A Profound Look Back at the Week: January 13-17

We are now at the end of the second full week of 2020 and life continues to be interesting for those who bother to give the interestigness a chance.

Oscars? What Oscars?

I have a confession to make. I live under a rock and have done so happily for years. Unfortunately, my below-rock dwelling has an internet connection, which means people connection and people talk about things. That’s how I found out about the Oscar nominations. Because I’ve got friends who care about movies. I mean, they still care. Kind of. Not as much as they used to. Anyway, they watch some Oscar movies. I never watch any until at least three years after they get nominated/awarded.

I have no truck with bestsellers in any medium. Tell me something’s a bestseller and watch me run in the opposite direction. The more I hear about something — book, movie, whatever — the less I want to have anything to do with it. Stop talking about it and I might give it a try.

Call me Mary but it’s actually an evolutionary thing. Here’s a quote from a brilliant book: “…the more we’re pressured to do something or to adopt a certain view or attitude the more we’ll try to resist being controlled.”

That’s right. We don’t like being told what we should love and hate, at least some of us. The rest have devolved/evolved beyond that mechanism. As a former conformist who finally grew out of conformity, I can tell you thinking with your own brain is the most liberating thing you can do for yourself.

So I’ve no idea who’s been nominated (okay, okay, I know about The Joker, okay) and I don’t care who’s getting an award. The Oscars got too political too long ago and from my rock it looks like Hollywood makes just two kinds of movies these days — superhero series and superheavy dramas — so I’m sticking to my crime and fantasy shows. Grantchester’s not bad at all, I’ve just found out.

A Painful Revelation about Literature

I don’t know how to say it so it doesn’t hurt. I don’t think there is a way to do it, so here it is straight: good writing good literature does not make. Phew, there, I said it.

I was assigned a book to translate this week and it was a well written book, a very well written book, with all the right metaphors and descriptions, and a lively, realistic dialogue, the works. It was also the most tedious piece of text I have read since… I can’t remember but probably Dubliners (I apologise to all Joyce fans. We can’t all have the same taste).

The main character in this book is so annoying I want bad things to happen to her. They already are happening because it is a dramatic story but I want more. I feel zero compassion for her, a negative amount of empathy and no single way I can relate to her drama whatsoever. It could be a generational thing. Then again, it could be that the author was trying too hard to get her message across. I got it, louder and clearer than I would have liked, and I’m just not impressed. She’s trying to make me believe high school is almost worse than the war in Yemen, for writing’s sake. I’d say I can appreciate a good drama but this is not it. This is a fake.

It’s bad luck, really, because I do have to translate the book and it’s so much more enjoyable to translate when you like the book you’re working on. But, thanks to the good quality of the author’s writing, the translation is going smoothly. I’m just not sure I will continue as translator much longer.

I’ve been doing it for six years now. I’ve translated some really good books (My first one was We Were Liars. What a great start that was.) and some, for lack of a more polite word, not that good ones. Recently, it seems the not-that-good ones find me increasingly often. If I had a say in it, my translating life would certainly be more enjoyable but I don’t. So I may be finishing this chapter of my own story soon. Or at least putting it aside for a while.

Folk Tales and A Wonderful Surprise

I like to say that one of the great things about life is that, like nature, it seeks balance. At least that’s the way I see things. For every bad book I come across there is a surprisingly good one waiting for me to discover. This time, it was The Last Wish, the first book of the Witcher series that, I hear, are getting reprints because of the TV show. And just for your information, I watched the show before anyone else around me. I was ahead of the hype and I’m really glad about it. Had I been late, I wouldn’t have given it a chance.

But back to the book. My Goodreads bio states I was raised on folk tales and it’s the holy truth. First, my mother told them to me, tales and ancient Greek myths. Then, when I learned to read, I gorged myself on folk tales. I still love to read them, so imagine my surprise when the first Witcher book turned out to be a collection of folk tales, retold, spun around and, effectively, deconstructed and reconstructed into new stories. I loved them.

It takes a special talent to be able to take a myth or a folk tale — or the Beauty and the Beast — and retell it in a completely different way. Terry Pratchett had it in abundance. Andrzej Sapkovski also has it, in this book, at least. I haven’t read the rest but at this I laughed out loud, for sheer joy I was reading such a skillfully respun — or should I say reimagined — folk tale, because the stories themselves were not funny at all. But they were good. They were very good indeed. But enough about books.

I Do Like Mondays

I was going to pretend to be naive and say that I’ve no idea where Monday’s bad reputation comes from. But I do have an idea. It comes from the stereotype that work is something you have to do but you are not supposed to enjoy. I really doubt everyone who works 9 to 5, Monday to Friday hates their job so much they feel like crying when Sunday ends. Me, I love Mondays.

For starters, I have trouble not doing anything. That would make me, I guess, choleric if we’re talking about types but I really don’t care about types. I just can’t sit and do nothing. I’m incapable of quiet contemplation. This is not a very good thing, theoretically, but I do think I get enough rest from doing things I enjoy that are different from the things I do during the work week.

The trouble is, I do these things I enjoy doing during the work week as well, so the only difference between work days and weekends for me is that I can choose to not work during the weekends. Which would mean more work for the week and me wondering what to do over the weekend. Yep, I work weekends, or rather, Sundays. I have learned to take Saturdays off everything (except translations, those need doing every day, the same way writing usually does).

So, Mondays for me are not the first day of a tedious week. They’re usually the second work day for the week and also the second day after my Saturday rest, so there’s plenty of energy available for both work and pleasure, which both mean writing because I’m a lucky woman. Besides, Monday is just five days away from Saturday, right? Monday’s cool. Now Wednesday, on the other hand… But I won’t discuss unpleasantness.

Keep Your Apps Away from Me

I knew my new phone will sooner or later embarrass me and I wasn’t wrong. It happened sooner. This week I found out I don’t belong with the normal people because I can’t even even download WhatsApp on it. Because it has no app store app (that should be the full name of those things, right? An app that links you to an app store. Hilarious.). I had to explain to the person that had asked if I’d mind moving our communication to WhatsApp that I simply couldn’t. I was embarrassed because I like and respect this person and I don’t want to make their life harder. And then I wasn’t.

After fuming for a while at the audacity of those who made the phone I calmed down and accepted facts. My phone was made to be able to light an oil well all the way down and survive if you dropped it into the mud while inspecting said well. It was not made for chats or reading, or online shopping. I got what I wanted and never gave a thought to another fact: most people use their phones for more than alarm clocks, reminders, taking picture, recording their spouses rant about traffic, and listening to music. Most people use their phones as they are supposed to be used. Fully. I should have factored this in when I picked a new phone, I told myself. And then I rebelled.

I have two email addresses I check on a daily basis. They’re both open throughout the day. I spend my waking hours logged into Skype. I work in Google Docs. Given all this, should I really be embarrassed about not being able to add yet another communication channel to my life? I would if I could. I couldn’t but there are alternatives and I don’t think any one of them is worse than WhatsApp.

Gmail has never let me down unless my internet connection is down, which is when everything is down anyway. Outlook does tend to put a writing newsletter I receive every week in the junk folder but I’m teaching it to change its ways. Google Docs are no worse than any CMS. Skype is a very bad word but they must have done something on it because it’s been working fine for months now. Who knew this could happen?

I’m sure I will be forced at some point to get a normal phone when every program I use starts demanding phone synchronization or whatever they will be calling it. Until then, dear app people, keep your apps away from me.

P.S. Fun fact: I used the word “very” ten times in this blog, breaking a hard rule of writing. I do not regret any of those verys.

P.P.S. Okay, okay, I know this rule is for fiction writing. Don’t use very in fiction writing, please. Unless it’s in dialogue.

Featured image: The street on my way to the bus stop after school drop, around 7: 45 am. Traffic jams yet to develop, sun yet to rise. Best time of the day.


2 thoughts on “A Profound Look Back at the Week: January 13-17”

  1. One of the things Richie Billing and I talked about in the recent episode of our podcast was the tendency of writers, new writers especially, to not trust their readers to understand. The result is over-explaining, whether that be in worldbuilding, plot, or in your example, message. I’m like you, I prefer the hints to be more subtle and enjoy figuring things out a bit on my own.


    1. I think this might very well be the case here, yep. I’ve saved the worldbuilding podcast for when I have a moment of peace. Sounds very interesting even if I will never ever dare venture into the worldbuilding, well, world of fantasy. 🙂


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