On Beginning GEEK LOVE, Beijing Buffet, Draeger’s Blueberry Pie, and Other Delights (Including NYTBR of 30 March 2008)

Jury still out on novel self began reading two days ago: Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love.

Self had not heard of this writer before, but her novel is considered something of a “classic” — among novels with a circus theme, that is. Self read a NYTBR piece in which the reviewer showed off by naming all the circus-themed novels she knew of, and these made up quite a list (Self was suitably impressed).

The book began with quirky voice and unusual syntax. OK. In the first couple of pages, we learn that Mum came from a well-off family, but ran away with Dad because of a yearning for adventure. Then, Mom and Dad colluded by ingesting all kinds of drugs with sole purpose of producing freaky babies, which resulted in Aquaboy, Siamese twins joined at the waist, albino humpback, and youngest child with yet-to-be-disclosed physical aberration.

Wow! How did Ms. Dunn get away with writing that! Self mighty encouraged and is plowing on with great interest.

This morning, self acquiesced to meet Dearest Aunt at some place called Beijing Buffet on South Airport Boulevard. The occasion was Aunt’s second husband’s 70th birthday. So, self wished hubby a blithe “Good Day!” (Hubby makes it a point to make himself scarce at all of self’s family gatherings) and hot-footed it north on 101.

And then self got lost. And self placed four calls to aunt from her cell, and aunt kept throwing out markers like:

    “The Lyons! At Lyons turn right!” So self turned right and found herself back on the freeway, pointing homeward.
    Then aunt said: “It’s at Grosvenor’s Inn! Can you see Grosvenor’s Inn?” Self said no, but she could see a See’s store. Aunt said, “What See’s store?” So then self made another wrong turn.
    Then aunt said, “When you see the gas station, make a right.” And self did so, and found herself on Grand Avenue.

By this time, self was getting might frustrated, and thought she might just stop to get a bite to eat from a place called Galli’s Sanitary Bakery on Grand, which self has heard carries the most divine mango tres leches. Self also saw a Salon called Crimpers Bizarre Salon. She kids you not, that is exactly what she saw on a sign.

But no, self decided to make one last effort, and found herself in Costco. At which point, what else was there to do but to investigate? This was a huge Costco — self means huge! And the fast food section had the feel of an actual restaurant, not the rinky-dink service counter they have in the Redwood City Costco. The signs advertising sodas and pizzas were almost seven feet high. It reminded her of the drive-in from the movie “American Graffiti,” minus the cars.

And then self detected an insistent bzzz bzzz bzzz coming from her bag, and when she realized it was her phone she picked it up, and it was her Tita, begging — no, pleading — for self to make one last attempt.

And so self hurried out of Costco, and made a right turn, and she finally saw Grosvenor’s Inn, then saw a Holiday Inn, then, then — set back from the road a bit, and attached to some nondescript hotel, was a small one-story place with a yellow sign saying, in red block lettering: BEIJING BUFFET. And there were hordes — hordes — of Asian people heading there, whole vanloads.

And when self entered, almost the first person she saw was uncle-who-used-to-be-a-security-guard. And the first thing he did upon seeing self was pull open his shirt and reveal a row of fresh stitches all the way down to his navel. And so that self would not have to eat while thinking about that all through her meal, she opted to sit at another table, this one with Dearest Aunt and the 70-year-old birthday celebrant. And this is what self ingested, all in the space of 45 minutes:

roast duck
fried rice
fried mackerel
shrimp fried in honey
clams with a white topping (tasted like gummy cheese)
fresh oysters
steamed flounder
fresh manggo
fresh watermelon

Hmmm, let’s see, what else? Oh, yes, self learned that one of her nephews, the one with the long hair spilling fetchingly over his eyes, was going to be a father in September. No word about the wedding. “His girlfriend’s Burmese royalty,” one of her cousins informed her.

Then self does what she always does when attending a family gathering: she called son (And it suddenly occurred to her that she’d been calling son rather a lot lately, but — too late! Her finger had already speed-dialed) And self had barely passed the phone to uncle-with-a-fresh-scar-down-his-chest when he suddenly handed the phone back to self. “I dunno, he has to work or something,” Uncle mumbled, and self said, “Hello?” and she heard son say, “Gotta go!” And then self said, “Hello?” again, but there was no sound so she knew that son had hung up.

But that did not at all deter self from eating. And eating. And eating. And then self went home.

And hubby was watching a basketball game, and self saw that Shaq was exerting himself but not getting anywhere, and so she suggested that she go to Draeger’s and bring home a pie. And hubby agreed with that plan of action. So self took herself off to Draeger’s. And was filled with quiet love for this store, where she used to meet son after school almost every day of the week, while he was in middle school and high school. And, since she was in a slightly daring mood, she bought a blueberry pie even though she had never eaten one before.

And then she went home. And now, if dear blog readers are still there, still awake, and still eager for more, she will now list all the books she is interested in reading after perusing The New York Times Book Review of 30 March 2008:

(1) After reading Steven Brill’s review of John Grisham’s latest, The Appeal:

John Grisham’s The Appeal

(2) After reading Pamela Paul’s review of Mary Roach’s latest, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex:

Two previous books by Ms. Roach: Stiff and Spook

(3) After reading Lisa Fugard’s review of Lorna Goodison’s memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island:

Lorna Goodison’s memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island

(4) After reading Liesl Schillinger’s review of Tobias Wolff’s new collection, Our Story Begins:

Tobias Wolff’s Our Story Begins

(5) After reading Christopher Benfey’s review of Gerard Woodward’s new novel, A Curious Earth:

Gerard Woodward’s A Curious Earth

(6) After reading Evan Thomas’ (riveting) review of Max Hastings’ Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45:

Max Hastings’ Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45

(7) After reading Floyd Skloot’s review of Larry Woiwode’s new memoir, A Step From Death:

Larry Woiwode’s 2000 memoir, What I Think I Did

( 8 ) After reading Julia Scheeres’ review of Edward Docx’s second novel, Pravda:

Edward Docx’s second novel, Pravda

(9) After reading Michael J. Totten’s review of Sandra Mackey’s Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict:

Sandra Mackey’s Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict

(10) After reading Barry Gewen’s review of Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight: Iraq’s Descent Into Chaos (which expands and updates the material he collected for his powerful 2007 documentary of the same name):

Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight: Iraq’s Descent Into Chaos

(11) After reading Lori Leibovich’s review of Amy Sutherlands new book, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage:

Amy Sutherland’s earlier book, Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched
Amy Sutherland’s What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage

(12) After reading Nancy Kline’s review of N. S. Koenings’ short story collection, Theft:

N. S. Koenings’ first novel, The Blue Taxi
N. S. Koenings’ short story collection, Theft

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