Containers 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

What a good idea, Red Hen Press!

They promoted Type O Negative, Joel Tan’s poetry collection, by handing out these chocolate candy bars at the AWP Book Fair, several years ago.

Candy Bar Wrapper (designed after the cover of Joel Tan's new poetry collection!)

candy bar wrapper (designed after the cover of Joel Tan’s new poetry collection!)

Containers # 2 is a fresh coconut:

In the Philippines, there are roadside stands selling fresh coconuts with straws so you can sip the juice.  This was somewhere near Sum-ag, near Bacolod City.

In the Philippines, there are roadside stands selling fresh coconuts with straws so you can sip the juice. Self took this picture on a beach in Sum-ag, just outside Bacolod City.

In January 2012, self went to India for the first time.  She flew from San Francisco to New Delhi, and spent the next two weeks traversing Himachal Pradesh.  She made it to Dharamsala.  It was freezing cold.  These hot braziers were brought into the dining room of the Colonel’s Resort in the village of Bir.

It was so cold, self's last two days in Bir, that the Colonel had a fire brought in.

It was so cold, self’s last two days in Bir, that the Colonel had a fire brought in.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Words With Writers” Interview with Sebastian Barry

Self has decided that her reading list is too bloated.

From now on, or just for the next year anyway, she will read only books by LIVING writers.

Well, that helped.  Self got rid of perhaps 1/3 of the books on her list.

She’s still reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture.

She decides to look up interviews he’s given, and comes up with a gem on a site called “Words With Writers.”

Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?

All of us inevitably become experienced in the world, by the mere process of living in it; but my ideal reader perhaps can put aside the cargo of experience somewhat, and access also their original innocence, so that sense is also brought to the book in their lap.

Is there a quote about writing that inspires you?

I very much like the anonymous but astute definition that “a novel is a long piece of prose with something wrong with it.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sebastian Barry, Again

(It occurs to self that she never stumbled across anything by Barry when she was at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in May.  And she did give those bookshelves a good going-over.  Oh mystery!)

The book self is currently reading is Barry’s 2008 novel, The Secret Scripture (She advanced five pages since yesterday.  Today, she’s on p. 13):

His voice entered my head as a sort of honey, that lingered there potently, buzzingly, banishing all the fears of childhood.  As the voice rose up, so did all of him, arms, whiskers, one foot swinging a little over the old carpet with its pattern of repeating dogs, his eyes brimming with a strange merriment.  Even Napoleon might not have scorned him as a man of elevated qualities.  At such moments he exhibited a most beautiful timbre in the quiet passages of songs that to this day I have never heard outmatched.  Many fine singers made their way to Sligo when I was a young woman and sang in the halls under the rain, and for a few of the more popular sort I even played piano accompaniment, chopping out the notes and chords for them, more of a hindrance than a help to them perhaps.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading About James Bond in the June 5, 2014 NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

What treasures pack the pages of each copy of The New York Review of Books!

Self used to have a (20-year-old) subscription to the New York Times Book Review, but decided to discontinue it a few months ago.

To self, The NYRB is the far more interesting publication.

This evening, self is again plowing manfully through her ‘Pile of Stuff.’  She’s still experiencing Squaw Valley Writers Conference withdrawal symptoms (such as posting endlessly about it on her Facebook wall)

The Man is watching the 3rd or 4th Bourne (Matt Damon is the one and only, the né plus ultra of American action cool).

Self gamely tackles the June 5, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books and stumbles across an article by James Walton, called “Bondage,” which might also be fittingly sub-titled:  “Everything You Wanted to Know About Ian Fleming and His Most Famous Literary Creation, James Bond 007.”

  • Here is how Casino Royale, the first-ever James Bond novel (published 1953), began:  “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”
  • Ian Fleming came up with the name for the world’s most famous spy “because he wanted something plain-sounding and James Bond was ‘the dullest name I’ve ever heard.’ “
  • Hard to imagine, perhaps, but there is a sentence in one of the Bond novels that goes:  “Bond . . .  lit his seventieth cigarette of the day.”
  • President Kennedy was instrumental to the development of James Bond’s popularity in the United States.  In an interview with Life magazine, he named From Russia With Love as “one of his ten favorite books.”
  • Ian Fleming’s wife, Anne, referred to her husband’s Bond books as “pornography.”

There is tons more interesting tidbits from the article, but self must go back to reading Sebastian Barry (who is the most beautiful writer imaginable).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Reading List, 3rd Wednesday of July (2014)

Time for self to get serious again with her reading.

These are the list of books she plans to read.  It is telling that they are all novels.

Well, the last one, by Alan Furst, is more of a thriller.

She’s never read him before, so she’s glad for a chance to get to know him.

Without further ado, the list:

  • Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture (Self adores Barry)
  • Richard Price’s The Lush Life (It’s set in New York City.  Self loves New York City.)
  • Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher (It’s set in Hong Kong.  Self loves Hong Kong.)
  • Alan Furst’s Dark Star (Self doesn’t know where this is set.  In fact, she hardly knows anything about this novel except that it was recommended in a back issue of Condé Nast Traveler)

Here’s a passage from The Secret Scripture, pp. 11 -12:

It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they live, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them.  Of course this is the fate of most souls, reducing entire lives, no matter how vivid and wonderful, to those sad black names on withering family trees, with half a date dangling after and a question mark.

My father’s happiness not only redeemed him, but drove him to stories, and keeps him even now alive in me, like a second more patient and more pleasing soul . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Last Workshop, 2014 Squaw Valley Writers Conference

The Squaw Valley Writers Conference ends tomorrow morning –  WAAAAH!!!

Self had the greatest time.

Here’s a picture self took at the end of the last workshop today:

Members of Workshop # 6:  Roxanne Barish (kneeling), Jean Bertelsen, Cathee St. Clair, Nicky Loomis, Today's Moderator Michael Jaime-Becerra, Vish Gaitonde, Wei Wei Yeo, Catie Disabato

Members of Workshop # 6: Roxanne Barish (kneeling), Jean Bertelsen, Cathee St. Clair, Nicky Loomis, Today’s Moderator Michael Jaime-Becerra, Vish Gaitonde, Wei Wei Yeo, Catie Disabato

The week simply flew by!

Self bought a copy of Michael Jaime-Becerra’s story collection, Every Night is Ladies’ Night:

Michael Jaime-Becerra moderated her workshop today.  He's a fantastic teacher.

Michael Jaime-Becerra moderated her workshop today. He’s a fantastic teacher.

Here’s an excerpt from “Lopez Trucking Incorporated,” one of the stories in the collection:

Evelyn’s going nuts in the passenger seat because Mario still isn’t done with her wedding dress.  My sister’s too nervous to drive, and since I’m the only one home, I’m taking her for her fitting.  Evelyn’s wedding is in four days, on Saturday, and she’s the kind of person who plans everything in her life, from buying wrapping paper for next year the day after Christmas to ordering all her keys by color and size.  She gets her craziness from our mom, and while I’ve had sixteen years to get used to it, Lupe’s only had two.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The New York Review of Books, May 22, 2014

Today, self got to see Paul Haggis’s new movie, “Third Person,” and it is seamless and complex and lovely and moody.  It focuses on odd couples.  The woman who most aroused self’s sympathy was the woman played by Mila Kunis.  Having said that, James Franco gives such a wicked and sly performance, as her ex-husband.  He projects such smugness, with just a glance.  His partner, a beautiful, long-legged French gazelle, is the third leg of a triangle, and she also delivers a performance that is complex and moving.  In fact, all the actors in this movie were at the top of their game (well, maybe not Liam Neeson, who gets by on looking worried, all of the time)

Now, self has been weeding her Pile of Stuff of unnecessary materials.  She has so much catch-up reading to do!

One of the back issues self picks up is The New York Review of Books of May 22, 2014.  There’s a review by Masha Gessen of a translation of one of Dovlatov’s works:  Pushkin Hills.  Gessen quotes another Russian emigré writer, Joseph Brodsky, who says of Sergei Dovlatov:

His stories rest primarily on the rhythm of the sentence; the cadence of the narrative voice.  They are written like poems: the plot is secondary, it is but a pretext for speech.  It is song rather than storytelling.

Self wonders how Dovlatov could have escaped her notice until now.

Another excellent review is by Michael Gorra, on Starting Over:  Stories by Elizabeth Spencer.  Spencer wrote The Light in the Piazza, which has such an audacious plot self is sure that Spenser, if having to pitch to a publishing house today,  would never be signed on.

Another of the reviews that stood out is Francine Prose’s review of Emma Donoghue’s latest, Frog Music.

Self is currently reading Richard Price’s Lush Life.  She hopes she can do a better job of finishing it than she did with Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth.  Self kept obsessively going back over the first page of Unaccustomed Earth because of course the writing is lovely.  If only it wasn’t so stately and dolorous.  She got about halfway through it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition, June 21-22, 2014

It is the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War, as self was being constantly reminded when she was in the UK, a few weeks ago.

Those kinds of commemorations seem to get lost in the welter of American politics — Are we going back into Iraq?  What should/can we do about Putin?  — but the Review section of the June 21-22, 2014 Wall Street Journal is entirely devoted to articles about the Great War.  On p. C3, at the bottom right corner, is a tiny article by Amanda Foreman on “The Poets of Devastation.”

All the familiar names are there:  Rupert Brooke (gorgeous), Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon.

After a few mentions of these poets’ iconic works, Foreman delivers the meat and potatoes:

“. . .  the war poets’ greatest contribution wasn’t their rediscovery that war is truest hell, but their reinvention of poetry as a democratic mode of expression.”

She mentions the “broadening of the canon” with works like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

“. . .  there is no other war in history,” Foreman writes, “. . . with the exception of the Trojan War, whose poetry has so shaped a nation.”

(Self thinks the Vietnam War definitely served a similar function for American literature.  Think Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War.  Think Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake.  Think Michael Herr’s Dispatches.  Think Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  Think Robert Stone)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Between 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

At Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, there were many, many inspirational and self-help books that addressed such subjects as emotional stress, attaining inner peace, etc.  Self would estimate that almost half the store consisted of books aimed at people who wanted to be in a better place –  emotionally, spiritually, mentally, even financially.

And why not?  A majority of the people in the world are trying to get to a better place.  We are all “between,” we are all transitioning.

Here are a few titles from Vroman’s that caught self’s fancy (She wouldn’t have taken pictures of these books if not for this week’s Photo Challenge, so thank you WordPress Daily Post and the Broken Light Collective, who were responsible for coming up with this week’s photo challenge):

DSCN6211

DSCN6206

DSCN6210

BTW, Vroman’s is a truly great bookstore.

Because not only do they carry books, they carry bling!  Like these house slippers self bought, for $14.99:

"Ballerina Bling" fleece-lined house slippers to prove you're not in Kansas anymore.  $14.99/pair at Vroman's.

“Ballerina Bling” fleece-lined house slippers to prove you’re not in Kansas anymore. $14.99/pair at Vroman’s.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More Reading From the Personal Bookshelf: VOICES OF WAR, A Library of Congress Veterans History Project

Self bought this book for The Man last year, but ended up reading it herself.  It’s made up of a lot of little remembrances, interviews with various former members of the armed forces, some of whom enlisted for reasons ranging from “I was kicked out of school and didn’t know what to do with myself” to “I was the fourth generation to serve in the United States Army.”

Here’s a memoir from Rod Hirsch, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War:

I heard the strains of Reveille.  I was very dismayed to find out that it was recorded.  I had always thought there was some guy standing out in front of the barracks, blowing Reveille on a bugle.  And that made me very disappointed.

You’re eighteen years old, you just got out of high school, and you go into a situation where you’re going to be disciplined heavily.  There’s going to be a lot expected of you, and this is something that most of us had not experienced.  And so we’re all confused, we all feel stupid, we all feel like we have left feet, we don’t do anything right.  It’s a traumatic experience.

Whoo!  What a lot of posts self has written on just one day!  She’s enjoyed herself thoroughly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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