How a Friendship Can Be Ruined by Bad Hair: The Summer Book, p. 25

Self loves Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book (translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal). Loves, loves, loves. The prose is so simple, yet has such a magical quality.

A little girl (Sophie, who’s six) and her grandmother spend an entire summer on an island. They’re not the only ones on the island, of course. There are farmers, and also the girl’s father, who is always shut up in the house, working. The girl’s mother has just died. But there is no grief, just a series of snapshots of the girl, the grandmother, the island. Love it.

There’s a section called Berenice, about the first time Sophie invites a friend to the island: “a fairly new friend, a little girl whose hair she admired.”

The fragile bond is broken only a little while later:

Sophie: Well, that does it. She’s impossible. I got her to dive, but it didn’t help.

Grandmother: Did she really dive?

Sophie: Yes, really. I gave her a shove and she dived.

Grandmother: Oh. And then what?

Sophie: Her hair can’t take salt water. It looks awful. And it was her hair I liked.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Moss and Islands: from Tove Jansson’s THE SUMMER BOOK

p. 11:

Only farmers and summer guests walk on the moss. What they don’t know — and it cannot be repeated too often — is that moss is terribly frail. Step on it once and it rises the next time it rains. The second time, it doesn’t rise back up. And the third time you step on moss, it dies. Eider ducks are the same way — the third time you frighten them up from their nests, they never come back. Sometime in July the moss would adorn itself with a kind of long, light grass. Tiny clusters of flowers would open at exactly the same height above the ground and sway together in the wind, like inland meadows, and the whole island would be covered with a veil dipped in heat, hardly visible and gone in a week.

Where is this island of which Tove Jansson writes? Self would like to go there.

Also, self would just like to mention, that in the past week, three whale carcasses have washed up in northern California. The latest dead whale washed up in Oakland. This is very worrisome. All were killed by ships.

Stay tuned.

This Book

In the section self reads this evening, the husband (who someone on Goodreads refers to  as a “fat, white pig,” all self could think was:  “Oh. Mr.Rochester was FAT? I don’t remember that part.”) decides to call Antoinette ‘Bertha.’ Now, who’s crazy? How could anyone in their right minds change a woman’s name from ANTOINETTE to Bertha? There’s no preamble, either, to the announcement of the wife’s new name.

Bertha. B.E.R.T.H.A. BERTHA.

Positively cruel. It’s as if self were ordered to change her name to Caligula, for no other reason than that spouse has always liked the name (At least, this is the explanation the husband gives Antoinette)


  • How does the husband know that Antoinette put a spell on him so that he would sleep with her? He was suspicious even before he tasted the wine Antoinette gave him (According to him, it had a “bitter” taste) so perhaps he is psychic?
  • Why does the husband, immediately after sleeping with his wife, go next door to her servant’s room and sleep with the servant?
  • Why does the husband write for information on so-and-so Christophine? He is so stupid. Hasn’t he ever heard of the adage: Never look a gift horse in the mouth?

It reminds self of an article she read on Kristen Bell, star of The Good Place, in which her husband tells the interviewer that when he first met Kristen, he was mistrustful of her relentless enthusiasm.

Here, the husband is mistrustful of his wife because of a series of letters from a complete, effing stranger named Daniel Cosway, who claims to be Antoinette’s half-brother, and who says she had an affair with a very handsome man named Sandi.

What proper husband would put any credence on such a letter?

A proper stupid husband, that’s what!

The servant decides immediately after sleeping with the husband that she is leaving her employer. Wow, it must not have been very good. Mebbe the servant knew that if she stayed, she would be expected to keep sleeping with the husband? And maybe she thought: Why should I endure sleeping with the “fat, white pig”? My employment contract surely doesn’t cover that!

Anyhoo, Amelie is smart. Antoinette should have listened to Christophine and left, too.

Moving to next novel, The Summer Book, by Finnish writer Tove Jansson.

Stay tuned.

WIDE SARGASSO SEA, pp. 112 – 113: The Evil Daniel Cosway

Daniel Cosway, that evil letter-writer. Self hates him with a passion. If it weren’t for him channeling Iago and writing letters about Antoinette to her English (clueless) husband, Antoinette would have had a chance to be happy.

Go away, Daniel Cosway!

Anyhoo, on pp. 112 – 113, Daniel is impatient since the English husband never responded to his letters. He therefore takes it upon himself to pay a house call (Meaning: Tragedy)


The English husband: Why did you want to see me, Daniel?

Daniel: Christophine is a bad woman and she will lie to you worse than your wife. Your own wife she talks sweet talk and she lies.

The response of the English husband: I sat still, numb, staring at him.

(Self: You, sir, are an idiot if you don’t turn this man out on his arse. Oh, you ARE an idiot. But if you weren’t, THERE WOULD BE NO STORY)

Daniel makes insinuations about Antoinette and a man the English husband has never met:

“Sandi is like a white man, but more handsome than any white man, and received by many white people they say. Your wife know Sandi a long time. Ask her and she tell you. But not everything I think.” He laughed. “Oh no, not everything.”

Damn you, Daniel Cosway! Damn you, clueless husband!

A parting shot from M. Cosway: Don’t waste your anger on me, sir. It’s not I fool you, it’s I wish to open your eyes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


What Is a Zombi? WIDE SARGASSO SEA, p. 97

A zombi is a dead person who seems to be alive or a living person who is dead. A zombi can also be the spirit of a place, usually malignant but sometimes to be propitiated with sacrifices or offerings of flower and fruit . . .  They cry out in the wind that is their voice, they rage in the sea that is their anger.


Mother of All Lists (May 2018)

  • Best book self has read so far this year: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, Book 2 of His Dark Materials
  • The book it has taken self the longest to read so far this year: Banana Yoshimoto’s Moshi Moshi (33 days)
  • The longest story self has written so far: Alex (27 pages)
  • The number of literary contests self has joined so far this year: 7
  • The fastest rejection self has received so far this year: Rhino (8 days)
  • Number of pieces self has placed so far this year: 1
  • Number of novels self has read so far this year, including the one she is currently reading (Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea): 10
  • Most Fabulous Food Discovery of the Year: Hot Buttered Popcorn, Stanford Theatre, downtown Palo Alto, CA

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Wide Sargasso Sea: WHELP!


Out of the blue, the husband receives a very detailed letter from someone he doesn’t know.

The letter is laced with familiarity and assures the man that he is writing out of a sincere desire to open his eyes. Therefore, this man is bad, the wife is bad, please “come and see me quickly. Your obt servant. Daniel Cosway.” An excerpt from the letter:

  • Richard Mason is a sly man and he will tell you a lot of nancy stories, which is what we call lies here, about what happen at Coulibri and this and that. Don’t listen. Make him answer — yes or no.

Can you imagine the effort and concentration this Cosway put into writing such a letter? What determination he possessed? And what cunning? He knew exactly what words to write, what buttons to push.

Cosway has cunning in spades.

The husband is so weak and so out-of-his-depth that he immediately decides that Cosway must be an ally (and not crazy): It was as if I’d expected it, been waiting for it.

A few pages earlier, the husband admits he does not love his wife, she was a stranger. Self is completely revising her opinion of him. (So what if the wife is a stranger? The letter writer is also a stranger, you stupid stupid man!)

Stay tuned.

The Groom & His New Bride: Wide Sargasso Sea, p. 78

Self will admit, half the time she doesn’t know what’s going on in Wide Sargasso Sea.

It’s supposed to be about the first Mrs. Rochester from Jane Eyre, but self hasn’t been reading it like that, she’s been reading as if it’s a complete, stand-alone work of fiction.

It wasn’t until this morning that she realized Part Two was from the man’s point of view. When she realized that, it was like a big light bulb went off in her head, and she began to read in a state of absolute suspense, wondering when the man would wake up to the fact that his bride was cray-cray.

It seems the man was very unsure about the whole ‘getting-married-to-someone-you’ve-never-met’ business, but after the wedding night “My fever weakness left me, so did all misgivings.”

The Mrs. does remind self a little of Philip Pullman’s Lyra Belacqua, but the man is definitely no Will Parry; he’s too obtuse.

p. 78:

I drank another cup of Bull’s Blood . . . “How did you get that dressing table up here?”

“I don’t know. It’s always been here ever since I can remember. A lot of the furniture was stolen, but not that.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Flowers and Insects: Wide Sargasso Sea, p. 73

There is some gorgeously lush writing on pp. 73 – 74 of Wide Sargasso Sea:

There were trailing pink flowers on the table and the name echoed pleasantly in my head. Coralita, Coralita. The food, though too highly seasoned, was lighter and more appetizing than anything I had tasted in Jamaica. We drank champagne. A great many moths and beetles found their way into the room, flew into the candles and fell dead on the tablecloth. Amelié swept them up with a crumb brush. Uselessly. More moths and beetles came.

“Is it true,” she said, “that England is like a dream? Because one of my friends who married an Englishman wrote and told me so. She said this place London is like a cold dark dream sometimes.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What’s Available in The Only Bookstore in Redwood City, CA

Self is reviewing her reading list. Really, it’s become almost an obsession. She goes into the closest bookstore to her house, the Barnes & Noble in Sequoia Station, and out of a list of 22 book titles (novels published 2017), she found just these three:

  • As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis
  • Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
  • Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes

She doesn’t wish to knock her neighborhood Barnes & Noble because it really is a good store, with a better-than-average fiction section. Anyhoo, congratulations to authors Marsalis, Saunders and Himes for having their books in the store.

BTW, an island book which was recently published and which self highly recommends is Lillian Howan’s The Charm Buyers, set in Tahiti. She read it when it was first published last year and it is just the most luscious thing.

A week ago, self went back to her B & N, toting along a list of 60 titles, all recommended by her fellow Hawthornden writers in June 2012 (She found this list again just a few weeks ago; it was stuck in a drawer), and all she found in the store were these:

  • The Things They Carried and The Lake in the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  • Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck
  • The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michael Faber
  • Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Granted, the Hawthornden list is made up of books at least several years old.

When she was last in Mendocino, she took her list of Island Books to Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, and the salesperson, a very nice young man, told her: “With all due respect, these books are pretty old.” (I’d say! For example, these titles: To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, published 1927; The Fish Can Sing, by Halldor Laxness, published 1957; A House For Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul; published ___ decades ago?; Greenvoe, by George Mackay Brown, published 1972)

She found Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey and when she was paying for it, she kept telling the bookstore person who rang up the sale: This is a very good book! Why do you only have one copy?

And the beleaguered staff person had to say: Well, we don’t normally have people come in from the street asking for The Odyssey.

Poor guy! Self didn’t mean to be so insistent but she is absolutely relentless in her quest for the Holy Grail — er, for the books on her list!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



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