#amwriting: “I Eat Bitterness”

Self is writing a 9/11 story called “I Eat Bitterness.”

About a businessman who commutes into Manhattan from his home in Connecticut. On the day of the attack, he’s late for work because he had a fight with his wife. His thoughts on the train are broody and dark. He arrives at the World Trade Center at half past 9 in the morning.

As self explores this story, she occasionally turns to her reading of back issues of The New Yorker and The Economist.

In the 29 October 2016 issue of The Economist, this:

Who will uphold the torch of openness in the West? . . . Hillary Clinton, the probable winner on November 8th, would be much better on immigration, but she has renounced her former support for ambitious trade deals.

Heart breaks.

Stay tuned.

Fantasy, Set in the Philippines: Self’s “Isa”

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Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental, the Philippines: December 2010

A few weeks ago, when self was attending a reading in USF, Barbara Jane Reyes, poet and teacher, told self she was teaching “Isa” in her class this fall.

YEEEESSSSS!!!!

Five families lived on Isa. At first, there was a way to walk on the ground between the houses. But gradually the water rose and that was when we began to use the rope bridges.

In self’s story the water keeps rising and rising and rising, until gradually all the other islands get submerged. And there is only one left.

The families on Isa send out an expedition to see how far the water reaches. The journey takes them far away, and they realize that they’ve long passed the edges of their known world.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Lydia Davis, “Five Signs of Disturbance”

She is watching everything very closely: herself, this apartment, what is outside the windows, and the weather.

There is a day of thunderstorms, with dark yellow and green light in the street, and black light in the alley. She looks into the alley and sees foam running over the concrete, washed out from the gutters by the rain. Then there is a day of high wind.

— from “Five Signs of Disturbance” in Davis’s first collection, Break It Down

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Fall 2016

Self often uses Lydia Davis in her teaching. Something about the crispness of her sentences. Her elegance.

Stay tuned.

#amwriting: Dystopia, the End

A classroom of the future. The teacher is Fire Lizard.

Fire Lizard really is turning into a lizard.

The students are Dragon, Drinker, and Knot. Dragon and Drinker are boys. Knot is a girl.

This is a sequel to self’s “First Causes.”

Fire Lizard looking greener than usual today. He pays no mind about Big’s chair, sitting empty.

“Nature,” Fire Lizard begins, “will vindicate her laws.”

We nod. Our cornea slips engage.

This is a series of stories in which the protagonists mostly just sit in a classroom. Because this is a classroom of the future, there’s fancy stuff like cornea slips.

“First Life” was published in Juked.com, July 2015.

“First Causes” is forthcoming in Quarterly West.

For more of this dystopian universe, refer also to decomP, which in August this year published “Spores,” along with audio from Morgan Cooke, reading in full Dublin accent, lol!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sally Potter’s YES (Potter Wrote the Entire Thing In Iambic Pentameter)

Self’s favorite scene in the movie is when SHE (played by Joan Allen) goes to visit her dying aunt in a hospital in Belfast.

Aunt:

The thing is, no-one told
Me I’d have all this time, but far too late
To use it for the things I dreamed of. Fate
Delivers upside down and back to front.
I’ve more to say than ever, but they shunt
Me back and forth all day from bed to chair
And back to bed again; it isn’t fair.
All this experience I’d like to share.
Not that it all adds up. Not that you care.
I’d better stop — it’s time for you to go
Already, isn’t it? Five minutes — oh,
Well maybe ten . . . you see, I never know
When you’ll be here again. It’s such a blow
Each time you leave, it’s hardly worth your while
To come at all. I mean it! Don’t you smile
Like that! Oh, you’ll be sorry when I’m dead.
I’m only joking, dear. I only said
That for a laugh. Although of course it’s true.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwriting: The Hill of Storms

The ghost of Dolly the sheep and three dun-polled cows grazed the storm-torn bracken.

From that day the King of France was never troubled by visits from the lands of dark-skinned peoples.

__________________

This is one of those stories where every other line is italicized because there are two interlocking threads.

An experiment, for sure!

Stay tuned.

WIT’S END: A Novel About a Novelist and Her At-Loose-Ends Niece

Self is on pp. 172 – 173 of Karen Joy Fowler’s Wit’s End.

She has been enjoying it, not least because the characters are Democrats (They wear their political affiliations on their sleeve. But of course they do: they live in Santa Cruz, CA).

A character owns a pair of dogs named Stanford and Berkeley. Self almost dropped the book because of that but she’s so glad she didn’t.

Anyhoo, the book makes her all sorts of nostalgic for Santa Cruz, CA. For its wooden roller coaster and its Boardwalk and its blue and pink cotton candy and the Ripley Believe It Or Not hall of funhouse mirrors.

Sample dinner conversation between a famous mystery writer and her niece, Rima:

“I remember once when you were about four years old. We went out to eat and you told the waitress you wanted a petite filet mignon. She just about dropped her pencil.”

“I was always saying something cute after you left. Hardly a day went by.”

“This puts the Democrats in very good shape for 2008.”

“There’s even corn in the toothpaste now. Did I mention that?”

Something wet landed on Rima’s ankle. Stanford was drooling; it brought her back to the moment.

Regarding that petite filet mignon: when self still lived in Manila, Dearest Mum’s youngest brother married a nineteen-year-old. The first time self met the prospective bride was at dinner in San Mig Pub in Greenbelt Park. And the teen-ager ordered — steak tartare. Dearest Mum was so impressed she couldn’t stop talking about it.

Until that moment, self had never laid eyes on a steak tartare. And she’s never had a yen to order it, either. That means self will probably end her days without ever tasting this singular delight, boo.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: EMPTY CHAIRS (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Liu Xia is the wife of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Liu Xiaobo (Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an eleven-year sentence in China for the Charter 08 Manifesto).

The excerpt from Black Sail is in her collection, Empty Chairs (Graywolf Press, 2015)

Black Sail (translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern)

You reach out your arms and pull the man
close, quiet, until his hair floats like seaweed.
Then you calm down and light a cigarette — green smoke
rises. The next day, when firecrackers
clear the way for a full black sail,
you become a gust of wind, a cloud, an eye.

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Lake Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

Karen Joy Fowler: WIT’S END

This novel was published seven years ago, but it’s about a 2006 mid-term election.

That shows you how long self hangs on to reviews of books she’s adding to her reading list. She will go to a bookstore, armed with her file of New York Times Book Review clippings, she will first search the shelves and then end up asking for help from a bookstore staff person, and that person will look at self’s clipping, then his/her eyes will wander down to the date at the bottom of the page, and they will say (which has happened on at least three separate occasions), in a very offended tone: “Ma’am, this review is dated 2010.” Subtext: Are you freaking nuts?

The last novel she inquired about was Sara Gruen’s Ape House.

What can she say? She’s been living la vida loca for a very, very long time. So long that hyperactivity seems to be the norm.

In an incredible stroke of luck, self is reading Fowler’s Wit’s End the week after the elections. It would seem that, in 2009, there was the same kind of zeitgeist roiling around northern California. Because while reading Wit’s End, it could be 2016. She doesn’t even have to change a single word in a few passages, it reads like 2016:

  • Well, Ohio hadn’t delivered the complete Democratic rout that had been predicted.

A few pages later:

  • “How about that election,” the sushi chef said.

It’s been really hot in San Francisco (Ha, ha, ha — she’ll never complain about San Francisco coolness again! It’s sweltering hot. Like Global Warming with a capital G. W.) Self went to the Ferry Building to cool off. And overheard a woman say: “I’m still traumatized over those election results.”

And then, a few steps further, a vendor was calling out “Sea Salt! Sea Salt!” He beckoned to a young couple passing by and said: “Young lovers, this might be your last shot at happiness! Have a taste!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIP: “Problems With Sleep”

A Stanford undergrad reminisces:

The next morning, the baby bird seemed weak. It lay gasping, its wings ruffling desperately. By the end of the day, it had turned over on its back. A pulse was just visible, below its beak.

Ellis’s mother was washing up in the kitchen. She walked over to the box and peered in. There was a kind of abstract look on her face.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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