Angela Carter: What Is a Fairy Tale?

Someone once asked Angela Carter what her idea of a fairy tale was. She responded:

“A fairy tale is a story where one king goes to another king to ask for a cup of sugar.”

The quote appears on the back cover of Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, a personal copy of which self purchased in Edinburgh, almost three years ago.

More to chew on: a link to a Salon.com interview conducted by Laura Miller on the publication of The Turnip Princess and Other Rediscovered Fairy Tales.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Eunoia Review: Last Wednesday of February 2015

By the time we fled our house
and the jackals
we’d become expert thieves,
really wonderful liars.
We smiled and told people how happy we were
while picking their pockets.

– excerpt from “Muscle Memory,” by Len Kuntz

*     *     *     *     *

For special occasions we ate
Glorified Rice,
white rice slathered with whipped cream and pineapple chunks.
Before that was German food,
hamburger baked inside dough,
fried dough and potatoes

– excerpt from “Glorified Rice,” by Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of the story collection Dark Sunshine (Connotation Press).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Am Reading Today, Last Tuesday of February 2015

blogs

a friend’s novel

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

tweets about the Oscars

Sunflower Splendor: Two Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, Co-edited by Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo

Here’s a poem called “Southern Mountains,” by Han Yu:

So therefore I watched a pool
Whose clear depths concealed water dragons.

Bending I could gather fish and prawns,
But who dares plunder divine beings?

About Han Yu: He was a late T’ang Dynasty poet, and a contemporary of Li Po and Tu Fu. He was born into a literary family of landed gentry in the province of Hunan. He served in several high posts in the government: Vice President of the Ministry of War, Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel, and Metropolitan Governor. He died in Ch’ang-an in 824, at the age of 56.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Symmetry 5: The Mendocino Headlands

Such a gorgeous day! Tonight is self’s talk on Flash Fiction at The Mendocino Hotel.

She walked along the bluffs, just to let her mind organize her ideas.

She’s having different people read her short shorts, and then she’s throwing in two more: the piece that appeared in Vela Magazine right after Typhoon Haiyan, and Shirley Ancheta’s piece “Kristine,” in Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003)

In the meantime, here are some pictures she took of the Headlands, with an eye to the WordPress Photo Challenge this week, SYMMETRY.

Standing on the bluffs, just off Main Street, earlier today

Standing on the bluffs, just off Main Street, earlier today

A Wider Perspective

A Wider Perspective

Port of Richmond, on the last day of the Codex International Book Fair, Feb. 11, 2015

Port of Richmond, on the last day of the Codex International Book Fair, Feb. 11, 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Fairy Tale in Question This Morning

Fairy tales are brutal. That’s why self loves them.

The Baba Yaga (Russian)

Once upon a time there was an old couple. The husband lost his wife and married again. But he had a daughter by the first marriage, a young girl, and she found no favor in the eyes of her stepmother, who used to beat her, and consider how she could get her killed outright. One day the father went away somewhere or other, so the stepmother said to the girl, “Go to your aunt, my sister, and ask her for a needle and thread to make you a shift.

Now that aunt was a Baba Yaga. Well, this girl was no fool, so she went to a real aunt of hers first, and says she:

“Good morning, Auntie!”

“Good morning, my dear, what have you come for?”

“Mother has sent me to her sister, to ask for a needle and thread to make me a shift.”

Then her aunt instructed her what to do.

– from Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales, in the section “Witches.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Masters of Style: A List

Self is teaching a two-day class on travel writing this weekend.

The great thing about teaching is, it makes you ponder your own predilections.

Because unless you yourself are very clear about the kind of writing you favor, you will never, in self’s humble opinion, be able to communicate anything worthwhile to your students.

These are the writers whose books have stayed longest in self’s head and heart. Some have only written one book. Doesn’t matter. The point is, their names have become part of self’s font of inspiration.

Debra Ginsberg * Kyoko Mori * Chang-rae Lee * Annie Ernaux * Tim Parks * Ron Carlson * Alison Moore * Mo Yan * Thomas Lynch * V. S. Naipaul * Gish Jen * Deborah Digges * Paul Theroux * Kathryn Harrison * Jason Elliott * W. G. Sebald * Nina Berberova * Peter Hessler * Michael Herr * Ruth Reichl * Tony Horwitz * Elmore Leonard * Brian Hall * Nicholson Baker

(Aaargh, list is getting long! Perhaps she’ll do a Part 2 later)

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

“American Sniper”

Just saw American Sniper.

You know what? Just go ahead and nominate everybody: Bradley, Clint, even Sienna. Particularly Sienna. Honest, self did not recognize her at all. In the movie she’s thin and colt-ish and might even be a stand-in for Michelle Monaghan. It’s the best self has ever seen her.

SPOILER ALERT!

Oh Clint. She hates your movies generally. They’ve been mostly “message” movies, in the past decade. This one was good, though. She’s so glad the movie included the manner of Kyle’s eventual demise. Mother of all ironies.

Self’s favorite line in the movie was uttered by a bit actor (The same tall dude who’s a colleague of Simon Baker in The Mentalist, the one who’s having a relationship with the sexy redhead. For the life of her, self can’t remember his name). Here’s the line (There is profanity — ha!)

Right side. Damn. Legend. FUCK.

That’s because Kyle just took out an enemy sniper and gave away the SEAL’s position, and the back-up units are still 20 minutes away. Can you imagine if the commander had instead said something like:

You gave away our position, meathead!

or

You’re going to be court-martialed for this! I don’t care if you’re a so-called ‘legend’.

or

You went against a direct order! You think you have all the answers?

And who is that guy who plays a buddy of Kyle’s in the SEAL unit? With his helmet on, he’s a dead ringer for a young Peter Sarsgaard. With his helmet off, not so much. But self loved his insouciant affect.

And Bradley. What can self say? He deserved that Oscar nomination, man! Self was skeptical when it was first announced he’d be playing the lead role, but — that focus! That intensity! That reluctance to “emote”!

She doesn’t have a TV in Mendocino. Alas, she wishes she could camp out in someone’s living room for the night.

BTW, self caught the preview for Mad Max: Fury Road. Hardy, Theron, Hoult. Oh, self can hardly wait.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Heartbreaking: Colm Toibin

Self is just a few pages from the end of Brooklyn.  This is truly a great novel. Self’s heart aches for Eilis, the young Irish woman whose story this is.

SPOILER ALERT

She’s emigrated to New York but returns to Ireland for the funeral of her sister, who died suddenly of a heart condition. Apparently, the world is such a small place. Her doings in Brooklyn have already circulated in the Irish town she is from, chief among which is the fact that she’s begun dating an Italian American.

“Oh, don’t try and fool me!” Miss Kelly said. “You can fool most people, but you can’t fool me.”

“I am sure I would not like to fool anyone,” Eilis said.

“Is that right, Miss Lacey? If that’s what your name is now.

“What do you mean?”

“She told me the whole thing. The world, as the man says, is a very small place.”

Eilis, who up to then had been vaccilating about whether to return to New York, and who was starting to see a local man, immediately books passage and starts packing (and in the meantime, self’s heart is breaking into a million little pieces).

A few times after the hours that followed she was tempted to carry up a tray with tea and biscuits or sandwiches to her mother; her mother’s door remained closed and there was not a sound from the room.

Apparently, Eilis’s mother, too, had heard.

Naturally, Eilis is shunned by everyone.  Self quite understands why Eilis can no longer stay in Ireland, but feels terrible on her behalf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Rapunzel”: in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Edited by Maria Tatar

This fairy tale has always fascinated self because of: the tower; the maiden with the plait of hair; a wife’s insatiable cravings; and a devoted husband who, in attempting to satisfy his wife, brings down ruin upon his family.

In Tatar’s de-construction, the opening sentence — “Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman” — indicates “that the story will center on procreation.” (Always look for the Freudian meanings in fairy tales!)

An excerpt:

As night was falling, he climbed over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily pulled up a handful of rapunzel, and brought it back to his wife. She made a salad out of it right away and devoured it with a ravenous appetite. The rapunzel tasted so good, so very good, that the next day her craving for it increased threefold. The only way the man could settle his wife down was to go back to the garden for more.

As night was falling, he returned, but after he climbed over the wall, he had an awful fright, for there was the enchantress, standing right in front of him.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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