sketchbook: Saturday 17 September 2011


I’m on the main floor on a ketchup-colored upholstered bench, a curve that arcs through 120°. The corresponding bench opposite me, which also has an upholstered back, supports an older Iranian man, wispy gray hair trailing across his scalp as he bends over a form he’s completing on the donut-shaped maple table. The table is only shin-height so he has to bend far.

Turns out he’s completing it for a friend, another bald Iranian man, who has just returned and accepted the form with a “thank you” in English, although their other quiet words have been spoken in Farsi. And now they’ve both gone, leaving that bench vacant.

Just for a moment: a woman in dark jeans and dark denim jacket has just plunked onto it heavily to sample a book from the “new arrivals” shelves that curve around us. She is maybe my age. She cocks her head far to the left to rest it on her left hand, elbow propped on the back of the bench. She is blonde, her hair is bundled into a careless ponytail and her face does not appear to be made up. She has stopped flipping languidly through the pages and reads a passage more intently.

It’s still a new building. This floor is an expanse of slate tiles, interrupted by a concrete pillar and a few steel counters that support the catalogue stations. Above us is a dropped ceiling of illuminated acoustic tile; over the main concourse is another dropped ceiling of cedar laths. Exposed HVAC ducts march in straight lines along the ceiling, knowing where they’re bound.

A redhaired librarian reshelves books nearby: black sweater, blue jeans, glasses.

There is a hush: not many people. Querulous voices of little children. The plastic click-clack of DVD boxes being handled and fed into the Returns self-actuating conveyor belt. The whir of the self-opening sliding front door.

Now the book-browsing woman has returned her book to the shelf and makes her way quietly upstairs, looking around her as she goes.

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5 Responses to sketchbook: Saturday 17 September 2011

  1. Mike Harrison says:

    “Querulous” – this was a new word for me. I had to look it up and now that I know what it means, I hope I don’t have cause to use it often.

    I’ve got an interest in writing and a ‘prose sketchbook” seems like a good idea. Now I just need the discipline.

  2. Paul Vitols says:

    Thanks again for stopping by, Mike. Yeah, the main thing with the sketchbook is remembering to have it with you. Often there are little gaps in one’s day–or one can create them–in which to jot one’s impressions.

  3. Ruth says:

    Hi Paul, thanks for your blog. It is great to find! I’ve just started re-watching The Odyssey with my son, and tonight got to the episodes where we find out that Jay’s dad was drowned. Well, my own father was drowned when I was 5, and I was there, and how much I saw I don’t really know, and I really resonated strongly with Jay’s journey out of the coma, even though there has been no actual coma in my life! Somehow, it’s been close. Anyway, I must say, the last episodes have had a powerful effect on me. I did a quick search for your name (I would do Warren Easton’s next!) and found your blog…. And it looks like you have started writing about The Odyssey today?! How strange. Well, actually I am quite tired and can’t do too much reading now, but I am so pleased to find stuff to read, and I look forward to returning to it in the next few days. When I originally searched just now, I wanted to find out what the background of your programme was, who the writers were, what their background was… it just feels like the programme has so much insight. And to find your blog and a direct connection with the person who did the writing is great, so thanks once again.

  4. Paul Vitols says:

    Hi Ruth. Thanks very much for checking in, and yes Warren and I were the writer-creators of The Odyssey. I’m curious to know how you and your son are watching the show; is it being broadcast by someone, or are you watching it on DVD, or…?

    I intend to migrate all the posts labeled “The Odyssey Odyssey” from my old blog to my new website, but have not as yet done so. Some of them are here under The Odyssey link on the menu bar above, but you can get all 20-plus (I think) of them at my old blog. There I tell the story of how the series came to be created.

    Thanks very much for sharing your personal connection with the show; it’s very rewarding as a creator to hear that kind of thing. For the most part we work in a vacuum–and not a very friendly one!

    All the best….

  5. Ruth says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your reply, and for your openness here online, it really means something. Great you are breaking out of the vacuum!

    We’re watching The Odyssey on DVD.

    Best wishes,


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