The dark fog curled around them, drifted past, across the span of Blackfriars Bridge and into the night.— ordinary monsters, p. 163
Telemachus tells Circe about meeting his half-brother, Circe’s son Telegonus:
- Into such miseries, your son came. Bright as sunrise, sweet as ripe fruit. He carried that silly-looking spear, and gifts for us all, silver bowls and cloaks and gold. His face was handsome and his hopes crackled loud as a fire. I wanted to shake him. (Circe, p. 308)
Almost done with this compulsively readable, beautiful re-imagining of Greek mythology.
Met the author at the just-concluded AWP Book Fair, and it was grand. Turns out he read self’s short stories in college. (Therefore, self is old. Now her secret’s out!!!! LOL)
Seriously, it was exciting. He even mentioned a book report he did on self’s work. And his teacher was DIANA ABU-JABER.
From the back cover:
- Professor Francis Kauffman has unwittingly landed himself in prison where he’s faced with an insurmountable task: execute a fellow inmate. Charged with igniting a political insurrection among his students at a university in Beijing, Kauffman is sent to the notorious Kun Chong Prison, where his existence grows stranger by the hour as he struggles with the weight of his imprisonment and his incurable need to write about it in a place where art is forbidden, and the inmates must act as executioner.
Opening sentence of this (dystopian) novel:
- “I don’t know why we don’t eat with the other prisoners on the first floor.”
Wow, Ted! Very cool opening!
According to the night gardener, the Mapuche Indians would crush the skeletons of their vanquished enemies and spread that dust on their farms as fertilizer, always working in the dead of night, when the trees are fast asleep, for they believed that some of them — the canelo and the araucaria, the monkey puzzle — could see into a warrior’s soul, steal his deepest secrets and spread them through the shared roots of the forest, where plush tendrils whispered to pale mushroom mycelium, ruining his standing before the community.When We Cease to Understand the World, p. 182
In the Acknowledgments, Benjamin Labatut describes When We Cease to Understand the World as “a work of fiction based on real events. The quantity of fiction grows throughout the book; whereas Prussian Blue contains only one fictional paragraph, I have taken greater liberties in the subsequent texts, while still trying to remain faithful to the scientific concepts discussed in each of them.”
Wow, just wow.
One of my most enjoyable reads of 2021 were bookends: The Butcher’s Boy, published 1982 and, forty years later, Eddie’s Boy.
Michael Connolly wrote the Introduction to the 2003 trade paperback edition of The Butcher’s Boy:
It used to be that the quickest way for me to descend into a creative depression would be for someone to approach me and identify him — or herself — as a fan of my work, but to then add the dreadful line “But your first one is still my favorite.”
It didn’t matter if the approach was in person at a bookstore or on the street, or through the U.S. mail or the Internet. I always took it very badly, and the compliment would serve to make me question what I was doing . . . There was a time when I would actually respond, hoping to dissuade the reader of his or her own words, saying things like, “That’s impossible!” or “You don’t really mean that!” But I soon realized it wasn’t impossible and they did really mean it.
And that is the source of the depression; that’s the rub. Writing, whether you consider it a craft or an art or both, is something that should get better with practice. It stands to reason. Writing comes from experience, curiosity, and knowledge. In short, it comes from life. The writer must improve with age and experience and life.
And that, too, is the reason there are so many creative writing programs, all over the world. This belief that writing should get better, that it’s a process.
Self wishes she could reproduce the entire Introduction here, but alas! It might be online somewhere? It’s really worth reading.
This is how Commander Miguel Lopez de Legazpi took possession of the island of Guam in the name of the Spanish Crown in the Year of Our Lord Fifteen-hundred and Sixty-Five:
He walked around the beach, cutting tree branches with his sword, pulling some grass, making stone monuments, and carving crosses into some of the coconut trees. The Augustinian friars said mass.Conquering the Pacific, p. 124
Dammit! This exact same scene is in self’s novel! Why is she having such a hard time getting an agent? Self’s version is ever so much more dramatic because she has crabs scuttling on the beach, and monitor lizards sticking out forked tongues, and coconuts falling on the heads of the Spaniards as they kneel in prayer. In other words, her version is so much more immersive. It just isn’t FAIR!
But, enough of this whining. Reading further, self learns that Legazpi was tempted to stop his expedition in Guam. Then the Philippines would have remained FREE! Woo hoo! Can’t you just imagine?
Alas, someone reminded Legazpi that his instructions from the Crown explicitly stated THE PHILIPPINES. Fearful of the repercussions if he disobeyed his monarch’s orders, Legazpi and his ships continued.
It is so ineffably sad that the natives of the Philippines had absolutely no idea that they were in the sights of a monarch from across the sea, a monarch they had never even heard of.
Found out today that my story made the longlist of LitMag’s Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction.
It was speculative fiction. I took a chance!
That is all.
To drive this wholesome image home, he tousles Junior’s hair. It’s stiff with grease and an odor follows, as if the rustle has released spores of unwashed scalp into the stale air of the truck cab.— Chapter $77.41, Abundance