This fish started out as a lino-cut, but ended up digital.
A few years ago, our sabbatical almost over, kicked out of our island rental house for the summer and living in a trailer with a 6 year-old and a 3 year-old, I was working on the galleys for The Book of Beasts.
My children loved to jump up and down on the big bed, making the whole trailer jump, bashing my legs against the banquette, making me feel as if I was in some sort of plywood-cardboard monster, being digested. They were still very much attached. When leaving the playground, I would see how far I could walk across the soccer field until the invisible umbilical cord would yank them in my direction even if they didn’t want to go. How many Mummies per minute was how I described the mind-bending interactions of daily life, as they competed for my attention: Mummy, Mummy, Mummy….
D, the book designer, managed to contact me by phone. He told me he needed the rest of the glyphs – the little images for the chapters – by the end of the week.
“But B told me you wouldn’t be using any more, so I didn’t do them,” I said.
“She said what? How much crack was she on? I wish someone would consult me about book design! I’m the book designer, you know! Come on… you’re an artist. You can do it. Just do it.”
Everything was packed in boxes in a shed.
I went fishing in my boxes, managed to find what I needed, and fed it into Photoshop.
I can produce fish — a common motif from art school. Someone even knew how to say I want to wash a fish in Norwegian, and I know how to say put this fish in your ear in Arabic. My guest book of my BFA show was in the shape of a fish, the pages torn from old drawings and proofs, using a fish-shaped etching plate as the template. A single metal ring served as the binding, and was attached to one of my father’s fishing poles. I was fishing for complements.
I can produce words, too, all the right words, when an editor tells me I need this and this and this in my manuscript, and I estimate it will amount to another ninety pages, another third of the book’s original size, maybe another year of work.
I can bash my head against the wall any number of times and shake something out.
I can produce whatever’s necessary, rub those sticks together in my mind and rekindle.
My husband asks me what that smell of burning is; he often thinks something has been left on the stove.
Once my next novel comes out, I’ll have published well over a quarter of a million words. Is it any wonder I shudder when I’m asked to sign a book? People always expect more than a signature.
Maybe I’ll just draw them a fish.
Or its bones, blackened.
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo.
Trans. Stillman Drake. Forward, Albert Einstein.
You name dropper, you.
Atlas of the Moon, Antonín Rükl.
Love that umlaut.
Solar System Observer’s Guide, Peter Grego.
Miss Manners: Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Judith Martin, 1982
Dipping into this, which has recently become part of my collection of historic books that tell people how to behave. The parts on dating are more hilarious than Amy Vanderbilt circa 1951, who is still telling us how to dress our footmen. There are too many quotes to relate here. I particularly enjoy her naming of the “Kafka Method” of dumping someone.
The Josephine B. Trilogy, Sandra Guilland.
Take that, Tolstoy.
Where the Blood Mixes, Kevin Loring.
Annie Mae’s Movement, Yvette Nolan.
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt.
The Time In Between, David Bergen
The Retreat, David Bergen.