A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara


This is a book about four pretentious little s**ts who call each other pretentious little shits (See above) and pride themselves on knowing the correct way to pronounce the Diane in Diane Arbus. But reliable sources tell her it’s going to turn into a real weep-fest later — which means she’s going to wish she died or was never born.

Self is no stranger to weep-fests (See her prolific posts about Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy. Note also that she just finished reading — last night — Chris Offutt’s mournful tale of family justice in Eastern Kentucky, The Killing Hills.) But she’s getting genuinely anxious. Any minute now she may start tearing the pages of her magazine into tiny confetti.

Nevertheless, she resolves to tackle this massive tome, because she knows/hopes all that emotion it calls forth will prove cathartic and free-ing.

Stay tuned.

Everyone Is Mad at Nora

Self adores angst.

Angst is tops.

Angst is what self would love to write 24/7.

The Midnight Library begins with top angst.

The MC, Nora, ditched her brother’s band (for which she wrote songs) and her fiancée, in one fell swoop. She bumps into one of her brother’s friends on the street. It does not go well:

Ravi: Ever cleaned pub toilets, Nora?

Nora: I’m having a pretty shit time, too, if we’re doing the Misery Olympics.

Ravi cough-laughed. A hardness momentarily shadowed his face. “The world’s smallest violin is playing.”

This is indeed a very promising beginning.

Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them

Yes, self did blaze through Rules of Estrangement in just two days.

She can’t wait to get to the more “fun” books on her reading list, like Keith Lowe’s Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.

How did her summer reading get so dark? Blame The Economist, which recommended Rules of Estrangement and Fault Lines.

Quote of the Day: DEAR MOM

This book is so fascinating. First you have to accept that the adult child will throw a lot of STUFF at you.

Exhibit A, p. 89:

Dear Mom,

I just thought you should know that I am so done with you and everything you stand for. You only do things if they’re going to make you seem like a good person, which we both know that you’re not. You’re actually a clueless, self-centered, self-absorbed person. After our lunch on Sunday where all I did was ask you for a loan, a LOAN, Mom, to your SON so he could start a business, something which, if you were to ask a few questions, he happens to know a lot about! And all you cared about was when you were going to be paid back. Really? I thought you were my mother, not a banker!!! So, yes, I’m copying in everyone in the family, so they can see you for who you are, because they really don’t know you the way I do and unlike me, they’ve all bought into your bullshit. I’m so sick and tired of your judgment and criticism and putting me down every chance you get. Even though you always act like you don’t, we both know that you do. So have fun with my siblings for now and everyone else in the family because they’ll find out about you soon enough and be done with you just as I am.


Ken (your son)

Wowee! Self loves American family melodrama! Nice job, Ken, signing off with “your son” in parentheses!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Coming Soon in Pembroke Magazine: A New Short Story!

When the Chopard earrings were in my hand or, rather, in my purse, or — what am I talking about? I never owned a purse, only a little silk pouch my grandmother had given me when I was twelve and which was now significantly frayed and threadbare, a danger to the contents, particularly to Chopard earrings — anyway, when I had the earrings with me, I felt light. I floated through the air and down the stairs, even though I wasn’t actually taking another step. It was the way people moved in True Blood. Fast, and then still. Fast, and then still.

— from my story “Sand”

Beautiful Dreamer, TTTDOJ

But I’m running out of time. Your face is my hourglass: each time I return to Locke House it’s as if I’ve been gone for decades rather than weeks. Entire lifetimes have bloomed and faded for you, months of secret trials and triumphs that have suddenly molded your features into someone I hardly recognize. You’ve grown tall and silent, with the mistrustful stillness of a doe just before she bolts.

Sometimes — when I’m either too tired or too drunk to steer my thoughts away from dangerous places — I wonder what your mother would think if she could see you. Your features so plainly and painfully her own, but your spirit tightly laced beneath good manners and the invisible burden of unbelonging. She had dreamed for you a different life, one profoundly and perilously free, unbounded, every door standing open before you.

— Yul Scaller, father of January, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The pain, dear blog readers! The pain of a lost love! And the hatred for Mr. Locke, he of the all-too-convenient lock and key! Who sends Yul’s daughter to the — sanatorium!

What has Alix E. Harrow done to self. What has Ms. Harrow done, done, done to self.

Wullie Campbell, What a Prince

Wullie Campbell (Agnes’s dad) returns from the war to find a strange baby in his house, and a high-end pram.


  • “the baby’s pink arms reached out to him, like it knew and trusted the deep well of goodness from which Wullie Campbell had sprung.”

His wife:

  • “She had never let Mr. Kilfeather kiss her, she felt she had to tell him that.”

Wullie takes the strange baby out in the pram. Neighbors hear him whistling all the way down the street!

Self rushed all her errands today (even forgave that young Asian woman in the bright blue compact who cut into her lane and gave her the most WICKED side eye — you can bet self leaned on the horn, the loudest bleeaaaeat she could manage. It’s amazing how rude some people can be) just so she could grab her book and read further about Wullie Campbell and the strange baby and the high-end pram and Mr. Kilfeather.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Self’s Favorite Character

A boy goes scavenging for copper in the depths of an abandoned mine. He brings his younger brother along as “grass.” When he’s finally gotten as much as he can carry, he steps “back into the daylight, but it was too quiet. The grass was gone.”

Stuart’s writing is absolutely amazing.

Where has the grass gone? Where is it?

pp. 86 – 87 SHUGGIE BAIN!!!! (Do Not Read Unless You Want to Know EXACTLY What Happens)


The way Agnes leaves:

She rouses her sleepy children, gets them dressed (in their Sunday best), flicks on the light in the bedroom where her husband is fast asleep. He wakes, mouth slack, and stares at the apparition of his wife and his two children staring at him from the foot of the bed. She’s wearing a mink, something he gave her in the hope it “would make her happy and hold her at peace from want, if just for a while.”

She: “Right. Thanks for everything, then. I’m away.”

This is really solid, over-the-top, a-hair-short-of-melodramatic writing.

A chapter or so ago, Agnes’s daddy gave her a solid thrashing. Self rather enjoyed how he did it, with a minimum of fuss. He waited until she was 39 and an outright lush, why couldn’t he have taken action sooner!

There have been other jaw-dropping scenes.

It may surprise dear blog readers to know that despite the rough scenes, highlighting the injustices of the world, self is finding this book enormously entertaining.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Agnes in SHUGGIE BAIN (Spoiler Alert)

Self hungrily read almost all the Shuggie Bain reviews because she hates to become vested in a character only to have it end with that character committing suicide.

She’s just past p. 50 and it almost seems as if Agnes is dead. She sets fire to her room when she hears her husband come home. Then she holds Shuggie in her arms and pretends like it’s a game. Shuggie, who has to be the most dysfunctional mama’s boy in the long line of literary mama’s boys, lies passively (but observantly!) in his mother’s arms as the room gets smokier and smokier.

The husband comes in when he smells the smoke, doesn’t say a word, rips the burning curtains off the rods and tosses them out the window. Self thought Agnes was dead until the very last line of the chapter.

Next chapter, point of view switch to Catherine, Shuggie’s older sister. Catherine’s almost home when she sees a pile of scorched curtains on the ground and “recognized them to be the same as her mother’s, burnt and still smoking.” Catherine being a very smart girl, she puts two and two together and thinks to herself: This is not a good sign.

Self doesn’t know what the hoo-ha is about Thatcher in the reviews. Mebbe Thatcher is responsible for this family’s dysfunction, but it’s boring to think that way. She’d rather read a book about family dysfunction without having to blame the dysfunction on politicians. Self’s enjoyment of angst depends entirely on whether she believes a family has agency in its own self-destruction.

So far, the Thatcher references have been minimal. Thank the Lord!

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