FLYWAY: 2014 Notes From the Field Contest Winners

Flyway Contest judge Cristina Eisenberg has chosen the following essays as winner and runner-up, respectively, of the latest Notes From the Field contest:

Winner:  Susanna Clark for “House Blend,” which delves “into the stories of the young men behind 2013’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing”

Runner-Up:  Suzanne Menghraj for “Usciolu,” a piece that “tells of the author’s experience on the Mediterranean island of Corsica”

Both pieces will appear in Flyway’s Spring 2015 issue.

Stay tuned.

Ian Frazier for The New York Review of Books (Nov. 7, 2013)

Today is a great day. Sun is shining, after two days of almost non-stop rain.

Tomorrow, self is meeting Connie C. for lunch in downtown Palo Alto. Connie was the Program Administrator in East Asian Studies when self was a grad student at Stanford. And she is still the Program Administrator in East Asian Studies. Not only that, she doesn’t seem to have aged at all.

Self is making some headway into her mighty Pile of Stuff. As she mentioned in a preview post, one pile is mostly New Yorkers. The other is mostly back issues of The New York Review of Books (She ended her subscription to The New York Times Book Review this year, which helped)

She’s begun reading Ian Frazier’s review of Cotton Tenants: Three Families, by James Agee and Walker Evans (Published by The Baffler/Melville House). His review is absolutely engrossing. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Amazing to think that in 1936 the editors of Fortune magazine cared enough about the hard lives of tenant farmers in the South’s Cotton Belt that they sent a reporter and a photographer to Alabama to do a story on them. One explanation is that the magazine was going through a weird period. Henry Luce, who founded Fortune as a business magazine with a target audience of tycoons and millionaires, had recently noticed the Depression. The then-widespread notion that straight-ahead, free-market capitalism did not always work had begun to make inroads upon his mind.

It’s a fascinating essay, dear blog readers. Try looking it up on-line.

Stay tuned.

 

Also Reading Jeremy Denk’s Essay “Piano Man”

It is Thanksgiving Day, 2014.

The best decision self ever made was to order a turkey and fixings from somewhere. And now she has a chance to catch up on all those back issues of The New Yorker that have been building up since last year (and the year before, and the year before).

From The New Yorker of 14 October 2013, an essay by Jeremy Denk called “Piano Man”:

I was saved the first time from financial ruin by a stroke of luck — I entered a piano competition, in London, and won third prize. Years of grad-school indulgences (liquor, Chinese takeout, kitchen appliances) had left me with a Visa bill of forty-five hundred dollars, and I was able to erase it in a flash. All that remained of my glorious prize, of all those months of practicing, was a photograph of Princess Diana handing me my award onstage at Royal Festival Hall, which I faxed to everyone I knew.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Pipeline” Problem, Silicon Valley Edition

First of all, to the entire universe:

HAPPY TURKEY DAY IN ADVANCE

Also, self has geared up her loins, stiffened her spine, and agreed to see “Mockingjay, Part 1″ today, even though she knows the closing scene is going to just about kill her.

Now to the ostensible reason for this post, a report on hiring practices at Silicon Valley high-tech companies — a list that includes icons Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter, among others.

A 2008 study found that more than half of women working in the industry ended up leaving the field. The pipeline isn’t just narrow; it’s tapering.

—  James Surowicki, “Valley Boys,” p. 52 of The New Yorker (Nov. 24, 1014)

Further in the article:

Tech companies may pride themselves on being meritocracies, but unconscious biases shape the way they hire and promote. Such biases can be tremendously powerful. A 2012 study asked top research scientists to evaluate job candidates with identical resumés. The scientists judged female candidates to be less capable than male ones, and suggested significantly lower starting salaries for them. Even more striking was a 2005 experiment in which participants evaluated applications for a job as a chief of police, scanning resumés that included varying levels of formal education and on-the-job experience. A male candidate who had less schooling would be credited with street smarts, but a woman with an identical resumé would be dismissed for not having enough education.

Further still:

. . .  until the nineteen-seventies classical-music orchestras were almost entirely male. Once blind auditions were introduced, the percentage of women quintupled.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Dynamics (Of Being Filipino in America) — Post # 1

You appear as the merest glimpse in a story written by others.

The writer James Hamilton-Paterson used to live in the Philippines. He wrote about the experience in his book Playing With Water. A writer for the Boston Review said that “he eked out a living on a remote Southeast Asian island” and “still has a bamboo hut” there.

Best-selling author continues to live in a bamboo hut.  LOL.

In recent years, however, self has been reading about Hamilton-Paterson (she almost hates him for having such a long name, hyphenated)  in Italy.  So perhaps he’s moved on.

The question is, once you’ve lived for a number of years in a bamboo hut on a remote Southeast Asian island, can you ever really move on? Maybe you can, physically. But, in your heart?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Linked Today, 4th Monday of September (2014)

Self decided to add a few new bookmarks, one of which is the home page of Red Hen Press.

Another add is Curbside Splendor E-zine. Self doesn’t know how she stumbled upon Curbside Splendor, but she finds herself reading all the way to the end of the featured essay, by Joey Pizzolato. This is a mighty rare occurrence, as self’s brain is usually darting in four directions at once.

She just wrote a Facebook post on Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying, which could be why she reads Pizzolato’s post (on what love is, or what it looks like) with great attention:

As writers and readers, we are drawn to love because we cannot precisely define it. Because, like the soul, or consciousness, we cannot pick it up or turn it over in our hand.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The List in Self’s “The Secret Room” (CAFE IRREAL, Issue # 50)

Self has long pondered the difference between science fiction, speculative fiction, fairy tales, myths, horror stories and the “irreal.”  The other day, she decided to go through the Café Irreal essay, “What is irrealism?”

She’d first read it several years ago, when she began writing lots of speculative fiction.  It was nice to re-discover it.

The essay reminds us that, in “pre-modern” times, the people telling and listening to folk tales and legends assumed them to be “true.” These people, if they had heard Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” read aloud to them, “would most likely assume that the transformation” of the protagonist into a bug was likely the result of “a spell” (And why not? In “pre-modern” times, spells were considered practical ways to deal with malevolence; in other words, spells were not “magic.” They were solutions to a problem) For them, “the irreality of the story — which flows from an irresolvable clash between the real and the unreal — would be lost.”

There’s more, much more to ponder in the essay.  Self recommends that readers go over to Café Irreal to read it in its entirety.

Self’s story, “The Secret Room,” is in the current issue.

At yesterday’s writers group meeting, self’s esteemed friend (and soon-to-be-famous published novelist) Lillian Howan mentioned that her son liked the list in the story.

Which, self confided to Lillian, was the trickiest part of the piece.  Self had to keep working at it and working at it, constantly changing the items in the list because she was never completely satisfied with the “mix.”

Here’s the list in its final, published version:

  • A map of an island with no name.  There was no way to tell whether this island was near or far, whether it lay within the bounds of the Narrow Sea or beyond, in some yet undiscovered realm.
  • A piece of yellowing parchment, on which had been written, in her husband’s careful hand, the letters KMCVQH
  • An iron knitting needle
  • A stone the size of her fist, on whose rough surface glittered a sparkly metal that might have been silver
  • A drawing of a unicorn
  • A broken silver chain
  • A dozen gold coins stamped with the profile of Aurelia, the Queen of the Undersea
  • A small painting, about the width of a hand, of a man with no eyes

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Analyzing Hawke, the Appeal

“I have this planet of regret sitting on my shoulders.” —  Jesse, Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites (1994)

There is a long essay by Dan Chiasson in the June 5, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books about Richard Linklater’s trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.

Since self saw Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight in real time — that is, at the time they were released (as opposed to renting on Netflix, say), the films too mark moments in her life, each separated by nine-year gaps.

But Hawke.

This morning, she sits in the living room preparatory to writing, and what she finds while flipping through cable channels is Reality Bites.  Oh the music, the music, the music:  Social Distortion, Talking Heads, Frampton, The Knack, Lisa Loeb . . .  And there’s Hawke telling Winona, My Dad just died . . .

Self realizes that Hawke has been in so many movies that she considers “significant” in her life:  Reality Bites, Hamlet (the one where Denmark is a corporation), Gattaca.  And he did the audio books for The Call of the Wild and White Fang, which self played every day for son years ago, when ferrying him to and from school.

Reality Bites must have been filmed before Hamlet.  Hawke just transfers his slacker personality from one movie to another, without a break. Self applauds the strategy.

Here’s a moment in Before Sunset that is reproduced in part in the Dan Chiasson essay.  A French journalist has just asked Jesse, who’s on a book tour, to share details on his next project.  Jesse replies:

Ah, I don’t know, man, I don’t know . . .  I’ve been . . . I’ve been thinking about this . . .  Well, I always kind of wanted to write a book that all took place within the space of a pop song, you know, like three or four minutes long, the whole thing.

The story, the idea is that . . .  there’s this guy.  Right?  And . . .  he’s totally depressed.  I mean, his great dream was to be a lover, an adventurer, you know, riding motorcycles through South America, and instead he’s sitting at a marble table, eating lobster, and he’s got a good job and a beautiful wife, right?  But you know, everything that he needs.  But that doesn’t matter, ’cause what he wants is to fight for meaning.

You know, happiness is in the doing, right, not in the . . .  getting what you want . . .

You see what self means about Hawke?  His performances are always so natural; you seem to be watching him rather than a movie. Could Russell Crowe or Christian Bale ever do these lines? Don’t think so.

He makes such a virtue out of being inarticulate.  In that, his appeal is so, so quintessentially American.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Reading About James Bond in the June 5, 2014 NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

What treasures pack the pages of each copy of The New York Review of Books!

Self used to have a (20-year-old) subscription to the New York Times Book Review, but decided to discontinue it a few months ago.

To self, The NYRB is the far more interesting publication.

This evening, self is again plowing manfully through her ‘Pile of Stuff.’  She’s still experiencing Squaw Valley Writers Conference withdrawal symptoms (such as posting endlessly about it on her Facebook wall)

The Man is watching the 3rd or 4th Bourne (Matt Damon is the one and only, the né plus ultra of American action cool).

Self gamely tackles the June 5, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books and stumbles across an article by James Walton, called “Bondage,” which might also be fittingly sub-titled:  “Everything You Wanted to Know About Ian Fleming and His Most Famous Literary Creation, James Bond 007.”

  • Here is how Casino Royale, the first-ever James Bond novel (published 1953), began:  “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”
  • Ian Fleming came up with the name for the world’s most famous spy “because he wanted something plain-sounding and James Bond was ‘the dullest name I’ve ever heard.’ “
  • Hard to imagine, perhaps, but there is a sentence in one of the Bond novels that goes:  “Bond . . .  lit his seventieth cigarette of the day.”
  • President Kennedy was instrumental to the development of James Bond’s popularity in the United States.  In an interview with Life magazine, he named From Russia With Love as “one of his ten favorite books.”
  • Ian Fleming’s wife, Anne, referred to her husband’s Bond books as “pornography.”

There is tons more interesting tidbits from the article, but self must go back to reading Sebastian Barry (who is the most beautiful writer imaginable).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition, June 21-22, 2014

It is the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War, as self was being constantly reminded when she was in the UK, a few weeks ago.

Those kinds of commemorations seem to get lost in the welter of American politics — Are we going back into Iraq?  What should/can we do about Putin?  — but the Review section of the June 21-22, 2014 Wall Street Journal is entirely devoted to articles about the Great War.  On p. C3, at the bottom right corner, is a tiny article by Amanda Foreman on “The Poets of Devastation.”

All the familiar names are there:  Rupert Brooke (gorgeous), Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon.

After a few mentions of these poets’ iconic works, Foreman delivers the meat and potatoes:

“. . .  the war poets’ greatest contribution wasn’t their rediscovery that war is truest hell, but their reinvention of poetry as a democratic mode of expression.”

She mentions the “broadening of the canon” with works like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

“. . .  there is no other war in history,” Foreman writes, “. . . with the exception of the Trojan War, whose poetry has so shaped a nation.”

(Self thinks the Vietnam War definitely served a similar function for American literature.  Think Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War.  Think Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake.  Think Michael Herr’s Dispatches.  Think Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  Think Robert Stone)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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