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In for the Duration: Books About the Long Haul

I worked on The Work for … long enough to forget how long. And I know I’m not alone. Almost every writer I talk to has a long-simmering novel somewhere that they can’t seem to complete, but can’t give up, either. Maybe it’s loyalty, maybe it’s stubbornness; maybe we just don’t know how to stop. It’s not unlike the thwarted love-affair in my novel. The trouble is that as the years go by, the original concept no longer seems so inspiring, or so relevant. At a time like that, it helps to see the project through a new lens.

I remember when that shift happened for me with The Work. I was lying in bed reading Eva Stachniak’s The Chosen Maiden. My eyes were closing, but I just could not put it down. I turned the page, eager to know what would happen to the young Bronia Nijinska at the Imperial Ballet School, but first I came one of the interludes interspersed through the book. They take place in 1939 and show Bronia on a ship bound for the United States at the start of the Second World War, a perilous voyage toward an uncertain future. I was on the ship with Bronia, feeling the cold sea air, along with the grief she cannot leave behind. In these interludes Stachniak says, Sure, an exciting story is unfolding, but I’m going to show you something more: …

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Digitizing Mona: Guest Post by Maria Meindl

Book Cover Outside the Box

My desk is awash in receipts. Recently unfolded from the depths of my wallet, they keep sliding out of their designated piles. Four months since I updated my spreadsheet; I've really let things go! I circle the vital information, then enter it on my keyboard. The CD mechanism on the computer grinds, and from the tinny speakers comes a voice: Mona Gould, my grandmother, reading her poetry and telling stories from her life.

Mona is nowhere. She died in 1999 and was cremated, yet now a complex sequence of zeroes and ones brings her voice into my office this early September day. There are other sounds on the CD, the traffic on the highway outside her apartment in Barrie where the tapes were made, the clunk and whir of the original cassette machine, the banter with her friend John Ide, who had the foresight to capture her voice on tape.

A former broadcaster and poet, Mona was eighty-one years old when John undertook that recording session. Later, he transcribed the results for an art installation which allowed her to be heard again after many years of obscurity. Recently, he transferred them to CD, with plans to develop the work further.

This afternoon's combination of activities is no accident: doing my finances and listening to Mona' s voice. Only a spreadsheet could p …

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