Courthouse Square, Redwood City, Families Belong Together March

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Rep. Anna Eshoo spoke to a crowd of about 3,000: “I just came from McAllen, Texas, and I can tell you that the children I saw there were NOT a threat to national security.”

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The crowd chanted, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

See you at the next rally.

Stay tuned.

 

Poetry Saturday: Keith Tuma

excerpt from Tanka Notebook, in the collection Climbing into the Orchestra (2017)

On the sidewalk a giant onion perfectly peeled
tucked in a plastic baggie and still fresh
three days after I notice it.


Keith Tuma teaches at Miami University (Ohio), where he edits the Miami University Press. Recent books include On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes (Salt, 2011).

 

Dawdling Over Travels with Charley

Self has been reading blazing fast, ever since she began Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, vol. 1 of The Book of Dust, in late March. The last week of March, and through April and May, she was on such a tear. After La Belle Sauvage, she read all of His Dark Materials, then moved on to childhood classics like Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, Tove Jansson’s exquisite The Summer Book, two first novels (As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis and Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes, both excellent), and two books by Tim O’Brien (In the Lake of the Woods gutted her. In fact, she can’t stop thinking about it)

Since beginning Travels with Charley, however, she’s been moving at a glacial pace. It took her forever just to get through the Jay Parini introduction, and she’s just on p. 17.

She almost put the book aside last night, because it suddenly struck her that the kind of problems a man might encounter while traveling alone through America are very different from the kind of problems self experiences when she travels alone — self has traveled through not just America, but through Asia and Europe — and she is usually alone. It gets harder with every passing year. Security seems more suspicious (so many stamps on her passport!), people are less kind (or maybe self has just become more paranoid), and she’s definitely become more impatient. For one thing, she hates delays of any sort, and she hates flying because it’s so dehumanizing.

On p. 17, Steinbeck shares one of his underlying reasons for undertaking this trip, and she understands:

  • A kind of second childhood falls on so many men. They trade their violence for a small increase of life span. In effect, the head of the household becomes the youngest child. And I have searched myself for this possibility with a kind of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage.

Travel is one way to resist the gravitational pull of age. It’s like being young again because everything is new, and you can still be surprised, on a daily basis.

(Note: Self was taken aback that Steinbeck viewed himself as a kind of Ernest Hemingway manly man. She’s always thought of him as ‘gentle.’ He might even be insulted by that description.)

Onward!

Self can’t believe summer is officially here. Time moves so fast. Soon, she’ll have a harvest of figs and plums from her backyard:

Stay tuned.

The Priest in Murcia (1730)

Self struggles to give her main character, Matias, a backstory. So that he does not just show up in the Philippines ready with his demon-fighting abilities.

The parts set in Murcia (Why Murcia? Because on self’s island in the Philippines, her family’s land is near the town of Murcia. Someone from Murcia, Spain, obviously, came to the island, felt homesick, started a mission, and gave the adjoining community the name of his hometown in Spain)

So, back to Murcia, Spain. Self begins with the marriage (arranged) between Matias’s parents.

Doña Francisca’s family crest depicts the Cross of Calvary on a checkerboard pattern of yellow, white, and black. Don Rodrigo’s — well, there is no family crest. No matter. He possesses wealth.

Francisca’s dowry includes land on the south bank of the Segura. It is this land, coming into the possession of Matias’s father, that starts him on the path towards social standing and great material wealth. Eventually, he devises his own crest: a golden salamander on a deep red background.

He was in the light, now. Everyone looked at him with something resembling awe.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Jay Parini in the Introduction to Travels with Charley

There was a year when all self did was read travel books. She might have missed Travels with Charley. She remembers reading so many others that year, books that brought her to Africa, to the Arctic and the Antarctic, to Turkey and Eastern Europe, to Burma. She might have skipped Travels with Charley because it was only about travel in America. How foolish!

Steinbeck’s journey lasts eleven weeks. Reading Travels with Charley during the Trump presidency is a very fraught experience. “Beneath its surface” is “a sense of disenchantment that turns, eventually, into anger.”

Steinbeck does deal with “the naked face of racism,” which fills him with a “weary nausea.” In Texas, he describes a group of women — white “mothers” — who “gathered each day to jeer at the black children as they entered or left” recently desegregated schools.

Oh. And here self thought that nothing in U.S. history could have been as bad as the present.

Jay Parini in his Introduction:

The idea that objectivity is inevitably tainted by mere expression — and by the fact that a single human being has but a single viewpoint — permeates this travelogue, making all of Steinbeck’s conclusions tentative, as they should be.

Stay tuned.

Explorers of the North

Self has always been fascinated by explorers, which is why she’s writing her novel about 18th century missionaries. She also has a very long story (32 pages currently, and nowhere near done) about an alien invasion in the Bering Sea. That story is all about Ice, but every day she reads various scientific reports about the disappearing glaciers so she feels mild concern that if she takes too long to finish this story, the context of the physical setting will cease to make any sense.

Today, she reads about the Penny and Barnes ice caps on Baffin Island, and about the Laurentide ice sheet that once covered much of North America. She learns that Baffin Island was known to the 11th century Norse of Greenland and Iceland, and that Baffin Island is postulated to be the Helluland of Viking sagas.

She also reads up on Sir John Franklin. The two ships that were lost during his fourth and final Arctic expedition were named the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. The HMS Erebus was a 372-ton Heclaclass bomb vessel, built in Wales in 1826. The wreck has been located, in Queen Maud Gulf. The wreck of the HMS Terror lies under the water of Terror Bay. (Who names ships Erebus and Terror? Isn’t that like asking for trouble?)

She reads that Georgian Bay has 30,000 islands. Fresh in her mind is the fate of Kat, in the novel she just finished reading, Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods. Who sets off alone in a small boat and becomes lost and lost and more lost.

She learns about the Jesuit mission of Saint-Marie, founded on Lake Huron in the 17th century.

She reads about Lewis and Clark and about rivers like the Columbia and the Hood, which she has seen, long ago, on a driving trip north that started out in San Francisco and hugged the coast of Oregon and Washington.

And she also reads about Celtic and Norse mythology, in a book she found in son’s room.

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So many books, so little time!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

New for the Reading List: The Economist Books, 12 May 2018

  1. The latest from Rachel Cusk: Kudos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series is mentioned in the review: self has been wanting to read Knausgaard. Hopefully, someday.
  2. Eye of the Shoal: A Fishwatcher’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything, by Helen Scales (Bloomsbury Sigma). Scales’s earlier book, about seashells, is Spirals in Time.
  3. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo, by Zora Neale Hurston: written in 1927, finally out in print!!! (Amistad)

On Now, San Francisco 2018

Summer: SO MANY THINGS, from the Magritte exhibit at SFMOMA, to the Rube Goldberg exhibit at the Jewish Contemporary Art Museum on Mission St., to the Redwood City Century 20, where we saw Jurassic Park last weekend (Bryce Dallas Howard forever!)

 

Opening Sentence, Work-In-Progress: Blue Water, Distant Shores (Working Title)

Backstory: A young Spanish priest makes it to the Philippines. His assigned task: fighting demons. It is 1755.

The old servant woman who greeted Matias at the door led him into a tiled foyer in which were aligned three austere-looking chairs of soot-black wood.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Jane Austen, Process

  • On March 18, 1817, Jane Austen stopped writing a book. We know the date because she wrote it at the end of the manuscript, on January 27th of that year. In the seven weeks in between, she had completed eleven chapters and slightly more than nine pages of a twelfth — some twenty-three thousand five-hundred words. The final sentence in the manuscript runs as follows: “Poor Mr. Hollis! — It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H.D.”

— Anthony Lane, Last Laugh: Jane Austen’s Final, Surprising, Unfinished Novel

(The New Yorker, 13 March 2017)

To read:

  • Sanditon (her last novel, unfinished)
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey

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