Tag Archives: America

An American Road Trip ‘Playlist’ of Books

 

Today you can read your way across America with me – over on Books for Women, Women’s Books:

 

NEW YORK CITY:  All aboard at Port Authority Bus Terminal. Find your seat and strap in. There are so many choices for the city that loves to read about itself, so I’ve gone for two…

Read more here!

 

Also you might have missed these two excellent reviews of Flesh of the Peach, in Scots Whay Hae and The Bottle Imp. My heart.

 

Additionally, some good things are brewing with both On the Edges of Vision, currently out of print after the shuttering of Queen’s Ferry Press, as well as for the nascent second collection (and the novella that goes along with it). Firm news when I have it to share.

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summer light

beloved porch

 

I’m writing from America.

Specifically, from an a-frame cabin in New Hampshire, by the shores of a glittery blue lake. It’s been nearly two weeks of flurrious (flurrying? I like flurrious better) activity. A wedding, trips around DC, a brief stop in New York, and now here, to the quiet speckled surfaces of the woods and the water.

 

great east lake

 

 

Before this, I hadn’t been back to the states since D and I migrated home in 2011. However, this won’t be the last time I visit America even this year – I will be back in August, and for a book tour for On the Edges of Vision. That’s my surprise news, the one I have been holding back while work was being done. Already there are reading venues lined up along the Eastern seaboard, with a few others hoping to be secured. The full calender is for another day. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped. Later this month, I will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to help defray costs (there are some fantastic perks for donors) but! Later, later. Two speedboats are crossing on their white wakes. Someone in a house next door is calling to their friend in a muffled happy voice.

 

We head home tomorrow. And right into the thick again, but for now, and all of today – this:

 

still waters

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An Excerpt from Flesh of the Peach on Necessary Fiction

 

Some Girl Lit from me again. An excerpt from my ms Flesh of the Peach, which I completed just over a month ago. It’s a novel of flight, guilt, love and lovelessness. Sarah Brown is an older girl – late twenties, just at the border of accepted girlness. She qualifies, I feel. A girl holding mourning at arms length, with a tired soul and old violence swarming inside, but hopeful of reinvention. Here she’s on the run, travelling by Greyhound from New York City to the Southern Rockies of New Mexico, hovering liminal somewhere in nighttime Oklahoma.

 

Read More…

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First look: Everywhere is the New New York and Hallelujah Giant Space Wolf

good things

 

A delightful package arrived today from Colorado and Yrfriendliz – a copy of the chapbook Everywhere is the New New York (which features a piece I wrote on Edinburgh) and a surprise – Hallelujah Giant Space Wolf by Daniel Bailey.

 

I want to do a write up on both, though I’ll be away for a few days in London, doing touristy London things this time, rather than business (because D is coming with me, for his first stay of any real length there) and I have some deadlines looming. Books to review, a long essay to wrestle with on the theme of my first ms, my first girl – Kilea. Before then, though, I’d like to let you know that Hallelujah Giant Space Wolf is a book of poems, and, as you can tell, has an amazing title. The first poem is ‘Geronimo Boredom Prayer’ and features the ‘I’ becoming God:

 

‘gifting love unto the world like a premature baby

shining its way out of the womb all naked and hairless

then I became God in human flesh and walked through the woods

damaging trees with my love-making and sex appeal

eventually, I grew bored of my godliness,

so I became Nicolas Cage, which was awesome

except for the whole being a dad thing

 

You can own Hallelujah Giant Space Wolf and have it on your bookshelf to warm your poetry-and-excellent-book-title loving soul by going over here and buying it.

 

If you’d like to support the tiny publisher/editing team who put together Everywhere is the New New York, and to read 12 wonderful essays on American Cities that are not NY but their own dirty, magical thing, and one essay that’s ditto on a certain Scottish city, the chapbook is bargain at $5, and available here.

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My story ‘Tennessee Stop’ up on 3 AM Magazine

 

Astral had missed the name of the city, or the town. One run-down area of the country had bled into another. Was she in the South yet? Plants here wanted to grow through concrete, cracked it apart with their pale fingers. The sun too had split the earth to help draw the flimsy weeds up tall. Glass shone painfully bright in the windows of the bus station. This is not the end of the world, this is a temporary extension of the end.

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Sincerity and Totemic Objects

This is a replica of a chess piece carved from walrus tusk c. 1200 C.E. The piece is part of the Lewis Chess set – found on the isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, in the 1800s.  in the 1200s, Lewis was controlled by the Kingdom of Norway, or so the British Museum tells me. The British Museum holds most of the pieces, although, if you read their article, you may detect a hint of defensiveness about that. 11 pieces were brought to the National Museum of Scotland, which is where I fell in love with this fierce, comical (to our eyes) Berserker.

 

The idea of a furious fighter, the idea of someone biting their shield in a rage, or to build rage, the appearance of this biting as nervousness, or fear, all captured my imagination. When we have multiple readings possible for the emotions of a figurine, which do we choose? How can we know, precisely, what the carver meant to signify? We can never hope to grasp the meaning, too much of a dark river cuts between us and the time in which the piece was made.

 

The piece (the real one, do I mean? Or its replica? Does it matter?) cannot speak to us to tell us. Walrus tusk (or whale teeth, of which some are made) have no sense of self, have only been given the appearance of something else. I recently read a fascinating article on interiority (or perceived lack of) and sincerity.

 

The article talks about how a person may lack the impression interiority if we cannot understand them. If you have no interiority, you cannot feel, you are numb, as a berserker made himself to the slice of edged weapons or to the lunging flame. Or rather, you are assumed to feel less, you are assumed less than human. Immune. A solid wall of fury or blankness. A monsterous other.

 

The article is written regarding ‘foreigners’ – non-native English speakers, where they cross over into a dominant culture which uses English. In the article, these foreign language users are presumed to be non-white, because the strongest point of reference in America to immigrants is that of the Hispanic immigrant, who is read as non-white (sometimes mildly problematic, I would imagine).

 

But I couldn’t help but think of myself as immigrant, as other, from my time in the US. To the treatment I sometimes received (in my extremely privileged position of white, middle class well educated, etc.) which othered me. The idea that I was not genuine – that my related experiences, as they did not always conform to the perceived image of an immigrant, a Scot, of a person in possession of a doctorate working as a dog walker and intern – were somehow inauthentic.

 

Because I did not speak Gaelic, I was not entirely pleasing. Because I could speak English, I was already American. Because my accent was different, it must be placed, and once placed (into the past, onto some static point of origin, and usually inaccurately – South African, say, or New Zealander) the person placing it would accuse me of not sounding ‘Scottish enough’.

 

I was a speaking surface, to be prodded or glossed over. Sometimes, particularly after a wearing day of questioning from strangers, I want to be silent. I wanted to refuse to be either sincere or in-. To bite on my shield with my coal-white eyes saying nothing except whatever could be read there. It was not a situation that could be sustained, to view immigration as a defensive stance, as if the country was coming to assimilate me, Borg-like and I should quietly fight back.

 

And so came Astral. And from the very earliest draft of Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, the image of the berserker, biting down. Clamped, resistant.  She suffers, and loves the countryside too, and unstable-y contains much that I could not, until, of course, the tether starts to fray.

 

Here’s the article, and if you have any thoughts to add I would dearly love to hear them, because as you might guess, I’m still wrestling with certain snake-tails myself.

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