Rachel Cusk Sentence of the Day: KUDOS, p. 135

Been reading Kudos since 18 December. Bought her hardbound copy from the London Review Bookshop. The cover had big, black, bold letters against a pristine white background. This very minute, the book sits on her lap, and the white background has acquired a greyish tinge.

p. 135:

That tribe was one to which nearly all the men in this country belonged, and it defined itself through a fear of women combined with an utter dependence on them; and so despite her best efforts it was only a matter of time, she realised, before her son’s questions about right and wrong found their answer in the low-level bigotry with which he was surrounded and to which everything was encouraging him to submit.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Writing is Process: KUDOS, p. 54

The narrator has an interesting conversation with a fellow writer:

  • “. . . every day, when he sat down to write, he would think of an object that didn’t mean anything to him and would set himself the task of including it somewhere in that day’s work. She asked him for examples and he said that in the past few days he had chosen a lawnmower, a fancy wristwatch, a cello and a caged parrot. The cello was the only one that hadn’t worked, he said, because he had forgotten when he chose it that his parents had tried to make him learn the cello when he was a child.”

Love it.

Stay tuned.

 

What Kind of Books Make You Cry?

This morning, self answered a Bookshouse tweet that asked: What kind of books make you cry while reading them?

She wanted to say: Almost every book.

Or she could have said: Angst-y books.

Instead, she decided to name a book. No, it was not The Subtle Knife, though that book certainly did make her cry. It was Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods. Because of the character of the wife.

Like Dead Letters (which she compares almost every book to, now), it’s a mystery. While Dead Letters gives us closure on the very last page, In the Lake of Woods doesn’t give us even that much. Read at your own risk! O’Brien executes the wife’s point of view so well.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self’s Top Three Reads of 2018

How did self end up selecting these three?

The books may have been far from perfect — self thinks, in particular, of the first two — but they were the books she found herself re-reading, despite their flaws:

DSCN0006

  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach: Bravo, Dolan-Leach. Self has not been able to dislodge the dysfunctional Antipova twins and their yummy boy toy, Wyatt Darling, from her thoughts since she read this, Dolan-Leach’s first novel, mid-November.
  • Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz: Beat out a host of other science fiction self read this year, including All Systems Red, Book 1 of The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells; and Jade City, by Fonda Lee. The book lived because of a character named Threezed.
  • The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman: Vol. 2 of His Dark Materials killed self in every way. If not exactly perfect, it was close. Will Parry forever. The book did such a number on her that she went to Oxford to see Will and Lyra’s bench, in the Oxford Botanical Garden.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Academy in JADE CITY: Hogwarts in Janloon

The Year-Eights graduate. Anden, self’s second-favorite character. Well, probably her first now since . . . WAH!! Don’t make her say it.

Anyhoo, Anden is a Year-Eight. He passes all his graduation pre-trials, one by one, handily.

Now comes the test called the Massacre of the Mice (Self keeps thinking of that Dave Sedaris story about how hard it is to kill a mouse), p. 348:

At Pre-Trials the Year-Eights stood behind a table in the packed Gathering Hall and each was given a cage of five white lab mice. They were not allowed to touch the mice with anything but one finger, and the judges disqualified anyone trying to cheat by using Strength or Deflection on the small creatures. Various attempts had been made over the years to try to upgrade the popular event to be more exciting — who didn’t want to see a man try to Channel into a bull? For practical and budgetary reasons, the proposals were always overruled . . .  When the bell went off, he didn’t bother to try to touch the mice with his fingers. They were too nimble for that. He hovered both hands over the cage, quickly Perceiving all five tiny throbbing lives burning like tea lights.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Rare Sighting of Husband: THE DOOR

The husband in The Door is an ineffably mysterious presence: He is there but rarely speaks, somewhat like the father in Tove Jansson’s elegiac, beautiful novel set on a Scandinavian island, The Summer Book (Self discovered Jansson just this summer).

In The Door, while the narrator becomes increasingly emotional, and Emerence becomes increasingly unpredictable, the husband provides a tantalizing comfort. He is in bed with the narrator when Emerence bursts in one morning, singing a song. Once, he runs angrily out of the house, upset that Emerence has put a garden gnome in front of his English classics in the library.

He is ill in the beginning. The housekeeper tells the narrator he is going to die, which strikes self as cruel, but he seems to get stronger as the novel progresses.

He and the narrator visit a Greek island called Glifada. It’s Good Friday; they stop at a church. There’s a dead Christ on a bier by the entrance. The villagers invite them to “join them in mourning the Saviour.” They put a bell rope into the husband’s hands.

The narrator watches:

  • “I can still see him ringing the bell, his thick blonde hair, already shot with grey, tugged by the sea breeze.”

Wow.

This is almost the end of the book; will this be the last, the only time, we see him? Why is self so relieved that he does not die? (Although, she still has about 20 pages to go)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Meltdown: THE DOOR

Only 1/4 left of the book to go! Self is hanging on every excruciating word.

Still with the strangely ill husband:

  • My husband wasn’t allowed out in the cold; the dog howled all day long; the apartment had to be kept spick and span for the constant visitors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Why du Maurier’s JAMAICA INN Is Epic

There’s a scene where Mary Yellan is trying to escape from . . . take self’s word for it, something evil.

Across her path, Harry the pedlar. A man seemingly mild, not too smart. He nods at her, “reassuring . . . smiling . . . smirking and sly . . . ” Then he lands a “furtive hand” on her. And her reaction?

She moves “swiftly, lashing out at him, and her fist caught him underneath the chin, shutting his mouth like a trap, with his tongue caught between his teeth. He squealed like a rabbit, and she struck him again, but this time he grabbed at her and lurched sideways upon her, all pretense of gentle persuasion gone, his strength horrible, his face drained of all colour. He was fighting now for possession, and she knew it . . . ”

du Maurier shows us how the man’s affect changes from moment to moment: first he is smiling, then he is sly, then he is furtive, and then he attacks.

But every step of his transformation, Mary Yellan meets fiercely.

This is a woman who has been raised on a farm, who has known only friendly neighbors. Having spent an entire quarter at Stanford reading Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, self was steeling herself for only one outcome. But du Maurier had something else in mind.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Vicar of Altarnun to Mary Yellan

  • You have gained your knowledge of the world from old books, Mary, where the bad man wears a tail beneath his cloak and breathes fire through his nostrils.

Do you see now why the Vicar is self’s favorite character in Jamaica Inn, second only to Mary Yellan?

Stay tuned.

Ranking the du Maurier Men (Open to Modification)

What cheek, especially since self has only read (thus far) two du Maurier novels: Jamaica Inn and Rebecca.

Anyhoo, here are all the du Maurier men self has encountered thus far, ranked in order of Personal Magnetism and General Badass-ery:

  1. Of course Francis Davey, the Vicar of Altarnun (Jamaica Inn) His mocking of Mary Yellan is the most delicious feint & parry.
  2. Frank Crawley (Rebecca): This good and loyal man has unexpectedly intense feelings.
  3. Joss Merlyn (Jamaica Inn): A drunk, a boor, haunted. His memories will haunt you.
  4. Jem Merlyn (Jamaica Inn): Younger brother, smarter than Joss for sure.
  5. Maxim de Winter (Rebecca): Attractive, rich, and umm, star-crossed?
  6. Frankie What’s-His-Face (The Bad Guy in Rebecca): Really shady.
  7. Harry the Pedlar (Jamaica Inn)
  8. Dr. Baker (Rebecca)
  9. Mr. Tibbs (Shipbuilder, Rebecca)
  10. Ben (Lurker in the Woods of Manderley)
  11. The Squire (Mr. Basatt, Jamaica Inn)
  12. Richards (groom to the Squire, Mr. Basatt, Jamaica Inn)
  13. Firth (Manservant, Rebecca)
  14. The Lynx-Eyed Man at the Horse Market in Launceston (Jamaica Inn) — who may in fact be Mr. Basatt, will re-read to make certain

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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