Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Life After Life" by Kate Atkinson (novel review)

How do I find these books? Another 527 pages!

I only knew people had been talking about this book, that it was a best seller, and that it was well written--that's all I knew, and even that was sort of a peripheral knowing. I got the Kindle version and it's been sitting waiting for me for months now.

I can't wait to read a book I'm excited about. This isn't it. True, UK writer Atkinson knows how to write, she does it all the time. See her website for plenty of proof.

One has to think she's bored after all these books that have beginnings, middles and endings. Because Life After Life has none of that. It's loosely (and I use the word loosely loosely) based on a protagonist, Ursula Todd, who dies and is reborn repeatedly throughout the myriad pages, only to live a slightly different life and have another death, and be born again. Just as a story begins to develop, Atkinson knocks her off (sometimes in only a couple of pages time) and starts over. Ursula's family members, domestic servants (cook and nanny) and parental country estate ("Fox Corner") remain the same, with variations on the paths the family takes in each reincarnation of Ursula's lives. But one could get dizzy trying to keep up with Ursula herself.

To Atkinson's credit, there are some wonderful passages describing London during the Blitz (the horrors, the hideous tragedies), and the anguish of a marriage to a wife-beater. But apart from isolated sections that invite the reader to feel something, there are miles of terrain of clever dialogue, family chit chat, gossip and English banter (some with great humor) that seems to be merely an entertainment for the author, and result in much less so for the reader. Indulgent~ ! Even excellent writing can't inject meaning into "pots and pans" daily life or save us from banality. Be it deja vu or not.

The most interesting premise of this book which I wish had been its core and fleshed out as a novel in itself was that if Hitler had been assassinated early in his career (one of the things Ursula does in one of her lives, and is instantly shot by Nazis) how the world might have/would have been different. This is only touched on and speculated about however and is never developed in this book.

I wish I had the time and money back that I wasted on this novel. Otherwise, I couldn't care less about it.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

I'm thinking about my trip to St. Vougay, St. James to visit my father's grave site. I don't have any "real" memories of my dad, but I have very real memories of the Brittany village that honors him, and Brest 44. The photo journal, Finding My Father" under "Travel" above commemorates that trip.

Meanwhile, let there be peace. Enough.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Loose Fish Conquers Technological Insanity or How I Spent My Saturday

Okay, so I sit down at my desk on a Saturday morning, and my wonderful computer (a wireless HP) refuses to open up ANY program. Every icon I hit, every link I hit, every single thing gives me the same error message:

"This application has failed to start because its side-by-side configuration is incorrect. Please see the application event log for more detail."

Okay, now I poke around and I can't find an application event log. Sigh. What the hell are they talking about?

I turn to my old computer. The one that's been sitting on the end of my desk, unused, for almost a year. My handy backup. I turn it on, everything boots, I hit an icon to open a program and the entire system CRAASHES. It goes to one of those black DOS screens that tells you to call your system administrator or you'll damage your data. oh, great.

But all hope is not lost. I find my tiny little Acer notebook. Email opens. But as I type, each letter seems to take about 10 seconds before it appears. Laboriously I send out an email to friends letting them know I may be off the planet for awhile. No money for repairs or replacements, thank you very much, and VERY UPSET. Three computers and NONE of them working. Oh, oh and I have an old iPad too that isn't properly set up for internet. (I don't do Apple, so it's a mystery to me. I can read books on the Kindle app, that's about it.) So, FOUR internet machines and not a connection in sight. (Well, the Acer did get an email out.)

So begins the search for fixes. The internet is full of answers, page after page of instructions on how to fix my "side by side configuration" error. They entail downloading several files for different years called Microsoft Visual C ++ (2005, 2008, 2010) Redistributable Package X86 and SP1 Restributable Packages. After doing that, you then download Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash,etc and Java programs (all of which are already on my computers), and if that doesn't work (and of course it doesn't) you can also get into some files, get out to Dos and run something called sfc/scannow. (or something like that) It takes forever to run and just seems to go through all your files and repair them. But I get a little message at the end that says, 'not all files repaired.' Did it work? No.

By this time it's almost noon, and my friend Linda has decided to drive all the way from Fort Myers to assist me because she cannot envision me without a computer. And she knows ALL about technology whereas I know enough to get by, but not nearly enough. I know she's on the way. But I keep working on these fixes. I boot and reboot the computer after every download, every fix. And still, nothing.

In one of my last efforts, a little box appears referencing a corrupted file, blah blah google/chrome/blah blah. All my eyes see are "google/chrome". Is THIS my culprit? Couldn't they have mentioned this earlier?? I use Google Chrome as my browser and have bragged to people about how stable it is. How it is so superior to Microsoft IE or Firefox (both of which caused me no end of grief over the decades.). So. I download Chrome again, thinking it won't download since it's already there. But no, it downloads like a dream. And PRESTO! Everything works again on the wireless HP.

Alas, the old computer seems to be dead as a doornail, and must be hauled off to the computer morgue.

Linda shows up and gets my iPad all set up for email, internet, every damned thing! I will now have a backup if my big one goes out again. And because Linda's moving out of state, even gives me some office furniture which I badly need! I figure that deserves food, and we head out to Five Guys!~ Oh, Linda, I shall miss you and am so indebted for your support!!!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Fire by Katie Ford (poem)

When a human is asked about a particular fire,
she comes close:
then it is too hot,
so she turns her face—

and that’s when the forest of her bearable life appears,
always on the other side of the fire. The fire
she’s been asked to tell the story of,
she has to turn from it, so the story you hear
is that of pines and twitching leaves
and how her body is like neither—

all the while there is a fire
at her back
which she feels in fine detail,
as if the flame were a dremel
and her back its etching glass.

You will not know all about the fire
simply because you asked.
When she speaks of the forest
this is what she is teaching you,

you who thought you were her master.

Katie Ford is the author of Blood Lyrics (Graywolf Press, 2014). She lives in Philadelphia.

About this Poem
“A dremel is a tool used for etching and engraving glass. To say more about this poem’s content would trespass against the desire of the poem. Despite living in the ‘information age,’ this poem wants very badly to say these words and no more.” —Katie Ford

Monday, May 19, 2014

"The Goldfinch" - Donna Tartt (novel review)

Well, I finally finished all 700 plus pages of this Pulitzer Prize winning novel (of 2014). It was not difficult to read, in terms of density...it was difficult to read in terms of endurance. Interesting enough to want to stay with it. Digressive enough and wordy enough and self-indulgent enough to want to throw the iPad across the room, wishing it was the book getting punished.

This novel's plot revolves around a 1654 painting of a little bird, a goldfinch, done by Dutch painter Carel Fabritius. It is an actual piece of art hanging in the Hague, which Ms.Tartt has lifted (figuratively) for her saga.

The story behind the chained bird.
(thought this was interesting)

Spoiler Alert! Reading any further may give you more information than you want, if you haven't already read the novel. (which is unlikely)

Okay, the protagonist, a pre-teen named Theo, loses his beloved mother in an explosion at the museum where the Goldfinch is on loan to America. (The real artist Fabritius lost his life at a very early age in an explosion as well. This is just the first of many reality/fiction constructs in the plotting of this book.)

Due to odd happenings immediately after the explosion, Theo steals the painting thinking an old man who is dying beside him wants him to do so. I do not want to go through the plot of this book. I hate reviews that just re-tell the story in a shortened form (though in this case, it would likely take 300 pages to do so). But this is the kick-off which leads us down Tartt's labrynth of twisty plot turns that never fail to ultimately surprise me, but take forever to get to. There are outrageous happenings: quirky characters flow in and out, people die, people use heroin, people turn out differently than the reader expects. These are the good things! Surprises and plot twists that keep you reading Some of them seem far-fetched. Some seem totally inevitable. But they are never expected or predictable, a BIG plus in my estimation.

I have a lot of mixed emotions about this book. I thought it was ever so much more "impassioned" than her first book, "Secret History" (see review on this blog) which I found lacking in any passion at all, so--an adult has written this one instead of a clever school girl. But, but, but...TOO MANY WORDS as a friend of mine said, And by the time you have gotten to the end, you could SCREAM at her digressions. Totally infuriating, those tangents that she takes. Describing mundane tasks, refinishing furniture, viewing landscapes, backstory sojourns to childhood, miscellaneous minor characters' histories told for no reason whatsoever. WHERE was an editor??? I don't get it at all. I don't even blame Tartt, when I think about it. She spilled out 10 years worth of drafts and nobody reined her in. Whose fault is that?

Then, much to the dismay of many readers I know, the ending of this book is a philosophical harangue which clearly comes from Tartt's own heart. It explains much of the intention she had in writing the book. She had a life view that she questioned (or manufactured?) and she took her puppets (characters) and played them out over a sweeping stage of over-the-top (but intriguing) dramas and unlimited, irrelevant details, and then at the very end, she sat down and EXPLAINS it to us. The whys, the wherefores of her mind's reaches into life's mysteries of art, beauty, love, pain, death and meaning of life itself. Not a small undertaking.

Contrary to some, I found the philosophic ending much to my taste...as I wondered how the hell she was going to justify this insane book? It let me see, rather sadly, how she came to write the book and even why. But to sort of tack it on at the end as an explanation, almost a long rambling footnote, rather than have the essence of the philosophy be woven into the fabric of the book, was another aspect of her thinking that stumped me! Could not her characters convey this without the footnotes? I got the sense that she didn't quite trust her own characters to be up to the task of letting the reader in on the plan. It saddened me because this tremendous writer wins this enormous prize, but the very core of the ending of this book is a tell of the author's fear of failure and incompletion, much in the same vein as Theo's own character lives his life. The little goldfinch chained to his feeder box also loomed in my mind as I finished this book. Perhaps I am just projecting my own sad life view here, but I was touched and yet disheartened at the same time that this book did not quite come together as it could have/should have. That Tartt too was chained to the ideas that feed her, but never able to modestly organize and express them, freeing them to the literary world. Of course, it appears I am the only one who fully believes that! Apparently the Pulitzer people think she succeeded. I can certainly see where she was going. Just as I could see the raw talent in Secret History, this novel shows me the innate power of Tartt, but as yet not fully exploited. But she's young!!!

Pulitzer prize? I just don't get the judges at all. This woman can write. She has ideas and is (I think) struggling with her own life questions in her writing...and perhaps her own life problems or I'm projecting my own stuff onto her very unfairly, that's also possible. I'm willing for that to be true, but she has NOT yet successfully done the 'weave' in a way that produces GREAT art. She is NOT Dickens,(as suggested by Stephen King) not even close. I found this book like great chunks of "ideas" fleshed out, decorated, explored, surgically ripped open in draft after draft, and THEN, none of the drafts discarded! Instead, all gathered up, like Thomas Wolfe's pages in a pickle barrel,(and alas, NO Maxwell Perkins in attendance) and just published in entirety.

I haven't read the Pulitzer award winning novel of 2013, "The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson. But you can be sure that now I'm going to give it a whirl.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Secret History" Donna Tartt (novel review)

After winning the Pulitzer for her novel "The Goldfinch" in 2014, it seems that everyone is talking about Donna Tartt. An ol' Miss sorority girl, she found her way to Bennington where she earned kudos in classics and literary parlance. Born in 1963, she's heralded as a rare genius and literary star.

Secret History is her first book, published in 1992, about a group of students who are at the center of a couple of murders. The "mystery in reverse" reveals the killers in the opening pages and unwinds from there.

And unwind, it does! 500 plus pages of unwinding narrative and dialogue that touches on about every detail of every minute in the lives of these classic scholars and their professor of Greek. A good editor (that would be me)(hey, a joke!) could have a heyday cutting this prose back to something more manageable. But that would be taking away, I think, the very thing that makes Tartt's work so addictive. If you've ever known a real "talker," someone who could just talk about the weather, the price of eggs and the gossip on the street and make it interesting, then you'll understand the gift this writer has with words. You end up chewing these endless sentences for all the nuggets of charm and fantasy that she packs into them. It's nuanced, it's subtle, but it's strong. And man, it's endless.

I was very amused by an article in The Guardian called "10 Things We Love About Secret History." The list is as follows:

  • 1. It starts with a murder.
  • 2. It is in love with Ancient Greece
  • 3. It has all the best elements of the campus novel
  • 4. It has a classic lonely narrator
  • 5. It is full of quotations
  • 6. It has a charasmatic master of ceremonies (that would be the professor)
  • 7. It is obsessed with beauty
  • 8. It believes in fate
  • 9. It is possessed by Dionysos
  • 10. It lets you in on secrets

  • I would agree with perhaps half of this list. I felt that the quotations and translations of Greek and obsession with classic beauty and Dionysos were all overdone, and reminded me of some of the poetry of Louise Gluck which I have also found exclusive, erudite and meant to be inaccessible. i.e. Showing off. It would be in the character of these students to be over the top, so I suppose it's legit, but still, one rolls one's eyes. Of course, if you are a scholar yourself, in an ivory tower, this would be right up your alley.

    For me, the denouement was not totally satisfying. I wanted much more from the character of the Professor,(she let him peter out) and the conversational wind-up of each of the student's lives, as they played out in time, seemed really anticlimatic. Sort of like a newspaper story, just the facts, ma'am.

    In fact, that would be my strongest objection of this book. There didn't seem to be much "heart" in it. It was a product of a keen wordsmith and a lively mental gymnast, but what was missing for me was the passion, the Greek pathos for emotion. There was plenty of ethos - character and logos - logic, but I was missing the heart of the matter and also the "something" to tuck away in myself, as I always do with a really good book, and take with me.

    Would I read another book of hers? You bet. She's young, and she's definitely in the game. Stephen King calls her our own Dickens! It takes her 10 years to write a book. (She's still young!) I've just started "The Goldfinch" at 800 pages! so I'll be back.

    Monday, May 12, 2014

    Bread Pudding , Comfort Food, and the 1940's

    I have a lot on my mind today. I've got a really angry, red rash ALL over my body (including my eyes!) that itches like crazy. A side effect of one of my antibiotics I was taking for my pneumonia/bronchitis bout. Just saw the doc for more drugs (sigh) to offset the side effects. The neverending story.

    But all this bothersome illness made me remember my grandmother, "Granny" on my mother's side. She took care of me off and on, over my childhood (when I wasn't in foster care with old Mrs. Black and her teen devil daughters). Granny alaways made me milk toast when I was sick. Later, my mother did the same so I'm sure she also got it as a child. A nauseating (now) mixture of dry toast covered with sugar and cinnamon, and drowned in hot milk. I loved it then, and it translated to love and care. Foods that gave comfort in childhood are never forgotten.

    My aunt Fran's little boy, Scotty was the same age as me, and Granny babysat him a lot too. We played together, and this is a photo of the three of us. You can be certain that the car did not belong to anyone in our family. We were all dirt poor in those days, and Granny lived in trailer parks as far back as I can recall. She took in laundry and raised six daughters all by herself. (Husband flew the coop when the chicks became too numerous to feed.) Scotty Carruthers, my little cousin, however, became a very successful pharmacist in later life.

    My maternal grandmother was from Arkansas, the deep South, and yes sir, she could COOK. The things I remember most are fried chicken, homemade buttermilk biscuits, and most especially her bread pudding which was and is beyond comparison to any other on the planet. She heaped the top of it with a soft, toast colored meringue, and I have never seen another cook make bread pudding that way.

    So, now, living alone with stale bread ALWAYS available (I can never eat a loaf fast enough, even when I freeze half.) I decided it was time to have my own bread pudding habit, something I love and something very easy to make. No way would I ever mess with that much meringue, so the changes I made to a basic recipe are to simply add a bag of dried fruit and nuts (so popular in the produce departments these days) to the mix. I always want something for dessert or for breakfast, and this great use of leftover bread gives me both.

    Bev's Bread Pudding


    6 slices day-old bread
    2 tablespoons melted butter
    4 or 5 beaten eggs (i use 5 for more custardy texture)
    2 cups of milk
    3/4 cup white sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 3.75 oz bag "Cherry Cranberry Pecano" salad topper.


  • 1. Preheat over 350 degrees.
  • 2. Tear bread into small pieces into an 8" square baking pan (I spritz the pan with Pam first).
  • 3. Drizzle bread pieces with melted butter and cinnamon. Add fruit/nuts mixture.
  • 4. Whisk or beat eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla (I do mine in the blender on Pulse) and pour over bread. Push down on any bread that isn't covered being sure to soak.
  • 5. Bake uncovered in preheated over for 45 or until top springs back when lightly tapped.

  • The nice thing about this recipe is you can add anything you want, blueberries, pineapple, whatever turns you on. And the web is full of rich sauces you can make to dump on top. I'm sticking to the basics right now, thrifty and delicious.

    Thursday, May 8, 2014

    Miracles, Inc. (book review)

    My reading eyes have been out of commission for a long time now, so after two eye surgeries, I am now back in the saddle and catching up on all the books that have accumulated on the night stand. A very substantial pile it is too! TJ Forrester's "Miracles, Inc." has been waiting a very long time for my attention, and I am happy to say I finally was able to read it.

    I didn't know what to expect. The whole Jesus-Hallalujia milieu is a turnoff for me personally, so I was hoping it was not going to be too religion-packed, and what a lucky surprise! This irreverent little novel packs a punch, wry and sly and verbally clever, exposing the faith healers and the underbelly of spiritual con artists in most entertaining and quirky ways, revolving around a love story of epic proportions, murder, prison, and Harley Davidsons. I was delighted to find the unexpected! (Having just read "Proof of Heaven" you can imagine my delight to find "reality" instead of heavenly fantasies).

    My only criticism of this tale would be that there is an odd superficiality, a sort of "skimming" the surface of the experiences -- a reluctance, almost, to get under the skins of the characters. One is reminded of the comic book movies (like Dick Tracy and Batman) where the characters are wonderful and entertaining, but the inner lives remain untapped. Forrester taps his narrator's innards, but the macho nature of Vernon Oliver, stud & star of the Jesus circuit, manages to suppress the depth of feeling readers always love in their heroes. That's just the way Vernon is. As a result, it makes the novel a bit tongue in cheek, intentional or not. I found myself wondering how one might pull Vernon into deeper waters with the rest of the loony cast of wonderful characters. But this is nitpicking. I enjoyed it and look forward to Forrester's new novel, coming soon.


    Wednesday, May 7, 2014

    New Job Report

    I'm here to say that, so far, the new job looks to be a winner! The people are really nice and their needs are vast. My skills are a perfect fit, and it's only a matter of finding enough time to get it all done. This is a part time job with full time needs! But perhaps after a little organization and computerization, things will settle down to a nice PT job.

    It's a small company, only eleven employees, but they are growing. It's a one-girl office situation, where I'll be doing the accounting and office management for my boss and his men in the field (drivers of big sweeping trucks that maintain shopping mall parking lots). Funny, I never thought about it, but in the middle of the night there are people out there cleaning those malls and parking lots while we sleep! The thing to take home is how fast the world can change. I was so very miserable (simply without-words miserable) for the last eight months, fearing every thing including my health, my demise, my very existence. And this morning I am full of hope and good will, new intentions and mending from a nasty illness, and many really nasty life experiences with others. It's just incredible how that shift can be so dramatic. (and as far as I know, I'm not bipolar!)

    So here's to life's flux, may it always be full of surprises and leave us hoping for more.

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    "Proof of Heaven"

    The road to recovery is long and hard. Ups and downs. Coughing is abating slowly, but still not 100% yet. So a lot of bed rest, reading and films.

    The husband of a friend of mine recommended this best seller "Proof of Heaven" by a neurosurgeon named Alexander, which chronicles his near death experience. Here is a review of the book in The New York Times Nov. 2012.I have to admit to my own serious doubts on many levels, but most especially his descriptions of his heaven:

    He was reborn into a primitive mucky Jell-o-like substance and then guided by “a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes” on the wings of a butterfly to an “immense void” that is both “pitch black” and “brimming with light” coming from an “orb” that interprets for an all-loving God.

    I was amused to read some of the readers' remarks on Amazon, the most outraged of them being wholly-believing Christians who didn't buy Alexander's "heaven" story either.

    It is difficult to ccmpletely write off a doctor like Eban Alexander because of his compelling scientific and medical education. He gives a compelling account of why the "consciousness" experience that he had, without a functioning brain to attribute anything to, might suggest "something" outside of the earthly plane and physical self being possible.

    I suppose a part of me believes in something that I don't attempt to explain. If I had to, it would likely be a model of a swirling vortex in another dimension, out of which all life comes and into which all death goes--rather like a big flush in the sky of consciousness. (I'm smiling). But this heaven of Dr Alexander's has a God (the faceless "Orb") and winged beings, anthems, rolling lawns and swarms of butterflies apparently used like Aladdin's magic carpets. Excuse me? I do believe the doctor's brain WAS damaged somewhat in his miraculous recovery.

    However, as silly as I think this is (with apologies to those who are true believers) I DO think there is MUCH more to this world than the physical plane. In fact I am certain of it. My own life experiences cannot all be explained by the normal science. Alexander's references to Quantum Mechanics are apt, I think, as this is Physics that has testable results that indicate not only free will, but some most inexplicable results. I would recommend The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Zukov, and the books of Fred Alan Wolf and Fritzjof Capra if you want to dip into a little "woo-woo" that'll give you something "real" to think about! I haven't been into quantum books for many years, so I may just have to prowl around and find some proof of heaven that smacks of a little more proof. I think Dr. Alexander believes his story, and I wish him well, but I'm not buying any tickets to butterflies, myself.


    Friday, May 2, 2014


    First of all, I got the job I applied for, (after leaving a job I wasn't suited for, just the day before). I really didn't expect to get this job which is a perfect match for my office skills and pays 50% more than the other job which was criminally hard on me. I had to start the new job TODAY in spite of my illness, and I made it through.

    So, HOORAY.

    Second of all, I got a call from my doctor with an apology. She got my chest xrays back and instead of pneumonia, it appears to be just a severe case of bronchitis, and the meds she provided should still do the trick. I'm feeling well enough to go to work today (well, almost, but it was an easy first day of getting acquainted) so that computes as another huge HOORAY!

    I don't report for work again (a part time job) until Tuesday, which gives me a little recuperation time. Oh Lordy, the tide has finally turned. It's been a very long spell of great hardship, if I do say so.

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

    Sestina (my first, circa 1990-something?)

    - a sestina

    The young American airman liked to take long walks on dark
    streets, stopping to see quaint garden plots or charming doors
    of English cottages along the way -- a tourist in the night.
    Gone were the grim reminders of dogfights in the daylight war.
    A man needed to see the stars sometimes, and check his soul
    for damages, forget the pain, breathe back his dreams.

    B-17’s were built in factories by women dreaming dreams
    of their men coming home to slip into their beds in the dark
    unannounced. Her hair wrapped in kerchiefs, the soles
    of her feet flat from standing in assembly, she riveted doors
    to cocoons of steel, pushing harder, faster, producing for the war,
    praying daily that no star-marked telegram arrive in the night.

    Air raid sirens unraveled the peace of his cloudless night
    in shrieking pandemonium, rousing villagers from sober dreams,
    sending the airman back to base, duty bound to win a war.
    Sounds of bomber engines swarmed above with growls as dark
    as animals, the Luftwaffe loomed. Blackness covered all the doors
    and windows, black darkening his heart; a night without soul.

    Strafing rendered thirty dead. Military men and one poor soul
    who went to house his dogs whenever he heard sirens in the night.
    The airman made it safely all the way to the commissary doors
    before he was hit. He fell without pain as if in a narcotic dream.
    He didn’t die at once, but lingered in a reverie alone in the dark
    dreaming of the woman he would see at the end of the war.

    A telegram displaying an amber star from the Department of the War
    was put into her trembling hand. Her wrench dropped like her soul.
    They drove her home, sat with her until the summer sky went dark
    then left her in her solitude to suffer through the airless night.
    Sleepless, without hope and broken beyond prayer or dream
    she stood senseless, tearless, waiting for him to walk through the door.

    In silence a white motion pushed him past the swinging doors
    of life and death, in weightlessness, like flight without a craft. He wore
    no clothes, his form more light than matter -- like vapor in a dream,
    sheer glinting bits of mica in a timeless river of energy. His soul,
    a napkin on a lapless lap. Like fog he traveled with the night
    and found her standing, shivering; the wounded waiting in the dark.

    He gently poured dreams into her eyes, his total love, his cloaking soul,
    his self like water poured; and kissed her eyes, doors black as night.
    At war within, but sobbing in relief, she cried him, back into the dark.

    ## I'm working (slowly) on a new one, but I forgot how hard they are to do....but fun!

    from McSweemey's in 2006 - Want to write a sestina?



    - - - - Open a new Excel workbook. In cell B1, write your title. Leave row 2 blank.
    In cells A3 through A8, place the letters A through F. These letters are the cues
    for your repeating words (teleutons). Leave row 9 blank to denote a stanza break.
    In cells A10 through A15, put the letters F-A-E-B-D-C. Then skip a line. Likewise create
    your teleuton template for the rest of your stanzas
    based on the standard sestina form (left to you to find).

    You will be writing most of your sestina in column B. You’ll find
    it convenient to widen this column to give yourself a broader blank
    to fill in. Place the last word in each line of the first stanza
    into column C. These isolated words will be indexed with your line cues
    and duplicated down the page to create
    your automated sestina scaffolding. It’s possible to break
    this template, so once you set it up, don’t touch column C below the first stanza break.
    Paste the “Sestina Formula” (in line 2 of the next stanza) into cells C10 through C43. You’ll find
    that “#N/A” appears in the rows that have been left empty for stanza breaks. Re-create
    your open lines by manually deleting these N/As, leaving those cells blank.
    When you place words in cells C3 through C8, your pre-placed line cues
    in column A will automatically populate column C with the correct last words for the other stanzas.

    Use this Sestina Formula to structure your second through sixth stanzas:
    “=VLOOKUP” If you change or modify this, it may break.
    Retype it or copy and paste it into cell C10. It will automatically index the line cue
    in cell A10 (“F”) and return the word you put in C8. You’ll find
    it easiest to click and drag the lower right corner of cell C10 down over the blank
    cells in column C to row 43. This populates those cells with the Sestina Formula. Lastly, create
    your envoi in rows 45 through 47. You’ll do this by creating
    direct links to the teleutons from the first stanza.
    In C45, type “=C4”; in D45, “=C7”; in C46, “=C6”; in D46, “=C5”. In blank
    C47, type “=C8” and in D47, “=C3”. Unless your focus was broken
    in the process of following these instructions, you’ll find
    that the last word to every line of every stanza is appropriately populated according to the line cues.

    Now write stanza 1 with the last word of each line isolated in column C. Your line cues
    are formula-coded, so you can easily revise your sestina or create
    new ones. Any time you place a new word into cells C3 through C8, you’ll find
    that the corresponding lines in all of your other stanzas
    automatically update. Save often! Excel tools can break,
    but this one is simple enough that it should provide a useful blank
    for all your sestina-writing needs. When your quality assurance (QA) is complete, select and copy your stanzas
    from columns B and C. Create a Word document and paste in your sestina. Remove cell breaks
    using “Convert Table to Text” (found in the Table menu). Or e-mail me (efflux@sonic.net) for the blank.

    I figured since I'm stuck with bed rest, I might try a sestina and blow off some mind cells. But I went searching for the formula of the form, and found this! Hilarious! If I wasn't so sick, I think I'd try to set it up. McSweeney's is just the BEST. Here's the Original and you have to love McSweeney's note that they are NOT accepting sestinas any longer. LOL.

    OMG, I wrote to Daniel Ari (never dreaming the email addy above would even be still in existence) and the lovely man sent me the blank Excell form for a sestina!! Now I MUST write one. Thank you, Daniel. This is such a treat. (and the form is really nifty!!!)