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.

Fresh 3: Landscapes with Snow

Being in the East Coast during a heavy snowfall is just . . . magical!

Some pictures of freshly fallen snow, to go with this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, FRESH:

Spring 2015 on the Northeast Coast

Spring 2015 on the Northeast Coast

Chilly scenes of Spring 2015

Chilly scenes of Spring 2015

Fresh Snow: Spring 2015

Fresh Snow: Spring 2015

Still reading Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. Since it’s over 800 pages long, and self’s only got as far as p. 148, she wonders if she’ll ever get to finish it. But anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from the page self is on:

I stopped in front of a kind of landscape, a Surrey landscape from John’s earlier period, that looked to me at once sad and sweet, profound and not at all grandiloquent, an English landscape as only the English can paint them. All at once I decided that seeing this one painting was enough . . .

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.

Roberto Bolaño: 2666

As they left the airport, the three of them noticed how bright it was in Sonora. It was as if the light were buried in the Pacific Ocean, producing an enormous curvature of space. It made a person hungry to travel in that light, although also, and maybe more insistently, thought Norton, it made you want to bear your hunger until the end.

2666, pp. 110 -111

 

Am Reading Today, Last Tuesday of February 2015

blogs

a friend’s novel

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

tweets about the Oscars

Sunflower Splendor: Two Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, Co-edited by Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo

Here’s a poem called “Southern Mountains,” by Han Yu:

So therefore I watched a pool
Whose clear depths concealed water dragons.

Bending I could gather fish and prawns,
But who dares plunder divine beings?

About Han Yu: He was a late T’ang Dynasty poet, and a contemporary of Li Po and Tu Fu. He was born into a literary family of landed gentry in the province of Hunan. He served in several high posts in the government: Vice President of the Ministry of War, Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel, and Metropolitan Governor. He died in Ch’ang-an in 824, at the age of 56.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reviewing the Reading List

So, last year self read nine books. Nine.

The only reason she knows this is, she decided to keep tallies by posting on Goodreads.

There was a time when she averaged reading 60 books a year.

That was as recent as five, six years ago.

The book she’s almost done reading (only about 20 pages to go!) Hakan Nesser’s Woman with Birthmark, is indeed very exciting, but she decided to look ahead, to the books she plans to read for the rest of the year, and none of them are light reading. In fact, some sound downright depressing. But depressing books do not depress self, go figure (though they may very well depress the readers of this blog, since she always blogs about what she is currently reading). Here are the books on her plate for 2015, after she’s done with Woman with Birthmark:

  • Silas Marner, by George Eliot (She took an advance peak: gulp. Though the Everyman Library edition only has a little over 200 pages, the text is so dense. Hardly a line of dialogue. It’s going to take her forever.)
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin (This is about Irish immigrants. Self expects her visit to Ireland last year will definitely come in handy)
  • 2066, by Roberto Bolaño (The last time she read Bolaño was in Bacolod. And did it ever unleash a flood of work from her. She thinks Bolaño and Murakami are her go-to authors for angst-y narrative)
  • Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson (Much about drinking and other macho high jinks)
  • Excursions to the Equator, by Mark Twain (Self is really looking forward to this one, as she loves Mark Twain. And loves travel books)
  • The Third Reich at War, by Richard Evans (Self has a definite weakness for World War II and Holocaust literature. She remembers forcing son to take an elective called Literature of Witness when he was in Sacred Heart, simply so that she could have access to the class reading list. This one’s a whopper of a book: the paperback is 656 pages. Which means it will probably take her the rest of the year to finish. And she’ll be trundling it all over the place, which will put undoubtable strain on her shoulders and forearms. But it’s been a long long time since her last World War II book. She feels a definite almost-nostalgia for the period)

P.S. Self was on her way to order take-out fish and chips from Patterson’s Pub, but she mentioned her destination to someone who said Trillium’s fish and chips were better. It’s only about a block away. Exciting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

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