Reading THE NEW YORKER in Bacolod

Hotels have become sort of like her home.  She tends to really fall in love.  With the rooms, with the order.  With the awareness that people are always just outside.  Not shut off from each other, like they are in the States.

In this particular room, which is several floors above the street, it is never completely silent.  There is the dry hum of the airconditioner and, starting at the crack of dawn, and returning in the late afternoon, the random crowing of roosters.

There’s the noise of traffic:  horns and noisy car engines.

(The karaoke, however, is really getting out of hand.  Couldn’t there be at least one person who can carry a tune?)

In her suitcase, as she was hastily packing for this trip, she tossed a number of magazines she grabbed from her Pile of Stuff.  There were back issues of One Story (The story she just finished reading, in Issue 181, was about polar bears and ice floes and a father wondering whether he really needed to tell his daughter he was gay.  The descriptions were so exacting and beautiful) and a couple of New Yorkers.

Self spent most of today reading a story by a writer she had never read before:  Rivka Galchen.  It was in The New Yorker of 7 January 2013 and was so heartbreaking and funny and sad.

The Briefly Noted section of the same issue has some pretty wonderful sentences.  In fact, she’d really like to quote the entire review of The Richard Burton Diaries, but then, just to be fair, she’ll feel constrained to quote the other three short reviews, which are equally fine.  Here are glimpses:

From the review of The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams:

Although the diaries have been trimmed, they are still too long:  even the most curious may exhaust their interest in years of rugby scores, dinner menus, and notes on who drank what the night before.  Amid the ephemera, however, is a captivating story of misplaced success:  Burton was a voracious and astute reader who nurtured unfulfilled literary ambitions.  Even his greatest acting triumphs were a blow, representing “the indignity and the boredom of having to learn the writings of another man.”

From the review of My Last Empress, by Da Chen

In the last days of the Chinese Empire, Pickens, a New England blueblood, arrives in the Forbidden City to tutor the young emperor, bidden by the ghost of a lost childhood love, the “darling, darling Annabelle.”  In the lantern-lit corridors, Pickens finds not Annabelle but her seeming doppelganger, a mixed-blood girl chosen as the emperor’s child bride.  Bemoaning her confined existence in a palace filled with treacherous eunuchs and concubines, she bewitches the tutor . . .  The story of contorted and entangled love excavates the depth of corruption and bureaucratic rot in a palace that has long ago become a ghost of its former self.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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