Quote of the Day: Alice Gregory

From Gregory’s review in The New York Review of Books of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan (August 13, 2015):

  • This capacity for geographical familiarity — knowing exactly where the neighbor’s fence warps slightly — is a visceral kind of knowledge, gained organically, and it atrophies as we age. Learning a place by heart is a luxury rarely afforded to adults, and unless absolutely forced to, one seldom even notices that the ability has been lost.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“The Mystery of ISIS” by Anonymous

The New York Review of Books, 13 August 2015

Self is not kidding: for the first time ever in her many years of reading The New York Review of Books, there is a piece whose writer is identified only as “Anonymous.”

It’s a review of two new (well, relatively new; the issue self is reading is a year old) books about the rise of Islamic State aka IS/ISIS/ISIL/Army of the Levant and its founder, Ahmad Fadhil aka Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan (Regan Arts) and ISIS: The State of Terror, by Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger (Ecco)

The reviewer asks:

  • “Who (in 2003) could have imagined that a movement founded by a man from a video store in provincial Jordan would tear off a third of the territory of Syria and Iraq, shatter all these historical institutions, and — defeating the combined militaries of a dozen of the wealthiest countries on earth — create a mini-empire? The story is relatively easy to narrate, but much more difficult to understand.”

The piece is very long and dense with information. Among its many references is one to Lawrence of Arabia (who said “. . . insurgents must be like a mist — everywhere and nowhere — never trying to hold ground or wasting lives in battles with regular armies.”) and another to Chairman Mao (who insisted that “guerrillas should be fish” swimming “in the sea of the local population”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Beautiful Passage

This is from Essay # 3 of The Lonely City, a collection of essays which so far are all about New York, and the special loneliness of being lonely in a city of so many millions of people (Self actually appreciates that kind of loneliness; she loves the angst of it).

Self took the picture below last spring. She was looking across Park Avenue from a building on the east side:

DSCN0133

Sunset, Manhattan: May 2016

On East 9th Street there was a café that looked out over a community garden planted with an enormous weeping willow. It was populated almost exclusively by people gazing into the glowing clamshells of their laptops and so it seemed a safe place, in which my solitary status was unlikely to be exposed.

— “My Heart Opens to Your Voice,” Essay # 3 in Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Edward Hopper, Jo Hopper, and the Whitney Museum

This passage is too sad. Jo Hopper, Edward Hopper’s wife, was a painter. But she painted very little after she married (She was 41, Edward was almost 42).

. . .  it is almost impossible to form a judgement of Jo Hopper’s work, since so little of it has survived. Edward left everything to his wife, asking that she bequeath his art to the Whitney, the institution with which he’d had the closest ties. After his death, she donated both his and the majority of her own artistic estates to the museum, even though she’d felt from the moment of her marriage that she’d been a victim of a boycott by the curators there. Her disquiet was not unwarranted. After her death, the Whitney discarded all her paintings, perhaps because of their calibre and perhaps because of the systematic undervaluing of women’s art against which she’d railed so bitterly in her own life.

— “Walls of Glass,” Essay # 2 in Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

 

 

THE LONELY CITY: Another Chapter

I didn’t stay in Brooklyn long. The friend whose apartment I was staying in came back from L.A. and I moved to the green walk-up in the East Village. The change in habitat marked another phase of loneliness; a period in which speech became an increasingly perilous endeavour.

— Olivia Laing, “My Heart Opens to Your Voice,” Essay # 3 of The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

This is really a lovely book.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE LONELY CITY: Edward Hopper

The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing, is a work of nonfiction.

It’s a collection of essays about lonely people.

Self’s on Essay # 2, “Walls of Glass,” which delves into the work of painter Edward Hopper and one painting in particular, Nighthawks, which can be seen at the Whitney (one of self’s favorite New York museums).

The painting is something the author returns to, again and again, during a lonely fall. She followed a lover to New York and it didn’t work out. Something about Hopper’s painting resonates with her.

Self decided to throw in a photograph of her own. It documents her enduring fascination with windows, her fascination with glimpses of other lives. Photo after the excerpt:

All photographs are silent, but some are more silent than others, and these portraits attest to what was by all accounts Hopper’s most striking feature, his gigantic resistance to speech. It’s a different thing from quietness, silence; more powerful, more aggressive. In his interviews, it functions as a barrier, preventing the interviewer from opening him up or putting words into his mouth. When he does speak, it’s often simply to deflect the question. “I don’t remember,” he says frequently, or “I don’t know why I did that.” He regularly uses the word unconscious, as a way of evading or disclaiming whatever meaning the interviewer believes to be seeping from his pictures.

DSCN9629

Windows are portals. When self looks through a window — any window — her imagination takes flight.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

X-Men: Apocalypse and the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum

Self took this post down for a while but then she decided to put it back up because she just went and saw X-Men: Apocalypse for the second time and — Evan Peters, hell yeah!

BTW, the movie improves on repeat viewing. But why Mystique keeps carrying a torch for Magneto is really, really frustrating. Every time she talks about him, with tears in her eyes — aaargh! That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to have Quicksilver around: imagine, a man who feels no subliminal attraction for any of the female characters, whatsoever!

Below, her original post:

_____________________________

About a week ago, in London, self walked all the way to Shaftesbury Avenue after spending three hours in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum just to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in the Odeon in Covent Garden.

She also thought it would be a good excuse to check out the Covent Garden area. See? Like killing two birds with one stone.

That turned out to be an excellent idea. Because the movie began with — ancient Egypt! Some dude was harnessing the power of the sacred pyramids — or something — to give himself eternal life! Of course, self had no idea that Egyptian leatherface was actually the beautiful Oscar Isaac.

Anyhoo, watching the movie was like entering a zone, where everything happening had a connection to ancient Egypt (mind-blowing, right?). Of course, it also reminded her — when all the Egyptian stuff was done — that there was an actor named Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver.

Honest-to-God, how could she have forgotten this guy? She loved his scene from the earlier X-men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, so much. But there were just so many X-Men crowding her thoughts, not to mention James McAvoy. In almost every scene. James McAvoy. And there was Nightcrawler. And the Archangel. And Jean Grey (looking exactly like Sansa Stark; self almost expected Littlefinger or Ramsay Bolton to put in an appearance). Not to mention Fassbender emoting and singing to his daughter. And J-Law being very capricious about when she wanted to be blue or not. So, finally. EVAN PETERS! She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was so happy to see him again.

Anyhoo, the point of all this. The point of all this is that she also has a short story that involves Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appeared in a fabulous magazine called Isotope, and was edited by Chris Cokinos. Isotope was a magazine that featured both science writing and  creative writing. Self’s essay, “The Lost Language,” appeared in Isotope in 2007. A year or two later, it went defunct. And now, nobody can read that story anymore! WAAAAH! (She does have extra copies of the particular issue with her essay. It’s back in her house in Redwood City, CA. Which is a long way away — across an ocean, in fact. Across a continent, even — from where self is currently: Oxford, UK. But if anyone wants to get a copy, she can promise that, as soon as she arrives back in California, she will get her hands on those issues and mail it to whoever wants one. Because it seems such a terrible waste to keep those issues mouldering in her closet, taking up space and being useless)

Here’s how it begins:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The rest of the essay is very digressive and is actually pretty funny. There was a time when all of self’s short stories were so filled with angst and pain that she actually rejoiced when she wrote “The Lost Language.” At last! She was capable of showing a little more range!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: “Taka ti e pisano”

The quote for today is not from Daoud’s novel. Instead, it’s from an article in the November/December Poets & Writers magazine. That issue focused on translation (Which, since most of the books self reads are translations, like the Daoud, like the Candide she just finished reading), which is a topic that fascinates her.

The quote above is from the Bulgarian, and it means “That’s what is written for you.”

The author of the article, Angela Rodel, asks herself, How did I become a translator of Bulgarian literature?

She begins her piece with a wonderful quote from Mexican writer and translator Reynol Vazquez:

There are many sophisticated ways of starving yourself to death and being a translator from Bulgarian is one of them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Found You, William Harvey

Self looked him up last Fall, when she was wandering around the East Coast.

She didn’t even know his name, then.

All she knew was that, in the days following 9/11, she was stuck on Salon.com, reading anything and everything.

And there was a piece titled:

Juilliard Student Plays the Concert of His Life

Maybe that’s not the exact title, but that was the gist.

It was first-person. The writer was a freshman at Juilliard when 9/11 happened. He didn’t even have to think twice: he grabbed his violin, headed downtown. And then, he played in the Armory. Hours and hours. Until his fingers bled (? She thinks, anyway). And Juilliard sent its students to keep the music going. The students literally played until they couldn’t lift their arms anymore. Firemen were standing there, weeping. Exhausted and weeping.

Salon.com is still around (Thank goodness. It has introduced self to so many good writers) From time to time, self will do an archive search on Salon.com, but she never found the original posting. But, by dint of patient digging and Google, she found the student’s name. And she found his website. She found that the Armory concert was only the first of many good acts he was to do.

His latest project? He is “traveling to all 50 states in 2016, asking What is American culture?

Read his blog so you can follow him along. There’s still a lot of 2016 left!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Letters Editor Robert Stewart, Vol. 82 No. 1

In Stewart’s prefatory essay to New Letters Issue 82.1, “Peace,” self was struck by this paragraph:

I still believe that New Letters, a journal of writing and art, cannot isolate itself from global events; but I am not inclined simply to repeat the same issuances of grief. The song says, “Let there be peace on earth/ and let it begin with me.” Yes, I was raised to embrace peace, to turn the other cheek, but such a gentle manner doesn’t always take with me. After the November 2015 massacres in Paris, I had the ridiculous wish that I could re-enlist — just go get ’em. Ridiculous.

“If we have no peace,” wrote Mother Teresa in a prayer reflection, “it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,023 other followers