What Self Is Going to Read on Christmas Day


It won’t be House of Sand and Fog, that’s for sure. She almost speed-read through the last 50 pages, asking herself how these characters could be so stupid. It was tragedy with a capital T.

She always knew Kathy was sketchy. How did she know? Because Kathy was always smoking. Who does something like that?

And her boyfriend the policeman has a mustache. Who trusts a policeman with a mustache, in this day and age?

Someone is probably going to die.

And then, self will be reading, on Christmas Day, either:

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, the true story of the murder of an American family — classic self has never read
  • The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, an extremely thick book (1000 pages) of the life of a career criminal named Gary Gilmore

This is very light reading, so it is extremely appropriate for this season of light.


And then, the first novel by Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

House of Sand and Fog, p. 178

At this point, self really has to wonder, what is it with André Dubus III and Filipinos?

  • Once, outside El Granada, I drove up to a 7-Eleven right before they closed. Some boy had just pulled a Stop and Rob, but I didn’t know it yet, and I was getting out of my cruiser just as he came out the front door, this real skinny Filipino kid, no older than sixteen or seventeen, holding a bunch of bills and a silver revolver pointed straight up at the sky from pushing the door open with that hand. And neither of us moved, we just looked at each other.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

House of Sand and Fog, p. 163

The moment when self realized she and André Dubus III are from different races: p. 163, House of Sand and Fog

But I recall my daughter’s face, the fashion in which she regarded me at her homecoming dinner, the aggressive and rude way in which she all the night long repeatedly apologized for the family’s present living situation by recalling our old life. How will she regard her mother, brother, and me living in a cottage in a place such as San Bruno perhaps? Or Daly City with all those Filipino people? Will she be too ashamed to visit?


Stay tuned.

Honor Killing, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, P. 152

  • The ground was frozen but there was no snow. The house was only a short walk to the village square, and one could see the long bread and trinket tables of the bazaar, a cage of chickens, the butcher’s meat hanging from a timber. Already passersby stopped to view the spectacle of the carpet dealer pointing a pistol at his dirty kaseef daughter whose hands were held behind her by her bearded older brother who stood to the side, his eyes on the eyes of their father. The girl was in white nightclothes, her feet bare, already beginning to turn blue, her black hair hanging before her face as she cried so hard she was unable to speak. The men and women of the bazaar began to look as well, and perhaps they saw the youngest son run from the house just as his father pulled the trigger, the sound like the cracking of ice, a wisp of smoke entering the air, and the young beautiful Jasmeen, the gendeh, the whore, falling to the ground, curling herself up as if she were cold, moaning, then becoming quiet and with great concentration sitting up and pressing her hands to the hole in her chest. But in seconds the front of her gown was completely red and wet, and quite soon she lay still, her eyes open, steam rising from her wound into the early-morning air of Tabriz.

What self would really like to know is: What happened to the rich, handsome American oil executive the kaseef daughter had an affair with? Did he just slink away in shame?

Stay tuned.

#amreading House of Sand and Fog, p. 129

Progress. Self is almost halfway through this novel.

Her next book will be Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

It was her sister who made her watch the film version. She remembers certain things:

  • Robert Blake was in it.
  • The murder is seen in shadow, but self was terrified. Especially because in one of the shadowy murders, the victim is shown jerking in fear. To this day, self is haunted by the image.

It is likely this is the book she will be reading on Christmas Day. Why?

Her current reading, House of Sand and Fog, is so beautiful. She read reviews on the web and SOMETHING TERRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO SOMEONE. Because the readers refer to it as a “tragedy.”

If self were to take a guess, it would be the lovelorn cop, Lester.

He’s just left his wife for a homeless woman named Kathy (In the film, she is played by Jennifer Connelly, so that is who I keep seeing as I read. In one scene, she is described by the Iranian man who has her house as using too much makeup, which comes as a surprise because whenever the novel is in Kathy’s point of view, she seems so distraught — too distraught, surely, to think of such things as putting on make-up?)

Les to Kathy: You’re a complicated woman, aren’t you?

Kathy: Nope, I think I’m a simple woman, actually. I’m just good at complicating things.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

House of Sand and Fog, p. 66

Sometimes we’d walk down to Harvard Square to eat or see a movie. I always wanted to do both, eat something heavy and delicious like lasagna or prime rib, then go to the small theater past the newstand and all the teenagers in loose pants to snuggle down into the red seats in the dark with a large Coke and about ten chocolate peanut butter cups, just let the flickering light of the story shut up my rational, reasonable voice for a couple of hours.

Loving this novel. So much.

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: André Dubus III

Because this I know of life’s difficult times: there is always a time for them to begin and a time for them to end, and the man who knows this knows he must thank God for each day he has suffered because that is always one day closer to the sun, the real sun.

House of Sand and Fog (published 1999!)

This is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful novel. Which means self probably won’t finish reading it until next year. Really, she’s poring over each paragraph.

Stay tuned.

WIT’S END: A Novel About a Novelist and Her At-Loose-Ends Niece

Self is on pp. 172 – 173 of Karen Joy Fowler’s Wit’s End.

She has been enjoying it, not least because the characters are Democrats (They wear their political affiliations on their sleeve. But of course they do: they live in Santa Cruz, CA).

A character owns a pair of dogs named Stanford and Berkeley. Self almost dropped the book because of that but she’s so glad she didn’t.

Anyhoo, the book makes her all sorts of nostalgic for Santa Cruz, CA. For its wooden roller coaster and its Boardwalk and its blue and pink cotton candy and the Ripley Believe It Or Not hall of funhouse mirrors.

Sample dinner conversation between a famous mystery writer and her niece, Rima:

“I remember once when you were about four years old. We went out to eat and you told the waitress you wanted a petite filet mignon. She just about dropped her pencil.”

“I was always saying something cute after you left. Hardly a day went by.”

“This puts the Democrats in very good shape for 2008.”

“There’s even corn in the toothpaste now. Did I mention that?”

Something wet landed on Rima’s ankle. Stanford was drooling; it brought her back to the moment.

Regarding that petite filet mignon: when self still lived in Manila, Dearest Mum’s youngest brother married a nineteen-year-old. The first time self met the prospective bride was at dinner in San Mig Pub in Greenbelt Park. And the teen-ager ordered — steak tartare. Dearest Mum was so impressed she couldn’t stop talking about it.

Until that moment, self had never laid eyes on a steak tartare. And she’s never had a yen to order it, either. That means self will probably end her days without ever tasting this singular delight, boo.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Karen Joy Fowler: WIT’S END

This novel was published seven years ago, but it’s about a 2006 mid-term election.

That shows you how long self hangs on to reviews of books she’s adding to her reading list. She will go to a bookstore, armed with her file of New York Times Book Review clippings, she will first search the shelves and then end up asking for help from a bookstore staff person, and that person will look at self’s clipping, then his/her eyes will wander down to the date at the bottom of the page, and they will say (which has happened on at least three separate occasions), in a very offended tone: “Ma’am, this review is dated 2010.” Subtext: Are you freaking nuts?

The last novel she inquired about was Sara Gruen’s Ape House.

What can she say? She’s been living la vida loca for a very, very long time. So long that hyperactivity seems to be the norm.

In an incredible stroke of luck, self is reading Fowler’s Wit’s End the week after the elections. It would seem that, in 2009, there was the same kind of zeitgeist roiling around northern California. Because while reading Wit’s End, it could be 2016. She doesn’t even have to change a single word in a few passages, it reads like 2016:

  • Well, Ohio hadn’t delivered the complete Democratic rout that had been predicted.

A few pages later:

  • “How about that election,” the sushi chef said.

It’s been really hot in San Francisco (Ha, ha, ha — she’ll never complain about San Francisco coolness again! It’s sweltering hot. Like Global Warming with a capital G. W.) Self went to the Ferry Building to cool off. And overheard a woman say: “I’m still traumatized over those election results.”

And then, a few steps further, a vendor was calling out “Sea Salt! Sea Salt!” He beckoned to a young couple passing by and said: “Young lovers, this might be your last shot at happiness! Have a taste!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Kate Walbert

Caroline discovers her mother’s blog during one of those middle-of-the-night nights when she can no longer sleep and thinks that she should just read, or go online and research Dora Maar, for Christ’s sake, her daughter Dorothy announcing earlier on the telephone that she had been studying the poems of Picasso’s sad, troubled mistress and that she would like to be known, henceforth, as Dora.

A Short History of Women, p. 205

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