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.

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.

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