Meme: The Next Big Thing, Courtesy of Luisa Igloria (Answers to the First Four Questions)

This post has to be in two parts, as self is working on a review that needs to be sent in by tomorrow!

Monday (yesterday) self had some dental surgery, and is still experiencing intermittent flashes of pain.

Everything seems to go mad during the holiday season.

But, nevertheless, it’s a great honor to be one of the five writers selected by poet Luisa Igloria to be “the next big thing.”  Here’s how the meme works (Self doing the cut and paste thang, from Luisa’s blog):

My poet friend Seni Seneviratne invited me to participate in this self-interview blog meme called The Next Big Thing, where I get to share a little more about my writing. Writers participating get to answer 8-10 questions (about their book/blog/their writing), and then tag 5 other writer friends to post their own “next big thing” the following Wednesday. Seni’s instructions were for me to post my answers by or before Wednesday, 5 December ~ so here they are!

Self had a whole week to pass on the favor to another five, and these are the five she has chosen, after pondering all week:

And here’s self’s answer to questions # 1 and # 2 (It felt really weird answering these questions with “self” instead of “I,” but what the hey)

1.  What is the working title of your book?

Self has two books she’s working on.  The first is a short story collection, which she calls Magellan’s Mirror.  The collection keeps growing:  basically, it’s all the stories she’s written since about 2006.  That’s  A LOT of stories.  Dozens.  They range from horror to science fiction to her usual dark, despairing narratives of dysfunctional Filipino relationships.  There actually might be a satire or two mixed in there.  And of course, there are a few of self’s favorite form of writing:  flash fiction.  That’s everything from “Stonehenge/Pacifica” (which appeared in Wigleaf), to “Jesters” (which appeared in Used Furniture Review) to “Wavering” (in LITnIMAGE)

The second book is a novel.  The setting is Bacolod during the Japanese Occupation.  She’s gotten it up to almost 300 pages.  She loves working on it, in little dribbles.  She started it three or four years ago.  The working title is The Vanquished.

2.  Where did the idea for the book come from?

From everywhere!  The World War II novel is based on historical research.  Self became very interested in war literature, some time after she got married.  The Man is a military history buff.  All his books are about battles.  Self got to pick up this stuff by osmosis.  Plus, some of her favorite books are war narratives.  The most recent of these would be The 9/11 Commission Final Report (Yes, self does consider that a war narrative), and all the World War II books by Ben MacIntyre, who is one of her favorite nonfiction writers.

The short stories have more various sources of inspiration.  Self writes them fast, and they do begin most of the time with an image, a flash.  If she’s lucky enough to be near her computer, she’ll dash off five or 10 pages at one go.  She’s actually been able to write an entire story in one go, if it’s between 10 and 15 pages.  Each story is an experiment in form or voice or structure or what-not.  They are, each and every story, driven by one over-riding emotion.

Lately, her stories have been getting longer.  So the narrative impulse seems to want “room.”  She’s written a 32-page story, in the last year.  Before this year, her longest stories were 15 pages.

3.  What is the genre of the books?

Fiction.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

There’s got to be a part for Keanu Reeves!

Or that androgynous looking guy from “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Also, I like Anne Curtis.  And any comedic actor from the Philippines —  I love them all.

Maybe there’d also be a part for Tia Carrere.

(To be continued)

NYTBR: 2 September 2012 (Pile of Unread Magazines Growing Again, Aaargh!)

Here’s the short list of most interesting reviews (or, reviews that made self most excited to read the books being reviewed):

  1. Dominique Browning’s review of Tan Twan Eng’s novel, The Garden of Evening Mists.  Very smart of Ms. Browning to begin her review with a description of “the mesmerizing allure of a classic Japanese garden” —  such is self’s addiction to all things Japanese, and to all things having to do with gardening, that the mere mention of “classic Japanese garden” has self all agog with excitement.
  2. Alexander Rose’s review of Ben MacIntyre’s latest book, Double Cross:  The True Story of the D-Day Spies (Self has a confession to make:  all a reviewer has to do is mention Ben MacIntyre, and self is sooo there.  She’s read three of his books, and even taught one in Foothill English 1B, for heaven’s sake!)
  3. Randy Boyagoda’s review of Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth, by Katherine Frank.  He writes self’s favorite kind of review:  the one that begins with quotes from the author whose book is being reviewed.  Self appreciates the generosity of the reviewer to a fellow writer.  So, in the first paragraph of his review, Boyagoda uses not one, not two, but three quotes from the esteemed Ms. Frank.  And each one is pretty good, though this is self’s favorite:  “That’s his secret:  Crusoe is Anyone and Everyone.  He is you and he is me.”
  4. Judith Martin’s review of The Age of Desire, by Jennie Fields.  First of all, it has self feeling so much empathy for the book’s subject, the author Edith Wharton.  In a classic paragraph, Ms. Martin writes:  “There could hardly be a more apt theme for a novel of manners than the struggle of a prominent and respectable lady to disguise her inflamed feelings in order to meet the conventions of society.  It is not only her frantic yearning for her lover that is portrayed here, but the fallout expressed in her irritation with her husband and her editorial assistant for unknowingly getting in the way.”  Very well-written review.
  5. Marilyn Stasio’s column:  Stasio always makes self want to read the mysteries she reviews, and in this case self is particularly excited to read these two:  Ruth Rendell’s latest, The St. Zita Society (Self never knew, until she read Stasio’s column this afternoon, that Ms. Rendell was a “responsible member of Parliament”!), and Anne Perry’s latest, A Sunless Sea (Great title, Ms. Perry!)
  6. And finally, bravo to Martin Amis, for making self remember that her first encounter with Anthony Burgess was a film review in Newsweek of A Clockwork Orange.  There was a picture accompanying the review, which showed Malcolm McDowell in his fiendish operatic make-up, and wearing a top hat.  And she couldn’t wait to see the movie, though she was much too young to gain admittance.  Years later, when she saw it, she was scarred.  And also elated.  Both those feelings at once.  Well, perhaps she was more elated.  For years afterward, she couldn’t get the voice of Malcolm McDowell, turning rhapsodic over “good old Ludwig van,” out of her head.  She nearly named Sole Fruit of Her Loins Ludwig van.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The New Yorker, 13 December 2010 (Including Book Reviewers’ 2010 Favorites)

This was the issue of The New Yorker that self must have missed, last December when she was in Bacolod.

The fiction is about a Somali suicide bomber:  “His hair is the color of ash and is cursed with kinks that no comb can smooth out.  From the little she has heard so far, his voice has not broken.  Yet his face crawls with the deep furrows she associates with the hardened features of a herdsman from the central region, where all of Somali’s recent political instabilities have originated.  Shabaab, the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union, has been trying to terrorize the residents of the city into submission, and it appears to have succeeded to a degree.  She assumes that he is one of the Shabaab conscripts and suspects that he has been charged with “consecrating” —  or, rather, “confiscating” —  a house in the neighborhood from which he and his colleagues will launch their attacks on their enemy targets.” (“Youngthing,” by Nuruddin Farah)

In addition, this issue has a list of “Reviewers’ Favorites from 2010.”  Oh, goodie goodie!  Self loves book lists.  She can’t believe her luck:  it is the beginning of August, and already she has a Best Books of the Year list.  So what if the books were from 2010.  Self is so behind in her reading that she’s only reading books that she entered on her list in 2008.  Herewith, a sampling of the more interesting books:

  • Operation Mincemeat, by Ben Macintyre (Yet another smashing World War II story from Mr. “Truth is stranger than fiction” Macintyre)
  • Supreme Power, by Jeff Shesol (concerning F.D.R’s court-packing scheme)
  • The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson (Self would read this book for the title alone.  It’s about “the heroic exodus from the South”)
  • The Master Switch, by Tim Wu (about “finding patterns in the fates of information empires”)
  • Nox, by Anne Carson (“On the contours of absence”)
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue
  • To the End of the Land, by David Grossman (Two characters take “a hike in the Galilee,” as well as “into the past”)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell (a “formidable historical novel”)
  • February, by Lisa Moore (about “the consequences of grief”)
  • The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer (a “capacious Holocaust love story”)
  • Private Life, by Jane Smiley (about a woman married “to an eccentric scientist”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Art of the Double Cross

As regular readers of this blog well know, self has been reading Ben Macintyre’s World War II espionage saga, Agent Zigzag (There is a fantastic blurb by John Le Carré on the front cover.  But, even without this blurb, self would have known Macintyre would deliver a ripping good yarn.  His poignant The Englishman’s Daughter is still one of her favorite nonfiction books of all time).  Here, on p. 133 of Agent Zigzag is a succinct elaboration of what makes a “double agent” succeed.  Self loves this passage because it contains the word “verisimilitude.”

It was an article of faith among the double cross team that a double agent should, as far as possible, live the life the Germans believed he was living, and do the things he claimed to be doing.  Masterman called this “the principle of verisimilitude, the imperative necessity of making the agent actually experience all that he professes to have done.”  It is far easier, under interrogation, to tell part of the truth than to sustain a latticework of pure lies.  If Chapman was going to pretend to have blown up the De Havilland factory,then he must go and case the joint, precisely as he would if he were genuinely bent on sabotage.

P. S.  The De Havilland Mosquito was an aircraft built entirely of balsa wood that was capable of carrying up to 4,000 lbs. of ordinance from Britain to Berlin.  It was a particular thorn in the side of Commander of the Luftwaffe Herman Goring.  It appears that Goring was reviewing a military parade in Berlin when the occasion was hastily interrupted by the arrival of Mosquitos from the 105th. Thus, the De Havilland factory was a prime target of Germany’s ace spies.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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