Digging Ever Deeper (Into the Pile of Stuff): The Sea, Islands, the Poet

From The New Yorker of 3 February 2014, a review by Adam Kirsch of The Poetry of Derek Walcott (Farrar, Straus & Giroux):

A poet who comes to consciousness on a small island — like Derek Walcott, who was born on St. Lucia in 1930 — is doomed, or privileged, to spend a lifetime writing about the sea.  The subject matter for Walcott is as consistent and inescapable, potentially as monotonous, as the five beats in a pentameter line.  But, like so many great poets before him, he shows that constraints do not have to starve the imagination; they can also nourish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Chang-rae Lee Version of Dystopia

This is from the review of On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee’s new novel.  The review appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The reviewer was Joanna Biggs.

“More and more we can see that the question is not whether we are ‘individuals,’ Chang-rae Lee writes in On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead), his new, dystopian novel.  “The question, then, is whether being an ‘individual’ makes a difference anymore.”  It seems doubtful, in Lee’s somber future.  Afflicted by swine- and bird-flue epidemics, and a profound change in the climate, America, now known simply as the Association, has split into three separate social groups.  At the top sit the Charters, a small professional class that has controlled the country’s remaining resources and withdrawn into gated villages.  Catering their dinner parties and keeping their cars perpetually waxed are the ‘service people,’ who live in the land beyond, known as the counties.  ‘You better have it while you have it’ is the motto of the bartering, hardscrabble life there.”

District 12, anyone?  The twist is that the oppressed classes are “workers whose ancestors arrived from New China a hundred years earlier.”

Biggs then cites a list of dystopian narratives (which fortunately or unfortunately do not include anything YA), starting with “the math genius D-503, in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, who begins by designing the spaceship INTEGRAL . . .  to the fireman Guy Montag in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 who starts out as a kerosene-wielding book burner and ends up harboring what may be the last copy of the Bible,” to Winston Smith, the “mid-ranking employee” of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

Self has read most of Chang-rae Lee’s novels.  She’s read Native Speaker, Aloft, and A Gesture Life.  Of all his novels that self has read to date, her favorite is still A Gesture Life.  Harrowing.  She’ll never forget it.

What she likes most about Lee’s writing is the quietness of the voice.  The restraint masks sheer agony.  All his main characters are tightly wound but restrained, almost to the point of lunacy.  Feelings are to be distrusted.  They are acknowledged only under great peril.  Which makes him sound, on the surface, like Kazuo Ishiguro.  But self finds Chang-rae Lee’s characters, almost all of them, to be deeply emotional and passionate individuals.  If they do harm, it is mostly to themselves.

She does have a copy of On Such a Full Sea, signed by the author himself after a reading he gave in Berkeley.  Self is sorely tempted to tote it along to Ireland, but it’s hardback.  And self has sworn she’s not going to burden herself with more than a handful of books this time.  The fee for mailing the books back home will be exorbitant, if what she paid after Hawthornden is any indication.  Oh what to do, what to do!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

EKPHRASIS: Jean Vengua’s The Little Book of Haptic Drawings

The word epkphrasis is one of those words, like deconstruction or meta-fiction, that self has heard floating about, here and there, usually in the most erudite settings — like literary magazines.  Like university websites (She used to have “dystopian” on that short list, but ever since The Hunger Games, and its overwhelming popularity, self hears “dystopian” at least 10x a day and it may be moving from the realm of the esoteric to the realm of cliché)

Ekphrasis refers to poems inspired by another art form — visual arts, say, or music.

The Little Book of Haptic Drawings is about ekphrasis.  But you don’t even need to know that.

It’s available now online in pdf format.  You can read it for free online or download it.  Jean would welcome a small donation — anything you can afford.  (There’s a small donation button on the sidebar).   Just click on the link.  Explore.  Enjoy.

And if you fell in love with it, be sure and let Jean know.

Stay tuned.

 

The Essence of Spain

A year ago, I became convinced that I should spend the rest of my life in Spain.

I made up my mind to find the true, true essence of Spain.

I decided that, until I got to Spain, I would listen only to Camaron.

I purchased maps, because I had decided that one of the important things I had to do was walk the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela.

To prepare myself for the Spanish time clock, I disciplined myself not to eat until 10 p.m.

To get used to the idea of “siesta,” I imposed a daily two-hour nap on my hectic life, which resulted in my employment being terminated, which made me happy because I had become extremely worried about exceeding vacation limits.

(Like what you’ve read here? Read the rest of the story on Eunoia Review)

Stay tuned.

Going Live This Week at EUNOIA REVIEW: Two Short Shorts

Self has been reading Eunoia Review for several years now.

She loves the writing.  They publish poetry (beautiful poetry) and a kind of prose self considers “TransGenre.” Fits right up her alley.  Ever since self heard the word “TransGenre,” a few years back (Hotel Amerika featured her piece “Ghosts” in their TransGenre issue, and gave a name to the kind of short short stuff self had just begun writing), she loves the word.  TransGenre: not sure if you need to capitalize the “G.”

Which reminds her:  She has to look and see if Hotel Amerika is at the AWP Book Fair!

She didn’t know anything about the editor, Ian Chung, until he sent her a message yesterday, saying the two pieces he’d accepted for the review were going live this week.

That’s when she decided to google him and found out that he edits the review from Singapore!

She wants to make sure she puts this announcement in before heading to the craziness of the AWP annual conference, this year being held in Seattle.

Self’s head is about to explode.  She got a message from PANK late last night, and then just remembered she hadn’t yet submitted her signed author contract to Philippine Speculative Fiction vol. 9, and it’s due Mar. 1.

Panic attack!  Nice panic attack, though.

This morning, she decided that the best thing for her to calm down would be to take a yoga class, and lo and behold, she got to Peacebank in downtown Redwood City, five minutes early, but after she checked in, there was no space.  Wall to wall yoga mats, and no one wanted to budge even a few inches to give her a chance to squeeze in.  Stone-faced, all!

The two people manning the check-in desk looked so impatient when self said there was no space.  They said, maybe you can ask someone to move?  Are you kidding?  Did you see the grim-faced visage of everyone in the class when they saw self stumble in, clue-less and panting? 

Which meant:  good-by, yoga class!  Au revoir!  Till we meet again!  Whenever or wherever!

In the meantime, self almost forgot:  the link to Eunoia Review!

Here it is, dear blog readers.  Enjoy.

About the End of Self’s New York Times Book Review Subscription

Self still has a huge backlog of NYTBR issues to go through.  She pulled them out of her hopelessly muddled “Pile of Stuff” and started to go through them.  The very first one she started to read was the January 5, 2014 issue.

Front page review of Chang-rae Lee’s science fiction novel, On Such a Full Sea.

Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more.  It’s a wonderful addition not only to Chang-rae Lee’s body of work but to the ranks of “serious” writers venturing into the realm of dystopian fantasy.

Lost self at “dystopian,” everyone’s favorite catch-all one-word description for the Apocalyptic Future, now swarming the world on hundreds of reviews of the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

WACCAMAW No. 12

Waccamaw No. 12 (Fall 2013 issue) went live about two weeks ago, but self was so overwhelmed with the typhoon disaster in the Philippines that she couldn’t focus.

Self’s story, “Bridging,” which she began last year while doing a residency in Hawthornden, is one of the current issue’s fiction pieces.  The other stories are “Vostok vs. Belmont,” by Ned Balbo; “Liner Notes,” by Matthew Fiander; “In a Far Country,” by Khanh Ha; and “Fireworks,” by Charles Israel, Jr.

The nonfiction features “Glass House: The First Moment of Her Leaving,” by Hannah de la Cruz Abrams; “On Needing,” by Erin Grauel; “Halloween Glossary, D-H,” by Tom McAllister; “Corrida de Toros,” by Lane Osborne; and “Notes on Being a Mistress,” by Cynthia Schoch.

The poetry features “You Were Made for This Part,” by Paul Allen; “Priority Seating for People With Disabilities and Seniors,” by Agatha Beins; “Still Breathing,” by Jo Brachman; “In Vineland,” by Mark J. Brewin, Jr.; “Lottie” and “Pepsi” by Nickole Brown; “Operation I” by Michelle Chan Brown; “Apples or Waffles,” by Kathy Didden; “O Mary Lou” by Anthony DiMatteo; “My Lips Are Made of Wax, My Teeth are Furry Blades, and Other Lies,” by Karla Huston; “All That Happened,” by Donald Illich; “Faultline,” by Elizabeth W. Jackson; “Sometimes Winter Comes When You Least Expect It” and “The Bright Forever” by Terry L. Kennedy; “Entreaty” by Keetje Kuipers; “The Third Egg” by Diane Lockward; “Icarus at Lake Acworth” by Christopher Martin; “Crossing Peachtree” by Thorpe Moeckel; “Roadkill” and “The Astronaut” by Alan Michael Parker; and “Improvisation on Newsprint” and “Window Box” by Mike Smith.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Awesome Book Titles: The NYTBR of 15 September 2013

The Pile of Stuff is humongous!  Actually humongous!

There are issues of The New York Times Book Review dating as far back as September!

But self cannot bring herself to end her subscription, which she’s kept up for over a decade.

Anyhoo, she is as usual very short on time, so she does a quick browse-through of aforementioned issue of the NYTBR, and is so excited to discover (from reading the “By the Book” interview with Richard Dawkins) that he recommends a book called Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, because self absolutely needs to have guidance in this area.  And Dawkins recommends another book that self thinks would really help her in her social interactions:  Avoid Boring People, by the eminent Nobel-Prizewinning molecular biologist James D. Watson.

Dawkins also mentions that he has not interest in reading Pride and Prejudice because “I can’t get excited about who is going to marry whom, and how rich they are.”  But self IS greatly interested in the topic, so she adds Pride and Prejudice to her reading list (She read it decades ago; it’s definitely time for a re-read!)

This issue of The NYTBR also has a funny story about Gary Kamiya, and it turns out he is a pack rat, just like self.  His new book has a fabulous title:  Cool Gray City of Love:  49 Views of San Francisco.

This issue’s Fabulous Author Photo (There’s always at least one, in every issue) belongs to Chinelo Okparanta.  Kudos for not only having a Fabulous Author Photo, but for actually being exotic, Ms. Okparanta!  She migrated to America from Nigeria at the age of 10, and the first part of her book, Happiness, Like Water: Stories — the “more powerful” part, according to reviewer Ligaya Mishan — is set in Nigeria.

There is also another fabulously titled book:  an essay collection called Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc.) by one of the fabulous Ephrons (Nora passed away recently, but thank goodness she had writing offspring like Delia Ephron to perpetuate the legacy).

At the very back of the issue is a section called “The Shortlist,” and here are four International Thrillers, which includes The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth’s latest, and Masaryk Station, which sounds like it ought to be by Martin Cruz Smith but is actually written by David Downing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Brian Komei Dempster’s First Poetry Collection: TOPAZ

Brian teaches in the Asian Pacific American Program at the University of San Francisco.  He edited the anthology Making Home From War:  Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday Books, 2011).  Topaz is his first published poetry collection.

STORM BREAKS

Every war begins somewhere. The boundaries
are me: my face, smile, language, my job. No matter what I did

your father thought I was crossing him. Between
your apartment and mine, we stood a breath

apart, your mouth a border shutting out

gentler words. I grabbed you by the T-shirt
like a bag of rice, you pushed me back, a ball of heat

enveloping us. When a forest ignites, balding the hills,
who lit the match, who flung it into the bed

of pine needles? Out the accusations came, armed

Apologies, dear blog readers, but self can go no further.  This is the first third of the poem.  Buy Brian’s book!  The publisher is Four Way Books.

Stay tuned.

Stanford University Fall Artist’s Salon to Feature Prof. Valerie Miner

Valerie Miner, the current Artist in Residence at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, will be featured at the Fall Artist’s Salon, to be held Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. at Serra House, 589 Capistrano Way, on the Stanford University campus.

Copies of Ms. Miner’s latest novel, Traveling with Spirits, will be available at the event.  Light refreshments will be served.

The event is free and open to the public.

About the Author:

Valerie Miner is the author of fourteen books and co-author of four others.  She has won multiple fellowships and awards.  She is the current artist-in-residence at the Clayman Institute, and teaches at Stanford in both the Feminist Studies Program and the English Department.

More information about the event can be found at gender.stanford.edu

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 500 other followers