Time flies, she said.
But where does it go? he asked.
In circles mostly, she answered.
I wish I knew more about time. I wish I understood quantum physics and theories of time relativity. Maybe then I would have power over time.
One of my recurring childhood fantasies involved a magic pocket watch that could stop time. I dearly wanted to be able to freeze time and bring the whole world to a halt so that I could catch my breath. I was fascinated with the idea of never running out of time, of being able to “have it all” because there was always enough time to do everything.
I could have used that watch this summer. I feel like this was the summer that wasn’t. My time was eaten up by projects that ripped hours from my days and swallowed them whole, making no distinction between weekdays and weekends. If only I’d had that watch, I could have stopped the world long enough to finish my work and still had time to indulge in the simple pleasures of summer irresponsibility.
But, I don’t have the watch. And neither do you. All we have, you and I, is the same twenty-four hours as everyone else and the very real power to decide how we spend them.
What I’m Reading:
I have just finished listening to the astonishing debut of author Emma Geen. I wish I could remember who first told me about the novel, The Many Selves of Katherine North, because I would like to send that person a thank you note.
The reviews on this book use words like exhilarating, horrifying, compelling, and riveting to describe the story of a girl named Kit who is a phenomenaut – someone whose consciousness is projected into the bodies of lab-grown animals for research purposes. Readers quoted on her website refer to the book as a “literary thriller,” “spine-chilling science fiction,” and a “compulsively readable sci-fi thriller,” but I like Havi Carel’s description best, “Geen weaves together philosophy and science fiction to create a magical, intelligent and intense novel.”
I was initially drawn to this book because I was intrigued by the idea of humans being able to project themselves into the lives of other animals, and I was not disappointed. While Geen’s disclaimer at the end of the book makes it clear that she is not a zoologist, she is nonetheless able to transfix her readers with the way she describes life as other creatures: fox, spider, whale, eagle, tiger. Her immersion into these other lives goes beyond the physical perceptions and sensations. When Kit slips into another body, she also slips into another set of emotions and impulses. It was a fascinating and thought-provoking shift in perspective.
While I was definitely carried along by the story (even becoming so caught up in the last few chapters that I abandoned my Friday afternoon deadlines and surrendered to a half hour of dedicated listening in the middle of the day), as a writer, I was also impressed by Geen’s prowess with both structure and language. Though I already own the audio version of this book (which was, by the way, beautifully narrated by Katy Sobey), I may end up purchasing a hard copy of the book. I want to be able to leaf through the pages so I can better understand the way Geen built the story, and there are probably (no lie) hundreds of passages that I’d end up underlining for future reference.
Kit’s narrative bounces back and forth between two timelines – present and past – that eventually converge. To add to the complexity, much of the story takes place while Kit is projecting as other animals. Despite all this bouncing around in time and place and body, the story hangs together in a way that’s easy to follow. Geen does an excellent job of creating a pattern of rhythm and context that makes it easy for the reader (even one who is listening as I was) to stay in-step with the story.
And then there is Geen’s use of language. Had I been reading this as a print book, I would have had to keep a pencil with me at all times so I could make notes in the margins on every other page. In Geen’s hands, something as simple as describing looking out onto the day turns into poetry, “I wake to the sky flashing lilac. Thunder follows soon after, a sound like the foundations of Heaven grinding loose. The silvered gleam of rain and vegetation writhes against the dark.”
Coming back to theme, I once again have to agree with Havi Carel’s assessment that this book is as much about philosophy as it is about science fiction. Or, perhaps, the two are so closely related as to be much the same thing. At any rate, I found this book to be a powerful catalyst for musings on what it means to be human, how we define self, the relationship between humans and animals, the relationships between humans, and how we perceive our lives. As deep as Geen dives into these waters, taking us along for the ride, it’s clear to see that there are depths still waiting to be explored. The Many Selves of Katherine North is an invitation to sink a little further into the darkness in search of the light.
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- Six Writing Tips from Jonathan Franzen by @monicamclark
- 12 Questions To Help You Create Memorable Characters by Jack London
- The Inciting Incident and “the Call” by @SPressfield
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- 6 Big Ways to Say YES to Your Writing Career by @jesslaw
- Instagram Stories: Your New Favorite Way to Engage With Readers? by @MartineEllis
- Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life by @BenjaminPHardy
- Anne Lamott Is Right by Ellen Shriner
- I Give You Permission by @MaiaToll
- The First Rule of Novel-Writing is Don’t Write a Novel by Elizabeth Percer
THE WRITING LIFE
- Messy brain? 7 ways to tidy up your thinking. by @jccabel
- On Making Good with Your Ghosts by Erin Rose Belair
- Four Simple Living Benefits from Spending A Little More Time Outdoors by @robinshliakhau
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Being so busy with deadlines means that I haven’t had much time for curling up with novel-length reads. (Hence, my liberal use of audio books to feed my story habit.) I can usually manage, however, to carve out a few minutes for shorter pieces; and have been known to bribe myself to the finish line on a piece of client work with the promise of a short story or an essay.
This week, I very happily returned to one of my favorite online stomping grounds, Full Grown People, and had the pleasure of reading Machines We Dream Into by Randy Osborne. This brief piece touches on themes of aging, art, and human interaction. If you have a few minutes, I recommend it.
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Sundry Links and Articles:
I came across this quirky post, 23 Emotions People Feel But Can’t Explain. on either Twitter or Facebook, and although I can’t verify that these are real words (the list looks like it covers a variety of languages), I absolutely loved this collection of emotions.
Sonder: The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own
Vellichor: The strange wistfulness of used bookshops
Chrysalism: The amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm
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On a related note, there was this little gem that I initially saw on Facebook, but ultimately tracked back to a tumblr site called Red Blood, Black Ink, written by someone named Raquel. I just loved this piece. It’s a feeling I’ve felt countless times in my life.
I don’t know, my favorite was always witch weather. That moment that in a gust of wind or in the rumbling sky or at the edge of a fog bank where suddenly, you feel different. A restlessness, a sense of longing for a place that does not exist. I don’t know if anyone else has felt the electric tense changing of that moment. It calls the magic to your skin. For a moment, you feel ancient and powerful and lonely, as if you forgot something important. Witch weather. For some reason, in that wild instant: you remember you are alive, and that means some part of you belongs to the everlasting.
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Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to making the best use of each hour you have – reading, writing, dreaming.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.