3rd Friday of April (2014): Still a Humongous Pile of Stuff (Sigh)

And here we are, another week gone, and yet another issue of The New Yorker pulled from the humongous Pile of Stuff, but this one’s from 2012.

What the — ???

She remembers the story, one by Said Sayrafiezadeh (and no, don’t ever expect her to remember how to spell that name).  That is, she remembers beginning it.  And googling the author.  In the two years between 2012 and now, he’s achieved some measure of success. Having a story published in The New Yorker can do that to you.

The story in this particular issue (January 16, 2012) is called “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy.”

A man volunteers for the army and gets shipped overseas (Country isn’t named. This might be science fiction, for all she knows).  The story begins with his platoon, marching towards a distant hill.  But the man’s mind keeps wandering (as self’s mind would keep wandering, too, if she was ever forced to take a protracted hike.  It wanders when she’s in yoga class, even.  Which is supposed to be pleasurable, with the cool wood floors and the dim lighting and the mood music and the fabulously toned teacher whispering encouragement in dulcet tones.  Where were we? Better get cracking, self, as you have to return a whole pile of books to the library, books you checked out months ago, which you never got around to reading, and probably never will because next week you are going to Ireland)

Anyhoo, if anyone is planning to read this story, then read no further because THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

As the narrator muddles on, he realizes

that I’d come here for all the wrong reasons.  Vanity and pride topped the list.  Girls, too — if I was being completely honest.  In other words, ideals were very low.  Staring at a hilltop that was getting closer and closer, I would have traded all of it never to have to see what was on the other side.

But the inevitable, ineffably boring future arrives:  they take the hill.  And, nothing.  No enemy soldiers, no fortifications.

After we’d discovered nothing is when the boredom set in.  Excruciating boredom.  We’d eat, we’d shower, we’d clean, we’d train.  In that order.  Then we stopped training, because there was no point.  That was about the fifth month.

This story is so good, it’s like Joseph Heller and Kafka, all mixed together.  There is not one instance of bonding between the narrator and his fellow platoon members, so no, this is not the second coming of Tim O’Brien.  But self likes it.  Maybe it’s a little bit like Kobo Abe.  The Woman in the Dunes?  That kind of perplexing (and hopefully never explained) mystery.

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted)

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted): In the Story “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy,” by Said Sayrafiezadeh, The New Yorker, January 16, 2012

This is probably the only New Yorker story she’s ever encountered that has an accompanying visual: a letter to our bored soldier, everything redacted except for the salutation and the “xoxo.”  Ha, good one!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

3rd Thursday of April 2014: Tired (But Not Overly So)

Hey, hey, people, it’s been a long day, and self is sitting in front of her computer, tired.

One thing she is so happy about, this year, is that her garden is so — fecund.  That’s the only way she can think to describe it.  Plants that haven’t thrown off a bloom in years — like her Sheila’s Perfume — suddenly have big, fat flowers.  Her oldest clematis, a montana rubens, suddenly has growth lower down on its gnarled, woody stem.  And the wisteria she thought she’d killed is luscious, winding over the falling-down trellis, almost choking off the old wood.

Self checked out a site called Grey Magazine, and loves it.  It seems to be a magazine about Italy, which is probably why she bookmarked it.  But as she scrolls to the bottom of the page, she sees other things, like an article about the Reykjavik Fashion Festival (There’s one country — Iceland — she’d love to visit one day) and a review of a production of Bohéme.  And there’s a fabulous, absolutely fabulous picture of the actress Charlotte Rampling (still a knockout).

Well, all this musing started because she sat down at her desk, read a new piece on fanfiction.net, thought of something, wrote it down, finished it — bam, bam, bam.  It’s just one page, but self thinks it is fabulous.

Self thinks all her pieces are fabulous.  That is, she thinks they are fabulous right after she finishes, or thinks she has finished.  The feeling doesn’t last long, so she might as well enjoy the right now.

This new one-page flash fiction takes place in a future universe.  It’s called “Memories of Trees” and is so angst-y and self loves it.

She remembered that when she spoke to Zack’s class last Monday, one of the students remarked that her story “Mayor of the Roses” and her story “Thing” — one set in a small town in Laguna and the other set in a dystopian future universe (Self swore she would never use the word dystopian again, especially after gazillions of reviewers used it when reviewing Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, but she is forced to admit that it certainly is a very effective word, and anyway her fiction really is DYSTOPIAN, she’s not trying to be clever or anything, just really really honest) — seemed to have similar themes.  Self’s first reaction was to go:  Oh no!  Because she hates thinking of herself as being so transparent and predictable.  Which was not a useful line of thought:  no one who’s predictable can be fabulous.

After much perusing of the newly re-designed Daily Post,self finally realized that it still has the links to other people’s blogs, a feature she thought had been lost.  With the old layout, she would click on “Post a Comment,” and all the people who had posted on the week’s photo challenge would then appear on a list of links.  Self would methodically move down this list, looking at each blog.

With the re-design, self couldn’t find a button for “Post a Comment.”  Only today did she realize that the links still exist, although in a very different form.  All self had to do was scroll down to the very bottom of the page, where there is a gallery of squares.  Clicking on one of these squares immediately brings one to a blog post on the week’s photo challenge.  In other words, the links are so much more visual now.

OK, so here’s what self has lined up for next week:  She will board a plane for London.  She will arrive in London.  She signed up for a tour of Stonehenge, which takes place the day after her arrival.  Jennie Lewis’s new poetry collection, Taking Mesopotamia, is having a reading at the British Museum on April 27, and self has tickets for that.  Then, she’s the guest of Joan McGavin for a few days.  Then she flies to Dublin.  Then she sees FATHER HASLAM, who she hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Father Haslam has asked a fellow priest, Father McCabe, to drive her to the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  She will then be in a self-catering cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  There is wi-fi, so she will really have to wean herself off Facebook.  Then Penny arrives in Dublin.  Then self clears out of her self-catering cottage and takes a long train trip to Cork, where she’s booked into a magnificent Irish country home that serves four-course dinners every night. Then she loses her passport so she can’t go home and will have to stay another couple of weeks until she gets a new passport.  She’ll live off Irish ale and get fat.  She won’t be able to squeeze into an Economy airplane seat, so she’ll just have to be bumped up to First Class.  She will live happily ever after.

THE END.

Fan Fiction, Sherlock and Self

In Edinburgh, in the Surgeon’s Museum (which is located in the University of Edinburgh Medical School), there is a special exhibit on the man who served as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh).  Since self is extremely nosy, she decided to open a closed door that was at the far end of the exhibit area, and saw an empty amphitheater, with rows and rows of wooden desks all facing a proscenium.  Class was not in session.

Today, self is thinking about Sherlock Holmes because she is once again tackling her Pile of Stuff (which is absolutely exploding with unread magazines).  The January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker is what she is looking at this afternoon.  There’s a very interesting article by Emily Nussbaum called  FAN FRICTION:  SHERLOCK AND ITS AUDIENCES.

As self proceeds through the article, she learns that a particular scene in Sherlock Season 3 was inspired by Sherlock Holmes fan fiction.  Can you guess which one, dear blog readers?

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five . . .

Time’s up!

We’re at a critical moment:  Holmes is on the roof of a building, preparing to jump. Somehow,  Moriarty winds up there, too, and leans in for a kiss.  Self’s jaw almost dropped to the floor.

Self knew it!  She knew it!  Because it’s in the same episode where a group of London geeks (fan fiction practitioners) sit in someone’s cramped and cluttered apartment and conjecture about the two years Sherlock was thought by everyone to have perished.  (They also tweet theories using hashtag #sherlocklives)

Anyhoo, self loves the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock.  The first time she saw the actor was in a movie called Amazing Grace, where he played anti-slavery parliamentarian Pitt.  At that point in time, there was only one reason self wanted to see the movie, and that was Ioaon Gruffud.  She had absolutely no idea where the filmmakers had picked up the beady-eyed Cumberbatch.  Only years later, after watching her first episode of Sherlock, did self finally “get” the Cumberbatch affect:  the lankiness!  The floppy, messy hair!  The cigarette pants!  The sexy!

In the series, “when Sherlock reads a crime scene, enormous words appear on the screen, like an on-line word cloud.”

Sherlock, Nussbaum writes, “has inspired reams of slash fiction.”  Today, “you can find slash fic about almost any character you can imagine, from Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy onward.”

Self recently registered for membership in fanfiction.net, and she can attest how addictive it is.  There are actually people who leave comments like these:

“I work as a waiter and I’m right now in an alley behind the restaurant, hoping for an update to your story before my boss comes out and catches me . . . “

“I’m on a cruise of the Mediterranean and I keep thinking up excuses to go back to my room so I can check for any updates of your story.  My family thinks I’m nuts . . . “

Never, ever will self reveal her fanfiction.net identity, because she’s doing very fluffy writing.  She follows seven writers.  She hopes with all her heart they don’t turn out to be 14, but they might be.  Because they still worry about getting “caught” during chemistry class or skipping math class to do some urgent reading in the bathroom!

She’s heard it so many times:  The internet is the death of books.  It may be the death of books, but it is definitely a clarion call to the imagination, and to the power of the simple act of reading.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reflections 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self loved the way the window light fell on the wood table in her hotel room in Trieste.

She loved Trieste so much that she bought a painting there.

Hotel, Trieste

Hotel, Trieste:  1st week of May 2013

She also loved the quietude of the island of Torcello, which she re-visited in 2013 (Her first visit to Torcello was when she was 11)

Torcello:  late April 2013

Torcello: late April 2013

The last shot was taken on the island of Burano (both Burano and Torcello are accessible by vaporetto from San Marco Square).  She loved the lace museum and found the restaurants there much better than the ones on Murano or even any of the ones in the vicinity of San Marco Square:

April 2013:  Burano

Burano:  Late April 2013

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Reflections 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Reflection: to lose oneself in thought.

Self has lost herself in thought in a couple of different places. Here are three:

Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Self's Garden in Fall

Self’s Garden in Fall

The Café at the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

The Café at the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

Thus Far, 2014

  • There are times when self feels fanfiction may just save her life.
  • The Hunger Games cannot be called a rip-off of Japanese movie Battle Royale because the Japanese movie didn’t have a boy who bakes.
  • In late February, self attended her first AWP Conference since 2009.  It was really excellent, discovering the Pioneer Square area:  Davidson Galleries, Glass House, Grand Central Bakery, Occidental Park and chess board, the Globe bookstore.  She has got to return to Seattle.
  • The AWP Book Fair is the coolest thing to have happened to her so far this year
  • She loves the soundtrack of Frozen and has been listening to it over and over in her car.
  • Listening to Angela Narciso Torres read always makes self feel like crying.
  • The Man can still make a mean callos.
  • Her most visited local farmers market is the one in Belmont.  She loves Heidi’s Pies (in business for 47 years: the bakery’s on El Camino in San Mateo)
  • The members of her writing group are the most unheralded fabulous writers in the whole US of A.
  • The service in Ling Nam (South San Francisco) is still terrible.  But The Man adores their goto with tokwa’t baboy. And who can blame him.
The Goto (which The Man always orders with Tokwa't Baboy) from Ling Nam, South San Francisco

The Goto (which The Man always orders with Tokwa’t Baboy) from Ling Nam, South San Francisco

  • She sweats.  A lot.  Self is beginning to worry that the yoga is responsible for unleashing something unspeakable and mystifying.
  • She can’t stay up past 10 p.m. anymore.  That’s why she hasn’t posted about Justified and Saturday Night Live for so long.  But, if she gets to sleep by 10 p.m., she doesn’t suffer from insomnia.
  • The new Bay Bridge is soooo beautiful.
  • She can’t read anymore.  It is terrible.  She’s only on her third book –  The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed — since the start of the year.  The other two she started this year were In the Shadow of Man, by Jane Goodall, and Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West.  Strange, she used to be able to tear through at least 60 books a year.  At this rate, by the end of 2014, she’ll be lucky to finish 12.
  • Her 1998 Altima may be ready to give up the ghost.  After spending 1K at the mechanic, the engine sounds worse, and it has so far failed three smog tests.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

1st Friday of March (2014): Reading Poetry

P. 1 of Mary Ruefle's SELECTED POEMS (Wave Books, 2010)

P. 1 of Mary Ruefle’s SELECTED POEMS (Wave Books, 2010)

One good thing about rooming with poet Luisa Igloria during the recent AWP conference in Seattle (three shouts out for Seattle, what a gorgeous city) is that self got to learn a little more about poets.

The AWP Book Fair (where self spent most of her time hanging out) is like a big block party, only 10x better because everyone’s artistic and eccentric.  At the Wave Books table, self saw a display of books by poet Mary Ruefle. Until last week, self had never heard of her (Aaaargh, because self is stupid, OK? In her defense, she’s a fiction writer and she didn’t even recognize probably half the names of the fiction writers on the AWP panels).

Luisa, can we room again at next year’s AWP?  Self would dearly love to do a Part 2 of this personalized crash course on contemporary poets!

At the Book Fair, self picked up a collection of Mary Ruefle’s, and today was the morning she finally had a chance to start reading (Her car’s at the mechanic’s. It flunked the smog test. Her mechanic said it would be around $800 to get the engine to a point where it could pass the smog test. Understandably, self is in no hurry to pick up her car)

The very first poem in the book self purchased (Mary Ruefle:  Selected Poems) is this one:

Standing Furthest

All day I have done nothing.
To admonish me a few aspen
jostle beneath puny stars.
I suppose in a rainforest
a draft of hands brought in
the tubers for today, women
scratched their breasts in the sunlight
and smiled: someone somewhere
heard the gossip of exotic birds
and passed it on in the night
to another, sleeping curled like an ear:
of all things standing furthest
from what is real, stand these trees
shaking with dispensable joy,
or those in their isolation
shading an extraordinary secret.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Monday Reading: Poetry Chapbook by Karren LaLonde Alenier

Time for self to tackle all those books and journals she ended up lugging home from the AWP conference in Seattle!

Not to mention the two she added on the plane back to San Francisco:  a poetry chapbook by Karen LaLonde Alenier, who sat directly across the aisle from self; and a book called Galerie De Defformité  — should she call it hyper-text?  Or Trans-Genre? — by the woman seated directly behind self, Gretchen E. Henderson.

(Oh, AWP.  You are so wonderful.  Self can’t, she can’t even.  Stop talking now, self.  Just Get On With It)

Self will start with Karren’s book, On a Bed of Gardenias:  Jane & Paul Bowles (which Karren calls a kind of “biography in poems”):

“Chasing the Fox:  Jane Bowles Visits Her Injury”

My mother Claire wore fox
fur and Shalimar for my
Stoneleigh boarding
school interview. She sat up
straight, patted my thigh,
“You see my daughter is
special,” Eyes narrowing
and nostrils glistening,
the headmistress unfurled
her rolled handkerchief
and leaned close
to hear Claire say,
“Jane is a Jewess.”

    The agony

I felt riding the pedestal Claire built
for a princess. When I fell from my mount,
the horse, whiter than a WASP in winter,
looked as surprised as the little girl
dusting off her habit and clutching
her throbbing knee.

    As for the fox,

red as fever, she winked at the dogs
that had lost her scent. Woof! I barked
when I should have howled.

A brief note about Paul and Jane Bowles (from the back of Karren’s chapbook):

Paul Bowles was born December 30, 1910, and died November 18, 1999.  He was a composer, fiction writer, and poet.  He grew up in the Jamaica Queens neighborhood of New York City.  He married fiction writer and playwright Jane Auer in 1938.  She died May 4, 1973 in Malaga, Spain.  Bowles settled in Tangier, Morocco in 1947 and made Tangier his home until his death.  In the early 1950s, he wintered in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

AWP Registration: The Overwhelming-ness of Everything

AWP conference registration began today, at 12 noon: Very long lines, but the one for registrants whose last names began with the letters V – Z was by far the shortest.  Thank goodness for self’s last name!

She decided to strike up a conversation with the young woman standing directly behind self.  She’s an MFA student at Southern Oregon University. She’s also the assistant editor for the student-run literary magazine, Severine (currently taking submissions in all genres)

Anyhoo, the line moved pretty quickly.  The young woman who took self’s registration and handed her the official name tag was flustered and kept apologizing for making self spell each letter of her last name.  Her name tag said, Volunteer.  Self hastened to reassure her.  As she handed over self’s badge she said:  “Hang on to this.  It’s $50 for a replacement.” (!!!)

Then self went to have some lunch (Mediterranean lentil soup).  And while she was sitting there, poring over the panels, she couldn’t help eavesdropping on two young women who took the seats next to her.  What caught her interest was how organized they were being about it all, and the fact that one of them wanted to check out specifically science fiction and fantasy panels.  She turned her head, and lo and behold, she recognized one of the young women as the one she’d just been conversing with in the registration line!

The editor and assistant editor, respectively, of SEVERINE, Southern Oregon University's literary magazine:  Linz Moore and Mallory Young

The editor and assistant editor, respectively, of SEVERINE, Southern Oregon University’s literary magazine: Linz Moore and Mallory Young

Their table at the Book Fair is Troglodyte Press.

And, because the two young women were so photogenic, I decided to take another picture:

The Editor and Assistant Editor of New Literary Magazine SEVERINE, currently open for submissions!

The Editor and Assistant Editor of New Literary Magazine SEVERINE, currently open for submissions!

Self thought dear blog readers might like to know that the Moroccan lentil soup was excellent, and self polished off the whole thing in a jiffy:

Lunch:  Moroccan Lentil Soup, from an eatery inside the Convention Center

Lunch: Moroccan Lentil Soup, from an eatery inside the Convention Center

(A woman who works for Crab Creek Review just introduced herself.  Self loves the random-ness of all these conversations!  Crab Creek Review, self learned, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.  And yes, it is ALSO currently open for submissions.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Seattle 2014 Part 2: Glass Blowing

Seattle is Dale Chihuly’s hometown. Funny, after Venice, she was convinced Chihuly was Venetian. That’s because she saw at least two of his enormous public artwork on Murano. Then she arrived in Seattle and found out that there is a Chihuly Museum here.  Which means: he’s from Seattle.  Oh self, you are such a glib storyteller.

She was headed to the Chihuly Museum today, but at the last minute she decided to drop by a glass studio on Occidental Avenue instead.  And she was so glad she did.

All she can say is:  walking along Occidental and going in and out of galleries was waaaay more relaxing — and more fun –  than walking around Murano last spring.  For one thing, there were no tourists.  And the gallery people patiently answered all of her questions.  They talked informatively about the work of their featured artists:  Chris Hawthorn (a discovery of Chihuly’s, the gallery person told her), Robert E. Marx, Richard Kiehl, Ben Butler.

Oh, man.  She wanted to buy something, so badly.  A collage.  A painting.  A glass vase.  A glass lamp.  Or paperweight.  A glass anything.

She kept walking.

She snapped a picture of the window display of Glasshouse Studio, 311 Occidental, billed as “Seattle’s oldest glassblowing studio.”

Glass Deer, Gallery on Occidental

Window Display, Glasshouse Studio, Occidental Ave., Seattle

At the back of Glasshouse, an artist was displaying his glass-blowing technique to some interested on-lookers.  Self watched him extract a glowing nub of orange from a furnace and twirl it, letting the colors bloom.

A Glass-Blowing Studio (Same One with the Deer Window Display)

The artist was making a series of those glass pieces that have flowers inside.

The young man allowed self to take his picture.  She asked his name so she could publish it here:  Michael Cozza.

She never encountered such amiability in Murano, let her tell ya!

Michael Cozza, Glass Blower

Michael Cozza, Glass Blower

Continuing with her peregrinations, self landed in a Discount Clothing Store called The Clothing Company (87 Yesler Way)

There were racks of Joe’s Jeans, Paige, Rich & Skinny, 7 For All Mankind . . . at a third of the department store prices.

Still, she steeled herself . . .

Self, you are in Seattle for AWP!  Which means your focus should be on books!  Books, books, books!

One thing, though:  Seattle is cold.

Next year’s AWP is in Minnesota, which means it will be even colder.

Stay tuned.

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