Dear blog readers know that when self was in Chicago for the recent AWP Conference, she managed to squeeze in two plays. One was at the Steppenwolf: “The Seafarer” (more…)
Tag: reading lists
Posted this sometime back. When self was in Manila last year, she stopped by the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings and found they had a file on Cordero-Fernando.
(My God, now self knows where to donate her diaries. She has about 50. At first she thought she’d make of them a huge bonfire in her backyard. But now she thinks she’ll take a few and offer them to the library)
Below is an excerpt from Cordero-Fernando’s short story “People in the War.” :
Our front door opened right onto the sidewalk, and the street sloped down to a lily-dappled river, in our house in the city. Across the river a soap opera was always taking place: a man with two wives lived in an unpainted house beside the lumber mill. When the sun went down the wives began to quarrel, clouting each other with wooden clogs, and a bundle of clean wash came flying out of the window into the silt below. We watched them chase each other down the stairs, clawing each other’s clothes off and rolling down the embankment, and the dogs of the neighborhood surrounded them, barking and snarling — till from the lumber mill the husband emerged — a shirtless apparition with a lumber saw in his hand.
At least once a month they held a wake on the river bank. They rented a corpse, strung up colored lights and gambled till the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes a policeman wandered in — having heard some rumor, and poked around with his night stick. But there would be the corpse, and it was truly dead, there would be the card games, but no suspicion of betting (the chips having been scooped away together with the basket of money) and the policeman would saunter away, wiping a tear, leaving the poor relatives to their grief and their gambling.
We must move to another neighborhood, my father said every day. We planted trees to screen them from sight, we planted trees to preserve our respectability. A truck unloaded two acacia trees on our doorstep, saplings no bigger than I. The houseboy made a bamboo fence around their trunks and every afternoon the maids hauled out pails to water them.
Self is completely, completely entranced by the dream-like weave of this story. She would like dear blog readers to know that Ms. Cordero Fernando is alive and well and still beautiful and still living in Manila, and those dear blog readers who reside in the Philippines should count themselves lucky because they can go to a bookstore or a library and begin to read everything this writer has written.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.
She was actually able to get on-line! After a whole day spent lugging her laptop hither and thither in an effort to catch signals, as close to her neighbors’ houses as she could get without arousing their suspicions!
And hubby is already fast asleep! Even though it is only 8:30 p.m.! He started snoring right in the middle of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding!”
Admittedly, it was an extremely tiring day, dear blog readers, one full of physical activity. While hubby mowed back and front yards, self weeded, and pruned roses, and applied dormant spray, and counted which plants made it through January and which didn’t (Brunnera macrophylla, which had the prettiest blue flowers — sigh). Then self did laundry, and it was soooo wonderfully relaxing to sort out clean socks, fresh from the dryer. Then self made dinner (and thought fondly of Fe in Dearest Mum’s house, Fe who always tried to make something different for every meal, whose efforts however fell far short of Dearest Mum’s expectations): roasted baby back pork ribs with a side dish of pasta with broccoli and peas! Oh, it was dee-lish (though self had a mountain of dishes to wash afterwards).
Self already finished most of the candy she brought with her from Manila — when she counted how long it had taken her and realized it had only taken her three days (she arrived Thursday), she was filled with the most extreme chagrin.
She went again to the library, for since arriving she’s already finished one book: David Haward Bain’s The Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West (finished it at 3 a.m. this morning!). She’s plowed through two back issues of The Economist, and the latest AWP Chronicle. She even watched the Australian Open semi-finals and finals, and a little bit of the Superbowl (Lousy ads this year, what happened???). She called Dearest Mum, her Tita in Daly City, and Dear Cuz in Virginia. She even made it to Costco!
Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.
Sometime around the end of fall semester, self re-considered her decision to let her New York Times Book Review subscription lapse, which it had done in June. Perhaps, since classes had just ended, self was in celebratory mood, for she found herself quite willing to fork over $91 (given current state of self’s finances, no mean outlay). And then, self was all on pins and noodles to receive the first issue. But she ended up leaving before any NYTBRs arrived in her mailbox. Luckily, self was able to buy the 4 January 2009 edition at the San Francisco airport, before embarking on her epic journey across the Pacific to Inang Bayan. And, after spending the last couple of days slogging through headline news, Oscar-related articles, and the Travel section, self finally arrives at the book reviews. Without further ado, here are the books self is interested in reading after perusing the 4 January 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:
(1) After reading Dominique Browning’s review of Meryl Gordon’s Mrs. Astor Regrets: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach:
(2) After reading Liesl Schillinger’s review of Louise Erdrich’s latest, The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories 1978 – 2008:
Louise Erdrich’s latest, The Red Convertible: Selected and New Stories 1978 – 2008
(3) After reading Jeremy McCarter’s review of Stefan Kanfer’s Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando:
Stefan Kanfer’s Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
(4) After reading Ligaya Mishan’s review of Alaa Al Aswany’s second novel, Chicago:
Alaa Al Aswany’s novel, Chicago
(5) After reading Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of Timothy W. Ryback’s Hitler’s Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life:
- An earlier book by Ryback, The Last Survivor, “a study of the town of Dachau”
- Timothy W. Ryback’s Hitler’s Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life
(6) After reading Pankaj Mishra’s review of the collected letters of Graham Greene, edited by Richard Greene:
- Graham Greene: A Life in Letters, edited by Richard Greene
- Ways of Escape, Greene’s “reticent” autobiography
(7) After reading Elaine Sciolino’s review of Azar Nafisi’s new memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories:
Azar Nafisi’s new memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories
( 8 ) After reading Andrew Ervin’s review of James Runcie’s third novel, Canvey Island:
- Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio’s 1966 novel, Le Deluge
- Chris Adrian’s 2006 novel, The Children’s Hospital
Without further ado, dear blog readers, here is the list of the best books self has read (so far) in 2008, the books that made self laugh, cry, gnash her teeth in rage, or do all three simultaneously. This year, self’s list includes four memoirs, two anthologies (Field of Mirrors and The Friend Who Got Away), two novels, three non-fiction, one short story collection, and two poetry collections!
Caveat: Only the poetry collections and Krysl’s Dinner with Osama are new books. Field of Mirrors is “semi-new”(!!): came out last year!
- Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn’s 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers
- Mariane Pearl’s A Mighty Heart
- Marilyn Krysl’s Dinner with Osama
- Dave Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
- Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem
- Field of Mirrors, edited by Edwin Lozada
- Lorraine Adams’ Harbor
- Luisa Igloria’s Juan Luna’s Revolver
- Sean Wilsey’s Oh the Glory of It All
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
- Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul
- R. Zamora Linmark’s The Evolution of a Sigh
- The Friend Who Got Away, edited by Jenny Ofill and Elissa Schappel
- Jonathan Ames’ Wake Up, Sir!
Strangely, self’s students at xxxx community college absolutely detested Harbor (they claimed for its graphic violence, which surprised self exceedingly).
Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.
Perhaps because self is a bit under the weather, she has been racing through the book she is currently reading, absorbing big gobs of text and making like a speeding bullet. She started it just Wednesday (after finally getting to the end of Sean Wilsey’s Oh the Glory of It All, a memoir she tried like might and main to postpone finishing — self doesn’t know what happened but she ended up barreling through its 500 pages in something like five days)
Everything Bad is Good for You pretty much has just one point (Video games are making the current youth smarter! Popular culture is getting more intellectually rigorous — as witness the proliferation of such intricately plotted hit movies as “Memento” and “The Usual Suspects”!) but this morning, at approximately 5 a.m., self hit on a passage that she thinks is brilliant, just brilliant:
That some of the culture today does push at the boundaries of acceptable or healthy moral values shouldn’t surprise us, because it is in the nature of myth and storytelling to explore the edges of a society’s accepted beliefs and conventions. Popular stories rarely flourish in environments of perfect moral clarity; they tend to blossom at exactly the spaces where some established order is being questioned or tested. We’re still retelling the Oedipus myth precisely because it revolved around the violation of fundamental human values. Stories of perfectly happy families — where all laws are obeyed and no values are challenged — don’t captivate us in the same way. (Even The Brady Bunch required two preexisting nuclear families to break up for its own narrative to take flight.) So when we see the popular culture exploring behavior that many see as morally bankrupt, we need to remind ourselves that deviating from an ethical norm is not just an old story. In a real sense, it’s where stories begin.
Self sooo agrees with you, Steven Johnson!
Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.
Self had trouble falling asleep. Now, barely 10 minutes after awakening, the house feels like the inside of a refrigerator. Activity for today: driving to San Luis Obispo to watch a concert with son, several of whose friends will be singing.
Other than the fact that son thought it would be “fun” to watch, self knows very little about the concert. She actually called son yesterday to tell him that she’d read a small article about the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble. “They have a concert in the mission on Saturday. Is that the one we’re going to?”
Son (poker-faced, or about as poker-faced as self can imagine him being, over there in San Luis Obispo): No.
Yesterday was glorious, oh so glorious. Self got to hang 15 more ornaments on the tree (only four more boxes to go!). She saw a movie: “Four Christmases” (murky, only semi-comedic, and how did Vince Vaughan get away with becoming so fat?). She finally got to sample Marble Slab Creamery (not at all worth the $4.09 for a small scoop). She got the creche from the garage and set out the figures on a book-case. She paid two bills. She continued reading Sean Wilsey’s bitter and manic memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, which describes young Sean’s travails with a mother who Armistead Maupin refers to, in his kinder moments, as “that stupid twat,” a description to which Sean’s mother professes to be completely “impervious.”
Which brings self to the real reason for this post: she loves that word! When she first encountered it this morning, she was regarding the upcoming road trip with hubby as akin to a visit to the dentist’s office, for hubby is none too happy about the state of the economy and will have approximately three hours in the car to expound to self on same. Either self will arrive in San Luis Obispo cross-eyed, mind reduced to jell-o, or she’ll find an opportune point (probably around Paso Robles) to jump ship. Oh, how self would love to park herself in some tasting room and sample Central Coast wines!
Here is an example of how Wilsey uses the word:
Mom could do regal, she could do poised and dignified . . . After . . . a few days she transformed herself from sexy society divorcee into widowed stateswoman . . . Armisted Maupin, through one of his male characters in Tales of the City, had this to say about it: “That stupid twat thnks she’s Eleanor Roosevelt now.”
Mom did not care. She was impervious, bigger than all that. She had a mission now.
How absolutely fab! On the drive down, self will be impervious. When she arrives back home tonight, bleary and exhausted, and the dogs mill around her feet, self will be impervious. Tomorrow, when self will awaken with (no doubt) tremendous eyebags, self will be impervious.
Impervious. Impervious. Impervious.
Day before Thanksgiving, son is home. Self fell asleep with the same peace and contentment she felt on the night when Obama won. On p. 361 of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Santa Sofia de la Piedad starts imagining elves in the house of the Buendias. Meanwhile, here’s a short list of books self is interested in reading after perusing the “Briefly Noted” section of The New Yorker “Food Issue”: 24 November 2008
Bee Wilson’s Swindled
“With the revelations in recent months of tainted food — salmonella-infected jalapeños, melamine-laced milk — Wilson’s latest treatise, on contaminated, adulterated, and fake foods in the modern era, feels almost prophetic.”
Susan Pinkard’s A Revolution in Taste
“Pinkard relishes debunking persistent myths: champagne was not invented by a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon but, rather, caught on thanks to the invention and diffusion of the modern wine bottle. Her lively account concludes with a series of meticulously sourced ancien-régime recipes demonstrating the finesse with which French food is now synonymous.”
* * * *
After reading James Wood’s review of Rivka Galchen’s first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances (in the June 23, 2008 New Yorker), the following works, all featuring spectacularly unstable narrators:
Georg Buchner’s story, “Lenz”
Knut Hamsun’s Hunger
Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno
Thomas Bernhard’s “devastating” The Loser
Rivka Galchen’s first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances
Self still lost in the dream of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Reading prevents her from thinking over-much about Dearest Mum (a call came in from Citibank today, alleging that Dearest Mum opened an account in the branch near Daly City uncle’s home, but she neglected to give them a mailing address. When self called Dear Uncle to see if he knew anything about it, turns out he had accompanied Dearest Mum to the bank, but was extremely reluctant to say anything further: the mysteries of Dearest Mum and her tortuously complicated financial machinations drive self crazy), besides which self adores, simply adores Garcia Marquez, who seems to know everything about irony, pathos, wit:
Aureliano Serrador had left his girlfriend at his parents’ house after having taken her to the movies and was returning through the well-lighted Street of the Turks when someone in the crowd who was never identified fired a revolver shot which knocked him over into a cauldron of boiling lard. A few minutes later someone knocked at the door of the room where Aureliano Arcaya was shut up with a woman and shouted to him: “Hurry up, they’re killing your brothers.” The woman who was with him said later that Aureliano Arcaya jumped out of bed and opened the door and was greeted with the discharge of a Mauser that split his head open . . . Fernanda ran through the town like a madwoman looking for Aureliano Segundo, whom Petra Cortes had locked up in a closet, thinking that the order of extermination included all who bore the colonel’s name. She would not let him out until the fourth day, when the telegrams received from different places along the coast made it clear that the fury of the invisible enemy was directed only at the brothers marked with the crosses of ash. Amaranta fetched the ledger where she had written down the facts about her nephews and as the telegrams arrived she drew lines through the names until only that of the eldest remained. They remembered him very well because of the contrast between his dark skin and his green eyes. His name was Aureliano Amador and he was a carpenter, living in a village hidden in the foothills.
The passage goes on for quite a bit longer, but now self has to go to Walgreen’s to pick up some bilin that one of her sister-in-laws requested: several tubes of Johnson & Johnson Blister Block, a product which self is hearing about for the first time. But people in Manila are so “up” on all the latest products! When self was in San Luis Obispo with Dearest Mum, after Dearest Mum began to gently snore, self took a peek into her toiletries case (Bad daughter, bad!). There she saw a wonderful profusion of Clarins skin products. Self was so tempted to try the “anti-aging emulsifying cream,” which probably cost several hundreds of dollars, but she desisted and instead made do with her homely pot of L’Oreal “Deep Action” night cream ($16.99 from Long’s).
Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.
From Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magnificent One Hundred Years of Solitude:
Instead of going to the chestnut tree, Colonel Aureliano Buendia also went to the street door and mingled with the bystanders who were watching the parade. He saw a woman dressed in gold sitting on the head of an elephant. He saw a sad dromedary. He saw a bear dressed like a Dutch girl keeping time to the music with a soup spoon and a pan. He saw the clowns doing cartwheels at the end of the parade and once more he saw the face of his miserable solitude when everything had passed by and there was nothing but the bright expanse of the street and the air full of flying ants with a few onlookers peering into the precipices of uncertainty. Then he went to the chestnut tree, thinking about the circus, and while he urinated he tried to keep on thinking about the circus, but he could no longer find the memory. He pulled his head in between his shoulders like a baby chick and remained motionless with his forehead against the trunk of the chestnut tree. The family did not find him until the following day at eleven o’clock in the morning when Santa Sofia de la Piedad went to throw out the garbage in back and her attention was attracted by the descending vultures.
No matter how many times self reads this passage, that pulling of the head in, so that the Colonel resembles “a baby chick,” always gets to her, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.