Meltdown: THE DOOR

Only 1/4 left of the book to go! Self is hanging on every excruciating word.

Still with the strangely ill husband:

  • My husband wasn’t allowed out in the cold; the dog howled all day long; the apartment had to be kept spick and span for the constant visitors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Most Amazing Rant

Self has been wanting to blog about The Door all day. She’s been very busy. She considered several passages before deciding on this one.

Really, self doesn’t know if the narrator is for real, or whether Emerence the housekeeper is a total construct. Just read the following monologue/speech, which is apparently directed to the narrator, who has no objections:

  • What are you staring at? Didn’t you see Mrs. Boors granddaughter running along the other side of the street this morning, when I was sweeping — or were you paying attention only to yourself again? The child had come for me, and I went. Well, you can believe that if I’m holding someone’s hand in the hour of their death, it’s not difficult for them to die. I washed her, all very nicely, and prepared her for her journey. And I can tell you it wasn’t easy finding the time. In between, I had done that lunch for you, for which you have thanked me so graciously. Pay attention, because this is going to hurt, but it’s what you deserve. The master isn’t going to live very long, as you well know. Do you think he’s going to get stronger on plums? And what will he take to the other side as a memento?

Well, if that doesn’t just take the cake for speeches from a housekeeper!

Strangely, self hopes the relationship continues, because it is just so toxic, and it’s been a long time since self has read about a relationship like this — not even in Rebecca was Mrs. Danvers this verbally abusive. Self doesn’t think she’s read any novel where a woman is describes mistreating an animal as frequently as Emerence does the dog Viola. She beats Viola on numerous occasions, once so badly that Viola cracks a rib.

But, self has come this far. She’s not going to jump ship now!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Horror of an Encounter: THE DOOR, p. 75

Emerence thinks

There was no such thing as a sane man.

The husband of the narrator “had an absolute fit when he went into his study (which was lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling) and found the garden gnome . . . leering at him from the rug in front of his collection of English classics . . . My husband dashed out of the house.”

The gnome . . . carried a lamp and sported a tattered green apron and a tassel on the peak of his cap.

lol

lol

lol

Stay tuned.

Dog Training in THE DOOR

9/11 is almost over. Self is sick. She stayed in bed all day, reading The Door.

Magda and her husband find an abandoned puppy and take it home. Emerence, the housekeeper, becomes a completely different person with the dog: she is loving, she is affectionate.

Which reminds self of that long-ago time when her two beagles were still alive. She trained them to SIT.

Someone later told self that if she just raised a finger, the dogs would sit. She didn’t need to say the word. And that was when self realized that every time she said the word SIT, she raised her index finger.

lol

And that person was absolutely correct! Beagles would sit if she just raised her index finger!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reticence

The husband of the narrator of The Door has been in hospital for about six or seven pages (which means a few weeks). Communication between the narrator and the housekeeper, Emerence, break down.

When the husband is finally allowed home, Emerence celebrates the occasion by bringing over a pot of chicken soup. The soup tureen is a fancy one. A real work of art.

“A present,” Emerence tells the narrator, from “one of her employers, Mrs. Grossman.”

“The one thing” the narrator doesn’t “need was the thought of her” housekeeper “helping herself to the contents of someone’s shattered and abandoned home.”

The narrator wants to refuse the gift but she doesn’t want to “upset” her husband: “At the time I was allowing him only carefully monitored doses of reality.” lol

“The thought of being fed from some knick-knack that had belonged to a destitute stranger bound for the gas chamber would have made him leap out of bed, half-dead as he was.”

This book is about wartime collaborators in a small village in Hungary. Who knew? Self is absolutely delighted by this surprising turn of events.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Still On P. 27 of THE DOOR

  • All the time, my stepfather was shaking and swearing, because call-up letters were flying around like birds.

This evening self suddenly thinks about her World War II novel (244 pages) and realizes it has no heart. The only thing it describes is how an 18-year-old is sent into the mountains with the enkargado.

When Bacolod was occupied, self’s Dear Departed Dad was 12. The Japanese High Command chose the biggest house in Bacolod to commandeer. Which at the time was Dear Departed Dad’s family’s house.

It had a winding staircase made of imported Carrara marble! With a working Otis elevator! Of course the occupiers must have marveled about how that house had come to be, in such a small island in the center of the Philippines.

Must have been pretty tense, right? When self knew her grandfather, he was an old man in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. He was always that way, always a sublime paralytic in her memory. It wasn’t until six years ago that self learned that her grandfather suffered the stroke during the Occupation.

There’s a war story self’s Dear Departed Dad told her about how, one day, everyone in Bacolod was made to line up around the Plaza. There was a prisoner seated in the middle of the Plaza and he was beaten pretty badly. The guards wanted him to point out his accomplices. Right when two of my father’s uncles passed in front of the prisoner, his guards gave him a particularly vicious beating. And his arm came up and he pointed, without thought. And he was pointing at one of my father’s uncles. Who was immediately taken away and never seen again.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Still THE DOOR

Reading soooo slowly. But this book needs to be savored.

p. 27:

He wasn’t a bad man, although he made me leave school, and the headmaster was very upset about it, but I was needed to cook for the harvesters because Mother wasn’t up to it, and I also looked after the twins.

In this novel, labor is front and center. Whether that labor is writing, or housecleaning, or making things with one’s hands.

All the translations self has read so far this year have been excellent:

  • Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto (transl. from the Japanese)
  • The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (transl. from the Norwegian)
  • Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay (transl. from the French)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Saturday Reads: GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE

NO SLEEP

by Catalina Cariaga

Moonlight fills our bedroom
through slats of open blinds.
The brightness of ninety-nine horizontal candles
reveals your expectant smile.
Don’t touch my breasts
while I’m reading,
You knew I was a writer
when you married me.

GOINGHOMETOALANDSCAPE

Copies on sale, today only, at the Redwood City Public Library, 1044 Middlefield, Redwood City.

Stay tuned.

“Lamentation” by Veronica Montes: An Excerpt

TNRS6HNH

Cover of Benedicta Takes Wing by Monterey Artist Jean Vengua

The collection is called Benedicta Takes Wing, and you are crazes if you are anywhere near the Redwood City Main Library (1044 Middlefield at Jefferson) and you do not drive straight over on Saturday, 8 Sept, 2:30 p.m., the Fireplace Room, to hear Veronica Montes and fellow writer Lillian Howan read, from their respective books! Crazes!

VeronicaMontes_n

Veronica Montes, author of Benedicta Takes Wing: Stories (Philippine America Literary House, 2017)

Self will excerpt from Lillian’s book, The Charm Buyers, next.

“Lamentation” opens thus:

Her name was like a song: Maria Josefa Gabriela Cariño Silang. I wish I had given it to her.

*     *     *     *

In the province of Ilocos Sur, there is a barrio called Canlogan. It sits in the shadow of a mountain range that rises up like an enormous hand telling you to stop, telling you there is no way to pass. But the mountains are not as impenetrable as they seem; they are sliced through with rivers, each one running swift and strong. This is where my daughter, who I did not name, was born.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Accusations

Page after page, The Door, by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo, is dispatching self’s numerous pre-conceptions about it.

Self was under the impression The Door was a charming, restrained novel about a woman and her housekeeper and even imagined she’d skim through and be done with it quickly, for after reading three novels by Daphne du Maurier and a crackling biography (that had as much drama as a du Maurier novel), she thought it would be difficult to get into a quiet novel about quiet lives.

Instead, she had to cope with a grisly murder of a cat. By the woman’s next-door neighbor. Who even murders the replacement cat.

That was horrible. Self felt sick to her stomach.

Then, she encountered this passage, casually flung onto p. 15, about Emerance (That’s a pretty fabulous name, for a housekeeper yet!):

She reminded young men of the country of their old village, their own grandmothers, their distant families. They in turn never troubled her with the fact that the charges against her included murdering and robbing Jews during the war, spying for America, transmitting secret messages, regularly receiving stolen goods in her home and hoarding vast wealth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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