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.

Roberto Bolaño, 2666, p. 251

And my life went on, with the same uncertainties and the same feeling of impermanence. The one day I realized there was one thing I hadn’t forgotten. I hadn’t forgotten how to cook. I hadn’t forgotten my pork chops. With the help of my sister, who was one of God’s angels and who loved to talk about food, I started writing down all the recipes I remembered, my mother’s recipes, the ones I’d made in prison, the ones I’d made on Saturdays at home on the roof of my sister, though she didn’t care for meat. And when I’d finished the book I went to New York and took it to some publishers and one of them was interested and you all know the rest. The book put me back in the public eye.

2666, and The Small Magazines That Deserve Your Attention

DSCN9077

At this point, self has to be realistic.  She has to own up to the fact that she will probably never get to p. 800 of Robert Bolaño’s masterwork. She’s been reading it for almost three months and has only gotten to p. 248. It is hardback, it is heavy. She borrowed it from the Redwood City Public Library ages and ages ago. It’s only the fourth book she’s read this year. For a while she was doing really well. January, in fact, was great.

Don’t get her wrong. Self loves Bolaño. She tore through The Savage Detectives in Bacolod, a few years ago. It made her go all elegiac over the Daku Balay (the Big House, you can see those posts if you enter the search item “Bacolod”). She did some of her best writing ever after reading that book.

Now, alas, the only discernible writing she’s produced since the start of the year is: one short story. (Nothing doing, she’s also written 40 chapters of fan fiction). Why why why?

This was supposed to be “her” year. The year she gets to:  Mendocino, Minneapolis, The Banff Writers Studio, and etc etc etc etc

Today, the writer Jill Widner gave her a shout-out after reading self’s story in the spring issue of Witness. Self did not know that Jill subscribed. Jill said that self’s story reminded her of something she had read in Ploughshares. Which was a compliment so vast it produced in self all kinds of feelz.

And further, today, self heard from Lillian Howan, a member of self’s San Francisco writers group. Lillian is editing a new magazine called Nimbus Cat. Nimbus Cat accepted a piece of hers for their inaugural issue, and it just so happened to come out today.

It is a tough and generous undertaking to start your own literary magazine. Lillian is a woman of many hats: mother, novelist, awesome friend. That she chooses to launch this venture is sheer crazy! But self means crazy in a “I-can’t-believe-how-awesome-and-generous-you-are” way.

Here are two other magazines that are small yet bountiful. Local Nomad is helmed by Jean Gier, who launched the Spring 2015 issue while negotiating a hectic move to Santa Cruz. Don’t ask self how.

And Elsewhere Lit is helmed by fabulous Nandini Dhar out of Miami, Florida. She teaches full-time, she just put out her chapbook, Lullabies are Barbed Wire Nations (exquisite), and yet she co-edits this magazine.

Let’s give these courageous women a big, big hand.

Finally, a magazine that has a big piece of her heart: Your Impossible Voice. Which just came out with Issue # 7. And has been doing more copies in print, which have been selling briskly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2666: Moving BACKWARDS

Today, self awoke in near-dark (pretty much par for the course, the past week).

She reached for Roberto Bolaño.

Decided to quote from the page she’s on.

Checked the last post she wrote on Roberto Bolaño.

Amazing, she’s apparently moved backwards.

lol

Without further ado:

She sat at the windowsill and looked out at the city. A sea of flickering lights stretched toward the south. If she leaned half her body out the window, the humming stopped. The air was cold and felt good.

— Roberto Bolaño, 2666, p. 108

Yesterday, self stood at the bottom of Ukiah Street, staring at the headlands. And it was cold. And there was a chill wind. And she felt it whipping her thin hair practically off her scalp.

The cold that self has felt building up for days finally arrived in earnest. And she can even point to the exact time it hit: Thursday, 8:09 a.m.

She ended up running to Corners of the Mouth Organic Market and telling Vicki: I am going to be extremely busy in the coming week. And I feel something coming on. Can you give me something that will at least keep me ambulatory.

Here’s what she ended up giving self: zinc lozenges; Elderberry Syrup; Lung & Throat Herbal Drops; Macro-Biotic Nasal Spray; two fresh lemons to squeeze into her tea.

But the best, the absolutely best cold remedy? Peeta Mellark. Thank God for fan fiction. Would that she could spend all day in bed, just reading.

You know, she only brought a few books with her to Mendocino. In two months, she’s read exactly 2 1/4 books. (In the long-ago time of her fulsome-ness, she would have whipped through about eight)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2666: “Dream-Like, Epic, Worldly” Says a Reader on Amazon

p. 11 of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño:  “The three met again at a German-language literature colloquium . . . ”

Self is feeling restless. At first she wasn’t sure if she’d wandered into the right novel. Why oh why are we following a bunch of academics as they attend one conference after another and expound on their love of the artist Archimboldi?

Hurry up! She doesn’t have all day!

At first she was rather intrigued by the fact that post-humously famous Bolaño chose to open a 900-page novel with a minute dissection of academics who keep bumping into each other at conferences. Way to go, Bolaño! Self found the tone sly, rather dryly humorous.

But after 11 pages, the novel’s action hasn’t moved forward an inch. We are still in the same milieu: the academic conference (handled very well, but still. There is a reason people refer to universities as ivory towers) And there are 890 more pages to go.

The next book on her reading list is Denis Johnson’s Read the rest of this entry »

Sentence of the Day: BROOKLYN, by Colm Toibin

p. 29:

There was no day that passed without an event.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,397 other followers