London Walks: Hyde Park

The first time self read The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michael Faber, was over a decade ago. She hadn’t much experience of London. Now, however, she knows London, knows its general geography, and enjoys passages like the following:

  • Since moving to the West End, Sugar has taken to crossing Hyde Park, over the Serpentine into Knightsbridge, and paying frequent visits to the two Georgian houses in Trevor Square, which may look like high-class brothels, but are in fact a public library.

The Crimson Petal and the White, p. 35

  • Follow Sugar now into the great open space, the grandiose vacancy of Regent Street — admire those overtowering honeycombs of palatial buildings stretching into the fog of artificial infinity, those thousands of identically shaped windows tier upon tier; the glassy expanse of roadway swept clear of snow; all of it is a statement of intent: a declaration that in the bright future to come, places like St. Giles and Soho, with their narrow labyrinths and tilting hovels and clammy, crumbling nooks infested with human flotsam, will be swept away, to be replaced by a new London that looks entirely like Regent Street, airy, regular and clean.

The Crimson Petal and the White, p. 43

Her last trip to London was at the tail-end of October 2017. She dropped by Hyde Park and saw:

1) the Serpentine

DSCN9992

2) a fabulous Pavilion

DSCN9993

The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion designed by architect Francis Kéré

and 3) the Prince Albert Memorial:

DSCN9999

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Sunday: Hilary Tham

At the last AWP Book Fair, self saw a familiar face at the Word Works table: Karen Alenier of Brooklyn. Self hung around and ended up buying a few books, one of which was Bad Names for Women, by Hilary Tham.

Tham is no longer with us, but her book is, and it is wonderful.

Mrs. Wei in Peking

All my life I’ve wanted to see
this Ten Thousand Li Great Wall,
Now I am sixty-five, too old for change

and Communism, the Malaysian Visa Office
permits I visit the land of my ancestors,
Oh, my arthritic knees! This wall was built

for mountain goats! The Emperor’s soldiers —
perched on the edge of the world, wanting
to sow rice and children, making do

with mulled wine against snow and ghost voices
wailing in the stones. Poor dead soldiers —
their breaths chill the stone, the summer wind,
I feel it. The Wall is haunted.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

In TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, Steinbeck is SO Discursive!

Travels with Charley, p. 31:

Very early I conceived a love for Joseph Addison which I have never lost . . .  I remember so well loving Addison’s use of capital letters for nouns.

An example of Addison’s writing:

I have observed that a Reader seldom peruses a Book with Pleasure ’till he knows whether the Writer of it be a black or fair man, of a mild or cholerick Disposition, Married or a Bachelor, with other Particulars of the like Nature, that conduce very much to the right Understanding of an Author.

Self confesses that she never heard of Joseph Addison before. Who knew that Steinbeck would admire Addison for stylistic Flourishes like the Use of Capital Letters for Nouns (Do you see what Self did just there, Dear Blog Reader? Lol)? She’d like to try that device (using capital letters for nouns) in her 18th century historical novel. At the very least, it would make for an interesting tone.

Stay tuned, Dear Blog Readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Back Issues Reading: The New Yorker, 6 Nov 2017

Since self began her methodical reading of New Yorker back issues, she realizes that the economic and social forces churning through America (like Trump announcing his interest in the Presidency in 2006) should have been sending off alarm flares. But no, we were all too busy watching TV.

The Talk of the Town piece on actor Shia LaBoeuf and his humiliation by a Nazi group made the hair on the back of her neck stand!

From The Mail:

Pence and the Presidency

  • Jane Mayer’s piece on Vice-President Mike Pence revealed his terrifying personal convictions and his connections to right-wing evangelical donors (“The President Pence Delusion,” 23 October). Pence seems to be content to act as President Trump’s puppet . . .  The puppeteer has only to suggest that it’s fine for Pence to perform, and he rises to the occasion, no matter how embarrassing or how costly to this country.

Covering White Supremacy

  • Andrew Marantz handles the presentation of the white supremacist Mike Enoch’s life story tactfully, but I worry that publishing articles like this will only encourage others to follow in Enoch’s destructive footsteps (“The Birth of a White Supremacist,” 16 October)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Story-in-Progress: “Feint” (Dystopia)

I was not born with this sense of foreboding, just as my parents weren’t born with a sense of despair.

2nd Sentence of the Day: “The Ghost Soldiers”

Self’s only quibble, three pages in, is that she wishes they had dropped the word ‘The’ in front of ‘Ghost Soldiers.’

But, she can feel it in her bones: this will be a good story. When O’Brien is firing on all cylinders, he is never ‘just ‘good,’ he is great.

“So when I got shot the second time, in the butt, along the Song Tra Bong, it took the son of a bitch almost ten minutes to work up the nerve to crawl over me.”

Whereas the previous medic came “every so often, maybe four times altogether” to check on the narrator — in the middle of “a wild fight.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: “Speaking of Courage”

The lake lay flat and silvery against the sun.

Poetry Sunday: U Sam Oeur

from The Fall of Culture

— translated from the Cambodian by Ken McCullough

I hid the precious wealth,
packed the suitcases with milled rice,
packed old clothes, a small scrap-metal oven,
pots, pans, plates, spoons, an ax, a hoe,
some preserved fish in small plastic containers —
loaded it all in a cart and towed it eastward
under the full moon, May ’75.

Born in the Svey Rieng province of Cambodia, U Sam Oeur received his MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1968. Upon returning to Cambodia, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1972 and in 1973 was appointed Secretary General of the Khmer League for Freedom. He remained there after Cambodia was “liberated” by the Vietnamese.

The Fall of Culture is part of a bilingual Khmer and English edition of U Sam Oeur’s poetry, Sacred Vows (Coffee House Press)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Work-in-Progress: “Losing a Body” (Genre: Fantasy)

Self has been working on flash. This story’s been growing by accretion, to four pages now:

There had been moments of deep humiliation, as well as moments of anger and sadness. He realized that most of these had something to do with a physical shortcoming.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Sweetheart of the Song Trabong”: Story # 9 of The Things They Carried

For Rat Kiley, I think, facts were formed by sensation, not the other way around, and when you listened to one of the stories, you’d find yourself performing rapid calculations in your head, subtracting superlatives, figuring the square root of an absolute and then multiplying by maybe.

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