The Personal Bookshelf in the Mendocino Apartment

Writers travel with a lot of books. Self is amazed at how many she ends up bringing with her.

She’s been in Mendocino most of January. Here’s her stash:

  • Of course, Miguel Hernandez, in the translation by Don Share
  • World of the Maya, by Victor W. Von Hagen, the copy she had with her at 21, when she and her roommate, Sachiko, an anthropology major, rode the third-class public bus from Mexico City to Chichen Itza
  • The Best American Travel Writing, 2013, edited by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Travel Writing, by Cynthia Dial
  • Secret London: An Unusual Guide, by Rachel Howard and Bill Nash
  • Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm, by Phil Pullman
  • Lost Between: Writings on Displacement, edited by Catherine Dunne and Federica Sgaggio
  • Travelers’ Tales Guides to Spain, edited by Lucy McCauley
  • Virtual Lotus: Modern Fiction of Southeast Asia, edited by Teri Shaffer Yamada
  • copies of her first collection, post-Stanford: Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, as well as copies of the anthology she co-edited with Virginia Cerenio, Going Home to a Landscape
  • Conamara Blues, by John O’Donohue
  • Firelines, by Marcus Cumberlege
  • The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason
  • Writing the Memoir, by Judith Barrington
  • Diane Arbus: A Chronology, 1923 – 1971
  • Another Kind of Paradise: Short Stories From the New Asia-Pacific, edited by Trevor Carolan
  • Dead Season: A Story of Murder and Revenge on the Philippine Island of Negros, by Alan Berlow
  • Tonle Sap: The Heart of Cambodia’s Natural Heritage, by Colin Poole

Don’t even get self started on the journals!

Stay tuned.





American Rust: Bill Gates Mention, p. 117

Self likes to keep tabs on how many times an actual, Real Life personality appears in a work of fiction. Lends a layer of authenticity, for sure. Like the time she read a novel about a person who had no energy to even get out of bed in the mornings: “At least, no one expects me to be Cory Aquino today.” After she read that, self did not stop laughing for at least 24 hours.

She is still reading Philipp Meyer’s American Rust. Only a third of the way, but the tension is already alarming. There’s been a murder, an affair, illegal hunting, a body dragged out of a lock.

p. 117:

Point of view: Harris

There were plenty of other squares he could have landed on, such as his brother’s, a computer programmer in Florida, four children and a Disney subdevelopment. Harris had one word for that: hellhole. Got into computers early, mainframes, the old UNIVACS, made six times what Harris did. Still down on himself — might be that runs in the family. He was no Bill Gates. Those were his own words: Bud, I am exactly the same age as Bill Gates. You’re doing pretty good, Harris had told him. Neither one of them had any college but every two years his brother got a new Mercedes. I do alright, said his brother, but it’s good to be able to admit that — I am the same age as Bill Gates. Harris wasn’t sure.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mendocino Again! Still Writing About Cheating Peeta

Self took her leisurely time, leaving the Bay Area a little past 9, going slow in heavy rain through the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin, Cloverdale, Route 128, Highway 1, Yorkville, Albion, Little River. She saw all the usual stuff: sheep, redwoods, wineries. She didn’t stop until she got to Booneville, where she dropped another chapter of her Cheating Peeta fan fic (It is so much FUN to write about Cheating Peeta! The most fun she remembers having in aaaaages! The readers are vested to the max in her characters. They even offer tips about what they think should happen next. For instance, one reader suggests that Katniss and Cheating Peeta, to repair their dysfunctional marriage, go on a vacation “to a white sand beach, preferably right away, preferably without telling anyone.” Now, why didn’t self think of that before? Who wouldn’t love a getaway to a white sand beach? Or, how about this comment: “Oh, I do hope there is a fistfight!” LOL LOL LOL)

Since the internet can be quite poky here in the far northern California coast, she took the opportunity to stop at the Mosswood CafĂ© in Booneville where, while munching on delicious chorizo & goat cheese empanadas, she hurriedly dropped a new chapter — QED because her chapters are short, only about four pages long — and then watched with excitement and satisfaction as the # of hits climbed and climbed and climbed, with every passing second!

The only drawbacks so far since she installed herself in her unit at the Mendocino Art Center are: (1) It is cold; (2) At night, there are no lights; (3) She forgot to bring a flashlight; and (4) She discovered she left behind her copy of Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan’s The Strain, which she was meaning to read when she got through with Philipp Meyer’s American Rust.

The Strain is a horror story involving one or both of these elements: (1) vampires; (2) zombies. She knows she can always pick up a copy from Gallery Bookstore (one of her faaaave hangouts in Mendocino!) tomorrow, but perhaps she should re-think reading horror while in Mendocino. At least, until the days start getting longer. Because when she poked her head out of her unit about two hours ago, there was a stiff wind, it was mighty cold, and she couldn’t see her car because the night darkness was so total. And The Strain sounds genuinely scary. And maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t really need to add that kind of tension to her life right now?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


AMERICAN RUST, p. 80: Lee’s Point of View

Self is really enjoying this novel. It’s one of those with a chapter devoted to a different point of view. Usually, she is impatient with this method, as it seems to be a very convenient “out” for a writer who doesn’t want to be bothered with the intricacies of plot. But so far, she’s loving it. Especially the women’s point of view. She liked “Grace” and now she likes “Lee.”

Here’s a longer-than-usual excerpt from the “Lee” point of view:

To help her get to sleep she decided to read in front of a fire. She opened the flue and piled some logs on the grate and put newspaper under them and lit the paper but after the paper burned out the logs were just smoldering, no real heat or flame. The smell of smoke filled the house and she opened the windows so the smoke detectors wouldn’t go off. She was an idiot, really, how she’d managed to grow up in Pennsyltucky, for Christ’s sake, it was embarrassing. Maybe before she left she would ask her father to do that, teach her to shoot one of his handguns, tin cans in the backyard or something. That was something he’d be happy to do.

Looking through the books she’d brought, she picked up Ulysses, but couldn’t figure out where she’d stopped. She wondered if it was really such a great book if you could never remember what you’d just read. She liked Bloom but Stephen Dedalus bored the crap out of her. And Molly, she’d skipped ahead to read that part.

Self thinks it is so unusual to encounter a character who picks up Ulysses to read and continues reading simply for the parts about self-pleasuring?

And BTW self is really crushing the Cheating Peeta fan fic right now. She began three weeks ago, and has gotten it up to almost 30,000 words. It’s a very angst-y story that takes place on two continents. And for much of it, her Katniss and Peeta aren’t even together. Conveniently, she knows how to wield interior monologue. She wields it so often, in fact, that she has readers complaining about how self’s story has reduced them to “angry tears.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.




The most compelling point of view in this novel, in self’s humble opinion, is a woman’s (Grace):

Of course she could just keep going like this, being alone, but there was no point to it. You felt strong for about a week and then you were just alone. And Bud Harris, he was a good man, uncomfortable but what did it matter, the ones that had the easiest time talking also had the easiest time screwing around behind your back.

— p. 51, American Rust

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.



“I talked to a lawyer from the shelter.”

He looked at her, half-grinning.

“She said the house is legally mine until you pay your share.”

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” he told her.

He was right. She hadn’t talked to any lawyer. But she was surprised how angry her own lie made her feel. She believed those words. They might not have been the truth but they should have been.

p. 49, American Rust, by Philipp Meyer

Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years volunteering at a trauma center in downtown Baltimore, he attended Cornell University, where he studied English. His writing has been published by McSweeney’s, The Iowa Review,, and New Stories from the South.

Quote of the First Sunday After Christmas (2015)

American Rust is such a guy story. At first, self wasn’t sure she should follow up her reading of Middlemarch with this, but she decided to give it a go.

As it turns out, American Rust is the perfect story to follow her reading of George Eliot. There is an accidental killing, and right now, in her present mood, self really enjoys seeing someone (other than self, for once) make questionable decisions. Such as: panicking after accidentally killing someone, and then not hiding the body well enough. Those are two big, big, big questionable decisions.

But there is a woman in the story who makes perfect sense. And here is something from her point of view:

They’re simple facts is all. Your only power is choosing what to make of them. She stayed under two weeks with a few pounds of rocks in her pockets. There is your lesson from that.

(Ever wonder why self’s holiday reading is so dark? Well, self wonders that, too!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A Stephen Hawking Mention!

p. 33 of Phillip Meyer’s novel, American Rust:

“. . . take Stephen Hawking — your favorite crippled genius abandons his wife. Twenty-six years of changing his bedpan and then — sorry, honey, I think it’s time for a newer model.”

Sentence of the Day That Is Not By Mary Gaitskill

In her depressed mind, she sharpened these darts, burnished those grudges until they glistened like copper shields.

— Chris B, Nephew, Teacher, from his novel-in-progress

Chris is in his early 20s, and is the younger brother of Niece G. He went to Tufts.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



“Lydgate’s hair never became white. He died when he was only fifty, leaving his wife and children provided for by a heavy insurance on his life . . . He had not done what he once meant to do.”

But, he did save his marriage to the fair Rosamond.

Rosamond “continued to be mild in her temper, inflexible in her judgment, disposed to admonish her husband, and able to frustrate him by stratagems. As the years went on he opposed her less and less, whence Rosamond concluded that he had learned the value of her opinion.”

After Lydgate’s death, Rosamond marries again.

She knows contentment, if not happiness.

As for Dorothea, she marries the love of her life, Will Ladislaw. Rosamond wanted him, and nearly wrecked her marriage for him, but Dorothea came along and, well . . .

Self would just like to say, the closing pages of Middlemarch had her in such a state of high tension that she kept biting her bottom lip at every page, saying “No!” or “Yes!” or “You go, Will!” or “Dorothea, you are a saint!”

That scene in Lydgate’s drawing room, where Dorothea stumbles in on Will holding Rosamond’s hands — !!! Dorothea, grievously wounded (She’s been in love with Will Ladislaw all this time!), spends the entire night weeping. Meanwhile, the minute Dorothea is gone, Rosamond puts a hand on Will’s arm, and Will turns to Rosamond and snarls, “Don’t touch me!” Those three words telling Rosamond, more than anything Will might have said, that he returns Dorothea’s love.

That is a scene worthy of the finest Katniss/Peeta angst-y fan fiction. Self knows this is heresy, putting Middlemarch on the same level as Hunger Games fan fiction, but those have been her twin obsessions, for months and months.

It is sweetness itself to learn that, at the death of Dorothea’s uncle Mr. Brooke, Middlemarch passes to Dorothea and Will’s son.

So here’s 2015 in Books:

Self began the year by discovering The Infernal Devices Trilogy. She went to London looking for Shadowhunter sites. She began The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson, and discovered that she and the characters shared a familiarity with Great Russell Street and the British Museum. She ended the year absolutely in love with the novel Middlemarch. How in love? Her personal copy has so many dog-eared pages, self can’t even. She took this 800-page behemoth with her to Florence and even there she never lost the thread of the narrative, never.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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