Dreiser, on the Hottest Day of the Year (2013)

Self’s face is flushed really, really red.  She doesn’t remember ever getting this way, even in Bacolod.  The fan barely stirs the air.  She went hunting in the garage for another fan, but that one was covered with cobwebs.  She sprayed it with Lysol and began to start cleaning it, but stopped to rest and read a little bit further into Sister Carrie.

This book, renewed three times —  that’s nine weeks — is already way, way overdue.  She can’t believe how slow her reading is this year.  But she wants to finish it.  It’s the kind of book where none of the characters are that engaging —  Carrie is so passive, and naive, and way too young; and Hurstwood is impetuous, and falls in love, and leaves his old wife behind because he is afraid of her — but each is an example of a type, and Dreiser makes them fascinating.

So Hurstwood abducted Carrie and told her he was in love with her and agreed to marry her (though he neglected to divorce his wife), and took money from his company safe but later gave back most of it except for $1,300, then took Carrie to New York where they lived in a modest apartment, but all the time he was building this new life, he kept thinking of the old, when he had been rich.  When he was a socially prominent citizen, when he was, paradoxically, “free.”

Dreiser writes:

If one thinks that such thoughts do not come to so common a type of mind —  that such feelings require a higher mental development — I would urge for their consideration the fact that it is the higher mental development that does away with such thoughts.  It is the higher mental development which induces philosophy and that fortitude which refuses to dwell upon such things —  refuses to be made to suffer by their consideration.  The common type of mind is exceedingly keen on all matters which relate to its physical welfare —  exceedingly keen.  It is the unintellectual miser who sweats blood at the loss of a hundred dollars.  It is the Epictetus who smiles when the last vestige of physical welfare is removed.

Note to Self:  Must. Look. Up. Epictetus.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Self loooves this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Companionable!!!

The guidelines state:

Share a picture of a COMPANION and explain why you chose that picture.

Here are three:

A few of self's essential accoutrements :-)

A few of self’s essential accoutrements 🙂

Self never goes anywhere without a journal or notebook or a small digital camera.

All-Natural Custom Lip Gloss from The Bath Workshop, Claremont, California (In two of self's favorite flavors:  Kahlua and Chocolate)

All-Natural Custom Lip Gloss from The Bath Workshop, Claremont, California (In two of self’s favorite flavors: Kahlua and Chocolate)

Since her lips get very dry in the summer, it is essential to have lip gloss in her purse.


And since she is a writer, she naturally reads all the time.  Self adores the short stories of Lydia Davis. She took this photo June 2012, during a writing residency in Hawthornden, near Edinburgh.

Her introduction to Davis came years ago, when someone lent her a copy of Break It Down.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More Reading: Last Friday of June 2013

The New York Review of Books, Issue xxx:  Who knows?  A long, long time ago.  Oh, all right:  the Nov. 8, 2012 issue.  (Self’s Pile of Stuff is a monster.  And has grown leaps and bounds since April when, added to the general disorganization of self’s life was a trip to Venice, a trip to southern California, son’s moving in for the summer, and the incredible HEAT, today)

Self will post excerpts from Robert Gottlieb’s essay on James Jones (What a name!  There are so many American “James”!)

Since 90.9 % of dear blog readers will probably have no idea who James Jones is (No, it is not the actor famous for playing Othello:  That is James Earl Jones.  Furthermore, James Jone is not African American), some context:

James Jones was born in 1949.

He was the author of From Here to Eternity, a book about quote the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor unquote.

Jones sent the manuscript to his publisher (Scribner’s) with a note:  “I, personally, believe it will stack up with Stendhal’s Waterloo or Tolstoy’s Austerlitz.”

The book was made into a movie starring Burt Lancaster.  In one crucial scene, Lancaster (playing a character named Seargent Milt Warden) tells his men:

“The CQ will unlock the rifle racks and every man get his rifle and hang on to it.  But stay inside at your bunks.  This ain’t no maneuvers.  Yo go runnin around outside you’ll get your ass shot off . . .  Stay off the porches.  Stay inside.  I’m making each squad leader responsible to keep his men inside.  If you have to use a rifle butt to do it, that’s okay too. ”

“What if the fuckers bomb us?” somebody hollered.

“If you hear a bomb coming, you’re free to take off for the brush . . .  But not unless you do.  I don’t think they will.  If they were going to bomb us, they would of started with it already.  They probably concentratin all their bombs on the Air Corps and Pearl Harbor.

“Yeah,” somebody hollered.  “But what if they ain’t?”

“Then you’re shit out of luck.”

Robert Gottlieb writes of James Jones:

Always you feel that he knows what he’s talking about, whether it’s the savagery of the stockade, life in a rough whorehouse, the anguish of love, or the most mundane minutiae like a “can of milk with its top sliced open by a cleaver butt.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Heat: Last Friday of June 2013

They say it will reach 104 degrees in some areas of the Bay Area.  For the past two days, self has been running the sprinklers and turning on the soaker hoses.  Also, hand watering.

It was son’s first week of work at the company that hired him for the summer.

Last night, he was so tired he didn’t even eat dinner, just went straight to his room and slept.

This morning, self looks out the window, decides to read something before starting to write.

Ta-DA!  The book she pulls from the shelf happens to be Beth Alvarado’s short story collection, Not a Matter of Love (New Rivers Press, 2006).

And what do you know, there’s a story in it about heat.  The story is “Phoenix.”  Here’s how it begins:

Not even June and it was a dog-dancing day.  Asphalt sticky as gum.  Gloria had heard it was so hot in Phoenix that rubber gaskets were melting, windshields falling out; some were simply shattering as the glass expanded from the heat.  Birds were probably passing out in the trees.  Electricity use spiking off the grids.  If the cicadas would give it up for one minute, if traffic would come to a halt, she was sure she’d be able to hear the pumps sucking the artesian wells dry.  Then Tucson would collapse into the hollow earth left behind.  It was that hot, apocalyptically hot, hot enough to believe the sun could fry her and everyone else like so many grasshoppers in a cast-iron skillet.

Point of view belongs to Gloria, a mother who is picking up her daughter, Danika, after school.  Complication appears in Paragraph 3:

In fact, Danika’s resemblance to her father scared the shit out of Gloria.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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