The Best Laid Plans

What is with this book? Self is still reading it!

She confesses she was so irked by a scene she read late last night — gobs of blood spilling out from a main character’s arm, of course he tried to kill himself, don’t even pretend to not understand what he tried to do — that she thought: Oh, if this much drama is happening on p. 81, do I really want to finish this book?

In the cold light of day, she realized that it’s precisely the characters’ intensity of emotion that’s been holding her in thrall since page 1. They don’t have to be rational, or even real, people — what’s important is that each emotion is truly intense, that it feels earth-shattering.

So she decides to keep on reading (besides, all the books she wants to read next will not be in this vein, for instance the WWII book, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors!).

Then she gets to Part Two, and suddenly the characters’ youth is over. They are PAST THIRTY, how did that happen? Since this book is 700+ pages, will it end with them at 70? She hopes not. She’s rather thirsting for some youthful high jinks.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

JB’s Art Project, A LITTLE LIFE

So moved was he by the work of Lee Lozano that for his midterm project, he decided to perform an homage to her entitled Decide to Boycott White People (After Lee Lozano), in which he stopped talking to all white people.

A Little Life, p. 59


His father looked at him. “Willem,” he said, “he won’t know whether you’re there or not.”

He felt his face go hot. “I know you don’t fucking care about him,” he snapped at him, “but I do.”

A Little Life, p. 48

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.

Past Squares 7: A Look Back at This Kickass Reading Year (2021)

This is also today’s post for Life of B’s Past Squares!

Four Stories and One Forthcoming, 2021

Her story about Chopard earrings, dancing chickens and matryoshka dolls, out now in the most recent issue of Pembroke Magazine.

Two stories about ghosts and guilt, one set in Murcia, Spain, the other in Miami’s South Beach, just out in Vice-Versa

Her story about Osama bin Laden (yes, THAT Osama bin Laden), forthcoming in The Museum of Americana.

There is one other story which was published late 2020, so mebbe it doesn’t really belong here, but what the hoo: her story about a ferry disaster on the Philippine Sea, published in the most recent issue of Western Humanities Review.

Now Reading: Second to Last Sunday of May 2021

Western Humanities Review, Spring 2020

Self has a story in the latest issue of Western Humanities Review. She based it on a true story about a ferry disaster in the Philippine Sea. And it all began with the first sentence:

I didn’t like the blind woman.

Re-Reading, Re-Discovering Angela Narciso Torres

Angela Narciso Torres is the author of Blood Orange (Willow Books) and What Happens Is Neither (Four Way Books); and winner of the 2019 Yeats Poetry Prize. Her recent work appears in Poetry, Missouri Review, and PANK.

Angela and two other Four Way Books poets, Andrea Cohen and Rodney Terich, are reading tonight online at an event hosted by Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor, NY. Reading starts at 7 p.m. EST (that’s 4 p.m. PST) You can find out more from the Canio’s Books Calendar of Events.

SUNDOWNING (An excerpt)

for my mother, Carmen

The sweetest meat clings to the bone,
my mother says, knifing her steak.
Carmen. Silver spade on my tongue.

Mahjong nights, her father and mother gone,
she cried herself to sleep. Blamed in the morning
for her mother’s losing hand. Unlucky tears!

The sweetest meat — she begins
at dinner, tearing off a chicken leg.
What will she recall by morning?

Named for Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
she pinned brown scapulars under our shirts,
wet stamps that cleaved to our skin.

— from To The Bone, by Angela Narciso Torres (Sundress Publications, 2019)

Short Story of the Day: “Crocodile Teeth” by Donna Lee Miele

Nine more days till the Redwood City Library online reading for ms. aligned volume 3! (Thursday, Feb. 25, 5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. PST) Much thanks to the library outreach staff, who gave us the slot and prepared beautiful flyers. And much thanks to series editor Pat Matsueda for coming up with the idea of a series focused on women writing about men.

Super-excited. Register here.

One of the readers on Feb. 25 is Donna Lee Miele. Self has just finished re-reading her fantastic story, “Crocodile Teeth.” From her Contributor Bio in ms. aligned 3:

  • Donna Lee Miele plays with characters, settings, and conflicts that evoke her mixed heritage and her parents’ experiences of war. While she also writes historical fiction, she finds greater freedom to explore (and greater fun) in stories with less concise settings, which was her intention with “Crocodile Teeth.”

An excerpt:

I was scared of Edward’s sister. After Edward’s parents got lost looking for work upriver, she took over their grandma’s house like she’d just been waiting for the chance. She bullied Edward, she bullied their grandma, and she even bullied the guys that started hanging around, who offered everything from repairs to the wornout old house to actual money for the chance to date her. They thought she’d be easy because she and Edward were orphans. She didn’t even pretend to be nice to them. She had a look so cold she could make the bag shrivel between your legs.

If you were one of those guys, and you tried to come up on her grandma’s veranda, she would stand on its edge, look down on you, and say something like, “Take yourself to the beach and remember me to your family,” meaning Last Beach, though even she wouldn’t say that right out. Last Beach is full of whores of every kind; and every one of them, of course, is someone’s family.

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