Books, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, 8 December 2013

Of the white American male fiction writers publishing today, there are two who self would gladly read over and over again:  Jim Harrison and George Saunders.

Self has read three books by Jim Harrison.  He is a poet, a poet of violence.  Self will not ruin dear blog readers’ breakfasts by recounting a particularly gruesome episode in one of his novellas.  Let’s just say, it involves a severed hand.

Yesterday, while perusing the Books section of the Chronicle, self discovered that Harrison has a new book out.  It’s called, with poetic simplicity, Brown Dog.  Here is how it begins:

Just before dark at the bottom of the sea I found the Indian.

According to the reviewer, William S. Kowinski, the book is about how the title character (“Brown Dog”) involves himself in “salvaging a dead Indian in full regalia preserved in the cold, deep waters of Lake Superior, and the struggle over ancient burial grounds with some wily and ambitious young anthropologists that drives the narrative . . . ”

Another book reviewed in yesterday’s Chronicle is by a writer self has never read:  Aminatta Forna.  The novel is called The Hired Man, and the plot is this:  A young Englishwoman comes to a Croatian village in the hope of refurbishing a property she owns.  That’s where the “hired man” of the title comes in.

Since the hired man’s name is Duro, and he is the one narrating this novel, self fears for the safety of the Englishwoman.  Duro, after all, was the name of that slave boy in the series “Rome,” the one who tried to murder Atia by slipping poison into her food.

According to the reviewer, Forna was “born in Scotland . . .  moved as a baby with her family to Sierra Leone, where her father worked as a doctor and political activist.  In 1970, he was arrested on trumped up charges of treason.  Five years later, he was hanged.  In her 2003 memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water, Forna returned to Sierra Leone to interview the man who testified falsely against his father.”


Self is most interested to read the memoir.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Out of the Furnace”: Christian Bale as Mill Worker

Yes, Christian Bale, a Brit, does a pretty good (Self says “pretty good,” but bear in mind self has never actually met an honest-to-goodness American steelworker) rendition of a member of one of America’s oppressed classes.  He’s a steel worker, trapped in an almost-obsolete industry, and feeling tremendous responsibility for a ne’er-do-well younger brother, played affectingly by Casey Affleck (A first!  Self never thought she would end up describing any Casey Affleck performance as “affecting.”)

As he ages, Christian Bale’s face seems to be developing sharper angles.  The eyes burn with intensity.  He appears, at moments, almost Christ-like.

His dad is dying, but at least he has a steady source of income, which allows him to bail his brother out of scrapes, again and again and again and again.

He also has a beautiful girlfriend, played by Zoe Saldana.

But, alas, the lives of the oppressed are so complicated.  Bale’s younger brother has many “issues.”  He likes to gamble but always loses.  He likes money but doesn’t know how to get some.  He has to do four tours of duty in Iraq.

But one thing he has in spades is courage.  Because at the crucial moment, when everything is laid on the line, he doesn’t flinch.  Instead he says, “I don’t care.”

Self was pretty amazed that a movie like this got made.  It was so depressing.  It was like the movies of the 70s and early 80s:  “Prince of the City,” “Serpico,” “They Shoot Horses Don’t They” and the like (But none of those earlier movies had Christian Bale!  Which makes us, moviegoers of 2013, VERY lucky!)

Sam Shepard does a nice turn as a supportive uncle.

There is a deer-hunting scene which made self think of — what else? — “The Deer Hunter.”  When the deer is strung up for flaying or filleting or what not, the sight is extremely disturbing.  It has a resemblance to a human.  Honestly.  A very skinny, eviscerated human.  To think, only a month ago, self saw “12 Years a Slave.”

Aaargh!  She arrived home and began searching through her “On Demand” selections for episodes of “Louie.”

One more thing:  Willem Dafoe’s hair, in this movie, is a wonder to behold.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Grand: Favorite WordPress Posts on the Theme

Widya’s World posted pictures of the temples at Borobudur.

Amanda Renee posted a beautiful picture of a sailboat on a lake.

Geophilia Photography posted a mosaic of landscape photographs.

On the Streets of San Francisco posted a series of pictures of the lighted outdoor Christmas trees on her street.

Soul Additions posted a picture from a 2003 trip to Spain: a cathedral in Seville, all lit up, though it was barely dusk.

girltuesdayspeaks posted haunting pictures of the former U.S. Naval Base in Subic, Pampanga.

Summerfield84’s English blog posted a view of Mount Fuji across Tokyo Bay.

Reveries of Forevers posted pictures of a journey through “the deep southwest of New Zealand.”

And here are two photographs of self’s own, which she thinks might be relevant to the theme “Grand”:

Bob and Diane Varner have been friends of Self and The Man for decades.  This Chardonnay (2011) is hard to find, but self snagged a bottle yesterday at K&L Liquors in Redwood City

Bob and Diane Varner have been friends of Self and The Man for decades. This Chardonnay (2011) is hard to find, but self snagged a bottle yesterday at K&L Liquors in Redwood City.

Self loves Christmas.  The reason is because it's the one time of year when there is no such thing as "over-decorating."

Self loves Christmas. It is GRAND.  The reason is because it’s the one time of year when there is no such thing as “over-decorating.”

She still hasn’t gotten a tree.  If only she could get one that she could stuff into her car unaided.  The Man simply will not lift a finger.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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