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.

Seeking Comfort Again From a Woman Writer

Lately, self has found comfort — great comfort — from reading Daphne du Maurier. A woman whose life self instinctively understands (Thank you again to Tatiana de Rosnay for writing Manderley Forever, which led to her discovery of the writing of du Maurier)

This evening, though, she’s reading a quote from Gail Godwin, a writer whose work self has read, but not in recent decades:

  • This account of my unfolding as a writer has been the truth. But it is also full of lies, many of which I’m not aware. But in one sense, perhaps the most important, it is all true. It could have been written by nobody but me. What I have chosen to tell, how I have chosen to tell it, and what I have chosen not to tell, expresses me and the kind of writer I am.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Jenny Allen, Essay # 15: WOULD EVERYBODY PLEASE STOP?

Self’s favorite essay so far. She loves the motherly distress over the thought that her 13-year-old daughter receives dick pics from an acquaintance. The mother, a true Mama Bear, calls the boy (whose number she finds from an email on her daughter’s computer — Bad Mama for snooping! Bad!)

“Hello?” says the boy, “warily.”

“Hi! Who’s this?”

“M—-” he says, giving his name. Good Lord, this boy would probably follow a guy who said he had a hurt puppy in his car.

Anyhoo, the conversation never touches on the dick pic, and yet there is eventually a

Long pause. “Oh.”

And I think, he’s putting it together. He knows.

The mother does talk to her daughter about it, and succeeds in being very light. Trusting, you know. She lets it go. But inwardly, she can’t stop worrying. So, some time later, when she and her daughter are “on vacation in the country,” she brings it up again:

“Were you shocked when you saw the picture?”

“Yes.” She’s smiling, but she says ‘Yes’ in the same tone that she might say “Of course” or “Duh.”

“Well, what he did was send an assault, and that’s wrong, and — “

“Bye-bye.” She walks outside. She has always been a private person. She hates Talks.

And the mother is rebuffed. Again. And yet again.

The last image is of the daughter sitting on a swing: she “swings slowly, the wood making little creaking sounds like a sailboat’s mast in the sea.”

How lovely the image!

And a few sentences later, the piece ends.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

 

New Books for the Reading List

Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:

Books To Shift Your Perspective

  • An Act of Terror, by André Brink
  • Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Stoner, by John Williams
  • The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
  • Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy

Books on Globality and Migration

  • Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera

Books for Travelers to:

Australia

  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum

China

  • Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Germany

  • Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
  • The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green

Italy

  • The Italians, by John Hooper

Japan

  • A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven

Spain

  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper

Traffic: St. Paul/Minneapolis

The more melancholy John Steinbeck becomes in Travels with Charley — the more he realizes that he is missing certain sights, and perhaps that means missing them forever — the more captivated self becomes with his narrative. (Self has been there! There meaning: emotionally)

He hates traffic. Self completely understands his reluctance to enter cities. Like Steinbeck, self tends to panic and get lost. She feels every beat of the following section, p. 100:

Like a weakening swimmer I edged to the right into a pleasant street only to be stopped by a policeman, who informed me that trucks and such vermin were not permitted there. He thrust me back into the ravening stream.

I drove for hours, never able to take my eyes from the surrounding mammoths. I must have crossed the river but I couldn’t see it. I never saw St. Paul or Minneapolis. All I saw was a river of trucks; all I heard was a roar of motors. The air saturated with Diesel fumes burned in my lungs.

Steinbeck flees. He heads for US 10 and ends up in — of all places — “a German restaurant complete with sausages, sauerkraut, and beer steins hanging in rows over the bar, shining but unused.”

The ensuing scene is A+

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Steinbeck on Traveling (Travels with Charley, p. 84)

I’ll tell you what it was like. Go to the Ufizzi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and you are so crushed with the numbers, once the might of greatness, that you go away distressed, with a feeling like constipation.

Status Report: Books Read (So Far) 2018

By now it should be clear how much self loves constructing lists. And book lists best of all.

Self set herself a goodreads Reading Challenge of 32 books, which is pretty ambitious considering last year she didn’t make her challenge goal of 26 books.

Nevertheless.

Books Read This Year (in the order of their Goodreads Average Rating)

  1. The Odyssey (the translation by Emily Wilson)
  2. La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  3. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  4. The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
  6. The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
  7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
  9. Conclave, by Robert Harris
  10. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  11. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  12. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire, by Leslie Peirce
  14. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  15. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  16. Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes
  17. The Mandibles, A Family: 2029 – 2047, by Lionel Shriver
  18. Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  20. As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis

Today, self went poring over her recommended reading list and discarded a list called “Recommended Summer Reading” (downloaded from a literary website). Summer is practically half over and by the time she gets to the books on that list, it will be winter.

On her To-Read list 2018 are a biography of Daphne du Maurier and three du Maurier novels. She hopes she can get to them soon. She wishes Steinbeck weren’t so engaging because he is really slowing down her reading rate. Before she began Travels with Charley she read an average of a book a week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Status Report: the 2018 Reading List

There was a stretch of months where all the authors self was reading or had read were male: That’s because a lot of the books she read the first half of the year were by Philip Pullman, who she read for the first time EVER this year. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Then she read Treasure Island, then Lord of the Flies.

She finally tackled Jean Rhys (another first, despite the fact that she’s been hearing about this author since the year she entered grad school) and ended up wanting to strangle her male character in Wide Sargasso Sea.

She discovered the luminous Norwegian writer Tove Jansson in The Summer Book.

She read an excellent first novel (by Julie Lekstrom Himes), Mikhail and Margarita.

After she’s done with Travels with Charley, she re-reads Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. She read this book over a decade ago but Faber’s name came up again when she found an old list (from the time she was a Hawthornden fellow, in June 2012) of book recommendations from her fellow Hawthornden writers.

Her next authors are all women:

  • Elizabeth Strout
  • Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Daphne du Maurier
  • Jenny Allen
  • Magda Szabø
  • Rosemary Sutcliff

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Pacific Rim Review of Books: Self Wants to Eat/Read Everything

Issue Twenty-Three, Vol. 12 No. 1

 

 

Sentence of the Day: Travels with Charley, p. 58

Steinbeck heads for the Connecticut River:

It is very strange that when you set a goal for yourself, it is hard not to hold toward it even if it is inconvenient and not even desirable.

This is very true. Human beings are SO confused.

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