Friday, February 28, 2003

Now for some refreshing good reading. This incident from Isabel Allende in Eva Luna that has me feeling 'wow' for hours. In a small village in the desert the poor village is shadowed by a mysterious house on a hill covered by mango trees. The owner doesn't talk to anyone and gets very angry when children steal mangoes off the tree. One day he shot a young boy and killed him. This is the reaction of the village people (they bring wheelbarrows full of mangoes), led by Riad Halabi, one of many people who adopts Eva:

" The crowd advanced in silence, surrounded the house, broke windows and doors, and emptied their load inside. They went back for more. All day they hauled mangoes, until there was none left on the trees and the house was filled to the rooftop. The juicy fruit burst open, soaking the walls and running across the floor. At nightfall, when the harvesters had returned home, the criminal crept from the water into his car and escaped, never to return."

The house turned into a saucepan and burst leaving the village smelling of marmalade for months.
I got a reply from Waterstone's today with a book voucher for £20!

The letter of course was rubbish, about how she was going to investigate and punish those involved.

I immediately went into HMV and bought two CDs. I feel obliged to write another letter to Waterstone's explaining my actions but as far as I can swear / guarantee / make an oath, I will never set foot in Waterstone's again.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Good news! I got an email today from Sussex Academic Press and they told me that 'The Human Phenomenon' will be available in paperback at the end of the year.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Even though it costs £50 you should read this review of the new Teilhard translation:

"When first published, Teilhard de Chardin's seminal work attracted worldwide attention and immediately became a bestseller, but few realized then how many mistakes the first translation contained. Sarah Appleton-Weber has done us a great service by providing a much more exact, more coherent and more poetic text based on many years of meticulous research. This fresh translation invites readers to enter and share Teilhard's powerful vision of science and religion, of the direction and meaning of life." Professor Ursula King, University of Bristol, author of Spirit of Fire: The Life and Vision of Teilhard de Chardin
I am waging war with Waterstones. A friend once told me it was becoming a book supermarket and I agree only you get better customer service at Sainsbury's. I am tired of the staff being grumpy and unfriendly. This came to a head on friday when I was sent on a wild goose chase for a book, then told the guy had lied and the book was upstairs. I wrote a savage letter and hand delivered it on Friday. I feel totally justified in writing an angry letter because the staff are just unhelpful. If you ask about a book you must know the author and the title otherwise they don't know. Also I phoned up about a book and they told me it did not exist and I had the details in front of me on Amazon. I then gave her the ISBN to her total amazement, then she went away and never returned. I always thought Waterstones was the last resort, the last outpost of the bookshop empire but from now on I will go to Easons, if I have to and I will go Independent if I can but independent shops are a little bit too far to walk.
King Sihanouk's book is quite interesting, he has been talking about how he hated the USA after they tried to impose policies on him in return for letting them do what they want in his country. This sort of disgust at American imperialism is certainly not new and is still going on 30 years later.

I have exciting news- there is a new translation of Teilhard de Chardin's Human Phenomenon and I would not have discovered it if I had not stumbled across it on the web. Unfortunately it may be a few weeks before I can order it but the translator seems to be quite a cool lady who has studied four copies of the french text. I think a new translation is needed, it gets a 5 star review and the foreword is by Brian Swimme, a great guy. See for yourself at:

Also quite strangely it costs £50. Something I hadn't realised and has me very depressed!

Saturday, February 22, 2003

It has been quite a good week for reading, most of the week I was reading Eva Luna which is quite fascinating and rich, really full of energy. It hasn't been as 'magical' as I had thought, I was a bit scared everything would turn fantasy but in a similar way to 'News of a Kidnapping', it is the events that are strange and it is the enthusiasm of the young girl that gets her into lots of trouble. It is really centred on the people, what their lives are like and how their situation imposes pressures on them.

I also have a new fascinating book called 'My war with the CIA' by Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. It is interesting to note that he was deposed during a coup in 1970 and this book was written during that time and he was writing about the forces that were involved in his downfall and how he was going to get back in power. He is now King of Cambodia, after about 20 years he was re-instated.

At times the book is silly and I want to shout at him, for instance during the Vietnam war, his country was neutral and yet he allowed the Vietnamese troops to come over the border and hide in Cambodia which infuriated the US. Also he travelled to Russia and China to see if he could get military support from them and yet he still thought he could keep away from communism and keep his country Buddhist, that sounds a bit naive to me.

He didn't write it, it is 'related' to Wilfred Burchett, I find the idea of a King in exile quite interesting and I think it would be fun to meet a King, although they wouldn't move to the UK, they are more likely to move to France, or maybe Belgium.

I got another book yesterday, another obscure Penguin classic 'The romance of Tristan' by Beroul. Beroul seems to be a monk from the 12th century and we know absolutely nothing about him - fascinating.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

I didn't get much of a chance to read today, or yesterday.I spent most of today at a brass band concert! I don't understand why people think badly about brass bands, when you feel music vibrating through your body, it's electrifying and it doesn't matter what type, as long as it is live and in front of you.

Apologies for my rant yesterday, of course I enjoy reading the newspaper like any other person and of course, I am against the war. I feel sometimes that the quality in newspapers is low and that journalists take advantage of their position.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

The media is brainwashing you.

Don't let them get you!

Right, this is the time for one of my rants:

The media is brainwashing people!

I'm sorry but I am fed up with the medias agenda to force everyone to think the same way as them. It seems that the only things people read are newspapers and to me all newspapers are the same and all tv is the same. They pretend to make us think we are all brilliant for deciding to read and watch it and then they draw you in to their evil plan.

Why can't people make their own decisions? Decide for themselves, eat for themselves, think for themselves? All we hear on the news is how terrible this war is and guess what, there's going to be a demonstration tomorrow with lots of people repeating and discussing what they heard on tv or read in the newspapers.

Wise up.

Even literature suffers from this. The media cover all the awards and then tell people what they will enjoy and so, they read it. It doesn't matter if they don't enjoy it, they read it anyway.

Read what you enjoy.

When will people realise that celebrities and pop stars are normal people who earn a lot of money and are probably not very pleasant to know. Fame is totally arbitrary, well most of the time it is. If you are lucky enjoy it.

Think for yourself and explore something that obsesses you. Who cares what other people say?

By all means you don't have to go out and become a conspiracy theorist or join some crazy cult - just search for the thing that you want to do.

Friday, February 14, 2003

In 'Objections to Humanism' I was reading about the ethics of humanism and if it could be considered as a religion. I used to think that atheism or humanism could be classed as a religion because people who hold those views seem to have a certain zeal, similar to some religious people but this book would argue against that, saying it is up to individuals to determine their own metaphysics and it is up to us all as actors to take part in the world and fight evil, not to be purely intellectual spectators who live hedonist lives but never achieve anything. Some people have said that the French were inbred humanists and they were so liberal they could not admit that Nazism was evil.

I got two books from Isabel for Valentines day (she knows the way to my heart!), both by Isabel Allende 'Eva Luna' and 'House of the Spirits'. Quite good considering I finished 'News of a Kidnapping' last night - a truly wonderful book. Villamizar is vindicated in the end and even promised protection by Escobar. I must admit, I enjoyed that book very much.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

I spent a highly enjoyable 'evening time' meal on Monday reading Lucretius 'On the nature of the Universe' and nursing a rather large americano in the new 'Roast' cafe in town (Wellington Place). A myth claims Lucretius died after taking a love philtre and he wrote the book in the lucid periods of insanity.

I find this theory appealing, even though the translator disagrees, everyone needs the odd myth or two even it's just the old office party stories. It also shows that weakness to certain substances doesn't completely ruin your life.

I'm on the post this week so I haven't been able to do as much reading as normal - my apologies.

NB - miscellaneous note - have you noticed the status blog hasn't changed all week since I started this new blog?

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I attended a reading on Monday night 'In search of Fatima' by Khadi Gharmi. This was an incredible experience. It was also a highly fashionable political event as it appears Palestine is the popular issue of the day. Khadi explained how she had been forced out of Israel before the state was even official by warfare and had to move to London. Forcing people out of their homes is a nasty business and Khadi explained how her opinion is that the Iraq war is about Bush trying to protect Israel from Iraq. If this is true and I suspect it is, then I have to change my opinion on the war.

I should have known, you can never trust journalists. The news agenda seems to me to follow Blair or Bush and do your best to agree with them. Iam not convinced by the newspapers, her theory seems far more credible and it is a reason to protest against the war because Israel is an unjust state. I am sympathetic to Jews and Muslims, Jewish culture is exquisite with beautiful literature and a fascinating heritage but you cannot force people out of their homes.

I am still finishing 'News of a kidnapping', it is maybe a bit slow in finishing but I still can't wait to find out what happens to Pablo Escobar. I have resisted all attempts to look him up on the Internet. It is a story for today.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

I bought two books yeaterday in the new secondhand bookshop in North Street Arcade. 'Objections to Humanism' and a life of Teilhard De Chardin by Vernon Sproxton.

It is interesting to note that in the back of 'Objections to Humanism' they have a short blurn on the Penguin English Dictionary. I thought the New Penguin English Dictionary that I have (pub 2000) was the only edition and it does not even mention an earlier edition. I would have thought they would have been legally obliged to add details of an earlier version.

Also I went to my Mum's house today, where most of my books are and I brought over 'A multitude of Sins' by Richard Ford. I re-read rapidly the first story 'Privacy' which was incredibly good and I'm in the process of reading the second story. When I bough this book last year I did the same but stopped after the second story when he described a lady being killed in a car accident and then driving on. I thought this was shocking and it has scared me ever since so I thought I should read it again because any book that has that effect must be good. Actually the story doesn't seem to be as scary and I am enjoying it.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

One of the things Márquez captures is the idea that life is brutal and serious but also a game. When I went to Peru that seemed to be the attitude of most people.

Also Márquez seems determined to contrast the local traditions with the severity of the situation. The Antioquian area where Medellin is situated and where kidnappings are rampant and government corruption and massacres are huge is one the most well known for its hospitality and for the 'goodness' of its people. I did a search on the Internet and found the anthem for Antioquia, one that has extreme irony after reading a book about kidnapping:

Oh Liberty that perfumates
the mountains of my land
let my children breathe
your fragant scents!
Welcome to my new blog!

There are two main streams of thought to my reading at the moment. On the one hand I am fascinated by the Russian writers, almost any writer I have read seems to display a rigour and a thoughtful philosophy I have not experienced before.

I am also interested in Latin America. This week almost all my office reading has been from 'News of a Kidnapping' by Gabriel García Márquez.

This is the fictional account of a turbulent time when Pablo Escobar kidnapped several journalists and relatives of government ministers. I can describe exactly what happened with this book, I bought it about 5 years ago and started it but it was a little slow and I left it. Then I started to read it again this year and I saw how he described people with intricate detail and he he highlighted the absurdities of the situation - that government ministers are forced to negotiate with criminals to release their wives of their sister even though they are forbidden to give the perception that they are negotiating with them.

He describes people as real people twisted and tortured because they know what is right and also what they have to do to survive. Sometimes they are forced to compromise, both the criminals and the victims because they both have needs and to achieve their goals they have to work together. I still haven't finished it but I am relishing every moment with it.

There is a very funny moment in the book where Villamizar the unofficial negotiator decides he has to take the risk of finding Pablo Escobar:

"He took a cab from the airport to the Hotel Intercontinental, and some fiteen minutes later he was picked up by an Ochoa driver. He was an amiable, bantering twenty-year-old from Medellin who observed him for some time in the rearview mirror. At last he asked: "Are you scared?" Villamizar smiled at him in the mirror. "Don't worry Doctor," the boy continued. And added, with a good deal of irony: "nothing will happen to you while you're with us. How could you even think such a thing?"

I am still gripped with the situation, expecially as Ingrid Betancourt, a politician from Columbia with French connections who has just written a book was kidnapped last year and has not been released. The situation in Columbia seems terrifying, far worse than Belfast, in fact I feel lucky to be in Belfast.