Sentence of the Day: from Philip Pullman’s FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM

  • When the bird saw the vegetable stew coming to the boil with a dead mouse in it, he panicked.

— from The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage, a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, re-told by Philip Pullman

“Rufino” from Self’s Collection MAYOR OF THE ROSES

There were fourteen years before self’s first and second book.

The first was published by Calyx Press in Corvallis, OR.

The second was published by Miami University Press.

The third, The Lost Language, is only available in the Philippines.

The fourth is an e-book published by Vagabondage in Florida.

There’s also an anthology she co-edited for Calyx Press: Going Home to a Landscape.

Recently, she got an email from writer and teacher Susie Hara, who said she had liked the story “Rufino” in Mayor of the Roses.

It was the last story to be included in the collection. She threw it in at the last minute.

Rufino was a real person.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Towards the end, he couldn’t wear any clothes. They had to cover him in banana leaves.

It was in July he died — I couldn’t believe it. A voice on the phone told me.

“Rufino died na.” It was my mother speaking. Naturally, she had to be the one to break the news.

I was staying in a friend’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the mornings, fog blanketed the hills. We heard the mournful mooing of invisible cows. One or another of us would look east, toward where we heard Neil Young had his ranch, wondering whether we’d catch a glimpse of his pink cadillac that day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Now For One of Self’s: “The Lost Language”

This was published many years ago, in a magazine called Isotope.

Published in Utah and edited by a poet, Chris Cokinos.

It joined together two things: science writing and creative writing.

You would find, in the same issue, a play by a physicist, a nature essay, a poem by a mathematician. That sort of thing.

Self loved it.

Chris Cokinos, what are you doing now? Know that self considered Isotope a very noble experiment.

Here’s an excerpt from the story they published, which became the title of her third collection. It’s one of those hybrid things: part essay, part memoir, part myth, part short story.

The Lost Language

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The language was written on tree bark. Epics were probably written in this language, but I don’t know what they are. My ancestors are shadowy people. Shadows.

When I was a little girl, perhaps eight years old or so, my mother gave me a book of Philippine legends. The legends were mostly about beautiful maidens and enchanted animals. But the story I liked best was about Hari sa Bukid, which means King of the Mountain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Far Be It For Self To Say: #amstillreading REDEPLOYMENT

It is a beautiful, beautiful day in Annaghmakerrig.

Still reading Redeployment. Pretty good collection. Skip the following and you won’t miss much:

  • In Vietnam They Had Whores
  • Psychological Operations
  • War Stories

She knows Klay’s strength is in his utter brazen fearlessness. Showing how death really is. Let’s get real, this is death! This is what it’s like!

He even throws in some good, honest, American male fantasies (For another example of how sex/war/male fantasy go together, read Sebastian Barry’s shattering World War I novel A Long, Long Way) in the midst of the BOOM BOOM BOOM of warfare. Nightmarish, right? I’m dying; give me a woman!

Do not read In Vietnam They Had Whores because there is one pretty bad incident. If you persist in reading that story, you will know at once which incident self is referring to: the thing that happened in Vietnam.

You know, it’s a good thing Iraq had no whores for the Americans. Truly. Self is not kidding.

Self knows In Vietnam They Had Whores because they had whores in the Philippines, too. Which is the reason Clark and Olongapo becamse synonymous with, not just American bases, but honky-tonk: in other words, whorehouses.

In Thailand they also had/have whores. Self has walked around Patpong at night. She knows of what she speaks.

The second story self thinks worth skipping, Psychological Operations, has a female character, Zara, but she is a type. First of all, she’s a minority. In Amherst. (This is supposed to mean something? Yeah, the minority who is actually privileged! What a rare sighting!) Zara turns (strict) Muslim, changes her way of dress, accepts the narrator’s invitation to smoke a hookah, whatever! He does all the talking during the hookah scene — BORING! Of course, he just has to tell her a war story.

In War Stories there is mention of how easy it is for men telling war stories to get laid.

A character says: “I’m just fucking tired of chicks getting off on it.” (“It” being of course war stories.) You know, there is a simple solution to this problem: STOP TELLING WAR STORIES TO CHICKS. Just swap war stories with other men.

But swapping war stories with other men will not get you laid, which is a problem if you’re young, hetero, and lonely. Ergo, you will have to go back to telling war stories to chicks. Just sayin’. And pretty soon, you will find yourself stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

But there are worse things in life. Such as having to read some ex-Marine whining about how easy it is to get laid by telling war stories. Could you just. Get. Over. Yourself.

Next!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

SCROTUS Handshake: Exactly As Described

Story # 8 in Phil Klay’s Redeployment (“Prayer in the Furnace” — another lousy title, but let’s not digress)

#ShinzoAbe #PrimeMinisterofJapan #ShakesHandsWithTrump

p. 142

“He’s gonna do this handshake,” the major said. “It’s called the dominance shake. He does it to everybody.”

Eklund was a Catholic convert and had a tendency to tell me more than he should, inside the confessional and out.

“The dominance shake,” I said, amused.

“That’s what he calls it. He’s going to take your hand in his, grip it real hard, and then twist his wrist so his hand is on top of yours. That’s the dominance position. And then, instead of shaking up and down, he’ll pull you in and slap you on the shoulder and feel your bicep with his free hand. It’s Fehr’s little way of peeing on your personal tree.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Yes, All Right, Still Story # 5 of REDEPLOYMENT

Here’s the sentence:

“There is a direct link,” I said, “between the oppression of women and extremism.”

This conversation is taking place in Iraq. And it is funny. Not because self doesn’t believe the truth of it. She does. But it’s being said by an American civilian in Iraq (who goes by the name Chris Roper and self isn’t sure why but she keeps thinking she knows someone with that actual name). So it seems ironic. You know?

Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Phil Klay

It’s been one whole day and self is still reading the same story she began this morning, “Money as a Weapons System.” She sincerely hopes she won’t still be reading it,  this time tomorrow.

I was new to the cc game, a game played with skill by staff officers throughout the military, but I knew enough to know that the more senior people you could comfortably cc on your e-mails, the more everyone had to put up with whatever bullshit your e-mails were actually about.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

And STILL More From “Money As a Weapons System” (Story # 5 in Phil Klay’s REDEPLOYMENT)

The title’s a little too obvious. The story itself is layered with irony. It’s all about how American good intentions are worthless. (“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” a quote from who, self knows not, but you’re welcome)

The narrator is an adviser who gets sent to Iraq as part of the Rebuilding. Shortly after his arrival (via helicopter, a true gift from above!), he has this conversation:

“Cindy’s a true believer . . . “

“What is she working on?”

“She’s our womens initiative adviser,” said Bob. “She used to be on a local school board back in wherever the fuck she’s from. Kansas or Idaho or something. She handles our women’s business association, and she’s starting an agricultural project for widows.”

“She knows about farming?” I said hopefully.

“Nope, but I taught her how to google.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More from Story #5 of REDEPLOYMENT: “Money As a Weapons System”

The narrator is introduced to his translator, “a short and pudgy Sunni Muslim everybody referred to as the Professor.”

“Why do they call you the Professor?” I asked him.

“Because I was a professor,” he said, taking off his glasses and rubbing them . . . “before you came and destroyed this country.”

We were getting off to an awkward start. “You know,” I said, “when all this started I opposed the war . . . “

“You have baked Iraq like a cake,” he said . . .

Self really hopes there aren’t too many nasty stories left; it is really hard to read about IEDs and “light’em up” and night patrols, especially when it is in fact night, which will be arriving in less than 12 hours.

After Redeployment, the next two books on self’s reading list are:

DSCN1180

And she will read them in this order: SPQR first, followed by Rubicon.

She ordered Conspirata, by Robert Harris (a novel about Cicero), and it was delivered to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre a few days ago. Unfortunately, the copy was in French. She contacted the bookseller and they told her that in fact the only other copies they had were in Italian. But Mary Clerkin came in and saved the day and put in a request from the local library in Clones.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Story # 5 in REDEPLOYMENT: “Money As a Weapons System”

All the stories are very, very good, and Phil Klay richly deserves his National Book Award.

Story #4 was made up almost entirely of acronyms. Story #5 is from the point of view of some “liberal” do-gooder who arrives in Iraq to assist in the rebuilding of that country. It’s almost entirely conversation, and the characters say “Look” as in “Look, I don’t mean . . . ” a lot. A lot a lot a lot.

Self decided to take the opportunity for a little reflection. About her own use, in RL (Real Life) of the word “Look” in conversation:

“Look, I may seem crazy to you, but I am definitely sane.”

“Look, I don’t mean to be judgmental but . . . ”

“Look, I really want to go home, but I have no friends.”

And then she realized that “Look” is one word she never, ever uses. She doesn’t hear her women friends using it, either.

Does that make “Look” a gender-ed word? (It means: I am so exasperated. For the nth time, let me show you what I mean. Rather than say all that, you could get away with just saying: Look)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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