Deconstructing Swann’s Way

Self has to resort to all sorts of mental tricks to keep reading Swann’s Way.

She makes the decision, after reading to p. 44, that she’ll consider Combray and Swann In Love as two separate works — two novellas, if you will. And thus, she’s reading them simultaneously. Because if she follows the sequence in the book — she’s finished Chapter 1, and finished reading the part about the madeleine — Chapter 2 is a very long reminiscence about the town. While Swann In Love is about socializing, with all sorts of fascinating words to consider: for instance, the word “bourgeois.” Self, who is so easily exasperated these days (which is just another way of saying she is stressed), may get exasperated enough to stop reading Swann’s Way. And she would consider that a regrettable moral failure.

So, to forestall any such feelings of exasperation, she skips ahead to Swann In Love, resolving to return to Ch. 2 of Combray (and using two bookmarks) after she’s finished Part II.

Maybe she’ll even read Part III, Place Names: The Name before returning to Combray.

What a disgustingly eccentric way to read Swann’s Way, but there you have it. Self would love to extract maximum pleasure and understanding from this book, and this is the only way she thinks she can do it.

Stay tuned.

Hardly Seems Possible: #amwriting

  •  They tested the salinity in the top layers of ocean water left behind by the ice melt. The data was extracted from brine droplets trapped in pockets of glacier ice. The average was 35 kilograms ppt: 35 kilogram parts per thousand. Suddenly, after a month, salinity in parts per thousand had dropped drastically, to just above 20 kilograms ppt.

Would you believe self wrote this?

Reading it over, now, it all sounds like gobbledygook.

She started this particular story in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland (All her best science fiction were written at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig). That was really bold, since she’s never been to either of the Poles, North or South.

In addition, she’s the furthest thing from a scientist you can imagine. Put numbers and other hard data in front of her, and her mind will cease to function. She’ll go into shock.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: ALL SYSTEMS RED

DSCN0195

  • And what was I supposed to do? Go off on this empty planet and just live until my power cells died? If I was going to do that, I should have planned better and downloaded more entertainment media.

— Murderbot, All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Love Murderbot!

All Systems Red, p. 19:

It’s been a hectic day. Murderbot had to rescue two humans from the clutches of a monster that resides in a crater, seriously injuring himself in the process.

Murderbot doesn’t care that he is injured, though. All he wants is to be alone in his cell so he can resume his video.

Finally he is alone in his cell!

  • So I set all the security feeds to alert me if anything tried to eat the habitat and started to call up the supply of media I’d downloaded from the entertainment feed. I hurt too much to pay attention to anything with a story, but the friendly noise would keep me company.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

ALL SYSTEMS RED, p.32

Murderbot just saved two humans on his team from being eaten by a monster that lived in a crater.

The whole crew tries to be kind, but Murderbot is in a hurry to get away so he can continue watching vid in his room.

Mensah (the Leader of the Crew): Try to pinpoint any missing information. When we have a partial list, I’ll call DeltFall and see if they can send us the files.

Murderbot Interior Monologue: That sounds like a great plan, in that it didn’t involve me.

Murderbot (out loud): Dr. Mensah, do you need me for anything else?

lol

Stay tuned.

New Book: ALL SYSTEMS RED, by Martha Wells

With this book, the 33rd on her 2018 Reading List, self has exceeded her Goodreads Reading Challenge (32 books). YES! 2018 so LIT!

Next year, self will up her goal to 33 books.

Opening paragraph:

  • I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure.

lol

Really liked Autonomous (finished last night) except for the torture scenes.

Next up:

  • Dead Letters, by Caite Dolan-Leach
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
  • Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Four Weeks In Hawthornden, Scotland, June 2012

The benefactress Drue Heinz passed away recently, and there was outpouring of sadness from all Hawthornden alums. The impact she had on writers around the world was amazing.

June 2012, self availed of one of Ms. Heinz’s enduring legacies: the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers, near Edinburgh (40 minutes by public bus from). Four wonderful weeks, with five other writers: Allison Amend, Richard Lemm, Jenny Lewis, Marylee McDonald, and Joan McGavin.

One of us volunteered to write down every book recommendation, every movie recommendation, every poem recommendation, every television series recommendation and every short story recommendation. Self completely forgot about this list, until today.

She’s going through her house in Redwood City, inch by inch. At the back of a drawer, she pulled out this list. She didn’t have time to look at it in Redwood City, which must be why she brought it with her to Mendocino. Here are some of the book recommendations (The list is three pages long, double-sided. Self has no time)

FANTASY

  • Guy Gavriel Kay: The Fionavar Tapestry

MEMOIR

  • John Steinbeck: Travels with Charlie

NONFICTION

  • Jim Rosenberger: High Steel

NOVELS

  • Bhira Backhaus: Under the Lemon Trees
  • John Banville: Doctor Copernicus
  • Andrea Barrett: The Voyage of the Narwhal
  • Joseph Boyden: Three Day Road
  • Michael Byers: Percival’s Planet
  • Sarah Shun-lien Bynum: The Ms. Hempel Chronicles
  • Michael Crummey: Galore
  • Richard Flanagan: Wanting and Death of a River Guide
  • Katherine Govier: Angel Walk
  • Eleanor Henderson: Ten Thousand Saints
  • Guy Gavriel Kay: Under Heaven
  • Larry McMurtry: Hud
  • Howard Norman: The Bird Artist
  • Marge Piercy: Gone to Soldiers
  • John Steffler: The Afterlife of George Cartwright
  • Elizabeth Strout: Abide With Me and Olive Kitteridge
  • Rosemary Sutcliffe: The Eagle of the Ninth
  • Adam Thorpe: Ulverton
  • Sigrid Undset: Kristin Lavransdatter

NOVELLAS

  • Josh Weil: The New Valley (3 novellas)

POETRY

  • Tamar Yoseloff: The City With Horns

SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

  • Andrea Barrett: Ship Fever
  • Evgenia Citkowitz (Hawthornden Alum): Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella
  • Michael Faber: The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories and The Fahrenheit Twins
  • Tim O’Brien: Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried, The Lake in the Woods
  • Tobias Wolff: In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

Work-in-Progress: The Rorqual

(Self hopes this story, which she started writing last year at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, can go into her newest collection)

This has always been, from the very first draft, the opening paragraph:

AlbionJan2017

Sunrise, Albion, California: January 2017

The report came from somewhere on the Bering Sea. The pair had left Yellowknife the previous morning. The woman, it appeared, was headed for Baranof, the man for Kuiu. Both were on foot.

The story was born New Year’s Day 2017, in Albion, California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Recommended Reading: Women Writing (Comics, Nonfiction, Novellas)

Essay:

Skinning the Rabbit, by Jane Eaton Hamilton (The Sun, July 2017)

The Cone of Uncertainty: Parenting on the Edge of Climate Change, by Sarah Grey (Salvage Quarterly, 28 November 2017)

On Yoga, Diversity Lite, and the Empire of American Wellness, by Namrata Poddar (CounterPunch, 3 November 2017)

The New Bad Girls of Contemporary Literature, by Myriam Gurba (Literary Hub, 1 December 2017)

Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers? by Debbie Weingarten (The Guardian, 6 December 2017)

Comics:

DC New Talent Showcase 2017

Food-Related:

In Search of Lost Butter Chicken, by Sukhada Tatke (National Geographic Traveler: India, June 2017)

Novella:

Day of All Saints, by Patricia Grace King (Miami University Press, November 2017)

I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do), by Tatiana Ryckman (Future Tense Books, September 2017)

 

 

Gil Sorrentino/ Stanford Creative Writing

Dear blog readers, creative writing workshop made self very tense because she honestly had never met any American writers until she got into the Creative Writing Program, and they intimidated the heck out of her. One of her (male) classmates got up and danced on the table before the start of the workshop. Self can only say: she had never seen anything like it and was so amazed. Because if any of her college classmates in Manila had done that, they would have been arrested. Banned from campus. Reprimanded. But here, she got to enjoy the man’s dancing. lol

In addition, her classmates wrote about things like going hunting. Or going on road trips. She made herself read Jack Kerouac just so she could understand Americans better. The other writers came from different states: Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana. Self was from the Philippines, and she for the life of her could not even open her mouth. Once there was sharp disagreement about one of her stories and self couldn’t even get up the gumption to explain what she was trying to do. Much to her everlasting shame, a fellow writer had to stick up for her and defend her, and then was so overwhelmed by the task that she left the workshop and had to hide in the Women’s Room for a while. And self followed her there but had nothing to say. Self was such a blithering idiot. This woman was kind enough to pick up the cudgels for her and all she could do afterwards was stare helplessly at her? She absolutely had no courage.

Seriously, every time she opened her mouth, she ended up putting her foot in it.

Gil Sorrentino was one of three professors who took turns leading workshop. He was this amazing, experimental writer and before self met him, she didn’t even know what “experimental fiction” was. His most famous book was Mulligan Stew. He led workshop on the day self’s story, Ginseng, was up.

Told from a “we” point of view, and self was so nervous.

After all the discussion, Gil looked at her and said, “What the narrator doesn’t understand is, after everything is said and done, the man still has his pride.”

Self realized that Gil had more sympathy for the old man than for the detached and critical narrator.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but the fact that Gil felt he had to defend the old man was an amazing thing.

Ginseng is narrated by a man whose father is gradually sinking into dementia. The narrator keeps describing all his symptoms while getting more and more amazed: why does the old man insist on putting on a Panama hat before he takes a walk?  Why does he carry around that fancy walking stick? The narrator felt only exasperation.

Self always imagined the narrator as a man because to write about an old person from a woman’s point of view and to be that detached was something self felt she couldn’t pull off.

The story begins:

  • My father is 83. Once he was very handsome, but now he has plump hips and breasts, with dark, pointed nipples on top of two triangles of brown, leathery skin. It is impossible for me to think of him as still a man in the usual sense, in the sense he has wanted me to think of him for so many years.

At VCCA, a long time ago, one of the other writers found this story, she doesn’t know how. He found a copy of the journal that had published it on one of the shelves of the VCCA library and showed it to her. AMAZING!

By now, self has read many, many American writers. She loves Jim Harrison. Part of the reason might be that she loves Yellow Dog and another reason may be that Harrison writes novellas. His stories are set in Michigan’s UP and they are so specific to that place but also so universal. She never got into Kerouac. She adored Cynthia Ozick and Grace Paley.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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