Quote of the Day: THE ART OF THE AFFAIR (Bloomsbury, 2017)

From the January/February 2017 issue of Poets & Writers:

“Creative people are drawn to each other, as notorious for falling in love as they are for driving each other insane . . .  Seen a certain way, the history of art and literature is a history of all this love.”

— Catherine Lacey in The Art of the Affair: An Illustrated History of Love, Sex, and Artistic Influence

New Books for the Reading List

Stanford professors, the editors of Stanford University Press and Bing Overseas Study Program staff were asked to recommend books for summer reading and they came up with some interesting titles:

Books To Shift Your Perspective

  • An Act of Terror, by André Brink
  • Sometimes a Great Notion, by Ken Kesey
  • The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
  • Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Stoner, by John Williams
  • The Removes, by Tatjana Soli
  • Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, by Michael Copperman
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy

Books on Globality and Migration

  • Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera

Books for Travelers to:

Australia

  • In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson and Ellen Titlebaum

China

  • Age of Ambitions: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Germany

  • Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor
  • The Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping Its European Future, by Stephen Green

Italy

  • The Italians, by John Hooper

Japan

  • A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Animé, Zen and the Tea Ceremony, by Hector Garcia

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Keeper of the Kumm, by Sylvia Vollenhoven

Spain

  • The New Spaniards, by John Hooper

Traffic: St. Paul/Minneapolis

The more melancholy John Steinbeck becomes in Travels with Charley — the more he realizes that he is missing certain sights, and perhaps that means missing them forever — the more captivated self becomes with his narrative. (Self has been there! There meaning: emotionally)

He hates traffic. Self completely understands his reluctance to enter cities. Like Steinbeck, self tends to panic and get lost. She feels every beat of the following section, p. 100:

Like a weakening swimmer I edged to the right into a pleasant street only to be stopped by a policeman, who informed me that trucks and such vermin were not permitted there. He thrust me back into the ravening stream.

I drove for hours, never able to take my eyes from the surrounding mammoths. I must have crossed the river but I couldn’t see it. I never saw St. Paul or Minneapolis. All I saw was a river of trucks; all I heard was a roar of motors. The air saturated with Diesel fumes burned in my lungs.

Steinbeck flees. He heads for US 10 and ends up in — of all places — “a German restaurant complete with sausages, sauerkraut, and beer steins hanging in rows over the bar, shining but unused.”

The ensuing scene is A+

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Steinbeck on Traveling (Travels with Charley, p. 84)

I’ll tell you what it was like. Go to the Ufizzi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and you are so crushed with the numbers, once the might of greatness, that you go away distressed, with a feeling like constipation.

The Pacific Rim Review of Books: Self Wants to Eat/Read Everything

Issue Twenty-Three, Vol. 12 No. 1

 

 

Sentence of the Day: Travels with Charley, p. 58

Steinbeck heads for the Connecticut River:

It is very strange that when you set a goal for yourself, it is hard not to hold toward it even if it is inconvenient and not even desirable.

This is very true. Human beings are SO confused.

Migrants: Travels with Charley, p. 50

I’ve seen many migrant crop-picking people about the country: Hindus, Filipinos, Mexicans, Okies away from their states. Here in Maine a great many were French Canadians who came over the border for the harvest season. It occurs to me that, just as the Carthaginians hired mercenaries to do their fighting for them, we Americans bring in mercenaries to do our hard and humble work. I hope we may not be overwhelmed one day by peoples not too proud or too lazy or too soft to bend to the earth and pick up the things we eat.

In TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, Steinbeck is SO Discursive!

Travels with Charley, p. 31:

Very early I conceived a love for Joseph Addison which I have never lost . . .  I remember so well loving Addison’s use of capital letters for nouns.

An example of Addison’s writing:

I have observed that a Reader seldom peruses a Book with Pleasure ’till he knows whether the Writer of it be a black or fair man, of a mild or cholerick Disposition, Married or a Bachelor, with other Particulars of the like Nature, that conduce very much to the right Understanding of an Author.

Self confesses that she never heard of Joseph Addison before. Who knew that Steinbeck would admire Addison for stylistic Flourishes like the Use of Capital Letters for Nouns (Do you see what Self did just there, Dear Blog Reader? Lol)? She’d like to try that device (using capital letters for nouns) in her 18th century historical novel. At the very least, it would make for an interesting tone.

Stay tuned, Dear Blog Readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Back Issues Reading: The New Yorker, 6 Nov 2017

Since self began her methodical reading of New Yorker back issues, she realizes that the economic and social forces churning through America (like Trump announcing his interest in the Presidency in 2006) should have been sending off alarm flares. But no, we were all too busy watching TV.

The Talk of the Town piece on actor Shia LaBoeuf and his humiliation by a Nazi group made the hair on the back of her neck stand!

From The Mail:

Pence and the Presidency

  • Jane Mayer’s piece on Vice-President Mike Pence revealed his terrifying personal convictions and his connections to right-wing evangelical donors (“The President Pence Delusion,” 23 October). Pence seems to be content to act as President Trump’s puppet . . .  The puppeteer has only to suggest that it’s fine for Pence to perform, and he rises to the occasion, no matter how embarrassing or how costly to this country.

Covering White Supremacy

  • Andrew Marantz handles the presentation of the white supremacist Mike Enoch’s life story tactfully, but I worry that publishing articles like this will only encourage others to follow in Enoch’s destructive footsteps (“The Birth of a White Supremacist,” 16 October)

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.

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