Admiration 3: Fort Bragg, CA

Self discovered Fort Bragg, California this year.

She stayed for a few weeks, and discovered:

  1. An excellent bakery, in the Depot Building. Just look at that sweet, blue nest confection!
  2. An excellent used bookstore called, in typical Fort Bragg self-deprecating manner, The Bookstore. The second floor had a wonderful seating area. And the day self visited, there was a hardbound copy of Cyrano de Bergerac, which she has fond memories of her Dear Departed Dad reciting to her at mealtimes (He was a frustrated actor. Played Hamlet in high school at the Ateneo)
  3. Writers, writers, writers abound in Fort Bragg. Self began reading Norma Watkins, whose beautiful memoir, The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure, was just published by University of Mississippi Press.

“Americans Will Talk All Day”

Really?

Pardon, self was not aware.

“Americans will talk all day, but they are terrible listeners . . . ”

— Paul Theroux, Deep South

Quote of the Day: Kamel Daoud

“I think I can guess why people write true stories. Not to make themselves famous but to make themselves more invisible, and all the while clamoring for a piece of the world’s true core.”

The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud (trans. from the French by John Cullen)

March 30, 2016: Reading List Update

  • The Forever War (by Dexter Filkins): Five Stars
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich: Tolstoy. Self can’t even. He dies at the end. That’s IT ???
  • Heart of Darkness: Marlowe bores. Who would have thought? Skip.
  • Candide (Voltaire): Currently reading. And enjoying.
  • The Merseault Investigation: Coming Up Next.
  • Deep South: Much heavy lifting. But: Paul Theroux. Must read. Seriously.
  • Watch Me (Anjelica Huston Memoir): Self can’t wait.
  • Grey: follow-up to Fifty Shades. E. L. James. Self read the opening chapter last summer. Can’t get it out of her head. Despite the book getting the most stinging reviews ever on Amazon (Read, in particular, the three-star reviews). Self still remembers seeing the gigantic black-and-white posters of Jamie Dornan’s back on buildings in London’s South Bank, last summer. And Jamie Dornan does indeed have a very nice back. No arguments there. Just saying.

Stay tuned.

THE FOREVER WAR, pp. 319 – 320

For some reason, self is still reading this book. She is down to the last pages. It’s terrible. What self means is: Filkins doesn’t have any dead spots in his book (Only, dead people. BWAH. HA. HA)

Before this, she was tempted to blog about a dozen times. Each time she told herself: At this rate, you’ll be blogging for every page. Every page. You’ll be on a plane to Los Angeles, booksigning even, and you’ll be writing your 37th post on The Forever War. Woman, get a grip!

Okay, less than 50 pages to go. Which means, only about a dozen more posts on Iraq and IEDs and marines shooting at people and Iraqis hating Americans and sectarian violence and . . .

Patience, people! The end is slowly approaching!

Here’s the passage that self simply couldn’t resist posting:

“Can you imagine that anyone would ever leave his home, for any reason?” Hanoon said, waving a cigarette as he spoke. “Only bad people and gypsies live in tents. What can you say about women having to live here?”

As Hanoon “prepared to leave his ancestral home . . . not a single one of his . . . neighbors stopped by to say goodbye.”

And that is all.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

A Break From Filkins: Norma Watkins’s THE LAST RESORT

DSCN9439

THE LAST RESORT, by Norma Watkins: New From the University Press of Mississippi

The past two winters have been so great because she’s managed to spend them in Mendocino.

There are writers a-plenty here, and in Fort Bragg, just a few miles north.

She bought her copy of The Last Resort at Gallery Bookshop’s annual Spring Fling (when every book in the story is 15% off) and she got it signed by the author herself.

On the frontispiece is a quote from Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory:

Everything is as it should be, nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die.

The book begins in 1943. The narrator’s father, a naval officer, is leaving his family to go to war. The narrator is seven:

War had turned the clock back. We were poor again, and the Chevrolet, stuffed with boxes and suitcases, was all we had left. Two pet chickens rode in a crate in the trunk. Mother drove. Side by side in the backseat sat my sister, Mary Elizabeth, four, our nurse, Marie, and furious me.

Lovely narrative voice. And such a gripping opening scene.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Finally, 232 Pages Into THE FOREVER WAR

We encounter the first American diplomat who speaks “perfect Arabic.”

This is pretty sad. It’s Robert Ford, the American Embassy’s chief political officer. Self looked him up. The Wikipedia page has rather skimpy information. He was a graduate of Johns Hopkins. That’s where he picked up his “perfect Arabic”? She always knew Johns Hopkins was a great school. She wonders if Stanford University offers Arabic? It has to, now, one would think.

Self is still pondering her previous post, about the Blackwater security people who were killed in Falluja, two of whose charred bodies were strung from a bridge over the Euphrates.

Whoever did it knew they were coming. But there was not the slightest trace of apprehension among the Blackwater people in that destroyed car. Either they were just masking their fear, or they had no choice, or they were really that arrogant.

Filkins describes Falluja as “a bomb factory.”

Come to think of it, self is pretty sure she’s read another book by Filkins. All she can remember is the AC/DC moment, hardly anything else. So, nothing prepared her, really for The Forever War. This is such a good book.

She has read soooo many books about Iraq. But the only other one she can remember with any clarity is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in The Emerald City — nice euphemism for the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Blackwater/ Falluja

All morning (because self is still reading Dexter Filkins), she has been trying to imagine what it would feel like to say good-bye to a friend, then to see, two hours later, on a small TV screen in a bar where one has gone to unwind, that friend’s car engulfed in smoke, all four doors flung open wide, as if someone had dragged something — a body, maybe? Not your friend, surely this is a joke — out.

The car is just sitting there, in the middle of the street, how strange.

There is no connection between the friend you spoke to that morning and the image of that banged up car. None whatsoever.

Because when you said good-bye that morning, his car was absolutely pristine. In good shape. Maybe in need of a wash, but there were no holes in the sides.

“It just happened,” someone in the bar says.

Oh, like, a few minutes ago? And you’re sitting in a bar. Staring.

That’s so-and-so’s car.

How could anyone recognize a car as belonging to a friend when it looks like that? Like a burned-out wreck of a car? Like it’s been through a demolition derby? Who drives a car like that? Why would anyone?

And besides, the TV. Your friends never appear on TV. They’re so small-time, they’re not even. Not the slightest bit news-worthy. Your friends are just people. What an invasion of privacy. Did someone get their permission to film them?

 

Today, Pondering Joan Didion

Mulling over a list of attitudes that can be considered “magical thinking.”

Remember the book that Joan Didion wrote, several years back, called The Year of Magical Thinking? Ying was reading it in the apartment in Tel Aviv when self visited her, just a few months before she succumbed, at 37, to leukemia. Ying told self it was a very good book.

Honestly, self does not know how Ying managed to read a book like that when she herself was struggling for her life. But that’s how Ying was. She was compassionate and loving, but also remarkably clear-eyed and unsentimental. She was brave. The last thing Ying told self, shortly before she left Tel Aviv was, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

Today, self flipped open one of her journals and the first thing her eyes landed on was this list:

EXAMPLES OF MAGICAL THINKING:

  • My “stuff” will save me.
  • My writing will save me.
  • Being good will save me.
  • My degrees will save me.
  • My 260-thread-count bed linens will save me.
  • Other people will save me.

Denial is the most dangerous form of coping mechanism.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Reading List 2016, Updated

Just finished:  The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart (Charming)

Starting: The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason: a novel set in Burma

Then:

  • The Piano Player, by Kurt Vonnegut (Nephew’s favorite writer)
  • Road Dogs, by Elmore Leonard (One of self’s favorite writers)
  • The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters (Another of self’s favorite writers)
  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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