Witness: The Trans/lation Issue (Spring 2015)

Where is self? She is here, right here:

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue, Launched at the AWP Book Fair in Minneapolis, April 2015

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue, Launched at the AWP Book Fair in Minneapolis, April 2015

This issue of Witness features writing from around the world. And self is more than proud to be in the same issue as:

  • Dario Belleza (translated from the Italian by Peter Covino)
  • Arthur Rimbaud (translated from the French by Donald Revell)
  • Hossein M. Abkenar (translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili)
  • Christos Chartomatsidis (translated from the Bulgarian by Velina Minkoff, Rayna Rossenova, and Borislava Velkova)
  • Moniru Ravanipour (translated from the Persian by Shirindokht Nourmanesh and Moniru Ravanipour)
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)
YAY! Self made it! She is here!

YAY! Self made it! She is here!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2666, and The Small Magazines That Deserve Your Attention

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At this point, self has to be realistic.  She has to own up to the fact that she will probably never get to p. 800 of Robert Bolaño’s masterwork. She’s been reading it for almost three months and has only gotten to p. 248. It is hardback, it is heavy. She borrowed it from the Redwood City Public Library ages and ages ago. It’s only the fourth book she’s read this year. For a while she was doing really well. January, in fact, was great.

Don’t get her wrong. Self loves Bolaño. She tore through The Savage Detectives in Bacolod, a few years ago. It made her go all elegiac over the Daku Balay (the Big House, you can see those posts if you enter the search item “Bacolod”). She did some of her best writing ever after reading that book.

Now, alas, the only discernible writing she’s produced since the start of the year is: one short story. (Nothing doing, she’s also written 40 chapters of fan fiction). Why why why?

This was supposed to be “her” year. The year she gets to:  Mendocino, Minneapolis, The Banff Writers Studio, and etc etc etc etc

Today, the writer Jill Widner gave her a shout-out after reading self’s story in the spring issue of Witness. Self did not know that Jill subscribed. Jill said that self’s story reminded her of something she had read in Ploughshares. Which was a compliment so vast it produced in self all kinds of feelz.

And further, today, self heard from Lillian Howan, a member of self’s San Francisco writers group. Lillian is editing a new magazine called Nimbus Cat. Nimbus Cat accepted a piece of hers for their inaugural issue, and it just so happened to come out today.

It is a tough and generous undertaking to start your own literary magazine. Lillian is a woman of many hats: mother, novelist, awesome friend. That she chooses to launch this venture is sheer crazy! But self means crazy in a “I-can’t-believe-how-awesome-and-generous-you-are” way.

Here are two other magazines that are small yet bountiful. Local Nomad is helmed by Jean Gier, who launched the Spring 2015 issue while negotiating a hectic move to Santa Cruz. Don’t ask self how.

And Elsewhere Lit is helmed by fabulous Nandini Dhar out of Miami, Florida. She teaches full-time, she just put out her chapbook, Lullabies are Barbed Wire Nations (exquisite), and yet she co-edits this magazine.

Let’s give these courageous women a big, big hand.

Finally, a magazine that has a big piece of her heart: Your Impossible Voice. Which just came out with Issue # 7. And has been doing more copies in print, which have been selling briskly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Express Yourself: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

EXPRESS YOURSELF is this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

Since self is doing a residency at the Mendocino Art Center, she thought it would be a good idea to focus on the different forms of artistic expression practiced by her fellow artists-in-residence.

One of them, Mary Ellen Campbell, has a piece in this just-published anthology!

Mary Ellen is a multi-genre artist. Her mixed-media pieces are in the Mendocino Art Center Gallery.

Just Published! An Anthology by Child-Free Women of the 60s in their 60s

Just Published! An Anthology by Child-Free Women of the 60s in their 60s

And there are ceramic artists (like the two who live right next door to self: Mitch and Jessie)

Four artists share this studio in the Mendocino Art Center. These pots were created by Mitch Iburg, who hails from Iowa.

Four artists share this studio in the Mendocino Art Center. These pots were created by Mitch Iburg, who hails from Iowa.

As well as visual artists like Kim Thoman who don’t fall easily into any category (Well, neither does Mary Ellen). Self had dinner with Kim one night, and listening to Kim explain her process was like listening to self’s former Stanford Prof David Nivison discuss Zen Buddhism and the Tao of “Nothingness.” Brilliant. Just. Brilliant.

Visual Artist Kim Thoman's Studio at the Mendocino Art Center: Kim comes to Mendocino every January to work on her art.

Visual Artist Kim Thoman’s Studio at the Mendocino Art Center: Kim comes to Mendocino every January to work on her art.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CHINESE YANKEE, by Ruthanne Lum McCunn

(Not a third-person post, for once!)

Many of the stories in my second collection, Mayor of the Roses, were shaped when I was in a writer’s group with Ruthanne Lum McCunn.

Lives diverge, self hasn’t seen Ruthanne for many years.

But, a month or so ago (first I typed “weeks ago” then decided to double-check the date on Ruthanne’s e-mail — time moves like a river oh me my), I got an e-mail saying she’d written a new book: Chinese Yankee, a True Story From the U.S. Civil War (Design Enterprises of San Francisco, $16)

Here’s something from the Hong Kong South China Morning Post:

Chinese Yankee is an extraordinary story that still resonates 150 years later. With her empathy for the central character and her engaging and accessible prose, McCunn is ideally qualified to tell the tale.

Ruthanne Lum McCunn is also the author of: Sole Survivor, God of Luck, The Moon Pearl, Thousand Pieces of Gold, Wooden Fish Songs, Chinese-American Stories, and Pie-Biter.

More about Chinese Yankee can be found here.

Stay tuned.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books Issue (Weekend, Nov. 22 – 23, 2014)

The following list is made up of the books self felt most interested in reading after perusing the Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books (2014) issue:

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee (Knopf, 488 pages, $35)

Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker-Prizewinning novel of 1979

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, by Rhonda K. Garelick (Random House, 570 pages, $35)

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr (Norton, 765 pages, $39.95)

Updike, by Adam Begley (Harper, 558 pages, $29.99)

The Novel: A Biography, by Michael Schmidt (Harvard University Press, 1,172 pages, $39.95)

The Age of the Vikings, by Anders Winroth (Princeton University Press, 320 pages, $29.95)

Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts (Viking, 926 pages, $45)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf, 528 pages, $60)

The Mantle of Command:  FDR at War 1941 – 1942, by Nigel Hamilton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 514 pages, $30)

George Marshall: A Biography, by Debi and Irwin Unger (Harper, 352 pages, $35)

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney (Viking, 564 pages, $36)

Rendezvous with Art, conversations between the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson, 248 pages, $35)

Frans Hals, by Seymour Silve (Phaidon, 400 pages, $125)

My Favorite Things, by Maira Kalman, a catalogue of 40 items in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Harper Design, 160 pages, $35)

The Only Way to Cross, by John Maxtone-Graham

SS United States, by John Maxtone-Graham (Norton, 245 pages, $75)

Surf Craft, by Richard Kenvin (MIT University Press, 192 pages, $29.95)

The Art of Things, an anthology of essays on good design, edited by Dominique Forest (Abbeville, 592 pages, $150)

Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power, by Sylvia Sumira (University of Chicago Press, 224 pages, $45)

Me, Myself, and Us, by Brian R. Little (Public Affairs, 288 pages, $26.99)

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster, 565 pages, $30)

The Beatles Lyrics, edited by Hunter Davies (Little, Brown, 376 pages, $35)

The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies

Mephisto, by Klaus Mann

 

 

Available Now: Your Impossible Voice, Issue 5

Today self heard from the editors of Your Impossible Voice that Issue No. 5 is out!

YAY!

The story they took is “The Elephant.” Self actually sent if from Cork, Ireland. It was the morning she was transferring from Ballyvolane House to Café Paradiso. You know, self just fell in love with Cork and wishes she had stayed there an extra week.

But, back to Your Impossible Voice and “The Elephant.” It is actually quite a disturbing story, but it is what it is. Here’s an excerpt:

For over a week, the elephant’s wild thrashings sent reverberations throughout the ship. It threw itself against the walls of its container, again and again. Sea monsters, the crew awoke thinking. We’re all going to die!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Memories of Trees” : Live Now on PITHEAD CHAPEL, Vol. 3, Issue 9

I’m one of three people still living who can tell what a mango tree looks like.  I’m important because they think they can learn how to make more.

— “Memories of Trees,” Pithead Chapel, Vol. 3, Issue 9 (September 2014)

Digging Ever Deeper (Into the Pile of Stuff): The Sea, Islands, the Poet

From The New Yorker of 3 February 2014, a review by Adam Kirsch of The Poetry of Derek Walcott (Farrar, Straus & Giroux):

A poet who comes to consciousness on a small island — like Derek Walcott, who was born on St. Lucia in 1930 — is doomed, or privileged, to spend a lifetime writing about the sea.  The subject matter for Walcott is as consistent and inescapable, potentially as monotonous, as the five beats in a pentameter line.  But, like so many great poets before him, he shows that constraints do not have to starve the imagination; they can also nourish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Chang-rae Lee Version of Dystopia

This is from the review of On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee’s new novel.  The review appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The reviewer was Joanna Biggs.

“More and more we can see that the question is not whether we are ‘individuals,’ Chang-rae Lee writes in On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead), his new, dystopian novel.  “The question, then, is whether being an ‘individual’ makes a difference anymore.”  It seems doubtful, in Lee’s somber future.  Afflicted by swine- and bird-flue epidemics, and a profound change in the climate, America, now known simply as the Association, has split into three separate social groups.  At the top sit the Charters, a small professional class that has controlled the country’s remaining resources and withdrawn into gated villages.  Catering their dinner parties and keeping their cars perpetually waxed are the ‘service people,’ who live in the land beyond, known as the counties.  ‘You better have it while you have it’ is the motto of the bartering, hardscrabble life there.”

District 12, anyone?  The twist is that the oppressed classes are “workers whose ancestors arrived from New China a hundred years earlier.”

Biggs then cites a list of dystopian narratives (which fortunately or unfortunately do not include anything YA), starting with “the math genius D-503, in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, who begins by designing the spaceship INTEGRAL . . .  to the fireman Guy Montag in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 who starts out as a kerosene-wielding book burner and ends up harboring what may be the last copy of the Bible,” to Winston Smith, the “mid-ranking employee” of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

Self has read most of Chang-rae Lee’s novels.  She’s read Native Speaker, Aloft, and A Gesture Life.  Of all his novels that self has read to date, her favorite is still A Gesture Life.  Harrowing.  She’ll never forget it.

What she likes most about Lee’s writing is the quietness of the voice.  The restraint masks sheer agony.  All his main characters are tightly wound but restrained, almost to the point of lunacy.  Feelings are to be distrusted.  They are acknowledged only under great peril.  Which makes him sound, on the surface, like Kazuo Ishiguro.  But self finds Chang-rae Lee’s characters, almost all of them, to be deeply emotional and passionate individuals.  If they do harm, it is mostly to themselves.

She does have a copy of On Such a Full Sea, signed by the author himself after a reading he gave in Berkeley.  Self is sorely tempted to tote it along to Ireland, but it’s hardback.  And self has sworn she’s not going to burden herself with more than a handful of books this time.  The fee for mailing the books back home will be exorbitant, if what she paid after Hawthornden is any indication.  Oh what to do, what to do!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

EKPHRASIS: Jean Vengua’s The Little Book of Haptic Drawings

The word epkphrasis is one of those words, like deconstruction or meta-fiction, that self has heard floating about, here and there, usually in the most erudite settings — like literary magazines.  Like university websites (She used to have “dystopian” on that short list, but ever since The Hunger Games, and its overwhelming popularity, self hears “dystopian” at least 10x a day and it may be moving from the realm of the esoteric to the realm of cliché)

Ekphrasis refers to poems inspired by another art form — visual arts, say, or music.

The Little Book of Haptic Drawings is about ekphrasis.  But you don’t even need to know that.

It’s available now online in pdf format.  You can read it for free online or download it.  Jean would welcome a small donation — anything you can afford.  (There’s a small donation button on the sidebar).   Just click on the link.  Explore.  Enjoy.

And if you fell in love with it, be sure and let Jean know.

Stay tuned.

 

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