March 2022 | Reads & Reviews

February 2022 Reading Recommendations
2021 Book Review: Faves & Recommendations
January 2022 Reading Recommendations

An abundance and yet an anticipatory draught of magazines inhabiting my apartment: The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Looming, Vikerkaar, La Nouvelle Revue Française. In case you ever wonder who subscribes to all those literary magazines. Just like I myself wonder who would buy the glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines as all they serve is the same aesthetico-materialist desire in cyclic packaging.

#Novel #Literature #3/5 |The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing

Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing

Quite possibly, I selected the wrong book to open my checking account with Doris Lessing’s extensive body of work. The Memoirs of a Survivor is a narrative account, a reminiscence despatched from an imaginary world in ruins (but we’re not quite told in what way it’s changed, only that things were getting worse, that people were leaving).

The narrator, a woman, is living in an apartment with three rooms, in a building housing other squatting inhabitants. They’re aware of each other’s presence, but they don’t meet. Again, we’re not told why. The woman is given a child, a self-confident girl to look after. (Why!?) And so the book goes, describing the inconsequential daily events like grocery shopping or dressing oneself in (somehow but we don’t know how) different attire. The most eventful part of the story is a peculiar sect of children forming around town. It’s not very eventful, either.

Throughout the book, the reader – at least this one – is tempted to ask “But why?” After a hundred pages of not finding any reliable answer to this question, I began to skip through the book, leaving it halfway unread. Because why not.

#Novel #Literature #4/5 | Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard

old masters by thomas bernhard

Too many of my friends are Bernhardian acolytes, and it was about time I read one of his books, too. Assuming that because I enjoyed several books by Saul Bellow, I may also take a liking to Bernhard’s version of the patriarchal intellectual rambling, I opened The Old Masters.

Childhood is hell, art is a lie, the state and church are irremediably immoral, Bernhard has his characters tell his reader and yet we can’t help but laugh. The book-length torrent of complaint, written in a darkly comical twisting and twirling dialogue of outrageous register, is inherently a monologue between three characters. More specifically, one character telling the reader about what the second character has said, sometimes referencing what the second character said about the third character having said.

Below’s an example paragraph, completely absorbed in its own circling ways. What more could one expect from a writer whose portrait featured him eating an ice cream scone?

“The art historians are the real wreckers of art, Reger said. The art historians twaddle so long about art until they have killed it with their twaddle. Art is killed by the twaddle of the art historians. My God, I often think, sitting here on the settee while the art historians are driving their helpless flocks past me, what a pity about all these people who have all art driven out of them, driven out of them for good, by these very art historians. The art historians’ trade is the vilest trade there is, and a twaddling art historian, but then there are only twaddling art historians, deserves to be chased out with a whip, chased out of the world of art, Reger said, all art historians deserve to be chased out of the world of art, because art historians are the real wreckers of art and we should not allow art to be wrecked by the art historians who are really art wreckers. Listening to an art historian we feel sick, he said, by listening to an art historian we see the art he is twaddling about being ruined, with the twaddle of the art historian art shrivels and is ruined. Thousands, indeed tens of thousands of art historians wreck art by their twaddle and ruin it, he said. The art historians are the real killers of art, if we listen to an art historian we participate in the wrecking of art, wherever an art historian appears art is wrecked, that is the truth.”

#Novel #Literature #4/5 | Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

sexing the cherry winterson

This novel by Winterson, not my favorite of hers, tells the story of a gigantic and woman and her son in the midst of 17th century England. The coarse philosophical storyline is adorned with other short-story size bits of magical realism, full of effervescent abstractions on love and time.

“I think it is often so that those most in need of change choose to fall in love and then throw up their hands and blame it all on fate. But it is not fate, at least, not if fate is something outside of us; it is a choice made in secret after nights of longing.”

“I may be cynical when I say that very rarely is the beloved more than a shaping spirit of the lovers’ dreams. And perhaps such a thing is enough. To be a muse may be enough. The pain is when the dreams change, as they do, as they must. Suddenly the enchanted city fades and you are left alone again in the windy desert. As for your beloved, she didn’t understand you. The truth is, you never understood yourself.”

“Thinking about time is like turning the globe round and round, recognizing that all journeys exist simultaneously, that to be in one place is not to deny the existence of another, even though that other place cannot be felt or seen, our usual criteria for belief.”

#Book #Mythology #history #5/5 | The Moon, Symbol and Transformation by Jules Cashford

Leonora Carrington, The Moon tarot card
Leonora Carrington, The Moon tarot card

One day, I figured it might be interesting to read more about the myths and folklore around the Moon. So I got myself a book. The selection was a lucky one as Jules Cashford’s opus is packed with references from the ancient texts and manuscripts down to modern poetry. The book is mostly made up of cross-referenced bits and pieces, resembling a rag quilt reaching down from China to the Americas and visiting the Northern tribe, then circling back to Ancient Egypt and Greece. The reading notes abounded.

“The words moon, measurement, month, menstruation all have the same root.”

“The word ‘phase’ comes from the Greek word phaino, ‘to show’, and suggests that the primary distinction is between the invisible and visible through which the cycle is manifested. Like being born and dying and being born again.”

“The Moon takes 27.3 days to travel round the Earth, measured in relation to a fixed star, known as Sidereal month (sidera in Latin means ‘star’); but it takes 29.5 days to pass through its cycle of phases, from New Moon to New Moon, known as a Synodic Month, or ‘Lunation’, until it is again in line with the Sun (synodos in Greek means ‘meeting). The discrepancy is because the Earth itself is also moving. 12 complete cycles of the Moon take 354 days. And extra month used to be added occasionally to bring the Moon back in sync with the seasons.”

“In China, in some villages there used to be a ‘Moon-cake society’ where poor families paid ten pence to the bakery every month and on the day of the moon-feast the baker gave every member of the society Moon-cakes.”

“Aristotle states as fact in his History of Animals that serpents have as many ribs as there are days in the lunar month (200 is apparently a closer estimate)”

“In central Europe, women drank from a well or spring which held the Moon’s reflection in order to ‘swallow the Moon’ and conceive.”

“Like tides, the tree stems have two ‘high tides’ per day. It’s because of the Earth’s magnetic field which is the strongest when the Moon is directly above or below it.”