American Book Review Current Issue: “Essential Asian American Literature”

Here’s the list of articles that self culled from the website (A partial list —  this doesn’t include a few essays that seemed to be about the Asian American literary landscape rather than about specific books):

  • Shirley Geok-lin Lim on Maxine Hong-Kingston’s The Woman Warrior
  • Donald C. Goellnicht on Joy Kogawa’s Obasan
  • Pin-chia Feng on Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone
  • Rocio G. Davis on Chitra Divakaruni’s The Word Love
  • Vieth Than Nguyen on “Masticating Adrian Tomine”

It is self’s fervent hope that there are actually more books listed than this, for she finds the pickings rather skimpy, to say the least. There’s only one Asian American man on the list (Unless Hyungji Park’s “The Immigrant as Spy” refers to Chang-rae Lee?  Could be).  But perhaps she shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And, well, she loved Bone and The Woman Warrior, but there’s no Bharati Mukherjee here. Or maybe Mukherjee is considered more a citizen of the world?

Also, where is the Asian American poetry?

Truly, self feels one issue is not enough to do justice to the phenomenon that is Asian American Literature.

Stay tuned.

Movie Highlights of Yester-Year: Featuring a Selection of Gross-Out Chewing Scenes

Self stumbled home from an expedition to Best Buy with hubby, who was interested in purchasing a Sony laptop. Afterwards, exhausted by all this strenuous and thrilling activity, self decided to relax by browsing Chowhound. As usual, the site did not disappoint.

The first interesting post was about iconic Thanksgiving movies. But almost everyone mentioned the same movie (“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”), so that was not much fun.

Shortly, however, self stumbled upon a post by a Read the rest of this entry »

Thanksgiving: The Upside and the Downside

First of all, now that self knows that she is capable of herself roasting a whole turkey, she can face the world with much more confidence. Which may even end up translating (hopefully) into her being more aggressive when pitching her writing.

Second, self now knows she is capable of teaching an on-line class, even while engaged in preparing aforementioned fowl for roasting (Although, self’s multi-tasking skills should have been apparent long, looong ago — just look at how she managed to keep her blog going, even when she was teaching five classes in three different places, last fall!)

Third, it is very good that self controlled her desire to spend every possible minute with son and allowed hubby and son to go off by themselves for a manly lunch of cold cut sandwiches at Erik’s Deli. That was very good because self got to return the call of Read the rest of this entry »

Self’s Favorite Reads of 2009

Even though self figures she can probably still squeeze in five or six books before the end of 2009 (The one she’s reading now, Dickens’ Great Expectations, is astonishing, grrreat, but she’s only a fourth of the way through), she’s already looking back to what the year meant in terms of reading.

This was the year when self finally got around to reading the novel that made Curtis Sittenfeld: Prep.  The year when self discovered Sebastian Barry.  And John Burdett. And Elena Ferrante. And Jim Harrison. And San San Tin. And George Saunders. And Ruth Rendell! Most of these authors were writers she had been hearing about for years. Years. But because of teaching (not to mention laundry), self never had the time or the wherewithal to read any of their books. So self was happy about 2009. This was the year when she finally got to expand her literary selections, considerably.

She read about Tibet (Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet, a book that grew on her gradually), and the deserts of Arabia (Arabian Sands) and about the fascinating city of Bombay (in Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City). She discovered a mysterious and wonderful place, Jim Harrison’s U.P. (Upper Michigan). She lived through the Holocaust (A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of World War II) and through the German occupation of Paris (Suite Francaise). She read what it was like to be a Filipino Poet in Exile (Zack’s The Filipino Poet in Exile Channels Montgomery Clift)

Without further ado, self’s favorite reads of the year:

The Vera Atkins book shattered self so much that even now she has a hard time pushing the images away. Same with Sebastian Barry’s World War I novel. No, in fact all of the aforementioned shattered her. In different ways.

Thank you, short-listed authors! Thank you for enlarging self’s emotions and imagination with your writerly skill!

Stay tuned.


Gloria, what do you have to say to this?

Shortly after Hillary Clinton’s visit, promising to aid the Philippines in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, a much more insidious home-grown terror has raised its head:  the entrenched provincial elite.

57 people were murdered in the southern Philippines a few days ago.

Among the 57 were 17 journalists.

Let’s say you took all the journalists active on the Peninsula, gathered them together in one place — say, on the pretext of having some Thanksgiving turkey — and then set loose a fusillade of bullets. At one stroke, everyone who wrote for the local papers, gone. If you were crazy enough, you might pat yourself on the back and say, That’s an end to those pesky writers!

Or, let’s say President Obama got really really mad at Fox News. So he got Bill O’Reilly and Glen Beck and various other Fox News reporters and invited them to come to Washington, and they all got on the same plane, and then in one fell swoop —

That is how awful the situation is/was.

Years ago, self wrote a story called “Mayor of the Roses,” about the evil mayor of Calauan who raped and murdered Mary Eileen Sarmenta.

Self heard he was released.  He was supposed to serve seven consecutive life terms.  That was the sentence handed to him by a courageous judge, Harriet Demetriou. Self got a copy of the judgement. It ran to almost 150 pages.

If it’s true and he was released (though rumour sprouts like weeds in the Philippine capital), then at the very least the judge should have protection.

Gloria, what do you have to say to this?

How to Brine (Damn) Thanksgiving Turkey

Just so dear blog readers know that self isn’t making this up, here are the directions on the bottle of Urban Accents Spiced Brine Blend! (V tells self she doesn’t actually need to brine for 24 hours! Oh thank God, thank God . . . )

Directions for Turkeys Up to 24 lbs:

Add brine blend to one gallon of vegetable stock (low sodium) and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Place the turkey in a brining bag or other large container and add liquid brine mixture. If necessary, add additional cold water so the entire turkey is submerged in the solution. Refrigerate overnight. Remove turkey and pat dry. Grill or roast to desired done-ness.

Self is practically smacking her lips, already visualizing the moment when she opens the oven door and beholds that perfectly brown, succulent oven-roasted brined bird.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Brining (Damn) Thanksgiving Turkey

This evening, while hubby and son were out walking the li’l crits, self took the opportunity to take a peek at the 16-lb. Diestel turkey, the sight of which has been causing her spirits to sink as if self were a passenger standing on the deck of the Titanic.

With no one around to see her clumsy maneuverings, she hauled that stiff carcass out of the fridge and thumped it into the sink.


Then, she began to prepare the brining solution.

Hmmm, let’s see, the instructions were to boil the brining ingredients in vegetable stock for five minutes. Then chill thoroughly for 24 hours.

24 hours!!!!

But tomorrow is Thanksgiving!

Ok, never mind, self dutifully began to boil the brining mix. Then she dealt with the turkey by cutting away its plastic wrapping. Its skin looked rather pimply and pink. Yuccch! Are all turkeys supposed to look this way? There were a few stray turkey feathers/ needles sticking out of the unholy carcass. Holding her nose, self removed these, gingerly.

Then, she read the instructions on the plastic wrapping.

Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity. Self reached a hand into that slimy hole and came up with something encased with plastic, which looked very much like liver. She tossed the whole into the sink. Thwack! But, peering into the vacated cavity, there seemed only the slightest cave — perhaps enough to squeeze maybe a cup of stuffing. She was quite stumped, so when that genius Stanford engineer also known as Hubby returned, she showed him the hole she had made by lifting out the liver and asked him what he thought.

“What? You want me to stick my hand into that yucchy thing?” hubby exclaimed (Self thought, charitably: He must be exhausted! From walking the li’l crits five blocks!)

“No, you don’t have to, I’ll do it,” self said bravely. “But can you tell me whether there’s anything left in there?”

“OK, hold it up so I can see better,” hubby instructed.

So self took hold of that slimy bird, and held it up (nearly cracking her back muscles as she did so), and hubby declared: “No, there’s nothing left.”

But what was that bony thing sticking out of one end?

Self started to tug and tug and tug. It looked so horrible, like someone’s spine. Self started thinking of Jeffery Deaver’s The Bone Collector and other fascinating readings of yore.

Then, because hubby was deep into flat-screen HDTV, self called out to son: Help! Help!
Read the rest of this entry »

Tuesday Before Thanksgiving (2009): NYTBR 15 November

“No matter how good they were, some memories deserve to be forgotten.”

    —  Gary Sinise (tonight’s episode of “CSI New York”)

Self doesn’t know how she can still find time to blog, when tomorrow is the day when she has to start brining that (damn) 16-lb. turkey, all so that son can tell his friends back in San Luis Obispo what a good cook his mom is! Bleaaah! Why did she ever etc etc etc

Anyhoo, tomorrow is tomorrow, and this evening is this evening, and here’s the short list of books self is interested in reading, after perusing the 15 November 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1. After reading Susan Cheever’s (rave) review of Mary Karr’s new memoir, Lit:

2. After reading Harold Bloom’s review of Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales:

  • Peter Ackroyd’s The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling

3. After reading Michael Greenberg’s review of Kay Redfield Jamison’s Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir:

  • Kay Redfield Jamison’s 1995 memoir, An Unquiet Mind
  • Kay Redfield Jamison’s Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir

4. After reading Clancy Martin’s review of Paul Auster’s Invisible:

  • Paul Auster’s Invisible

5. After reading Marilyn Stasio’s Crime Column:

  • Phoenix Noir, a collection of “noir” short stories edited by Patrick Millikin
  • Dial H for Murder, Susan Kandel’s latest mystery featuring amateur West Hollywood sleuth Cece Caruso
  • Derek Nikitas’ The Long Division (“At one point, we’re following three different cars on three different roads, each a vehicular stage where frantic parents and their miserable children can act out their sad fantasies.”)

The Good and the Really Really Bad

Lately, something has been keeping self up nights. Some vague worry, impossible to define.

No doubt it has something to do with Ying, who passed away September last year.

Self’s thoughts knot around this experience. Then, she says a little prayer: Let not a thing happen to son, because that would be beyond imagination. He has to drive 200 miles every time he visits. Please let nothing bad happen.

Now, self is watchful, expecting son to walk in the door at any moment. He was supposed to have arrived yesterday, but he could not get done all the things he needed to get done before leaving.

Then, self returned from the Writing Center (where she was besieged by students. But the last student she helped was so sweet, she gave self a Read the rest of this entry »

Weekend is Waning

It’s very dreary, inside the house.

Walked the li’l crits. It was cold and Bella, the older beagle, could barely keep up with Gracie. Whenever self saw a dog coming in the opposite direction, she would tug the two dogs to the side. Thank goodness, Gracie refrained from giving her usual foaming-at-the-mouth-let-me-just-make-like-I’m-a-Rottweiler rendition.

Today, self has no idea where her head is at. She’s been reading the same two pages of Mme. Precious Ramotswe’s latest adventure, Blue Shoes and Happiness, over and over. And over. Perhaps she just needs to give herself time to adjust to the new clime? The last mystery she finished, after all (Boris Akunin’s The Death of Achilles — four stars!) was set in 19th century Moscow, and here she is now in Botswana! And everyone knows how hot it is in Botswana, no question it’s way different from the chilly clime of Russia!

Went to the Honeybaked Ham store in Palo Alto (just north of San Antonio Road), and such was hubby’s panic at the thought of never being able to taste Honeybaked Ham again, that he bought an Read the rest of this entry »

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