Reading List 2019: Adding Travel Books

Excited to be adding these wonderful books to self’s 2019 Reading List. Self loves travel books. It’s been a year since she devoted a reading year to them:

Alan Booth

  • The Road to Sata

Alexandra David Neel

  • My Journey to Lhasa

Alison Wearing

  • Honeymoon in Purdah

Ann Jones

  • Lovedu

Anthony Doerr

  • Four Seasons in Rome

Best Women’s Travel Writing series

Bill Bryson

  • The Lost Continent
  • Walk in the Woods

Blair Braverman

  • Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube

Bruce Chatwin

  • In Patagonia

Dervla Murphy

  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Ellen Meloy

  • Raven’s Exile: A Season on the Green River

Gabrielle Hamilton

  • Blood, Bones and Butter

Gretchen Legler

  • On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Isabella L. Bird

  • Six Months in the Sandwich Islands: Among Hawai’i’s Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes

Isabelle Eberhardt

  • The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

Jamaica Kincaid

  • A Small Place

Jan Morris

  • Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

Julia Child

  • My Life in France

Katrina Kittle

  • The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America

Kira Salak

  • Four Corners: A Journey Into the Heart of Papua New Guinea

Mary Henrietta Kingsley

  • Travels in West Africa

Melanie Bowden Simon

  • La Americana: A Memoir

Peter Mayle

  • A Year in Provence

Rebecca Solnit

  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Robyn Davidson

  • Desert Places

Stanley Stewart

  • In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads

Suzanne Roberts

  • Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail

 

 

 

 

 

Deconstructing Swann’s Way

Self has to resort to all sorts of mental tricks to keep reading Swann’s Way.

She makes the decision, after reading to p. 44, that she’ll consider Combray and Swann In Love as two separate works — two novellas, if you will. And thus, she’s reading them simultaneously. Because if she follows the sequence in the book — she’s finished Chapter 1, and finished reading the part about the madeleine — Chapter 2 is a very long reminiscence about the town. While Swann In Love is about socializing, with all sorts of fascinating words to consider: for instance, the word “bourgeois.” Self, who is so easily exasperated these days (which is just another way of saying she is stressed), may get exasperated enough to stop reading Swann’s Way. And she would consider that a regrettable moral failure.

So, to forestall any such feelings of exasperation, she skips ahead to Swann In Love, resolving to return to Ch. 2 of Combray (and using two bookmarks) after she’s finished Part II.

Maybe she’ll even read Part III, Place Names: The Name before returning to Combray.

What a disgustingly eccentric way to read Swann’s Way, but there you have it. Self would love to extract maximum pleasure and understanding from this book, and this is the only way she thinks she can do it.

Stay tuned.

Anna Karenina: Introduction by Gary Saul Morson

Self making mincemeat of her reading list.

First, she abandoned all six books of My Struggle after reading just one page of Book One.

Then, she stopped reading Barracoon at the first page of the narrative proper, she just couldn’t agree with the decision Hurston made to write him as he appeared, not as he truly was: a grown man, a man who had endured unimaginable suffering.

Today, she put aside her copy of If On a Winter’s Night a Travel.

What does she want? What is she looking for?

Hopefully it’s Anna Karenina.

From the Introduction:

The lovers live in a realm beyond good and evil. After all, good and evil depend on choice, and where fate governs, choice is out of the question. No matter how much pain the lovers cause, one cannot condemn them . . .

That is the story Anna imagines she is living. As one of her friends observes, she resembles a heroine from a romance . . .  As Anna Karenina imagines herself into the novels she reads, such readers imagine themselves as Anna or Vronsky . . . Anna feels that fate has marked her out for a special destiny, perhaps tragic but surely exaulted.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

How DARE You, Mr. Ragnor Fell!

Self may be getting ahead of herself, but life is short.

There are two choices open to her when she leaves Ireland:  Yorkshire or Wales.

Yorkshire because a crucial scene in Clockwork Prince takes place there. P. 169:

Ragnor Fell, High Warlock of London: “What’s on the carpet, then, Charlotte? Did you really call me out here to discuss dark doings on the Yorkshire moors? I was under the impression that nothing of great interest happened in Yorkshire. In fact, I was under the impression that there was nothing in Yorkshire except sheep and mining.”

Oh la-di-dah, Mr. Fell. Yorkshire isn’t that boring. She was there when she was 11. She was sent to summer camp, somewhere in Yorkshire Dales. She saw the magnificent cathedral.

And Wales?

Something so alluring and romantic about Wales. Aside from the fact that Wales is where Will Herondale was born and lived until he was 12.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Excerpt of the Day: E. B. Lyndon’s “Goodbye, Bear” (In One Story, Issue 172)

She was grilling me about the guy I was seeing — was he the real deal, or just another fine-for-now? I told her my feelings weren’t reliable at the moment.

“You,” she said. “Always a finger on your emotional pulse.”

“But that’s what I’m trying to tell you,” I said. “No pulse. I think I’m dead.”

And, just like that, I decide to renew my subscription to One Story.

Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 19 No. 2 (The West Coast & Beyond Issue)

The latest in a series of issues focusing on “Place.” Crab Orchard Review initiated the series in 2009, at a time when, according to the Editors’ Prologue, Vol. 19 No. 2, it seemed that the magazine might go under.

The “Land of Lincoln: Writing From and About Illinois” issue became the first series on place because Carolyn Alessio, Crab Orchard Review’s Prose Editor, was born “in the Chicago suburbs and lives in the city itself today.” The issue focused on two of Chicago’s literary greats, Carl Sandberg and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Next followed “Old & New: Re-Visions of the American South.”

At that point, everyone was very aware that Crab Orchard Review was approaching its 20th year.  So the editors decided to make the review’s 2012, 2013 and 2014 “special issues into a kind of anthology exploring the United States of America and its regions as a subject.”

The series developed into four issues: “Old & New: Re-Visions of the American South,” “the North,” “Prairies, Plains, Mountains, Deserts” and, finally, “The West Coast & Beyond” (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawai’i, the Commonwealth countries, territories and areas of U.S. occupation)

Now, in this “final edition in the series,” the editors point out that they have managed to “include at least one story, poem, or essay about, or work by an author born in or living in every one of the fifteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.”

Here’s an excerpt from a poem by one of the writers in the issue, April Christiansen.  Her poem is “The Great Seattle Fire, June 6, 1889”:

Shouts, pitched water, the surface glazed,
boiled over. Glue embers tumbled into shavings
littering a turpentine-soaked floor, and men
grabbed their coats, flew to the stairwell as flames

fastened themselves to the building’s walls,
inching towards the liquor warehouse next door.
Glass shattered, the crisp smell of burnt alcohol and paint
filled the sidewalks, and a crowd gathered.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Further Adventures in Ireland (County Cork)

It turns out most of the stuff self heard about the Irish are not true.

For one thing, the Irish are really direct.  They don’t mince words.  If they don’t like you, you’ll know it.  In about two minutes.

This is a good thing.  Because, after all, who has the time?  Why tie oneself up into knots trying to figure out this or that or the other thing?  If self wants a wake-up call, she’ll go straight to Ireland.

But when an Irish person smiles at you, it’s like the sun!  Self is NOT KIDDING!  It’s better than when a Californian smiles at you because it’s not a politeness thing, it’s a sincerity thing!

Self is also really grateful that she did not push through with her decision to cancel her subscription to Condé Nast Traveler. 

In her periodic attempts to simplify her life, self tries to get a grip on all her magazine subscriptions.

She must have at least 20.

The one big thing she decided to cancel this year was The New York Times Book Review, which she’d been subscribing to for at least 20 years.  That subscription was over $100, who wants to keep subscribing to a thing one has barely enough time to read?

She wavered quite a while over Condé Nast Traveler.  She is impatient with the articles that seem geared exclusively towards possessors of the Gold American Express card.  But, in contrast to the NYTBR, the cost of a year’s subscription to Conde Nast Traveler is only $12.  That’s $1 per month.  Even though self barely had time to read it, especially in the past year, she did stumble upon an article about “Hidden Gems,” one of which was Ballyvolane House in County Cork, Ireland.  Where self is spending tonight and tomorrow night.

The minute she walked in the door of the house (built in 1728, originally Georgian style but now Italianate — don’t ask self to explain, she’s reading this from a book she found in her room), she felt she’d landed in the middle of a Merchant & Ivory movie.  No, it was better than a Merchant & Ivory movie.  Because she was in it.

Ease:  Self's bed in Ballyvolane House, County Cork, Ireland

Ease: Self’s bed in Ballyvolane House, County Cork, Ireland

She arrived back in Dublin last night.  Thank God her Aer Lingus flight was uneventful.  Dublin was pouring rain.  She made it by bus to O’Connell Street, but there were no taxis.  She got to Inchicore drenched to the skin, an hour before dark.  She stumbled out for Chinese take-out, then lugged everything on the train for Cork (from Heuston Station) this morning.  But — heavens to mergatroid — self is getting good at this!  Not even man-handling two full-to-the-brim rollies and a purse and a laptop threw her the slightest bit off-schedule. Not the slightest bit.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Monument 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct:  Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct: Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

The Golden Gate Bridge:  View From Land's End, San Francisco:  December 2008

The Golden Gate Bridge: View From Land’s End, San Francisco: December 2008

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones.  She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf ("Stonehenge/Pacifica")

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones. She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf in 2008:  “Stonehenge/Pacifica”

Excerpt, “Stonehenge/Pacifica” published in Wigleaf (1/11/2012):

It was a dream I had, some restless night.  One of those weeks or months or years when we were worried about money.

But when were we ever not worried?

First there was the mortgage, and then the two.

And then your mother got sick, and your father died.

You can read the story in its entirety, here.

Right after posting this, self decided to book herself a tour of Stonehenge.  An evening tour of Stonehenge, not one of the day tours that take in multiple sites, with Stonehenge thrown in.  That’s on April 26. She has to find a way to get to Salisbury, where the tour starts.  The tour starts in the evening, though, so she has almost the whole of the 26th to figure out how to get there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Seattle 2014

The minute she gets back to the Bay Area, she’s going to have her MacBook Air’s keyboard fixed.

During one sleepless night last year, she spilled strawberry jam on her keyboard.  She was trying to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the knife slipped out of the jam jar, and fell on her keyboard.  Ever since, the keyboard’s stuck.  She can just manage to get some keys to register, but only if she presses with all her might.

It is a beautiful day.  The last time self was in Seattle was 2007.  She was hosted, so she was picked up from the airport, and she was a guest in the home of Maria Batayola.

This is a completely different kind of trip.  She’s staying in a hotel.

The people on the plane were none too friendly.  Everyone was absorbed in reading the papers or reading their iPads.  They also looked very, very white.  And healthy, in that quintessential American way. Great hair, great teeth.  Neat clothing.  The woman seated next to self, who never cracked a smile in her direction, had a Bally tote.

Seattle’s edges are hard and bright.  The streets are surprisingly empty.  Puget Sound, though, is huge:  about 10x the width of San Francisco Bay.  The ferry boats are enormous, they remind her of cruise ships.  The snow-capped mountains glint in the sun.  Just looking at them makes self feel cold.  Self wonders how much a ferry ride costs.  She’d love to explore Bainbridge Island, which she heard has cute little art galleries and coffee shops.

During what was left of today, self decided to walk.  She wound up in Pioneer Square.  The streets were really, really empty, except for a park with a giant chessboard where a young woman was trying to move the chess pieces and some old men were teasing her in a lighthearted way.  Birds flew among the trees.  There were Indian totems off to the side.

She walked some more.  She found a bookstore:

The Globe, a bookstore near Pioneer Park

The Globe, a bookstore near Pioneer Square

In the bookstore loft, self found a very cozy reading nook.

In the bookstore loft, self found a very cozy reading nook.

She also found a bustling bakery near a park:

Grand Central Baking Company, next to Occidental Park

Grand Central Baking Company, next to Occidental Park

Triple-Chocolate Cookie from Grand Central Baking Company:  $1.95, and worth every penny

Triple-Chocolate Cookie from Grand Central Baking Company: $1.95, and worth every penny

That triple-chocolate cookie was just about the best cookie she’s ever tasted.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Latest Developments in the Life of Self

A niece in southern California has her own business designing cute tops.  She sent self a message that they’d be doing a one-day yoga and fashion event in early February.  Oooh!  Self is always looking for the smallest excuse to go to southern California!  Because Taciturn Sole Fruit of Her Loins lives there!  And she didn’t see hide nor hair of him over the holidays! And that’s how she got sick, felled by the H1N1 or whatever that virus is!  But now she is mostly over it, which is why she’s madly reading a) Divergent; b) The Hemingses of Monticello; and c) Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which she decided to read today while slurping her Ramen noodles, and — this just goes to show how certain books can only be read in a certain mood.  Perhaps because the weekend is starting, and she signed up for Beginning Yoga, she is feeling oh-so-relaxed.  Which meant, the very same RWS that bugged her so much yesterday was suddenly extremely entertaining today.  And self saw that she was actually only 2 pages from the end of the chapter on Zagreb. So, she’s going to give BLGF another shot.

Another item of interest is that she decided this week to play SuperLotto, for only the second time in her entire life.  She bought QuikPik at Safeway, and forgot that the winning numbers were announced on Wednesday.  Anyhoo, she suddenly remembered today, went to CALOTTERY.COM and found that the winning ticket was purchased from Circle K in Lake Elsinore. Which means it was not her.  Boo.

Finally, self is reading the San Francisco Chronicle of last Tuesday and finds that the hackers behind the Target data breach have been identified as two Russian teenagers who live in a city on the Volga River.  One of them was “close to 17 years old.”  What is this world coming to when several million people can be held up by a Russian teenager on the Volga.  She also learned a new term:  “malware.”  That’s short for malicious software.

More finally, she finds out that “account information stolen during the Target security breach is now being divided up and sold off regionally.”  Two “Mexican citizens” were arrested at “the border with 96 fraudulent credit cards in their possession.” Which means, according to the South Texas Police Chief who made the arrests, that the data sets are “obviously” being sold off “by region.”

And the ultimate Finally, self last week received a phone call from a man who said he worked for “a credit bureau” and said it was absolutely urgent that she call them back.  It was such a weird message that self decided to ignore it.  And the credit bureau person never called back.

So, here’s what self decided today:

  • She must continue playing more Lotto.
  • She will try as much as possible to stop using her credit cards.  Any credit cards.
  • She will try to stick with the yoga classes even if she turns out to be the fattest, oldest, and most uncoordinated member of the class.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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