Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Successful surgery

In my line of work, I get both the good and bad news. Today was good news-day. A dear friend, who had been diagnosed to have breast cancer a decade ago, ovarian cancer a year ago, and ovarian cancer recurrence three months ago, emerged out of a successful surgery last weekend. The little lymph node that lighted up in the scan was taken out. It was a cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Before her surgery, she asked me over lunch what I thought of her case. She listened to me as if she had already accepted what would happen. Her calm was palpable. Her grief was tempered with sure hope. She held on to the Lord's promises. She told me that it was a privilege to be inconvenienced in this way. It was a privilege to suffer. I have loved talking to her: someone whose thought-life is immersed in the wellsprings of God's Word, whose ambitions are aligned toward the Kingdom of God, whose eyes are set on eternity.

I remembered this friend while I studied ovarian cancer for an exam tomorrow. My prayer was full of thanksgiving: Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord. Oncology is deeply personal for me. I have friends and family who suffer from some form of malignancy. Some of them have passed away. I remember and miss them.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Saturday, February 22, 2020

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The Cost of Living

I don't quite yet know what to make of Mavis Gallant's The Cost of Living: Early and Uncollected Stories, except that I loved it, truly loved it with a kind of respect and admiration for a writing talent so formidable but tender, intelligent but entertaining.

Mavis Gallant Cost of Living

Friday, February 21, 2020

About to begin

With tons of academic reading material to plow through, I'm thinking of reading John Updike's The Early Stories.

John Updike, The Early Stories

An update (22 Feb 2020):


The first story, "You'll Never Know, Dear, How Much I Love You," is about Ben who goes to the carnival. He takes his chances but doesn't win. Somewhere in the story are feelings of disappointment and hope, pity and compassion, cruelty and kindness. Made me remember the carnivals in Marbel. The story ends with a punch:

Thus the world, like a jaded coquette, spurns our attempts to give ourselves to her wholly.

I'm loving this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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Neil Gaiman and fountain pens

In an interview with Tim Ferris, Neil Gaiman talks "dreamily" about his writing process and his use of fountain pens. Neil seems like a really gracious man who loves what he does!

Tim Ferriss: Are there any other rules or practices that you also hold sacred or important for your writing process?

Neil Gaiman: Some of them are just things for me. For example, most of the time, not always, I will do my first draft in fountain pen, because I actually enjoy the process of writing with a fountain pen. I like the feeling of fountain pen. I like uncapping it. I like the weight of it in my hand. I like that thing, so I’ll have a notebook, I’ll have a fountain pen, and I’ll write. If I’m doing anything long, if I’m working on a novel, for example, I will always have two fountain pens on the go, at least, with two different colored inks, at least, because that way I can see at a glance, how much work I did that day. I can just look down and go, “Look at that! Five pages in brown. How about that? Half a page in black. That was not a good day. Nine pages in blue, cool, what a great day.”

You can just get a sense of are you working, are you making forward progress? What’s actually happening. I also love that because it emphasizes for me that nobody is ever meant to read your first draft. Your first draft can go way off the rails, your first draft can absolutely go up in flames, it can — you can change the age, gender, number of a character, you can bring somebody dead back to life. Nobody ever needs to know anything that happens in your first draft. It is you telling the story to yourself.

Then, I’ll sit down and type. I’ll put it onto a computer, and as far as I’m concerned, the second draft is where I try and make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Saturday, February 15, 2020

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The interview

Jhumpa Lahiri interviews Mavis Gallant.

At eighty-six, Mavis remains an elegant woman. Each day she was impeccably dressed in a woollen skirt, sweater, scarf, stockings and square-heeled pumps. A medium-length coat of black wool protected her from the Paris chill and beautiful rings, an opal one among them, adorned her fingers. Her accent, soft but proper in the English manner, evoked, to my ear, the graceful and sophisticated speech of 1940s cinema. Her laughter, less formal, erupts frequently as a hearty expulsion of breath. French, the language that has surrounded her for over half a lifetime, occasionally adorns and accompanies her English. She is a spirited and agile interlocuter who tells stories as she writes them: bristling with drama, thick with dialogue, vividly rendered and studded with astringent aperçus.

I wish I could have met Mavis Gallant in this lifetime, but she lives in her stories, which I read and re-read once in a while. Each time, these tales enrich my existence.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Alice Munro's A Trip to the Coast

In between chapters of oncology textbooks, I treat myself to fiction. Such was the case this morning.

"A Trip to the Coast" by Alice Munro appears in her collection, Dance of the Happy Shades. I turn to Alice Munro when I want to escape to the country. In this story, we learn about the girl May who lives with her grandmother: a story of quiet rebellion and outspoken submission.

[May] accepted the rule of her grandmother as she accepted a rain squall of a stomach ache, with a tough, basic certainty that such things would pass.

Alice Munro A Trip to the Coast, in Dance of the Happy Shades Collection

May hangs out with her friend Eunie. They live in what can only be described as a dead town. With nothing much to do, they spend their time in the cemetery.

"We go to the cemetery," May said flatly. They did, too. She and Eunie went and sat in the cemetery almost every afternoon because there was a shady corner there and no younger children bothered them and they could talk speculatively without any danger of being overheard.

Reading about these poignant scenes of provincial life makes me long for home.
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