Favorite Characters (So Far) 2019

In self’s reading, it’s all about the characters. Here are her favorites from her most recent reads (doesn’t look like she’s going to make her Goodreads Reading Challenge this year, she’s been so poky — hanging on to her translations, her intricate classic novels, her favorite book companions).

From Current Read, The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry:

CORA SEABORNE. Joanna Ransome. Luke Garrett. Naomi Banks.

Swann’s Way and Anna Karenina are books she’s read before, but her focus shifted surprisingly on second reading.

From Swann’s Way (the Lydia Davis translation), by Marcel Proust:

The narrator. Swann, always and forever.

From Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy:

DOLLY. Karenin. Kitty. Kitty’s father, Prince Alexander Dmitrievich. Seryozha. Vronsky.

It’s strange, self feels no sympathy whatsoever for Anna Karenina. Not on this re-read. Anna seems less like a real woman and more like a construct used by Tolstoy to make a point. Self hated her from the moment she advised Dolly to stick with her faithless, profligate husband. Was crowing for her fall. Wished Dolly were given a more redemptive story arc.

The character who exhibits the most growth in Anna Karenina is, in self’s humble opinion, Karenin. Because he falls in love with his wife’s child with another man. That’s quite an arc! When he shows up regularly at the baby’s nursery, and the governesses don’t know what to make of it? WAAAAH!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Definitely the Sentence of the Day

“I do find it absurd that a man of his intelligence should suffer over a person of that sort, who isn’t even interesting — because they say she’s an idiot,” she added with the wisdom of people not in love who believe a man of sense should be unhappy only over a person who is worth it, which is rather like being surprised that anyone should condescend to suffer from cholera because of so small a creature as the comma bacillus.

Swann’s Way

That was hilarious.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

Swann in Love: The Wearing of Monocles

  • The general’s monocle, stuck between his eyelids like a shell splinter in his vulgar, scarred, overbearing face, in the middle of a forehead which it blinded like the Cyclops’ single eye, appeared to Swann like a monstrous wound that might have been glorious to receive, but was indecent to show off; whereas the one that M. de Bréauté added, as a badge of festivity, to the pearl-gray gloves, the opera hat, and the white tie, and substituted for the familiar lorgnette (as Swann himself did) for going out in society, bore, glued to its other side, like a natural history specimen under a microscope, an infinitesimal gaze teeming with friendliness that smiled constantly at the loftiness of the ceilings, the beauty of the preparations, the interest of the programs, and the excellence of the refreshments.

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*****

  • The Marquis de Forestelle’s monocle was miniscule, had no border, and, requiring a constant painful clenching of the eye, where it was encrusted like a superfluous cartilage whose presence was inexplicable and whose material was exquisite, gave the Marquis’s face a melancholy delicacy, and made women think he was capable of great sorrows in love. But that of M. de Saint-Candé, surrounded by a gigantic ring, like Saturn, was the center of gravity of a face which regulated itself at each moment in relation to it, a face whose quivering red nose and thick-lipped sarcastic mouth attempted by their grimaces to equal the unceasing salvos of wit sparkling from the disk of glass, and saw itself preferred to the handsomest eyes in the world by snobbish and depraved young women in whom it inspired dreams of artificial charms and a refinement of voluptuousness . . .

How does one keep that glass firmly attached to one’s face, self wonders?

Stay tuned.

SWANN IN LOVE: Knowing . . .

Knowing a thing does not always allow us to prevent it, but at least the things we know, we hold, if not in our hands, at any rate in our minds, where we can arrange them as we like, which gives us the illusion of a sort of power over them.

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The heartbreak of Odette! Who in the two years that Swann was in love with her, tried as hard as she could to protect her heart.

The nobility of her doomed effort.

Stay tuned.

 

 

In Honor of International Women’s Day

Books that rocked self’s world:

  • Break It Down, by Lydia Davis
  • Empty Chairs, by Liu Xia
  • The Charm Buyers, by Lillian Howan
  • Yes (A screenplay), by Sally Potter
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
  • Night Willow, by Luisa Igloria
  • Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, by Doreen Fernandez
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
  • Memories Flow In Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writings from Calyx, edited by the Calyx Editorial Collective
  • The Infernal Devices Trilogy, by Cassandra Clare
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  • Going Home to a Landscape: a Filipino Women’s Anthology, edited by Virginia Cerenio and Marianne Villanueva

#amreading: Lydia Davis, “Five Signs of Disturbance”

She is watching everything very closely: herself, this apartment, what is outside the windows, and the weather.

There is a day of thunderstorms, with dark yellow and green light in the street, and black light in the alley. She looks into the alley and sees foam running over the concrete, washed out from the gutters by the rain. Then there is a day of high wind.

— from “Five Signs of Disturbance” in Davis’s first collection, Break It Down

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Fall 2016

Self often uses Lydia Davis in her teaching. Something about the crispness of her sentences. Her elegance.

Stay tuned.

Mary Gaitskill Sentence of the Day From Story # 6 in BAD BEHAVIOR

And you thought perhaps self had stopped reading Mary Gaitskill just because she hadn’t posted a quote from Story # 6? Ixnay!

Self is as committed to Bad Behavior as ever.

Self adores short story collections. And really good short story collections are her be-all and end-all.

The last one she really liked might have been The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. Or George Saunders’ Civilwarland in Bad Decline.

Gaitskill, self discovered, has such a feel for women (and men) who adopt alternate lives. Like intellectuals who sideline as prostitutes. Or lawyers who like to patronize prostitutes when their wives are out of town.

Anyhoo, after multiple times checking to see if the Vampire Peeta fan fic she’s following has been updated yet (The author usually drops her new chapters close to midnight), she checks her dashboard and sees — whoa! More hits on her own fan fic, the one about Capitol Peeta. Oh no, what pressure!

She’ll just have to relax by reading more Gaitskill.

Without further ado, the Gaitskill sentence of the day:

They talked about how shallow and fake it all was, and once again Stephanie told the story of the twenty-three-year-old clerk who had driven her to despair with stories of his impending publication in Esquire and his subsequent book contract, until she found out that he was certifiably nuts and on lithium, and couldn’t possibly be telling the truth.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

A Bookshelf Survey (Tagged by j4mieleigh)

Thanks, j4mieleigh, for tagging self in the Bookshelf Survey!

Here are some of self’s answers:

Find a book on your shelves for each of your initials:

M would be for Mockingjay (Book 3 in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins)

V would be for Victor Klemperer, whose meticulous diary of his days living out World War II in Dresden, Germany are searing and humane and unforgettable.

Count your age along your bookshelves. What do you land on?

Self ran out of bookshelf space. Honest-to-God.

No, actually, most of her books are in Redwood City, California. She only has a dozen books with her right now.

Find a book that takes place in your city or state.

Self has to be tiresome again. She has no “city or state.” Unless you consider Facebook a place. She’s there every day.

Find a book set somewhere you would love to travel to.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare is mostly set in Wales. Apart from one brief stop on the ferry from Dublin to London, self has never been to Wales. Perhaps next year?

Find a book cover in your favorite color:

Self’s favorite color is BLUE.

Here’s the cover to a book she’s almost finished reading:

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Detail, Book Cover: ERAGON, by Christopher Paolini

Which book do you have the fondest memories of?

Break It Down, by Lydia Davis. That collection rocked her world.

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

The Horse Whisperer? She just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. Because the events in it are pretty terrible. Worse, they are true.

Which book in your TBR pile will give you the biggest sense of accomplishment?

Eldest, by Christopher Paolini. It is 700 pages.

And, to be honest, The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Because it is Horror. And because self lives alone. And hears things in the night. All the time.

Do you have a special place at home for reading?

The bed. Hands down.

When do you usually read?

Anytime and all the time, if possible.

Can you read while listening to music/ watching TV?

Umm. No.

What do you use for bookmarks?

Right now, book postcards that were handed out at the most recent Cork International Short Story Festival. The artwork for them is mostly incredible.

Are your book spines creased or unbroken?

No. (To elaborate: None of her book spines are creased or unbroken. Her favorite books have stuff written on the margins. Even, coffee stains)

What is the last book you bought?

Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Self hereby tags Dee Dee Chainey (curator of the Twitter hashtag Folklore Thursday) and Laura Dodge Meyer whose blog is The Second Fifty.

Stay tuned!

 

Lydia Davis, “The Other”

From the Lydia Davis collection Almost No Memory (1997):

The Other

She changes this thing in the house to annoy the other, and the other is annoyed and changes it back, and she changes this other thing in the house to annoy the other, and the other is annoyed and changes it back, and then she tells all this the way it happens to some others and they think it is funny, but the other hears it and does not think it is funny, but can’t change it back.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

RW Excerpt of the Day From BLGF p. 463: Belgrade I

Twice it happened to me, before I married you, that people who were close friends of mine wrote inquiring how I was and what my plans were, and I had to write back to them telling that an extraordinary calamity had befallen me, something almost as extraordinary as that a wicked stepmother had sent me out into the woods in winter with instructions not to come back till I had gathered a basket of wild strawberries, and infinitely agonizing as well. On neither occasion did I receive any answer:  and when I met my friends afterwards each told me that she had been so appalled by my news that she had not been able to find adequate words of sympathy, but that I was not to think she was anything but my friend and would be till death.  And indeed both women are still my friends. It, however, only gives me a modified pleasure, it presents me with the knowledge that two people know me very well and enjoy my society but are not inspired by that to do anything to save me when I am almost dying of loneliness and misery, and that this unexhilarating relationship is likely to persist during my lifetime.  —  Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, p. 463 (“Sarajevo VIII”)

RW’s style here reminds self so much of Lydia Davis.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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