To Read: Books About Houses

Self is constantly tweaking her reading list. She likes to binge-read by theme. One year, she read nothing but travel books. Another year, she read only books written by women. Last year, she limited her reading to books written about, or on, islands.

Right now, self is interested in houses. Houses exude such a sense of permanence, they are wonderful to read about, especially during the holidays.

Currently reading: The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

A Very Short List: Novels About Houses

  • AndrĂ© Dubus’s House of Sand and Fog
  • Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (Manderley!)
  • Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle
  • E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End
  • Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
  • Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows (Toad Hall!)
  • Stella Gibbons’s Cold Comfort Farm
  • V. S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Calyx Journal 10: Summer/Fall 2019

Look at this beauty!

20191208_150717

Featuring the 2018 Margarita Donnelly Prize for Prose Writing, Michelle Cristiani’s Blessed Are the Breathing.

From Senior Editor Brenna Crotty:

  • This is the issue of transformation. I knew it would be as soon as we accepted two pieces with the word “Molt” in the title. Although they addressed very different themes — the pain of recovery versus the new freedoms of young adulthood — they both flung the windows open on deep feelings of change. And the more I looked for it in this collection of poems and stories, the more I found it. From the grief and catharsis in Ingrid Wendt’s “Blue Morpho” to Michelle Cristiani’s unfolding account of life after a stroke, this issue is filled to the brim with the challenging and exhilarating work of becoming something new.

It isn’t just the words, though. The featured visual art is stunning as well.

Submissions are open through Dec. 31.

Self’s Dystopian Imagination

dscn9988

Lake Annagmakerrig: 4:30 a.m., 8 November 2018

Boy was the last of four. Alive just this morning. Fell through the ice chasing after a shadow that he thought was food.

What food. What a fool. There’s no food on the ice. Not on top, not under.

Hadn’t he told the boy, over and over: Watch the sky. The food will come as a drop.

I been watching, the boy said. For weeks.

— from self’s short story “Ice”

Her piece was published in Bellingham Review’s annual on-line issue, November 2017.

Read it in its entirety, here.

Stay tuned.

The Mars Room, p. 140: The Bulgarian Woman

She was like an orphan in a huge, unknown country. Doc adopted her for a while, and she was good at cooking and cleaning. But she sulked a lot, and he realized quiet people can control you just as effectively as loud ones.

The Mars Room pp. 60 – 61

From that day forward, on every occasion that I was forced to spend in court, the prosecutors were consistently the most competent-looking people in the courtroom. They were handsome and slick and tidy and organized, with tailored clothes and expensive leather briefcases. The public defenders, meanwhile, were recognizable on account of their bad posture, their ill-fitting suits and scuffed shoes. The women wore their hair in short, ugly, practical cuts. The men had various styles of non-styles of long hair, and every one of them was guilty of exceeding width limits on their ties.

Rachel Kushner on the Sunset District

The Mars Room, p. 33:

  • The city to me was the Sunset District, fog-banked, treeless, and bleak, with endless unvaried houses built on sand dunes that stretched forty-eight blocks to the beach, houses that were occupied by middle- and lower middle-class Chinese Americans and working-class Irish Catholics.

Tee-Hee, Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room is so in-your-face, so sassy.

It mentions Carol Doda and there is indeed a San Francisco institution called Carol Doda. In fact, on self’s first family trip to the United States (She was 13), her father was super-excited to get to San Francisco to see a Carol Doda performance. But Carol Doda was already pretty old by then, so he was vastly disappointed. In fact, when self asked her father when he got back to the hotel later that night what he thought of Carol Doda he had this look on his face and said only one word: “Old.” (Come to think of it, it is pretty wild that she, a convent girl from the Philippines, was asking her father what he thought of San Francisco’s most famous stripper. Wilder is that he thought self had asked a perfectly legitimate question because he answered in all sincerity)

Since The Mars Room is set in San Francisco, self wondered if there was an actual — ehem! — establishment. She guesses not because the only place she could find after googling was a Mars Bar and Restaurant on Brennan.

In Rachel Kushner’s novel, the manager of the Mars Room is called D’ARTAGNAN.

RUDE!

Self loves it.

Stay tuned.

Convo, The Mars Room, p. 21

“In prison at least you know what’s going to happen. I mean, you don’t actually know. It’s unpredictable. But in a boring way. It’s not like something tragic and awful can happen. I mean, sure it can. Of course it can. But you can’t lose everything in prison, since that’s already taken place.”

2019: Grateful For

The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner

p. 9:

  • I sometimes think San Francisco is cursed. I mostly think it’s a sad suckville of a place. People say it’s beautiful, but the beauty is only visible to newcomers, and invisible to those who had to grow up there. Like the glimpses of blue bay through the breezeways along the street that wraps around the back of Buena Vista Park.

There is something about the holidays. The books she reads stay and stay and stay with her. For example, she only read two books last December, but both were great: The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich; and Kudos, by Rachel Cusk.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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