Thursday, 29 March 2012

Writing on the road

It's hard to write when I'm away from home, but it's also hard not to write. Sometimes I feel like I'm only half here: the other half is in (at the moment) a community hall in rural Manitoba. But it's not an unpleasant feeling, except that I'm pulled and want to be there. I've been reading old issues of Chatelaine magazine from 1967, research for the current novel. What strikes me, besides some of the quaint ads (for the "every half hour cocktail party" (???)), the neat clothes (culottes!) and the fact that we used to call couches "chesterfields," is that we haven't changed much. Yeah, we've changed on the surface; we can choose from a shelf of about 600 varieties of tea (as a tea drinker, I notice this) and we can Skype from India to Penticton and all that, but our human obsessions remain essentially the same. We're not so advanced as we seem to think we are. We recycle our dilemmas. We work with the same seven notes, rearranging them in different patterns.

A friend who grew up in India read Shelter and said something like "the landscape is different, jobs are different but the human problems are 100% the same." I get the sense of that reading The Odyssey or the Ramayana. (I don't mean to put Shelter in that class!) Old but familiar tales, familiar at the root, ringing with recognition. I'm not sure if that's cause for hope or despair.

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