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Me and Sylvia on the canal in Qibao (April 2011)

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Jeremy's journal

Be quiet the doctor's wife said gently, let's all keep quiet, there are times when words serve no purpose, if only I, too, could weep, say everything with tears, not have to speak in order to be understood.

José Saramago


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Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Up to our necks in love

YepRoc Records has posted video of Robyn and friends singing "Up to Our Nex", from the November 22nd show at Symphony Space -- presumably this is part of the documentary film they're making of that tour.

On stage with Mr. Hitchcock are (from left to right) Amir El Saffar, Terry Edwards, Gaida Hinnawi, and Tim Keegan. The song will be released on Goodnight Oslo. Thanks for the link, Woj!

posted afternoon of January 31st, 2009: Respond
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Blogroll Amnesty Day

Here is a nice idea from Jon Swift: time to add a couple of blogs I've been reading and liking but not linking to. (Swift says "link to some smaller blogs that you've been reading"; I take this to mean "smaller than your site", which would be just about impossible for me. So I'm going to publish links to a couple of sites I'm reading, irrespective of their size.)

Enjoy!

posted afternoon of January 31st, 2009: 2 responses
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The Wrong Movie

...Until she had gotten over what had happened with Humberto she wouldn't be capable of being with anyone else, she insisted, even though she liked me and she felt good with me, she just couldn't. And then all the listlessness in the world fell upon my shoulders -- I had gone to the wrong theater, which was showing a boring old movie I could follow with my eyes closed because I'd seen it a thousand times -- a listlessness so overwhelming and paralyzing that I didn't even have the wherewithal to stand up and get myself a taxi...
I'm kind of circling around the text in Senselessness, I find -- the imagery is vivid and the rhythm, as I said, pulls me in, and it seems like Castellanos Moya is encouraging me to identify with his narrator; but there's a feeling of being manipulated, that Castellanos Moya is setting up his narrator as obviously flawed and disordered, to make room for his redemption by the work he is doing. I'll be the first to admit this reading is facile and superficial; I'm having a hard time getting past the surface of the narration. I see a distinction between third-person narration of flawed characters (which I've seen recently with Saramago and with García Márquez), and this first-person narration -- with the former I had a much easier time putting myself into the story. Of course I may be projecting this reading, this difficulty, onto the text; I don't know if anybody else would have this reaction.

posted afternoon of January 31st, 2009: Respond
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St Petersburg, Leningrad

The Siege of Leningrad ended 65 years ago, in January of 1944. To mark the passing of this anniversary, photographer Sergei Larenkov has created a mesmerizing mash-up -- on the streets of modern-day St. Petersburg, bombs are falling, buildings collapsing, the dead being carried away...Thanks, Maurice, for the link!

posted morning of January 31st, 2009: Respond
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Friday, January 30th, 2009

Equilibrium

...and after relishing the delightful tickle of that first sip, I fnally recovered my equilibrium and relaxed, capable now of observing the flow of my thoughts while remaining separate from them, not identifying with them, as if they were somebody else's mental movie I was watching with a certain amount of indifference...
The narrator's temper tantrum at the office and his brief sexual fantasy at the bar are to be taken as indications of his internal disorder which he associates with reading the papers he is editing -- here he is finally able to get back into his cool, detached head and feel in control again.

At this point in reading the novel, I am getting a sense that I know how the book will play out -- along the lines of, making his way through the papers he is editing will force the narrator to face internal demons probably including racism ("Didn't he realize I wasn't just another miserable Indian like he was used to dealing with?") and misogyny... If this is all that this book is, I will be a little disappointed -- this is pretty well-trodden conceptual territory. On the other hand the setting is something new, and the prose is fresh and engaging; so I would not be too disappointed. Also, I am still near the beginning of the novel, and there is absolutely room for me to be surprised.

posted evening of January 30th, 2009: Respond
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Life and Death

Today I started reading Senselessness -- you can read the first two chapters online at Words without Borders to get a taste of Castellanos Moya's writing style. I am drawn in quickly and easily to his narrator's world.

Castellanos Moya uses a similar style to Saramago's Baroque sentences -- the rhythm and pacing are distinct from Saramago, but I'm not sure yet how to describe the difference beyond saying the author's voice is his own. Chapter II closes with a reference to Quevedo's poem "Prevención para la Vida y para la Muerte":

Si no temo perder lo que poseo,
ni deseo tener lo que no gozo,
poco de la Fortuna en mí el destrozo
valdrá, cuando me elija actor o reo.

Ya su familia reformó el deseo;
no palidez al susto, o risa al gozo
le debe de mi edad el postrer trozo,
ni anhelar a la Parca su rodeo.

Sólo ya el no querer es lo que quiero;
prendas de la alma son las prendas mías;
cobre el puesto la muerte, y el dinero.

A las promesas miro como a espías;
morir al paso de la edad espero:
pues me trujeron, llévenme los días.

posted evening of January 30th, 2009: Respond
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Noted

This seems a little weird to me, but I've been seeing news squibs for the past couple of days claiming that Robyn Hitchcock is planning to produce a musical stage adaptation of Magnum Force -- the only Hitchcock-Dirty Harry connection I really knew of already was the song (from Olé! Tarantula) "(A Man's Got to Know his Limitations) Briggs" -- now I see him quoted as saying, "It's a film that seemed to be on all the time when I was on tour. By the fifth time [I saw it], I became addicted to it. It's taken a very strange hold on my life." Interesting... Here's the Grauniad article, which is the most detail I've seen so far. (Not much but still.)

posted morning of January 30th, 2009: Respond
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Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Maps and cities

In truth, we can only read the maps of cities we know. In my case, for example, and first and foremost, Buenos Aires. The problem is, under normal circumstances, a map plays a kind of trick on us, because if we know a city well, any detail it shows us will be either redundant or limited. Come to think of it, that describes the relationship I have with Buenos Aires: redundancy and insufficiency.
-- Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds
This line really captures my imagination. I've always liked looking at maps -- I'm very familiar with the distinction between looking at a map of familiar territory and looking at a map of somewhere I've never been (and the gradations of experience in between), but I would never have thought of expressing it this way. I love the idea that home is necessarily redundant and insufficient.

posted evening of January 29th, 2009: Respond
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Read out loud

Sergio Chejfec turned out not to be the highlight of the evening. His work -- the portion of it that is excerpted in BOMB -- is lovely and introspective; but because it is introspective it did not lend itself to being read aloud. You want room for your mind to wander while you're reading it. My favorite thing I heard this evening was the poetry of Nicanor Parra, read by his translator Liz Werner from the recent book Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great. For instance, from the poem "Something Like That":

THE TRUE PROBLEM of philosophy
is who does the dishes

nothing otherworldly

God
      the truth
                  the passage of time
absolutely
but first, who does the dishes

whoever wants to do them, go ahead
see ya later, alligator
                and we're right back to being enemies

Also very nice to listen to was Lina Meruana's short story "Ay" -- she writes a flowing, engaging narrative that pulled me in. She only read the first half of the story but it was enough to make me want to read the rest of it on the train coming home. Raúl Zurita was also there, reading some oddly dream-like poems about the coup of 1973 and about Akira Kurosawa; he has one of the most pleasant reading voices I've ever heard -- it was almost hard to get past the immediate sensory delight of listening to him speak, to get at the content of the poems. Zurita also has a piece in this issue of BOMB about Nicanor Parra, sort of bringing me full circle.

posted evening of January 29th, 2009: Respond
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Parábola anterior

I'm looking forward to hearing Sergio Chejfec reading this evening, and hope to buy a copy of his book. And I just found out, he is blogging, and has been since 2006! His blog is Parábola Anterior -- mostly in Spanish, the top article AOTW is translated into English by Margaret Carson (who translated My Two Worlds and will be at the event tonight). At LanguageHat's site, I asked how his name is pronounced; Bill Walderman notes that the name is the Polish spelling of Heifetz.

posted afternoon of January 29th, 2009: Respond

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