Saturday, June 11, 2011

Worksheet #79, or A Classical Education

In the ether

An eBook version of A Man Melting has been available worldwide for a month or two now. I haven't made a big deal about it yet because, well, I didn't know.  My manager at work told me two weeks ago that he'd downloaded my book for his kindle, but I assumed that it would, like the physical copy, be only available in New Zealand and Australia. But no. Folks in the UK, Canada, the US, India, Kiribati, San Marino and Madagascar can get a copy of A Man Melting for their digital device (internet access permitting).

The best places to try and nab a copy are Amazon and

The Mahler's wooden mallet

M. and I went to the NZSO's performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony last night at the Michael Fowler Centre. It was the first time either of us has been to a classical music concert. Back in March 2008 I vowed to "get into classical music": I bought the 2CD Greatest Classical Album Ever and apart from the random appearance of Elgar's 'Nimrod' or Rachmaninov's 'Paganini Rhapsody (Var.18)'* on iTunes DJ over the past three years , that was the extent of my foray into classical music.

I really enjoyed Mahler 6. At times, it felt a bit like watching the dramatic part of a movie with my eyes closed.  And I kept thinking about the goblins Helen Schlegel  imagines when she listens to Beethoven's Fifth in Howard's End. Those are about the only cultural touchstones I have when it comes to orchestral stuff...

But it was fascinating to watch the conductor flail his arms and largely go ignored by the musicians, the piccolo player sit through the first hour patiently until she finally had a part to play in the Finale, and the all-male troupe of percussionists do their thing with cowbells, massive drums, massive cymbals, and a massive wooden mallet. And despite all the interesting things to observe, I was still quite moved at times.

*I can't distinguish between many of the tracks, including these two...

Another sort of music

I have a bone to pick with Alice in Chains. Specifically the line, 'Let me sleep so my teeth won't grind,' in their 1995 song, 'Grind'.

You see, when I'm stressed I grind my teeth, but only when I'm alseep. I wake the next morning with a sore jaw from clenching it all night and after a few nights of it my teeth have this constant dull ache.  Often the sound will wake M. and she'll wake me to make me stop, but I usually go back to it as soon as I fall asleep.

The worst part of it is the fact I can't control what I do when I'm asleep. I know it's stress related, but only a specific kind of slow boil stress that's easy to rationalise and dismiss when I'm awake but my subconscious seems determined not to kick.

I ground my teeth often when I did my MA in 2006 because I had a deadline in which to submit my manuscript/thesis. It didn't matter that I was finally doing what I'd always wanted (taking time off from the day job to write; being surrounded by other writers; being taken seriously as a writer) and that everything was relatively under control... my sleep-self just went nutso at night.

I ground my teeth again for a patch last year when we had a month to get an important business case finished at work and there was a truckload of work to do.  I knew that it was manageable though, and even if we missed the deadline, it wouldn't be the end of the world and no blame could really fall on my head... but grind I did every night for a couple of weeks.

And now I'm doing it again. I have a soft deadline of 1 November to give my publisher a first draft of my novel. I've cut back my hours at work so I'm only doing two days a week. I've broken the back of the research and this past week I've moved the manuscript past 5,000 words (a small amount in the scheme of things, but it'll be at 10,000 shortly after which point there'll be a few roadblocks but hopefully nothing insurmoutable).  I have the time now to be able to write like stink and get a decent 80,000 - 100,000 word first draft by November. And even if it doesn't happen, if the novel needs to be written more slowly, then that's fine. Me and anyone else involved in this book agrees it's better to get it right than get it quick.

But that soft deadline and the 75,000 words as yet unwritten is enough to discombobulate my subconcious and set my teeth a'grinding.  If only it was like in the Alice and Chains song: that escaping this stupid affliction was as easy as going to sleep.

And now for something more zen...

Birds in flight (from the walk down to Lyall Bay):

Female chaffinch
Starling joining sparrows on powerlines
Blackbird and bottlebrush
Sparrows leaving a shed roof
 Ah, much better.

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