Blue Five Notebook – (October 2014 / 14.19)

Originally posted on Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series:

Blue Five Notebook – (October 2014 / 14.19)

Crows in the Woods
Artist, Robin Grotke, is an artist and photographer living in southeastern North Carolina. Her inspiration is drawn from nature, people and cultures, emotions and humor, new life and decay, present moments and distant memories. Grotke’s work focuses on the sensation of “being there,” taking the viewer to the location of the photograph so that he/she feels as she did when the image was taken. Of the art included in this month’s issue, Grotke tells us: “‘Crows in the Woods'” is a combination of a scanned drawing (duplicated), layered over a picture I took at Fort Fisher, NC.”


Ann Yu Huang


For there are warm words in each doorstep;
There is syrup of bread that feeds on the seasons,
Those ever tucked-in tuberoses; the ground
We dig into until the green pastures change;
A torch with few fireflies to extinguish

View original 2,634 more words


8 October 2014: lunar eclipse. These types of eclipses are typically about endings. This past Wednesday morning the moon turned an ominous shade of red as the earth passed between it and the sun. The change that the Oct. 8 lunar eclipse brought, although shocking or difficult, was good even though it may not have appeared to be so at first…Something came to an ending or a culmination. Eclipses are non-negotiable. They end something and they bring something else. Whatever was ‘eclipsed’ out actually needed to end…There’s a shock factor first, and then a solution that turns out to be so good, you realize it turns out to be a blessing.


ELLE’s ‘Women in Hollywood’

Jennifer Garner is another Elle cover gal for  November. 

The last few days haven’t been great. Yesterday it crossed my mind that I should retire this blog entirely. I also briefly entertained giving up writing, leaving Germany and moving to the UK. Obviously my mind has gone in a number of weird directions, probably none of them good. In need of distraction I went to see the David Fincher movie ‘Gone Girl’ at the Cine Star in Potsdamer Platz. It was flawed but there were some elements which worked. The unreliable narration was fairly strong. At a certain point I couldn’t trust the characters telling the story, particularly ‘Amy’ played by Rosamund Pike. I’m posting an image of ELLE’s newest ‘Women in Hollywood’ issue featuring Jennifer Garner. I’m doing so because I like what she said recently about her aversion to social media. I’ve never seen her on film but I like the fact that she seems to be, at least within the context of Hollywood standards, ‘normal’.



6 Things to Do in Your 20s and 30s, According to Penelope Trunk

I’m blogging again today which is pretty unexpected. I rarely blog three days in a row.

I opened my email this morning and discovered a Penelope Trunk update. I decided to write about it. I’m synopsizing one of her blogs and have included the link below.

I’m not in my twenties. I’m not in my thirties, so why did I even read this piece? I read it because I’ve always known my ‘schedule’, my American achievement life schedule is way off. Americans, the ambitious, career-oriented ones, are always trying to set life goals and occasionally even employ trendy people like life ‘life coaches’. Especially if they live on the west coast or very specifically, California.

As I said, my life schedule is pretty off center. I didn’t meet the ‘perfect’ guy in my late twenties and marry him. I got married in my thirties. And the guy I married wasn’t ‘perfect’ but then again neither was I. As for career stuff, I spent my twenties working for an educational organization, did social service work and when I could, I traveled. But what I really wanted to do was figure out a way to be a professional writer. In my mid-twenties, I got into film and dabbled in screenwriting. I got lucky meeting people. See:’ How I Got Here':

I spent a bit of time in the Caribbean working, mainly in Haiti. I tried my hand at teaching English which got me to Europe. Then I went to graduate school to get an MFA in Creative Writing. After graduate school I became a magazine editor, another job which came via a continental leap, this time to Southeast Asia. I didn’t follow any of the ridiculously savvy Penelope Trunk’s rules for success. Maybe I should have. Here are her tips: ‘6 Things to Do in Your 20s and 30s’

1) Build a career that enables you to work from home.

This is what I’m still trying to do. My last two editorial positions were ones I worked freelance. In my personal timeline, I imagined by 40, I’d have one child and be working, i.e., writing from an apartment in a city I loved. I’m half-way there.

2) Women, freeze your embryos, (i.e., think about getting pregnant).

Nope. Never did this. I never even considered it. According to Ms. Trunk, I should have been thinking about this 10-15 years ago. What was I thinking about 10-15 years ago? I was trying to figure out how not to get pregnant.

3) Build muscle.

Penelope qualifies this as weight-lifting. I ran on-and-off throughout my twenties. I didn’t begin to lift weights until I was 28. I had a brief spell with a personal trainer named Joey. I just started lifting light weights again a month ago and still use the techniques Joey taught me.

4) Go visit your siblings.

My cousin, Nicholas, (pictured below) Diana’s father. (For those of you new to this blog see: dee-AH-na: ). He’s here in Germany with his wife and during the early part of his childhood, we grew-up together. He’s like a little brother. It’s my plan to see him and his family as often as I can.


Nicholas mit Diana


5) Don’t stress about relocation.

Um, I did this continuously. I had to. My life and luck improved exponentially when I was outside of the U.S. My career got better. I met more interesting people, was exposed to different cultures and each time I returned to the States after prolonged amounts of time spent in Europe, Africa or Asia, even the Caribbean, I was always infinitely more impressive than I had been before I left the US. I stressed a lot about where to go next and how to get there. Clearly, I disagree with Penelope on this one but everyone is different. Blueprints aren’t for everyone but it’s always nice to examine other peoples which is why I penned this blog to begin with.

6) Your twenties are not practice time. It’s your life.

“Focus on using a systematic way to try new jobs and new relationships to figure where you fit.” Okay. Yes, I did this. I don’t know how ‘systematic’ I was but I certainly tried a great deal as regards work, geography and too relationships. I wouldn’t want to go back to my twenties. Far too much insecurity then. My thirties were spent dealing with so much which seemed absolutely beyond my control that I was totally ill-equipped to deal with. My forties, on the other hand, are far more manageable.

Here is the link to Penelope Trunk’s full article here:





6 October 2014

With Billy’s niece, Carla during Berlinale week, 2014.

Reprehensible: deserving of reproof, rebuke, censure.

Seven and a half minutes. This is my new mile time. This afternoon I ran 6.5 miles in 49 minutes. A record for me. I returned to the apartment in a totally excited state and went through a bunch of photographs. My grandmother will be reading this blog soon and would like to see more pictures. The above was taken back in February.

My apartment search in Hamburg turned up one new lead. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a dead end. Eva’s old apartment might not be available until later than I expected. Thus I’m still searching. In the meantime, I’m trying to drum up some new fiction but I’m not terribly inspired at the moment. I could write some new memoir. My mother told me a funny story a while back. She said that even at two years old, I was somehow convinced I didn’t belong with them, my parents, my family. Though I’m quite sure I loved them endlessly. After all what two year old doesn’t love their parents? My mother says every day the mailman arrived, I would run over, grab his hand, wave goodbye to my mother and try to leave with him. It didn’t matter which mailman showed up. I wasn’t discriminatory. I wonder if I my two-year-old self believed the mailman’s ultimate destination was a European one?

Given my last post, (Alice Smith), people who read this blog may wonder if all I listen to are torturous love songs. This isn’t the case. But much of what I listen to isn’t postable. The lyrics are reprehensible. If I posted them here, no one would take me seriously as a writer. Oh, well. Music to dance to.


Live in Philadelphia

Alice Smith.

Alice Smith. You grew-up on a farm in Georgia. You generally wear geeky-looking glasses in your interviews. When asked why you became a singer, you once said you didn’t know what else to do, you weren’t the office type and for years wore jeans and t-shirts during your concerts, and looked like you just rolled out of bed. You didn’t seem like you wanted to be famous. You’re (finally) kind of famous now.

For all these things, my love.


Five Unreliable Narrators in Fiction

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in the 2012 film version of ‘The Great Gatsby’


It’s Friday evening and I’m thinking about unreliable narrators. This due to the fact that I’m rehashing the development of Sautin’s character – and the story he ultimately tells of Sophie, his relationship with her, and his subsequent imprisonment. I’m doing some research on literary unreliable narrators, then I’ll move on to these types of narrators within the context of cinema. ‘Citizen Kane’ is one of the most famous films featuring such. I expect I’ll be blogging on that at a later date.

As for life developments, I believe I’ve found a place in Hamburg. It’s Eva’s old apartment and will be available sometime after the first of the year. I have yet to see it. It’s modest, which befits me. She’s currently filling me in on the quarter it’s located in. Eva lived there for seventeen years. This was before she moved to Berlin. Clearly nothing is established but I’m searching around and have some ideas I feel good about.

I ran today, decreased my mile time by a minute and twenty seconds. But only managed to run four miles. Billy and Ben stopped by and wanted to go to dinner tonight. I begged off and stayed home. At the moment, I’m watching a film on Wallis Simpson; it’s not very good. Onto unreliable narrators, here are some of the most famous ones in contemporary literature.

Humbert Humbert in Lolita

Lolita presents one of the great literary examples of the ‘unreliable narrator’. This technique is employed so well that readers even question Nabokov’s own character, believing he perhaps shared Humbert’s predilection for “nymphets,” which prompted him to write an afterword to express the array of misconceptions. Just as Humbert claims he toyed with the nurses and doctors when he was institutionalized, he toys with us and makes a good and convincing argument for our sympathies. His deluded character peeking through his lyrical narration. Others readers interpret Humbert as unflinchingly honest narrator who never denies his reprehensible actions.

The unnamed narrator in Fight Club

The unnamed narrator in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is wading through a horrid episode of insomnia, deep depression, and existential haze, which causes the reader to almost instantly question his view of reality. Our suspicions only deepen when he joins an underground fight club as a form of therapy, a cult-like group that participates in terrorist-like activities. We’re left wondering about his moral leanings. Later, the novel’s culmination makes us question everything we’ve been told.

Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald’s book isn’t a clear-cut case of the narrator not knowing more than the reader. Nick Carraway, the neighbor of mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, only knows what the aloof Gatsby reveals to him which isn’t much and the second-hand stories of other characters, including his “incurably dishonest” girlfriend, Jordan. All the while, Carraway expresses wishful thinking and claims responsibility for potential inaccuracies at various points in the book. He also claims he’s “inclined to reserve judgments” against the other characters, then proceeds to judge them stringently. Nick’s moral conflict increasingly vexes him, which also alters his judgment.

Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye

One of my favorites. J. D. Salinger’s fantastically cynical teenage narrator, who admits he’s “the most terrific liar you ever saw” at the beginning of the novel. His opinions about the world seem skewed by adolescent angst (he’s a precocious, albeit totally charming protagonist with an immature streak), but Salinger makes us question Caulfield’s stability at the novel’s conclusion.

The many narrators of House of Leaves

The multiple narrators of Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel present a trail of imaginary footnotes and conflicting information. It is most difficult to sift through, though terribly entertaining. His characters fearlessly admit their unreliability and then mock us for trusting them. The tale isn’t just labyrinthine in content, but also in structure.

More later.



More on Sautin and Sophie

The following is another excerpt from my novel, newly entitled ALWAYS AT THE END WHERE THINGS BEGIN. This piece is taken from the epilogue of the novel. I wrote it from the perspective of  Dominic Laird, the journalist investigating the circumstances of Sophie Rowe’s death. The epilogue is scripted as a piece of narrative journalism. I was inspired journalists like Ned Zeman and Nancy Jo Sales. Each of the writers pen pieces regularly for ‘Vanity Fair’. For more on the story and the development of the epilogue, see: I’ll be returning to this blog over the weekend for more updates.


I flew to Europe to meet Anton Sautin in Germany. After the arrest and subsequent publicity, the developer left Southeast Asia, and retreated to his home overlooking the river Elbe in Hamburg. He was initially the only person who would not agree to be interviewed for this story. It took more than five weeks of emails and phone calls to get him to agree to make any comment at all. On the advice of his lawyers, he kept insisting he would have to decline participation. The story of Rowe’s murky death, and her long relationship with the elusive and wealthy developer had lent an air of intrigue to the case. Others in the media wanted to talk to Sautin – but he stuck to his convictions, and spoke to no one. I finally managed to secure an interview with him only once he understood that I had spent five days in Hanoi with a very candid Vincent Lee.

If Lee’s world is a cluttered, manic remembrance of Sophie Rowe, Anton Sautin’s world is curiously absent of her. Upon my arrival in Hamburg, the contrast between the two men is clear. If Lee surfaces as a dark-haired iconoclast with an easy charm, Sautin, flaxen-haired, standing well over six feet, is a model of convention. He greets me at the door of his home with a perfunctory handshake and then escorts me down the hallway of a sprawling blonde wood house. Lee’s studio is chaos and color. Sautin’s home is order and an absence of color. Nearly everything is white or beige. In his spartan dwelling, there are no sounds of music, only the delicate hum of a carpet shampooer that a sturdy-looking cleaning woman runs over a Turkish rug, spanning the enormous living room floor. Sautin and Lee are obvious world’s apart. I can scarcely imagine the two in the same room together. Sautin’s extremities are large. As such, he does not come over as threatening but he does strike me, with his icy eyes and chiseled, broad-lined face, as a man one might think twice about crossing.