Conde Nast Traveler’s “Hot List”, 2012

Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List of the Best Hotels in the World appears each May (Self has subscriptions to eveeery magazine in the wide wide world!  No wonder, every time she goes on a trip, the stack of magazines awaiting her perusal is almost two feet high!)

Just for fun, self decided to look at the “Hot List” for England.  Also for fun, she decided to see how much a room would cost, this summer.  Just in case she feels like gallivanting around London after her Edinburgh sojourn.

Here are the results of an assiduous half-hour spent scouring TripAdvisor.  All the hotels are in London (except for one, The Pig, which is in Hampshire):

  • The Pig:  Self couldn’t find any reviews on-line.  She did discover that there exists a Pig Veterinary Society (in the UK), which “aims to bring together the needs of all parties who produce and consume food, while guarding, above all else, the individual needs of the pig,” and publishes The Pig Journal every May and November.  Maybe she didn’t look hard enough.  She might try again later tonight.  But she confesses to feeling burning desire to get her hands on a copy of The Pig Journal.
  • Corinthia Hotel:  Average nightly rate:  $1,049
  • Eccleston Square Hotel:  Prices start at $365.97 (for a double room, according to Travelocity)
  • St. Ermin’s Hotel:  Average nightly rate:  $323 (according to Travelocity)
  • 45 Park Lane:  Average nightly rate:  $1,085
  • St. Pancras Renaissance:  Average nightly rate:  $713 (according to Travelocity)
  • Zetter Townhouse:  Average nightly rate:  $384 (according to the Tablet Hotels website)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR, 6 May 2012

Sigh.  Self will never get caught up with the NYTBR.  She’s leaving soon for Scotland!!!

(She’s bringing her laptop and her iPad, fear not, dear blog readers.  She might be reduced to blogging every couple of days instead of several times a day, but she will blog.  Not about her fellow artists, of course, that would be a serious violation of their privacy, but she is sure she will have plenty to say about the scenery)

Now to the NYTBR.  There is a very interesting review of The Passage of Power:  The Years of Lyndon Johnson, fourth in a series on LBJ by Robert Caro. (Self gulps:  Who can conceivably devote so many books to studying just one man’s life?)  This volume spans just five years, but they are tumultuous ones:  the narrative begins just before the 1960 presidential elections, and ends a few months after the Kennedy assassination.  Even more interesting:  the review was written by Bill Clinton.  Yes, Bill Clinton, the erstwhile president.  The man is a constant source of surprise.  And now she feels real affection for him because, wasn’t he the last President to come up with a balanced budget?  Or, didn’t the U.S. at that time have a surplus of something like a trillion dollars?

Anyhoo, self always reads the NYTBR Letters to the Editor.  She always gleans such interesting nuggets of information from them.  Below is an amusing letter from a reader in Iowa City:

Andrew Delbanco, in his review of Marilynne Robinson’s new essay collection, When I Was a Child I Read Books (April 22), writes that she “grew up in Idaho and now lives in Iowa — places where, as she puts it . . . ‘lonesome’ is a word with strongly positive connotations.”

The essay he’s quoting is very explicitly a meditation on the American West, to which Iowa cannot be said to belong.  His lumping together of two states separated by more than a thousand miles is surprising for a scholar of American studies but completely typical of the coast-centric insularity whose extent I’ve realized recently in moving to Iowa from Maryland.

Well put, oh dear NYTBR reader Jacob P from Iowa City!

Stay tuned.

Memorial Day: Reading “War, Literature and the Arts”

This past weekend, the History Channel showed a number of war documentaries.   Yesterday, self finally got to watch Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima.  She had refused to see it when it was showing in theaters, out of some vague, unfocused sense of loyalty to the husband, whose grandfather, a brigadier general in the Philippine Army, was taken from his family by the Japanese and never returned.

But, darn if she didn’t find herself so absolutely moved by the film.  In fact, she told the husband, she was more affected by that movie than she was by Saving Private Ryan.

Self is on the War, Literature & the Arts e-mail list, and this evening there was a message in her “in” box about a new post.  So she eagerly went to read it, and it was absolutely fascinating.  James Moad II, who edits the blog, used to teach in the Air Force Academy.  Self thinks he is very brave.  He writes, “Of course, war is not moral, and maybe that’s the tragedy of it all for those who have to fight.”

He recounts a time when he was still teaching in the Air Force Academy, and he got a call from a concerned parent whose daughter was experiencing nightmares after reading one of the books Moad had assigned in his War Literature course.  The book was called Tiger Force and dealt with American atrocities in Vietnam.  Self has read quite extensively about American atrocities in Vietnam, and can certainly see why a young person might suffer nightmares after readings like that, but Moad reminds his readers that the student was enrolled in a Military Academy, after all.

Moad (in passsing) mentions “the anger of Odysseus upon his return home in The Odyssey” (which reminds self very much of the anger of returning Vietnam War veterans, whose sacrifices went largely un-recognized), and about Plato’s The Cave (“about how focusing on moral certainty can keep us from seeing reality”) and it’s just a really great essay, which reminds self that she took son and Niece G on a tour of Corregidor when they were about seven or eight years old.  That was a great tour.  The guide seemed to speak with such passion about the events of a long-ago time.  The tour ends at a memorial, on a bluff overlooking the sea.  And what self remembers most clearly were that there were a few very old American veterans on the tour.  At that memorial, they all broke off to stand singly, and stared out at the sea, and some were visibly weeping.

And self thinks that every returning Filipino must be required to take this tour.  But why leave out the rest?  Let’s just say, every Filipino who is in high school or college in the Philippines, must be required by their schools to take the Corregidor tour.  If Israel can require its citizens to spend time on a kibbutz (or the Israeli army), certainly the Philippine government can require its people to honor the sacrifices made on Corregidor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

And the Doctor Will See You Now . . .

Self has been a voracious consumer of writing by doctors, for over two decades.

For a while, her short story, “Lenox Hill, December 1991” (published in the first Charlie Chan is Dead anthology) was taught in a Pennsylvania medical school, in an “Ethics of Medicine” class.  It wasn’t really a short story, self will admit right now.  It was memoir.  It was about her sister.

Now, she is reading the latest in a long line of fascinating books that began with Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die, and included books by Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, Abraham Verghese (many of whose writings she first encountered in The New Yorker) and Stanford psychiatrist Irwin Yalom.  The last such book she read (before How Doctors Think) was Christine Montross’s Body of Work:  Meditations on Mortality From the Human Anatomy Lab, which was one of her favorite reads of last year.  She liked the Montross book so much, she even recommended it to her nephew William, Dear Departed Sister’s second child, who’s now in medical school in Washington University in St. Louis.

And now she’s reading Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think.  And she simply can’t put it down.

In the section self just finished reading, a middle-aged single woman named Rachel decides to go the solo mothering route and adopts a baby from Vietnam.  The baby was supposed to have been “released” at six months, but two months before Rachel was expecting to fly to Vietnam, she received a call that the adoption had been expedited, and she could pick up the baby in July.

Rachel arrived at the hospital in Vietnam, and was momentarily confused because the baby she was shown was much thinner than in the photographs she had been receiving.  She was so overjoyed, however, that she didn’t question the hospital staff, and took the baby back with her to the United States.

On the flight home, the baby hardly slept, and hardly sucked.  Rachel was fortunate that she had a relative who was a pediatrician, and she asked for advice.  The relative said it sounded as if the baby was dangerously dehydrated.  “Take her to an emergency room right now,” the relative advised Rachel.

And this was the beginning of a long, long excruciating journey in which the baby’s mouth was discovered to be covered in fungus, which was spreading, and that her lungs were clotted with pneumonia virus.  And the woman Rachel absolutely never gave up.  Then, shortly after dawn on September 11, 2001 —

Yes, you read right, dear blog readers.  Shortly after dawn on September 11, 2001, the latest tests on the baby showed her to be at last free of infection!

And Rachel was so overwhelmed with joy that she decided to share the news with a member of her church, and called her from a payphone in the hospital.  The woman seemed to hesitate and then told Rachel:  “Turn on your TV.”


Rachel brought her baby daughter home, 45 days later.  This story, at least, has a happy ending.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“If the Only Tool You Have is a Hammer . . . “

from an Amazon reader’s review of Jerome Groopman’s How Doctors Think (which self started reading a few days ago, and which she is, so far, loving):

Clinicians bring a bundle of pre-conceived ideas to the table every time they see a patient.  If they have just seen someone with gastric reflux, they are more likely to think that the next patient with similar symptoms has the same thing, and miss his heart disease.  And woe betides the person who has become the “authority” on a particular illness:  everyone coming through his or her door will have some weird variant of the disease.  As Abraham Maslow once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”


Prize:  $2,000 and publication by Anhinga Press (Do not send manuscripts here; This prize is administered by California State University at Fresno.  See information below)

Final Judge:  Cornelius Eady

Postmark Deadline:  9/30/2012

Previous Judges:  Denise Duhamel, Brian Turner, Garrett Hongo, Dorianne Laux, C. G. Hanzlicek, Corrinne Clegg Hales, Philip Levine

Previous Winners:  Ariana Nadia Nash, Lory Bedikian, Sarah Wetzel, Shane Seeley, Neil Aitken, Lynn Chandhok, Roxane Beth Johnson, Steve Gehrke, Fleda Brown

About Final Judge Cornelius Eady:  He was born in Rochester, New York and is the author of the poetry collections Hardheaded Weather, nominated for an NAACP Image Award; Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, winner of the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The Gathering of My Name, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and many other books.  With poet Toi Derricote, he is co-founder of Cave Canem, a national organization for African American poetry and poets.

2012 Contest Guidelines:

Manuscript should be original poetry, not previously published in book form, 48- 100 pages, no more than one poem per page.  Include two manuscript title pages:  one with name and contact information, and one with the name of the manuscript ONLY.  Manuscripts are screened and judged anonymously.  Multiple submissions are fine as long as the manuscript is withdrawn immediately upon its acceptance elsewhere.  The entry fee is $25.  Checks should be made out to “Fresno State (Levine Prize).”  Poets can submit more than one manuscript, but each will be considered a separate entry and must be accompanied by the $25 fee.  Online payments can be made via credit or debit card.  Please note, online entry fee is $25 plus an additional $3.38 service charge. (Here’s the link to CSU-Fresno’s contest announcement)

Mail entries to:

Philip Levine Prize in Poetry
Department of English
Mail Stop PB 98
5245 N. Backer Ave.
California State University, Fresno
Fresno, CA 93740 – 8001

Women’s Review of Books, vol. 29, no. 2: March/April 2012

When self settles down to start reading an issue of the Women’s Review of Books, she doesn’t just read:  she luxuriates.

Here are a few reasons why:

“Poverty, Gospel, Revolution,” a review by Martha Gies of The Journey of a Tzotzil-Maya Woman of Chiapas, Mexico:  Pass Well Over the Earth (University of Texas Press) by Christine Eber and “Antonia”

As a doctoral candidate in 1985, “Christine Eber made the first of a half dozen trips to Chiapas, Mexico to do fieldwork on her dissertation on the use of alcohol by Tzotzil Maya women . . .  When tourists went, it was to contemplate the glories of postclassical Maya architecture at Palenque’s well-manicured grounds or to brave the Lacandon rainforest’s steaming heat and buzzing insects for a glimpse of mysteriously beautiful archaeological sites of Yaxchilan or Bonampak.”  (Because self has read Rosario Castellanos, she knows the anguish of Chiapas.  Seven years after her first visit to Chiapas, Christine Eber interviews “Antonia,” one of the Tzotzil women she has befriended.  This book is Antonia’s story)

“The Index of the Mind,” a review by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell of The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America, by Kate Haulman (University of North Carolina Press)

The review begins:  “In eighteenth-century America, where not even the elite had extensive wardrobes, fashion choices were profoundly significant.”  How could one fail to be engaged?

“Real Books,” a review by Trish Crapo of Adios, Happy Homeland!, the new story collection by Ana Menendez (Black Cat), Greasewood Creek, by Pamela Steele (Counterpoint), and Birds of Paradise, by Diana Abu-Jaber (Norton)

Never mind what the reviewer writes about these three books:  suffice it to say, they are all lovely and well worth the purchase price!

There’s also a poem on p. 16, about living “In a House with Two Doors,” (by Sheila Squillante), and just reading the title gets self widely excited because — wouldn’t you know? —  Self lives in a house with two doors!

Here’s how the poem begins:

It’s always cold in a house with two doors.
The wind will sneak into a house
like that, cavorting like a bad-mannered
guest; long-drawn and drunk, nosing through
medicine cabinets, upstairs bedroom drawers.

In a house with two doors, take care
when you answer the bell. At the front
will be cookies for sale, floral deliveries,
and the quick blue smirk of the postman.
It’s fine to answer these bells in your bathrobe;
your neighbors won’t mind . . .

Self would strongly urge dear blog readers to purchase the Women’s Review of Books, March/April 2012 issue, to read the rest of this wonderful piece!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR: 20 May 2012

Hallelujah!  Self doesn’t know how she got here.  That is, she doesn’t know how she managed to get caught up on her New York Times Book Review reading.  If dear blog readers would be so kind as to note the date of the issue that self is currently about to discuss, in the title of this post — !  Well, isn’t that date just a week behind?  Pats on the back, self!  Pats on the back!

The date of the Scotland sojourn is fast approaching.  The husband has become quite obstreperous and whiny.  Which brings to mind a wise friend who, upon being informed of self’s impending marriage to the husband, oh so many many many eons ago, remarked to yet another friend, who kindly passed on the information to self:  “XXX says it’s not a good idea for two nervous people to marry each other.”  Actually, she didn’t use the word “nervous,” she said “nerbiyoso,” which is much worse.

So, now that self has lately taken to adventuring in foreign climes, the attacks of nerves have reached fever pitch.  But when self sets her mind to do something, no amount of anxiety (on her part as well as the husband’s) will deflect her.  Self will just soldier on!  Even if it means having to be taken aboard the British Airways plane to London on a stretcher!

Where was she?

Oh, yes.  The May 20 issue of The New York Times Book Review.  They have this new column in which they interview someone about the books currently on his/her bookshelf.  The first interview was with Dave Sedaris.  This week’s is with Hugh Dancy.

Why does Hugh Dancy (cute English actor) get to be interviewed about books?  Because, as self learns from the interview, his father was a professor of philosophy!

Anyhoo, after reading the interview, self can say with absolute certainty that Dancy is not as entertaining as Dave Sedaris.   But it would be too bad to turn the page without quoting at least some of his answers.  So, here are two:

What’s your favorite literary genre?  Any guilty pleasures?

. . .  when it became clear last year that “Venus in Fur” (play he is currently starring in, on Broadway) would stay . . . into June, I picked up the first Game of Thrones novel thinking I’d have plenty of time in my dressing room.  I’m now five in, and eyeing the sixth like a junkie considering the last of his stash, i.e., with very mixed feelings.

What book do you plan to read next?

For reasons they’ll presumably never explain, the Pulitzer committee didn’t deign to award a prize for fiction this year.  However, our friend Michael Cunningham, who was on the jury and therefore plowed through hundreds of books, recommends Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, very highly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Thoughts About Bagels

The husband works for a medical company in Pleasanton.  (Lucky to have a job!  Especially in this economy!  Self just heard over the news that Hewlett Packard is laying off 27,000!).  Every couple of weeks, it falls to him to bring do-nuts or bagels to the office.  Today, he brought bagels.

Here were a couple of things that self found interesting about that:

  • A few weeks earlier, The Economist ran an obituary of “Bagel King” Murray Lender.
  • Self discovered that Noah’s Bagels opens at 5 a.m.  The only reason she knows this is:  that was how early the husband went over to get his order.
  • Self also never knew that a big order gets packaged like this (Reminds her of a Chinese take-out carton, only 10x bigger.  And with brown cardboard instead of white.)

Leftover bagels on the kitchen counter, next to an open copy of the Women’s Review of Books. Self was just reading a review of Arundhati Roy’s new book, Walking with the Comrades. The review is by Kerryn Higgs. Since winning the Booker for her novel, The God of Small Things, Roy has confined herself to writing only nonfiction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Special About 2012

After many years of trying, she finally got a piece picked up by Alimentum.

She finally joined the Barnes & Noble Rewards Program (though she’s been in and out of her local branch for something like 20 years)

The New Orleans Review took “Thing,” her story about mutant pigs and strangelings.

She has joined contests (8 so far)

She decided not to let her subscription to The New York Times Book Review lapse.

She extended her New Yorker subscription for one more year.

She read with Kazim Ali, Garrett Hongo, David Henry Hwang, Bao Phi, Marie Myung-Ok Lee and Anna Kazumi Stahl in the National Portrait Gallery.  Also:  she met the three funniest gals it was ever her pleasure to meet and had drop-dead delicious gelato.  Also, big big thanks to Lawrence, Gerard and Terry.  Also, she saw the Ford Theater (where President Lincoln was shot) and went into at least three Smithsonian museums (with the husband).  She even went to Georgetown one day and had lunch with an old friend.

She spoke to Margarita D who told her about her plan to go to Venice, early next year (Self volunteered to come along!)

She went to India.  And saw the Golden Temple at Amritsar.  And heard monks chanting deep in a forest.  And made the acquaintance of the Colonel, Pratibha, an incorrigibly rambunctious Labrador, and the two brothers who manage the Snowcrest Inn in Dharamsala (Would you believe, the inn is owned by a fifty-something Malaysian woman?)  All the time self was in India, she never experienced a sick moment.

“The Avengers” movie came out, and she liked it.

She spent the entire month of March in Bacolod.  Zack joined her for the last week.

She took Niece G to the Asian Art Museum and had lunch at Brenda’s.

Niece G gifted her with a lb. of coffee from Philz.

Son and Jennie came for a visit; we had dinner at Max’s Restaurant with Kramer and Niece G.  We went to a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the de Young.  We went to the Japanese Tea Garden and had mochi.  Kevin F came over with his guitar on son’s last night and sang many beautiful songs for us.

She finally got her hands on a paperback copy of the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission, which was published in 2004.  It is a really hefty book:  she’ll read it on the plane to London.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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