Friday, January 30, 2009

One-Story Writer, Plus A Side of Lemongrass Fries

I forgot to tell you about my lovely day. It happened two weeks ago, but never mind: it was still lovely, and it happened to coincide with some balmy weather. I was to have lunch with my cousin, whose work is situated on a Richmond District avenue that, in turn, is tucked conveniently between las avenidas Clement y Geary.

Clement St., as you know, means only one thing to me: Green Apple Books. Because lunch was scheduled for noon, I arrived promptly on the bookstore doorstep at 10:00 am. I have already rhapsodized several times about the store itself, so I will just tell you that I found many new books to consume, yes, but I also found a magnficent used copy of a super fat—like 900 pages FAT!—story collection published 20 years ago in the UK, edited by Alberto Manguel (whose A History of Reading I enjoyed so much), and titled White Fire: Further Fantastic Literature.

I read the first story, "The Child Who Believed," which was written by Grace Amundson, first published in 1950, and (no surprise) wonderful. Broadly speaking, it's about parents, children, and the power of imagination. Specifically, it's about an old and unglamorous magician who dies in the arms of a morose little girl, but not before he succeeds in transferring to her the ability to perform the "bubble trick." It turns out the little girl is the "first woman in the royal line of custodians." Oh, and the trick? It involves reproducing live miniature enactments of history inside...bubbles. BUBBLES!

But not only that. When I went back to read Manguel's introduction to the story, he says that it's the only work he's been able to find by the "mysterious" Amundson. Sure enough, I googled her name, and the only mention I found of it was in reference to this anthology.

Maybe it's the only story she ever wrote. Maybe she wrote and wrote and wrote, but no one ever wanted to publish another word. Maybe she died and her coffin is lined with rejection letters. Or maybe there's an undiscovered box filled with manuscripts. There was a fire, a flood, a trip to the town dump. But it's sort of okay. Because if all Grace Admundson left behind was this one story, then she's way ahead of most of us.

Now, about lunch: we ate at Pho Tudo, where we shared a plate of lemongrass french fries served with some sort of aioli-ish thing made with Sriracha. Do I even have to tell you? You need to go there. Then I had garlic noodles with four plump, buttery, grilled prawns lolling about on top. Go there.

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