Sunday, October 26, 2003

As I was saying here is the text of that Billy Collins poem from 'Poetry London':

Billy Collins
In the weak gray light before dawn
the bird song is so sustained and chaotic
it is as if every member of the orchestra
decided to sit wherever they wanted
and began to play without a conductor
and with only one listener sitting,
well, lying, really, on his back
in this great philharmonic hall
of hills, rivulets, and fields
where trees are circled by their shadows once a day,
where stars appear then disappear,
as they just did, on the high blue-black ceiling.

"Faith is a bird that feels the light,"
my mother used to say
quoting some Russian author,
"and sings before the day is bright."
Nice, now that she has boated off for good,
the way that couplet couples us
so well I can see us standing on a prominence.
She says the first line,
a pause, then I add the clincher,
then silence, no bird or songs,
only the two of us gazing over a wide, featureless expanse
like something out of Milton or Dante.

The hermetic library

As you probably suspect libraries are quite important to me. I just want to say that the library in Castlereagh college is one of the most difficult and strange libraries I have ever been to. A library should encourage free information, but no, if you want to search for a book you have to ask the librarian, no cards, no computer index nothing. I am convinced that they hide the fact they are open on Saturday mornings. Perhaps hermetic isn't the right word but what sort of library hides information? It is bizarre.

I went in yesterday and although there were cars nobody was around, the place was absolutely deserted. The librarian was sitting doing nothing and when I asked him to get a library card he says 'Oh, I don't know if I'll get it done today' I'm like' what, are you busy, there is no one here! Bizarre

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Yet again hardly any reading this week at all. I have been trying to read Hemingway - 'To have and have not', 'How to be happy and human' and 'Embers'. Also I got the new copy of 'Poetry London' this week and there is a great poem by Billy Collins on the very first page. Some people say Billy Collins is a very light and trivial poet but Turgenev is quite good and perhaps when I get the scanner back I will quote it in full - in this very Blog.

Something very strange is happening, Ken Smith died in July, one of the great modern UK poets and I can't find any tributes to him in Poetry magazines. I was sure Poetry London would write something but nothing. Ken Smith was a wonderful poet and a great man, perhaps not my favourite poet but he deserves pages and pages of tributes and praise.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

It is hard to think what to write about because this has been an extremely busy week for me. I may not have the luxury of reading time in work because things have changed. I'm still reading 'Goodbye to all that' almost entirely for entertainment value, at the moment his school life makes me laugh, at the moment anyway.

I started re-reading 'Embers' by Sandor Marai in the car this week. In the past the problem with this book was that it was small and had large print but in the first few pages I'm starting to see sparks of an interesting read. There is a part where one of the characters meets a girl from Paris and he is describing how he convinced her to travel from Paris to Hungary. He says 'she asked me where I was from (Hungary) and that was the first intimate word we exchanged' I sat in the car thinking about this gruff Hungarian at a Parisian ball saying 'Hungary' and enchanting this poor young girl. It is something I've never really thought of, that one word, especially your home land could have such power and the whole Hungary / hungry connotation. 'I'm hungry for you'

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I read some more of 'Goodbye to all that' by Robert Graves. I am going to have to email my brother to check if the rumour is true about the morgue in Munich. Robert Graves was in Munich as a child and he was told that when officials or important people die they put them in a special chair in full uniform or dress for several days with bells attached to their fingers and limbs by strings. This is to make sure they are really dead.

I finished 'Mystic River' today. The ending was incredible, I can truly say I had no idea how it would end. The book wasn't entirely a good read, the middle went on for too long. I think the film will be incredible, films don't tend to stay still for too long.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I decided to try another story by Borges tonight and I was richly treated when I read 'The shape of the sword'. It must be one of the few stories from Latin America that include an Irish character and the story is quite shocking and probably still true or at least have some relevance for today. The main character is an Irishman, a coward, one who is an economic genius but on the battlefield was turned into a traitor for money. There is one line that sums up the strength of the whole story 'for a gentleman only lost causes should be attractive'.
I just found out that 'Mystic River' by Dennis Lehane has been made into a film directed by Clint Eastwood - very cool. That means I will have to finish the book and it could be one of the few films that I read the book and a film comes out immediately!

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I thought for a while I would sneak in blog journal mode and tell you about two surreal things that have happened to me recently.

1. Whilst in Lima we left one of my new and favourite t-shirts into a laundry. The process of going to a laundry in Lima is something incredibly Peruvian, I don't know how they manage to make something so simple incredibly complicated. Isabel had to go through the bag and describe all the clothes, write down brand names, count the number of socks and underwear and all this whilst trying to deal with a shop worker who I didn't perceive as being very pleasant, even though I don't speak spanish, there is always discussion and negotiation in Lima. So something that takes 5 minutes or less in Belfast took 30 minutes.

When I got my t-shirt back I noticed something sharp and itchy digging into my side. I looked and found a label, coloured black with 'Edition' in gold letters. I am not sure if this was on the shirt before it went to the laundry. Also it is sewed with invisible 'fishing-line' thread and not with the usual red thread. I get the feeling this was added for some very strange reason.

2. Tonight we still had shopping to do so we went to the 24 hours Tesco in Belfast. Unbelievably it was closed. Isabel was furious and I was embarrassed. It ended up we couldn't find a decent supermarket open which was quite disappointing. Isabel calls Belfast 'undeveloped'. Who says reality is dull and predictable?
Perhaps I was being a bit harsh in my criticism of thrillers considering that I read quite a few, mostly crime books, some which could be called thrillers others probably not. The question of genre in my opinion is most of the time a red herring when trying to classify the strength of a book. Some thrillers can be just as rewarding as the so-called literary fiction and some literary fiction is read for the sake of reading it and not purely for enjoyment. However a sensible writer such as Robert Harris shouldn't make statements that are complete rubbish like the one he made.

Another statement by a journalist also made me think. Some journalist on CNN was saying that he had lived in Northern Ireland and in Washington D.C. and that comparatively Northern Ireland was safer. George Pelecanos lives in Washington D.C. and it got me thinking what would it be like if one of the Belfast gangsters moved to or was kicked out and went to set up business in D.C. Someone like Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair would go down quite well with Pelecanos I think.

I haven't had much of a chance to get anything read today. I read some poems by Robert Graves last night and I have this idea to get a Henry James novel out of the library but that is as far as it goes I am afraid.

Friday, October 10, 2003

I started reading 'The Picador book of Latin American Stories' (again) I pick this up every so often and most of the stories are short and pleasant. On the plane I read 'The handsomest drowned man in the world' by Marquez. It is indeed quite a marvelous story. The world is turned upside down when a drowned man becomes the most important citizen on a small island. Indeed the island is so small they have to make a boat for him and put him out to sea, very reluctantly.

I don't understand these people like Robert Harris are scared of magical realism and claim it is artificial and nonsense. This story was perfectly clear, no fairies or fantasy but somehow it just clings to you. Still a very enjoyable read. It is like sometimes we have to cling to reality obsessively and people only want to read what is real, or what could really happen. First of all, most of the thrillers I have read are very unreal, raising the titanic, finding treasure, being an action figure, these are all events that either do not happen or happen so rarely that people read them to find an escape from reality.

Other writers such as Dostoevsky, the action goes on in a mans head, what is so real about that?
The counter works !!! Hurrah, I just sent an email complaining to Blogger, I'm sorry honestly but I was up until one o'clock in the morning last night trying to get it to work. Let's hope it will move off zero or I will look very sad!

Thursday, October 09, 2003

just testing my new web page counter #3
Unforutnately I am back in Belfast now but it does mean I have more time to explain some of that garbled nonsense I was writing in Lima.

'All Souls Day' is a very interesting book. Although it appears to a very meditative / thoughtful book with very little plot there is something much deeper. I couldn't really put my finger on it in Lima because I only had 15 minutes but it is something like an allegory / parallel. The storyline is that Arthur Daane is quite a lonely figure, a dutch man living in Berlin. He has friends but they find him very mysterious. He meets a young female called Elik who is researching an obscure medieval spanish queen. At the same time as the process of two people testing each other trying to find out each others past his friends are trying to help her to study the process of history, finding secrets about each other and about the events that happened to people in the past.

It starts off with looking at the dutch word for history - geschiedenis ie the study of niches, the study of hiding places.

The style is fascinating in that the narrative voice changes between characters quite frequently. This can be confusing but once you get to grips with it, it becomes enlightening, you even have dead people talking and aliens!

I loved reading this book, I was reading it when I was traveling through the jungle in Peru and it was perfect.

Friday, October 03, 2003

This is the first post from Lima, Peru:

Finished Perfume by Patrick Suskind, a thriller - good but slightly disappointing at the end.

Reading {All Souls Day{ by Cees Nooteboom, incredible book. History it starts off in dutch is similiar to {study of niche{ the study of secrets and finding the hidden things. It seems to be in the form of a parallel between the historic process of researching ancient spain and two strangers getting to know each other. Plus it is wonderfully meditative and philosophical. Really enjoying it.