Self Reads: Jake Wolff

from “The History of Living Forever,” first published in One Story, Issue 164:

  • Many of the virgins were slaves, taken from their masters before their masters claimed their virginity. The rest were removed from smaller villages near Juijang and Kuaji. I’d heard terrible stories of fathers and brothers bedding their daughters and sisters to save them from their duty, but I believed they were only myths. Such families would not have survived their infractions. You do not steal from the Emperor.

Self’s Dystopian Imagination

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Lake Annagmakerrig: 4:30 a.m., 8 November 2018

Boy was the last of four. Alive just this morning. Fell through the ice chasing after a shadow that he thought was food.

What food. What a fool. There’s no food on the ice. Not on top, not under.

Hadn’t he told the boy, over and over: Watch the sky. The food will come as a drop.

I been watching, the boy said. For weeks.

— from self’s short story “Ice”

Her piece was published in Bellingham Review’s annual on-line issue, November 2017.

Read it in its entirety, here.

Stay tuned.

When Will She Finish This (From a Year Ago)

TO DO

Weekend in Mendocino: Clouds lower, spit rain. The meadows on the headlands are green like Ireland’s. No flowers yet, it’s still early in the year.

Out there, where the surf meets the cliffs, lives a Kraken.

Still Work-in-Progress

  • Pitt was the first to board. He was always the first. Whether that made him brave or foolhardy was hard to say.

The Rorqual, p. 5

Why Always Ice?

Excerpt, work-in-progress

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

Status: 52 pp.

Working Title: The Rorqual

It began with the discovery of a ship, sailing languidly along the ice-clotted harbor. It seemed meandering, yet sure of purpose. It drifted toward shore, riding high in the water.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“The Son of My Father”: Story # 20 in Carlos Bulosan’s THE LAUGHTER OF MY FATHER

Make no mistake, this father of the narrator’s, to whom Bulosan dedicates 25 (memoir-ish) short stories, would be no one’s idea of a good father. He drinks, he gambles, he sleeps with the neighbor’s wife, he gives the family home to a Mexican beauty he has a crush on. But here we are.

Bulosan treats all his father’s foibles with such affection and humor. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE, BULOSAN MUST BE A SAINT.

From The Son of My Father:

“You are a tragedy, Simeon!” they said.

It was true. Father was a tragedy. My brother Osong was not his spitting image at all. Osong was tall and fair of complexion. His bones were sharp and the hair on his legs was thick and long. He spoke several languages and dialects. He did not drink anything that had alcohol. He smoked American cigars and cigarettes.

Father was small and dark. His bones were soft and the only hair he had was on his head. And it was nothing to brag about, either. He could not read or write.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Rosario Ferré: Her Island

Self is reading the last piece in Ferré’s book, On Destiny, Language, and Translation. As self has explained elsewhere, she decided to start this re-read with the last piece and work her way front. Nothing can match the genius of the title story, The Youngest Doll, which begins the collection, and self would rather work her way up to the good stuff.

She must have forgotten (honestly, it’s been at least two decades since she’s read Rosario Ferré) or mebbe it didn’t strike her as significant at the time, but Ferré is from Puerto Rico, and her primary subject is the class divisions between landowners and share workers, on an island where the main crop is sugar.

Self knows quite a bit about sugar, because that is her family’s crop, too. Maybe that is why she found Ferré. Yes, she found her.

It’s not as if Ferré is the easiest Latin American writer to read. Before getting to Ferré, self read Clarice Lispector, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Rosario Castellanos, Octavio Paz, Jorge Amado. But when she found Ferré, there was instant engagement.

To read is to engage, but when self found Ferré, she didn’t just engage, she engaged fiercely.

On to Ferré’s essay. She unpacks the process of translating her own novel, Maldito Amor, from Spanish to English.

The title of the novel “is also the title of a very famous danza written by Juan Morelli Campos, Puerto Rico’s most gifted composer in the nineteenth century, which describes in its verses the paradisiacal existence of the island’s bourgeoisie of the time . . . I decided to change the title altogether in my translation of the novel, substituting the much more specific Sweet Diamond Dust. The new title refers to the sugar produced by the De Lavalle family, but it also touches on the dangers of a sugar which, like diamond dust, poisons those who sweeten their lives with it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

“A Good Wife and Mother”: Rosario Ferré

The day of my debut as a writer, I sat at my typewriter for a long time, mulling over these thoughts. Inevitably, writing my first story meant taking my first step toward Heaven or Hell, and that made me vacillate between a state of euphoria and depression. It was as if I were about to be born, peering timidly through the doors of Limbo. If my voice rings false or my will fails me, I said to myself, all my sacrifices will have been in vain. I will foolishly have given up the protection which, despite its disadvantages, at least allowed me to be a good wife and mother, and I will justly have fallen from the frying pan into the fire.

Recommended Reading: Rosario Ferré’s short story, The Youngest Doll, from the collection of the same name

Opening Sentence of the Day: Yiyun Li

  • Once upon a time, I was addicted to a salon.

— First Line, All Will Be Well, in the 11 March 2019 New Yorker

CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD, Vol. 1

For the workshop this weekend, re-reading some old stories to show different ways of writing memoir. In particular, thinking of a story called Lenox Hill, December 1991, which Jessica Hagedorn included in the anthology Charlie Chan is Dead.

When Jessica contacted self to solicit a piece, self had nothing, nothing, nothing.

Her sister had died just the month before. She did keep a diary, though.

The diary became the story. The first story in what later become a cycle of grief stories: Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press)

For a while, a course called Ethics in Medicine, taught at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, included the story in their syllabus.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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