“Maybe You Can Swim”

“Maybe you could swim,” the owner of the Pointe-aux-Chenes marina tells me when I ask if I can get to the Isles de Jean Charles without a car. “But I wouldn’t, on account of the gators.”

Rising: Dispatches from the New American shore, p. 20

 

Woe: Milkman, p. 97

Mammy! The heads! They took the heads! Where are the heads? Where’s Lassie, mammy? Where’s daddy? Have the brothers found Lassie? Where’s daddy? Where’s Lassie?

This novel, which won the Man Booker, fully deserved to win.

Graywolf Press has now given self two books that absolutely shattered her: this one, and the translation of Liu Xia’s poetry collection, Empty Chairs.

That is all.

Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives, University of Santo Tomas, Manila

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Main Building, University of Santo Tomas, Manila: January 2018

The University of Santo Tomas is the oldest university in the Philippines. The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana, is housed there, in the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Library (named after self’s great-great-grandfather). At the opening, self’s great uncle, who donated the money for the archives, cited a thesis self had written in the Ateneo de Manila, which traced the del Rosario family history back, four generations. But self wasn’t there. Her brothers went, and great was their shock when they heard her name mentioned as the reason the archives exit. (Self couldn’t go because — well, she couldn’t afford the airfare. Husband was out of work. None of her family offered to make up the fare)

She FINALLY got to drop by in January 2018, met the librarians, and took pictures. The archives survive on the generosity of individual donors. Three full-time employees are responsible for digitizing the vast collection.

“How many books have been digitized so far?” self asked.

The answer: 150.

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Self is thinking about the archives because today she decided to try and work on her 18th century novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores. Her novel — a product of over-reach, self is no historian — is about a Spanish priest who, in 1736, is sent to the Philippines to fight demons. She’s reading about books by the early missionaries, books like the Ilocano catechism of 1621, translated by Fray Francisco Lopez.

“Your books should be here, ma’am,” she remembers the librarians telling her. “We’ll add them to the display.”

What? No . . .

On second thought! She’ll contact her press right now. Please send copies to the Antonio Vivencio del Rosario Archives in University of Santo Tomas, stat!

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Found these copies of self’s third short story collection in the National Bookstore in Gateway Mall, Cubao, Metro-Manila! (January 2018)

Afterwards, self dropped by the Program in Creative Writing, and got to pose for a picture with the professors:

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University of Santo Tomas, January 2018: Creative Writing Program Director Jing Hidalgo is on self’s right.

Dearest Mum’s only response, when self showed her the pictures: Why are you so short?

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Record of a Spaceborn Few, pp. 38 – 40

Self is enjoying this book. She didn’t think she would, because of the alternating viewpoints.  But she already likes one character a lot: Sawyer.

She loves Becky Chambers’s world-building. It is multi-layered and also precise.

For instance, there’s some kind of class system (with Humans somewhat farther down on the scale than they are right now, lol). Self knows this because Sawyer bags a transport to The Fleet. There, he immediately encounters “a branching sign that read Cargo Bays on the right and Central Plaza on the left, all the scales and claws went right.”

Sawyer is “a grounder.” He’s never been to the Fleet before. As a grounder, he’s used to mingling with ‘species.’

But suddenly he’s in a place where there are mostly humans. They speak a language called Ensk. Sawyer isn’t used to speaking Ensk: “His face said Human. His vowels said Harmagian.”

He looks for a place to eat and stops at Jojo’s (What a mundane name for a restaurant of the future!) and asks a woman behind the counter for a menu: “Exoskeletons crunched between her hands.” The woman tells Sawyer, “We’re out of red coaster stew.” So Sawyer says, “I’ll have twice-round pickle.”

Already self’s insides are roiling, imagining what goes into this dish. Sawyer’s insides are roiling as well, since he can’t see what the preparer is doing: “Something was chopped, something was ladled, a few bottles were shaken.”

Too funny.

Self would like to thank The Guardian for recommending Record of a Spaceborn Few. And for recommending The Essex Serpent and November Road.

Stay tuned.

Selma Blair, Beautiful

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Went to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party! YES! Look at that gown — beautiful and ethereal. Who was the designer?

This actress is so beautiful and so fierce.

She told Vanity Fair that she realized, finally, that what she really wanted to do was to act. “But I don’t know if it’s too late.”

SELMA, YOU CAN ACT.

Stay tuned.

Preparing, OSSW Day One

Drove up to Mendocino, which as the crow flies is only 200 miles from Redwood City, but always takes self at least FIVE HOURS.

On the way, she stopped by Yorkville Market and had lunch:

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And then she mulled over the writing exercises she should start tomorrow with.

Should she have the students practice writing one very, very, very long, run-on sentence? With points to whoever can come up with the most run-on sentence?

Or, for fun, should she have them write a piece that’s all bad grammar and deliberately wrong spelling? Hamberder, anyone? Smocking guns?

Should she have them write a piece that’s all dialogue?

Should she ask them to capture every nuance of a piece of reality . . . in one sentence?

Should she have them practice writing a conversation that grows from an association of ideas (like a Harold Pinter play?)

Should she have them practice delaying the outcome for as long as possible?

She can’t decide. She’ll have to sleep on it.

BTW, this is one of the plays being presented by the Mendocino Theatre Company in 2019:

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Mendocino Theatre Company, 2019 Season

Stay tuned.

The Reading List: THE ESSEX SERPENT, p. 52

Self has been averaging 10 days a book.

Her last two books were Anna Karenina and Swann’s Way, and her current read, The Essex Serpent, is definitely NOT a book to be rushed through.

(It was a good idea not to push through with Ove Knausgaard. She might still be stuck on Book 1 right now)

The main character of The Essex Serpent (a novel she’s very much enjoying) is a recently widowed woman whose intellectual curiosity is not looked upon kindly by the society of her time (late 19th century England). She has a son named Francis and has consulted with a doctor about his being different from other children:

  • I spoke to Luke Garrett about him, you know. Not that I think there is anything wrong with him!” She flushed, because nothing shamed her as much as her son. Acutely aware that her unease in the presence of Francis was shared by most who met him, it was impossible to exculpate herself; his remoteness, his obsessions, must be her fault, for where else could she lay the blame? Garrett had been uncharacteristically quiet, soft-spoken; he’d said, “You cannot pathologize him — you cannot attempt to make a diagnosis. There is no blood test for eccentricity, no objective measure for your love or his!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Definitely the Sentence of the Day

“I do find it absurd that a man of his intelligence should suffer over a person of that sort, who isn’t even interesting — because they say she’s an idiot,” she added with the wisdom of people not in love who believe a man of sense should be unhappy only over a person who is worth it, which is rather like being surprised that anyone should condescend to suffer from cholera because of so small a creature as the comma bacillus.

Swann’s Way

That was hilarious.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

ANNA KARENINA, p. 733

A conversation between Levin and his old beekeeper, Mikhailych. (Even the most insignificant of supporting characters gets vivid description: The beekeeper, a “handsome old man with a gray-streaked black beard and thick silver hair, was standing motionlessly, holding a cup of honey, looking kindly and calmly at the gentlemen from the fullness of his height . . . “)

Levin: “Have you heard, Mihailych, about the war? What was that they read in church? What do you think? Should we be fighting for the Christians?”

Mikhailych: “What’s for us to think? Alexander Nikolaevich, our emperor, he’s thought it over for us, he thinks everything over for us. He knows best.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Work-in-Progress: Speculative Fiction

Self found this unfinished story in one of her old computer files.

An angel is roomies with a struggling college student. “He” is the angel.

He sat down and picked up an apple from a bowl on the kitchen table. “I’m hungry. Feed me.”

“You took an apple,” I said.

“Not enough,” he said. “A gammon joint. With apple and whiskey sauce.”

This is a very demanding angel!

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Stay tuned.

 

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