From “Utopias” by Alfredo Zaldivar (New Letters, vol. 82 nos. 3 & 4)

The poem is in the New Letters Cuban issue.

Excerpt from Utopias, by Alfredo Zaldivar, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Randall:

I romanticized the tent they gave me
the fierce hand that caressed my skin
the assigned word
and promised touch.

I didn’t take into account the fragility
of the dying stag
who sleeps among beasts
the few doves who fly
when the lights go on.

I didn’t see the labyrinths surrounding the tent
the fear of conceding passion to terror.

I fled with such precision
that only my obsession for being on time
could ignore those flights.

Alfredo Zaldivar is co-founder of Vigia, a cultural arts magazine and publishing house based in Matanzas, Cuba.

More Quests

All books are quests of one kind or another. To self, they represent explorations of new experiences.


New Edition of Don Quixote, at the AWP 2016 Bookfair in Los Angeles


From the Europa booth at the 2016 AWP Los Angeles Book Fair


from self’s own copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, retold by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This is how the fairy tale begins:

Far, far away, in a warm and pleasant land, there once lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter. The princes wore stars on their shirts and swords at their sides, and their sister, Elise, sat on a footstool made of glass. These children were happy from the time they woke in the morning until they went to their beds at night. They never imagined another life.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Seamus Heaney’s Translation of The Aeneid, Book VI

Earlier this year, self was in Ireland, cutting out book reviews from a copy of The Guardian at the breakfast table in the Main House of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. She was explaining to a writer from Belfast that back home in California she had file drawers full of book review clippings and now . . .

The writer just smiled.

What is it about the Irish? Self never has to complete sentences there. Never. They’re pretty observant and never waste words.

In the Wall Street Journal of Wednesday, 17 August 2016, there’s a review of Seamus Heaney’s last work, a translation of the Aeneid, Book VI, which according to reviewer Christopher Carroll, he completed just a month before he died:

  • It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father.

Right. Self is adding it to her reading list, as well as Heaney’s “Station Island” (1984) and “Route 110” (2010).

Stay tuned.

Another Basho Sentence

Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matsushima.

— from The Narrow Road to the Deep North, translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa

1689, Basho made three major journeys in his lifetime. The Narrow Road was the result of the third and last. He was 50.

Stay tuned.

Basho Again, Summer 1676

Who is it that runs with hurried steps,
Flowers of sasanqua dancing on his hat?

— translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa, in his Introduction to Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Basho: Edo, Summer 1676

Finished The Lonely City, started The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho. It’s a travel book like no other, written in haiku.

In the summer of 1676, Basho returned to his native Edo for a brief visit. He wrote this poem after. It is included in the introduction by translator Nobuyuki Yuasa.

My souvenir from Edo
Is the refreshingly cold wind
Of Mount Fuji
I brought home on my fan.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Miguel Hernandez: Been So Long

A creature must grow
From the seedbed of nothing
and more than one turns up
under the design of an angry star,
under a troubled and bad moon.

an excerpt from “Bloody Fate” (in the collection Miguel Hernandez, NYRB/Poets) translated by Don Share

Elena Ferrante, pp. 112 – 113

Self went to the Victoria & Albert this morning.

About the V & A: apart from the gorgeous Chihuly in the lobby, she is not enthused over their special exhibits. Last year, she went to one on shoes, and the shoes were the kind she has seen in Manhattan, in shop windows. So why would she pay extra just to see those very same shoes in a museum?

This morning, she went to a special exhibit on Re-imagining Botticelli. Alas, the exhibit seemed rather gimmick-y. Honestly, why waste time seeing how other people interpret Botticelli when one should so clearly be looking at Botticellis themselves! She did, however, learn that after the Renaissance, Botticelli fell into obscurity and was only “rediscovered” sometime in the late 19th century, by art dealers. Also, his first name was Sandro. It got to the point where self began wondering who this Sandro Botticelli was. And only figured out later that Sandro was Botticelli. Because all these years, self has only ever heard Botticelli referred to as Botticelli. Not as Sandro Botticelli. Naturally, it had to be a British museum that referred to him by first and last name!

Anyhoo, enough of this useless prattle!

She’s back in her room reading My Brilliant Friend.

Because of the stately cadence of Ferrante’s prose, self finds herself, while reading, being lulled into a hazy, dream-like state. She thinks she is reading Remembrance of Things Past, the Italian version. Only to be confronted with the brutality of — society!  Especially, of men! For instance:


Don Achille was murdered.

Another instance: Shortly after she enters adolescence, the narrator finds herself beset by male attention. At one point some boys in a car follow her along a street, and the boys keep inviting her to get in the car with them. Self read this scene in an absolute stupor, she didn’t realize it was dangerous, until she read this:

  • I said no because if my father found out that I had gone in that car, even though he was a good and loving man, even though he loved me very much, he would have beat me to death, while at the same time my little brothers, Peppe and Gianni, young as they were, would feel obliged, now and in the future, to try and kill the Solara brothers.

What? What? What?

From the sedate to the overwrought. There are just no rules, with regards to Ferrante’s writing.

Stay tuned.



So sedate is Elena Ferrante’s pacing that, when something truly horrible happens, on p. 83 of My Brilliant Friend, it is like (to borrow an over-used term) a punch in the gut.


Also, needless to say, SPOILERS.

Don Achille, the terrible Don Achile, was murdered in his house in the early afternoon of a surprisingly rainy August day.

He was in the kitchen, and had just opened the window to let in the rain-freshened air. He had got up from bed to do so, interrupting his nap. He had on worn blue pajamas, and on his feet only socks of a yellowish color, blackened at the heels. As soon as he opened the window a gust of rain struck his face and someone plunged a knife into the right side of his neck, halfway between the jaw and the clavicle.

A few days ago, self was telling a friend that she didn’t think My Brilliant Friend was as good as some of Elena Ferrante’s earlier work.

But this event is so masterfully delivered. Kudos, Elena Ferrante. Just — kudos all over the place.

Stay tuned.

Yesterday, at Blackwell’s Bookshop

Here they call it a bookshop; over there we call it a bookstore.

Oh, wait. Mendocino’s Gallery also refers to itself as a bookshop.

Self being too quick on the draw, as usual.

It is time for self to update her reading list. Yesterday, she found a thriller called Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart. (What is it with all the “Girl” titles now: Gone, Girl; Girl on the Train, etc). Sounded like it would be a perfect summer read.

Her reading list looks like this now:

  • My Brilliant Friend, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, by Elena Ferrante (currently reading)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die, by Amy Fusselman (who must be a therapist)
  • Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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