Shaun Levin

Archive for 2021|Yearly archive page

An Hour a Day

In Writing on August 22, 2021 at 12:38 pm

It’s the day itself that overwhelms, how to fill it now that we’ve taken eight hours off to write, morning noon and night, to work on whatever it is that we’re working on, and wasn’t the plan so wonderful, delicious, what a delicious plan to take the day off, no kids, we sent the kids to school, or to their gran, where did we send the kids, babe, and we said, the whole day, we’ll write, we’ll get so much done, we’re ordering take aways, we’re doing a 10 minute HIIT workout to start the day, fresh, showered, all fresh and lemoney, so ready to start the day, I mean if we usually get 1000 an hour, that’s at least 5000 for the whole day, it’s going to be great.

Obviously that’s not how it worked out, did it, babe? We were so distracted by the amount of time we had, by Dan and Sue coming and going, and the garbage trucks, I mean do they always make so much noise, and the letter we should be writing to the agent, did you get that letter out to the agent, we’ll do it afterwards, afterwards, let’s focus. Can we focus here, please? Stop talking to me. You in your room and me in mine and the whole day is ours. What if we fail, we’re already failing, I mean it’s been about an hour and look what I’ve got done and you’ve done even less, or maybe a bit more, it’s not a competition, but we do have to get stuff done because at the end of the day there’ll be the letters to write and the children to feed, never mind ourselves, we don’t need to eat.

What if I disappear?

What if I run out of things to say?

How does one fill so many pages in so many hours where does inspiration come from whose suggestion was it to take the whole day off I mean we were hungry for it so hungry for this writing time and it’s not as if it this is the first time, I mean it hasn’t worked in the past remember Paris and that day we wrote all day, going from café to café, museum to museum, one park one gallery to another, writing writing writing maybe we should do this in the garden or, wait, I’ll nip out for coffees and we can pretend we’re in a café lets go to a café I’ll take my notebook you take your laptop and we’ll go write in a café and no one will be here when the parcel arrives we promised the kids we’d be here when the parcel arrives.

What if we just did an hour. Like just an hour. We can say we wrote for the whole day but we’ll just write for an hour. We’ll take the whole day off and just do whatever we want and for the next hour, look it’s almost noon, we can start at noon and go for an hour, then make lunch. We’ll make lunch not order lunch no need to order lunch we’ll take the time to make lunch after this hour of writing, just focus for an hour, that’s all we need, an hour, I mean we’ve done it before, haven’t we done an hour before, an hour here an hour there and it was fun and we felt like we’d accomplished something i mean we had accomplished something because an hour a day is accomplishable and it’s easy to measure and it’s easy to sit and we don’t have to reach the end of the day like dried-out creatures drained of their blood and we can end on a high note, wanting more, gagging for more, and when we have that hour tomorrow, I mean how happy are we going to be when tomorrow’s hour is available to us and we know exactly where we left off today which will be yesterday remember yesterday when we wrote and everything was exciting and ripe and we just wanted more, but the clock struck one and we put our pens down and closed the lid of our laptops and went to the kitchen and opened the fridge and my god those eggs look delicious and they smell delicious frying in all that butter and the toast my god that toast smells delicious toasting in the toaster and we’re like, maybe we can sneak in another hour after lunch but we don’t we savour this till tomorrow because tomorrow there’ll be an hour somewhere in the day, somewhere between chores and duties and picking the kids up from ballet or tap or singing.

Reading a Lot

In Reading, Writing on August 5, 2021 at 2:10 pm

Or: On reading Carole Maso’s The American Woman in the Chinese Hat

We used to read a lot. We had books on the go, many books by our bedside, in our bags, on the coffee table, the kitchen counter. On the way to, the way from, while waiting. We read a lot, and all the people we knew read a lot. Oh, we had a lover every now and then who didn’t read a lot, but how could that ever last, that passionate affair with the one who did not read. We didn’t all read the same books but sometimes we did and we exchanged this book and that book oh you have to read this and yes, i loved it too, no i couldn’t get into it, but mostly our friends were like us, people who read a lot, and there was always room for more books, always more to read and we read everything we wanted to read and nothing was left out.

We had books on the go but there was always the one book we loved the most and we would disappear into it, on the bus, during a break at work, while off duty, and we read, and that was our world mainly, that world of disappearing into books. It’s not like that anymore. We’re not always reading and we blame the world and we blame ourselves and we blame Netflix and our screens and their screens (your screen, we blame your screen) and the end of the world but we know there was a time when things were different and we read a lot. We remember reading a lot because that epoch of reading lasted a long time reading and reading for years and years and discovering who were were through books and at the backs of those books – lists of other books and we’d go in search of them and we lived a life of a daisy chain of books one leading to the next, tied to the next, and how wonderful it was to be reading a lot.

Now we read less. We read a story here, an essay there, an article, an Instagram post, an Instagram post, an Instagram post, a tweet, a tweet, a thread, a tweet, hoping to be consumed and disappear the way we used to, emerging even more wonderful than we were when we went in, stronger, clearer, richer, peacocks, we were all peacocks back then when we read a lot, even if only in the privacy of our minds and imaginations, our heads from the inside as shining and colourful and reflecting of light as the plumage of a peacock. But then, yes, but then, but then… we come across a book every now and then, now, years later, years after that epoch of reading a lot, light years away from that time, stranded as we are now – where? where are we? – and a book appears to us, from where we’re not quite sure, maybe a secondhand bookshop, maybe a friend lends it to us, maybe – admit it – someone talks about it on their feed, and we feed off it, trough like, lay our hands on the book and read it and feel ourselves disappearing into it – look at that wonderful hole, Alice, look at the rabbit, follow the rabbit, open the closet, Mr Lion Witch and Wardrobe, let us in to the other side, and look, we’re disappearing the way we used to and how delicious, even if we are disoriented and thinking to ourselves, is this real, shouldn’t we be checking e-mails, shouldn’t we be working, working out, seeing what’s happening on the social networks we’re networking on, I mean, is it okay to be disappearing… how wonderful to be in this book and reading and the lines are beautiful and the words are beautiful, seeing them side by side the way they’ve been placed, and maybe the book was on our bookshelf all this time anyway, waiting for the right moment to make itself known. Read me, Alice.

at Fundación Valparaíso Artists’ Residence, Mojacar, Spain, circa 2005

We don’t read a lot anymore but when we find something to read, my god how we miss it and it’s as if no time has passed at all and we’re back in our lives, in that other country, that other place where we read a lot, how wonderful it was to read a lot and yes, it was nice to have others who read a lot but to read a lot is to live in the company of those who have written and the words on the page and the feel of the pages and the little bio at the beginning and the acknowledgements at the end and thank you to you and to you and Je t’embrasse she says at the end of her book because they were there for her, too, some of them dead and some of them living and what more do we need, no one, no one more than the books and the books before them and the promise of books to come, because if this book appeared to us out of nowhere, who’s to know what more is in store for us, these diamonds in the rock of our days that are harder but more solid and denser with less time and the memories of those days and years back and back and back to the epoch when we all read a lot.