Discover more from learning to interrupt.
in the shadow of Paris.
what I've been reading lately.
A few book updates:
I opened a merch shop on Big Cartel to sell some fun tote bags and shirts inspired by the short stories in Assemblage: abigailstewartwrites.bigcartel.com
If you live in or around the Bay Area, we will be hosting a launch party on November 19th with readings from local authors and live music: click here for details.
I joined in on a tiny book reading challenge at the end of September, which jumpstarted my reading again. I read Aurelia, Aurélia by Katherine Davis, The Waitress Was New by Dominique Faber, Tokyo Performance by Roger Pulvers (part of the Red Circle minis series, which are more zines than books), and Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux.
The Waitress Was New is a slice of life narrative about an aging barman named Pierre who has little else to look forward to aside from the comings and goings of the bar’s patrons and the enormous pride he takes in his work. The most exciting thing to happen is that a new waitress joins him on the floor of the café. The story takes place over three days when the owner goes mysteriously missing and the daily machinations of the place are thrown into chaos.
There’s not much in the way of plot, but Faber’s writing style and Pierre’s inner monologues of memories and worries kept me utterly engaged. In a way, it reminded me a bit of The Remains of the Day, a narrator whose devotion to his vocation clouds his understanding of the world around him. Pierre is left wondering how to start over as a barman on the cusp of sixty years old in a city where he’s still too young to retire. Locked inside, Pierre watches over his domain, observes the passersby, mops the floor of an empty café.
My reading of Ernaux’s Simple Passion coincided with her much deserved Pulitzer win. The book itself is a brief description of a whirlwind love affair with a married man and its effects on a particular period of her life.
“It occurred to me that writing should also aim for that – the impression conveyed by sexual intercourse, a felling of anxiety and stupefaction, a suspension of moral judgment.”
The book stretches itself out languidly, then tightens up into a hard ball, as Ernaux describes the intense emotions of love, longing, and the painful necessity of parting. The man she longs for is more or less a stranger to her, their carnal passion has little to do with the outside world. She spends her days in a fog, perhaps shopping for a new dress to show him, but internally counting the seconds until they can be together once more. Ernaux, in addition to writing beautiful prose, explores the brutal, naked honesty of a woman’s passion.
“When I was a child, luxury was fur coats, evening dresses, and villas by the sea. Later on, I thought it meant leading the life of an intellectual. Now I feel that it is also being able to live out a passion for a man or a woman.”
Currently, I am reading Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum for the first time and am struck over and over again by how modern the plot and prose are despite it being written in the 1920’s.
I always feel as though the last quarter of the year, October through December, is a transformative time. I turn inward after the wild months of summer and sunshine, focusing on what I need most in my body and mind. Someone told me recently they didn’t recognize me and I thought, “good, I want to be unrecognizable.”
I’ve also begun a draft of a new novel. Structurally, it’s quite different from anything I’ve attempted before and I’ve spent the last few days setting up something of a barebones outline for the remaining parts in Scrivener. I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo in perhaps five years, but I have a few friends participating this year and I just might try to use the momentum to knock out a first draft before the end of the year. Good luck to anyone else giving it a go!