Marked passages, If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino, pages 55 and 107.
Book 23 of 2014: The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst
This starts out as a love story between a middle-class boy and his upper-crust Oxford chum; the kind of love where you’re already nostalgic for it while it’s happening, because you know it can’t last; a late-summer love.
But then we start leaping forward in time, and we see that the Oxford chum’s poetry means he is remembered—but remembered imperfectly, because his gay affairs were secrets, only hinted at in letters, and secrets don’t survive their keepers. The farther forward we move, the more this book becomes a thing about how maybe the best parts of us are doomed to die when we die, because they are unspoken and unspeakable.
It’s not bleak, exactly. OK, it’s a little bleak. But the later generations have their own loves and scandals and bright spiky difficult humanity, even as the dead are smoothed out and manicured and managed. And it’s all kind of beautiful and a little bit sad, but then maybe, do you really want those most passionately human parts of yourself to be manicured and managed? Maybe an imperfect memory is OK, because, after all, it’s not really about you, it’s about the people doing the remembering.
Anyway, this book is beautifully written and will make you think thoughts like these.
T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party (via bookmania)
“I think it’s very important to live in the present. One of the great things that improvising teaches you is the magic of the moment that you’re in … because when you improvise you’re in right now. You’re not in yesterday or tomorrow—you’re right in the moment. Being in that moment really gives you a perspective of life that you never get at any other time as far as learning about your ego… You have to see your unimportance before you can see your importance and your significance to the world.”
-Charlie Haden, jazz bass player 1937 - 2014
In remembrance of Haden we put together some of his best interview moments. He spoke to Terry five times, beginning in 1983. You can listen to the show and read more quotes here.
Photo: Charlie Haden, bass, performs at the BIM Huis on May 18, 1989 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. by Frans Schellekens/Redferns
"You have to see your unimportance before you can see your importance and your significance to the world.”
Because one of my favorite things to do is to find new people to follow and then prowl through their archives, I happened across this amazing bit from our fellow Reblog Book Clubber youngadultescent, stemming from an earlier discussion on how male Unlikables and female Unlikables are treated differently by audiences (and reviewers, I would argue).
I see a lot of myself in Frieda—not just in her personality, but in the way she handles her relationship with Cal. So when Sara Sklaroff wrote in the Washington Post that “[Lepucki’s] protagonist, Frida, isn’t much of a heroine. She’s annoying, self-centered and tragically naive,” it really struck me off-guard. No, she’s not perfect—but neither is Cal or Micah, and there’s not a quibble about them.
In fact, I would argue that there’s a humanity, a core to Frieda that really comes across in the story, a realness that I’ve not experienced in a long time. She’s not a caricature. I want to see more characters, but especially more women, like Frieda.
I haven’t gotten my hands on California just yet, but AGREE AGREE AGREE to the quote above.
Ernest Hemingway (via chelseyphilpot)
Book 22 of 2014: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Short version: Crazy-good old-school sci-fi with a very new-school take on gender.
Long version: The narrator of this book is an A.I. who used to be a spaceship, plus a whole bunch of human bodies, and is now confined to just one human body. This A.I. was created by a society that doesn’t divide social roles by gender, and is now traveling through different cultures with different ways of performing gender, and is pretty confused by the whole thing. So the narrator refers to everyone with feminine pronouns.
For a while, I tried to keep track of what gender each character ‘really’ was (other characters use the proper pronouns for each other), but that just gradually got too difficult, and the story was too interesting to slow down to keep track.
The result is that you get, in a from-the-inside-out kind of way, that it really does not matter. Like, these two characters are coworkers who are sleeping together; that’s the thing you need to know, not what body parts go where.
In retrospect I’m not sure why I bothered to try to keep track. I know, intellectually, that it doesn’t matter. But we’re all products of our cultures, I guess; the impressive thing about this book is how easily, how naturally, you’re led into a very different way of thinking.
Oh, and that’s not even what this book is about! It’s actually about justice and revenge and the good of the many versus the few and all kinds of neat stuff like that. The whole gender thing is just, like, the hot fudge sauce on top of this sundae of awesomeness.
Shortest version: READ THIS BOOK ASAP.