Books for the Reading List: A Look at Niece G’s Stash

When Niece G left San Francisco to work in New York, and then moved again, this time to Manila, she left a Big. Fat. Hole. In. Self’s. Life.

Almost as big as the one son left.

Four years at Stanford, then four years teaching in San Francisco — that was a transitional time for both her and self.

Son started college in Cal Poly / San Luis Obispo.  It almost seemed like she and son switched places:  son moved away, Niece G arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When Niece G was clearing out her San Francisco apartment, last year, she had to leave behind some books.  Self looks at these books now.

Amazing synchronicity!  Just the thing to illuminate current events!  Presumably, these books were required reading for her classes at Stanford:

Two from Niece G's Stash

Two from Niece G’s Stash

A Further Two from Niece G's Stash

A Further Two from Niece G’s Stash

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Still More Summer Lovin’

Plants blooming now in self’s garden:

Amaryllis belladonna, otherwise known as "Naked Lady" for its complete absence of foliage. These usually only get going in August.

Amaryllis belladonna, otherwise known as “Naked Lady” for its complete absence of foliage. These usually only get going in August.

Paid $10 for this wee plum tree from Whole Foods.  I didn't expect it to bear fruit so soon.

Paid $10 for this wee plum tree from Whole Foods. I didn’t expect it to bear fruit so soon.

The white lilies popped up unexpectedly a few days ago:  Self forgot she even planted them.

The white lilies popped up unexpectedly a few days ago: Self forgot she even planted them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Tagged! Virtual Blog Tour

Self has a lot of catching up to do with regards to honoring the lovely Rashaan Alexis-Meneses’ tagging of Kanlaon for the Virtual Blog Tour.

She was tagged two weeks ago, but summer is always a blur.  In the summer, self’s brain seems to work at half-time.  Not. Kidding.

Nevertheless, she is now at full attention and ready to participate!

First things first:


“. . .  in your blog you acknowledge the people who invited you, answer four given questions about your work and your process, then invite three other people to participate.”

For this post only, self will drop the 3rd person arch-ness and go for first person SINCERE.

My responses are only slightly tongue-in-cheek.

What are you currently working on?

A series of speculative fiction stories, most of them flash, all of them intriguing. LOL LOL LOL

One of them, “The Elephant,” will appear in the next issue of Your Impossible Voice.

“The Secret Room” is already up, on Café Irreal.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t “do” narratives of identity.

I write narratives of deformity.

We’re all monsters.  In one way or another.  Inside.

I dig deep to find that which makes us wretched.

Why do you write/ create what you do?

Because I can’t help myself.  And because writing, frankly, is the only thing I’m REALLY good at.

Honestly, if someone had told me, way back when, “Your life will be spent mostly in an empty room (empty of people, that is), writing stories of deep despondency, for which you will be paid nada,” I would promptly have said, “You’re crazy!” or, “You’re dreaming!” or, “Do you think I’m some kind of martyr?” Turns out I am all of those things:  crazy/demented dreamer/ martyr.  Maybe ALL writers are all of these things. Ugh. Welcome to my Pity Party.

How does your writing/ creating process work?

The angrier I am, the better I write.  So I try to stay angry.

I like to think of my process as SLASH AND BURN.

P. S.  It’s really fun to “do” anger in flash fiction.

*     *     *     *     *

Spreading the love to:  Stella Kalaw; Luisa Igloria; Kathleen Burkhalter

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The List in Self’s “The Secret Room” (CAFE IRREAL, Issue # 50)

Self has long pondered the difference between science fiction, speculative fiction, fairy tales, myths, horror stories and the “irreal.”  The other day, she decided to go through the Café Irreal essay, “What is irrealism?”

She’d first read it several years ago, when she began writing lots of speculative fiction.  It was nice to re-discover it.

The essay reminds us that, in “pre-modern” times, the people telling and listening to folk tales and legends assumed them to be “true.” These people, if they had heard Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” read aloud to them, “would most likely assume that the transformation” of the protagonist into a bug was likely the result of “a spell” (And why not? In “pre-modern” times, spells were considered practical ways to deal with malevolence; in other words, spells were not “magic.” They were solutions to a problem) For them, “the irreality of the story — which flows from an irresolvable clash between the real and the unreal — would be lost.”

There’s more, much more to ponder in the essay.  Self recommends that readers go over to Café Irreal to read it in its entirety.

Self’s story, “The Secret Room,” is in the current issue.

At yesterday’s writers group meeting, self’s esteemed friend (and soon-to-be-famous published novelist) Lillian Howan mentioned that her son liked the list in the story.

Which, self confided to Lillian, was the trickiest part of the piece.  Self had to keep working at it and working at it, constantly changing the items in the list because she was never completely satisfied with the “mix.”

Here’s the list in its final, published version:

  • A map of an island with no name.  There was no way to tell whether this island was near or far, whether it lay within the bounds of the Narrow Sea or beyond, in some yet undiscovered realm.
  • A piece of yellowing parchment, on which had been written, in her husband’s careful hand, the letters KMCVQH
  • An iron knitting needle
  • A stone the size of her fist, on whose rough surface glittered a sparkly metal that might have been silver
  • A drawing of a unicorn
  • A broken silver chain
  • A dozen gold coins stamped with the profile of Aurelia, the Queen of the Undersea
  • A small painting, about the width of a hand, of a man with no eyes

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More Summer Lovin’!

Self is just going to town on this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge:  SUMMER LOVIN’

There’s nothing so great as summer.

Summer = freedom.

Summer = heat.

Summer = all the ice cream you can ever eat.

Summer = going around in flip-flops all day.

Summer = really corny movies. (NOT! “Boyhood” wasn’t corny.  Neither was “Begin Again.”  Or “Chef,” which The Man finally dragged me to, two weeks ago)

More Summer Lovin’ inspiration below:

Mitchell's Ice Cream Parlor:  Pre-packed tubs of flavors like mango, ube, peanut butter indulgence, halo-halo

Mitchell’s Ice Cream Parlor: Pre-packed tubs of flavors like mango, ube, peanut butter indulgence, halo-halo (The owners of Mitchell’s must be Filipino)

El Camino Real, Menlo Park: This sign on a building just has "summer lovin' " all over it.

El Camino Real, Menlo Park: This sign on a building just has “summer lovin’ ” all over it.

An artist's booth in Menlo Park's annual (held every July) Connoisseurs' Marketplace

An artist’s booth in Menlo Park’s annual (held every July) Connoisseurs’ Marketplace

Summer!  Shiver, shiver.  It’s so thrilling to be in this season.

Already it feels like it’s slipping away.

Although September is still technically summer, self thinks summer always ends in August.  And August is just around the corner, which means:


Stay tuned.

Summer Lovin’ 2: Mitchell’s Ice Cream Parlor, San Francisco

Self had a writers group meeting (YAY!).  It is so much fun to talk about each other’s work; it’s been months.

Because self had a little time to kill before the meeting started, she decided to pop into Mitchell’s Ice Cream Parlor on San Jose Avenue.  The line was out the door.

She had to take a number:  Her number said 013.

The digital counter said:  088.

It took about half an hour for her number to come up, so she busied herself taking pictures.

For what could be more relevant to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme — Summer Lovin’ — than ice cream?

The inside of Mitchell’s is covered with murals like this one:


Self tried her best to be unobtrusive while taking pictures of the clientele:



She just can’t help it:  people are more interesting to her than almost any other subject.

Self means:  ordinary people.  Just standing around.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sebastian Barry’s THE SECRET SCRIPTURE, pp. 28 – 30

Must. Get. Through. This. Novel. At. All. Costs.

Because the next novel on her list is Richard Price’s Lush Life.  But she can’t get to it until she finishes this one.  That’s been her vow.  So, this morning, she manfully addresses “the book in question.”

The main protagonist, Roseanne McNulty, is an inmate in a mental hospital.  As she approaches her 100th (!) birthday, her doctor tells her that she may have one chance left for freedom: the old hospital is being torn down, and old records are being examined, hers included.  The doctor has suspected for quite some time that Mrs. McNulty was wrongly institutionalized; she’s not, in other words, mentally defective and neither is she suffering from some psychological disorder.

In the passage self is reading, the doctor decides to confide his thoughts about her incarceration to Mrs. McNulty:

Dread, like a sickness, a memory of a sickness, the first time in many years I had felt it.

“Are you all right, Roseanne?  Please don’t be agitated.”

“Of course I want freedom, Dr. Grene.  But it frightens me.”

“The gaining of freedom,” said Dr. Grene pleasantly, “is always accomplished in an atmosphere of uncertainty.  In this country at least.  Perhaps in all countries.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Aimee Bender on Fairy Tales

These days, self’s reading is all over the map.  She’s tried so many times to finish reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scriptures, but despite him being such a beautiful writer, she can manage only a page a day.

Aside from that book, she’s also perusing her personal bookshelf.  The books she consults most often are lined up on the shelves in son’s room. Here’s an excerpt from one of those, Conversations With American Women Writers (University Press of New England, 2004).

It’s from an interview with Aimee Bender, author of the (magical realist?) short story collection The Girl In the Flammable Skirt.  The interviewer (Sarah Anne Johnson, one of the best) asks her about fairy tales. Self thinks about fairy tales a lot because she’s thinking of sending yet another piece to Café Irreal. And she’s also reading a book of Oscar Wilde fairy tales she picked up in Dublin.

I’ve heard you say that fairy tales present plot as metaphor.  What do you mean by that?

Mainly that a fairy tale character has no internal world, so the entire plot is a reflection of their internal life.  Or at least it can be interpreted that way, to good effect.  So suddenly the plot becomes wildly meaningful.  Instead of the truth of regular life, where I don’t believe in signs and symbols in the same way, in fairy tales everything is a sign for something, and the world is this strange, blinking ordered universe of actions.

How else do fairy tales inform your writing?

I feel like somewhere along the line I ate fairy tales. I ingested and digested them, and now they’re part of my whole person.  The way they move plot, the settings, the imagery.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Catching Up: Books of The Economist, 15 March 2014

No more apologies!  Self is going to get to the every single back issue of The Economist (Her subscription is good until next year), by hook or by crook!

Here are the books she wants to read, after perusing the Books and Arts section of 15 March 2014:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things:  Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz:  Self chooses this book to read because part of it is a blow-by-blow of how a business failed.  The author’s advice for prospective entrepreneurs?  “If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble.”  Mr. Horowitz took his company public, but alas his timing was poor, for the terrorist attacks on 9/11 hit just a short time later.  Mr. Horowitz goes into “wartime” mode.  Read how he does it.

The six-volume, 3,500-page autobiography by Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle (The first three have been translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett):  The Economist calls it “the most exhaustive account of a modern life ever written.” Mr. Kanusgaard turned out this magnum opus by writing 20 pages a day, “baring bits of his soul to a timetable, coping, on the one hand, with the growing fury of his family and, on the other, with the ever-present fear of failure.”  Not until almost at the end of the review is Proust even mentioned, but Proust was in the back of self’s mind from the moment she began reading it.  Like Proust, Knausgaard is obsessed “with the mechanics of memory: he claims that he does not have a good memory until he starts writing.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


Summer Lovin’ : WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge — Summer Lovin’ — is a super-fun (and easy) one for self.  Summer is her faaaavorite time of year.  She has lots, LOTS, of Summer Lovin’ pictures!

Summer is when Cancer, self’s sign (also son’s), rules!  Both self and son are July babies.

Another reason self likes summer so much is that colors really pop.  Bright colors seem even brighter, and there’s a sharper contrast between sunlight and shade.  Which all adds up to:  MORE VISUAL DRAMA.

Stafford Park, Wednesday evening:  There are free concerts every week throughout the summer.

Stafford Park, Redwood City, Wednesday evening: There are free concerts every week throughout the summer.

Chalk Drawing is a big part of the Palo Alto Arts & Crafts Festival, held every August.

Chalk Drawing is a big part of the Palo Alto Arts & Crafts Festival, held every August.

Clasico Gelato, Emerson Street, downtown Palo Alto. Every time she's in downtown Palo Alto, she stops by for gelato.

Clasico Gelato, Emerson Street, downtown Palo Alto. Every time self is in downtown Palo Alto, she stops by for gelato.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

« Older entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 588 other followers