New Book: BARRACOON: THE STORY OF THE LAST ‘BLACK CARGO’

from the Foreword by Alice Walker:

  • Ours is an amazing, a spectacular journey in the Americas. It is so remarkable one can only be thankful for it, bizarre as that may sound. Perhaps our planet is for learning to appreciate the extraordinary wonder of life that surrounds even our suffering, and to say Yes, if through the thickest of tears.

Looking Back: The New Yorker, 28 May 2018

Self has been subscribing to The New Yorker for over 30 years.

She saves back issues. Obv.

Here’s an excerpt from a Talk of the Town piece published 28 May 2018:

“The Long Fight,” by Amy Davidson Sorkin

  • Among the many matters on which congressional Republicans have failed to press Donald Trump, a joke told by a communications aide may not rank particularly high, but it should have been among the easiest to address. This joke came during a White House meeting, after Sen. John McCain announced that he could not vote for Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for C.I.A. director because, at her hearing, she would not concede that the agency’s past practice of torture was immoral. “It doesn’t matter,” the aide said. “He’s dying anyway.” Instead of apologizing, the White House launched a hunt for the person who had leaked the remark. Some Republicans expressed outrage, but when G.O.P. senators attended a private lunch with Trump, on Tuesday, the incident wasn’t even mentioned.

After reading the piece, self adds McCain’s The Restless Wave, the book the Senator co-authored with Mark Salter, to her 2019 reading list. In that book, McCain writes

  • that he knows that torture can break people, and make them say anything — even tell lies, producing bad intelligence — and that it can rob a person of everything except “the belief that if the positions were reversed, you wouldn’t treat them as they have treated you.”

Stay tuned.

Gary Kamiya: The “Tenderloin” District, San Francisco

  • What is remarkable about the Tenderloin is that it has remained physically unchanged for more than 80 years. It is a time capsule. The same progressive forces that have kept out ‘progress’ and inadvertently created a Museum of Depravity, have also created a Museum of the Lost City, a vanished world memorialized in the neighborhood’s extraordinary collection of residential hotels. There are hundreds of these historic SROs in the Tenderloin, the largest number in the world. The SROs are the reason that in 2008, the Uptown Tenderloin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 24th San Francisco neighborhood to be so listed.

— Gary Kamiya, “Adventures in the Skin Trade”

Anastasia Ivanovna Medvedkina, Machine Gunner

You’re a writer. Think up something yourself. Something beautiful. Without lice and filth, without vomit . . . Without the smell of vodka and blood . . . Not so frightening as life.

— from The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich

Taissia Petrovna Rudenko-Sheveleva, WWII Company Commander, the Moscow Fleet

A woman in the navy . . . that was something forbidden, even unnatural. People thought it would be bad luck for a ship . . .  In our village the women teased my mother to death: what did you give birth to — a girl or a boy? I wrote a letter to Voroshilov himself, asking to be accepted in the Leningrad Artillery School. They accepted me only on his personal order. The only girl.

When I finished the school, they still wanted me to stay on dry land. Then I stopped telling them I was a woman . . . on one occasion, I gave myself away. I was scrubbing the deck, suddenly heard a noise, and turned around: a sailor was chasing a cat that had ended up on the ship, no one knew how. There was a belief, probably from the earliest times, that cats and women bring bad luck at sea. The cat didn’t want to quit the ship, and its dodges would have been the envy of a world-class football player. The whole ship was laughing. But when the cat nearly fell into water, I got frightened and screamed. And it was evidently such a girlish treble that the men’s laughter stopped at once. Silence fell.

I heard the commander’s voice: “Watchman, is there a woman on board?”

“No, sir, Comrade Commander.”

Panic again. There was a woman on board.

. . .  I was the first woman to be a commissioned officer in the navy. During the war I was in charge of arming the ships and the naval infantry.

  • — from an oral interview in Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War (Penguin Books), translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Svetlana Alexievich: Women, War

“I observed more than once how in their conversations the small overrode the great, even history.” — Svetlana Alexievich

“It’s a pity that I was beautiful only during the war . . .  My best years were spent there. Burned up. Afterward I aged quickly . . . ” — Anna Galai, submachine gunner

Antonina Mironovna Lenkova, Car Mechanic

Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War is such powerful oral history (It’s taking self forever to get through; she can’t help poring over each interview).

Antonina Mironovna Lenkova:

My passion was books. I sobbed over the novels of Lidia Charskaya, read and re-read Turgenev.

Note by the author:

  • Lidia Charskaya (1875 – 1938) was an actress at the prestigious Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and a prolific writer of popular fiction. Her work was officially banned in 1920.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Books for 2019 (After the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival)

During the 2018 Cambridge Literary Festival, writers spoke and gave readings and fired up self’s imagination. Though the list below is heavy on British authors, their books are no doubt available here (in the U.S.)

  • Flights and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
  • Holding and A Keeper, by Graham Norton
  • Building and Dwelling, by Richard Sennett
  • In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, by Lindsey Hilsum
  • The Stopping Places, by Damian LeBas
  • What a Carve Up! and The Rotters Club, by Jonathan Coe
  • Hello World: How To Be Human in the Age of the Machine, by Hannah Fry
  • The Merchant of Syria, by Diana Darke
  • Seven Types of Atheism, by John Gray
  • The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
  • We That Are Young, by Preti Taneja
  • Let Us Sing Anyway, by Leone Ross
  • Take Nothing With You, by Patrick Gale
  • On This Day in History, by Dan Snow
  • All Along the Barley, by Melissa Harrison
  • The Light in the Dark, by Horatio Clare
  • The Essex Serpent and Melmoth, by Sarah Perry
  • Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss

2019: Projected Reading List

2019 will be a great year. Self can feel it in her bones.

First, she’ll start the year trying to read Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. If she makes it through just three or four of the series, she’ll be happy.

It will be the year she gets back to reading Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal.

She’s going to try re-reading If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino.

Then she’s going to work her way through The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018 list. Which includes:

Almost everything Sarah Waters recommends: National Service, by Richard Vinen; In Our Mad and Furious City, by Guy Gunaratne; The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter; The Vet’s Daughter, a 1959 novel by Barbara Comyn; Swann’s Way by Proust; and (a re-read of) Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy.

Self’s reading list in 2019 will still lean heavy towards fiction. Here’s a partial list from The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018. All the authors are new to self, except for Liz Nugent and Pat Barker.

FICTION:

Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss; Milkman, by Anna Burns; The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker; Melmoth, by Sarah Perry; Red Birds, by Mohammed Hanif; Friday Black, by Kwame Adjei-Brenyah; West, by Carys Davies; Sight, by Jessie Greengrass; Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson; There There by Tommy Orange; Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday; Brother, by Canadian David Chariandy; All the Lives We Never Lived, by Anuradha Roy; Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata; Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk; Normal People, by Sally Rooney; The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Hermes Gowar; Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan; The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey; Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, by Andrew Miller; Painter to the King, by Amy Sackville; Murmur, by Will Eaves.

CRIME:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton; The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths; November Road, by Lou Berney; Brothers in Blood, by Amer Anwar; Lullaby by Leila Slimani; Skin Deep, by Liz Nugent (who I’ve actually met); Fear, by Dirk Kurbjuweit; London Rules, by Mick Herron; Thirteen, by Steve Cavanagh; Tombland by Matthew Shardlake; The House on Vesper Sands, by Paraic O’Donnell, and The Vogue, by Eoin McNamee.

Many, many more.

Stay tuned.

Narrative is Made Narrative By ‘The End’

  • It’s already clear to you that without the thought of death it is impossible to make out anything in a human being. — Svetlana Alexievich, A Human Being Is Greater Than War

Perhaps self has a Russian soul. She is satisfied with the above quote, even though “to make out anything” is really vague. Perhaps something got lost in the translation from the Russian?

It sounds so perfect and mysterious, though.

Stay tuned.

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