“Abominable” Movie & 2nd NYTBR Post of the Evening!

Self watching an abominable Bigfoot movie called — self kids you not — “Abominable.” And the Bigfoot has just reached a big hairy paw (that looks something like Chewbacca’s) through a bathroom window where nubile teenage woman is taking a shower. Much screaming, much breaking of glass ensues. The only witness is a paraplegic neighbor who’s being severely over-medicated by his psychotic male nurse. In the meanwhile, Lance Henriksen (Yes, Lance Henrikson — the actor who played a cop in the first “Terminator” and Bishop in “Aliens”), wanders the woods with a rifle, gets eaten up in a jiffy.

But, self digresses too much. The real reason for this post is — tra-la! — self has just pulled another issue of the New York Times Book Review from her humongous pile of stuff! And this one is the issue of 4 May!

Without further ado, the list of books self is interested in reading after perusing abovementioned issue:

(1) After reading Jonathan Spence’s review of Mo Yan’s new novel, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out:

Mo Yan’s new novel, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out

(2) After reading Helen Schulman’s review of Isabel Fonseca’s novel, Attachment:

Isabel Fonseca’s Attachment

(3) After reading Francine Prose’s review of Wang Anyi’s “extraordinary” The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai:

Wang Anyi’s The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai

(4) After reading Liesl Schillinger’s review of Yian Lanke’s new novel, Serve the People!:

Yian Lanke’s new novel, Serve the People!

(5) After reading Andrew Ferguson’s review of Tony Horwitz’s new book, A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World:

Tony Horwitz’s A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

(6) After reading Amy Finnerty’s review of Nikolai Grozni’s memoir, Turtle Feet: The Making and Unmaking of a Buddhist Monk:

Nikolai Grozni’s memoir, Turtle Feet: The Making and Unmaking of a Buddhist Monk

(On flat screen HDTV, two girls down — only three more to go!!)

(7) After reading Alison McCulloch’s review of Michelle de Kretser’s latest novel, The Lost Dog:

Michelle de Kretser’s latest novel, The Lost Dog

( 8 ) After reading David Margolick’s review of Benny Morris’ 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War:

Benny Morris’ 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War

(9) After reading Jennifer Gilmore’s review of Alyse Myers’ Who Do You Think You Are? A Memoir:

    Mommie Dearest, a memoir about what it’s like to have Joan Crawford as a Mum
    Alyse Myers’ Who Do You Think You Are? A Memoir

(10) After reading Marilyn Stasio’s Crime column:

    Tom Rob Smith’s first novel, “about a serial killer in Stalinist Russia,” Child 44
    Kjell Eriksson’s The Demon of Dakar, and two of his earlier crime novels, The Princess of Burundi and The Cruel Stars of the Night

Blissful Tuesday, & the Return of the NYTBR Post

Oh, what a looovely day it is today. Self feels like singing. She’s on the couch, where she spent the morning grading papers. She reald an absolutely fascinating student paper on “Tool,” the heavy metal group, which enlightened her on Tool’s mastery of The Fibonaci Method. Then self realized she was probably not going to Bali in the fall (as she would have done if she weren’t teaching — ha ha ha ha!)

For a while self was engrossed in a TV show that re-enacted the Russian airline disaster of long long ago, when a pilot allowed his 14-year-old son to sit at the controls and the plane ended up crashing. What seems to have happened is that the plane was on auto-pilot, but something went wrong, and the boy did not have the arm strength to manipulate the levers manually, and his father could not help him because centrifugal force (the plane was in a steep dive) kept him pinned to the wall of the cockpit and he was unable to reach the controls to help his son.

After that uplifting program, self switched to the “Dog Whisperer”, and saw Cesar Millan helping singer Patti LaBelle with her dog problem.

Then self began to ponder what other writing contests she could still join this year.

Then self realized she had not posted about The New York Times Book Review in a month (amazing!), so now she will proceed to list the books she is interested in reading after perusing the 11 May 2008 issue of The New York Times Book Review (and at this point, self can’t be expected to remember how many issues she’s skipped, though she thinks it might be as many as two or three):

(1) After reading Ben MacIntyre’s review of Richard Bausch’s “brilliant” 11th novel, Peace:

Richard Bausch’s Peace

(2) After reading Bruce Barcott’s review of Louise Erdrich’s new novel, The Plague of Doves:

Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves

(3) After reading Kathryn Harrison’s review of Honor Moore’s account of growing up with her (bisexual) father, The Bishop’s Daughter: A Memoir:

Honor Moore’s The Bishop’s Daughter: A Memoir

(4) After reading Jonathan Miles’ review of Brian Hall’s fictionalization of the life of Robert Frost, Fall of Frost:

Brian Hall’s Fall of Frost

(5) After reading Marcus Mabry’s review of Robyn Scott’s Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood:

Robyn Scott’s Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood

(6) After reading James Glanz’s review of Patrick Cockburn’s biography of radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq:

Patrick Cockburn’s Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

(7) After reading Maggie Scarf’s review of Andrew Sean Greer’s novel, The Story of a Marriage:

Andrew Sean Greer’s The Story of a Marriage

( 8 ) After reading Alana Newhouse’s review of Lily Koppel’s (fascinating) The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal:

Lily Koppel’s The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal

Tapas & Tel Aviv Memories

This time last night, self was sitting in Picaro Tapas Restaurant on 16th Street in the Mission, and Lucy Burns was talking about that morning’s Bay to Breakers, and Zack was imitating some famous singer, and Alan Isaac was talking about his upcoming trip to Tel Aviv, and self was telling them all about how much she loved that city — the bookstores, the Neve Tzedek district, Allenby Street, Bialik Street, the Rubik Museum, the beach, Jaffa, her favorite cafĂ© on Gordon Street — and while all this was going on, self’s Nissan Altima was being towed.

The waiters were so friendly (and good-looking, too, which always helps), and we by no means were the loudest or most boisterous table in the restaurant, and there was even a very authentic-sounding mariachi band providing musical entertainment.

Self had parked in the middle of Dolores Street. Which is kinda crazy, when you stop to think about it. But there were 20 other cars parked ahead of her (in the middle of the street), and Zack asked one of the other people parking there, a man with a red SUV, and the man said that the City allowed cars to park in the middle of the street, just on that stretch of Dolores, and only on Sundays because there were masses at the nearby mission.

So, after dinner, we headed back to Dolores, and self had no idea, no idea that she had a problem, but Zack knew right away and said, “Shit. I think your car got towed.” And all self could do was stare at him with her mouth open. “What?” self finally managed to say. “Maybe this isn’t the same street.”

But, of course it was the same street, and while self and Lucy were still standing around in semi-shock, Zack was on the phone to someone, and every now and then he would stop to ask self a question: First, “What’s your license plate #?” and then, a little later, “What’s the make of your car?” and finally, “What’s the color?” And then he rang off and told self: “Your car’s at 450 7th Street, between Bryant and Harrison. We’ve got to get a cab.” And self was absolutely overcome with admiration at his total get-up-and-go.

Anyhoo, in the taxi, self sat between Lucy and Zack, who seemed *quite* concerned. But self was not at all concerned because, in the scheme of things, having your car towed is not as bad as having acute leukemia. Or having emphysema. Or having Bell’s Palsy. And this quarter teaching has been a nightmare. So what’s a few hundred dollars to retrieve a towed car (ha ha ha ha ha ha) ???

Anyhoo, car was retrieved in short order, and then Lucy and Zack took off for further carousing, this time with the “young ones” — Christine Balance and Anthem Salgado and a few others whose names self did not recognize. Self drove home. And, would you believe, dear blog readers, that when self walked in the door, and saw hubby just finishing his dinner, self was able to remain completely mum about the whole car-being-towed business? Really, self exhibited such aplomb that she amazed even herself.

Today, self decided to pay all her bills. So, she picked up her American Express statement, and running her eyes over the charges, this is what she found:

A charge from Roladin Coffee Shop on Allenby Street

A charge from Keren Muzion Art Dealer and Gallery

A charge from Landsberger Books on Ben Yehuda

A charge from Mazzarin Coffee Shop on Gordon Street

A charge from Ben Harim Travel Agency

A charge from Thailand House on Ben Yehuda

There was also a charge from the Frankfurt airport, where self had a stopover. For the life of her, self has no memory — zip, nada — of what she bought.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

A History of the Hamburger: As Told in (What Else?) The Economist Review of THE HAMBURGER: A HISTORY

(Gone: “Today, Friday, 16 May 2008”)

It is too hot, much much too hot. Self isn’t sure, but she thinks she heard a neighbor yell at hubby to stop blowering. Self held her breath, but this (perhaps imaginary) altercation was followed only by the dead-est silence, and then the sound of the lawn mower.

In the meantime, self is in the bedroom with the blinds closed. After a (lousy) breakfast at Breakers Cafe (chile omelet, with one thin slice of avocado on top, three dollops of sour cream), self fell into leaden sleep. When she awoke, the street outside was filled with the most intense, blinding heat, and all the hydrangeas’ leaves were curling.

Self opens The Economist of 26 April (still behind in her reading: yes, she knows) and finds this on p. 107:

“The Big Bite”: a review of The Hamburger: A History, by Josh Ozersky

This entertaining and informative book, which traces the burger’s evolution from working man’s snack during the Depression to symbol of American corporatism, is nothing less than a brief history of America in the 20th century.

Like many stories, this one starts long, long ago, with a castle. This castle had five-cent hamburgers instead of princesses, and rather than being in an enchanted forest, it was in Wichita, Kansas.

An ambitious fry-cook named Walter Anderson opened White Castle in 1921. He did not invent the hamburger (this book wisely steers around that controversy); he merely standardised its production, cooking dozens of pre-weighted, pre-shaped burgers at once on a dedicated griddle, and serving them on specially designed buns. The friendly grillman in a white paper hat, amicably chatting with customers as he formed meat into a patty and slapped it onto the grill next to cheese sandwiches and omelettes, gave way to the kitchen as assembly line, and the cook as infinitely replaceable technician.

The article goes on to describe with great exactitude the dimensions of a classic burger, as defined by yet another “genius” businessman, Ray Kroc: It must weigh 1.6 ounces and span 3 and 5/8 inches. It is “garnished with a quarter of an ounce of chopped onion, a teaspoon of mustard, a tablespoon of ketchup and a pickle slice” no larger than one inch in diameter.

Fascinating, simply fascinating.

Another Meditation on Mother’s Day

Self’s ex-Assumption classmate, Lourdes Valeriano, is a writer for Business Week.

Check out her great column on “Mother’s Day 2008,” here.

Memoir by Women’s Review of Books Editor Amy Hoffman

Intrepid Amy Hoffman, editor of the Women’s Review of Books, has a book just out from University of Massachusetts Press:

An Army of Ex-Lovers: My Life at the Gay Community News

From the press release:

Boston’s weekly Gay Community News was “the center of the universe” during the late 1970s, writes Amy Hoffman in this memoir of gay liberation before AIDS, before gay weddings, and before “The L Word.” Provocative, informative, inspiring, and absurd, with a small circulation but a huge influence, Gay Community News produced a generation of leaders, writers, and friends. In addition to capturing the heady atmosphere of the times — the victories, controversies, and tragedies — Hoffman’s memoir is also her personal story, written with wit and insight, of growing up in a political movement; of her deepening relationships with charismatic, talented, and sometimes utterly weird coworkers; and of trying to explain it all to her large Jewish family.

Available at your local independent bookseller, or directly from the publisher (www.umass.edu/umpress) at 1-800-537-5487

Various Odes to Summer

Ode #1:
Oh, weather that is hitting 100 degrees (all over the San Francisco Bay Area) and adding to the misery of the $4/a gallon gasoline: How self wishes you had come just a week later, for yesterday self spent hours digging planting holes for the following: passiflora and two five-gallon loropetalum. And now the plants’ leaves have shriveled as if they’d just been passed through an oven.

Ode #2:
Oh, Tony Shalhoub: How self loves to watch you as Adrian Monk, especially on a hot day like today when self is supine on couch because it is too hot to be anywhere else (though self did make an attempt to locate a book called Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs at the Redwood City Main Library, a few hours ago)

Ode #3:
Oh, T. C. Boyle (and self learned just yesterday that the “T” stood for “Tom”, which was a name self thinks is altogether too pedestrian for you), you and your black suit and your large stone pendant and your pouff-y hair and your piercing (but also somewhat vacant) gaze: How self’s heart beat in her chest when she accosted you after your reading at xxxx community college, while her two English 1B students could do nothing but stammer out their admiration, and you revealed that you wrote the story about Pakistan although you know very little about Pakistan and in fact have never been there, which only tripled self’s admiration

Ode # 4:
Oh Kokomo Colada yogurt smoothie from Yumi Yogurt on El Camino Real: How self adores your lambent blend of banana, pineapple, and coconut — the perfect antidote to this scorching weather. How self dreamed about you for hours and finally relented and stood at the end of a line that was 10-deep (the first eight like escapees from some techno-geek convention, Asian-Am males with short short hair and polo shirts and khaki pants. The only thing missing were the pens in the shirt pockets, dear blog readers)

Ode # 5:
Oh son who bothered self exceedingly yesterday with your last-minute decision to enroll in a college-level course in Spain that is delivered in Spanish (knowing very well your last Spanish was in eighth grade, with Mrs. Teresa C, who wasn’t a teacher, just a member of the Mother’s Club, and not even, herself, Spanish), and who had to get thrown out of the program by irate Mr. Martinez, who argued with self and then with hubby before finally stamping “Denied” on your application: How self wishes you would go somewhere else, Tel Aviv or Hong Kong, where one of self’s Dear Bros has that fab three-bedroom apartment and you wouldn’t have to pay a thing, no not a thing, only for your airfare, and wouldn’t that be preferable to spending four hours M-F sweltering in a classroom in the University of Valladolid?

Ode # 6:
Oh, Orhan Pamuk, who writes altogether too much of snow in the book of the same name (and not enough about the virgin suicides, pace Jeffrey Eugenides): How self wishes the blizzard would be over already, so self could discover who killed Ka.

Ode # 7:
Oh, man who loves Thom McGuane who excoriated self for her “feminist” reading of the great man’s work on xxxxxxx.com: How humbled self is by the knowledge that no one will ever defend self’s work the way you have McGuane’s.

Ode # 8:
Oh, students, you who chat about all and sundry after class, who offer to walk self to her car so that she will not be harassed by J & J: How self adores you, how self truly adores all of you.

Lunch: Spicy Sardines, Yeah!

Self is in her kitchen, doing the equivalent of the Howard Dean YEEAAAH! that sunk his campaign. But, in self’s case, there is no one to witness such depravity.

The reason self is so exercised? She just ripped off the wrapping of her last remaining can of “spicy sardines.” In the Philippines, self thinks her Mum used to get Mabuti. Or was that Ligo? Anyhoo, it was sardines doused in olive oil and spicy red chili peppers.

Here, self finds that Asian supermarket Marina Mart, in Foster City, carries a spicy sardines brand called “Mascato”, which is from Portugal, and tastes exactly like the spicy sardines self used to eat back home in Manila. Not only that, the wrapper is almost exactly the same: yellow, red, and white.

Suddenly, self finds the wrapper infinitely fascinating. She can’t recall whether American sardines have this same kind of wrapper. It took self some time to rip off the yellow/white/red wrapper because it was also firmly secured with scotchtape, which absolutely boggles her mind: thousands and thousands of yellow,white, and red sardine tins leaving a factory every day, and someone there has the added duty of applying scotchtape to both ends — unless there is a special scotchtape-applying machine, though, which self very much doubts.

And, speaking of scotch tape, why make it so hard for a person to unwrap this sardine? Americans are genius at packaging: the whole purpose of an American package is to allow consumers/suckers to get at coveted product in two seconds flat. This morning, it took self three minutes to undo scotchtape and undo wrapper, etc etc

Well, heaven. Self feels things can’t be too bad today, even though today is the class where she meets J & J.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Everything is Hilarious/ Alka/ The Chattahoochee Review

This morning, dear blog readers, self is in such a strange mood that she finds everything hilarious.

She’s looking at an old issue of The New Yorker, and every time she flips a page she finds a new cartoon that sets her off. Self intuits that dear blog readers will find the captions pretty funny, even without the accompanying illustrations. So here they are, the list of captions self finds self-splittingly hilarious, while perusing The New Yorker of 26 June 2006 (Did self ever mention that she was the mother of all pack rats? If you didn’t know this before, dear blog readers, you know it now):

    “If you’re happy and you know it, stick with your dosage.”
    “I’ll take care of it impersonally.”
    “You’re the one who wanted a boyfriend — you play with him.”
    “I’m sorry, have you been grimacing long?”

* * * *

In other news, good friend Alka Raghuram has just returned from the Tribeca Film Festival, where her screenplay “The Conqueror,” about a blood feud between two villages which brings tragedy to a young boy’s family, received the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award, which is given annually to a female writer/ director participating in the Emerging Narrative section of the Tribeca All Access Film Festival. Go, Alka, go!

* * *

And, in yet other other news, the spring issue of the The Chattahoochee Review is a special issue devoted to five Emerging Writers. These are the five:

    Alethea Black
    Anne Stameshkin
    Yvonne A. Jackson
    Murzban Shroff
    Yours truly!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

32 Years of Calyx

Margarita Donnelly told self she would be retiring next year.

Self can hardly believe it.

For, dear blog readers, this is the woman who made self a writer.

Doreen Fernandez started self on the path. Then, John L’Heureux stoked the fire. Margarita Donnelly found self when the fire was flickering. (Marilyn Chin helped, too, as dear blog readers well know — how fortuitous that Marilyn paid a visit to self just when the first Asian American women’s anthology was being put together by Calyx!) It was Margarita that made sure that the fire would stick. Self will never forget when Margarita came up to her and asked (Self had just finished reading her short story, “Ginseng” in a bookstore in the City), “Do you have other stories like that?” And just like that, a book came to be.

Calyx has published M. Evelina Galang (Her fab story, “Her Wild American Self”)

They published self’s Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila (which was simultaneously published in Manila by the Ateneo’s Office of Research & Publications and went on to be a finalist for the Philippines’ National Book Award)

They published Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas.

They published The Forbidden Stitch, the first Asian American women’s anthology.

They published A Line of Cutting Women and A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-Five Years of Women’s Poetry (which are great texts, especially for self’s “Women Writers” courses).

Here are some amazing facts about Calyx:

    In the 32 years of its existence, the editors have read the work of over 100,000 women and selected more than 3,600 authors and artists for its books and journals.
    Their publications have reached over half-a-million readers.
    It has survived because of a tireless band of volunteer editors, supporters, and students whose sacrifices have ensured that the world knows of such women as Kathleen Alcala, Chitra Divakaruni, Jean Heglund, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Charlotte Watson Sherman.

As with gasoline and food prices, publishing and distribution costs have risen: Printing each issue now costs $6,000. Even a small increase in postage rates (today saw yet another increase) impacts a small press greatly. The costs of shipping non-profit mail went up over 100% last year. And the cost of paper continues to rise, as have all the other costs involved in running a small independent press, such as health insurance for Calyx’s small staff.

Imagine a world without Calyx or its brave women. What a terrible world that would be.

Calyx is a 501 C (3) — all contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.


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