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.

 

Containers 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

THIS WEEK, LET’S GIVE OUTER SHELLS THEIR DUE.

–  The WordPress Daily Post

This week’s photo challenge is CONTAINERS.

Self posted on this challenge earlier today.

But she wasn’t quite satisfied with the result, so here’s another attempt to interpret the theme.

First, self would just like to deliver a little ode of appreciation to Gelato Classico on Emerson Street in downtown Palo Alto.  It’s right across from Aquarius theatre, so it’s perfect for indulging either before or after a movie.  Last week, self caught Begin Again.  Apart from the fact that it was a really, really good movie, self got to indulge in her two favorite gelato flavors:  lychee and peanut butter cioccolato.  She chose the “regular” container (the one in the middle):

You can order gelato to come in three sizes: small, regular, or large.

You can order gelato to come in three sizes: small, regular, or large.

And here’s another one of self’s favorite containers:  funky shoes.  This pair was worn by a jazz saxophonist performing at the Fillmore Jazz Festival, just a few weeks ago:

Cool Shoes:  2014 Fillmore Jazz Festival, San Francisco

Cool Shoes: 2014 Fillmore Jazz Festival, San Francisco

Self’s final container is a costume.  Self would like to share a word in praise of the Stanford Tree.  Who soldiered on for the entire Redwood City Fourth of July Parade, when it was sweltering.  The poor human underneath that tree outfit must have been melting.  Fittingly, the human turned out to be wearing a “Keep Calm” t-shirt underneath the costume.  This is the Stanford Tree taking a rest:

The 2014 Redwood City Fourth of July Parade:  The poor Stanford Tree was most deserving of a break; it must have been sweltering under that costume.

The 2014 Redwood City Fourth of July Parade: The poor Stanford Tree was most deserving of a break; it must have been sweltering under that costume.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Containers: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CONTAINERS.

And, as luck would have it, self stumbled across a series of shots she took in Glendale, December 2012, where one of her Villanueva nieces hosted a reunion of the Villanueva clan.  The day was an all-day eating marathon, a veritable cornucopia of gustatory delights.  People from Bacolod (Dear Departed Dad’s hometown) know how to live!

You’ll find a variety of containers below:

Brazo de Mercedes:  a butter and egg yolk filling is encased in an outer shell of light meringue.  Yummm!

Container # 1:  Brazo de Mercedes , in which a butter and egg yolk filling is encased in an outer shell of light meringue. Yummm! To spell it out:  self considers the meringue layer  the “container.”

Someone made individual portions chicken a la king -- using a muffin baking dish.

Containers # 2:  The muffin baking dish someone used to make individual servings of chicken a la king. Quelle ingeniousness!  Naturally, half the servings disappeared almost the minute the baking tray was pulled from the oven.

No one throws a feast like the Villanuevas!  Everyone at the party was either a cousin, a niece, or a nephew.

Containers # 3:  food serving trays.  No one throws a feast like the Villanuevas! Everyone at the party was either a cousin, a niece, or a nephew, or the partner of a cousin, a niece, or a nephew.  Southern California seems to be the Villanueva destination of choice!

Self so wishes there were a Reunion Part 2.  Or Part 3.

Hear that, Dear Niece Irene?  Time to start organizing another banquet!

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.

Contrasts 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Contrasts:  Light and Dark . . .

2nd floor, Farmyard Cottage, Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig

2nd floor, Farmyard Cottage, Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, May 2014

Son's Room. The painting was done for $20 by an artist in Great America, Santa Clara. Son was six or seven.

Son’s Room. The painting was done for $20 by an artist in Great America, Santa Clara. Son was six or seven.  He’s wearing a San Francisco Giants cap.

Contrasts:  Youth and Age . . .

A Bookshelf in the Main House at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

A Bookshelf in the Main House at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

The people in the photograph must long have passed away, but their image endures (Love the crease in the photograph itself:  makes the photograph seem very fragile).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

On Secrets/ On Witchcraft

A few weeks ago, self announced that Café Irreal would be publishing her story “The Secret Room” on Aug. 1.

But when she wandered over to Café Irreal today, she saw that in fact, her story was already live, and had been live since May.

Here’s the link, dear blog readers.  Read, review.  Self adores feedback.

*     *    *     *

Here’s something else she encountered today.

While browsing through the British Museum blog, she stumbled upon an article on Witchcraft.

And here self found an answer to a question which has often nagged at her:  Why are witches usually women?

The piece makes clear that accusations of witchcraft were always personal, as evidenced by the fact that people most often brought up charges of accusation against people they knew well — i.e., their neighbors.  And the fact that many of the accused were old women, or widows, or orphaned women, or stepdaughters, makes very clear that the targets were “the most dependent members of the community.” The ones, in other words, who were least likely to fight back or defend themselves.

These female dependents (the preferred pool for witches) were the ones “whose names figure most frequently on the lists of people in receipt of poor relief, and they were the ones most likely to be caught up in the situation of begging for help and not getting it.”

Being perceived as powerless and being perceived as a threat — such a curious contradiction.  In both instances, these two have more in common with perception and have precious little to do with reality.

Which is what led self to write a very curious short story called “Toad.”  Which she will begin sending out shortly.

She finished it while sitting at a coffee shop on Lower Mount Street in Dublin.  Quite close, in fact, to Ballsbridge, where her B & B was.

OMG.  Witches.  Toads.  Lower Mounts.  Ballsbridge.  Self’s brain was filled with medieval imagery, almost the whole time she was in Ireland.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Contrasts 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Pictures taken on the bus from Dublin to Monaghan.  It was a very long bus ride.  Self had gone to Dublin to watch a friend’s play at The Cobalt Café, but she could only stay a night.

She posts these pictures because they are all of horizons.  This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CONTRASTS and horizons — at least in self’s mind — always involve contrasts.

Correction:  the two shots of trees by the roadside aren’t horizons.  But there’s a clear demarcation between foliage and sky.  So it’s still a contrast.

Views From a Bus:  Ireland, May 2014

Views From a Bus: Ireland, May 2014

DSCN5398

DSCN5399

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Current Fan Fiction Fave’s Everlark Ship Still Not Yet Ready to Sail, in the Meantime at the Cineplex . . .

Oh, fan fiction.  You have self on pins and needles all the time.  All the time.

The Fourth of July weekend is coming up. On the Monday following (July 7), self sails off to Squaw Valley for the Writers Conference.  She just arranged to share a ride with someone from Benicia.  Excited!

This afternoon, self casts a very cursory look over the summer movie offerings.  She still wants to see “22 Jump Street”, though The Man saw it while she was in Los Angeles and declared it not good at all.

She still wants to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” as she loved the first one.

She’s seen “Edge of Tomorrow.”  Oh, that was good!  Emily Blunt is packin’.  It is so great when an actress with proven dramatic chops switches gears.  Blunt’s Full Metal Bitch deserves a place on the pantheon of Female Action Stars — maybe not quite on the level of Femme Nikita or Ripley, but definitely equal to Scarjo’s Black Widow.

She still wants to see “The Fault in Our Stars.”  Son and Jennie saw it and liked it, though Jennie maintained that the book was better.

She saw “Maleficent” down in Pasadena, with Son and Jennie.  3 1/2 out of 4 stars.  Self found Jolie’s razor-sharp cheekbones a tad distracting.  So was her lightning-fast change into leather pants in the movie’s climactic confrontation.

“X-Men:  Days of Future Past” — four out of four stars!  Magnificent!  Love the Vietnamese-talking Mystique!  Love J-Law/Mystique in 70s bo-ho hippie attire!  Love unrequited angst between J-Law/Mystique and McAvoy/Xavier and also with Hoult/Beast, and the jealous macho-ness of Fassbender/Magneto!  Not to mention, Ellen Page is one darn cute actress!  She hasn’t been this cute since “Juno”!

Finally, self still wants to see “Godzilla.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Between 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Today, self is choosing to interpret the week’s Photo Challenge, BETWEEN, as a choice between this or that.

21 Choices in Claremont: So hard to choose between Golden Nugget or Oreo Mudslide! Self finally decided on # 19: Golden Nugget

21 Choices in Claremont: So hard to choose between Golden Nugget or Oreo Mudslide! Self finally decided on # 19: Golden Nugget

DSCN6217

Unrelated to food but still related to the theme of BETWEEN, here is some brotherly advice offered by Hamlet to a distraught Ophelia.

You’d be surprised how many people still say this to women nowadays, especially women who seem to be on the verge of . . . something.

Hamlet's advice to Ophelia

Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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