Past Squares 7: A Look Back at This Kickass Reading Year (2021)

This is also today’s post for Life of B’s Past Squares!

Alas, Young Adolf

If that doesn’t just take the cake. Hitler, a very gauche bumpkin, moves to Vienna with inflated hopes. The last thing self expected to happen was to actually empathize with his frustration!

In the last post (before this one), a dim assessment of Adolf’s artistic talent was delivered by his (only) friend Gustl Kubizek, who ends up accompanying him to Vienna. Little does Kubizek know that Adolf is harboring a deep, dark secret:

Hitler still harbored the secret of his failed exam and pretended to attend the academy each day, a bizarre situation made worse by Kubizek’s easy acceptance to the Conservatoire to study music.

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, p. 70

Could Hitler possibly have been driven mad by his rejection by the Academy of Fine Arts (Only 28 of the 113 applicants who took the entrance exam with Hitler were accepted), his disappointment exacerbated by the death of his beloved mother (and only ally) two months before? When “Hitler launched a tirade,” Kubizek “had to go into bed. He would lie there as Adolf ranted and cried and gesticulated, and if Kubizek fell asleep Hitler would shake him awake to shout at him some more.”

And then, Hitler ghosted him: Kubizek returned to his hometown after the end of term. This Kubizek must have been a very mild fellow, because when he returned to Vienna, he still expected to share the room with Hitler but “he found that Hitler had cleared out, leaving no explanation or forwarding address.”

The next section is about Hitler’s “sexual frustrations” and fear of women. At this point, self thinks Kubizek should be earnestly thankful that he is no longer rooming with Hitler although, poor man, all Kubizek feels at the moment is disappointment and abandonment.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Adolf Hitler, Aspiring Artist

“The rapid catching of an atmosphere, of a certain mood, which is so typical of a water color and which, with its delicate touch, imparts to it freshness and liveliness — this was missing completely in Adolf’s work,” a friend named Kubizek recalled.

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, p. 67

I suppose you couldn’t really call Kubizek a friend, since in reality Hitler had no friends. But Kubizek did get close enough to be shown examples of Hitler’s art.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Yes, I am Schizophrenic. I Also Make Art.

Hans Prinzhorn begins his amazing collection, gathered from inmates in mental asylums all over Germany, in the decade immediately following World War I:

Around three-quarters of Prinzhorn’s artist-patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The rest shared a range of conditions from “manic-depressive” to “paralytic,” “imbecile,” and “epileptic.” Though more than half of the patients living in German asylums were female, fewer than 20 percent of the works Prinzhorn received were by women, a reflection both of their status in society and of a narrow definition of art, which excluded many traditional female handicrafts. An exception to this trend was Agnes Richter’s jacket. Richter, a Dresden seamstress, had been committed in 1893 after being arrested for disturbing the piece. In the asylum at Hubertusberg, she began work on an institutional garment made of gray linen, re-stitching the arms on backward, and embroidering it all over with expressions of her plight. “I am not big,” read one; others spelled out “my jacket,” “I am,” “I have,” “I miss today,” and “you do not have to. Her asylum laundry number, 583, appeared again and again. The writing was mainly stitched to the inside, where it would have lain next to her body — an attempt to reinforce her sense of self, perhaps, in a place where that was easily lost. The jacket was Richter’s only item in the collection.

— p. 23, The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, by Charlie English

If you want to know exactly what this jacket looked like, author @CharlieEnglish1 (the author himself) tweeted a picture of it on Sept. 10.

Before & After: Stories from New York, Edited by Thomas Beller

This anthology was required reading in son’s high school English.

The front cover:

The back cover:

Jon Steingrimsson: Diary of an Eruption

Self makes the acquaintance of Steingrimsson on p. 92 of How Iceland Changed the World. Indeed, she continues to find this “big history of a small island” by Egill Bjarnason (a graduate of UC Santa Cruz!) beguiling and captivating.

Jon published an autobiography called, simply, The Biography, “which is today considered a milestone description of one of the largest volcanic eruptions of modern times. This was the massive 1783 eruption that threw the Northern Hemisphere’s climate into chaos for years. Jon was so naive, sincere, and fatalistic that he stayed at his farm under the shadow of the spewing volcano from start to finish, while most others fled or died. He described what happened in honest diary entries, convinced in his heart that it was all because people of the area used tobacco and drank so heavily.”

When historians today say that the Laki eruption began on June 8, 1783, what they really mean is that in Jon Steingrimsson’s diary, June 8 is the day when “dust” first fell from the sky, as if someone were burning charcoal nearby. The following night, his bed shook from small earthquakes. Soon it was raining sand.

How Iceland Changed the World, pp. 92 – 93

Of course Jon survived! How else would we have known about his diary?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Not the Marvel Universe Thor

Thor, the eldest son of the all-knowing Odin, creates lightning bolts and thunder as he flies through the sky on a chariot pulled by two goats. While traveling away from the home, he can slaughter the goats at night for a meal and then bring them back to life the next morning by pointing his trademark hammer at their bones. He lives in a palace with 540 rooms. He owns gloves made of iron. At one point, while fighting the Midgard Serpent, he drinks from the ocean to slake his thirst, chugging so much that the seas shrink. Later, the Midgard Serpent turns itself into a giant cat, which Thor, of course, defeats.

How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island, p. 57

This is a most fascinating book. It is a little hard to focus on sections to quote, because every page takes unexpected and unpredictable turns. First we’re talking about hot springs and then Norse gods. Thankfully, the sentences are not very long (Self doesn’t know why she expected the sentences to be long; she expected this to be a translation from the Icelandic but apparently it was written in English, and the author is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day, 2nd to Last Sunday of August 2021

At sea, when every day is an endless set of twists and risks, two months is a long time.

How Iceland Changed the World, by Egill Bjarnason, Introduction

Bjarnason is a very beguiling storyteller.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 161: FEET AND SHOES

Wow, this is such an interesting challenge. FEET AND SHOES! Self hasn’t taken any pictures of feet and shoes lately, has she?

Nevertheless, she obligingly starts going through her archives and here is what she found:

Wednesday Music Concert, Stafford Park, Redwood City

Instead of a Picnic Blanket, Banig (Woven Mat from the Philippines)!

One of her Favorite Reads, So Far 2021

Six Word Saturday: To Read, Last Days of Summer

Posting this for Travel With Intent’s Six Word Saturday challenge!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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