Angela Carter: What Is a Fairy Tale?

Someone once asked Angela Carter what her idea of a fairy tale was. She responded:

“A fairy tale is a story where one king goes to another king to ask for a cup of sugar.”

The quote appears on the back cover of Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, a personal copy of which self purchased in Edinburgh, almost three years ago.

More to chew on: a link to a Salon.com interview conducted by Laura Miller on the publication of The Turnip Princess and Other Rediscovered Fairy Tales.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Am Reading Today, Last Tuesday of February 2015

blogs

a friend’s novel

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

tweets about the Oscars

Sunflower Splendor: Two Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, Co-edited by Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo

Here’s a poem called “Southern Mountains,” by Han Yu:

So therefore I watched a pool
Whose clear depths concealed water dragons.

Bending I could gather fish and prawns,
But who dares plunder divine beings?

About Han Yu: He was a late T’ang Dynasty poet, and a contemporary of Li Po and Tu Fu. He was born into a literary family of landed gentry in the province of Hunan. He served in several high posts in the government: Vice President of the Ministry of War, Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel, and Metropolitan Governor. He died in Ch’ang-an in 824, at the age of 56.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Symmetry 5: The Mendocino Headlands

Such a gorgeous day! Tonight is self’s talk on Flash Fiction at The Mendocino Hotel.

She walked along the bluffs, just to let her mind organize her ideas.

She’s having different people read her short shorts, and then she’s throwing in two more: the piece that appeared in Vela Magazine right after Typhoon Haiyan, and Shirley Ancheta’s piece “Kristine,” in Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003)

In the meantime, here are some pictures she took of the Headlands, with an eye to the WordPress Photo Challenge this week, SYMMETRY.

Standing on the bluffs, just off Main Street, earlier today

Standing on the bluffs, just off Main Street, earlier today

A Wider Perspective

A Wider Perspective

Port of Richmond, on the last day of the Codex International Book Fair, Feb. 11, 2015

Port of Richmond, on the last day of the Codex International Book Fair, Feb. 11, 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Fairy Tale in Question This Morning

Fairy tales are brutal. That’s why self loves them.

The Baba Yaga (Russian)

Once upon a time there was an old couple. The husband lost his wife and married again. But he had a daughter by the first marriage, a young girl, and she found no favor in the eyes of her stepmother, who used to beat her, and consider how she could get her killed outright. One day the father went away somewhere or other, so the stepmother said to the girl, “Go to your aunt, my sister, and ask her for a needle and thread to make you a shift.

Now that aunt was a Baba Yaga. Well, this girl was no fool, so she went to a real aunt of hers first, and says she:

“Good morning, Auntie!”

“Good morning, my dear, what have you come for?”

“Mother has sent me to her sister, to ask for a needle and thread to make me a shift.”

Then her aunt instructed her what to do.

– from Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, in the section “Witches.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reflections, Yesterday

Feb. 12, 2015: Saw this outside the Stanford Bookstore.

Feb. 12, 2015: Saw this outside the Stanford Bookstore.

It was warm yesterday! While walking around the Stanford University campus, self saw that someone had stuck glittery red hearts around the planter box in front of the Bookstore. The Post Office looked exactly the same. They’re tearing down Meyer. Which means self will have to re-write the stories she’s set there. Yes, she does have stories set in Meyer Library.

The students she spoke to yesterday certainly made her think. Yes, she told them, the stories in Mayor of the Roses were written while she worked at Stanford at various administrative jobs.

Did you ever go to The Bridge (24-hour free counseling service on campus), someone asked. Of course! self replied. Didn’t everybody?

Self told the students that she had a more recent story about the Bridge, but in tone the story is as different from the one in Mayor of the Roses as night and day. In self’s story, which appeared in Waccamaw, the Bridge is a counseling hot-line called 1-800-U-R-Saved. The story is “Bridging.”

She talked about her Creative Writing Program years, and how she felt at the time she wrote the stories in the collection. She really really wanted to take a picture of Professor Miner’s copy of Mayor of the Roses because it was completely marked up. Notes on the margins, arrows pointing every which way. Looked like a piece of post-modern art.

She told the students she was writing science fiction now.

The time was really too short.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2666: “Dream-Like, Epic, Worldly” Says a Reader on Amazon

p. 11 of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño:  “The three met again at a German-language literature colloquium . . . ”

Self is feeling restless. At first she wasn’t sure if she’d wandered into the right novel. Why oh why are we following a bunch of academics as they attend one conference after another and expound on their love of the artist Archimboldi?

Hurry up! She doesn’t have all day!

At first she was rather intrigued by the fact that post-humously famous Bolaño chose to open a 900-page novel with a minute dissection of academics who keep bumping into each other at conferences. Way to go, Bolaño! Self found the tone sly, rather dryly humorous.

But after 11 pages, the novel’s action hasn’t moved forward an inch. We are still in the same milieu: the academic conference (handled very well, but still. There is a reason people refer to universities as ivory towers) And there are 890 more pages to go.

The next book on her reading list is Denis Johnson’s Read the rest of this entry »

Heartbreaking: Colm Toibin

Self is just a few pages from the end of Brooklyn.  This is truly a great novel. Self’s heart aches for Eilis, the young Irish woman whose story this is.

SPOILER ALERT

She’s emigrated to New York but returns to Ireland for the funeral of her sister, who died suddenly of a heart condition. Apparently, the world is such a small place. Her doings in Brooklyn have already circulated in the Irish town she is from, chief among which is the fact that she’s begun dating an Italian American.

“Oh, don’t try and fool me!” Miss Kelly said. “You can fool most people, but you can’t fool me.”

“I am sure I would not like to fool anyone,” Eilis said.

“Is that right, Miss Lacey? If that’s what your name is now.

“What do you mean?”

“She told me the whole thing. The world, as the man says, is a very small place.”

Eilis, who up to then had been vaccilating about whether to return to New York, and who was starting to see a local man, immediately books passage and starts packing (and in the meantime, self’s heart is breaking into a million little pieces).

A few times after the hours that followed she was tempted to carry up a tray with tea and biscuits or sandwiches to her mother; her mother’s door remained closed and there was not a sound from the room.

Apparently, Eilis’s mother, too, had heard.

Naturally, Eilis is shunned by everyone.  Self quite understands why Eilis can no longer stay in Ireland, but feels terrible on her behalf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Rapunzel”: in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Edited by Maria Tatar

This fairy tale has always fascinated self because of: the tower; the maiden with the plait of hair; a wife’s insatiable cravings; and a devoted husband who, in attempting to satisfy his wife, brings down ruin upon his family.

In Tatar’s de-construction, the opening sentence — “Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman” — indicates “that the story will center on procreation.” (Always look for the Freudian meanings in fairy tales!)

An excerpt:

As night was falling, he climbed over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily pulled up a handful of rapunzel, and brought it back to his wife. She made a salad out of it right away and devoured it with a ravenous appetite. The rapunzel tasted so good, so very good, that the next day her craving for it increased threefold. The only way the man could settle his wife down was to go back to the garden for more.

As night was falling, he returned, but after he climbed over the wall, he had an awful fright, for there was the enchantress, standing right in front of him.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Depth 5: About Self’s Attachment to Books

Books, for self, are the ultimate uncharted territory.

The depth of her love for books knows no bounds.

She was running low on her copies of Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila and Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas, but her publisher sent a box of those to Mendocino last week and they arrived safely.

Two other books: Mayor of the Roses and The Lost Language, are in Gallery Bookshop on Main Street. Those copies she signed.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Self ordered more copies of her books. They arrived from the publisher last week.

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino: A shelf in the science fiction section (BATTLE ROYALE meets LORD OF THE RINGS)

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Gallery Bookshop, Main Street, Mendocino

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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