Best Books I Read in:
Best Books I Read in:
Pulled the old switcheroo because she couldn’t endure being terrorized by The Terror, especially since EVERYONE ON THE EXPEDITION DIES. This is not a spoiler since, unless you’ve had your head under a rock, all you have to do is google the main characters and you can learn all about their fates on Wikipedia.
Her current read is Fuentes’ short story collection Are We Ever Our Own.
There were babies born without surnames, and girls who walked unimpeded into the ocean, their white nightgowns floating in the waves.
— “The Burial of Fidelia Armando Cassell”, Story # 2 in Are We Ever Our Own
New book, started just today. It’s by a woman named Rebecca Donner, and the subject is her great-grandaunt, Mildred Harnack, who was married to a German, Arvid, whose fate is a family secret, because it was very bad: it seems she was imprisoned by Hitler and executed, and what family would want to talk about something like that?
Self only heard about Mildred Harnack from a book review in The Economist (August 2021). Self saved the review and now, finally, she holds in her hands All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler.
Mildred was from Wisconsin. She met Arvid when they were both students at the University of Wisconsin. In 1932, she was a part-time instructor at the University of Berlin, where she taught American Literary History.
It’s a good thing her great grandniece knows how to tell a story. She uses present tense, which hints that at least one of her goals is to make this story immersive: it’s not going to be a “Mildred did this, then Mildred did that” kind of thing. No, Rebecca’s actually going to put us in Berlin, which so happens to be a place self has visited, long ago, when she was invited to read from her book Mayor of the Roses by the House of World Culture. Just a few weeks ago, she was in Berlin again, this time April 1945 Berlin, through the eyes of Anonymous in A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City.
1932 Berlin is very different from 1945 Berlin (of course). Mildred would be two years dead by the time Anonymous began writing her diary (Self wonders if Anonymous would have heard of Mildred Harnack? Anonymous was a journalist, so in all probability she would have heard of Mildred’s arrest and execution). Here is Mildred walking through Berlin in 1932:
She reaches a wide boulevard: Unter den Linden. She turns right.
The boulevard takes its name from the profusion of linden trees flanking it, trees that are in full bloom now, cascades of tiny white blossoms perfuming the air she breathes. But all this beauty can’t mask the ugliness here. Swastikas are cropping up like daisies everywhere: on posters pasted to the walls of U-Bahn stations, on flags and banners and pamphlets. A white-haired, walrus-mustached man is leading the country right now, but just barely. President Paul von Hindenburg is eighty-four, tottering into senility. A politician half his age is growing in popularity, a high-school dropout named Adolf Hitler who, Mildred predicts, will bring “a great increase of misery and oppression.”All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, p. 16
the King, with eyes flashing with indignation, entered the room of the princess; and, waving his scepter, he cried out, “Christian Elias Drosselmeier, cure the princess, or die!” Drosselmeier began to cry bitterly, but little Princess Perlipat went on cracking her nuts. Then first was the court watchmaker struck with the princess’s extraordinary partiality for nuts, and the circumstance of her having come into the world with teeth. In fact, she had cried incessantly since her metamorphosis, until someone by chance gave her a nut; she immediately cracked it, ate the kernel, and was quiet. From that time, the nurses found nothing so effectual as to bring her nuts.— The Story of the Hard Nut, by E. T. Hoffmann, translated by Major Alex Ewing
The stories self has read so far: about a Princess who has been pregnant seven years; and about a boy half-hedghog and half man, who wounds his wife with his sharp quills because her father, the King, tried to trick him.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.
Nine more days till the Redwood City Library online reading for ms. aligned volume 3! (Thursday, Feb. 25, 5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. PST) Much thanks to the library outreach staff, who gave us the slot and prepared beautiful flyers. And much thanks to series editor Pat Matsueda for coming up with the idea of a series focused on women writing about men.
Super-excited. Register here.
One of the readers on Feb. 25 is Donna Lee Miele. Self has just finished re-reading her fantastic story, “Crocodile Teeth.” From her Contributor Bio in ms. aligned 3:
I was scared of Edward’s sister. After Edward’s parents got lost looking for work upriver, she took over their grandma’s house like she’d just been waiting for the chance. She bullied Edward, she bullied their grandma, and she even bullied the guys that started hanging around, who offered everything from repairs to the wornout old house to actual money for the chance to date her. They thought she’d be easy because she and Edward were orphans. She didn’t even pretend to be nice to them. She had a look so cold she could make the bag shrivel between your legs.
If you were one of those guys, and you tried to come up on her grandma’s veranda, she would stand on its edge, look down on you, and say something like, “Take yourself to the beach and remember me to your family,” meaning Last Beach, though even she wouldn’t say that right out. Last Beach is full of whores of every kind; and every one of them, of course, is someone’s family.
Self is closing out 2017 with Tana French, and she is also reading Kelly Creighton’s Bank Hurricane Holiday, a super short story collection set in Northern Ireland.
Place is everything in the writing of these two women. She isn’t finished yet with Creighton’s book (just out from Doire Press) but she finished her first Tana French, earlier today: Broken Harbor. And she’s just started reading The Trespasser.
She’s very late in coming to Tana French, but why. She’s been coming to Ireland for years, if she’d had enough sense, she would have read Ms. French years ago.
Self loves mysteries. She especially loves the mysteries of: Henning Mankell, Morag Joss (only one book), Ruth Rendell, and Karin Fossum.
She thinks her love of mysteries in foreign landscapes began with Peter Hoeg’s mesmerizing Smilla’s Sense of Snow. (And now she writes dystopian fantasy set in snowy landscapes, what a coincidence)
p. 4, The Trespasser:
Who doesn’t know Dublin Castle. Tourist mecca. Now, in her mind, Dublin Castle is the home of the Dublin Murder Squad. Love.
On to p. 5.
Self is trying to put together a collection. Which involves a laboriously slow process of selection. It is nice, though, re-reading stuff.
(Set in the far future. Very, very, very far. Society’s divided into classes: Earthstar, Silverleaf, Shag, and Common. The main characters are a pair of lab workers named K and R. K is a girl, R is a boy. The story’s told from R’s point of view)
“We be needing foxes,” I said once.
“You lousy hedgehog,” the boss said, giving me a good one. My right eye swelled up almost immediately.
“You not be asking me to fetch, you lousy Common!” He gave me another good one on the way out.
K trembling there in the corner.
The voice was birthed while eavesdropping at the dinner table in Annaghmakerrig.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.
Don’t kill yourself. Don’t beat your wife.
— from the title story of Iraq War vet Phil Klay’s collection Redeployment
Books that rocked self’s world: