Now For One of Self’s: “The Lost Language”

This was published many years ago, in a magazine called Isotope.

Published in Utah and edited by a poet, Chris Cokinos.

It joined together two things: science writing and creative writing.

You would find, in the same issue, a play by a physicist, a nature essay, a poem by a mathematician. That sort of thing.

Self loved it.

Chris Cokinos, what are you doing now? Know that self considered Isotope a very noble experiment.

Here’s an excerpt from the story they published, which became the title of her third collection. It’s one of those hybrid things: part essay, part memoir, part myth, part short story.

The Lost Language

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The language was written on tree bark. Epics were probably written in this language, but I don’t know what they are. My ancestors are shadowy people. Shadows.

When I was a little girl, perhaps eight years old or so, my mother gave me a book of Philippine legends. The legends were mostly about beautiful maidens and enchanted animals. But the story I liked best was about Hari sa Bukid, which means King of the Mountain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mary Beard on Edward Gibbon

Beginning a new book today: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard

Beard begins by saying, in her Prologue:

  • “. . .  over the almost 250 years since Edward Gibbon wrote The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, his idiosyncratic historical experiment that began the modern study of Roman history in the English-speaking world . . . “

Self is quite tickled by the description of Gibbon as “idiosyncratic.” She just read Gibbon for the first time, here at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her biggest quibble with him was that he spent an inordinate amount of time on the spread of Christianity and while some of that history was good — especially the parts about monastic life —  most of it was really broad survey. And surveys are dull.

In contrast, another history she just finished reading, Francis Parkman’s Montcalm and Wolfe, was amazing. Amazing in every sense: as history, and as narrative.

The Guardian calls SPQR “vastly engaging.” We shall see if it manages to unseat Francis Parkman’s as self’s favorite history book in years.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Far Be It For Self To Say: #amstillreading REDEPLOYMENT

It is a beautiful, beautiful day in Annaghmakerrig.

Still reading Redeployment. Pretty good collection. Skip the following and you won’t miss much:

  • In Vietnam They Had Whores
  • Psychological Operations
  • War Stories

She knows Klay’s strength is in his utter brazen fearlessness. Showing how death really is. Let’s get real, this is death! This is what it’s like!

He even throws in some good, honest, American male fantasies (For another example of how sex/war/male fantasy go together, read Sebastian Barry’s shattering World War I novel A Long, Long Way) in the midst of the BOOM BOOM BOOM of warfare. Nightmarish, right? I’m dying; give me a woman!

Do not read In Vietnam They Had Whores because there is one pretty bad incident. If you persist in reading that story, you will know at once which incident self is referring to: the thing that happened in Vietnam.

You know, it’s a good thing Iraq had no whores for the Americans. Truly. Self is not kidding.

Self knows In Vietnam They Had Whores because they had whores in the Philippines, too. Which is the reason Clark and Olongapo becamse synonymous with, not just American bases, but honky-tonk: in other words, whorehouses.

In Thailand they also had/have whores. Self has walked around Patpong at night. She knows of what she speaks.

The second story self thinks worth skipping, Psychological Operations, has a female character, Zara, but she is a type. First of all, she’s a minority. In Amherst. (This is supposed to mean something? Yeah, the minority who is actually privileged! What a rare sighting!) Zara turns (strict) Muslim, changes her way of dress, accepts the narrator’s invitation to smoke a hookah, whatever! He does all the talking during the hookah scene — BORING! Of course, he just has to tell her a war story.

In War Stories there is mention of how easy it is for men telling war stories to get laid.

A character says: “I’m just fucking tired of chicks getting off on it.” (“It” being of course war stories.) You know, there is a simple solution to this problem: STOP TELLING WAR STORIES TO CHICKS. Just swap war stories with other men.

But swapping war stories with other men will not get you laid, which is a problem if you’re young, hetero, and lonely. Ergo, you will have to go back to telling war stories to chicks. Just sayin’. And pretty soon, you will find yourself stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

But there are worse things in life. Such as having to read some ex-Marine whining about how easy it is to get laid by telling war stories. Could you just. Get. Over. Yourself.

Next!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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