Hypothesis: In the Lake of the Woods, p. 170

Here are her frustrations with this novel:

  • The main character is deeply troubled, and his wife is long-suffering.
  • His campaign manager is a walking cliché of everything that was wrong with male entitlement before the #metoo movement (He constantly makes sexist remarks about the  main character’s wife in front of the husband and the wife and no one tells him to shut up)
  • My Lai is dealt with in a very blunt manner.

Here are the reasons self is glad she is still reading:

  • My Lai is dealt with in a very blunt manner.
  • She is reminded of The Nuremberg Principles (NOT fake news)
  • The hypothesis chapters — brilliant chapters, just brilliant. When O’Brien is in Kath’s head, it’s clear he is no mysogynist, and his feeling for the landscape is intense. Also, Kath being lost and thinking rationally about her situation and struggling to become un-lost all by herself is heartbreaking. First rule of nature: As soon as one is lost, stop moving, take shelter, and wait to be found. (Self is far from the outdoorsy type so she can see herself getting considerably more lost, just as Kath does in the novel)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Monday: U Sam Oeur Again

from Exodus

— translated from the Cambodian by Ken McCullough

Once the Blackcrows had usurped the power
they started to evacuate people from Phnom Penh
they threw patients through hospital windows
(women in labor and the lame), drove tanks
over them then bulldozed them under.

The poem Exodus is part of the collection Sacred Vows, a bilingual edition of U Sam Ouer’s poetry, published by Coffee House Press.

This is self’s companion reading to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s stories about his experiences as a grunt during the Vietnam War.

O’Brien and U Sam Oeur, in Southeast Asia at roughly the same time, each oblivious of the other. But afterward, what great literature they both produced.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Sentence of the Day: “The Ghost Soldiers”

Self’s only quibble, three pages in, is that she wishes they had dropped the word ‘The’ in front of ‘Ghost Soldiers.’

But, she can feel it in her bones: this will be a good story. When O’Brien is firing on all cylinders, he is never ‘just ‘good,’ he is great.

“So when I got shot the second time, in the butt, along the Song Tra Bong, it took the son of a bitch almost ten minutes to work up the nerve to crawl over me.”

Whereas the previous medic came “every so often, maybe four times altogether” to check on the narrator — in the middle of “a wild fight.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: “Speaking of Courage”

The lake lay flat and silvery against the sun.

Poetry Sunday: U Sam Oeur

from The Fall of Culture

— translated from the Cambodian by Ken McCullough

I hid the precious wealth,
packed the suitcases with milled rice,
packed old clothes, a small scrap-metal oven,
pots, pans, plates, spoons, an ax, a hoe,
some preserved fish in small plastic containers —
loaded it all in a cart and towed it eastward
under the full moon, May ’75.

Born in the Svey Rieng province of Cambodia, U Sam Oeur received his MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1968. Upon returning to Cambodia, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1972 and in 1973 was appointed Secretary General of the Khmer League for Freedom. He remained there after Cambodia was “liberated” by the Vietnamese.

The Fall of Culture is part of a bilingual Khmer and English edition of U Sam Oeur’s poetry, Sacred Vows (Coffee House Press)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Sweetheart of the Song Trabong”: Story # 9 of The Things They Carried

For Rat Kiley, I think, facts were formed by sensation, not the other way around, and when you listened to one of the stories, you’d find yourself performing rapid calculations in your head, subtracting superlatives, figuring the square root of an absolute and then multiplying by maybe.

Freedom! Thinks the 21-Year-Old Narrator

And then Tim O’Brien says, Not so fast.

The border with Canada is so close, all the narrator has to do is get to the other side of a river.

  • My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me. Not my parents, not my brother and sister, not even the folks down at the Gobbler Café.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien

At some point in mid-July I began thinking seriously about Canada.

Tim O’Brien: “On the Rainy River”

Of course, the title story, The Things They Carried, is brilliant: the listing of each piece of equipment and their weight, all contributing to that sense of dread too large to name.

Then, in “On the Rainy River” (Story # 4), self reads something that seems so basic, so elemental, so sensible, that she can’t believe no one’s quoted it before?

  • The only certainty that summer was moral confusion. It was my view then, and still is, that you don’t make war without knowing why. Knowledge, of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can’t fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you cant make them undead.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Adding to the Reading List: A Process

Self is back home in Redwood City, California. About a mile from her house is a Barnes & Noble (in the Sequoia Station shopping center). She spent about an hour in there today, updating her reading list (The list is her ne plus ultra, her be-all and end-all, her secret game plan, and her whole raison d’etre as a writer).

She’s newly arrived from Mendocino, California (which has a pretty fabulous bookstore: Gallery Bookshop on Main Street), and her first stop is, of course, a bookstore.

Gallery Bookshop had on hand: The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway); Lord of the Flies (William Golding); Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys); The Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey (Homer); Utopia (Thomas More); As Lie Is to Grin (Simeon Marsalis); Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders); Mikhail and Margarita (Julie Lekstrom Himes); and The Summer Book, by Finnish writer Tove Jansson.

This afternoon, in her Redwood City Barnes & Noble, self went in with a long list of about 20 authors who published novels in 2017. She found two of the 20. She moved on to her next list, the list of books recommended by her fellow writers in Hawthornden, Scotland, June 2012. She struck out on all the names on p. 1 (The list is three pages long, single-spaced), except for Tim O’Brien, all of whose books are available in-store. She was kinda hoping it wouldn’t be O’Brien because his books, though very well written, are depressing. Self asked if they had any of Tamar Yoseloff’s poetry collections, but they did not.

So that’s what her reading list looks like for the remainder of 2018. She doesn’t think anything can top Philip Pullman, though. She was such a mess yesterday that a fellow fan fiction writer had to reach out and say, about The Amber Spyglass: It is safe to read “mid-way on p. 419 to 420. Then put the book away forever.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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