Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 28
            

Laura's in Wisconsin, the upstairs has laid off the piano, I have Robert Plant on the stereo, and I'm starving. I've been sitting here at my desk all damn day. Time to rustle up some food and go to Laura's to feed the fish.

Oh, yeah. The count stands at 756 ms pages.

Curmudgeon and co., I'll fill you in soon on those other details. I promise. But right now I have a weekend alone to myself to write with!

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In my junior year of high school, I signed up for an advanced humanities class that encompassed history, literature, art, music, and drama from the beginning of recorded time. This daily seminar was presided over by the legendary Mrs. Vivian Beattie, an extraordinary teacher amongst what for a public school was a remarkable slate of extraordinary teachers. (Remind me someday to tell you stories about my math and computer science teacher, Lenzi Nelson. When you ask, tell me you want to hear about the teacher who threw chalk.)

We adored Mrs. Beattie, a ferocious old iconoclast whose demands on her students' intellects and attention pushed most of us as far as we'd ever been pushed by a teacher in our lives. She asked us for all we had, but in return she conferred upon us the gift of critical thought, not to mention the kind of respect most adolescents never feel from adults—the respect that says you are a worthwhile generation, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you.

That's usually how it worked, anyway.

If there was one thing Mrs. Beattie would tolerate, it was muddy thinking. I ran afoul of her cruel, casual dismissiveness in this regard one morning during our unit on 19th-century art. The topic was visual composition, the subject under scrutiny Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres's famous portrait of a nude harem girl, "La Grande Odalisque." Surely you've seen it—it's Ingres's best-known painting. The Rubenesque slave girl (the titular odalisque) reclines amid the various appurtenances of a fantastic Turkish harem—veils, silks, furs, pipes, jeweled belts, feathered brushes—with her inhumanly supple back to the artist and her face turned to gaze mildly back at him over her right shoulder. The ripe globe of one breast can be seen in partial eclipse, shadowed by her right arm. The painting was reviled in its time, but is today considered a masterpiece of French neoclassical portraiture.

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741 ms pages. Laura's in Wisconsin. Time for bed.

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At the risk of sounding like a one-note symphony, 724 ms pages and counting.

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Done done done. 712 ms pages now. On I trudge.

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Chapter 34: "Reigning Buckets"

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In the can. Up to 685 ms pages now. Whew!

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Chapter 33: "Dedman on Arrival"

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Chapter 33 is in the can. 670 ms pages. Now the workday can begin.

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Chapter 32: "A Dunk Before Dying"

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Just finished Chapter 32. That's 658 manuscript pages total. Onward and upward.

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In the interest of giving myself a little kick in the pants, I'll be making a big fuss every time I complete a new chapter of my book. So, last night I finished Chapter 31, just in time to go to karate class. It was the first chapter I'd finished in a month, what with this and that and the other. I'm hoping to knock out Chapter 32 this weekend. You'll know whether or not I do.

I project 49 chapters in all, plus a postlude. Unfortunately, I also project about a thousand manuscript pages. We're at 641 right now. Argh!

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Curse you, Dave Barry!

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Hmm. Perhaps it's time to come up with a better excuse for not having gotten enough written yet this weekend. . . .

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