For Your Reading Pleasure: The “Eusa Story” from RIDDLEY WALKER

Such a crazy book, Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban

Self loved it so much that she gave a copy of it to son when he was 12 (The Indiana University Press Expanded Edition)

He’s a voracious reader of science fiction but he never cracked the book open.

Self still reads it from time to time, to remind herself of what she liked so much about it.

In this dystopian future (Sorry, the word has been much-abused since The Hunger Games, but at the moment self can’t seem to come up with a better word to describe the setting of Riddley Walker), England is in the grip of a nuclear winter. A 12-year-old boy named Riddley Walker wanders the land, telling stories of “the time before.” At 12, he is considered a man (people don’t live much beyond 30 in his world). His most important story is the one he tells about Eusa, because Eusa started the war that brought the world to apocalypse.

Chapter 6: The Eusa Story

Wen Mr. Clevver wuz Big Man uv Inland they had evere thing clevver. They had boats in the ayr & picters on the win & evere thing lyk that. Eusa wuz a noing man vere qwik he cud tern his han tu enne thing. He wuz werkin for Mr. Clevver wen thayr cum enemes aul roun & maykin Warr. Eusa sed to Mr. Clevver, Now wewl nead masheans uv Warr.

Eusa, if you haven’t figured it out, is the USA. But the legends that got passed on by word of mouth (No newspapers, or tweeting, anymore!) were about this very powerful entity, that got turned into a character named Eusa. A warmonger.

What, and you thought in the world of the future people would still be speaking English like we do? LOL

Stay tuned.

Converge in Venice Beach, California

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is CONVERGE.

The instructions are “to find geometry in photography — shapes, diagonals, vanishing points.”

Self decided to focus her search on the photos she took of one of her favorite places of 2014: Venice Beach, California, which she visited for the first time in September.

Hope these have the requisite geometry and/or contrast in shapes.

The first time self saw Venice Beach: September 2014

The first time self saw Venice Beach: September 2014

Sand, Sea and Bird in Venice Beach, California

Sand, Sea and Bird in Venice Beach, California

Coca-Cola, Hot Wings, and Palm Trees: More Convergence in Venice Beach, California

Coca-Cola, Hot Wings, and Palm Trees: More Convergence in Venice Beach, California

Another Poem for the Saturday After Thanksgiving (2014)

It is raining. Hooray! California really needs the rain.

Self is taking the opportunity to go through her humongous Pile of Stuff.

Part of the pile is New Yorkers. And another part is The New York Review of Books.

One thing self has noticed in the two years she’s been subscribing to The New York Review of Books is: She really likes their poetry.

She encountered a nifty poem on p. 10 of the Nov. 6, 2014 NYRB issue. Here’s the first half:

LISBON, 1989

by April Bernard

The new year lurched
on a clamor of horns
trash cans and firecrackers
rising up from the harbor
over the window sills
into a hotel room where
civility had just died.
Next day we went for lunch
to a pricey restaurant
filled with leftover Nazis
and I was sick in the ladies’ room
where the walls were zebra skins
and the vanity stools mothed-up
leopard. So I left alone

Perhaps self finds the poem so resonant because of the novel she is currently reading: Hans Fallada’s mesmerizing novel of life in World War II Berlin, Every Man Dies Alone.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

This Poem, Saturday After Thanksgiving (2014)


published in Bird’s Thumb, June 2014

by Ellie Francis Douglass

I live here now. I realized that today. What we heard
about Northwest dreariness is true, yet the store lights
and street lamps ricochet off rain drops clinging
to power-lines. They burn like candles in a dim church.

Read more great work at Bird’s Thumb, here.

Stay tuned.

“Jesters”: Disjointedness

This piece came out January 2012 in Used Furniture Review.

Self enjoys writing things that are disjointed.

She started “Jesters” in VCCA (the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts). The house she describes in the piece is the main house there. The books listed in the piece are books self found on the shelves in the main house. Here’s an excerpt:

There is so much weight here: the house, the barn, the chestnut horses in the field, the Chinese elms, the white porch, the brick path, the flowering oregano bushes, the Steinway grand, the porcelain vases, the shelves and shelves of books: Culture & Anarchy, Multilingual Lexicon of Linguistics and Philology, Cassell’s Italian Dictionary, The World and The Text. You run your hands over the dusty spines. You finger the books. You feel yourself melting, slowly.

You know what else self found on the shelves in the main house? A copy of the literary magazine Story, which was the first American magazine to ever publish her. The story was “Ginseng.” Actually, self didn’t find the magazine; another writer did, and showed it to her. Wow! Amazing!

Stay tuned.

Also Reading Jeremy Denk’s Essay “Piano Man”

It is Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

The best decision self ever made was to order a turkey and fixings from somewhere. And now she has a chance to catch up on all those back issues of The New Yorker that have been building up since last year (and the year before, and the year before).

From The New Yorker of 14 October 2013, an essay by Jeremy Denk called “Piano Man”:

I was saved the first time from financial ruin by a stroke of luck — I entered a piano competition, in London, and won third prize. Years of grad-school indulgences (liquor, Chinese takeout, kitchen appliances) had left me with a Visa bill of forty-five hundred dollars, and I was able to erase it in a flash. All that remained of my glorious prize, of all those months of practicing, was a photograph of Princess Diana handing me my award onstage at Royal Festival Hall, which I faxed to everyone I knew.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books Issue (Weekend, Nov. 22 – 23, 2014)

The following list is made up of the books self felt most interested in reading after perusing the Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books (2014) issue:

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee (Knopf, 488 pages, $35)

Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker-Prizewinning novel of 1979

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, by Rhonda K. Garelick (Random House, 570 pages, $35)

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr (Norton, 765 pages, $39.95)

Updike, by Adam Begley (Harper, 558 pages, $29.99)

The Novel: A Biography, by Michael Schmidt (Harvard University Press, 1,172 pages, $39.95)

The Age of the Vikings, by Anders Winroth (Princeton University Press, 320 pages, $29.95)

Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts (Viking, 926 pages, $45)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf, 528 pages, $60)

The Mantle of Command:  FDR at War 1941 – 1942, by Nigel Hamilton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 514 pages, $30)

George Marshall: A Biography, by Debi and Irwin Unger (Harper, 352 pages, $35)

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney (Viking, 564 pages, $36)

Rendezvous with Art, conversations between the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson, 248 pages, $35)

Frans Hals, by Seymour Silve (Phaidon, 400 pages, $125)

My Favorite Things, by Maira Kalman, a catalogue of 40 items in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Harper Design, 160 pages, $35)

The Only Way to Cross, by John Maxtone-Graham

SS United States, by John Maxtone-Graham (Norton, 245 pages, $75)

Surf Craft, by Richard Kenvin (MIT University Press, 192 pages, $29.95)

The Art of Things, an anthology of essays on good design, edited by Dominique Forest (Abbeville, 592 pages, $150)

Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power, by Sylvia Sumira (University of Chicago Press, 224 pages, $45)

Me, Myself, and Us, by Brian R. Little (Public Affairs, 288 pages, $26.99)

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster, 565 pages, $30)

The Beatles Lyrics, edited by Hunter Davies (Little, Brown, 376 pages, $35)

The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies

Mephisto, by Klaus Mann



Buzzfeed Interview w/ Peter Craig, Main Scriptwriter for MOCKINGJAY, PART 1

Dear blog readers know how much self liked Mockingjay, Part 1.

It was a very, very good movie. And a large part of the credit for that has to go to the screenplay writer, Peter Craig.

Self is so tired of almost every Read the rest of this entry »

Moving On

Self has just begun the next book on her reading list:  Hans Fallada’s novel, Every Man Dies Alone.

She’s quite pleased with her progress. Though it took her 9 days to get through Donna Leon’s Death and Judgment, she did finish it. Which can’t be said of any book she’s tackled since — oh, late March.

(After this, for those readers who’d like to follow along:  a William Maxwell novella, So Long, See You Tomorrow; another Donna Leon mystery, About Face; and a mystery by a Swedish writer self has never read before: Hakan Nesser. His book is Woman with a Birthmark)

Self has high hopes for finishing Every Man Dies Alone, for she’s never been disappointed by any of the German writers she’s read.  For instance, she loves Bernhard Schlink. It’s been a while since she’s read Hannah Arendt, but she remembers liking what she read. And Kafka, she’s always adored Kafka (Self isn’t completely sure whether he’s German or Czech)

Hans Fallada was a Nazi resister who remained in Germany; he nursed himself through World War II by becoming an alcoholic, and ended up having a nervous breakdown (Self would, too. If she were a Nazi resister who chose to remain in Germany for the duration of the war, that is). Whether he was extremely brave, or extremely bull-headed, or extremely crazy, or maybe all three, the point is: he continued to write. His output never flagged. His Every Man Dies Alone begins with a female protagonist, Eva Kluge, who works as a postal carrier. On this particular round, she has to deliver Nazi Party circulars:

. . .  she has to remember to call out “Heil, Hitler!” at the Persickes’ and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there’s not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks. Not that she’s a political animal, she’s just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she’s of the view that you don’t bring children into the world to have them shot.

The translation is by Michael Hofmann.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


You Appear, Unexpectedly . . . in Donna Leon

You, Filipina, you appear in the most unexpected places. In novels or mysteries written by bestselling authors, for instance.

Today, on p. 234 of Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti mystery, Death and Judgment (which was actually a re-print of a book that first appeared in 1996), the Philippines is mentioned in the course of Brunetti’s investigation of a prostitution ring.

Self decides to make a note of it. Apropos of nothing. Except that prostitution is bad and she wishes it didn’t happen — to anyone, regardless of nationality.

In all self’s decades of reading novels and mysteries, she can tick off on the fingers of one hand the number of books she’s read that have to do with prostitution, and now she’s read two of them, back-to-back: Death and Judgment, and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Which means that her November reading has been dark, dark, super-dark. That, coupled with the Mockingjay, Part 1 movie, has just about killed her. Yes, self is aware that Thanksgiving is tomorrow. You’re welcome. The bird is being picked up later.

Euro-Employ was only one of the many agencies engaged in the trade in young women, and it was hardly the worst. All of the papers the women signed before they went off to “work” in Europe were entirely legal. The fact that the papers were signed with the X by an illiterate or by a woman who didn’t speak the language of the contract in no way compromised their legality, though none of the women who managed to return to the Philippines thought or sought to bring a legal claim against the agency. In any case, so far as Linchianko knew, very few returned.

And that’s it.

The tale is indeed very sordid, but it’s sensationalistic, too. A shipment of girls from Eastern Europe crashes and all the “cargo” is killed. Hmmm, wonder if there are really rings that do this: ship girls by truck. She remembers watching a Rachel Weisz movie about a similar subject, years ago. Naturally, it was dark and etc. And all the victims came from Eastern Europe. Self wonders whether it really is as cut-and-dried as this, or whether the mechanism is more complex, less predictable, and she concludes that it must be so.

Anyhoo, onward.

Stay tuned.

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