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Past-Present - Laura Wise

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March 4th, 2010


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07:36 am - Past-Present
I wish that I could push a button/ and talk in the past, not in the present tense--"Brilliant Mistake," Elvis Costello

Yesterday my friend and home-repair person put up new light fixtures in my kitchen and in the process took down the old fluorescent fixtures original to the house. Underneath the old fixtures are deep round holes, open to the beam above; the ceiling there is unpainted, still bearing pencil-marked notes. Until Monday and the rest of the repair, the new track-lighting fixtures will hang uneasily below the past.

Yesterday I finished reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, a comic, poignant novel which feels old and new at the same time. It's an English-village comedy, with Austen-like social observation and with undercurrents of grief, but it's set in the present; the central character -- Major Ernest Pettigrew, a sixty-eight-year-old retired army officer and widower -- forms a connection with Mrs Jasmina Ali, who works at the corner shop. Awkwardness (social and personal) and sweetness ensue.

Yesterday I spent an hour looking at a draft of a new short story. It's in past tense, but perhaps it should be in present. Or perhaps it should drift between the two. Or... I hang uneasily over the keyboard, trapped between past and present, unable to decide.

Yesterday the Dog of the House stopped limping. In one step she was, in another she wasn't.

Better to live in the present, perhaps...

May past be prologue to your present pleasures at the end of this week!

(19 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:paratti
Date:March 4th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad the Dog of the Hosue is doing better.

((hugs))
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
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The Dog of the House is glad, too! :-)

[hugs and good thoughts to you, L]
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, C, for kind thoughts -- I send them back to you! [brushes off dog-fur first]

Happy Thursday. :-)
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From:freixenet
Date:March 4th, 2010 01:09 pm (UTC)
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drive by hugs...
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
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Hugs and good thoughts!
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From:anne_d
Date:March 4th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad that the Small Blonde One is on the mend.

How interesting to see what's under your old light fixtures, like a mini archaeological dig (only upside down).
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
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The Blonde Dog thanks you!

And yes, it's fascinating to see the marks underneath the fixtures which had hung there for decades. (Or rather, fixture -- the original builders obviously used one for their scrawled template, because the other one has far fewer marks.)

Joy and warmth to you in the present!
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From:mamculuna
Date:March 4th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
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I like things in the present tense, myself. And non-limping dogs, yay!

I have that book on reserve now. Thanks!
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
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"Be present now" -- always a good thought. :-)

I enjoyed Simonson's book, and I hope you do too. Happy Thursday!
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From:janus_74
Date:March 4th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
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Better to live in the present - totally.
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
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I hope your present day is wonderful! :-)
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From:headrush100
Date:March 4th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
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I'm much in mind of past and present at the moment, given my lifelong weakness for time travel stories, lately in the form of Doctor Who, Connie Willis's 'Blackout' (researchers from Oxford in 2060 go back to WWII), and Jeanette Winterson's 'Tanglewreck'. It seems part of us always longs to revisit the past, but another part knows all too well that this is fraught with peril. Which, er, doesn't help your present-or-past-tense ponder, does it? Personally, I would go for past.... I think.

Yay miraculous recovery from the Dog of the House!

*hugs*
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From:laurawise
Date:March 4th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
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The Dog of the House thanks you. :-)

And time travel is certainly a type of present-past confusion, absolutely. Enjoy your mental wanderings, and hugs on this Thursday!
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From:heron_pose
Date:March 5th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
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Yes -- when I first read Pride and Prejudice (much later than one would expect), I had a strange yearning that Jane Austen had written my story, because all of that angst gets resolved so nicely. She seems so benevolent to her characters, and I wanted an author like that for me.

OTOH, maybe the past really doesn't go anywhere, and isn't really the past (and certainly wasn't much better than the present). Just, novels can have that tidy assurance that real life lacks.

In re: other post: layers, yum!

::allthehugs::
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From:laurawise
Date:March 5th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
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H-P, hi hi hi!

It's intriguing that you found Pride and Prejudice resolving all the angst... one of the things I like about Austen is that she does and yet doesn't. (She doesn't pretend Lydia and Wickham will have a good marriage, for instance.) Simonson does a similar thing -- the main story has a happy resolution, but there is sadness and lack of connection at the end as well.

Still, that's my swerve from the main focus of your comment, which is: 1) you say smart things about the past, and 2) you rock. (Also, 3) layers!)

Hugs a million and a good weekend!
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From:heron_pose
Date:March 6th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Well, even as late as I read it, I'm sure I missed a lot, and only focused on the MAIN characters, as a lazy reader is wont to do.

I will put the Simonson on the summer reading list.
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From:stevie_carroll
Date:March 7th, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand looks utterly charming, and my local library has a copy on order. I shall have to reserve it, when I next go in.

I have spent much of this week failing to write due to the demands of the Day Job. Indecision about where the story needs to go next may also have played a part.

Very glad to hear the Dog of the House is feeling better.

Happy Sunday to the pair of you!

Edited at 2010-03-07 11:06 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:March 7th, 2010 12:23 pm (UTC)
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Hurrah for local libraries! :-)

I am v.v. sympathetic to the stresses of the Day Job -- I hope that you have time to explore the twists and turns of your story soon, though.

Happy Sunday, plus sun!

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