Friday, September 30, 2005

First paragraph: The Women Were Leaving the Men

"The men weren't obviously bad--not in any way visible from the outside, but the women were leaving them. The women who left the men had money, were lawyers, were doctors, were tenured professors; the women who left the men were not-so-well off, worked at J.C. Penney, answered the phones for plumbing contractors, toiled as adjunct professors, actually had unsteady financial prospects, but were going to leave anyway. They were not leaving the men the way women left men in the previous generation, with a sense of breaking out of prison or smashing something evil and oppressive, or opening their eyes after years of blindness, or because they were finally deciding for themselves. Yes, there were still some women who left their philandering, gynecologist husbands in the traditional way: outraged, victimized. But something new had been happening, and the men didn't understand what it was."

- Andy Mozina, "The Women Were Leaving the Men," Tin House Volume 6

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Let the Children Bury Us

From "The Denial," by Bruce Sterling, in the September issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction:

"It was almost a proverb. 'Let the children bury us.' There was a bliss to that, like a verse in a very old song. It meant that there were no decisions to make. The time was still unripe. Nothing useful could be done. Justice, faith, hope and charity, life and death, they were all smashed and in a muddle, far beyond his repair and retrieval . . . Let the next generation look after all of that. Or the generation after that. Or after that. Or after that."

Methinks of global warming. Trillion dollar deficits. Nuclear waste.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Imploding hotels and expensive tofu

Forays into non-fiction, courtesy of The New Yorker's food issue. From an article about egg cooks in Las Vegas, by Burkhard Bilger:

"The Flamingo was built in stages, like the Vatican. Its pink glass towers stand on the ruins of a low-slung nineteen-fifties pavilion with a neon column that bubbled like champagne. Beneath that lie the elegant remians of Bugsy Siegel's supper club and riding stables, from a time when horses could still be hitched in front of the stores downtown. The result is a maze of ramps, stairs, and blind corridors that crisscross behind the hotel's sleek new interiors, like something from an etching by Escher. 'This is why they implode hotels,' a former head of food service at the hotel told me."

and from an article about tofu, this recipe for shima dofu ($50 for a few slices), by Judith Thurman:

"Negotiate a contract for organic soybeans with a reliable farmer whose fields lie on the slope of Mt. Hira, in the Shiga Prefecture, where the soil and the water are unpolluted. Make sure that the farmer harvests the beans as late as possible--preferably in December. Pick the beans over carefully, throwing out those eaten by worms--a desirable sign that the farmer isn't cheating with a little DDT. Soak them overnight in very cold spring water. The beans will swell. Rinse them in more of the same, and grind them with a granite mortar, using all your strength, for two hours. Drain the pulp in a bamboo colander, and put the white soy juice you obtain--gojiu--to cook on a stone hearth. Let it bubble, subside, and bubble again, several times...hire a boat, and locate the tiny sland of Hateruma on your charts. The island is inhabited only by several hundred farmers, who raise sugarcane. Off the coast there is a coral reef...gather the seawater that cascades from the reef, which has an exceptionally rich and complex mineral content. This primordial bouillon is your curdling agent. Add some to the strained gojiu, stirring with a wooden paddle, and turn the thickened curds into the slatted, four-by-ten cedar boxes that you have lined with a fine-grained cheesecloth. Cover them, weight the covers with blocks of lava--about ten pounds per box--and leave them to dry."

This is why I order a lot of take-out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Letters of Raymond Chandler

From January 1955, a letter Raymond Chandler wrote about the death of his wife Cissy in December:

"...many times during the past two years in the middle of the night I had realized that it was only a question of time before I lost her. But that is not the same thing as having it happen. Saying goodbye to your loved one in your mind is not the same thing as closing her eyes and knowing they will never open again. But I was glad that she died. To think of that proud, fearless bird caged in a room in some rotten sanatorium for the rest of her days was such an unbearable thought that I could hardly face it at all...I am sleeping in her room. I thought I couldn't face that, and then I thought that if the room were empty it would be haunted, and every time I went past the door I would have the horrors, and the only thing for me was to come in here and fill it up with my junk and make it look the kind of mess I'm used to living in...For thirty years, ten months and two days, she was the light of my life, my whole ambition. Anything else I did was just the fire for her to warm her hands at. That is all there is to say."

A month later, Chandler tried to shoot himself. He lived for five more years in states of drunkenness, anxiety and despair. When he died, only 17 people attended his funeral. The Raymond Chandler Papers, edited by Tom Hiney and Frank MacShane, highlights the best of Chandler's letters and nonfiction, including valuable advice to writers.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The same ordinary world

From Alice Munro's story "The View from Castle Rock," in The New Yorker 8/29/05:

"This is what Mary sees plainly in those moments of anguish: that the world which has turned into a horror for her is still the same ordinary world for all these other people and will remain so even if James has truly vanished, even if he has crawled through the ship's railings--she has noticed everywhere the places where this would be possible--and been swallowed by the ocean. The most brutal and unthinkable of all events, to her, would seem to most others like a sad but not extraordinary misadventure. It would not be unthinkable to them."

The story is about Scottish immigrants aboard a transatlantic ship in 1818, and it's quite good.