Prompted by Previews of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close”

While self was waiting for “Justified” Season 3, Episode 1 to come on, she caught the preview of a movie called “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close,” which has Tom Hanks playing a father who is caught in his office in one of the towers, on that terrible day.

It so happens that self is on a closet-cleaning binge.  At the back of one of her closet drawers, she found newspapers from that week: The New York Times of Sept. 12, Sept. 13, and Sept. 14. She uncreased the folds, and contemplated.

A month ago, she tried to write a story about 9/11, the same story she’s been trying to write for 10 years. She finally chopped it to four pages and sent it out. She happened to send it to Wigleaf, together with “Stonehenge/Pacifica,” and they chose the latter piece. But self still has hope that the other piece will find a home. It’s called “Wavering,” and it’s about a man whose wife saved his life that day, but not in the way you’d expect.

So, she takes a look at the Poets & Writers magazine, the one with Joan Didion on the cover. P & W calls her “America’s Most Resilient Writer.” Self wonders whether Didion herself would appreciate the appellation. Why “Most Resilient”? Why not just “The Best”? But perhaps it is a tribute, to be a “resilient” writer. Self supposes it must be, for writing is a tough, tough business. For every “Writer Under 40” who gets into The New Yorker, there are thousands, thousands who end up being lawyers, program assistants, nurses, teachers.

Self remarked to the husband, after watching the preview of “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” :  “Of all the places in the world that the terrorists could have chosen for their strike, they ended up choosing the one city that probably has more writers per square foot than any other city in the world.”

Is it chance? Fate? Who knows. That one event has spawned circles and concentric circles of angst, despair, neurosis that will last decades. Perhaps, even, centuries.

Self has read some good 9/11 writing (And some really terrible 9/11 writing). Among the good, Claire Messud’s novel, The Emperor’s Children. As well as Will Self’s short essay in his collection, Psychogeography. As well as Colum McCann’s short piece, “Dessert,” in The New Yorker issue that commemmorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  McCann’s essay and the nonfiction book 102 Mintues:  The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers have touched her more than anything.

Here, in Poets & Writers, are some more 9/11 literature, recommended by a Pennsylvania reader who wrote a Letter to the Editor:

  • Rebecca McClanahan’s “And We Shall Be Changed:  New York City, September 2001” (Kenyon Review, Summer/Fall 2003)
  • Donald Morrill’s The Untouched Minutes, a memoir “written almost exclusively in the third person” (University of Nebraska Press, 2004)
  • David Foster Wallace’s “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s,” an essay in the Oct. 25, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone
  • Mary Cappello’s “Moscow 9/11” in Raritan, Summer 2002
  • Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon Books, 2004)

A Translation from the Chinese of Mao Dun’s “The Little Witch”

Mao Dun was one of self’s favorite writers.  She decided to translate his long story, “The Little Witch,” for an Asian Languages class at Stanford.  It was the only translation which earned her an “A,”  in her entire time in the East Asian Studies Program.  Here’s one section that has absolutely no suggested edits from her professor, not even a word crossed out:

The old lady on the first floor threw down the furniture and shouted:

“One reaps what he sows!  Offend the Sun Bodhisattva:  It’s all the fault of that worthless thing:  when she entered the door that day, I knew it wasn’t a good sign!  What’s the use of calling a doctor, it would be better to kill her.  Kill her!”

When the sun had risen overhead, the townspeople were all talking excitedly about the dangerous robbers.  The chamber of commerce made a long-distance telephone call to the county, saying that the director of the Bureau of Public Security, in “seizing the robbers,” had been killed, and that the head of the local militia, in “assisting the arrest,” had also received a serious wound.

Now, if you were to place a sheet of Mandarin in front of self, and tell her to tell you what it meant, she would not be able to do it.  But back then — !  Well, that was a different story.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Some Things You Might Not Know About Self

  • She once, years ago, sat next to Kaui Hart Hemmings (author of the book on which Alexander Payne’s The Descendants was based) on a plane returning from an AWP Conference.
  • There is a book called Hello My Big Big Honey on self’s desk, next to her computer.
  • She just changed her password.
  • She can watch back-to-back airings of Bourne movies on cable TV.
  • She used to get very airsick.
  • She has a subscription to Condé Nast’s Traveler magazine.  And loves reading Vanity Fair.
  • She has tickets to the Stanford vs. Oregon State men’s basketball game.
  • She once tried to join a gym.  She let her membership expire after three months.
  • Her washing machine is, at this moment, filled to the brim with the remnants of an exploded goose down pillow.
  • Her house hasn’t been painted in 20 years.
  • She hasn’t mopped her kitchen floor in xx number of weeks.
  • She has just eaten a hard-boiled egg (supper).
  • Actors she likes:  Matt Damon, Colin Firth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Tommy Lee Jones, Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, Sam Worthington
  • Actresses she likes:  Kate Beckinsale, Moon Bloodgood, Juliana Margulies, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Meryl Streep, Mia Wasikowska, Naomi Watts
  • Her favorite movie of 2011 was “Mission Impossible:  Ghost Protocol” (Alas!  Too true!)  A runner-up might be “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
  • She has bought three Apple products in the past few months.
  • She likes reading biographies, memoirs, and war histories more than she enjoys reading fiction.
  • She skimmed through Crime and Punishment — twice.
  • She has read Tacitus.
  • She has written a fantastic story about pig babies that she is trying strenuously to place.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Justified” Season 3, Episode 1

“Boyd, I’ve been to Mexico, and I don’t think you’d like it.”

“How’s that?”

“There’re a lot of Mexicans.”

He’s back! Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is back!

You didn’t seriously think self would forget, did ya, dear blog readers? Why do you think self is typing this on her laptop (Operating System: Jurassic Period, which means she doesn’t see all the tags) while positioned on the couch facing HDTV?  The husband has beat a hasty retreat to the bedroom, The Ancient One is curled uncomplaining on her bed in the kitchen, and the dinner dishes are still in the sink.  Amazing how the pain in self’s right shoulder, that had been plaguing her all day, mysteriously vanished at the first sight of Timothy Olyphant wearing the white Stetson!

There are a few shows that bring self back week after week:  One was “Rome.”  Another was “Battlestar Galactica.”  But, alas, both those shows have long since ended.  Now, however, self has “Justified!”  Self could hardly wait for Season 3, which premiered tonight.

It seems there are several new malingerers this Season, chief among them being that guy with the tremendous blue eyes who was in “Minority Report,” Neal McDonough. He is not, however, the most magnetic Bad Guy. That honor goes to a man who looks, at first sight, fairly nondescript, even brain-damaged, like a scrawny Jim Caveziel (which is not to suggest that self — in any way — thinks that Jim Caveziel appears brain damaged, in fact he is gorgeous, but — now, where was she?)

Back to the matter at hand:

The scrawny JC is sitting on a couch in someone’s office, doing a great impersonation of the wallpaper. Over the course of this episode, however, he assumes tremendous definition. The best scene in this episode, in self’s humble opinion, belongs to a face-off between him and Raylan (This show is carving a niche as the go-to television show for face-off dialogue).

Wynn Duffy (guy with the pointy eyebrows from last season) is back, bringing his Spock-like gravitas (“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to watching women’s tennis.”)

Ava looks fresh and perky (Self feared for her at the end of last season, not because she was shot — self was sure she would survive the injury — but because she was starting to seem a wee bit bedraggled) But she has made a startling recovery and when she showed up (appropriately enough, driving a truck) it was like a breath of fresh air! She was wearing something orange, a short skirt, and brown boots. Great outfit, Ava!

Winona seems a little more earthy — self likes her marginally better. Especially in a scene where she is seated on a bed (Black seems to suit her, it makes her look not just thin, but thin and tragic), and has to look mutely at Raylan with big, helpless, melting eyes.

Jacob Pitts’ first appearance is not, at first, the Grand Entrance self was hoping for (as he is so cute). That is, she had to take a moment to get used to his new hairstyle (brushed straight up off his forehead?). But as he was allowed to have an extended conversation (and two scenes), as opposed to just a few throw-away lines here and there, his cute-ness emerged, finally. By his last spoken line, self was sure Pitts had carved out a secure niche for the rest of the season (at least, self sincerely hopes so).

And Nick Searcy, playing Raylan’s boss —  of course self loves Nick Searcy.  An episode of “Justified” can never have too much of Nick Searcy’s self-deprecating, sardonic delivery.

Self wishes she could deliver spoilers, but feels it would be best to restrain herself for now. All she’ll say is, she stuck around for the scenes from next week’s episode, and it seems (Holy Cow!) that Carla Gugino is putting in an appearance (Seriously, this is a very under-rated actress, and quite a scorcher: Self saw her at Chicago’s Goodman, in a spiced-up staging of “Desire Under the Elms,” which featured music by Bob Dylan, great big boulders, an elm of course, an unforgettable naked scene from Pablo Schreiber, and sex) There was a brief clip of Ms. Gugino wearing a bright red blouse, then a cut to Winona looking pissed. Holy way to shake up Winona 🙂

Self unfortunately has to miss Episode 3, as she will be traveling in the mountains of India north of Delhi (Mrinalini assures her it will be cold. The husband never tires of telling self how crazy it is to have picked this time of year to visit India, and moreover to have picked such a destination, mountain towns that no one has ever heard of — no one of our acquaintance except for the people living in India, that is). But she arrives just in time to catch Episode 4, and will faithfully post every week thereafter (until she leaves for her next trip).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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