Sentence of the Day: THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG

Self really does not like the title of this novel.

Maybe because it turns something ugly into something lyrical.

There’s not even the faintest bit of lyricism or poetry in murder. Self thinks Truman Capote skirted a very fine line in In Cold Blood. But, by God, he did it.

In The Executioner’s Song, despite heroic efforts by Norman Mailer to turn Gary Gilmore, murderer and misogynist and also self-pitying whiner into a kind of American anti-hero (Why even bother), self reaches p. 366 (not even halfway; this is a 1,000-page book) and Gary Gilmore is still nothing more than a murderer/misogynist/self-pitying whiner.

Nevertheless!

Here she is. This sentence is not half-bad. In fact, it’s pretty funny:

If you were asleep, and the alarm went off, and you were under such tension you thought it was a fire siren, and saw imaginary flames and leaped out of a high window into eternity, well, it hardly mattered then whether your normal label had been psychopathic, manic, melancholic, or obsessive-compulsive, you could be sure to be called psychotic as you went through the window.

Mailer speaks truth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2016: Books That Rocked Self’s World

  • March 2016 (read in Mendocino & Fort Bragg): The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
  • May 2016 (read in London): Watch Me, by Anjelica Huston
  • June 2016 (read in California, various stops on the central coast): The Girl On the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • August 2016 (read in San Francisco): The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • December 2016 (read in San Francisco): In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Route to Power: Keep It Vague

from Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, p. 217:

To create a cult you must first attract attention. This you should not do through actions, which are too clear and readable, but through words, which are hazy and deceptive.

(See: BIGLY. Also: YUUUGE. Also: SAD. SO SAD. Also: Anything that can be said in 140 characters)

Your initial speeches, conversations, and interviews must include two elements: on the one hand, the promise of something great and transformative, and on the other a total vagueness.

(See: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN)

This combination will stimulate all kinds of hazy dreams in your listeners, who will make their own connections and see what they want to see.

(At the risk of repeating herself: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN)

To make your vaguness attractive, use words of great resonance but cloudy meaning, words full of heat and enthusiasm.

(See: I AM GOING TO APPOINT THE GREATEST CABINET IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More Names

Self’s second post on this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: NAMES

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Dragon Papa: Grant St., San Francisco

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What Self Read, Summer 2016

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Iconic Chinatown: San Francisco, Fall 2016

Quote of the Day: The Hunter

The hunter does not lay the same trap for a wolf as for a fox.

Even “persons so insignificant and so inconsiderable . . .  may, some time or other, have it in their power to be of use to you; which they certainly will not, if you have once shown them contempt. Wrongs are often forgiven, but contempt never is. Our pride remembers it forever.” (Lord Chesterfield, 1694 – 1773)

— p. 144, The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

The Economist Books of the Year 2015

Yes, self is a year behind in her reading of The Economist. So pathetic.

Anyhoo, here are the books self picked to add to her reading list: four histories, three works of fiction, one book on Culture, Society and Travel.

HISTORIES

  • Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, by Susan Southard — “a searing account of five teenage survivors of the bombing of Nagasaki”
  • Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles, by Bernard Cornwell — “a great and terrible story of a battle . . . fought 200 years ago, told with energy and clarity”
  • The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East — “how a multinational Muslim empire was destroyed by the first World War”
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard — “about Rome from its myth-shrouded origins to the early third century”

CULTURE, SOCIETY AND TRAVEL

  • Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, by Rebecca Herzig — “a curious account of hair-erasing, and why people have tried clamshell razors, lasers, lye depilatories, tweezers, waxes, threading and electrolysis to try and free themselves from hairiness”

FICTION

  • Seiobo There Below, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai — Seventeen stories, “a fitting winner of the 2005 Man Booker International Prize”
  • Submission, by Michael Houellebecq — “France under Muslim rule,” 2022
  • An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, by Jessie Greengrass — a “spectacularly accomplished, chilly debut collection of short stories about thwarted lives and opportunities missed”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Names: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 6 January 2017

  • Humans love naming things — look around you, and I bet you’ll see dozens of names. This week, take a photo of one!

— Michelle W., The Daily Post

Well, this is an interesting prompt.

Last Thanksgiving, self was in Capitola. There’s a small ice cream parlor selling local ice cream, Marianne’s, which just so happens to be self’s name:

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Ice Cream, Locally Made, in Capitola


The lines in front of this bubble tea place in Stockton are ridiculous:

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There are two Boba Guys in the City. Self took the picture from the Stockton site.


And here’s the name of a beautiful bookstore in Cork:

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One Other Reason to Love the City of Cork in Ireland

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: “Days”

from her collection Empty Chairs: Selected Poems, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Days

Our life, like the calendar
on the wall,
presents a stale picture.

Friends come at night
and I cook enough dishes to cover the table —
remembering to put salt in each.
You get chatty
without even drinking wine.
Everyone is happy and eats chicken feet
until the bones are sucked white.

At dawn, our friends are suddenly gone
like a breeze.
The sunflowers on the window curtain
are crazily bright
against the light.
Cigarette ashes and beautiful fish bones
are jammed down our throats.
Without looking at each other
we climb into bed.

Liu Xia is a Chinese poet and artist who has lived under strict house arrest since her husband, poet and activist Liu Xiaobo, was imprisoned in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” and received the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Quote of the Day: Will Schwalbe in WSJ, 25 November 2016

We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends.

— Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living is just out from Knopf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mind Cleanse for the New Year

Self stopped reading In Cold Blood even though she was 100 pages from the end. She had not expected to have the murders described in such detail, starting on p. 237. Every single minute documented through the point of view of the two murderers. The one she ached for most particularly was the 16-year-old, Nancy Clutter. Alone in her room, listening while the killers dealt with first, her father, then her mother, she decided to show herself when they dragged her younger brother from his bed. She had taken the trouble to get fully dressed. She came out of her room smiling at the two murderers, as if to charm them. She faced them.

What. A. Brave. Girl.

So, because of that, self stopped reading at p. 240.

Instead, she browses through one of her poetry books, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. It was the assigned text in a class on Chinese poetry in translation, taught by James J. Y. Liu in the Department of Asian Languages at Stanford.

Here’s a sample:

I Say Good-bye to Fan An-ch’eng

by Hsieh Tiao (464-499)

In the usual way of the young
we made appointments
and goodbye was easy.
Now in our decay and fragility, separation is difficult.

Don’t say “One cup of wine.”
Tomorrow will we hold this cup?
And if in dreams I can’t find this road,
how, thinking of you,
will I be comforted?
And if in dreams I can’t find this road

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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