Misery and Terror: Also Reading The Third Reich at War, by Richard J. Evans

Thank God for The Infernal Devices, that is all self can say.

If not for those books, she’d be stuck reading her way through The Third Reich at War, by Richard J. Evans.

Imagine going through London with those miserable pictures in her head: the German soldiers, at least some of them, kept diaries. And Evans is nothing if not painstaking as he sifts through each individual soldier’s journals, picking out passages that highlight the emotion.

Most of the time, what the German soldiers/diarists felt when they looked at the slowly starving, slowly dying Jewish population in the Occupied Territories was terror.

It is 1939. For months, the Jews have been confined to the ghettos, isolated and starved. The German soldiers look at the lines, hundreds of people long, full of resigned, awful, starving faces.

When they see a man fall over — which happens quite often — well, it’s all right, because these people are animals. Just look at them! Dressed in sacks and rags! And look at the children, wailing non-stop! The dehumanization is the only thing that can stave off the soldiers’ terror.

Terror is in itself dehumanizing. So the soldiers are as dehumanized as the objects of their contemplation.

Naturally, they hate being put in that position. Hate, hate, hate it.

Now and then, an occasional soldier will write something like: “The wretchedness of the children brought a lump to my throat.”

But, in the next breath: “I clenched my teeth.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books for Ireland

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Mary Gaitskill: BAD BEHAVIOR

Cassandra Clare: THE INFERNAL DEVICES TRILOGY

Cassandra Clare: THE INFERNAL DEVICES TRILOGY

Poetry, but of course

Poetry, but of course: Dionne Brand and Tomas Transtromer

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

Suzanne Collins: MOCKINGJAY (Self has read this book at least half a dozen times)

AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Wandling

AFTER: NINETEEN STORIES OF APOCALYPSE AND DYSTOPIA, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Wandling

and, last but not least:

George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Self is bringing along the following literary magazines as well:

  • Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond Issue
  • Witness Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue
  • Bluestem Magazine’s Spring 2015 issue

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR: New South Wales

And self is back to reading Twain.

She’s on Chapter X of Following the Equator:  “Some Barbarous English Laws.”

The opening quote is: “Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” (Pudd’nhead Wilson)

Twain lets his indignation/sarcasm go flat out in this chapter. The excerpt below is probably his mildest in this section:

When the colony was about eighteen or twenty years old it was discovered that the land was specially fitted for the wool culture. Prosperity followed, commerce with the world began, by and by rich mines of the noble metal were opened, immigrants flowed in, capital likewise. The result is the great and wealthy and enlightened commonwealth of New South Wales.

It is a country that is rich in mines, wool ranches, trams, railways, steamship lines, schools, newspapers, botanical gardens, art-galleries, libraries, museums, hospitals, learned societies; it is the hospitable home of every species of material enterprise, and there is a church at every man’s door, and a race-track over the way.

Twain’s next stop was Australia, where he was to spend three-and-a-half months.

(Self still going to be quoting from Clockwork Angel. She’s just alternating between the Twain and that)

Stay tuned.

Mark Twain, FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR, Chapter V

Each chapter of Following the Equator begins with a quote from Pudd’nhead Wilson (Distraction/Digression: One of the poets tells self the Golden State Warriors are playing tonight. Apparently, since the Calgary Flames have been eliminated, it is now OK to ask at the MacLab for the giant screens to show basketball)

Anyhoo, where was self?

Oh yes, Following the Equator, Chapter V.

The quote that begins the chapter is this:

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.

Mark Twain! Self laughed so hard when she got to the very last word of that sentence. An asteroid! A hen laying an asteroid!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

There Is Not World Enough and Time

There is not world enough and time for self to finish reading all the books she checked out from the Banff Centre Library, every Canadian magazine she has borrowed from the Writer’s Lounge (Grain, Room, Prairie Fire, The Walrus), not to mention all the books on her reading list. Time passes too quickly, in the blink of an eye.

Nevertheless, self has not completely given up. She will plow manfully on.

Here’s a passage from Mark Twain’s Following the Equator (Hilarious as only Mark Twain can be):

I had just arrived in Washington from the Pacific Coast, a stranger and wholly unknown to the public, and was passing the White House one morning when I met a friend, a senator from Nevada. He asked me if I would like to see the President. I said I should be very glad; so we entered. I supposed that the President would be in the midst of a crowd, and that I could look at him in peace and security from a distance, as another stray cat might look at another stray king. But it was in the morning, and the Senator was using a privilege of his office which I had not heard of — the privilege of intruding upon the Chief Magistrate’s working-hours. Before I knew it, the Senator and I were in the presence, and there was none there but we three. General Grant got slowly up from his table, put his pen down, and stood before me with the iron expression of a man who had not smiled for seven years, and was not intending to smile for another seven. He looked me steadily in the eyes — mine lost confidence and fell.

(This is not the end of the anecdote, but self has just been seized by brilliance. Yes, she’s just had a flash of insight about how she can continue her 18th century WIP. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.)

Arrow Meets Aswang in Denis Johnson’s Novel TREE OF SMOKE

Aswang stories sound different when told by an American novelist. Read on:

He gave the lad a quiver of arrows and a very strong bow and charged him to stay all night in the granary at the bottom of the path, because there he would slay the aswang.  Many cats gathered in the granary at night, one of whom was in fact the aswang, who assumed this form in order to camouflage. ‘But, sir, how will I know the aswang, because you haven’t given me arrows to shoot every cat?’ And Saint Gabriel said, ‘The aswang will not play with its rat when it catches one, it only tears the rat in pieces intantly and revels in its blood. When you see a cat do that, you must shoot him right away, because that one is the aswang. Of course, if you fail, I don’t have to inform you you’re going to feel yourself being torn apart by the fangs of the aswang, and it will drink your blood as you die.’

— p. 51, Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)

Very, very interesting. Self realizes she would rather read more about aswang than about Edward Lansdale. Stay tuned.

Still Reading This

The houseboy Sebastian came out of the kitchen and said, “Good morning, Skeep. The barber is coming.”

“When?”

“He’s coming now.”

“Where is he?”

“He’s in the kitchen. You want breakfast first? You want egg?”

“Just coffee, please.”

“You want bacon and egg?”

“Can you stand it if I just have coffee?”

“What kind of egg? Over easy.”

“Bring it on, bring it on.”

*     *     *     *     *

pp. 35 – 36, Tree of Smoke: novel by Denis Johnson, set during The Vietnam War.  The troops go for R & R in the Philippines. It’s not pretty. Stay tuned.

Painful

Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, 1963 from the point of view of an American G.I. in the Philippines. The next book self reads after this is Mark Twain’s Following the Equator. Which will probably be oh such a blessed relief:

He’d passed all the previous night with the prostitute the colonel had paid for. The girl had slept on the floor and he in the bed. He hadn’t wanted her. He wasn’t sure about these Filipino people.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Reading List Advances — Finally!

Self bid adieu to Roberto Bolaño and 2666 this morning. That was after she spent over a week reading about all the different women who were buried in mass graves around a town named Santa Teresa. That was in Part II.

The writing was so beautiful, she hated to stop reading before getting all the way to the end, and she admires Bolaño for having the fortitude to Read the rest of this entry »

Bolaño Again, Still Page 251 (Apparently Stuck on This Page FOREVER)

A few sentences prior, the protagonist had discovered that he still remembered how to make pork chops (What is it with writers and cooking? Self was similarly moved by Murakami’s protagonist cooking spaghetti in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle)

I learned to combine cooking with history. I learned to combine cooking with the thankfulness and confusion I felt at the kindness of so many people, from my late sister to countless others. And let me explain something. When I say confusion, I also mean awe. In other words, the sense of wonderment at a marvelous thing, like the lilies that bloom and die in a single day, or azaleas, or forget-me-nots. But I also realized this wasn’t enough. I couldn’t live forever on my recipes for ribs, my famous recipes. Ribs were not the answer. You have to change. You have to turn yourself around and change.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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