Sage Thoughts From Master Shih Cheng-Yen

  • Do not rely on power.
  • Do not rely on social status.
  • Do not rely on wealth.

 

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.

 

Favorites So Far, September 2018

  • Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto (novel)
  • La Belle Sauvage, vol. One of The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman, and His Dark Materials, the entire trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass (novels)
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (novel)
  • The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (novel)
  • In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien (novel)
  • Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (novel in stories)
  • Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay (novelized biography)
  • Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier (novel)

This was a great reading year for NOVELS. Which means self has come full circle in her reading life. Until this year, her favorite books were histories and nonfiction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Writer and Her Housekeeper

This morning, self tore through My Cousin Rachel. Of course she knew how it was going to end, but when the end came it was still — a shock. And du Maurier, true to form, leaves the mystery of Rachel and how she ended up where she did unanswered in any definitive way. So it ends on a cliff-y. As did Rebecca. AARRRGH!

Self moved on to Magda Szabo’s The Door.

Amazing: The Door reads like it could have been written by du Maurier. The unreliable narrator, the fanciful dreams (or nightmares), the mysterious Other Person. Self sincerely hopes every novel she reads from here on out — My Antonia, by Willa Cather; Emma, by The Immortal Jane; and a short list of women science fiction writers that includes N. K. Jemisin, Fonda Lee, Analee Neuwitz, and Martha Wells — sound like du Maurier. Because she would just have a rip-roaring time!

Last fall, she read mostly nonfiction. There was a book about the last months of Franklin Roosevelt, and an oral history about Chernobyl, and an essay collection by a British surgeon named Thomas Marsh. She also read Ian McEwan’s short novel Saturday, and even though it left her cold, she can remember it in every particular.

Self is bemused by the reviews of The Door on goodreads. She can’t believe everyone’s getting so attached to a novel about a woman’s relationship with her housekeeper. From the chapter called “The Contract”:

  • So here I stood in the garden, face to face with this silent old woman, since it had become clear that if someone didn’t take over the housekeeping there would be little chance of my publishing the work I’d produced in my years of silence, or finding a voice for anything new I might have to say.

The housekeeper’s name is Emerence.

Wow.

Stay tuned.

 

What Has Happened to Oleg Sentsov?

In two years, Trump has arranged two of the most bizarre summits in the world:

  • with Kim Jong Un, a brutal dictator, who he made seem, according to The Economist (10 June 2018) “warm, jovial, and eminently reasonable.” The Economist maintains Kim Jong Un “ought to be at The Hague.”
  • with Putin in Helsinki, a “one-on-one” which offered Putin “the chance to be seen as a global statesman, an equal with the President of the United States, the leader of a country whose participation was needed to solve just about every pressing world problem.” (Joshua Yaffa in The New Yorker, 16 July 2018)

In the meantime, what has happened to Oleg Sentsov, who was jailed as a “terrorist” for “protesting against Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the war Russia’s president unleashed in eastern Ukraine four years ago” (The Economist, 10 June 2018)? No one knows. Here’s the latest article self found about him; it was almost a month ago, in The Guardian.

Trump instead calls for Russia to be allowed back into the G7, which expelled it “for the seizure of Crimea.” According to Trump, that “happened a while ago.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ranking the du Maurier Men (Open to Modification)

What cheek, especially since self has only read (thus far) two du Maurier novels: Jamaica Inn and Rebecca.

Anyhoo, here are all the du Maurier men self has encountered thus far, ranked in order of Personal Magnetism and General Badass-ery:

  1. Of course Francis Davey, the Vicar of Altarnun (Jamaica Inn) His mocking of Mary Yellan is the most delicious feint & parry.
  2. Frank Crawley (Rebecca): This good and loyal man has unexpectedly intense feelings.
  3. Joss Merlyn (Jamaica Inn): A drunk, a boor, haunted. His memories will haunt you.
  4. Jem Merlyn (Jamaica Inn): Younger brother, smarter than Joss for sure.
  5. Maxim de Winter (Rebecca): Attractive, rich, and umm, star-crossed?
  6. Frankie What’s-His-Face (The Bad Guy in Rebecca): Really shady.
  7. Harry the Pedlar (Jamaica Inn)
  8. Dr. Baker (Rebecca)
  9. Mr. Tibbs (Shipbuilder, Rebecca)
  10. Ben (Lurker in the Woods of Manderley)
  11. The Squire (Mr. Basatt, Jamaica Inn)
  12. Richards (groom to the Squire, Mr. Basatt, Jamaica Inn)
  13. Firth (Manservant, Rebecca)
  14. The Lynx-Eyed Man at the Horse Market in Launceston (Jamaica Inn) — who may in fact be Mr. Basatt, will re-read to make certain

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Fortress: Reading The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

  • Do not build fortresses to protect yourself. Isolation is dangerous.

— Law # 18 of The 48 Laws of Power

 

This Scene: Jamaica Inn, Ch. 2

Her aunt, who had not uttered a word since her husband entered the room, was frying bacon over the fire. No one spoke. Mary was aware of Joss Merlyn watching her across the table, and behind her she could hear her aunt fumbling with ineffectual fingers at the hot handle of the frying pan.

Some Thoughts:

  • The frying of the bacon in the middle of the night is a very interesting touch.
  • Joss Merlyn is an utter pig and Mary has certainly landed herself in a pickle, stuck with him and his cowed wife in an inn of uncertain repute in the middle of a nightmarishly stark and unfamiliar landscape.

So far, the novel reads like one of those dark fairy tales where a damsel in distress has to endure trial by fire before she encounters a) a prince; b) a fairy godmother; c) an inheritance.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Redwood City Public Library Author Series, Fall 2018

DSCN0201

Fireplace Room, Downtown Library, Redwood City

The first reading of the series was Holocaust Survivor, Public Speaker and Memoirist Sylvia Ruth Gutmann, reading from her book A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan. It was held two nights ago, in the Fireplace Room of the Main Library, and self is most happy to report the reading was a resounding success: a sizeable audience packed the room. High Fives to Sylvia Ruth Gutman for kicking off the series on such an auspicious note!

The second reading is a Women Authors Panel featuring self, Lillian Howan and Veronica Montes. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2:30 p.m., at the Fireplace Room of the Downtown Library. Self is a long-time Redwood City resident, and she’s so pleased to be reading with two of her favorite writers!

Veronica Montes’s first book, Benedicta Takes Wing and Other Stories (Philippine American Literary House, 2018), is a sparkling collection of stories about Filipino Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lillian Howan’s first novel, The Charm Buyers (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017) is an extraordinary and powerful love story, set in Tahiti during the last years of French nuclear testing in the Pacific, in the 1990s.

About self: She’s published three collections of short stories (Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, Mayor of the Roses, and The Lost Language) and a novella, Jenalyn (Vagabondage Press), that was a finalist for the 2014 Saboteur Award. She has stories published or forthcoming in Quarterly West, Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Juked, and Prairie Schooner.

Summer-Author-SeriesRWCSept2018

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

The last event in the series is a reading by Vanessa Garcia, reading from See You at the 7: Stories from the Bay Area’s Last Original Mile House. The 7 Mile House in Brisbane is the only Bay Area mile house operating at its original location. Garcia will read on Sept. 26, 7 p.m., in the Downtown Library Community Room.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

The End of Rebecca

Self has been pondering Rebecca since she finished reading it, late last night.

She spent almost two full days in pajamas, that’s how deeply vested she became in the narrative and the array of characters: the landscape, the house, the manners, the hopelessly fish-out-of-water narrator, the malevolent first wife, the mysterious (and rather odious) Maxim de Winter, the loyal and absolutely upstanding agent/lawyer Frank Crawley (who ended up being self’s favorite character), the well-meaning but annoying Beatrice, the servants Frith and Robert, Tabb the shipbuilder, of course the gray Mrs. Danvers, the newbie maid Clarice, even the dog Jasper for heaven’s sake!

Self was rather under-whelmed by Mrs. Danvers at the end.

There were many hints of wild orgies at the beach cottage. And poor Maxim turned out to be such a doormat! At least, as far as Rebecca was concerned. So different from the man who makes an impetuous proposal to the narrator in Monte Carlo!

After finishing, self went back and read the first two chapters. Thinking, reflecting, and feeling like the story can’t end here, it must go on.

But alas! It does end.

Self began Jamaica Inn.

Stay tuned.

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