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.

 

 

 

 

Hanoch Bartov: “A Familiar Face,” translated by Riva Rubin

Reading (in addition to the Daniel Mason novel The Piano Tuner) the anthology 50 Stories From Israel, edited by Zisi Stavi.

Self is very much taken by the tone of the story by Hanoch Bartov. Here’s how it begins:

  • A few days earlier, I had returned from landscapes and climates that were the opposite of this headlong pacing in the dazzle of a Tel Aviv summer. Perhaps that is why I did not remember that I had never been to Yarmous’ office, which is where I was going in connection with the arbitration — postponed until my return — concerning the spiritual and financial insult suffered by my friend, the writer. It was only when I reached the corner of Ibn Gabirol and the street I was walking towards with such dizzy energy that I realized that the number of the building — 29, 17, or 37 — had been wiped from my memory, and that I had left my diary in the car.

Love it, just love it.

Jerusalem, Bethlehem: 2008

Self is looking through her humongous archive of photographs from past trips when she comes across these pictures she took during a brief trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 2008. She’d flown to Tel Aviv because Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying was sick and being treated in Ichilov Hospital. Self left after two weeks, but Ying herself never got to return home. She passed away in Tel Aviv, Sept. 11, 2008.

Ying and self shared many adventures: in Bangkok, in Angkor Wat, in Bohol. She was the best traveling companion. Self remembers Ying telling her, before a trip to Angkor Wat: “You are far more adventurous than any of your brothers.” To which the only appropriate response was the ironic, evil laugh: BWAH. HA. HA!

During her time in Tel Aviv, self signed up for a day tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These are her pictures from that day:

A Church in Bethlehem, Not Sure of the Name

A Church in Bethlehem, Not Sure of the Name

Another Church Whose Name Self Doesn't Remember

Another Church Whose Name Self Doesn’t Remember

Bazaar, Jerusalem

Bazaar, Jerusalem

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Inside 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Help, someone!  Anyone!  It’s too much!  Self can’t seem to stop posting on this week’s Photo Challenge: INSIDE!  She’s obviously in some kind of zone . . .

Speaking of zone: What. Ever. Happened. to. That. Malaysian. Plane???

Don’t get her started!

Anyhoo, here’s the part of The Daily Post prompt that self is trying to focus on today:  Finding images of a thing inside something else.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino:  Self was there as part of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino: Self was there to participate in the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

Inside a church in Bethlehem.  Self was there in 2008.

Inside a church in Bethlehem. Self was there in 2008.

A friend of Dearest Mum’s had let us stay in his apartment while Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was being treated for leukemia at Ichilov Hospital.  This was in 2008, which turned out to be a watershed year for self, in so many different ways.  Self will never forget Tel Aviv.  Never, ever, ever.

painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv

Painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv:  Is that a gun inside the bird’s mouth?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Creaking Chairs,” a story by Igal Mossinsohn (from 50 STORIES FROM ISRAEL: AN ANTHOLOGY, Edited by Zisel Stavi)

Self bought the anthology when she was in Tel Aviv.  She found it in a bookstore only a few minutes’ walk from the apartment on Rupin Street.  It was 2008.  Beloved Sister-in-law Ying was being treated in Ichilov Hospital; she would live a few more months.

The story self began reading this morning is by Igal Mossinsohn (1917-1994), translated from the Yiddish by Sara Friedman.  The main character is Gabriel Malin, an aging actor who, one day, is unexpectedly approached by a young girl from the kibbutz.  The girl dreams of joining the theater and has come to Malin for guidance.

The scene has the girl telling Malin:

“I didn’t think it would be as smooth as olive oil all the way.  Difficulties?  Obviously.  But the question is, can one study, improve?  Will they give me a chance to try my hand at it?”

Gabriel Malin walked over to her, laid his hands on her narrow shoulders, felt her hair lightly brushing them.  She saw faded eyes, lashless lids.  The smell of cognac drifted from his mouth mixed with that of tobacco and shaving soap.

“You have a life to live,” he said.  “Listen, my girl, it’s no life at all, don’t you understand?”

She understood nothing.  For a moment she thought he was reciting a part.  Theatricals, she thought, should more properly be confined to the stage, while in life it was preferable to speak simply and not dig unfamiliar fingers into her shoulders, not to fix lashless eyes into her own.

“Old people shuffle around onstage,” he added.  “Old!  If they had trained a younger generation to learn from their experience, had encouraged them, well then . . .  But . . .  A man onstage must be credible, convincing!  The stage offers an illusion — but when a fifty-year-old actor plays a youth — and plays him badly, what would you call that?  Still, the audience keeps coming.  Thanks to whom, may I ask?  Thanks to a few sublime actors.  There you are.  For it is art!  It is sacred! No one has the power to drag Gabriel Malin off the stage, because Gabriel Malin loves the artificial lights, the costumes, the dusty floorboards, the audience, even if, possibly, he is inept.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Infinite 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

From The Daily Post:

    Capture “moments of wonder . . . when the infinite catches us by surprise. We stumble upon it in things both big and small: on the beach, staring into the horizon; in the depth of a loved one’s eyes; or even drowning in the emptiness of a Berlin subway car.”

Self thinks faith has a lot to do with experiencing the infinite:

Self dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn't ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

The Shiva Temple at Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh:  After watching a dozen devotees reach up to ring the bell, self dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn’t ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

Mountains, like these self saw in Dharamsala, which she visited in January 2012, are infinite:

Another view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

A view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

And this last picture is of a bazaar in the city of Jerusalem.  Self visited in April 2008, because Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying was receiving treatment for her leukemia in Tel Aviv.  Of all the pictures she took there, she loves this one the most.  Because a bazaar is as integral to a city’s life as churches are, and springs from impulses as ancient as faith.

In a bazaar in Jerusalem, April 2008

In a bazaar in Jerusalem, April 2008

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Foreshadow

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge prompt (“Foreshadow”) is another tricky one!  It begins with a very lyrical description:

Cut to the hot summer of 2012.  We could see it coming in our rearview mirror:  this bruise blooming, darkening the sky as it gained speed and intensity.  It turned bright sunshine into strange green light as we raced down the highway in a bid to outrun a Canadian prairie thunderstorm.

Well, self will give it a shot:

Rose cooking dinner, Apartment on Rupin Street, Tel Aviv 2008:  She decided to go TNT and ran away.

Rose cooking dinner, Apartment on Rupin Street, Tel Aviv 2008: She decided to run away.

Tel Aviv, 2008:  Self’s family was there to support Dear Ying, whose leukemia was being treated at Ichilov Hospital.  Dearest Mum brought with her a Filipina helper named Rose.

Rose later took her things and left without telling anyone.  The thing self remembers most clearly about her is that she liked to talk about her boyfriend(s) and favored tight jeans.  She said that Filipinos liked to hang out in the bus stations in Tel Aviv and you could even find Filipino food vendors there.

More of That Cover for THE LEOPARD, self's favorite read (so far) of 2013

More of That Cover for THE LEOPARD, self’s favorite read (so far) of 2013

Self’s favorite read (so far) in 2013 has been a novel that lovingly captures the decline of a noble family’s fortunes in late 19th century Sicily.  It’s called The Leopard, and it was written by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  The cover was exquisite:  the back half of a striding leopard and, in the lower right-hand corner, an up-ended crown.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Second Looks

A Church in Bethlehem (2008)

New York City Skyline (2006)

Backyard, Redwood City, California (2006)

Plan for the morrow:  watching Liam Neeson’s new movie, “The Grey” —  or, as Eric Snider puts it on his blog:  “Liam versus Lobo”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

About Karl Taro Greenfeld, Again

Several months ago, self encountered a mind-blowing short story.  It was in One Story.  The author’s name was Karl Taro Greenfeld.  The title of the story was “Partisans.” It was set in a future that seemed a cross between “Mad Max” and Gallipoli.  After self finished reading it, she wrote on the cover: LOVED.

Then she looked for the author’s bio, which is usually on the last page. But this time, it wasn’t there. Self had to resort to google.

What’s funny is, after blogging about the story, she got a comment from Yosef Halper, who owns Halper’s Books in Tel Aviv (Self met Yosef on her very last day in Tel Aviv, over three years ago — Tel Aviv is her next favorite city in the whole world, after Bacolod!)  Yosef actually knew Karl Taro Greenfeld. Yes, indeed, Greenfeld had come into Halper’s Books.

Amazing!

Now, as self is plowing through what she calls her “pile of stuff” (grown to humongous proportions the last few weeks, as self has been so busy writing and wiping up after The Ancient One), she encounters a story from One Story, and an extra: a black and white picture of a man sporting goatee and shades, who turns out to be none other than Karl Taro Greenfeld.

OK, that is a trés cool author picture, dear blog readers.  But there is still something wrong with it:  the caption, “Introducing Karl Taro Greenfield,” mis-spells the author’s last name.  It’s Greenfeld, not Greenfield.

At the back of the postcard is the author’s bio, this time his name spelled “Greenfeld.”

Here’s the bio:

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of five books, including the collection Now Trends, coming later this year from Hobart’s Short Flight/ Long Drive books, Boy Alone, a Washington Post Best Book of 2009, Speed Tribes and China Syndrome.  A long time writer and editor for The Nation, Time, and Sports Illustrated, he was the editor of Time Asia and among the founding editors of Sports Illustrated China.  His writing has appeared in numerous anthologies including Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction and has been widely translated.  Since taking up fiction writing in 2006, his stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Paris Review, Commentary, The Sun, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, The New York Tyrant and American Short Fiction, among other publications.

Stay tuned.

Where Are They Now?

Maloy, Hong Kong 2006: She claimed she frequently saw Chow Yun Fat shopping in a neighborhood street market

Pepe at the Aberdeen Club, Hong Kong 2006: The last self heard, he had graduated from Carnegie Mellon and was working in San Ramon, California

Rose cooking dinner, Apartment on Rupin Street, Tel Aviv 2008: She decided to go TNT and ran away.

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