Self’s Intro to Author Laurie R. King

Is apparently this book, No. 17 in King’s Sherlock Holmes + Mary Russell mysteries.

No. 17.

Self knows she needs to come clean: She could not read to the end of All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days. She could not read past the Russians belligerently recruiting Arvid Harnack (while Mildred is out of town, in Copenhagen — but could she have made a difference? But could the Russians have been a little less showy with their knocking on the Harnacks’ door with not the slightest compunction about informants? After all the trouble the Heaths took to have their 11-year-old disguise the Harnacks’ activities! Self couldn’t stand those Russian thugs.)

Anyhoo, Castle Shade reads fresh. She can’t believe it’s the 17th in a series. She confesses that, in the beginning, she found the idea of a married Sherlock Holmes a little far-fetched, but once she started reading, she found the scenes between MR and SH very crisp. Story’s got a fascinating setting, too: it starts on a train headed to Dracula’s castle! Yes, that’s right: the intrepid pair are headed to Romania. Oooh! Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day, 2nd Wednesday of 2022

“I have put my revenge in cold storage.”

— Harro Schulze-Boysen, after his release from a concentration camp

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 217

Ernst von Salomon “ran into him on a crowded sidewalk in Berlin. Harro’s face was so disfigured that Ernst didn’t recognize his friend at first. “His features were very different,” Ernst reflected years later in a memoir. “He had lost half an ear and his face was covered with inflamed wounds that had scarcely healed.”

His crime? “Preparations for high treason.” He “published an anti-Nazi underground newspaper called Gegner (Opponent). “SS officers raided the office and smashed the printing press.” At the time of his first arrest, in 1935, he was 26.

Self finds out from Wikipedia that he was executed in 1942. He was 33.

The Writer Hans Fallada

His novel, called in English Little Man, What Now? was a huge bestseller, sold 42,000 copies in Germany alone. And THIS was before social media!

He followed that up in three months with another book, whose title in English was Once He had a Child. The “frenetic pace left him breathless with exhaustion. Abscesses on his gums sent him into surgery three times, and both his children got whooping cough.”

That is indeed awful. But I have never been able to write a novel in three months. So there’s that.

Sentence of the Day, 2nd Monday of 2022

Self keeps writing the year as 2021, gets confused when she sees she has something written in her computer dated TOMORROW, 2021, thinks she is getting amnesia, then remembers that 2021 is last year, and it’s over. She feels like she’s jumped the shark.

Sentence:

Relentless Nazi brutality invigorates the conviction that they must fight back steadily, diligently, without hesitation.

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 149

As if things weren’t bad enough, Mildred’s husband Arvid begins making her the focus of some deep anger. He stays out as late as he possibly can. He and Mildred divide their apartment into separate realms: her space is the kitchen, his is the living room.

He begins to refer to the living room as his room. “It’s mine too,” Mildred insists. “Yours is mine and mine’s yours.”

He: “It’s only mine and I don’t want to see anyone else in it.”

Maybe Arvid began to go crazy when he had to burn his manuscript for a book that was to be published in two days’ time. Not only did he have to burn it, he also had to take the added precaution of dumping the ashes in the Landwehr canal. After dumping his book’s ashes, he headed straight to the office of his publisher, and smashed the printing plates to pieces. “He will take no chances.” (p. 106) Mildred ends up eating a lot of long, lonely suppers by herself (But maybe she is happy because at least there is no one to pester her about staying out of the living room?)

Then she makes acquaintance of the renowned German writer Hans Fallada (self nearly fainted when she saw the name, even she knows Hans Fallada), whose real name, it turns out, is Rudolf Ditzen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: 2nd Sunday of 2022

  • With few exceptions, the men who are running the government are of a mentality that you and I cannot understand. Some of them are psychopathic cases and would ordinarily be receiving treatment somewhere. — Berlin US Consul General George Messersmith, describing Hitler to a colleague at the White House in 1933

Drumbeats of alarm. Don’t let it happen here.

Today: Alta Mesa Center for the Arts Kicks Off Reading Series 2022

Featured Readers:

  • Lillian Howan
  • Maw Shein Win
  • Dawn Angelica Barcelona

Sunday, Jan. 9, 4 p.m. ON ZOOM.
Register here.

What It Was Like in Berlin, 1932

New book, started just today. It’s by a woman named Rebecca Donner, and the subject is her great-grandaunt, Mildred Harnack, who was married to a German, Arvid, whose fate is a family secret, because it was very bad: it seems she was imprisoned by Hitler and executed, and what family would want to talk about something like that?

Self only heard about Mildred Harnack from a book review in The Economist (August 2021). Self saved the review and now, finally, she holds in her hands All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler.

Mildred was from Wisconsin. She met Arvid when they were both students at the University of Wisconsin. In 1932, she was a part-time instructor at the University of Berlin, where she taught American Literary History.

It’s a good thing her great grandniece knows how to tell a story. She uses present tense, which hints that at least one of her goals is to make this story immersive: it’s not going to be a “Mildred did this, then Mildred did that” kind of thing. No, Rebecca’s actually going to put us in Berlin, which so happens to be a place self has visited, long ago, when she was invited to read from her book Mayor of the Roses by the House of World Culture. Just a few weeks ago, she was in Berlin again, this time April 1945 Berlin, through the eyes of Anonymous in A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City.

1932 Berlin is very different from 1945 Berlin (of course). Mildred would be two years dead by the time Anonymous began writing her diary (Self wonders if Anonymous would have heard of Mildred Harnack? Anonymous was a journalist, so in all probability she would have heard of Mildred’s arrest and execution). Here is Mildred walking through Berlin in 1932:

She reaches a wide boulevard: Unter den Linden. She turns right.

The boulevard takes its name from the profusion of linden trees flanking it, trees that are in full bloom now, cascades of tiny white blossoms perfuming the air she breathes. But all this beauty can’t mask the ugliness here. Swastikas are cropping up like daisies everywhere: on posters pasted to the walls of U-Bahn stations, on flags and banners and pamphlets. A white-haired, walrus-mustached man is leading the country right now, but just barely. President Paul von Hindenburg is eighty-four, tottering into senility. A politician half his age is growing in popularity, a high-school dropout named Adolf Hitler who, Mildred predicts, will bring “a great increase of misery and oppression.”

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 16

Excerpt from “Sand” (Pembroke Magazine No. 53)

Published here.

  • And then my dreams started. I dreamt of matryoshka dolls dancing around my bed. I dreamt my boyfriend, Melvin, had turned into a matryoshka doll. He stood next to me, making matryoshka doll faces. His severely penciled eyebrows acquired the intensity of lightning bolts. “Fuck!” I said. “Melvin, stop making matryoshka doll faces at me.” Melvin disappeared, and in his place was a dancing chicken. A dancing grilled chicken. A barbecue stick skewering each wing. I couldn’t believe Melvin had turned into a chicken and there was a chance I might eat him. Then I woke up. That’s how I knew, if I didn’t steal my mother’s Chopard earrings, and soon, I’d always be the kind of person whose boyfriend turned into a matryoshka doll that made faces at her.

It doesn’t read quite as exciting on the page, but I can assure you, the effect on the Banff audience when I read that passage was electric!

It’s actually a very melancholy story.

Stay tuned.

Banff Centre for the Arts: Introducing the Program in Literary Journalism

This summer, from July 4 to July 16, Banff is offering a new program, Literary Journalism. Meetings are in-person on the Banff campus. Self knows one of the instructors, Charlotte Gill.

Self was at Banff Writers Studio, seven years ago, when she was just starting her novel, and the feedback she got from her mentors was invaluable. She wishes she could enroll for this program, as she’d do anything to get back to Banff again, but she’s not a journalist. (The only caveat was that she got fat. They give you a food allowance at the start, and there are five eateries to choose from. By the end of the five weeks, everyone in her program was complaining how much weight they’d gained. Then we had to pose for group pictures, which was really embarrassing.)

At the MacLab, she once sat one table over from k. d. lang — exciting, except she didn’t find out until after k.d. lang left. Part of the Writer’s Studio is giving a public reading, and self signed up for the very last day. She was so nervous, she had to drink a glass of wine beforehand. The story she read from was “Sand,” and had — profanity! There was some restless movement from the audience when she uttered the first word. After that, only laughter. So great.

btw, it took a while, but “Sand” finally found a home last year, in Pembroke Magazine:

Banff Centre’s Literary Journalism 2022 program encourages the exploration of new ideas in journalism and experimentation in writing. Designed to challenge and stimulate, the program aims to inspire creative pieces of nonfiction and to assist the writers in their completion. A preeminent space for long-form journalism, this residency emphasizes the strengths of thorough and articulate reporting, distinctive storytelling, and literary devices.

Application Deadline: March 9, 2022

Complete information can be found here.

So Much Alliteration!

Hazel and hawthorn are interwoven,
decked and draped in damp, shaggy moss
and bedraggled birds on bare, black branches
pipe pitifully into the piercing cold.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: a verse translation by Simon Armitage

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