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)

In Honor of Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday, 28 April 2018: LUISA IGLORIA PICKS SOME GOOD ONES

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Luisa Igloria, Poet

Since self is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Mendocino Art Center, this week she’s been writing up a storm (also sending out her work) and adding to her reading list with regular drop-ins to one of the best bookstores in the world: Gallery  Bookshop in Mendocino. Yelp gives them five stars!

She also asked two fabulous writers if they could share their list of Recommended Books with her, and she was so happy when they agreed. (Even if your local indie doesn’t carry the titles, they can always order them. In most cases, they’ll take an average of three or four days to get to the bookstore)

First up, Luisa Igloria

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. Her latest works include the collection The Buddha Wonders If She Is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018), the chapbooks Haori (Tea & Tattered Pages Press, 2017), Check & Balance (Moria Press/Locofo Chaps, 2017), and Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015). Her collection Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser was selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize and published by Utah State University Press. Her other collections are: Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press). She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. Her website is www.luisaigloria.com

Luisa’s Poetry Recommendations:

  • Afterland, Mai Der Vang
  • Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar
  • Carpathia, Cecilia Woloch
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
  • Chord, Rick Barot
  • Eye Level, Jenny Xie
  • Glasshouses, Lighthouses, Tung-hui Hu
  • Khaty Xiong, Poor Anima, Khaty Xiong
  • Living Quarters, Adrienne Su
  • Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong
  • Some Say the Lark, Jennifer Chang
  • Stereo. Island. Mosaic., Vincent Toro
  • Registers of Illuminated Villages, Tarfia Faizullah
  • The Second O of Sorrow, Sean Thomas Dougherty
  • When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, Chen Chen
  • Whereas, Layli Long Soldier

Luisa’s Fiction Recommendations:

  • A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
  • America is Not the Heart, Elaine Castillo
  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  • But For the Lovers, Wilfrido Nolledo
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • Mayor of the Roses, Marianne Villanueva
  • Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
  • Smaller and Smaller Circles, F.H. Batacan
  • The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal, Brian Roley
  • The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • The Vagrants, Yiyun Li
  • Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • Valiant Gentlemen, Sabina Murray

Luisa’s Nonfiction/Hybrid Recommendations:

  • 100 Demons, Lynda Barry
  • America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan
  • Blind Spot, Teju Cole
  • Echolalia in Script, Sam Roxas-Chua 姚
  • Kilometer Zero, Wilfredo Pascual, Jr.
  • On Imagination, Mary Ruefle
  • Silver Road, Kazim Ali
  • The Dark Interval, Rainer Maria Rilke
  • The Kepel Fruit, Tung-hui Hu
  • Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose
  • Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston

Self doesn’t know about you, but she’s itchy to get at more than a few of these books!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Guardian’s 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

There is very little overlap been self’s reading list and the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time by The Guardian.

Below, books on The Guardian’s list that self has read:

2. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

5. Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama

9. Dispatches, by Michael Herr

15. The Double Helix, by James D. Watson

20. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson

23. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and EB White

33. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child-care, by Dr. Benjamin Spock

42. Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (for a course on the Literature of World War I, taught by Prof. Albert Guerard at Stanford)

44. Goodbye to All That, by Robert Graves (for a course on the Literature of World War I, taught by Prof. Albert Guerard at Stanford)

65. Roget’s Thesaurus

83. A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon

92. The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys, via Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of Pepys’ life

Sentence of the Day: HILLBILLY ELEGY

p. 177: “. . .  whenever people ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, ‘The feeling that our choices don’t matter.’ “

#amreading: The New York Review of Books on Oliver Sacks (21 May 2015)

You will notice, dear blog reader, that all the magazines self has been quoting this week are three years old. That is because 2015 is the last year she had much leisure time. She thinks it’s a very good sign that she saved all these past issues of New York Review of Books. Like she knew, she’d be getting back to them one day. Even if that day was three years later.

Moving on.

Oliver Sacks is no longer with us. Nevertheless, his ouevre remains. Jerome Groopman, in his review of Oliver Sacks’s memoir On the Move: A Life, quotes Sacks’s description of himself:

of “vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.” A talented student drew a contrast with Ivan Ilyich, who was passionless and shaped his behavior to strictly conform to others’ expectations. Tolstoy judged Ilyich’s life as “most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

Which is why self is sharing this photo (taken at the San Carlos Auto Pride carwash):

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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