Outtakes From Self’s Interview with Linh Dinh, Pacific Rim Review of Books, Summer 2008

Self is cleaning out her files and coming up with all sorts of odds and ends:  her published book reviews, tossed hastily into drawers.  Write-ups on her books.  Interviews with other writers.

She pauses over the interview she did with Linh Dinh.  Linh and self first met at the 2005 Berlin Festival on Southeast Asian Art and Literature, organized by the House of World Culture (only six months after the appointment of a new Director, who had been a professor at the University of Heidelberg.  She and two of her graduate students pulled the whole thing together by e-mail.)

The interview she did with him is one of her all-time favorites.  Here are excerpts.  Each of Dinh’s answers reads like a short short:

Self:  You left Vietnam in March 1975, just a month before the fall of Saigon.  And your official biography lists you as having a “fake name,” Ly Ky Kiet.  What was its purpose?

In March of 1975, as the shit was about to hit the fan, my father arranged for his secretary, me and my brother to evacuate with a Chinese family.  This family had a daughter working for the Americans.  In order to safeguard their properties, some of the family chose to stay behind.  And they ended up selling my father three spots.

We all took fake names.  My brother’s was Ly Ky Vinh.  My father hired the secretary to take care of my brother and I.  She was 22, Chinese, with a very short temper, and a face that was round and puffy like a dumpling, liberally sprinkled with meaty pimples.  I wrote about the episode in “April 30th of Ly Ky Kiet.”

*     *     *     *     *

Self:  You write experimentally in both fiction and poetry, and your work seems to consistently break accepted norms in an overt attempt to play with form.  What attracts you to this?

I started out as a painter.  Working with oil, I strived to improvise, to think, as I was painting.  Play was a central concept in my work.  I was also Read the rest of this entry »

Thirty Minutes to the Last Day of July 2012

Self is teaching an on-line memoir class, and her students are amazing and lively and curious.

There’s that, to begin with.

Then, the sense of satisfaction with the day (still Monday) is that she got to see the “Dark Knight” movie, which she’d rate probably a B+.

Then she mailed a story to Conjunctions.

And she joined yet another contest.

Now she is reading, from her Pile of Stuff, a back issue of The New Yorker. Apparently, the day’s lessons are still not over, for she finds herself absorbed in a review of a World War II novel (as if self hasn’t read dozens of those already; yet she feels drawn to each new book that comes out and invariably finds herself spending more time on reviews of World War II books than on any other types of books). And here are the things she’s discovered:

The author of the novel (whose title is weird and whimsical at the same time: HHhH, which stands for — oh, never mind what it stands for. Take self’s word for it, it is weird and whimsical) is a “French writer and academic” named Laurent Binet. That fact means nothing to self, and might even have caused self to stop reading the rest of the review, except that Binet asserts that “invented facts — invented characters, for that matter — have no place in historical fiction, and weaken it both aesthetically and morally.” Binet has written: “Inventing a character in order to understand historical facts is like fabricating evidence.”

Binet’s novel turns out to be about a monster named Reinhard Heydrich — and self, who has read so many books on World War II, had never heard of this particular monster. Self learns that Heydrich “planned Kristallnacht.” She is properly chastised about the depth of her World War II knowledge. She reads on.

An important event during World War II was the convening of the Wannsee Conference, on January 20, 1942. The name rings a bell, but it is not as loud as the bell that went off in self’s head when she read that the conference was held “in an elegantly somber villa on the shore of Lake Wannsee.”

A few sentences on, self learns that there is a “beautiful memorial in Berlin’s Grunewald S-Bahn station, which calmly records the numbers, dates, and destinations of each of the city’s mass deportations of Jews (all of whom left from the station).” Self has been in Berlin and wishes she’d read this review before. But of course, she couldn’t have, because she was in Berlin in 2005, and Binet hadn’t written the novel yet, and James Woods hadn’t reviewed it (of course), and if he’d never read the novel he’d never have written the review and would never have thought of mentioning Grunewald station.

And then self reads that “many of those present at the Wannasee Conference lived justly shortened lives” (Self almost cheers). Heydrich himself was assassinated, four months later, in Prague, by two Czech parachutists sent by the Czech government-in-exile in England. Heydrich was riding through Prague in an open-topped Mercedes, and his driver had to slow as the car rounded a bend in a city street. And that was where the men chose to attack.  SPOILER ALERT!  The men’s guns jammed but one had the presence of mind to throw a grenade, and Heydrich died a week later when he developed septicemia.  “Reprisals were blind and absolute: the village of Lidice, near Prague, mistakenly thought by the Nazis to have some connection with the parachutists, was burned to the ground . . . ”

(In the meantime, The Man, who went to bed two hours ago, apparently is still able to whine, in the middle of a dead sleep: YOU’RE MAKING TOO MUCH NOISE WITH YOUR TYPING. He’s like an octopus that never sleeps. Neeeever sleeps)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

3rd (Extremely, Extremely Hawwtt) Monday of July 2012

Self caught the first screening of the last installment of Chris Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, meaning she was at the Century 20 at 10:30 a.m. this morning.

She’d been wanting to see it, but the almost-three-hour running time quite dissuaded her.

The theater was almost half full, not bad for a Monday. And she completely forgot about Colorado. Well, self exaggerates a bit. She remembered, but only about 3/4 of the way through the movie. Actually, she even forgot that the movie was a long one. Several things about it quite surprised her. To wit:

She actually enjoyed Anne Hathaway in the role of Catwoman. For a while, she amused herself imagining a young Catherine Zeta-Jones or a Kate Beckinsale or even an Eva Mendes in the role. First of all, self doesn’t like actresses with such big eyes. And one cannot dispute the fact that Anne Hathaway’s orbs are like saucers. If she weren’t so pretty, it would be disturbing. Next, she is quite the curvaceous woman. And sometimes self thinks that Catwoman should be played by someone whippet-thin. The moment when Hathaway won self over? At one point, she is conversing with someone, and is called upon to express scorn. She does so by a very, very slow blink. This is no fancy-shmancy computer-generated slow blink here, but the actress actually executing a masterful display of eyelid-control. After that, self loved Hathaway’s Catwoman and didn’t even mind that her hair was chestnut (and a fake-looking chestnut, at that) and that her bung was extremely large (a fact which no self-respecting member of the audience could fail to notice, especially in the motorcycle-riding scenes at the end)

She began feeling nostalgic about Christian Bale.  Another confession:  his two earlier Dark Knight outings left self quite unmoved.  She remembers all the various Batman incarnations:  the Smart-aleck Batman (Michael Keaton), the Hunk Batman (Val Kilmer), the Dapper Batman (George Clooney — Self absolutely thinks Batman should not be dapper, even though she loves GC).  When Christian Bale presented as Batman, he seemed bland.  And then, Chris Nolan’s Batman was high opera and self wasn’t sure she liked Katie Holmes and then Katie gave way to Maggie Gyllenhaal only look what happened to her, and now in this movie we have a nice (meaning: surprisingly moral) Catwoman and Marion Cotillard.

Perhaps self was feeling nostalgic about Christian Bale because she’d heard that the next Batman would be Ryan Reynolds?  Not that she has anything against Ryan Reynolds.  But he simply cannot do dark and brooding.

So it is good that the last Dark Knight should end with Bale.  And self must say, this movie was just packed with A-list character actors:  Besides Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman, there was even a hilarious cameo by that chisel-cheeked, gorgeous, Interesting Bad Guy Who Might Be Either Irish or Scottish (Darn, what is his name???) who occurs in only a few scenes towards the end, but whose appearance (in a jacket that looks as if it had been attacked by a million rats) and manner of pounding the gavel (He plays a judge of some sort) had self absolutely in stitches!

Self had seen Joseph Gordon Levitt in a previous Batman, and it was really stupid:  he played a Bad Guy.  JGL’s turn as a Bad Guy in a Batman movie should mercifully be forgotten.  He was about as Bad as a paper cut.  Compared to Jim Carrey’s androgynous Joker, and Jack Nicholson’s truly menacing Joker, and Danny de Vito’s Penguin, and Aaron Eckhardt’s Two-Face, JGL’s Bad Guy was so forgettable that self can’t even remember his character’s name.

But all of that is erased by this movie, because here JGL plays a. Very. Smart. Cop.

Three cheers for the rehabilitation of JGL in the Batman franchise!

Let’s see, what else about today is worth mentioning?  Other than the fact that self spent three hours in a darkened movie theater and then emerged to extreme heat?

  • She went to Rite-Aid and was inveigled to join some Rite-Aid Membership Club.
  • She lined up at the post office to mail a story to Conjunctions and was just congratulating herself on this not being a contest submission (thereby enabling self to stop hemorrhaging contest entry fees, an act of supreme discipline), when it dawned on her that she had forgotten to put a stamp on the SASE, such was her hurry to go out the door.  But if she tore open the mailing envelope, the story might fall out during transit.  Self decided she could take her chances with Conjunctions.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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