The promise of change: Midsummer update, July 2018

With the end of July approaching, I am at a loss to know where the month has gone. To idle hours glued to my computer screen I’m afraid… it is amazing how the internet manages to suck away productivity when you are looking for something. And before you know it, deadlines loom, books are unread, words unwritten and summer is half over.

Earlier in the month I sold my house, “as is” fortunately, for the soil it stands on is worth more without it than otherwise. I am a little saddened to know the place I lived in for the past 24 years will be demolished, yet relieved that I don’t have to fix it up or worry about the aging furnace or sewer lines. I just have to get out by October 1. I will miss my yard with its defiant horde of Shasta daisies, army of saskatoon berries, gnarled old crab apple tree and row of prickly hawthorns. Not to mention, six towering spruce trees and one mostly dead mountain ash. But in return I am trading it for a two bed flat in a building that backs on to an escarpment lined with Douglas fir trees—a little piece of mountain wilderness cast off from the Rocky Mountains, and nestled here in this city of one million. And I don’t even have to move far; I am staying in the same neighbourhood.

However, in the few weeks between the time I accepted an offer on my house and the removal of conditions, I wasted so much time visiting and re-visiting real estate listings that precious little else got accomplished. I debated neighbourhoods, layouts, square metres  and, of course, price, ad nauseum. Somehow, all the information we now have at our fingertips, when we are planning a trip or a purchase, fuels obsessive behaviour rather than actually saving time. That is, at least until a decision is made and done. By the time I was actually able to start my physical house search, I knew all the listings on my radar by heart. We happened to visit my favourite first and nothing else came close. Offer made, a little back and forth, and it was accepted. Now after reviewing the building documents there is a slight concern about pending remediation work (nothing unexpected in a fifty year-old structure, but the decisions will be made before I myself an owner), so by Monday we should have a finalized sale and I will have seven to nine weeks to radically downsize and relocate.

Although I will have a lot to get rid of—sell, donate, or throw out—the idea of streamlining my life is greatly liberating. (Don’t worry though, I was cognizant of bookshelf-suitable wall space in my apartment search, and even then I’m still guaranteed to have more books than I can possibly accommodate.)

My house hunting helped ease me past the difficult anniversaries that accompany this month and, although it has cut into my reading and writing efforts, an invitation to visit San Francisco this week offered a most wonderful literary opportunity—one I never imagined would come my way in this belated, informal writerly “career” of mine. I had a terrific time stopping by the office of The Center for the Art of Translation and Two Lines Press—it’s always so nice to see where the magic happens—and talking Hilbig with Isabel Fargo Cole at a book launch for The Tidings of the Trees. I have attended many author interview sessions over the years, for better or worse, but to be on the stage at the Goethe Institute with a translator I have so long admired at was a huge thrill. I’ll confess to being a little nervous. I reread the book in advance and made countless notes and outlines. But in the end, I sounded reasonably intelligent and Isabel’s answers were detailed and informative. Even better, the audience had many interesting questions and inquiries, a sure sign of a successful event.

I chose to stay on for an extra day in the city, about all I could afford in a city not light on the wallet, but the extended time allowed me to have coffee with Veronica Scott Esposito and spend time at the MoMA, enjoy dinner with two of my cousins and their spouses—our first get together in thirty-five years—have lots of time to visit with Isabel, and also make my way up through Chinatown for the requisite pilgrimage to City Lights Books. I came home from that excursion with books (go figure) and a gorgeous, sturdy canvas bag.

So, suffice to say, my books-read-and-reviewed account looks a little shallow for July. I have, as usual, a handful of titles in progress including one for a published review to come later and I’ve also been quite busy editing for 3:AM Magazine. I’ve been amazed at the range and quality of submissions recently, so many that I’ve had to turn away otherwise strong work due to limits of time, but the experience of working with interesting material and authors is always rewarding and satisfying. If I do my work right, I am invisible, and I like to remind myself how nice it is to be spared the inevitable panicked staring at the blank page that seems to come with every essay or critical review I write for publication. That’s someone else’s problem when I’m the editor.

It is, as ever, a complex flow of emotions that washes over me with all of the decisions, changes and promises that have come into play over the last month. When I was young, the summer, short as it is in this part of the world, seemed to pass so quickly I could never seem to grasp it, hold on to the moment. Now, many decades later, July has become a month associated with some of the most significant events of my life—marriage in 1983, the beginning of transition and end of the same marriage in 2001, a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest that nearly cost my life in 2015, the closely entwined deaths of my parents in 2016, the surprisingly swift sale of their house last year, and now, this year’s exciting events.

There are still many challenges and unknowns, significant ones at that, but such is living.

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

15 thoughts on “The promise of change: Midsummer update, July 2018”

  1. When it comes to reading your reviews we didn’t get much from you this month and this post explains why.
    Am really happy for you to meet your Hero Isabel as she introduced you to Wolfgang Hilbig so that meeting am sure was very enjoyable.
    I wonder what books will you review or recommend in August?
    Thanks for the post and I wish you have a great new life in your new home

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No pressure, eh? I have actually been working on a few reviews that will be published elsewhere, which of course I will link here. But I do hope to read some more Spanish and women in translation before August is through!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I say, there is no need to feel any angst about what you seem to think is a lack of productivity… you have been out there living life!
    San Francisco sounds wonderful … they couldn’t have made a better choice that you to do the interview. I’ve done this a few times myself, and I always reflect afterwards that it’s amazing how these gigs give us the most fun of anybody else in the room… I mean, having a conversation with a much loved author, and getting paid for it!
    I don’t envy you the task of sorting through all your stuff, but I know that you’ll get through it. I look forward to seeing photos of the new place with all your books, of course:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Susan. I first visited City Lights by chance when I was 18, nearly 40 years ago. It was much smaller, and I did not realize the importance of the place at the time. I remember what I bought though—my first copy of The Epic of Gilgamesh.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, you may not have reviewed so much, but you’ve have quite a month Joe, and some real events and achievements there. Living sometimes has to take precedence over blogging, after all! 😀 Seriously, though, I wish you well on the move – downsizing will be difficult (something I’m trying to face up to) but your new location sounds lovely, and as long as it has room for books you’ll be fine! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Moving home is one of life’s most stressful experiences – just the packing up is anxiety inducing – but when it comes with the emotional strain of leaving a home you have occupied for many years, it’s not surprising to feel anxious. I’m sure it will all work out well Joe – the location does sound wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A packed month by any standards! And I’m rather envious of your shift into chairing literary events – I’d love to do one of these one day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The invitation to speak with Isabel was a huge surprise, I’m such a huge admirer of her work—and the unusual authors she is drawn to—but I suspect there is little likelihood I’ll have the same honour close to home. Our reader’s festival is scant on translated literature. Even Quebec writers are rarely invited!


  6. Streamlining or simplifying does have its merits of course although it could be challenging to approach that on the heels of a tiring and demanding month (of course, as I’m still catching up with the online world now that the temperature is livable again, we are now nearing the end of another month entirely and your work is likely well underway). I love the cluster of weighted pears, which make me think of that Woolf quote, “As for my next book, I won’t write it till it has grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall.” Could all the books fit into that sturdy canvas bag?

    Liked by 1 person

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