Self Currently Reading: Will Self

Self is vastly interested in anything to do with India, as that will be her first destination of 2012, in January.  A former student invited her to visit, and since self feels a writer’s first duty is to experience new experiences, she accepted the invitation.

Several days ago, self began reading Will Self’s highly entertaining Psychogeography.  Self must admit, she didn’t know much about the book, and expected it to be one long account of how he walked from London (cheating a bit for a plane ride across the Atlantic) to New York.

He describes one part of the walk from JFK to Manhattan as “just so fucking dull.” BWAH HA HAAA!!!

It turns out that particular walk is only one of many.  On p. 83, self begins reading the essay, “The Holy City.” It begins:

I arrived in Varanasi by minibus, a stubby little eight-seater which clumped and bumped along the straight and rutted roads of Uttar Pradesh from the Nepalese border.

He hearkens back to an earlier trip, during which he “linked up with a Canadian Buddhist — the very worst kind.  He propped me on the handles of his Supercomet bike and pedalled us both down to the bathing ghats.  Downriver I could see smoke rising from the death barbecue:  long pig griddling for breakfast.”

Will Self (Self knows this post is three times as confusing as her usual, because why did that man have to choose the same last name as SELF?) finishes up with:

All this happened twenty years ago and I’d like to say that it seems like yesterday, but it doesn’t:  it seems like twenty years ago.  Now I’m an older, less adventurous and less stoned man.

This is very amusing.  Brother-in-law Richard informed self that one of Dear Departed Sister’s best friends was from the same province self will be visiting in January:  Bihar.

“It’s the poorest province in India,” brother-in-law told self yesterday.

“But I’ll be travelling with Her Royal Highness of Bihar,” self counters.

“They still practice purdah,” brother-in-law maintains.

This gives self pause, for about half a day.  Then she figures:  if the price of travelling with Her Royal Highness is wearing a big white cloth over her head, so be it!  Self has had to endure much worse things:  such as being stuck on a Negros Navigation ship from Manila to Bacolod, with the only available toilet down the hall, and loathsome.

Besides, self will be traveling in private car.  With the princess’ two younger sisters. That should provide enough material for at least 50 pages of vivid writing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

First Monday After Thanksgiving 2011

Bella, otherwise known as The Ancient One has become so spoiled on snacking on leftover steak and turkey that when self filled her dish with dry dog food this morning, she turned up her nose and refused to eat. Okey-dokey! No more kernels of popcorn or lamb-flavored biscuits for you, m’dear! Self adores you but she is not that crazy!

Self took son to the airport this morning. She thought his United Express flight left at 9, and she was sweating bullets on the 101, especially when traffic came to a dead stop in San Mateo. But only when she had exited the freeway did she learn that son’s flight actually left at 9:50 a.m. Ha ha ha! The joke’s on you, self!

Then the husband text-ed son that he had checked and son’s flight would be delayed “due to weather.” Oh, that wasn’t so good. Son has to make a 1 p.m. class in Claremont. But son was his usual unflappable self. “I’m sure the flight will leave on time,” he assures his falling-apart Mama.

Anyhoo, the jury’s still out on whether son is returning for Christmas. Everything hangs by a thread: she thinks she did all right, cooking wise. No, she most surely over-did it. Late last night, after son walked in, self kept trying to push apple dumplings, salami sandwiches, and what-not on him, and he finally ended up saying: “Mom, I am going to sleep soon. Stop trying to make me eat, OK?”

That’s what self appreciates so much about son: he is so direct with her! A true American!

Anyhoo, now that self has the house all to herself, she looks in the fridge and finds half of a meat loaf sandwich. And even though it isn’t even 10 a.m., she takes it and heats it in the toaster oven. Oooh, it’s on a roll of sourdough bread, and the cheese is grilled just right, and the meat loaf is — self! No wonder your jeans have been so tight lately!

As a distraction from eating, self begins to read a stack of back issues of The New York Times Book Review. This issue (of 13 November 2011) has reviews by Ligaya Mishan (pinay, self has known about her for ages), Liesl Schillinger (one of self’s all-time favorite reviewers) and Caroline Weber, author of What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. Now self is getting ready to settle on the couch and begin reading the reviews written by these three wondrous women writers, and the half of a meat loaf sandwich is right in front of her on the coffee table. She switches on the TV and sees a blonde and super-skinny Angelina Jolie snarling at a terrified and also super-skinny Winona Ryder. Oh! It’s “Girl, Interrupted!” Self’s Monday is sheer bliss.  She takes a huge bite of her meatloaf sandwich; her gaze is simultaneously directed downwards, to her feet.  The Ancient One’s warm, brown, liquid gaze has never been so intent and pleading.  But, IXNAY!  Bella, if you think your owner is going to part with even one morsel of this meltingly delicious cheese-and-meatloaf-on-sourdough-roll 1/2 sandwich, you are the most deluded pet in the entire United States!  No, in the entire planet!

And now, without further ado, here are the reviews self is clipping and saving from the NYTBR:

Ligaya Mishan’s review of Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words:  Apparently, it begins with an essay in humble self-criticism.  How very Confucian!  Self definitely wants to read this book.

Liesl Schillinger’s review of Julian Bond’s Booker-Award-winning 14th novel, The Sense of an Ending:  Not only does Schillinger’s review end up making her want to read this novel, it also makes her want to read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Philip Larkin’s Jill.

Caroline Weber’s review of Caroline Moorehead’s A Train in Winter:  An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

Finally, on the very last page, the one reserved for guest essays, self reads Leah Price’s “The Subconscious Shelf.”  Oh, she loves, loves, loves this essay.  After finishing the essay, self decides she simply must read French gastronome Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

New Letters, the “Power” Issue (Vol. 77 No. 2/ 2011)

So it’s the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.  The leftover turkey and prime rib are still on the kitchen counter because there is simply no more room in the fridge.  Self is beginning to think about the morrow:  dropping son off at the airport, then seeing a dentist.  In between, she plans to stop by the post office and mail out a couple of stories.

To get her mind back into writing mode, self looks through her stack of literary journals.  She selects one journal at random:  New Letters.

She hasn’t read an issue in so long.  This one has the winners of their annual poetry and fiction prizes.

Self turns first to the winner in poetry:  a new name, someone named Josephine Yu.  Self deliberately avoids turning to the author’s bio because she doesn’t want to be sitting here, late at night on a Sunday, the kitchen still a mess, and read about a 27-year-old or even a 37-year-old whose luck has suddenly turned, whose years of apprenticeship to the writing muse have suddenly paid off, who has — oh, just quit it, self.

She turns to the first poem, “The Optimist’s Birthday,” and reads:

Tomorrow they begin the year when everything they’ve wanted
will finally happen.


Self really loves those words!

Here’s a little more:

They’re already forgetting
the accumulated grievances. Regret rises from them
like shower steam.

(Son just walked in the door)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Thanksgiving (2011) Post

And now, let us give thanks for:

  • children (Self has a wonderful son, dear blog readers!)

Thoughts on the year about to end:

2011 was the year when Manang Nena, the bravest, kindest soul self has known, the one who started self on the Bacolod odyssey, passed away.  Also the year when self lost Gracie.  But also the year when self got her novella accepted for publication (next year).  Also when she got pieces published in:

  • Our Own Voice
  • Storysouth
  • The Writing Disorder

And when she got pieces accepted by:  the Asian American Literary Review, Wigleaf, Prism International, Phoebe and Used Furniture Review

And when self started writing science fiction in earnest (“Computational Outcomes,” “Thing,” and many other short pieces)

And when she started getting to know Bacolod.  She saw Kanlaon up close.  She went to Mambucal (Thanks, dearest cousins, for taking her!).  She saw the La Carlota Sugar Central, once in July and again in September.  She went to Don Salvador Benedicto.  She went to Victorias.  She went on her first RORO ride (to Iloilo).  And she learned what “ratoon” is.

And she discovered Antonio Muñoz Molina.  And Bernhard Schlink.  And Edith Wharton.  And Alan Moorehead.  And Patrick Leigh Fermor.  Karin Fossum became self’s new Scandinavian mystery writer of choice (Self loved Fossum’s The Indian Bride)

In May, self flew to New York to watch a play by fellow Stanford Creative Writing Program fellow Penny Jackson.  And it was a very, very good play.  In addition, self got nephew William (who’s now in medical school in Washington University in St. Louis) to accompany her to the Smyth Hotel for Penny’s birthday party.

She saw dear good friends, in Manila and elsewhere.

She met a niece at the Ferry Building.

She loves The Ancient One, who is the best 16-year-old beagle in the entire world.

She signed books at the Manila International Book Festival, in September, and bumped into Charles Tan.

She finally visited the Science Fiction bookstore, Borderlands, which Niece G had been telling her about for ages.

She saw more of Zack, Liza Erpelo, and Lillian.

She started having regular lunches with her old friend, the Program Administrator at Stanford’s East Asian Studies department.

She wrote more on that World War II novel (set in Bacolod).

The apple tree bore a delicious harvest.

She felt quite shaken by the passing of Steve Jobs.

She celebrated her birthday with cousins in Bacolod.

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 came and went.  Self was in Bacolod.  It barely registered, there.  (The world seems far away, in Bacolod.  That is why she loves it so)

And here are the movies self watched this year that she particularly loved:

  • 50/50 and Joseph Gordon-Levitt had self crying buckets.
  • Cary Fukunaga brought sexy back to Jane Eyre.
  • Biutiful soared because of Javier Bardem.
  • Horrible Bosses had self laughing from beginning to end.
  • Margin Call was all about Zach Quinto, and besides self got to see brother-in-law for three seconds, towards the end of the movie.
  • Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris made self notice Owen Wilson’s shambling walk. 
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes had a strong, beating heart, thanks to James Franco, John Lithgow, Tom Felton (making the leap from Harry Potter to playing American:  congrats, Tom!) and Freida Pinto.  And let’s not forget Caesar the ape!  This was self’s favorite summer movie after Midnight in Paris.
  • The Debt showed that Sam Worthington can do drama.
  • Take Shelter made self realize that Jessica Chastain is quite an actress.  And Michael Shannon was very good, too.

On TV, there was Mads Mikkelsen in “Valhalla Rising.”  There was more deliciousness from “The Good Wife.” Earlier in the year, there was “Justified Season 2.”  Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live had self laughing all year.  Self caught several episodes of “Game of Thrones” while in L’Fisher Chalet!  It looked fantastic.

She heard from Hawthornden!  After over a year!  And they extended to self an invitation to come sometime in 2012.  Which is a really spectacular development, dear blog readers.

So many things to be thankful for, really!

Stay tuned.

Tuesday Before Thanksgiving 2011: Gracie’s Delectables and “Valhalla Rising”

Self went into Gracie’s Delectables on Laurel Street in San Carlos and for the first time ordered a whole pie. A lemon meringue pie. Like she has room for even just one more thing in the fridge!

She was going to have prime rib for Thanksgiving, instead of turkey. Then hubby came home with a Safeway gift certificate from his office. So she went to Safeway yesterday and began feeling around in the frozen turkey bin. She found the smallest Butterball turkey, it was only around $17, and she hauled it into her cart, then saw a lot of people milling around another bin, and she saw that those turkeys were Safeway Select “Fresh, Never Frozen,” and when she pressed cold fingers against the turkey, the flesh did have lots of give. So she hauled the Butterball out of the cart and put the “Fresh, Never Frozen” turkey in. When she got home, she wondered how she was going to cook this turkey, when the prime rib and the turkey have completely different oven temperatures, and self has only one oven. Oh well!

Self wonders how she is going to get through four days of eating. Son is coming, but he will be out a lot, so it will most likely be just hubby and self eating an enormous prime rib and a turkey. And there’s that lemon meringue pie . . .

The house is cold. Actually, it’s been cold for weeks. Since self got back from Bacolod in October. It’s a different kind of cold: a chill. It will be The Ancient One’s last winter, she knows. She dresses the poor ol’ crit in tweed sweaters (Did dear blog readers know that Bow Wow Meow in San Carlos sells the most wonderful warm knit sweaters for dogs? Bella loooves hers. Since self put it on her a week ago, she’s been wagging her tail 50% more. Self will have to wash it, at some point. She should get a spare.)

When hubby came home from the office, he wasn’t as interested in Monday night football.  Instead, he switched to IFC which was showing a bloody epic called “Valhalla Rising” or “Raising Valhalla” or something like that, whose one-eyed hero is called “One Eye” (didn’t fool self one bit —  This is Mads Mikkelsen, a Scandinavian actor whose one milky eye shed blood, in the first Daniel Craig James Bond movie, “Casino Royale”).  In “Valhalla,” he doesn’t utter one word.  He wears his dirty blonde hair in a topknot and goes rampaging over the Icelandic (or are those Scottish) fjords on a revenge quest that involves many, many gruesome killings.  Hubby and self finished watching Part 1, but there was a Part 2 (“The Silent Warrior”) in which One Eye has apparently decided to join the Crusades.  Alas, on the voyage to Jersualem the ship is overtaken by a great, unholy mist, in which there are many signal opportunities for One Eye’s comrades-at-arms to kill him, but our hero is always too quick for them, even though he has only one friend, a blonde boy about 12 who, needless to say, is useless in a fight.

But now self decides she’d better get dressed because she needs paper towels (You have no idea how many paper towels you need when ministering to an incontinent dog, dear blog readers) and maybe she will drop by a nursery and buy some poinsettias.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Apple Tree, Lantern: Side Yard, November 2011

Soon, the branches of the apple tree will be bare.

Apple Tree in Side Yard

More of the Apple Tree, Without the Lanterns

How can one Read the rest of this entry »

Mickey Rourke Interview With Piers Morgan

Mickey Rourke on television, being interviewed by Piers Morgan (Is that really the guy’s name, why does self think she is mixing it up with some bank?)

Mickey looked like he had cleaned up quite a bit, he was in a brown jacket, with no discernible facial hair (except for the hair on top of his head).  Pierce asked him about his role in the new movie “Immortals,” which self quite liked (notwithstanding the fact that Eric D. Snider only gave it a “C”) Mickey said he had been very eager to work with the director, Tamranh Sing, and mentioned seeing a few “commercials,” which surprised self, because she hasn’t heard of anyone trying to woo a star like Mickey by showing him the work you do on commercials.

When Piers brought up the book by former model and former Mickey-wife Carree Otis, he uttered swear (bleep!) swear (bleep!)  Self remembers one word:  Narcissistic.  Basically, she was a money-grabbing b—-

Mickey’s next film is about a well-known Welsh soccer player who recently came out of the closet.  Well, apparently, they’re shooting a movie of the soccer player right now, and his role will be played by Mickey.

After parrying questions and mostly keeping his cool, self began to think that there was really nothing wrong with the Rourke brain matter.  Though sometimes she wondered how Piers could keep that grin pasted on his face.  Once Piers said, “We have to cut for a few minutes, cool things down a bit.”  Ha ha ha!  Was he expecting Mickey to belt him one?  Self thought Mickey was pretty funny.  No sooner did Piers say “Thank you” than Mickey immediately turned his back on the interviewer.  The look on his face was something like:  Get me the f___ out of here!

The clip ended before the camera could show Mickey actually stalking off.

They showed a brief clip from the movie “Immortals,” which, in retrospect, self is beginning to like more and more.  Unfortunately, the clip that was shown was from the lamest imaginable scene:  3/4 of it, Mickey is wearing a mask, and not even the cool one with sharp teeth surrounding his face.  Anyhoo, Theseus comes out and they have some sort of a parlay (or harsh exchange of words), and then Mickey very slowly removes his mask so that the whole audience can go:  IT IS HE!  Then, unbelievably, the clip ends.

The next Piers Morgan guest was Heidi Klum, and she was all about praising Piers and telling him how good he looked.  (Every time self has to type “Piers Morgan,” she thinks this has GOT to be the name of a bank!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Self’s Reading Year (2011)

Best Nonfiction:

  • Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire by Judith Thurman
  • Legacy of Ashes:  The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

Best Memoirs:

  • Body of Work:  Meditations on Mortality From the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montrose
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Best Mystery:

  • The Indian Bride by Karin Fossum

Best Novels:

  • Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • Sepharad by Antonio Muñoz Molina
  • The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Self cried buckets at the ending)

Best Travel Books:

  • Marco Polo:  From Venice to Xanadu by Laurence Bergreen
  • A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (who died this year)
  • The White Nile by Alan Moorehead

The “Favorite Fonts” Post

It is still Saturday afternoon.  It’s still two more hours till the start of the Big Game.  Fall afternoons can move so slowly.

But self is nothing if not committed to finding stuff to obsess over.  Right now, that happens to be word processing fonts.

Self thought it would be interesting to list all the ones she’s used in the past year.  She hates fancy, curlicued fonts, but she adores clean, spare ones, like Arial.  Or its close relation, Arial Narrow.

She also loves Arial Unicode MS.

She doesn’t like Ayuthaya.

If she’s writing a more conventional short story, she’ll choose an old-fashioned font like Baskerville.  Or Baskerville Old Face (Honestly, she can barely distinguish between these two)

Or Bell MT.  Or Big Caslon.

Big Caslon is possibly her favorite among all these “old-timey” fonts.

She also really likes Book Antiqua (In contrast, Bookman Old Style seems a little too — squat).  And Calisto MT.  And Cambria.  Or Century Schoolbook.  Or Constantia.

Calibri is for when self writes science fiction (Don’t ask why).

Candara is when she wants to project modernity 🙂

Century is a somewhat fatter “old-timey” font.

Cochin is beautiful.  A wee bit spider-y, but acceptable.

She’ll only use Century Gothic if she doesn’t care about postage.  But she finds its letters too fat.  Euphemia UCAS is way better.

She’ll never use Chalkboard either:  it projects playfulness, and she wants to be taken seriously for her writing.  She wants to appear like a very serious, very committed writer.

Colonna MT is faint, like scratches on stone.  Didot is better.

Corbel is perfect for her science fiction.

Courier is for when she wants to pretend she’s a reporter.

Footlight MT Light is way, waaay too ornate.

Franklin Gothic Book is, right now, one of her favorites.  As is Gill Sans.  Or Gill Sans MT.  Or Lucida Grande.  Or Lucida Sans.  Or Lucida Sans Unicode.  Or MS Reference Sans Serif.  Or News Gothic MT.  Or Thonburi.  Or Trebuchet MS.  Or Lucida Grande CE.  Or Hei.  Or Hiragino Sans GB.  These fonts are what self considers “flexible.”  OK for science fiction, domestic drama, experimental prose poetry, or traditional short story.  Maybe, even, for a novel.

Futura looks too unconventional.

Geneva looks a little babyish.

But Georgia is OK.

Helvetica is all-purpose but not, right now, one of her favorites.

InaiMathi doesn’t seem to make enough of a statement.

Lucida Bright is really big (but not as big or annoying as Century Gothic)

Lucida Fax is pretty good.

Menlo is also pretty big, but somehow she doesn’t find it as annoying as Century Gothic.

She likes Microsoft Sans Serif.  Very much.  She’ll try and use it more.

She’s on the fence about Modern No. 20.

Optima is swell.

Palatino is pretty but boring.  Like an above-average cheerleader.

Perpetua is tiny, tiny, tiny (Was there a saint named Perpetua, or is self in the throes of another hallucination?)

Plantagenet Cherokee is worth a story or two.  Or three.

Rockwell and Sathu are a little too declamatory.

Skia is fun.  If self were really Henning Mankell, she would use this font all the time.

Tahoma used to be a favorite.  Not anymore.  Don’t take it personally.

She will never use Times or Times New Roman unless she wants to die of boredom.  She can’t understand why so many journals specify, in their Writer’s Guidelines, that the submission should be in Times or Times New Roman.

Tw Cen MT is too soon to tell.

Verdana is a better, tighter version of Century Gothic.  She still sometimes uses it.  Would you believe, there were years when self rarely used anything else?

The worst font, the one she urges aspiring writers to never, ever use, is Zapfino.  It’s got so many fancy curlicues, it’s as if you’re trying to be George Washington.  And you can only squeeze in about a dozen words per page.

And Kai, though self can’t remember ever using it, is beautiful. Not only that, self loves the sound of the word Kai.

AppleMyungjo is very nice.

Self believes she’s used up almost an hour, just listing all these fonts.  Now, that’s resourcefulness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, Mid-Afternoon, November 2011

Waiting for the Big Game to start.

Self made chicken curry so that she doesn’t have to worry about dinner.

Hubby took the The Ancient One out for a walk.  Poor ol’ crit, she hides now under the dining room table, as if seeking darkness.

It’s been rainy and cold.

The grass is getting long.

But the sun came out, mid-afternoon.

The fig tree’s going to shed all its leaves, very soon.

Stay tuned.

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