Monday, April 21, 2003

Here is another quotation that I found today that can be contrasted with the Kingsley Martin quote:

this transformation of love is quite possible.
What paralyzes life is failure to believe
and failure to dare.
The day will come when,
after harnessing space,
the winds,
the tides,
and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love.
And, on that day, for the second time
in the history of the world,
we shall have discovered fire.

It is be Teilhard de Chardin from his 'Meditation'

Thursday, April 17, 2003

I was also reading A.N. Wilson's 'God's Funeral'. The chapter is about the poet Swinburne. It starts off describing this Victorian rebel, a drunkard, into flagellation, enthusiastic atheist. I was thinking 'what could possibly interest me about this guy?' and then I started to read his poetry. It is incredibly appealing, it has structure and it sounds good, even just reading it to yourself. Then he started talking about the poem 'Hertha' and I looked it up on the Internet and I found a very good poem. Of course it is opinionated but it is also very well written and in parts quite beautiful, I'm even considering learning parts of it off by heart.
The poem is something like an 'earth goddess' giving advice to people on earth. She is telling us how to live, what to do etc. and who she is and how to understand the earth. I particularly like the following stanza:

I the grain and the furrow,
The plough-cloven clod
And the ploughshare drawn thorough,
The germ and the sod,The deed and the doer, the seed and the sower, the dust which is God.

A.N. Wilson points out that this poem would seem to indicate that he was not a complete atheist and his campaign for the 'death of god' was perhaps tongue-in-cheek, this would seem to indicate a more mystical outlook, more intune with the 60s hipsters than 1860 victorians.
My reading of 'House of the spirits' today was a little bit disappointing. Yet again the male character has been turned into a nasty monster. This time not quite as bad as in Eva Luna because you know his history and he has had a traumatic past. Maybe it is useful to understand this aspect of the male character and maybe in latin america males deserve this kind of attention but I don't like repitition.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Despite being a stressful day I did manage to read some more of 'House of the Spirits'. Started thinking about the magical realism of other cultures. One thing that struck me was that in Njals saga from Iceland prophets are a highly respected part of society they are 'merely' thought of as highly intelligent.
In Russia and Eastern Europe it is more difficult to discern because they appear to be more concerned with realism. One of the characters in Eva Luna was born in Norway and I think one aspect that was stressed was that Latin America is a melting pot with different people from everywhere and we all share this perspective on life.
Mircea Eliade from Romania has written some stories based on folk legend. They have an appeal in that they are mysterious, you don't quite know what is happening or what will happen. Mircea Eliade I believe is also quite a mysterious person, an academic who fled Romania to the USA he had some links with far-right movements that tainted his reputation for the rest of his life.

Just some random thoughts.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Started reading 'House of the Spirits' today. At first sight it appears to be slightly more surreal' than Eva Luna. There is the same crazy wild streak and it is interesting that there is a male character. I am intrigued and looking forward to getting into it.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

On my own magic realism tangent at the moment. Contemplating, the role of magic realsim in the world. My husband Eric and I were talking about it today on our train ride into Kobe. Specific instances, blurring of metaphor and reality. Eating spicy food and realizing your body is on fire. Looking out the windows from our bedroom, the apt. lights through the back yard trees became Lothlorien for a moment.

I'm an avid reader and a writer, traveller. Eric and I are planning trips to Tibet, Nepal, India during our time in Japan. I'm interested in the magic realism of the cultures, the complete blending of fact and fiction in the oral tradition. We may stay with Lama Dawa, Eric's old teacher when we go to Nepal. I want to tape him, record his history as I attempted to record my grandmother's history before she died. As I attempted to record my friend's lives in Belfast and sought in vain for old folktales on the Aran Islands. The telling of stories is deeply interesting. It's what most deeply influenced Marquez, his grandparent's story telling. It's the direction I want my own writing to take and I'm seeking it out everywhere. Started reading Haruki Murakami's South of the Border, West of the Sun today. Not as magic real as some of his other novels but he writes
with exquiste simplicty, touching on adolescent emotions and blunt cravings, honest and lucid.
As I read I cannot help but think about the world around me, I sent the following reply:

Hi Jose,

Again a very valuable comment and something that should be posted to the blog. I don't know about you but I can enjoy reading non-fiction almost equally as good as fiction and it doesn't have to agree with what I'm thinking but I tend to play a game with myself to search out answers. For example that quote from Kingsley Martin, I will be searching all that I read for anything with reference to it, for or against and I will try to work out if it is true and what we can do about it. The organization man book was something that I found by chance and books like that are quite rare I think because management studies have become quite popular and scientific.

I think it is quite an important book purely because it seems to be at odds with the attitude today. At the moment I am still formulating a theory but what I am trying to suggest is that the study of the arts could provide a way back to a new way of living in the world, if we could learn to control 'the animals inside us' first before leading in business or politics or before being scientists or military commanders or anything. I am still working it out so that is why the book was exciting. I would suggest that almost all books on management, all the business books I have read before have been at odds with this statement and Queen's Belfast has just closed down the classics department.

To defend the study of the arts we need new stronger arguments, and I'm talking from the perspective of a scientist, as my background is science. I know that when it comes to funding, research, science is key and the arts almost totally ignored. I don't think this should be the case but I can understand the problem. Perhaps I will keep reading until I get an answer, perhaps I will find another problem but that is what I enjoy doing and reading at the moment.

with best wishes,

Jose sent me this email, yesterday:

>On commenting upon Whyte's 'The Organization Man', you wrote: "This is an incredible book, I have been reading it all night and I am very excited...It is exactly what I have been thinking about".
>This made me think that there might be (at least?) two types of 'incredible' books: those that present things in a completely novel way (say, for example, The Perfume, by Patrick Suskind) and those that just concur with our views (as 'The Organization Man' does with yours).
>Have you ever ended up deeming a book 'incredible', which was totally at odds with your ideas?

Friday, April 11, 2003

With fifty pages left I'm beginning to see a culmination of plot in One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's incredible to witness the passage and non-passage of time. He weaves details and characters in a series of original repetition, laying memory on memory, detail intricately linked to detail. It's a style that I've never experienced anything of the like before.

"One burning noon, a short time after the death of the twins, against the light of the window he saw the gloomy old man with his crow's wing hat like the materialization of a memory that had been in his head since he was born." (Marquez, 384)

I almost take the language for granted until I ask my husband for the meaning of a word, read it aloud in context then marvel over the sentence that almost escaped me. His writing is definately like a fine tapestry. And I can't believe that this is just the English translation. I wish I read Spanish.

I've enjoyed the comments that I've read about magic realism on this site. And I agree with Jose that life is surreal. I think that life is mostly surreal but most western cultures impose a mental order over top of reality. The war in Iraq is surreal and completely ridiculous, laughable; a comedy of chaos kind of laughter when we look at our own existences and find the absurd, sad, and incredible.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

In support of my theory that the leaders of tomorrow need the arts more than science here is that quote again from Kingsley Martin:

"Men are more nationalistic, violent, and stupid than they thought they were. We control the earth and the air, but not the tiger, the ape, and the donkey inside ourselves."

Welcome Robin!, good to hear from you, hope you can write more and come back more often.

I went into a secondhand bookshop today looking for books on ancient greece as I have become fascinated by them. I went round and round with a book on morals and just at the last minute changed for a Pelican book 'The Organization Man' by William Whyte. This is an incredible book, I have been reading it all night and I am very excited.

It is exactly what I have been thinking about. The book was published in 1956 and he was warning people that business and all sorts of workers are become too obsessed with organisation. They are becoming so scientific that business is being turned into a beauracracy. This seems especially true today with all the global companies. Everyone wants to do 'the right thing' and that meansdoing exactly what they are told and not objecting because that is a bad thing. I also have this general theory that leaders used to learn and develop through the arts, through reading the classics for instance but now they want to be scientific, they want to figure how to manipulate people and not how to inspire people.

Also he has a chapter at the end on how to cheat personality tests, it is so hilarious I think I am going to send it all out on my mailing list. What he is saying is you have to pretend to be as normal as possible - even if you are not! He ends with the classic line: "In all of us there is a streak of normalcy" [you just have to find it!]

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I've been thinking of yellow butterflies for the last couple weeks and searching for them for a few years. In word alone they were my first introduction to Marquez; hanging out with my Johns Hopkins friends the spring that Josh graduated. I miss understood their context, the butterflies. I knew they followed Meme though I didn't know her name but for some reason I thought yellow butterflies appeared during the act of going down on a woman. Could Aaron have meant Mauricio going down from the roof to see Meme? Probably but I like original conception of the thought better. His butterflies are beautiful but they were a bit anticlimatic for me. I'm going to write a poem about yellow butterflies but with my orginal thought. I like how things can be misunderstood, sustained through memory and made real.

One Hundred Years of Solitude reads like Genesis in some ways, a story that keeps weaving itself in pain and fascination. The first 100 pages are my favorite before Colonel Aureliano goes to war. I have about 100 pages left and I'm wondering if any of the characters will experience happiness and fulfillment, if the whole story is building to one sustained moment of happiness. Beautiful writing but I do prefer Love in the Time of Cholera. These are all I've read of Marqez. I love Love in the Time.. because of the richness invested in each character because of Marquez's utter commitment to their love affair. One Hundred Years.. is more like tapestry, finely woven in infinite detail, appreciated up close and in its entirety.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

This week, I got the email below from Jose and I have been reading a mixture of Hemingway, Homer and Allende. In 'Winner Takes Nothing' by Hemingway there are some wonderful stories. Quite gritty but I found something new this week, I found a real feel for the struggle of life in his books, something more than the old hedonistic love of life. 'The natural history of the dead' is a wonderful story about how he has reflected on the sight of dead bodies in the battlefield and it is experimental in that it starts like a wildlife program and ends as a story. I don't have anything to comment about the the other writers, they are very good perhaps something will come up next week.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Hi Rod,

I've read your posting of March 06, in which you said you had started to think about Magic Realism. Please, accept some humble further food for your thoughts. You quoted a definition that puts that MR is the application of surrealism to life in the form of literature. I would advance a different viewpoint: It's not that surrealism is applied to life but that life is surreal.

To begin with, although the expression was coined by Franz Roh, a German art critic, in the 1920s, it's no wonder MR has flourished in Latin America:

* Imagine Blair driving a brand new Ferrari at 150 mph down the M5. Unlikely, to say the least. Well, that's what a former Argentine president did while in office. The police officer who made him pull up at a hard shoulder couldn't believe his eyes when he realised it was no one else but Mr President in person who was at the wheel.
* How many junkies would you need to have so as to daydream with Chirac babbling out of control over the boobs of a girlie, and mind you, in public? Well, you wouldn't need any if you were in Venezuela because that's what a greater-than-life President did for all the journalists to relish.

However, in order to avoid a 'chauvinist' bias, I'd invite you to help yourself with these two examples of MR, one from here and one from India:

Do you remember when 30 Royal Marines invaded a Spanish beach, La Linea, in Andalucia, by mistake back in February 2002? The first official comment by the MoD was: 'No, they had not drunk too much wine and no, they were not part of an invasion force" (Financial Times, February 19, 2002). The Mayor of La Linea tried to downplay the episode remarking "It was a mere error on a map, nothing more."

In 2001 I read a bizarre news about monkeys attacking official buildings in New Delhi. We both know there are many people monkeying around in public offices but this was rather different: Rhesus monkeys have a sacred status for Hinduism (they are deemed to be the encarnation of Hanuman, a monkey God, you see), therefore nobody can touch them. Around 10,000 apes had taken up India's Stormont causing havoc everywhere, smashing PCs onto the floor, munching up top secret files, raiding the fridges, etc. There was no way they could be ousted by any violent means -let alone cordial ones. The big heads at the government came up with a clever solution: thousands of fiercesome-looking Langur monkeys have been 'appointed' to guard the premises. These monkeys don't bother people but would gladly have a feast with the brains of a Rhesus. They are being paid in bananas.

That's MR at its best. Isn't life made just of surreal stuff after all?



Jose, this is brilliant