Self saw a production of “Titus Andronicus” in the Globe during a week in London, en route to Ireland and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in late April 2014. When she told her friend Joan McGavin that she was going to see it, Joan said: “Bring a bucket. Loads of gore.”
And indeed, Joan was right. There was indeed loads of gore. The production was a bit Quentin Tarantino-ish. But it was still bloody great.
Then self proceeded to Ireland, where she had many more adventures. Including, her first actual acquaintance-ship with real swans (as opposed to the swans in Hans Christian Andersen or the Grimm brothers’ fairytales). Here is a picture of a loan swan, powering across a blustery lake, early May 2014:
She was so impressed with this swan that she started to write a story about swans which evolved into a story about Noah’s ark, after she saw the Darren Aronofsky movie “The Ark.” The last rejection letter she received for her ark story was just last week: “Sorry,” quoth the young man, “Revisionist Bible stories aren’t really my thing.”
Self’s most recent adventure was attending the Squaw Valley Writers Conference, this past July. She’d been hearing about it forever. Last year, she finally bit the bullet and applied. And she got in! And they offered her partial aid. She is so glad she went soon after getting back from Ireland. For by the time she got to Squaw Valley, in early July, she was fit, mentally and physically, from six weeks of traveling all over Ireland and England. And she made so many new friends.
Dark Star is the first Alan Furst book she’s ever read, and it’s a mighty good one.
By 1917, when he was 20 years old and had attended three years of university in Cracow, he was a confirmed writer of stories, one of many who came from Odessa — it had something to do with seaports: strange languages, exotic travelers, night bells in the harbor, waves pounding into foam on the rocks and always distance, horizon, the line where sky met water, and just beyond your vision people were doing things you couldn’t imagine.– p. 56, Dark Star
Is there such a thing as a lyrical spy story? This must be a first. At least in self’s reading life.
Last year, self decided to accept Margarita Donnelly’s invitation to share an apartment in Venice. She stayed almost three weeks. That trip certainly qualifies in her book as an adventure.
The apartment was in Ca’ San Toma. Only a 5-minute walk to the Frari church.
She had seen Venice when she was 11. Of course, it had changed. For one thing, everyone on the vaporetto kept vacating their seats and indicating that self should sit. In the spot marked for “Senior Citizens.” (Self, when will you ever learn to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth?) Although self is not quite a senior citizen, and it stung her pride mightily, she never refused a seat.
Also last year, self visited, for the first time, the town of Magalang in Pampanga (Philippines). She visited at the invitation of Alawi Canlas, an English professor at Pampanga Agricultural College. Self really enjoyed meeting all the students, and discussing her work with them. That trip, too, was an adventure.
Yesterday, while standing at the check-out line in Whole Foods on Jefferson, self saw a CD by Ed Sheeran. She was curious, as apparently he is a great favorite of the writers on fanfiction.net So she bought his CD and listened to it at home and, you know, it reminds her of old rock. But it’s pleasant. Something new to listen to while driving!
Today was peaceful. She mostly watered.
She’s very much enjoying Dark Star, by Alan Furst. He writes ridiculously well, for someone who writes spy thrillers.
On p. 52, the hero of the story, Szara, lands in Berlin (after a particularly nasty encounter with some hired assassins — he escapes by the skin of hist teeth). This is what he sees of the city from his hotel room:
Szara stared out a high window, watching umbrellas moving down the street like phantoms. It seemed to him the city’s very own, private weather, for Berliners lived deep inside themselves — it could be felt — where they nourished old insults and humiliated ambitions of every sort, all of it locked up within a courtesy like forged metal and an acid wit that never seemed meant to hurt — it just, apparently by accident, left a little bruise.
Self thinks these three photographs are in dialogue with each other. Agree or disagree, dear blog readers? (Funny how she started this post thinking she was going to post a series of landscape shots! Self is so unpredictable — even to herself LOL)
In 2004, self and her sister-in-law, Ying, took a trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. We stayed in a house ($10/day for a room, including meals) and hired a driver.
The monument was crawling with tourists. One morning, desperate, self and Ying awoke at 4 a.m. and had the driver bring us to the temples. Across the giant causeway, which was barely light, we saw at least a hundred photographers, cameras pointed at the horizon, waiting for the first rays of the sun to appear. It was very dispiriting.
The thing self remembers most from the trip is not the temples. It was Tonle Sap Lake. Self and Ying hired a boat and threaded our way through the floating villages.
In 2008, Ying passed away in Tel Aviv. Self saw her for the last time a couple of months before. Her eyes were so sad.
Self’s story, “The Peacock,” is about that trip to Cambodia. She’s never been able to get it published, but she keeps trying.