Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Korean Wars

Refugees moving south in the P'ohang sector after receiving evacuation orders from the South Korean army, August 12, 1950.

From "The Cry of the Magpies" by Kim Dong-ni:

Ok-nan said that her coughing fits had occurred even before the half year had elapsed. When months passed by without a word from me and the magpies continued to cry in the mornings, my mother's eyes began to glare in a strange way. Then the strange glaring of her eyes seemed to shift over to a long spell of coughs. At first her condition was not so very bad, but beginning about one year after I left home, she got to coughing almost wihtout fail whenever the magpies cried in the morning....

I remember my mother was in the habit of mouthing such words as "O, God!" or "Help me!" after her occasional coughing fits even before I left home for the battlefield. And now she was replacing those words with "Bong-su!" and "Kill me!" 

In my view, there was not much inconsistency in this development. Rather, these seemingly contradictory expressions were no more mutually exclusive than the two sides of one coin. The way I looked at it, "Help me" could very naturally become "Kill me", a suffering deepened into bottomless despair.

[From ""The Cry of the Magpies", Kim Dong-ni, The Portable Library of Korean Literature, Jimoondang Publishing, Seoul, 1961, 2002.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Drawings IV

This is one of my favourite photos of Richard and me (our mom's in the background). It's at the opening for my first solo show of art -- a group of life drawings of people at work. It was held at Partisan Gallery ... I can't remember the date -- sometime in the 80s. Richard came down from Montreal. My mom was living in Toronto at that time, and I think my dad had moved there as well. The crowd was good even though the sort of work I was doing -- highly representational drawings without the aid of photos -- wasn't considered hip at the time, and still isn't considered so. The drawings themselves were of people at work ... again, an unhip subject-matter.

Richard was more affected by the modernist aesthetic I was. Actually, I was affected by it, too, but not as purely; I was heavily into cartoons as well (an interest starting in childhood), particularly political cartoons and what back then we called "underground comics" (that's graphic fiction to you, 21st Century kultur-kampfer). He'd had a show at Concordia, where he studied. His works were giant paintings: neo-expressionist self-portraits and animals. Come to think of it, I was strongly interested in neo-expressionism as well. But his work was very uniform in its aesthetic -- he'd put down lines in large bold strokes. I don't remember that he experimented much with different media when painting -- he stuck to acrylics, and a similar style. (Later, he became interested in sculpture and ended up doing a lot of line drawings -- I think by this point he just didn't want to buy paint.) He also during this university period did drawings in india ink, which were, looping back again, similar to his paintings. In effect, he was drawing rather than painting -- the paintings were drawing-like. Many painters have this tendency, and it's simply one way of solving one's visual subject-matter: one uses lines of colour rather than blocks of them. Lines always materialize in representational work, no matter how abstracted. But some artists use them as a primary visual element, and Richard and I both fell in that category. We were both -- as we had been when kids -- drawers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Norway II

During our first trip to Norway we took a car trip with my paternal grandmother (Farmor in Norwegian) through the mountains north of Oslo. It was the summer, but in the highlands the temperature dropped quickly.

It had been a hot summer in Oslo, and neither Richard nor I were prepared for the coldness. It wasn't all that bad, really, but our windbreakers didn't quite do the trick. Most of the time we were at lower elevations -- driving along a thin, apparently endless highway. It was when we drove up to the top of a mountain that the ice fields would appear.

The beauty of the fjords is something to see. Geographically, they are quite plain -- old mountains with soft edges and a lot of wild grass growing on them. (I'm not even sure if I remember them from an individual memory or whether my recollection of this detail has simply been filtered through one travel brochure pic too many.) It's too bad we didn't come better equipped, clothing-wise, to do a day's worth of hiking. I didn't fully appreciate the beauty of a geographic formation like a fjord until I did some hiking with my uncle Henrik in Newfoundland many years later and saw formations that were very similar in Gros Morne. This is the only trip to the Norwegian fjords that I've made. Hopefully Suki and I will be able to make the trip together some time -- we're not hardcore about outdoors activity (i.e., no tents), but we definitely like being outside for hours of walking.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

No Thin Line

Jennifer Armentrout has secured a sizable advance/book deal thingie after a combination of small press and "self-publishing". In a recent interview, she remarks:

Jeremy Greenfield: You’ve seen a lot of success very quickly. How long have you been writing?

Jennifer L. Armentrout: I started writing seriously in 2007 with my first book, a young adult paranormal romance, and I got a contract on that in 2010 through a small press, Spencer Hill Press. They published it in October 2011.

I started out like most authors do looking for an agent but I couldn’t get one. Once my book came out I was able to get one.

Since 2011, I’ve had 13 books come out. All the books that have come out are with Entangled Publishing and Spencer Hill. My Harlequin Teen book doesn’t come out until the end of this year and my Disney Hyperion books are scheduled to come out in 2014.

JG: What made you decide to self-publish in the first place?

JLA: Came up with the idea in the shower and wrote the book in 20 days in January. I can write pretty fast. I sent a partial to my agent and she loved it. She said, “we can definitely sell this.” We targeted about four-to-five publishers and it was really well-received and all the editors loved it but it got turned down at every publisher because the new adult market is very risky. It’s hard to get it into bookstores. And the market is getting flooded. So, we had this book we thought would sell it but couldn’t.

When we found out we couldn’t sell it Kevan and I had a serious conversation – neither of us had done anything with self-publishing before but I knew some authors who had done it and had some help getting copy editors and cover designers and other people to help. We formed a marketing plan that we thought would work. I have a platform but we wanted to reach beyond my readership so that’s when we decided to do the three-day $0.99 deal and it worked.

It has all happened so quickly. I wrote the book in January, we published it in February. It’s been an insane couple of months.


So it seems if I understand the background to this correctly that in reality she collaborated with her agent, brought her manuscripts out via Kindle, sold many copies, then signed a deal with Avon. All this begs a couple of questions: is it really self-publishing when one collaborates with a publishing professional? Or is it simply that agents are becoming publishers themselves? (The Wylie Agency threatened to do this some time ago with its backlist, then, I believe, for whatever set of reasons, backed off.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

East Coast

This was taken at the home where my mother grew up. It's in New Brunswick on a tributary of the St. John River. My maternal grandparents were potters, and next to this house (very large and ramshackle is how I remember it) was a studio that we actually slept in -- it was a rectangular, bungalow style building -- sort of like a giant bachelor apartment -- and it was not as musty or damp as the big house seemed to be. (There was another house up the road that was deserted and positively spooky; no one wanted to stay there.) Actually, I thought the big house (in photo) was kind of cool. I remember trying to convince my dad we should sleep there.

At that time, the entire area was overgrown and kind of mysterious. There was a pathway to the river. It wasn't long, but by the time you got to the shore, the house was lost in foliage. There was another route -- a dirt road -- to the main road (maybe also dirt at that point). When we drove down it, the saplings on either side would brush against the car windows as vigorously as if we were in a car wash.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The beach

This is Richard and me at the beach -- we tended to go to the lakes in Gatineau Park pretty much every weekend when we were still at Rideau Terrace. Later, when my folks broke up and Richard and I were living with Mom in Manor Park, Dad would take us to the Gatineaus on a fairly regular basis, though not as frequently as before.

Lake-wise, we had favourites, and these were susceptible to fashion: when we were very small it was Lac Philippe. Later, Lac Lapeche. There were others, too, for example Pink's Lake (sort of a noisy party-place where the fragile eco-system finally got so stressed that park authorities closed the lake to swimming). But the two former are the ones I remember most.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


This is from the family reunion at Oscarsborg in 2006. It took place just after Suki and I were married. Richard and his then-wife Teena are in the foreground.

Oscarsborg is a fortress on a small island in Oslo Fjord. It proved important during the German invasion of Norway in 1940, when, armed with World War One vintage big guns and torpedoes (the guns, I believe, manufactured in Germany), the Norwegians manage to seriously cripple a German naval vessel. This delayed the German invasion for several hours, though in the end it did little to deter it.

The fortress is a castle, really. I'm not sure when it dates back to. Nowadays, it is used for events like weddings and large get-togethers -- and that's what we came to Norway for: our cousins on my paternal grandmother's side of the family are in the habit of organizing reunions every five years (or so), and this one was organized by our cousins Hege and Tone Bratsberg, along with help from many other cousins.

The weather was perfect. It was a bright and sunny summer in Norway. Again, like Canada, the summers are unpredictable, so we were lucky. I remembered all the cousins my age from earlier visits that Richard, my dad and I had made to Norway in the 1970s. But now a lot of them had kids. At times, keeping everyone straight was a little confusing.

Because of Norway's latitude, the evenings were extraordinarily long. One night Suki, Richard, Teena and I were out on the shore watching a cruise ship sail slowly past. By the time it was out of view, the sky was still light, but it was then past 10 o'clock.

Everyone got along, and that good cheer was like a long day, too. But the day faded, ultimately. Suki got to meet Richard and Teena. Suki and Teena would meet one more time -- at Richard's memorial. Richard and Suki never met in person again.


Kevin from Canada on Solomon Gursky Was Here.

Stan Persky on the reading explosion.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Greens

This was taken the same time as the earlier photo of Richard and me playing, with Richard holding a stick in his mouth. My mom, dad, Richard ("Dickie" then) and I went to Rockcliffe Park. It's an actual park, as you can see, and also a swanky neighborhood filled with the homes of the rich and the ambassadorial class. We lived on Rideau Terrace, east of Springfield, which was a dividing line between it and our neighborhood -- New Edinburgh. The layout of the neighborhoods was such that within short walking distance you could be in a working class area, for example Vanier, or the area around Crichton Street (where Richard and I went to school) or up in the enclaves of Rockcliffe, with its grand homes and trees everywhere.

Rockcliffe Park actually seemed to be several parks, all kind of interconnected: there was the Governor General's ground, some bush, Rockliffe Park itself, a tree-lined driveway that led to another park, the Rockeries, and then Mile Circle and Manor Park (the last not being a park at all but a neighborhood where Richard, Mom and I lived after my parents split).

It had a nice but slightly weird effect on me being surrounded by so much greenery while still in a city. When I learned how to bike I was pretty much everywhere, and expanded my stomping (pedaling) grounds until I knew the whole area well. I thought every city was more or less like this -- swank neighborhoods, middle-class neighborhoods, tough neighborhoods, but all of it linked up by long stretches of green.

This section of Ottawa still has the same essential lay-out -- but a lot of that green has been developed. For example, directly across from our house on Rideau Terrace, there was an acre or so of land we called "the bush". It wasn't a park -- it wasn't anything. It was just what it sounded like: a wild outgrowth of trees and brush. This is where we usually played. It stayed that way for so many years that I assumed it always would. I had no concept of zoning. But it wasn't zoned as parkland, it wasn't zoned as anything, I guess. It's all townhouses now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Truth Marathon - Korean version

From my first screenplay-novel, Truth Marathon:

세계 2차대전 직전 동경의 거리오후
제목 : 동경, 1941 1 26
차 한대가 뉴욕 내셔널 시티은행(National City Bank)의 일본 지점 앞에 멈춰선다잘 차려 입은 서양 남자 한 명이 등장한다그는 은행 안으로 들어간다.
잘 차려입은 서양남자가 줄을 서고 있다잠시 후 그는 은행 창구에 다다른다.
 More here....

 [sincere thanks to Arts Won for this]