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The softly weeping women of the 1950s

You can tell that I’ve been working the new book over the past few months. All my energy has been there, and now the book is gone off to the agent and hopefully the publishers. What am I to do now? Hang some Buddhist prayer flags in the back yard. Meditate. Drink scotch whiskey at 3 a.m. and listen to Miles Davis records in the living room, with the cat. Read books from the ever growing “to-read” pile.

I think perhaps, I will not stop writing. There are ideas and sketches, and there were projects put on hold. I will not stop writing.

Here’s last week’s sorbet for your viewing pleasure.

The softly weeping women of the 1950s

In one of my father’s dresser drawers, there were perhaps two hundred
white cotton handkerchiefs. I thought of that drawer this morning, as I jokingly
offered my silk pocket square to my wife, who was looking for a Kleenex.
She was horrified that I would offer her a pocket square. I told her about
that drawer, and she told me about the drawer her father had that was also
filled with white cotton handkerchiefs. It’s as if there was a period of time,
say, in the 1950s when women wept more often in public, when they needed
to wipe their eyes, or blow their noses, and men were there, offering their crisp,
clean white handkerchiefs – with no thought of getting them back.

I do not know what life was like for women of the 1950s. They certainly
did not all look like Marilyn Monroe, but she was a curvaceous measuring stick.
Maybe there was more to cry about. Maybe not. Perhaps eye makeup was not
as waterproof. But loneliness, melancholy, broken love? Joy and sadness.
These things, we take with us as we move through time. There will always be
constants about which we will cry.

Perhaps you are sitting in a movie theatre in September, 1957. The popcorn
has real butter on it and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. On the screen
is an image of Cary Grant standing alone on the observation deck of the
Empire State Building. He is waiting for Deborah Kerr to show up
because they love each other and this rendezvous was their promise to
each other and to that love. But the Deborah Kerr character, in her rush
to meet him, has been hit by a car. The woman you are with is squeezing
your hand, hard. You glance at her and can see the tears streaming
down her face. The Cary Grant character believes he was rejected when
he really wasn’t and it’s so sad. Wouldn’t it be nice to offer the woman
squeezing your hand a soft white handkerchief? So she could wipe her tears?
Apparently, my father could have. My wife’s father likely would have.

Top Sheet

Happy New Year. It’s 2015 and cold as a well-digger’s ass. Here is last week’s sorbet offering for your viewing pleasure. Can you imagine Sasha? A full-bodied brunette with a tattoo of a Rumi poem on her right shoulder blade. Dark, questioning eyes. Strong hands. Shy until she has a drink, and then, perhaps too outgoing and needy. Here she is:

top sheet

Her whole life, Sasha needed the top sheet tucked in. It was a prerequisite for sleep. If the top sheet was not tucked she felt undone – she became anxious. Even if she were dog tired, she would get out of bed and remake the bed, frantically tucking and folding the edges until it was just right. In the past few months this trait had reversed itself, so she now felt claustrophobic if that sheet was tucked in. As if she needed to stay connected to the air – as if she needed the air of the world around her feet. Something small and contained had burst into this need for the wide open world. She needed the open-ended possibility now. Nothing about her bed was tucked in, or folded, or tidy anymore. This reversal did not upset Sasha. She only noticed it. As if she were sitting in the wooden chair by the window looking at two realities, watching the infinitesimally small space between, and smiling.

pin-up shirt snit just hurts the idea of feminism

So, the feminists objected to a scientist’s shirt, and called him out on it. A shirt with the image of old-school pin-up girls – his celebration shirt because he and his team had just successfully landed a small box on a comet going 135,000 miles per hour, after a ten-year journey through space, using technology that was twenty years old. So, the these deeply offended women did to this guy, what men (and women) do to successful women – they talk about what they’re wearing, or their hair, or some other banal observation, as opposed to what they’ve accomplished. Shame on you, you so-called feminists. Was the shirt ugly. Yes. Was is profoundly tacky? Oh ya. Did he know he was going to be interviewed? Apparently not. But to suggest that a fucking shirt can drive women away from pursuing careers in science and technology, is a pretty huge stretch. Are women really that frail, delicate, and sensitive? I don’t think so. If you are offended by the shirt…well, be offended. I wish British physicist Dr. Matt Taylor had responded with a “So?” And then asked the interviewer if she had any actual questions about science. Instead, he apologized, in tears, for wearing a tasteless shirt. Sigh…

My thirteen-year-old daughter would look at that shirt and declare it ugly, and then she’d be really impressed by the science. Actually, she was fascinated by the science. She didn’t care about the shirt. My daughter is a better feminist that these so-called outraged feminists. This pin-up shirt outrage only “…reinforces all the negative stereotypes about privileged Western feminists; that they are humourless, hysterical and forever sweating the small stuff, with few “real” issues of equality left to worry about.” – from the National Post.

It’s okay to be offended. Really. It is. We are an entire society of offended people. And the thing is, we have a medium through which to voice our outrage, to vent about how offended we are (like I’m doing above). But unless you can say why you are offended, and back up your argument, it’s all just blah, blah, blah.

New book is off...into the world

Well, here we are in late September. I am just back from the mountains. This morning, I sent a new book off to my agent. I am very pleased with this book. It is complex and quick and light (“light” in the sense of the things we try to avoid looking at, in the sense of all the things we value for their lightness – love and romance and connection and how they eventually reveal their true, unbearable weight). I hope it is engaging and clever enough for you. I know I have created something outside the pigeon holes of literary definition – which is perhaps unwise, but we must write for ourselves first – we must write the book we would love to read, first. I would love for a new novel, somewhere down the road, to consist of a review of an imagined book by a foreign author, written in a different language – so I would write the review of the book, which I’ve only imagined. Borges ran screaming with glee into this form in the 1930s with his short experiment, “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim,” which was in fact written in accordance with the above formula. The question is, can this formula work for a novel?

So, how does it feel to let go of a novel you’ve been working on for a year? It feels like loss. A part of me is gone. A hole has opened up. “The safety of a manuscript in progress is like none other,” Leah said.

It is safety, but also comfort. I feel uncomfortable. So, Seven moments of mercy is off. It could just as well be called: Purgatory or The seven purgatories of Katerina Miller. The great titles only come after the book is sent away and time has worked its magic. I’ll let you know what happens, as it happens.

August. August. August.

Hello. Long-time no talk. I’ve been working on the new book and having a holiday. The new book is shifting into place. It’s been an extensive re-write. And there is life. Life pops up and whacks ya when you don’t expect…So I have been practicing tonglen. And sitting zazen. And I read a most extraordinary book – a conversation between Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman called “The Dude and the Zen Master.” I’m going to re-read it and probably look for some more books by Bernie Glassman. Books don’t make you a master of Zen, but it resonates so well with me.

Here is a failed story for you:

meditating Modigliani woman

“I’m going to meditate,” she says. “Don’t bug me.”

The man will not bug her. Clara is wearing four-inch heels – nothing else. She meditates like this all the time. Across the room, she settles on the floor beside the window in a spot of sunlight. She presses her buttocks into the floor, makes a connection. She crosses her legs, shoes tucked under thighs, the dark swatch of her pubis rising up from the floor. She moves her hands to her knees, palms up, and she closes her eyes.

The light in the room is blue and kind. A breeze flutters the curtains. The man places his hand on the doorknob and turns it carefully. He looks at her again. Her face, her hair, her breasts are from a Modigliani painting. The floor is Renoir. The maple out the window is all van Gogh.

Good bye, he thinks. I’ll miss this.

(This is me in Nelson, at The All Seasons Cafe, which is a stunning, freaking brilliant restaurant

Nelson

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Welcome

Thomas

Thomas Trofimuk is a Canadian novelist, poet, and musician based in Edmonton, Alberta. He's the author of Doubting Yourself to the Bone, and his most recent novel, Waiting for Columbus. More.

Below, are the paperback covers for the UK, the Canadian, and US editions.

Waiting for Columbus

Columbus Cover (UK) Columbus Cover (Canada)

Waiting for Columbus (McClelland & Stewart / Knopf-Doubleday / Picador / and Blackstone Audiobooks) was released in Canada and the US in 2009 and in the UK in 2010. Read reviews and more about the book here.

Columbus Cover (United States)

UPCOMING EVENTS


"Waiting for Columbus" is featured as part of the WILDLY popular RICHARD AND JUDY book club in the UK!!!
Waiting for Columbus is featured on the WH Smith website here. And here is the awesome video!

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
TBA

BOOK CLUBS
TBA

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for "Waiting for Columbus"
A few suggested discussion questions for "Waiting for Columbus are here. An interview with Trofimuk that might also spark some discussion is here. Enjoy....

Key Dates for Waiting for Columbus

The paperbacks are here! The paperbacks are here!!! Canadian, US and UK paperbacks of Waiting for Columbus are on the shelves!!

Release date Brazil:
Pending

Release date Poland:
Pending



“…And therein lies the best career advice I could possibly dispense: just DO things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Stop acting like you have a set path, because you don’t. No one does. You shouldn’t be trying to check off the boxes of life; they aren’t real and they were created by other people, not you. There is no explicit path I’m following, and I’m not walking in anyone else’s footsteps. I’m making it up as I go.
It’s harder, for sure, and kind of scary sometimes. But it will allow you to look at yourself in the mirror and know you’re playing by your own rules…”

-- Charlie Hoehn

“coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love...”
~ Turkish proverb


 

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