Triumph!

Triumph!  Self can finally remove one piece from her humongous, ever-growing, overflowing Pile of Stuff:  The New York Review of Books Mar. 6, 2014 issue.

She read it cover to cover, backwards and forwards.  The only thing she skipped reading were the Letters to the Editor and the Classifieds.

And self was even able to compile a list of the books she is interested in reading (which she will probably get to six or seven years from now:  since the start of the year, her reading rate has sunk to the truly abysmal.  She’s still on the same Jhumpa Lahiri short story she began about 10 days ago)

Without further ado, here are the books self is adding to her reading list:

  • Gabriele d’Annunzio:  Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (The review, by David Gilmour, makes passing mention of Alberto Moravia’s L’amore coniugale :  Conjugal Love, which self now wants to read)
  • Lina and Serge:  The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev, by Simon Morrison (The review, by Orlando Figes, makes passing mention of two other books self is now interested in reading:  The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and The Fiery Angel, by Valery Bryusov)
  • The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Village, by Henrietta Harrison (The review, by Ian Johnson, makes passing mention of Jesus in Beijing, by former Time journalist David Aiken. BTW, what a fabulous title)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Noteworthy Today (First Wednesday of April 2014)

Self reached p. 266 of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed (Only 400 pp. more to go!)

Self is at the moment extremely bummed out about the fact that she read 58 chapters of what she thought was Everlark on fanfiction.net, and it turned out to be Katniss/Gale.  Boo. Well, the category did say “Angst.”  Self, you should know by now:  angst =  love triangle.  And just like that, three days of her life (24 hrs. x 3 = 72 hours) go up in smoke.  Self adores “dark Peeta” but abhors “dark Gale.” Dark Katniss is pretty much standard.

These are the books she’s read thus far in 2014:

  • In the Shadow of Man, by Jane van Lawick Goodall
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West
  • The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed

Although this year she has set a record for extremely-slow-to-finish-reading, the three books she’s read so far have been — luckily — outstanding.  And all of them, it just so happens, are nonfiction.  What does that mean.

The next two books on her reading list are by Jhumpa Lahiri: the short story collection Unaccustomed Earth and the novel The Namesake.

Her retired priest friend in Dublin says he’s managed to get a fellow priest to agree to drive her to Tyrone Guthrie.  According to him, it’s a 2-hour drive north. OMG!  Self cannot allow it.  It would mean two hours worth of gas and whatever, each way.  These words from her friend the retired priest stick out in her mind:  wild and remote.  Wild and remote.  Gaaaah!  One more time: Wild and remote.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

The Implications of Feminine Curiosity: Reading the Women’s Review of Books (Mar/Apr 2014)

Jan Clausen reviews Curious Subjects:  Women and the Trials of Realism, by Hilary M. Schor (Oxford University Press, 2013).  Clausen writes that Schor takes “curiosity” — specifically women’s curiosity — “to mean several different things” and then cites several fascinating examples, such as:

Isabel Archer (from The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James) — Self actually tried re-reading last year, before she went to Venice, but soon tired of James’s labyrinthine sensibility.  But now she thinks she might try giving it another whirl, especially after reading “while severely constrained by a social order productive of endless marriage plots,” the characters “gain access to a crucial measure of choice in deciding the marriage question — an outcome with distinct advantages for their development as conscious subjects, even when, as for Isabel, the wedded state brings misery.”

The Bloody Chamber, “Angela Carter’s feminist retelling” of the Bluebeard tale, showing “how the bride’s defiance of her husband’s injunction against entering the locked room becomes the crucial occasion of curiosity, affording a true knowledge of self and situation.”

Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot, feature “brides whose costly access to authentic subjectivity is won by way of their disastrous marriages.”

Louisa Bounderby, née Gradgrind, who chucks “her heartless capitalist keeper in Dickens’ Hard Times

Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, “a Creole riff on the Bluebeard story that functions in relation to Jane Eyre as both prequel and (post) colonial critique.”

Self also discovers (in another review) that Claire of the Sea of Light, Edwidge Danticat’s new novel, grew out of a short story published in the anthology she edited for Akashic Books, Haiti Noir (2010).  Self now adds Haiti Noir to her reading list.

And she encounters this quote from, of all people, Norman Mailer, in a review by Rachel Somerstein of Fools, Joan Silber’s short story collection (W. W. Norton, 2013):

Short fiction “has a tendency to look for climates of permanence — an event occurs, a man is hurt by it in some small way forever” while “the novel moves as naturally toward flux.  An event occurs, a man is injured, and a month later is working on something else.”

Self is amazed that she encounters the quote from Mailer –  the most uber-macho of macho writers — in the Women’s Review of Books.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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.

The Reading List Goes a Wee Bit Bonkers

Self has been reading The Hunger Games trilogy at night — an hour before bedtime, she selects a section of about 50 pages or so. She’s read each book about 10 times since the Catching Fire movie.

She made a wee bit of headway in Divergent.

She also trotted around with her, to coffee bars, the issue of One Story with B. J. Novak’s story (Yes, it’s that B. J. Novak, the one who co-wrote The Office with Mindy Kaling)

This morning, she began reading a new One Story story, Laura Spence-Ash’s “The Remains.”

She had minimal contact with the neighbors.  She waved once to John.  One of his boys — they’ve gotten so tall! — was pushing a lawn mower around their front yard.

She saw that all her clematis were still alive.  The one that used to be against John’s fence, until he replaced the fence and hacked it down, is still alive.  But struggling.  It probably won’t survive the year.  Now, it’s nothing but a clump of dead brown twigs, with small green shoots at the bottom.  It used to cover almost half the fence, and every spring for a dozen years it put forth the most magnificent, white flowers.  If it dies, self doesn’t think she’ll have either the time or the patience to grow another clematis to that size.

Let’s see, what else did she do this weekend?  She returned Black Lamb and Grey Falcon to the library (took nearly a month of her life) and began a new book, The Hemingses of Monticello:  An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

She scanned one of her bookshelves and pulled out a wee pocketbook called Envy.  It’s a dictionary.  Inside are definitions for:

  • acidity (Noun): The measure of bite or acidity in one’s tone
  • acidulous (Adjective):  A way of speaking that sounds bitter or sharp
  • adulation (Noun):  Extreme praise, admiration, or flattery, especially of a servile nature
  • allege (Verb):  To accuse someone of something — usually wrongdoing — without proof.

There’s a quote from Bertrand Russell:

Envy consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations.  If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Treasure 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge Theme, Treasure, made self remember the place that means most to her, as a writer: the neighborhood public library.

Today, she went there to return two books by Jhumpa Lahiri, which were overdue. And she never even got the chance to open them, as it took her aaaaages to get through Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West.

The Redwood City Public Library, Downtown Branch

The Redwood City Public Library, Downtown Branch

Self is in the library at least three times a week.  All the staff know her.  They even know she is a writer!

The site used to be a fire station.

The site used to be a fire station.

The book drop boxes, which self uses when the library is closed, are painted in cheerful colors.

The book drop boxes, which self uses when the library is closed, are painted in cheerful colors.

The last book self checked out of the library was a novel:  The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y. K. Lee.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

BLGF, Skopjle II: These Are Albanians!

Self is taking off to see Sole Fruit of Her Loins This Weekend. Jennie said to bring BLGF, but honestly, it weighs around 5 lbs. And she’s not planning to check in any luggage.  So, that means . . . . .

Anyhoo, here’s probably her last BLGF post until Sunday.  It’s just as well.  She hates to read without full concentration, and RW’s prose is so lush, it’d be a crime to read in snatches.  Self allots herself about two hours at a stretch.  That means no getting up for coffee or tea or TV or even to answer the phone.  She just reads.  That’s been her regimen for about two weeks now.

(She did dash to Barnes & Noble yesterday, just for a few moments, to look for Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters.  She also looked up Owen Wister’s 1902 novel, The Virginian, and found it!  Sandy said she remembers a television adaptation from way back when she was a little girl)

Right now, she’s on p. 646, in the chapter Skoplje II.

There are about 75,000 inhabitants of the town, of whom over 10,000 are Turks who gave the town its colour in the first place.  There are fewer minarets than there are in Sarajevo, but they are potent.  And because there is so strong a Christian element in the town, there are constant dramatic disclosures of the essences of Christianity and Islam, each being shown up by its opposite.  Soon there came past the window some Albanians, to begin the revelation.  Though I had my back to them I knew they were on their way, for a look of fatherly concern on my husband’s face told me that he had just caught sight of his first Albanian.  “They are not really coming down,” I said.  No Westerner ever sees an Albanian for the first time without thinking that the poor man’s trousers are just about to drop off.  They are cut in a straight line across the loins, well below the hip-bone, and have no visible means of support; and to make matters psychologically worse they are of white or biscuit homespun heavily embroidered with black wool in designs that make a stately reference to the essential points of male anatomy.  The occasion could not seem more grave, especially as there is often a bunch of uncontrolled shirt bulging between the waistcoat and these trousers.  Nothing, however, happens.

Oh, that RW, she cracks me up, she really does!

Stay tuned.

The Economist: Best Books of the Year 2013

Self is getting so specific about the books she is interested in reading.  Here she is with The Economist of 7 December 2013, the issue that contains its annual Best Books of the Year lists, and she’s completely ignored Politics and Current Affairs, Biography and Memoir, and History, which usually are the first sections she looks at.

Self, enough with the second guessing!  Here, without further ado, are the books self is adding to her (already humongous) reading list.

In Economics and Business

In Science and Technology

  • Empire Antarctica:  Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins, by Gavin Francis (Counterpoint)

In Culture, Society and Travel

  • Bach:  Music in the Castle of Heaven, by John Eliot Gardiner (Knopf)
  • The Leonard Bernstein Letters, edited by Nigel Simeone (Yale University Press)

In Fiction

  • The Luminaries:  A Novel, by Eleanore Catton (Little, Brown)
  • Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson (Reagan Arthur Books)
  • Norwegian by Night, by Derek Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Self is quite pleased with the progress she’s made through BLGF:  She’s presently on p. 468 (Belgrade I).  Still to come:  Belgrade II, Belgrade III, Belgrade IV, Belgrade V, Belgrade VI, Belgrade VII, Belgrade VIII, and Belgrade IX.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

BLGF pp. 380-381: Sarajevo VII, A Visit to a Cemetery

Swimming along here, self is just swimming along.  Hopefully, in a week’s time she will be done with the behemoth.  Then, it’s The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.  And after that come two books by Jhumpa Lahiri:  Unaccustomed Earth and The Namesake.  These will be the first Jhumpa Lahiri books self has read since Interpretor of Maladies.

Now to the topic at hand:  Self spent hours yesterday answering on-line students, and revising a few stories, and also reading the Sarajevo chapters in BLGF.  The erudition of RW is unmatched.  Not content to visit places like convents, she must also describe the history of the convent, who was killed there, hours for mass, scandalous tidbits, and so forth.

But in the Sarajevo chapters, everything revolves around one single point:  that day in June when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo.

One day, two men, a judge and a banker, accompany them to the local cemetery where the Archduke’s assassin, Princip, is buried.

. . . the banker said, “Look, they are here.” Close to the palings of the cemetery, under three stone slabs, lie the conspirators of Sarajevo, those who were hanged and those who died in prison; and to them has been joined Zheraitch, the boy who tried to kill the Bosnian Governor General Vareshanin and was kicked as he lay on the ground.  The slab in the middle is raised.  Underneath it lies the body of Princip.  To the left and the right lie the others, the boys on one side and the men on the other, for in this country it is recognized that the difference between old and young is almost as great as that between men and women.  The grave is not impressive.  It is as if a casual hand had swept them into a stone drawer.  There was a battered wreath laid askew on the slabs, and candles flickered in rusty lanterns.

RW has an unmatched eye for description, doesn’t she, dear blog readers?

Following Sarajevo VII is Sarajevo VIII, in which RW spends almost an entire page discussing the merits of Balkan furniture, and writes:  “Taste degenerated more rapidly in Austria during the nineteenth century than in any other country, with the possible exception of Russia . . . “

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

Latest Developments in the Life of Self

A niece in southern California has her own business designing cute tops.  She sent self a message that they’d be doing a one-day yoga and fashion event in early February.  Oooh!  Self is always looking for the smallest excuse to go to southern California!  Because Taciturn Sole Fruit of Her Loins lives there!  And she didn’t see hide nor hair of him over the holidays! And that’s how she got sick, felled by the H1N1 or whatever that virus is!  But now she is mostly over it, which is why she’s madly reading a) Divergent; b) The Hemingses of Monticello; and c) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which she decided to read today while slurping her Ramen noodles, and — this just goes to show how certain books can only be read in a certain mood.  Perhaps because the weekend is starting, and she signed up for Beginning Yoga, she is feeling oh-so-relaxed.  Which meant, the very same RWS that bugged her so much yesterday was suddenly extremely entertaining today.  And self saw that she was actually only 2 pages from the end of the chapter on Zagreb. So, she’s going to give BLGF another shot.

Another item of interest is that she decided this week to play SuperLotto, for only the second time in her entire life.  She bought QuikPik at Safeway, and forgot that the winning numbers were announced on Wednesday.  Anyhoo, she suddenly remembered today, went to CALOTTERY.COM and found that the winning ticket was purchased from Circle K in Lake Elsinore. Which means it was not her.  Boo.

Finally, self is reading the San Francisco Chronicle of last Tuesday and finds that the hackers behind the Target data breach have been identified as two Russian teenagers who live in a city on the Volga River.  One of them was “close to 17 years old.”  What is this world coming to when several million people can be held up by a Russian teenager on the Volga.  She also learned a new term:  “malware.”  That’s short for malicious software.

More finally, she finds out that “account information stolen during the Target security breach is now being divided up and sold off regionally.”  Two “Mexican citizens” were arrested at “the border with 96 fraudulent credit cards in their possession.” Which means, according to the South Texas Police Chief who made the arrests, that the data sets are “obviously” being sold off “by region.”

And the ultimate Finally, self last week received a phone call from a man who said he worked for “a credit bureau” and said it was absolutely urgent that she call them back.  It was such a weird message that self decided to ignore it.  And the credit bureau person never called back.

So, here’s what self decided today:

  • She must continue playing more Lotto.
  • She will try as much as possible to stop using her credit cards.  Any credit cards.
  • She will try to stick with the yoga classes even if she turns out to be the fattest, oldest, and most uncoordinated member of the class.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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