Doreen G. Fernandez: Fruits of Memory

from Doreen’s Introduction to Fruits of the Philippines (Bookmark, Inc.: Manila, 1997):

I remember gathering lemons in our farm: they were large and lumpy and not like the neat American lemons in supermarkets, but they were fragrant, and basketfuls of them made cooling lemonades. Right near these trees were aratiles, which we called seresa, low enough to climb, and almost exclusively for us children, since adults did not usually bother to gather the little berries, although they willingly ate what we shared with them.

During the Pacific war about ten families, all related, lived on the farm, and, guided by a young uncle, we children picked wild fruits called tino-tino and maria-maria, which I have not seen since then and cannot identify. The tino-tino looked like the cape gooseberry, except that it was usually not eaten raw, but sliced and fried like tomatoes. The maria-maria was delicately sweet, but where is it now? The farm never seemed to run out of guavas, which we ate green or ripe, or of nangka, also delicious both green and ripe (cooked into ginatan or eaten fresh).

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Patient # 4, LET ME NOT BE MAD

For the past two days self has been reading A. K. Benjamin’s Let Me Not Be Mad. She must be in a zone: it’s her third memoir written by a doctor since the start of the summer.

At first, self found Benjamin’s style a little too fraught, but Story # 2 was a shocker. Laid her flat.

Story # 4 is about Michael, 58, who’s recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

He invites his doctor to attend a football match: Arsenal vs. Halifax.

The doc agrees (Self thinks there must be a different level of permissible interaction between doctors and patients in England? In the States, no doctor would accept such an invitation.)

This deadpan sentence has self clutching her sides:

  • He will of course be hyper-litigious in the event of an incident.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Walking Around in a Heat Wave

Bookstores are fine places.

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Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park: That woman is very wisely dressed.

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Staff Picks, Kepler’s Books

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More Staff Picks! Leanne Shapton’s mother is Pinay.

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The order line at Café Borrone, around 10 a.m.

 

 

Back to Work

Below, page 1 of a very, very old work-in-progress. Self was clearing her closets when she stumbled across the hard copy yesterday.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DEAR DEPARTED DAD.

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RISING, DISPATCHES FROM THE NEW AMERICAN SHORE, p. 45

Lately my feeling is that I need time to just be here before I can decide whether to stay or not. My guess is that I will tap into so much gratitude for my life alongside this marsh that I may just become an old lady who drowns right here.

— Laura Sewell, resident of Small Point, Maine

The Writing Life, from Deborah Levy

  • The writing life is mostly about stamina. To get to the finishing line requires the writing to become more interesting than everyday life . . .

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography, p. 36

CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD, Vol. 1

For the workshop this weekend, re-reading some old stories to show different ways of writing memoir. In particular, thinking of a story called Lenox Hill, December 1991, which Jessica Hagedorn included in the anthology Charlie Chan is Dead.

When Jessica contacted self to solicit a piece, self had nothing, nothing, nothing.

Her sister had died just the month before. She did keep a diary, though.

The diary became the story. The first story in what later become a cycle of grief stories: Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press)

For a while, a course called Ethics in Medicine, taught at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, included the story in their syllabus.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE UNWOMANLY FACE OF WAR, by Svetlana Alexievich

Ditched Mirror, Shoulder, Signal last night. Ugh. In the end, it was impossible for self to read about the driving lessons with a married instructor that the narrator tries to imbue with romantic significance.

Self is doing much better with the stoicism of Svetlana Alexievich’s women soldiers.

Alexievich: A Human Being Is Greater Than War:

  • Remembering is not a passionate or dispassionate retelling of a reality that is no more, but a new birth of the past, when time goes in reverse. Above all, it is creativity. As they narrate, people create, they “write” their life.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Dawdling Over Travels with Charley

Self has been reading blazing fast, ever since she began Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, vol. 1 of The Book of Dust, in late March. The last week of March, and through April and May, she was on such a tear. After La Belle Sauvage, she read all of His Dark Materials, then moved on to childhood classics like Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, Tove Jansson’s exquisite The Summer Book, two first novels (As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis and Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes, both excellent), and two books by Tim O’Brien (In the Lake of the Woods gutted her. In fact, she can’t stop thinking about it)

Since beginning Travels with Charley, however, she’s been moving at a glacial pace. It took her forever just to get through the Jay Parini introduction, and she’s just on p. 17.

She almost put the book aside last night, because it suddenly struck her that the kind of problems a man might encounter while traveling alone through America are very different from the kind of problems self experiences when she travels alone — self has traveled through not just America, but through Asia and Europe — and she is usually alone. It gets harder with every passing year. Security seems more suspicious (so many stamps on her passport!), people are less kind (or maybe self has just become more paranoid), and she’s definitely become more impatient. For one thing, she hates delays of any sort, and she hates flying because it’s so dehumanizing.

On p. 17, Steinbeck shares one of his underlying reasons for undertaking this trip, and she understands:

  • A kind of second childhood falls on so many men. They trade their violence for a small increase of life span. In effect, the head of the household becomes the youngest child. And I have searched myself for this possibility with a kind of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage.

Travel is one way to resist the gravitational pull of age. It’s like being young again because everything is new, and you can still be surprised, on a daily basis.

(Note: Self was taken aback that Steinbeck viewed himself as a kind of Ernest Hemingway manly man. She’s always thought of him as ‘gentle.’ He might even be insulted by that description.)

Onward!

Self can’t believe summer is officially here. Time moves so fast. Soon, she’ll have a harvest of figs and plums from her backyard:

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)

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