The READIN Family Album
Me and a lorikeet (February 24, 2008)


Jeremy's journal

Listen, this process called poetry is an exercise in imagining memory, and then having that memory snare and cherish imagination.

Breyten Breytenbach

(This is a page from my archives)
Front page

Archives index
Subscribe to RSS

This page renders best in Firefox (or Safari, or Chrome)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

🦋 Disappointment

Remember how Sylvia and I differed on the merits of the Despereaux movie as compared with its book? Well on the subject of The Golden Compass we're more in agreement -- the book is a gem, the movie not worth the time spent watching it. Sylvia's review: "Whoever directed that movie, they didn't make it good."

For about the first half of the movie, I was thinking about writing a long post detailing every divergence with the book and for each one, explaining how it was to the detriment of the movie. But better I think, to tell what these differences have in common: in every case, the mystery in the book is discarded and replaced with clear, dry explication. Ambiguities are absent. What I loved about the book was Lyra's development from total innocence -- here at every step of the story she connects the dots like she had been expecting the solution all her life.

And maybe the worst offense is not to show Lord Asriel's treachery -- the whole ending was trimmed off, I guess because the movie was running over-long -- without this the story doesn't go anywhere. It's funny in a way -- I guess I think of the merits of this movie as being about the same as the merits of Despereaux, a fun visual romp with some sentimentality, and nothing like greatness -- but I would never recommend it the way I would recommend the mouse movie. It ought to be a great movie, a majestic movie. Falling short of that, it is not worth bothering with.

posted evening of December 31st, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about His Dark Materials

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

🦋 City of Books

4th Estate celebrates 25 years of publishing books with a beautiful video presentation. The resolution is high enough to watch it full screen, I very much recommend doing so.

(h/t The Wooster Collective)

Also at Vimeo: timelapse photography of building and shooting the city of books and the museum.

posted evening of December 30th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Pretty Pictures

🦋 Supper

Last week, Saramago posted a Christmas Message:

Several years ago, no less than in 1993, I wrote in the Lanzarote Notebooks several words which were the delight of some theologians from this part of the Peninsula, especially Juan José Tamayo, who since then has generously given me his friendship. They were these: "God is the silence of the universe, and man is the scream which imparts sentience to this silence." I recognized that this idea was not poorly stated, with its "quantum satis" of poetry, its gently provocative intention and its subtext that atheists risk much in venturing onto the rough paths of theology, even those that are elemental. In these days when one celebrates the birth of Christ, another idea has occurred to me, perhaps even more provocative, it could even be called revolutionary, which can be enunciated in just a few words. Here. If it is true that Jesus, at the last supper, said to the disciples, showing them the bread and the wine which they found on the table: "This is my body, this is my blood," then it would not be illegitimate to conclude that the innumerable suppers, the Pantagrueline gluttonies, the Homeric bellyfuls with which millions and millions of stomachs have risked the dangers of a fatal bout of indigestion, would be nothing more than multitudinous copies, at the same time actual and symbolic, of the last supper: believers nourish themselves with god, devour him, digest him, eliminate him, until the next nativity, until the next supper, with the ritual of a material and mystical hunger forever unsatisfied. Let's see now what the theologians say.

I didn't know about the Cuadernos de Lanzarote before, this looks like just my cup of tea.

posted afternoon of December 30th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Saramago's Notebook

Monday, December 29th, 2008

🦋 Book

Saramago is starting his next book. He knows what the title will be, but he's not telling:

I am turning to a new book. When, in the middle of a conversation, I let fall this news, the inevitable question is put to me (my nephew Olmo asked me last night): and what will the title be? The most convenient solution for me would be to answer that I don't have one yet, that I have to get to the end in order to decide between the possibilities which are going to present themselves to me (assuming that they are going to) over the course of the work. Convenient, without a doubt, but false. The truth is that not even the first lines of the book had been written and I already knew, since nearly three years beforehand, what it would be called. Someone could ask: why this secrecy? Because the word of the title (it's only one word) contains, by itself, the complete story. I usually say that whoever doesn't have the patience to read my books, should pass his eyes at least over the epigraphs, because then he'll know the whole thing. I don't know if the book I'm working on will bear an epigraph. Maybe not. The title will suffice.

In other news, I'm thinking the best way for me to learn Spanish might just be to practice reading. Specifically I'm going to practice reading blogs like Saramago's and Jorge López', and find some more Spanish-language blogs to read, and reading the Bible.

Hi to any new readers showing up from Edmond Caldwell's Contra James Wood project. I don't have anything against Wood -- wouldn't really have recognized the name prior to reading Mr. Caldwell's piece -- but the criticism seems (at first reading) well-founded.

posted evening of December 29th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about José Saramago

🦋 Focus

75 pages in I find that What Can I Do When Everything's on Fire? is starting to come into focus, starting to cohere. I am finding it frustrating not to know things like how old Paulo was when his father died, when he was committed to the hospital, how old he is at the point in time when he's telling the story, ... But the book seems to work best if I just read and allow these details to emerge in their own due course.

Speaking at the ceremony where Lobo Antunes received the Juan Rulfo award this year, Robert Weil said, "Lobo Antunes presents life just as the brain really perceives things." This seems wrong to me -- the stream-of-consciousness in in this novel is just as much an artifice as is the structure of more conventional prose. It seems like it will be an interesting artifice, certainly, if I can ever get my head around it; for now I find it worrying, like I am not going to be able to recall the plot points when I need them a few hundred pages hence, when they are being presented in such a chaotic fashion.

posted evening of December 29th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about What Can I Do When Everything's on Fire?

🦋 Ohne Bücher verfaulen die Freuden

"Without books, joy rots away."
-- Elias Canetti,
The Human Province: Notes 1942 - 1972
Among her selection of libri indispensabili, Marina Taffetani lists two books (the two earliest books) by Elias Canetti, of whom I had never heard before. Looks to be a really worthwhile author.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981; in his speech before the Nobel banquet, he said, "Heute, seit Hiroshima, weiss jeder, was Krieg ist, und dass jeder es weiss, ist unsere einzige Hoffnung." -- "Today, since Hiroshima, everyone knows what war is; and that everyone knows this is our only hope."

posted afternoon of December 29th, 2008: 4 responses
➳ More posts about Readings

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

🦋 Narrative?

Lobo Antunes does not use standard construction of language in What Can I Do When Everything's on Fire? -- the story is being told in an extremely cryptic sort of stream of consciousness. I am interested in knowing whether there is a story being told. I know there are characters because Paulo (the narrator) refers to them by name and I can piece together what entity each name refers to even without the help of the Dramatis Personæ at the front of the book. There is a setting -- Paulo is in a psychiatric hospital in Lisbon, and is thinking about Lisbon. There appear to be events as well -- he returns again and again to a scene of himself laughing leaning against his father's coffin, and to (I think) his intake interview at the hospital, and I'm assuming for now that these things happened in the world outside his stream of consciousness.

But Lobo Antunes is giving me precious little to hold onto in justifying that assumption. The work is reading much more like poetry than like a novel. I am wishing for a supporting framework of some kind that would allow me to make sense of Paulo's ravings. Particularly it would be nice to have some syntactic clues: some paragraphs begin with em dashes, which appears to indicate a character is speaking; but some other paragraphs which do not begin with a dash sound a lot like dialogue as well. Some paragraphs are italicized, but there's as yet no clue how these are different from the non-italicized text.

posted evening of December 28th, 2008: Respond

🦋 Demonstrations

Milk was a fantastic movie and a pleasure to watch -- though a bitter-sweet pleasure in these times of victory for homophobic measures in the states. (And see Frank Rich's column today for more about homophobia in these United States.) The nicest thing about it might have been the feeling of nostalgia I got for political demonstrations of my childhood.

Somehow in my adult years, I have not been as politically engaged as I expected I would be when I was younger. I remember attending demonstrations with my parents when I was in grade school and high school, and the feeling of being connected to the cause was powerful and nice. When I left home something changed -- at college when I was quite active, it started to seem like a game; and after college when I would still attend protests out of a sense of duty, I felt like a stranger. This is still true now -- work I've done for the Democrats in 2004 and 2008 has not felt satisfying or connected.

Watching Milk brought the old feeling back very strongly -- I wonder if there is any way of retrieving it, and whether I should try to get engaged again for Sylvia's benefit. (Seeing as my parent's involvement did not have a lasting impact on me, that might not be the strongest consideration.)

Relatedly, I wonder why I don't have any memory of Proposition 6 -- I would have been in third grade at the time, the same age Sylvia is now -- possibly my parents' political involvement started later than that, possibly it was limited to nuclear arms and Nicaragua -- the two issues I remember demonstrating about -- possibly my memory is just too dim that far back. OTOH I have a pretty good memory of the debate over Proposition 13, which was in the same year.

posted morning of December 28th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Politics

🦋 Dream Blogging

An interestingly cerebral dream last night: I was with Mike Lopes and one other guy, and was taking a pill that allowed me to forget the names (and functions) of objects in my field of vision. This was fun and entertaining, and led me to a realization that this was the inherent nature of surrealist art, separating objects from their names. That led to a long dialogue about whether surrealist fiction was possible, since naming objects is a sine qua non of language.

Another dream from later in the night was set in Denmark: The Danish authorities had issued an edict that any foreign national who broke wind while visiting Denmark would be asked to leave the country. I was in the customs office; I had a fart-arbitrage get-rich-quick scheme which involved importing beans and exporting blue cheese and was trying to get the necessary paperwork in order.

posted morning of December 28th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Dreams

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Waltz with Bashir opens this week to a rave review from A.O. Scott; Folman was interviewed on NPR today.

posted evening of December 26th, 2008: Respond
➳ More posts about Waltz with Bashir

Previous posts

Drop me a line! or, sign my Guestbook.
Check out Ellen's writing at

What do you think?

Jeremy Osner on Fragments

What's of interest:

(Other links of interest at my Google+ page. It's recommended!)

Where to go from here...

South Orange
Friends and Family