Rat in the Walls 6: Empathic Alchemy

Here I am again, reading and commenting on the sixth post from Rat in the Walls, the blog I wrote during the final year of my brother’s battle with ALS.  The post is titled “Empathic Alchemy,” and you can read it below the video.

Title: Empathic Alchemy

Blood is sometimes thicker than gold.

 

Rat in the Walls 5: Gravity on Jupiter

Here’s the fifth Rat in the Walls post that I wrote about my brother’s battle with ALS.  The post is titled “Gravity on Jupiter.” You can read the text of the post below the video.

Title: Gravity on Jupiter

Sisyphus had it easy.

He had control of his muscles.  And he only had to push his rock uphill on Earth.

People with ALS don’t have that.  It’s like Jupiterean gravity is squashing them flat.

Their rocks aren’t moving anywhere, up or down the gravity well.

 

Rat in the Walls 4: Paranoia

Long time, no posts, because June disappeared in a fog of caregiving for my Mom and Dad.  Now that it’s July, it’s time for another reading from Rat in the Walls, where I blogged about my brother’s battle with ALS during the last year of his life.  The actual post (from April 1, 2007), is printed below the video.

Title: Paranoia

Paranoia runs deep. But it doesn’t run well.

It gimps along, lurching from side to side, like Frankenstein’s monster.
Jaundiced skin. Beautiful eyes.

 

One Question, Many Answers #6

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “reading”?

 

“Uh, reading? Trick question? Actually consuming the written word rather than scanning or skimming through it.”

–ELF (Author and fan)
Taj Mutt Hall Dog Diary
Word Whirled

 

“Learning.”

–Douglas Berry (Author and fan)
Gridlore.Dreamwidth.org
Make a Wish Foundation–SF Bay Area

 

“Books.”

–Norman (Fan at BayCon 2017)
Convolution

 

“Life.”

–Fiddlerbird (Fan at BayCon 2017)
Ravelry

 

“Relaxing time.”

–Elond Castro (Fan at BayCon 2017)

 

“Adventure, discovery, joy.”

–Rosalie Dobbs (Writer)

 

“An easy chair with a pile of books on an end table.  A glass of water or sherry nearby.”

–Daphne Chennault (Author)
Chief Thief

 

“Not enough time to read, and I want the library in ‘Beauty and the Beast.'”

Sheryl R. Hayes (Author)
Alterna-Teas (short story in anthology)
www.sherylrhayes.com/fiction

 

“Books!”

–Adrienne Foster (Author)
Bay Area Ghost Hunters
meetup.com/Bay-Area-Ghost-Hunters

 

“Pain.  It hurts my back where I usually sit to read, on my bed.  I still do it.  I need to clear the clothes off my chair. 🙂 ”

–James Beach (Author)
Two-Fisted Jesus Tales
twofistedjesus.com

 

 

One Question, Many Answers #5

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “fan”?

 

“Someone who is interested enough in something to indulge in it and probably knows a lot about it, in an avocational rather than vocational way, and likely of someone else or someone else’s work.”

–ELF (Author and fan)
Taj Mutt Hall Dog Diary
Word Whirled

 

“Someone who is enthusiastic about a thing, event, or social activity.”

–Douglas Berry (Author and fan)
Gridlore.Dreamwidth.org
Make a Wish Foundation–SF Bay Area

 

“The appliance, although primarily the miniaturized version used in computers and involved costuming.”

–Norman (Fan at BayCon 2017)
Convolution

 

“Someone here at BayCon.”

–Fiddlerbird (Fan at BayCon 2017)
Ravelry

 

“A cool breeze.”

–Elond Castro (Fan at BayCon 2017)

 

One Question, Many Answers #4

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “writing”?

 

“Creation, exploration, discover, joy, hope.”

–Rosalie Dobbs (Writer)

 

“My writing desk in my office; four bookcases overflowing with books.”

–Daphne Chennault (Author)
Chief Thief

 

“Telling stories either ‘professionally’ or for fun, like fan fiction.”

Sheryl R. Hayes (Author)
Alterna-Teas (short story in anthology)
www.sherylrhayes.com/fiction

 

“I want to do it right now.”

–Adrienne Foster (Author)
Bay Area Ghost Hunters
meetup.com/Bay-Area-Ghost-Hunters

 

“‘Writing’ is first.  🙂  Then, ‘waking.’  Waking up and writing.  Right after a pot of coffee.”

–James Beach (Author)
Two-Fisted Jesus Tales
twofistedjesus.com

 

One Question, Many Answers #3

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “reading”?

 

“The odd places and attitudes I see children put themselves into while reading. I worry that ‘today’s kids’ don’t read. But SF/F novels’ popularity belies that concern.”

–Anonymous fan at BayCon 2017
East Bay Linux Users Group

 

“Books, lots of books.”

–Anonymous fan at BayCon 2017

 

“Imagination and excitement.”

–Jean Martin (costumer, editor-in-chief, dancer)
Creative Avocations

 

“Detectives, desolate highways, coffee, comfy chair, rain.”

–Tyler Hayes (Author)
The One About Jacob” (short story)

 

“How many books I have to finish.”

–Anna Rose (Author)
A Darker Shadow by Jake Keplin

 

“Being entertained by my own head, on my own terms, a perfect comfort and best pastime.”

–Meg Elison (Author)
The Book of Etta
megelison.com

 

So …

I haven’t posted anything this past week because my mother ended up in the hospital again, only six days after we’d gotten her home from the last medical crisis.

Can’t post about writing.  Haven’t done any.

Can’t post about exercise, or cool stuff, or random pebbly thoughts.  Haven’t done, seen, or thought any.

Can’t post about caregiving.  Done too much.

Meg Elison’s Road to Nowhere series

You know how when you finish reading a really really good book, you want to read another book right away?  So you pick up a new book but put it back down after a few paragraphs, and you open another book but close it quickly, too.  And you realize that your head is still full of the really really good book, and you’ll have to wait for it to clear.

Reading Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife followed by its companion novel The Book of Etta did that to me.

The two books, which constitute the first two parts in The Road to Nowhere series, are satisfying on many levels.

The books explore gender both overtly and subtly, as it affects the characters and societies and plot.  In the fragmented groups that the main character in each book encounters, we get to see a variety of responses to the scarcity of women caused by the worldwide plague.  Those responses seem natural because Elison handles them deftly; they unfold as organic elements, supported by solid worldbuilding and thorough character development.  And each of them shows us something different than the others, something complex, about gender, personhood, difference, and agency in our societies today.  Many of the responses pose questions.  Some questions are answered, and some are perhaps unanswerable.

The books have heart.  The characters are round and full of life; their emotions feel real, sometimes surprising but always true, even when the characters are hiding or struggling with truth.

The books’ prose balances detail and restraint; meaningful detail is sometimes purposefully underplayed, which rewards close reading and offers the attentive reader the pleasure of fitting puzzle pieces into place.

This review may sound stuffy and academic and clumsy, but I promise you, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and The Book of Etta are deeply personal and mesmerizing.

Clocked knowing

The grandfather clock in my parents’ entryway hasn’t worked for over forty years, pendulum unswung, deliberately silenced long ago because it was “too noisy.”  12:04, its hands read. Time is an illusion; time stands still.

Sitting here, at the kitchen table, across from my aged father, out of sight of the silent clock, I am aware that time is all too real, passing even when unmeasured.

I sit and listen to stream-of-conciousness, demented rambling that lasts for hours and mingles past and present in a word salad that includes frequent, unhappy, and often fierce repetitions of “I don’t know,”  “I know but I don’t tell them I know,” “Everyone is stupid; they don’t know,” “I’m not stupid; I know,” “What, do you think I’m stupid?” and “I don’t care.”

“Oh, but you do care,” I don’t say.  Nor do I say, “And I care, too.”

The only acceptable responses are “I agree”, “OK,” or “I don’t know either.”   Beware engaging with the convoluted substance of the rambling; instead, focus on the emotion and acknowledge it, and maybe there will be a little less anger and frustration at all the loss and the unknowing.

And the caring that is so hard to take.