ERAGON, p. 8

  • BUT WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE STONE? Eragon asks himself.

Whatever you do, boy, do not leave it in the forest.

It’s like that moment in The Matrix when Morpheus holds out the pills to Neo.

Well, Neo, which one do you pick? Which? (Of course we know what he is going to pick. Otherwise, END OF STORY)

Still, self fusses at Eragon like he wouldn’t know any better: Do not leave that stone on the ground, Eragon, do you hear me? DO NOT!

Of course Eragon is going to keep the stone. He’s fifteen, for crying out loud. Teen-agers never stop to consider consequences.

It’s simply ridiculous the way self gets into these books. Her reading material this year has veered widely from history (The Third Reich at War) to Mark Twain (Journey to the Equator) to The Infernal Devices to The 100 to Harold Jacobson’s The Act of Love to Eragon.

She also finds it amazing that every single teen-ager whose home she has had the privilege to share in the past year has shown her shelf after shelf of actual books.

Hey, weren’t we told in some distant past that the internet would destroy the printed book forevermore? Render printed matter (like newspapers) obsolete?

The people self sees with Kindles are all middle-aged. She hasn’t seen a single teen-ager with a Kindle. And neither has she met a single teen-ager who reads novels on their cell phones.

It is only self who madly scrutinizes her cell when there are at least three people ahead of her in line. What is she reading? Fan fiction of course, lol.

And then the reluctance of these teen-agers when she asks to bring one of their books to her room. Promise you won’t read them while you’re eating! They’re hardcover and, you know, PRICELESS.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Quote of the Day: 3rd Wednesday of August 2015

Self is back to reading Howard Jacobson’s novel, The Act of Love.

Oh, the places this book has traveled!

When she really likes a book, she cannot stand to finish it.

She’s on p. 247, when she encounters this fabulous sentence:

All the men in our family my father’s age had themselves whipped as a matter of course.

After self reads that fabulous sentence, she simply can’t stand to read anymore, so many FEELZ to process, so instead she turns to the books she has lined up to read after she finishes The Act of Love:

  • George Eliot’s Middlemarch
  • Leon Werth’s 33 Days, translated from the French by Austin D. Johnston
  • Richard Norton Taylor’s The New Spymasters: Inside Espionage From the Cold War to Global Terror
  • three books by Ruth Rendell (British mystery writer, one of self’s favorites. She passed away May this year): A Judgment in Stone, Tree of Hands, and A Sight for Sore Eyes

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested After Perusing The Guardian’s Summer “Text on the Beach” Issue, 23 July 2015

Self used to do this. A LOT. Post about books she was interested in reading after picking up a copy of The New York Times Book Review (which she used to subscribe to. Until last year), The New York Review of Books (which she also used to subscribe to), The New Yorker (which she still subscribes to, but hasn’t read in six months) and The Economist (which she no longer subscribes to)

Anyhoo, after that very lengthy introduction, here is self with The Guardian’s Summer Reading issue, and after going through the whole thing, self has culled just three books. She must be in some kind of slump?

Here are her three:

  • Grey, by E. L. James — What what what? Self actually read the first two pages in Hodges Figgis in Dublin. And what do you know, she liked it! But The Guardian review is so silly. “Come again, if you insist . . . ” Self still wants to read it.
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante — “The first part of the Neapolitan trilogy in which almost nothing happens.” (OK, these reviews are one-note and boring. Sorry, Jim Crace, Reviewer. Self will read in spite of)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Let self dispense with the utterly dispensable: i.e., the review. And let’s just say, if this novel is indeed a riff on Gone, Girl, she likes. So “Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl On the Train” is a barrel of laughs.

Just for that, self is popping over to the London Review of Bookstore (Hey, last AWP Book Fair, in Minneapolis, she actually saw a table for the London Review of Books! She’s not sure if they’ve been coming every year, but this year was the first time she noticed them)

Side Note:  Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is in every bookstore window, all over Dublin and London. So happy for her. Promise to read the book, at least five years from now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books for Ireland

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR



Poetry, but of course

Poetry, but of course: Dionne Brand and Tomas Transtromer

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)



and, last but not least:

George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Self is bringing along the following literary magazines as well:

  • Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond Issue
  • Witness Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue
  • Bluestem Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

From Robert Falcon Scott’s Diary of His Journey to the South Pole, 1912

Self loves nonfiction.

She loves memoir, and of all the different types of memoir she loves reading, travel books are her favorite.

A short list of travel writers self has read and admired (by no means definitive):

Sybille Bedford (A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveler’s Tale From Mexico); Mary Morris (Nothing to Declare); Wilfred Thesiger (Arabian Sands); Redmond O’Hanlon (Into the Heart of Borneo); Eric Newby (A Short Walk In the Hindu Kush); Piers Paul Read (Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors); Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness); Rebecca West (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon)

The diary of Robert Falcon Scott is extremely excruciating because it is simply a mundane list of daily chores (including, of course, a record of the freezing temperatures) but one has to remember that the man and everyone mentioned in his diary dies, in a matter of weeks.

So here we are, reading things like:

“Bowers photographing and Wilson sketching.”

“Evans looked a little better after a good sleep . . . ”

“. . . with plenty of horsemeat we have had a fine supper . . . ” (at a place with the dreadful name Shambles Camp)

“. . . lucky to have a fine day for this and our camp work . . . ”

But one can’t help reading the diary for possible clues as to how this expedition could have been saved: if they had not wasted valuable time going back for a teammate who was clearly on the point of death. If they had not been in general so slow. But they were all exhausted and so of course they were slow.

On February 4, they had food for 10 more days and 70 miles to go. It had taken all that they had to go 8 1/2 miles one day, so 70 more miles seems just on the border of possibility.


Closing out this post with another picture of Lake Louise from last Saturday.

May 16, 2015

May 16, 2015

Stay tuned.

Masters of Style: A List

Self is teaching a two-day class on travel writing this weekend.

The great thing about teaching is, it makes you ponder your own predilections.

Because unless you yourself are very clear about the kind of writing you favor, you will never, in self’s humble opinion, be able to communicate anything worthwhile to your students.

These are the writers whose books have stayed longest in self’s head and heart. Some have only written one book. Doesn’t matter. The point is, their names have become part of self’s font of inspiration.

Debra Ginsberg * Kyoko Mori * Chang-rae Lee * Annie Ernaux * Tim Parks * Ron Carlson * Alison Moore * Mo Yan * Thomas Lynch * V. S. Naipaul * Gish Jen * Deborah Digges * Paul Theroux * Kathryn Harrison * Jason Elliott * W. G. Sebald * Nina Berberova * Peter Hessler * Michael Herr * Ruth Reichl * Tony Horwitz * Elmore Leonard * Brian Hall * Nicholson Baker

(Aaargh, list is getting long! Perhaps she’ll do a Part 2 later)

Stay tuned.




Reviewing the Reading List

So, last year self read nine books. Nine.

The only reason she knows this is, she decided to keep tallies by posting on Goodreads.

There was a time when she averaged reading 60 books a year.

That was as recent as five, six years ago.

The book she’s almost done reading (only about 20 pages to go!) Hakan Nesser’s Woman with Birthmark, is indeed very exciting, but she decided to look ahead, to the books she plans to read for the rest of the year, and none of them are light reading. In fact, some sound downright depressing. But depressing books do not depress self, go figure (though they may very well depress the readers of this blog, since she always blogs about what she is currently reading). Here are the books on her plate for 2015, after she’s done with Woman with Birthmark:

  • Silas Marner, by George Eliot (She took an advance peak: gulp. Though the Everyman Library edition only has a little over 200 pages, the text is so dense. Hardly a line of dialogue. It’s going to take her forever.)
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin (This is about Irish immigrants. Self expects her visit to Ireland last year will definitely come in handy)
  • 2066, by Roberto Bolaño (The last time she read Bolaño was in Bacolod. And did it ever unleash a flood of work from her. She thinks Bolaño and Murakami are her go-to authors for angst-y narrative)
  • Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson (Much about drinking and other macho high jinks)
  • Excursions to the Equator, by Mark Twain (Self is really looking forward to this one, as she loves Mark Twain. And loves travel books)
  • The Third Reich at War, by Richard Evans (Self has a definite weakness for World War II and Holocaust literature. She remembers forcing son to take an elective called Literature of Witness when he was in Sacred Heart, simply so that she could have access to the class reading list. This one’s a whopper of a book: the paperback is 656 pages. Which means it will probably take her the rest of the year to finish. And she’ll be trundling it all over the place, which will put undoubtable strain on her shoulders and forearms. But it’s been a long long time since her last World War II book. She feels a definite almost-nostalgia for the period)

P.S. Self was on her way to order take-out fish and chips from Patterson’s Pub, but she mentioned her destination to someone who said Trillium’s fish and chips were better. It’s only about a block away. Exciting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Pile of Stuff: The New York Review of Books, 26 September 2013

Oh why oh why had self mis-laid this issue. Apparently it lay discarded in self’s clothes closet for over a year. And today is a busy busy Monday (Mondays always are), but she just can’t help perusing the issue. And it turns out, there are so many interesting reviews!

Without further ado, here are a couple of books reviewed in the 26 September 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books:

  • The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis, by Julie Kavanagh (Knopf, $27.95)
  • The Lady of the Camellias, by Alexandre Dumas fils, translated from the French by Liesl Schillinger (Penguin, $16.00)
  • The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace, by Alexander Stille (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28.00)
  • The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (Random House, $15.00)
  • Calcutta: Two Years in the City, by Amit Chaudhuri (Knopf, $25.95)
  • Subtle Bodies, by Norman Rush (Knopf, $26.95)
  • Mortals, by Norman Rush
  • Whites, by Norman Rush
  • The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced, by Stephanie Dalley (Oxford University Press, $34.95)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

NYTBR Holiday Books Issue (2013)

Did self ever mention how humongous her PILE OF STUFF is? LOL. Self has no clue how it got that big.

Nevertheless, she is making inroads.

Today, she finally gets to the huge December 2013 issue of The New York Times Book Review.

It is, naturally, full of reviews of interesting books self wants to add to her reading list. And it has the annual “100 Notable Books List.” A couple of selections from that list:


  1. Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, $28.95)
  2. The Color Master: Stories, by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, $25.95)
  3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, $26)
  4. Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III (Norton, $25.95)
  5. Duplex, by Kathryn Davis (Graywolf, $24)
  6. The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride (Riverhead, $27.95)
  7. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99)
  8. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (Little, Brown, $27)
  9. A Marker to Measure Drift, by Alexander Maksik (Knopf, $24.95)
  10. Submergence, by J. M. Ledgard (Coffee House, $15.95)
  11. Want Not, by Jonathan Miles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)
  12. Woke Up Lonely, by Fiona Maazel (Graywolf, $26)


  1. The Barbarous Years, The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600 – 1675, by Bernard Bailyn (Knopf, $35)
  2. The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood, by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco/HarperCollins, $19.99)
  3. The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, $25.95)
  4. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink (Crown, $27)
  5. A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout (Scribner, $27)
  6. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, by Katy Butler (Scribner, $25)
  7. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, by Robert Kolker (Harper, $25.99)
  8. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books, $25)
  9. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, by Carla Kaplan (Harper, $28.99)
  10. Thank You for Your Service, by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)
  11. This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider, $27.95)
  12. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala (Knopf, $24)

There’s also:

  • The Most of Nora Ephron, a collection of her essays (Knopf, $35)
  • A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York, by Anjelica Huston (Scribner, $25)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Adding to the Reading List

With any luck, self will get to the following books, eventually. Not in 2015, probably, since her reading pace is positively glacial. But hopefully, if she’s still alive and in full possession of her marbles in a couple of years — say, in 2017 — she may be able to give the following classics a shot (The only one she’s read before is Moby Dick. And she read that — all 900+ pages of it — when she was just starting in the Stanford Creative Writing Program. Why she felt it was important to understand Melville before she could take herself seriously as a writer is beyond her)

  • Jane Austen’s Emma
  • Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (Self is really looking forward to the Ron Howard adaptation because, after all, Chris Hemsworth!)
  • Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education
  • Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy
  • Herman Melville’s short fiction
  • Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal
  • Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

And here are the books of 2014 that rocked self’s world:

  • Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
  • Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  • William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.





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