The first review of Lessons in Taxidermy appeared in Publishers Weekly as a starred pick. They also ran the cover image — apparently they only do this for a select few titles. An excerpt:
Lavender… holds nothing back as she recounts her life spent in and out of hospitals and her subsequent dissociation from her own body and emotions. She struggles with health problems from birth, which are compounded by her surroundings, including frequent encounters with street fights, domestic violence and poverty. Her voice is as strong as the front she puts up for the multitude of doctors she sees, and it’s hard not to be in awe of what one fragile human being can withstand in the course of such a short lifetime…. witnessing her strength and sheer determination to live makes this striking book completely engrossing.
Last week a sweet and gentle relative had major spinal surgery. We were worried, particularly given what happened when her husband had a similar operation. But we live too far away to provide any practical assistance.
I’ve been fretful and anxious, and my main distraction has been the work required to fix a massive hacker attack against one of my sites, and then transfer the domains to a new server. This work is complicated and difficult and does not in any way relieve stress.
One could claim that such tasks make life exponentially more difficult. But at least it is something to think about. Now the work is mostly done, and we are just waiting for the domain names to rollover. Byron called home learned that the beloved family member was able to sit up, stand up, and walk.
Yesterday we had a picnic on Jesus Green with friends. Today the children were dazzled by chocolate eggs and manga and plastic bunnies who live in plastic mushrooms.
We went on a six-hour walk, through obscure parts of the city we have never visited, admiring the daffodils and other flowers I could not identify. My glasses were misted with rain as I looked at the colleges, gardens, and river, still bemused by the fact that we live here.
Tonight I feel very lucky.
I was away for the weekend and came home to find a box of books waiting. The cover, courtesy of Gabriel, is gorgeous. Most writers don’t have the chance to work with publishers who are open to collaboration on book design; I feel extraordinarily lucky sitting here with the finished book in my hand.
Apparently you can now order it from a site devoted to taxidermy hobby books. I hope that the people who pick it up expecting something in the way of tips on skinning and stretching aren’t too disappointed.
The title is not ironic, but it may be a bit misleading for certain audiences.
Several people have asked what my next project is. When I shrug and say dunno they narrow their eyes in disbelief.
But it is true. I think that I should be able to just buckle down and do something new. In the past, nothing could have deterred me from at least conceiving an idea, even if only to discard it later.
Now, for whatever reason, I feel like my brain is empty. I keep trying to start a much-delayed essay about the experience of moving to a new country but the sentences do not form.
Instead, I have continued to read, tearing through novels faster than I can replenish the supply and rummaging through our dusty stacks when I need a new fix. I can read three hundred pages a day without much trouble, and twice that on days without parties and excursions.
It is such a terrific feeling to dissolve into a fictional world. Some of the books I’ve read aren’t very good but others are so amazing it is almost painful to put them down.
Text messaging is genius. I can communicate with people via the telephone, without actually talking!
Yesterday Byron sent a message reading I’m in Paris…
I replied I’m at Tesco…
Mother’s Day is mostly a work thing for me. I have to dig up the obligatory feature article that expounds on the fact that the holiday was originally conceived as a protest for peace. I also have to field lots of interview questions. The day happens earlier in the UK (and apparently has no historic connection with the US version), but Mamaphonic hasn’t been released here yet.
For the first time in several years, the day was really my own.
Too bad half the family is still stateside.
But my daughter and I had an excellent weekend. Her school trip to France was cancelled so we took the opportunity to go to London to get her fringe trimmed, go shopping, and eat a noodle dinner. We even got evacuated from a tube station! It was quite exciting.
This morning she made me a Dutch Baby for breakfast. Later we went down to the river and, after talking to tourists about my solar panel, had great fun just sitting around reading books.
Now we’re sitting here listening to Portugese translations of David Bowie songs. I’m going to make pizza and salad for dinner, and then we have some movies to watch.
Happy Mothering Sunday!
I tried something new this morning: cycling in the snow.
Can’t say that I recommend it.
My glasses were coated with fat wet snowflakes, my hair and wool coat were soaked, and my back wheel kept sliding sideways. I only made it to the end of the block before I decided to give up and go back to the boat.
Perhaps I will venture forth on foot. Though I don’t own boots.
The new scar on my face has settled into a thin long streak of red, mostly covered by layers of sunblock and makeup. It is currently in that itchy phase of healing that I have always loathed. Pain never bothers me. This prickly throbbing is maddening.
The doctor said that the scar would fold into my laugh line; it would be more accurate to say that it created one. Byron claims he can’t see it but platitudes are part of the job description of spouse.
The fourteen year old is a much better resource. I asked Does the scar make me look like I’ve aged years?
She squinted at me and replied Only on half of your face.
At least I find the whole thing amusing. It would be terrible if I actually cared about my appearance.
In high school most classes were seated alphabetically. Because we were both in the vocational arts track and our surnames started with the same letter, this meant that James and I spent most of our days together in the late eighties.
Even when I refused to talk to him over some minor transgression, there we sat, furiously not talking. I refused to acknowledge his existence for an entire year after the accident; he was just the ghost at my left elbow. I worked in the photography lab with my injured arm held above my head, staring straight through James if he ever offered to help.
When we get along everything is brilliant; when we disagree it can be dreadful. Since 1986 it has been rather like having a sibling. We look after each other and bicker and hold communal memories. We are more than friends. James is a member of my family.
But even though he was present for more than half of the stories in the new book, either as a witness to the action or the salvage operation, he does not appear as a named character. I find this very strange; but the book is about danger, and James represents something else.
When I turned in the manuscript I wrote to apologize for the exclusion. I did not mean to write him out of the stories; he just didn’t fit in the schematic, and the book was never intended to be a traditional memoir.
. . .i am in all your stories. but then i am not. right? even when i was involved, my role was to make sense of things. even if that sense was naive or stupid or simplisitic or even wrong. i was somehow innocent of the drama. even if my thoughts/ideas/saying complicated the drama. i somehow remain apart.