to visit… I feel distant and don’t want to address it, I want to be inside myself right now; let me.


Thursday was… complicated.


I don’t know. I suppose it was a transition day. I worked, juggled. But generally neither cried nor stressed.


I performed. Well. Do it all out, bring it all, spend it all.

I did.

I’m channelling Annie Dillard here, by the way, what she said was:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

In the evening, I took all my nutrients for the day in a pint of Guinness. Two. Three.

I’d do penance on Sunday, I decided.

But I was lucky; I didn’t.


Sunday was… perfect. Except in the night. Crappy dreams.


nabokov, i

When I was seventeen, I used to write on average two poems a day, each of them taking me about twenty minutes. Their quality was doubtful, but I didn’t even try to write better then, thinking that I was performing little miracles and that over miracles I didn’t need to think.

Now I know that, indeed, reason is a negative part of creativity and inspiration a positive one, but only through their secret conjunction is the white spark born, the electrical flicker of perfect creation.

Vladimir Nabokov, Letters to Vera

notes on the discovery of the clitoris

In 1558, a Venetian professor, Matteo Realdo Colombo—he had studied anatomy with Michelangelo, btw, stumbled upon a mysterious protuberance between a woman’s legs.

So he was examining a patient and he discovered this “button” and he noted that she grew tense as he manipulated it, and that it appeared to grow in size at his touch.

“Clearly, this would require more study.”

After examining scores of other women, Colombo found they all that this same, responsive protuberance.

He reported his discovery of the clitoris to the dean of his faculty. And… he was “arrested, accused of heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, and Satanism, put on trial and imprisoned. His manuscripts were confiscated, and his discovery was forbidden to be mentioned.”

Sources: The Anatomist, by Frederico Andahazi
referenced in Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

nabokov ii

Text to Sean:

Nabokov also noticed when his friends and colleagues didn’t show up to his readings… and resented it, years, later.

I guess all artists are a little petty.

Text from Sean:

It’s not petty. But non-artists don’t understand. But I guess the still resenting it years later part doesn’t sound so good.

Nabokov also had to beg for reviews. And money. (And work.)

When he was already regarded as the foremost writer of his generation, in several languages.

Sigh. Is this perspective, or a sign that I should get a “regular people” job?

kids and dharma

Discussing Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, Sean and I make a discovery. Well. I notice—as he’s reading it, I didn’t notice it the first time—that all the dharmic lives Stephen Cope is examining, the great and the small, are single, childless people.

Then I stop. I’m wrong. Jane Goodall was married (twice) and had a son. Robert Frost had a whole gaggle of children. Marion Woodman, married. Gandhi had four kids too.

But the way Cope wrote the book—they might as well not have had them. Their children, their families do not figure in their dharma story—except, insofar as Mrs. Frost and Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Goodall (Jane’s mother) enabled them to live their dharma.

I get… kind of angry. And get a little homophobic: Cope is gay, at the time of writing of the book partnerless and childless. (Old, too, I add acerbically.) What does he know about a mother’s dharma?

“He says events change your dharma,” Sean says. He’s still on the Marion Woodman section of the book, in which Woodman embraces the wound, makes living with cancer her dharma (of the moment). “Children change your dharma too. Once you have them—they become your new dharma. Or part of it, anyway—they affect it. Hugely.”

As he says this, there’s an explosion of noise inside Ender’s bedroom and four eight-to-ten year old boys clamber down the stairs. Fully armed.

“I fought that, denied it for a long time,” Sean says as they run past us, down the stairs, and outside.

I don’t think I did. Or did I? I think… I always knew I had to ride both of these horses. That I would not, could not choose one over the other.

But it never was—still isn’t—an easy choice. Robert Frost never had to agonize over whether he’d be a poet or a father of four children. But I bet you Jane Goodall thought long and hard about the impact having little Hugo would have on her career, life, plans. She had to…

nabokov iii

Nabokov is in Paris… or somewhere. I can’t remember. Vera is in Berlin, on her own. with their one-year-old baby. He writes her a letter every day. Complains that she doesn’t write to him often enough.

He ends up having an affair later that year. Neglected.

From the perspective of time, it’s kind of funny.

The marriage survives.

But she never writes him as much as he writes her. Of course not.

nabokov iv

Maria Popova is writing about Zadie Smith on Brainpickings this week, and Zadie Smith is writing about Nabokov:

When I write I feel there’s usually a choice to be made between the grounded and the floating. The ground I am thinking of in this case is language as we meet it in its “commonsense” mode. The language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily “public” conversation. Some writers like to walk this ground, re-create it, break bits of it off and use it to their advantage, whereas others barely recognize its existence. Nabokov — a literal aristocrat as well as an aesthetic one — barely ever put a toe upon it. His language is “literary,” far from what we think of as our shared linguistic home.

Source: Zadie Smith, Feel Free

I’ve told you about all the bad books I’ve read lately, right?

Zadie Smith tells me, “Nobody really expects to write like Nabokov.”

But… I’d rather have him as my model, mentor and inspiration, than The National Enquirer. Or my Twitter stream or Facebook feed.

And I think… I thinks she’s a little wrong about the dichotomy. What makes Nabokov Nabokov—for me, THE foremost writer of the 20th century, no one comes close—is that he used “the language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily ‘public’ conversation” in aesthetically perfect, transformative ways. Despite the fact that he read and claimed to understand Ulysses (and perhaps he did), Nabokov is perfectly, terrifyingly comprehensible.

I finish Nabokov’s Letters to Vera on Friday; it’s time to re-read… well, all of him. I’m going to start with Pale Fire. End with Lolita.



PS It wasn’t a bad week, you know. Just not a simple one. And I’m really glad I let myself cry for three days. I needed it.


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)


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Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)


I write and then I vegetate except for when I do battle with the fridge—totally unfulfilling, but someone had to take that bitch down—rearrange all the furniture in the kitchen (and then put it back), go to yoga, do two loads of laundry, and murder all the dust bunnies hiding under our bed.

I also find my good water bottle and favourite vibrator, so, you know, it’s all worth it.

You: You’re not going to use that, are you?

Jane: I’ll clean it. Really, really well.

You: I don’t even want to look at you right now.

I also walk to Safeway in the sun with the Ender. Buy meat, bath salts, candles and flowers.

Ender: Candy?

Jane: Ok.

Ender: Drink instead of candy?

Jane: Sure.

Ender: The big bottle is cheaper than the little bottle. Look.

Sigh. Ok.

He carries a 2l bottle of Sprite all the way home, chugging from it at irregular intervals.



[insert key scene here]


And what key scene would that be?


Cryptic notes to myself are just so enchanting.



True thing: marination is alchemy and it transforms a $1.76 (for two) steak into a masterpiece. The secret is plenty of lemon juice.

I have no lemon juice, but there is a very old lime on the counter.

Flora: Didn’t you just go to Safeway yesterday?

Jane: Hush. The alchemist is at work.

Key scene, key scene, key scene…


Coffee with neighbour, friend of many lifetimes. The Ender roams in the background; the Flora is in the next room. Headphones on, but always listening.

We talk about almost important things, but fairly carefully.


Lunch out. Big eyes that blink too much. Small mouth. Swollen lips. The  most delicious gluten-free muffin ever… that turns out to be gluten-friendly. Someone has a sense of humour, fucking bakers, I’d be so angry at you, except THAT WAS THE MOST DELICIOUS THING I HAVE EATEN in…. aaaah.

Suddenly, snow in the sunshine.

I decide the lunch with a beautiful woman, never mind the delicious white wheat flour muffin, OMFG, fuck being responsible, GIVE ME MORE—is indulgence enough, and I will not smoke a cigar today.

The snow and icy wind influence my decision. Just a little.


Science happens without much need for intervention, correction or encouragement.

Jane: So, you? Math?

Flora: Ugh.

Jane: I know. Just a little?

Flora: Shouldn’t you be teaching Ender to read?

Jane: Ugh.

Mostly, I’m hoping Minecraft teaches him.

Hey, it worked with Cinder.


Flora peels the potatoes while I meditate.

But there’s a text from her on my phone when I come out.

Flora: Where did you go?

I decide to text her back, instead of finding her.

Jane: I was hiding in the basement. That’s where I usually am when you can’t find me.

I think I’m so funny.


The invasion of the neighbourhood boys while I make supper.

Blue: Is Cinder doing math today?

Jane: No.

Blue: Thank god.

Pre-calculus math isn’t just ruining my life. It’s affecting the quality of life of everyone in the neighbourhood.

(I think I’m so funny. But… so does she…)

Her: Hey! New story idea! Harried mom has to trade sexual favours with hot young math teacher/tutor to help her child.  Just putting it out there.

Jane: You know… that totally has legs…

Jane: Actually, fuck it as a story. I’m going to go out and seduce a hot young math tutor. And then, maybe, I’ll write about it. Win-win-win scenario. 😉

You think I’m kidding. Ha.


I’m reading, simulatenously, Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Ryan, The Art of Organizing Anything by Rosalie Maggio, and Original Light  by Snatam Kaur). I should be reading billionaire romances. Four more to go… no, three—before March 7.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to persevere.

Sean: What’s the penalty if you don’t finish all the books you’re supposed to judge?

Jane: Eternal shame. You know I have to finish. I’m genetically incapable of not finishing. Sob.

(This is not funny. It is utterly tragic.)

(The Art of Organizing Anything is both funny AND tragic.)


I steal Blue’s mother’s car to take Flora to her martial arts class. Then, for reasons I don’t quite understand, end up reading articles about / by Jungian analyst Marion Woodman.

I should be writing that missing key scene.

Reading billionaire romances.



“The conscious feminine gives us the courage to love an acorn without knowing what an oak tree is.”    —Marion Woodman


“Love is the true antitheses of fear. It expands where fear constricts. It embraces where fear repels.” —Marion Woodman

And this one is my favourite:

“Presence is holding love without twisting it into your desire.” —Marion Woodman

(Sean is reading the Marion Woodman part in Stephen Cope’s The Great Work Of Your Life, so I think I start googling her for context. And to find out if she lived or died.)


Sort of on topic:

synchronicity is “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

I think Carl Jung coined the word. Or at least redefined it.

“Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence were due not merely to chance, but instead potentially reflected the manifestation of coincident events or circumstances consequent to this governing dynamic. He spoke of synchronicity as being an “acausal connecting principle.”


I guess I might have been familiar with the concept before Julia Cameron, but it was really only after reading The Artist’s Way that I started to really think about synchronicity.

“When I teach and I explain to my students the concept of synchronicity, they may at first protest that such a concept seems too good to be true. Not wanting to be gullible, they exclaim, ‘Julia! Do you really believe the universe opens doors for us?’ I tell them yes, and I ask them not to believe me, but to keep track themselves of the instances of synchronicity they now encounter.”

Julia Cameron

So I’m thinking about synchronicity chiefly because she’s experiencing crazy synchronicity (and is a little worried, a little fey—is something bad going to happen soon?) and also because…

I don’t know.

 * * * [insert key scene here] * * *



The morning starts with those thoughts. Is it worth it? Why bother? What sets them off is the Twitter account of a podcaster. I’ve followed a few friends who podcast. And now, Twitter keeps on suggesting podcast accounts I might be interested in.


Ditto youtubers. Bloggers. Authors.


Maybe the biggest service I can do for the world is to shut the fuck up…

Listen. Instead of talking.

Read. Instead of writing.

BE instead of creating… things nobody needs, notices because they are too busy shouting about their own drama, trauma, passions.

Maybe I need to stop.

Maybe I should get off.

The thoughts crate a peculiar sensation. The opposite, perhaps, of the still-point yogis chase—although it feels still, too—I am very still—and the world is swirling around me, a cacophony of noise, podcasts, vloggers, bloggers, youtoubers, genre authors, critics, reviewers… trolls.

Everyone is talking, all at once.


What will happen if I fall silent?

I should close my mouth and find out.

I close my eyes instead.


I decide the key scene is not so much missing as buried.


Fuck, that felt good.



Seesha. The Man On The Moon.

Searing sadness. Just such… searing sadness.

How is it possible to find happiness and rest and peace in the heart of such searing sadness?

But it is.

(a sense of safe place, I can’t explain it otherwise; a place of rest)

(I want to honour this moment, this night, this experience–I don’t yet know how)


Up too early. Smell of sex in the sheets, the air. Morning air so cold.

“What will you do today?”

“I have to finish a story…”

I finish more quickly than I expect; there is a smell of violets in the air.

I do all the things at home; take the train to the university. Russell Smith is speaking on what is authentic in art.

I’m… interested and yet disappointed.

And I’m so… frustrated by art and academics apparently working so hard to make themselves irrelevant.

You want to meet me in the evening; I say no. Choose solitude, home instead of you; you understand.

But instead, I end up in a bar with a bevy of artists.

We none of us know why we do what we do. We just… Compulsion, vocation?

I don’t know. And there is no answer at the bottom of the Guinness glass.


I spend the whole day reading Marion Woodman’s Bone.

Well, I also help Cinder with science. Read Bone (Jeff Smith’s) to Ender. Make food, go to yoga (I think I hate yoga) (I think I hate exercise) (I definitely don’t like “the gym”) (please, spring, come soon). I think a load of laundry gets done somewhere in there. I might answer an email.

Oh, and I burn through a billionaire romance (I told you; don’t ask—it’s work; it’s necessary, but I’m NEVER going to do it again).

But mostly, Friday, I spend with Marion Woodman.

Bone seduces me, transposes me, transforms me.

“Returning to my self-discipline routine. Taking time and energy to do my exercises, walking half an hour every day, and gently dancing. Not relying on housework to give me the exercise I need. Feeding myself the vitamins and remedies… Not begrudging myself the rest I need. Visualization and mediation hold the days and nights together.”

Marion Woodman, Bone, December 18, 1993

“Thinking about passion and the dark feminine and how they are related to creativity and healing. This relationship is one of the biggest tasks of the Crone: holding he opposites in conscious aging—holding passion for life in balance with acquiescence in death, holding the spiritual womb always receptive to the creative spirit and choosing the new wholeness…”

Marion Woodman, Bone, October 7, 1994

This is not from Bone, but it is Marion Woodman:

“A mother who is identified with being mother has to have children who will eat what she gives them and do what she wants them to do. They must remain children.”

And this is Italo Calvino, on Carl Jung, quoted in Bone:

“Jung’s method, which bestows universal validity on archetypes and the collective unconscious, is linked to the idea of IMAGINATION as PARTICIPATION in the TRUTH of the world.”

(capitals mine)

In the evening, Edward Sorel reminds me that Carl Jung was a raging anti-Semite.


There are no heroes.

Sean comes home in the evening bearing presents.

I change my mind. Go to bed with Vladimir Nabokov and Vera, and Frida, unopened, but beside us.

Sean joins us after his bath.



It’s two days before an anniversary I’m not going to celebrate. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Because, Leonard Cohen:

Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words.


Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.

Leonard Cohen, Death of a Lady’s Man
Quoted in Brainpickings


You text to see if you can come over.

Jane: Yes.

But you will have to compete with Vladimir, Vera and Frida for my attention.

I am a terrible friend.


A cat n mouse game via text. I decide I definitely don’t matter, don’t exist.


I try to convince Flora to eat expired yogurt.

Jane: It smells fine!

Flora: I can’t believe you’re trying to make me eat expired diary. What sort of mother are you?

Jane: You’re so lucky. When you live on your own and I come over–you’ll never be stressed about having to clean your house or what to feed me. You can feed me expired yogurt–well, you can’t, because I don’t eat diary, but you know what I mean–and…

Flora: I’m not feeding you anything when you come over. I’m gonna be like, remember that time you didn’t feed us lunch for six months? No snacks for you!

Jane: Seriously?

Flora: Also, you’re not going to want to come over, because I’m going to have seven snakes.

Jane: Seven?

Flora: Seven. Crazy cat ladies are so passe. I’m going to be the crazy snake lady.

I don’t mind snakes, actually. It’s the smell of their liquid feces that turns my stomach. Did I ever tell you about the time we had cornsnakes and they escaped… and we never found them? I will, the next time you’re over, and sitting in a badly lit corner…


Saturday night. Sheesha with tribe–the YYC Queer Writers and I take over a Lebanese eatery and sheesha place. Make the owner uncomfortable. He knows me–doesn’t mind when I came alone or with one or two friends… when the queers take over two of his tables? He looks twitchy. Or are we projecting?

We are not their target audience. But it’s good to shake things up. Right?

An evening of unexpected blasts from the pasts, connections… glimmers of the future.

She comes and holds my hand, and…

Her: Ready?

Jane: Yes.

We go.

You: I’m going to strip you naked and paddle your ass raw for all this vague-blogging.

Jane: Promises, promises. But–seriously, this is all for me. When I’m here, on this page, in this space? I’m writing, playing, working out shit… for me. You get to have a peek. Appreciate that. Don’t ask for more.

I work at appreciating what I get. Don’t ask for more.

You: Liar.

No. Not really. Remember my original sankalpa? I’m still working with it, a little:

I ask for what I need.

I have everything I need.

I just… sometimes… often… want more.

But I have everything I need.

(Cohesive narrative be damned.)


The psychic who used to live next door is coming to dinner. I can’t wait. I miss her so much I can barely bear to hear her name spoken by people. (In the conversation with the bevy of artists on Thursday, I realize I have intense abandonment issues with which I deal by not attaching to people until I’m pretty sure they’re going to be around for a while. And then, when they leave… well. That’s the topic for another book… and another year’s or decade’s worth of therapy.)

But, she’s coming. I’ll feed her. Love her. Try to forgive her for leaving me. I haven’t yet; to be honest, I probably never will (I hold grudges).


I have everything I need.

Sort of.



PS Jung 101 Courtesy of Sonoma U. Just in case I go Jungian on you, so we have a common language.


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)



Cinder & Flora agree: Get thee to Boneville

What is it: Only the best graphic novel of all time. Jeff Smith’s Bone is… well. It just is. It’s so good. On every level. The art. The story. The jokes. The serious bits. The balance of the serious with the funny, the profound with the irreverent. Even the subplot lines that peter out or come out of nowhere work.

How good is it, really: We read and reread the entire series for months, and no one ever got bored of it–not even the mother reading it for the seventieth time. Flora counts these as the first books she’s read on her own. She sleeps with the entire stack beside her bed. When she wakes up in the night to pee or grab a drink, she sometimes reads a page or two by flashlight. When we go on trips, I have to negotiate with her to only take one or two of them with her (I know I’m eventually going to break down and get the whole collection in e-form so they can always be with her on the iPad).

Why is it so good: God, if I knew that, I’d produce something with all the same ingredients. It just is. It’s brilliant. I think perhaps it’s so brilliant because it wasn’t intended for children: it was simply the story Jeff Smith wanted to tell. And so did. It works for both Flora and Cinder because it’s both visual and an incredibly story, it’s got great girl characters and great boy characters, it’s got young people and old people, it’s got fighting and a touch of romance, it’s got Phone Bone, and Smiley and Bartleby…

Recommended ages: Flora and Cinder were 7 and 9 when we started reading it. Sean and I were 37. In our circle of friends, we’ve got five and six year olds devouring it, and teenagers. I expect this will be Ender’s first reader.

Need more? Think I’m overstating my case? Just Google Jeff Smith’s Bone. Or go, to Jeff’s site at www.

Look, Scholastic says it’s educational to boot.

The 621-and-counting reviews of  the first volume of Bone on Good Reads are here.

Now, get thee to your bookseller of choice. (Test drive them at the library if you like, but if your family loves them as much as ours did, you will need to own them.)

Burned Buyers’ Tip:Do get the colour versions, not the original black and whites. Triple-check that you’re getting the colour versions. It’s worth it. Don’t get the “entire massive series in one book” version. It’s too bulky. Plus, only one family member can read it at a time. Do get the Tall Tales extra book.  Give The Handbook a skip, though, unless you absolutely must appease a fanatic.

English: Jeff mimicking himself sitting in fro...

English: Jeff mimicking himself sitting in front of the poster in Barcelona. 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)