2018 is SO 1461

  • In Renaissance Florence, a number of designated boxes placed throughout the city allowed citizens to make anonymous denunciations of various moral crimes — in 1461, for example, the artist-monk Filippo Lipi was accused of fathering a child with a nun.

— Claudia Roth Pierpoint, “Angels and Men” in The New Yorker (16 October 2017)

The article is a review of the Walter Isaacson biography of Leonardo da Vinci, called Leonardo da Vinci. One of the biggest surprises in the piece is the discovery that “one of the last remaining complete notebooks, the Codex Leicester,” is in the possession of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Also: “Leonardo was illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted . . . ”

Dear blog readers, last year self saw the Mona Lisa. It was May or June. A Spanish woman asked self whether she knew where the famous painting was located. Then she asked a museum guard, and the two of us went looking together. And we found it. And she asked self to take pictures of her standing in front of it. And insisted on taking a few of self.

And here’s a wide-angle shot of the gallery housing the Mona Lisa and then self making a horrible face because, honestly, she dislikes having her picture taken (not when the humidity has done things to her hair) and the crowded gallery full of people aiming their cell phones in one direction was so disorienting.

 

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Blair & Robertson’s THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, 1493 – 1803

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1000 sets were printed of this massive series.

Self has Copy No. 179 on her MacBook Air.

60 volumes.

She does all her writing in son’s room, where daily she looks at the map of the Philippines that’s been hanging there for over two decades. She doubts if son even knows the names of the two main islands, Luzon and Mindanao. This is self’s failing.

No woman is mentioned in the first nine volumes.

Later, there is a decree about educating the sons of Spanish civil officials. And in volume 10, a mention of nuns.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Status Report: Books Read (So Far) 2018

By now it should be clear how much self loves constructing lists. And book lists best of all.

Self set herself a goodreads Reading Challenge of 32 books, which is pretty ambitious considering last year she didn’t make her challenge goal of 26 books.

Nevertheless.

Books Read This Year (in the order of their Goodreads Average Rating)

  1. The Odyssey (the translation by Emily Wilson)
  2. La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  3. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  4. The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
  6. The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
  7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
  9. Conclave, by Robert Harris
  10. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  11. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  12. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire, by Leslie Peirce
  14. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  15. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  16. Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes
  17. The Mandibles, A Family: 2029 – 2047, by Lionel Shriver
  18. Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  20. As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis

Today, self went poring over her recommended reading list and discarded a list called “Recommended Summer Reading” (downloaded from a literary website). Summer is practically half over and by the time she gets to the books on that list, it will be winter.

On her To-Read list 2018 are a biography of Daphne du Maurier and three du Maurier novels. She hopes she can get to them soon. She wishes Steinbeck weren’t so engaging because he is really slowing down her reading rate. Before she began Travels with Charley she read an average of a book a week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Explorers of the North

Self has always been fascinated by explorers, which is why she’s writing her novel about 18th century missionaries. She also has a very long story (32 pages currently, and nowhere near done) about an alien invasion in the Bering Sea. That story is all about Ice, but every day she reads various scientific reports about the disappearing glaciers so she feels mild concern that if she takes too long to finish this story, the context of the physical setting will cease to make any sense.

Today, she reads about the Penny and Barnes ice caps on Baffin Island, and about the Laurentide ice sheet that once covered much of North America. She learns that Baffin Island was known to the 11th century Norse of Greenland and Iceland, and that Baffin Island is postulated to be the Helluland of Viking sagas.

She also reads up on Sir John Franklin. The two ships that were lost during his fourth and final Arctic expedition were named the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. The HMS Erebus was a 372-ton Heclaclass bomb vessel, built in Wales in 1826. The wreck has been located, in Queen Maud Gulf. The wreck of the HMS Terror lies under the water of Terror Bay. (Who names ships Erebus and Terror? Isn’t that like asking for trouble?)

She reads that Georgian Bay has 30,000 islands. Fresh in her mind is the fate of Kat, in the novel she just finished reading, Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods. Who sets off alone in a small boat and becomes lost and lost and more lost.

She learns about the Jesuit mission of Saint-Marie, founded on Lake Huron in the 17th century.

She reads about Lewis and Clark and about rivers like the Columbia and the Hood, which she has seen, long ago, on a driving trip north that started out in San Francisco and hugged the coast of Oregon and Washington.

And she also reads about Celtic and Norse mythology, in a book she found in son’s room.

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So many books, so little time!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

New for the Reading List: The Economist Books, 12 May 2018

  1. The latest from Rachel Cusk: Kudos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series is mentioned in the review: self has been wanting to read Knausgaard. Hopefully, someday.
  2. Eye of the Shoal: A Fishwatcher’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything, by Helen Scales (Bloomsbury Sigma). Scales’s earlier book, about seashells, is Spirals in Time.
  3. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo, by Zora Neale Hurston: written in 1927, finally out in print!!! (Amistad)

Opening Sentence, Work-In-Progress: Blue Water, Distant Shores (Working Title)

Backstory: A young Spanish priest makes it to the Philippines. His assigned task: fighting demons. It is 1755.

The old servant woman who greeted Matias at the door led him into a tiled foyer in which were aligned three austere-looking chairs of soot-black wood.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Alcina Describes Philippine Boats (from Historia de las Islas Filipinas, 1668)

The vessels are called balutu and are made from a single hollowed-out log or trunk. Although they have little cargo capacity because the sides are low in the water, they are very light. This is because there are some artisans (referred to as pandays, a generic term for all crafters) who make them so graceful and of such elegant lines that they say of them that they are like arrows.

Hypothesis: In the Lake of the Woods, p. 170

Here are her frustrations with this novel:

  • The main character is deeply troubled, and his wife is long-suffering.
  • His campaign manager is a walking cliché of everything that was wrong with male entitlement before the #metoo movement (He constantly makes sexist remarks about the  main character’s wife in front of the husband and the wife and no one tells him to shut up)
  • My Lai is dealt with in a very blunt manner.

Here are the reasons self is glad she is still reading:

  • My Lai is dealt with in a very blunt manner.
  • She is reminded of The Nuremberg Principles (NOT fake news)
  • The hypothesis chapters — brilliant chapters, just brilliant. When O’Brien is in Kath’s head, it’s clear he is no mysogynist, and his feeling for the landscape is intense. Also, Kath being lost and thinking rationally about her situation and struggling to become un-lost all by herself is heartbreaking. First rule of nature: As soon as one is lost, stop moving, take shelter, and wait to be found. (Self is far from the outdoorsy type so she can see herself getting considerably more lost, just as Kath does in the novel)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading about 16 March 1521: Magellan in the Visayan Sea

On the Feast of St. Lazarus, Ferdinand Magellan spotted the coast of Samar in an archipelago which had not been named by Europeans.

Because it was the feast of the saint who Jesus brought back to life, Lazarus the brother of Martha and Mary, Magellan named the island in honor of the saint. He had “discovered” the Philippines (The name was given to the archipelago 50 years later, during the reign of Philip II, Hapsburg monarch of Spain)

When Magellan made landfall, it was barely 30 years after the fall of Granada, the last outpost of the Nasrid Empire. In 1492, Boabdil, last Muslim King of Granada, surrendered to the Catholic forces of Ferdinand and Isabella. When Granada capitulated, it had become a swollen knot of refugees from all over the Iberian peninsula.

The island in the Visayan Sea where self’s father was born is called Negros (That name was given to the island by the Spanish because islanders were dark-skinned). She doesn’t think Magellan or any of the explorers who followed actually set foot on the island. But there is a Barangay Granada, which is part of a cluster of land self inherited from her Dear Departed Dad.

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She gleans all this fascinating information from a book which Dearest Mum gave to her a few years ago: La Casa de Dios (The House of God) by Father René B. Javellana, SJ.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Recommended Reading: The New Yorker, “Battle Scars,” by Benjamin Wallace-Wells (4 December 2017)

Self hangs on to New Yorker issues she intends to re-read. Today, she’s re-reading Benjamin Wallace-Wells’ piece on Confederate monuments in Virginia.

This article is about crucial history:

  • In 1890, the city of Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, installed a sixty-two-foot statue of Lee, the first of five statues that anchor Monument Avenue. When the statue to Lee was delivered, more than ten thousand citizens lined the streets to help pull it into place.

And also has this harrowing sentence:

  • In June, 2015, Dylann Roof, a twenty-one-year-old who had immersed himself in white-supremacist ideology, joined a Bible-study group in the basement of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina and, in the midst of the discussion, rose from his chair and massacred nine black congregants.

And this about General Lee:

  • In 1866, a man named Wesley Norris had described Lee’s reaction to an attempted escape: “Not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine.”

And all this bitter history culminates in Charlottesville:

  • The liberal faction that had coalesced at the hearings of the monuments commission had, in a sense, been proved right: it had said that the monuments were symbols of white supremacy, and now white supremacists were coming to town to defend them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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