Mother of All Lists (May 2018)

  • Best book self has read so far this year: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, Book 2 of His Dark Materials
  • The book it has taken self the longest to read so far this year: Banana Yoshimoto’s Moshi Moshi (33 days)
  • The longest story self has written so far: Alex (27 pages)
  • The number of literary contests self has joined so far this year: 7
  • The fastest rejection self has received so far this year: Rhino (8 days)
  • Number of pieces self has placed so far this year: 1
  • Number of novels self has read so far this year, including the one she is currently reading (Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea): 10
  • Most Fabulous Food Discovery of the Year: Hot Buttered Popcorn, Stanford Theatre, downtown Palo Alto, CA

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Child Support Office” from FINGERPRINTS OF A HUNGER STRIKE, by Tony Robles

At the entrance was a very large security guard chatting with another man who referred to him as Dinnerplate. Having recently been employed as a security guard, I felt a connection with my uniformed brethren. “Excuse me . . . uh . . .  Dinnerplate,” I said. “Can you tell me where I can give my updated contact information?” He gave me a stern look. “My name is Officer Fortune,” he said, “William A. Fortune, and you will address me as such!” I looked at the tattoo on his neck. It read Dinnerplate in cursive, although he may have been better served had it read Thinnerplate. “OK,” I replied, heading to the customer service windows where I was told — in so many words — to sit down, shut up, and wait my turn like a good boy . . .

What’s Available in The Only Bookstore in Redwood City, CA

Self is reviewing her reading list. Really, it’s become almost an obsession. She goes into the closest bookstore to her house, the Barnes & Noble in Sequoia Station, and out of a list of 22 book titles (novels published 2017), she found just these three:

  • As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis
  • Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
  • Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes

She doesn’t wish to knock her neighborhood Barnes & Noble because it really is a good store, with a better-than-average fiction section. Anyhoo, congratulations to authors Marsalis, Saunders and Himes for having their books in the store.

BTW, an island book which was recently published and which self highly recommends is Lillian Howan’s The Charm Buyers, set in Tahiti. She read it when it was first published last year and it is just the most luscious thing.

A week ago, self went back to her B & N, toting along a list of 60 titles, all recommended by her fellow Hawthornden writers in June 2012 (She found this list again just a few weeks ago; it was stuck in a drawer), and all she found in the store were these:

  • The Things They Carried and The Lake in the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  • Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck
  • The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michael Faber
  • Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Granted, the Hawthornden list is made up of books at least several years old.

When she was last in Mendocino, she took her list of Island Books to Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, and the salesperson, a very nice young man, told her: “With all due respect, these books are pretty old.” (I’d say! For example, these titles: To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, published 1927; The Fish Can Sing, by Halldor Laxness, published 1957; A House For Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul; published ___ decades ago?; Greenvoe, by George Mackay Brown, published 1972)

She found Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey and when she was paying for it, she kept telling the bookstore person who rang up the sale: This is a very good book! Why do you only have one copy?

And the beleaguered staff person had to say: Well, we don’t normally have people come in from the street asking for The Odyssey.

Poor guy! Self didn’t mean to be so insistent but she is absolutely relentless in her quest for the Holy Grail — er, for the books on her list!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Poetry Thursday: LIU XIA

Excerpt from Scheme, in the bilingual poetry collection Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press)

You’re always disappointed in me/
I, too, can do nothing about myself.

Liu Xia is the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She is currently under house arrest in China.

Stay tuned.

 

Place in the World 4: Books

Had we but world enough and time . . .

— Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”

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Spooky: The Amber Spyglass, p. 264

Steeling herself to just get it over with, she knows the ending already, wherefore all these wimpy hesitations?

So, the Land of the Dead or the Not-Quite-Dead.

Since reading that section, self keeps looking over her shoulder, like maybe she’ll catch a glimpse of a shadow (What good would that do, self? Honestly)

Lyra and Will enter a creepy house, where an old woman lies on a mattress, and a hand comes creeping out behind her, and that is the woman’s “death.”

Aaargh!!@@##

Lyra and Will have to catch a ferry to the Land of the Really Dead. But in order to do so, they have to meet their own individual deaths (!!!!)

Philip Pullman is such a wizard with the personifications!

  • “You must call up your own deaths. I have heard of people like you, who keep their deaths at bay. You don’t like them, our of courtesy they stay out of sight. But they’re not far off. Whenever your turn is ahead, your deaths dodge behind you. Whenever you look, they hide. They can hide in a teacup. Or a dewdrop. Or in a breath of wind.”

One thing about this section, Will Parry almost completely disappears from the narrative (except for Lyra being super-aware that he is listening intently to her tale-spinning). Shouldn’t sensible Will be saying, “No, Lyra, it’s too big a risk — ”

Since she’s heard that Vol. 2 of The Book of Dust is Lyra at 20, and Will Parry apparently (sorry for onomatopeia, whatever) is not IN IT, does that mean some harm has befallen him?

Next chapter begins with Mary Malone, and let me tell you, dear blog readers, that of all the sections of The Amber Spyglass, the ones with Mary are the least interesting, at least they are in self’s humble opinion. She reads them simply because she’s read on Twitter that Mary becomes the instigator of Lyra’s temptation. Maybe, though, these Mary scenes are responsible for the fact that yesterday, self hied herself off to the San Francisco Zoo, and looked at every animal under the sun (except, come to think of it, elephants).

She saw prairie dogs and cassowarys, giraffes and lions, black bears and grizzly bears, lemurs and rhino, hippopotamus (underwater) and parrots, owls and penguins, flamingos and red frogs, cockroaches and spiders (including tarantula), but NO ELEPHANTS or PINE MARTENS.

As she wandered from area to area, she kept thinking: Could this animal be my daemon? Am I a black-necked swan or a peacock? A parrot or an anteater? A gorilla or a python?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Odyssey, Book 24: Like Bats

Then Hermes called the spirits of the suitors
out of the house. He held the golden wand
with which he casts a spell to close men’s eyes
or open those of sleepers when he wants.
He led the spirits and they followed, squeaking
like bats in secret crannies of a cave,
who cling together, and when one becomes
detached and falls down from the rock, the rest
flutter and squeak — just so the spirits squeaked,
and hurried after Hermes, lord of healing.

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Agamemnon’s spirit meets the spirits of the suitors in Hades and cries out in astonishment:

What happened to you all?
Why have you all come down here to the land
of darkness? You are all so young and strong;
you must have been the best boys in your town.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

And Here We Go: The Odyssey, Books 21 and 22

Book 21 is the archery contest. All the suitors try and fail to string Odysseus’s bow, but the mysterious beggar, who the suitors have been abusing all evening, gets up, strings the bow with ease, and shoots an arrow through the lined-up axe handles.

Then

With his eyebrows
he signaled, and his son strapped on his sword.,
picked up his spear, and stood beside his chair,
next to his father, his bronze weapons flashing.

This is how Book 21 ends. Book 22 begins:

Odysseus ripped off his rags . . .  “Platyime is over.”

Self has read three translations of The Odyssey: Fitzgerald, Fagles, and now Wilson’s.

It’s very fresh, in Emily Wilson’s translation. Despite the fact that it’s probably the one where she’s most aware of formulaic utterances and repetitions. It is a story.

Her favorite character is, oddly enough, not Odysseus but Telemachus. His psychological dilemma is  acute. She really identifies with this young man who grows up fatherless, at the mercy of his mother’s boorish suitors. His journey is almost as epic as his father’s. In one section, Telemachus tells how his house is known for the single son. Laertes, his grandfather, was a single child, and so is Odysseus. So is Telemachus. This seems a rather risky practice, but anyhoo it is certainly a powerful image. And every time Athena makes Odysseus or Penelope more attractive to fool other people, self can’t help thinking: Catfish! Catfish!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Importance of Footbaths: The Odyssey, Book 19

Odysseus (disguised as a beggar) to his wife, Penelope:

I do not care for footbaths; do not let
any of these slave women in your house
come near my feet, unless there is an old one
whom I can trust, who has endured the same
heartbreak and sorrow as myself. If so,
I would not mind if she should touch my feet.

Penelope orders an old slave to wash the beggar’s feet, which she does.

Then the old woman took the shining cauldron
used for a footbath; and she filled it up
with water — lots of cold, a splash of hot.

Odysseus Tests Eumaeus: The Odyssey, Book 14

The swineherd Eumaeus to Odysseus disguised as a beggar:

. . .  You will get all the clothes and things
a poor old beggar needs — at least for now.
But in the morning, you will have to put
your old rags on again. We only have
one outfit each, no spares.

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