andrea's Reviews > Something to Declare

Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez
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's review
Mar 22, 2012

liked it
Read from March 22 to 30, 2012

uneven collection, but then like any mix tape or just-dropped album, it's hard to make a cohesive whole or even rhythm out of little bits of this or that. this was the first time i read julia alvarez and all in all, i think she was ok. she sounds like a good, thoughtful person, and i do intend to read her book on the mirabel sisters, but otherwise, i think i'll move on.

i most enjoyed her stories about growing up ('grandfather's blessing', 'la gringuita') and being a writer. ('first muse', have typewriter, will type', 'grounds for fiction' and especially 'writing matters'.)

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Reading Progress

03/22/2012 page 4
03/22/2012 page 4
1.0% ""so they wouldn’t tell on me when something broke or food was found floating in the water of the centerpiece orchids." -- combine the two and that's one of my earliest childhood memories. ;)"
03/22/2012 page 7
2.0% ""These young men were beginners as young men. Little bits of their younger selves still clung to them as if, like chicks, they had just crawled out of the cracked shells of their boyhood. Their voices did funny things, their hands and arms were too big for their bodies, their upper lips sported dark hairs and milk stains.""
03/22/2012 page 11
4.0% ""“A poet?” my grandfather said, smiling dreamily. The room went silent, aunts and uncles bracing themselves for one of his recitations. But he did not recite. Instead, he took my face in his hand, tilting it this way and that, as if he had caught the big gold fish in his net and wanted to see it up close. “A poet, yes. Now you are talking.” awww. ""grandfather's blessing". aww! ;)"
03/22/2012 page 19
6.0% ""By midmorn- ing, when we would be gaping at the buildings in New York City, the fish would be laid out on a big board across the rowboats’ length, their pink and silver scales iridescent with the water scooped over them to make them look fresher. For weeks that soon became months and years, I would think in this way. What was going on right this moment back home?" oh i know this memory."
03/22/2012 page 28
9.0% ""... a piano crying out each time its back was tapped, music only to our ears.""
03/24/2012 page 50
17.0% ""...he was the youngest of twenty-five children. Coming after so many, he would always fear that the good things would run out. And indeed he had a taste for leftovers, which made his compliments come a day or two after a special meal.""
03/25/2012 page 63
21.0% ""In English, we didn’t have to use the formal usted that immediately put us in our place with our elders. We were responsible for ourselves and that made us feel grown-up. We couldn’t just skirt culpability by using the reflexive: the bag of cookies did not finish itself, nor did the money dis- appear itself from Mami’s purse.""
03/25/2012 page 78
26.0% "" Still, in my father’s own family, only one of his first ten siblings survived into adulthood." -- i can't even imagine. :("
03/25/2012 page 88
29.0% ""I sigh, torn between pleasure at his unconditional praise and a desire to have one of those George Eliot/George Henry Lewes liaisons, Leonard Woolf/Virginia Woolf mar- riages, Gertrude Stein/Alice B. Toklas partnerships, where the couple sits by a fire talking about the life of the imagina- tion. And yet how can I hide my admiration for who he is? He knows about real life,..""
03/25/2012 page 96
32.0% ""In my family of four sis- ters, two and two is a fine balance, but if three sisters go a certain route, the fourth sister can’t bear the loneliness and caves in to the majority choice. It’s the old story of women living together in a house; their menstrual periods will eventually synchronize.""
03/25/2012 page 108
36.0% ""It was this same United States that had helped put our dictator in place during their occupation of the country from 1916 to 1924. As Secretary of State Cordell Hull had said, Trujillo is an SOB, but at least he’s our SOB.""
03/25/2012 page 15
5.0% ""...even our memories favor the classic Aristotelian structure of narrative — with a beginning, middle, and end. If the end- ing is “happy,” then the events that precede it suddenly light up with meaningful significance." indeed."
03/25/2012 page 115
38.0% ""...even our memories favor the classic Aristotelian structure of narrative — with a beginning, middle, and end. If the end- ing is “happy,” then the events that precede it suddenly light up with meaningful significance.""
03/25/2012 page 125
42.0% ""One of the family surprises that helped me survive publi- cation fallout was the discovery that la familia, which had al- ways seemed so monolithic to me, was really quite diverse in its opinions. There were camps among my people. It was one of the advantages of coming from a large, tribal family. A couple of cousins were not talking to me — well, there were at least two dozen who were. ""
03/25/2012 page 126
42.0% "ahh: "But what most surprises me—especially since I am now working in another language—is to discover how much of my verbal rhythm, my word choices, my attention to the sound of my prose comes from my native language as spoken by la familia.""
03/25/2012 page 127
42.0% "ha!: "In another instance, an editor who was working with me on a magazine story noted that I overused the word “little.” A little coffee, a little dessert, a little cough. And sure enough with the computer word-finder I discovered a dozen more examples of my overuse. Then I realized, I was translating from the Spanish diminutive,...""
03/25/2012 page 133
44.0% "break."
03/25/2012 page 139
46.0% ""dropping down through the slats of the overhead trellis. By rubbing the lamp of language, I could make the genie ap- pear: the sights, sounds, smells, the people and places of the homeland I had lost. I realized something I had always known lying on my stomach under the bed: language was power. Written-down language was money in the bank.""
03/25/2012 page 145
48.0% ""But I am glad that [Scheherazade] came so early into my life and into my imagination, so that her voice was not completely drowned out by the other voices that were telling me something else. She was my first muse long before I knew what a muse was.""
03/25/2012 page 147
49.0% "'Don’t all young writers need a spare tank of ego to get them far enough down the road of self-doubt so they can’t turn back anymore?""
03/25/2012 page 170
57.0% "" By writing power- fully about our Latino culture, we are forging a tradition and creating a literature that will widen and enrich the ex- isting canon. So much depends upon our feeling that we have a right and responsibility to do this.""
03/25/2012 page 173
58.0% ""That’s why I describe myself as a Dominican American writer. That’s not just a term. I’m map- ping a country that’s not on the map, and that’s why I’m try- ing to put it down on paper. It’s a world formed of contradictions, clashes, cominglings —the gringa and the Dominican,...""
03/29/2012 page 175
58.0% "" In an hour you reach the interior; in another hour you arrive at the other coast. We are islands, permeable countries. It’s in our genes to be a world made of many worlds. ¿No es así?" not sure i agree but it's an interesting concept."
03/29/2012 page 182
61.0% ""The problem was that this inner certainty was beginning to erode. Perhaps I was fooling myself? I still own the an- thology of contemporary American poets in which a key no- tation on every margin is the age at which these poets published their first, second, third books. One of the most anxiety-producing entries was Joyce Carol Oates: she really had published over ten books by the time she was my age, thirty-five!""
03/29/2012 page 186
62.0% "" Still, the shadow of the lean years falls on the present like dust motes in a shaft of sun- light even after a thorough housecleaning.""
03/29/2012 page 191
64.0% ""Nothing is as good as stability for getting your work done. “The writer needs an address, very badly needs an address—that is his roots,” Isaac Bashevis Singer... once noted. If your hands are busy packing boxes rather than putting pen to paper, and if your imagination is absorbed with nest building rather than the color of your character’s hair, you are not going to get much writing done.""
03/29/2012 page 192
64.0% "" Especially during those five or so months when the snowy fields blur into the snowy air so that the world out there looks like a blank page I want to fill up with words.""
03/29/2012 page 194
65.0% "ha! this is my mom: " On the flight down from New York to Santo Domingo, I usually know at least one other person well, and I’m often acquainted with several more. And even if I don’t know them, they often know me or my family.""
03/29/2012 page 221
74.0% ""What Frost said about writing poetry (“No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader”) also holds true for teaching. Unless a teacher is making discoveries in the classroom, rediscovering the text 221 Declarations with the “beginner’s mind” that Zen masters talk about, the class lacks the magical sense of possibility and discovery.""
03/29/2012 page 224
75.0% ""Talent itself is unpredictable: some writers flower in their youth, like Rimbaud, with A Season in Hell, and some come into ripeness when they are older, like Harriet Doerr, who published Stones for Ibarra, her first novel, when she was in her early seventies. And talent without skills and discipline is finally useless.""
03/29/2012 page 232
77.0% ""I have in mind George Eliot’s words in her prelude to Middlemarch: “Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant ac- tion; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a cer- tain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity.” I want Mary Ann to be this failed Saint Theresa...""
03/29/2012 page 251
84.0% ""But of course, Father Doby is not in the parish priest league; he is a lawyer, a church lawyer, which is pressure enough when you consider that his only client is God.""
03/29/2012 page 251
84.0% ""Since early adulthood, whenever I’ve caught myself on the verge of really disliking someone, I try this exercise: I imagine the hateful person as some mother’s child. That is the phrase, He is his mother’s son or her mother’s daughter. I try to see the meanness or sarcasm or pushiness in the light of that understanding. The exercise doesn’t always work. ""
03/29/2012 page 251
84.0% "'in the name of the novel' - not enjoying this story much. she has interesting vignettes, i like reading about her own life, but generally not a big fan of her writing style as shown in these stories."
03/29/2012 page 263
88.0% ""As much as I can break down the process of writing sto- ries, I would say that this is how it begins. I find a detail or image or character or incident or cluster of events. A cer- tain luminosity surrounds them. I find myself attracted. I come forward. I pick it up, turn it around, begin to ask questions, and spend hours and weeks and months and years trying to answer them.""
03/29/2012 page 276
92.0% ""But so much does depend on seeing a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild- flower. Maybe we are here only to say: house, bridge, as- pergill, gingham, calico, gauze. “But to say them,” as Rilke said, “remember oh, to say them in a way that the things themselves never dreamed of existing so intensely.”"
03/29/2012 page 278
93.0% ""The telling of the story decreases our sense of isolation.""
03/29/2012 page 278
93.0% ""We need to tell, and we also want to know (don’t we?) the secret heart of each other’s lives. Why are we so ashamed of this? Perhaps that is why we love good novels and poems — because we can enter, without shame or without encounter- ing defensiveness or embarrassment, the intimate lives of other people.""
03/29/2012 page 280
93.0% "" But precisely because it is a way of life, not just a job, the writing life can be difficult to combine with other lives that require that same kind of passion and commitment — the teaching life, the family life, the parenting life, and so on. And since we writers tend to be intense people, what- ever other lives we combine with our writing life, we will want to live them intensely, too. ""
03/29/2012 page 281
94.0% ""I keep juggling, picking up one life and another and another, putting aside the writing from time to time. We only have one life, after all, and we have got to live so many lives with it. (Another reason why the writing life ap- peals so much is that you can be, at least on paper, all those selves whose lives you can’t possibly live out in the one life you’ve got.)""
03/29/2012 page 282
94.0% ""And if we are committed to our writing, even if there are what seem impossibly long periods in which we have to put the writing aside in a concerted, fo- cused way while we get our moneymaking careers started or while we raise our very young children, the way we lead our lives can make them lives-in-waiting to be writing lives.""
03/29/2012 page 284
95.0% "" I don’t always know where I am headed in my writing at the end of the workday, but after I run, I usually have one or two good ideas. Running helps me work out glitches in my writing and gives me all kinds of unexpected insights." -- reminds me of biking on the towpath."
03/29/2012 page 286
95.0% ""I consider this early-morning reading time a combina- tion of pleasure-reading time, when I read the works and au- thors I most love, and finger-exercise reading time, when I am tuning my own voice to the music of the English language as played by its best writers. That is why I avoid spending my early-morning reading time on magazines and fast-read books and how-to books and newspapers,..." --great advice."
03/29/2012 page 290
97.0% ""“Poetry is a way of thinking with one’s feelings,” Elizabeth Bishop wrote in a letter to May Swenson, and certainly writing seems to integrate parts of me that are usually at odds. As I write, I feel unaccountably whole; I disappear! That is the irony of this self-absorbed profession: the goal finally is to vanish.""
03/29/2012 page 292
97.0% "As Flannery O’Connor at- tested: “Every morning between 9 and 12, I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times, I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing: if an idea does come between 9 and 12, I am there ready for it.”"
03/30/2012 page 298
99.0% ""“At the moment we are drawn into language, we are as intensely alive as we can be; we create and are created,” N. Scott Momaday, the Native American author, claims in his book The Man Made of Words.""
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