Sunday, May 31st, 2009
I started reading James Hamilton-Paterson's Seven-Tenths last night -- thanks Jeanne for the gift! it is very enjoyable reading! When you first gave it to me I thought it was called Seven Truths and was maybe a cultish sacred text, did not discover my error until after I had started reading and looked back at the cover -- this book is a little like Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World, in that there's a lot here that is making me grin and scratch my head and think back to high school science classes, and pine for the rugged life of the oceanographer... I'm not totally taken in by Hamilton-Paterson's framing narrative of someone floating in the ocean, lost and looking for his boat; but that is not too important, he's not relying on that narrative very strongly. The conversation in the first chapter between Roger and Hamilton-Paterson and the "very sober, older scientist" about the "North Atlantic Boing" had me in stitches; and I found a usage I've never seen before, of "usen't to" where I would say "didn't used to".
...I was thinking this would be a good alternate title for this blog...
So the observations about pachucos don't make up the full body of the essay I was talking about yesterday by any means. It looks like on the first reading my brain turned off and did not process after the first 10 pages or so... The point of the discussion of pachucos is as a jumping-off point for drawing distinctions between the national characters of Mexico and the United States. (These distinctions are generally bald assertions of the form "Mexicans are like this, North Americans are like this", and seem pretty suspect and perhaps out-of-date; Paz does explicitly say something to the effect of, in 50 years this may all be nonsense.) This is reading more like the introduction I had been thinking it would be -- I am hoping to read more in the rest of the book, about what Solitude is and how it is an essentially Mexican attribute.
Saturday, May 30th, 2009
I am spending some time in recent days trying to figure out how to respond to the essay -- it's not a form of writing that I've traditionally read much of, but lately that seems to be where a lot of my interests are pulling me. Last night and this morning I have been reading Octavio Paz' "The Pachuco and Other Extremes", the first piece of The Labyrinth of Solitude -- I like the abstract idea of this essay a lot but have not quite connected with the particulars of how Paz explains his idea.
The abstract is contained in the first 4 pages of the essay, which are just masterfully written -- he is comparing the development of national consciousness with a person's emerging from childhood, and comes up with gems like "The adolescent is also ignorant of the future changes that will affect the countenance he sees in the water" and "To become aware of our history is to become aware of our singularity." "But the adolescent cannot forget himself -- when he succeeds in doing so, he is no longer an adolescent -- and we cannot escape the necessity of questioning and contemplating ourselves."
In the remainder of the essay, Paz talks about the pachuco gang members he encountered in the years he was living in Los Angeles -- I haven't been able yet to wrap my head around what insight his observations here are supposed to afford into "questioning and contemplating ourselves." I'm spending some time on the train this afternoon, I'll try rereading the essay and see what I can come up with.
Friday, May 29th, 2009
So Sylvia and I watched UP tonight, and we had a blast. It is a pretty movie, and an engaging one. I don't think I would go as far as Whit, who thinks it "contains two movies," a silly action movie for the kids and a romantic drama for the adults, and that both are successful -- to my mind the silly action movie was excellent, but the romantic drama was sappy and disposable, and had the feel of something Pixar felt obligated to do. But the silly action movie was plenty for me.
I gotta ask, why 3-D? Is this the new standard for Pixar movies, that everything is going to be in 3-D? It is fun; but watching flat Pixar animation is fun too, I'm not sure this technology adds all that much to the viewing experience.
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
We must approach spirituality with a hard kind of intelligence. If we go to hear a teacher speak, we should not allow ourselves to be carried away by his reputation and charisma, but we should properly experience each word of his lecture or each aspect of the meditation technique being taught. We must make a clear and intelligent relationship with the teachings and the man teaching.
I guess part of my project in reading Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is to identify reading novels as a form of spiritual experience. I expect there is a lot of "spiritual materialism" bound up in my desire to draw this equivalency. Trungpa's notion of "properly experienc[ing] every word of his lecture" sounds to me like what I am trying to do with the books I read -- this is the filter through which I am experiencing his book.
Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
Generally, we find it very difficult to give out and surrender our raw and rugged qualities of ego. Although we may hate ourselves, at the same time we find our self-hatred a kind of occupation. In spite of the fact that we may dislike what we are and find that self-condemnation painful, still we cannot give it up completely.
In the last few days I have been toying with re-reading Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism -- I'm very taken with some of his phrasings and would love to be able to identify with this text... So far I am not able to get past the self-reflective (and "materialistic") attitude that opening this book inspires in me.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
Here is what is confusing me about "Instantes": what was the impetus for Mauricio Ciechanower to publish the poem under Borges' name, and for Elena Poniatowska to back him up (if I'm reading correctly) with a fabricated interview? Were they playing a joke? If so it is an excellent one -- if they were attempting a fraud in earnest it just seems really weird: why? what is the profit for them?... And then if it was a joke, was Alastair Reid in on the joke, or was he duped? He is alive and one could ask him (Poniatowska is also still kicking, don't know about Ciechanower); I don't understand why Almeida did not.
I did not quite catch this last night; but it is hilarious: Almeida's article is titled "Jorge Luis Borges, author of the poem 'Moments'"; and it is prefaced with a highly relevant quotation from "Pierre Menard".
Sunday, May 24th, 2009
Saramago has made his entry into animation! Juan Pablo Etcheverry animated "A flor máis grande do mundo" based on Saramago's book A maior flor do mundo, which doesn't seem to be in translation -- I had never heard of it before I saw Saramago's post about the cartoon just now. It is his only children's book,
written in the 70's -- oops; not reading closely. The idea is from the 70's but the book was not written until 2000.
Huh: weird! I happened on this poem today, attributed to Borges and with a translation attributed to Alastair Reid. I was kind of taken with it, especially with the way the whole poem is subjunctive and the return to declarative voice in the final line feels kind of crushing. Checking for links with more information about this poem I find many, many pages reprinting the poem and attributing it to Borges, and also two articles (one by Iván Almeida, published in Borges Studies Online, and a shorter one by Eugenio Siccardi which refers to Almeida's piece) denying that Borges wrote this poem. I haven't read Almeida's whole article -- it's late and I'm tired, and I don't speak Spanish -- but he looks to know what he's talking about. Interesting -- what strikes me as really weird about this is attributing a translation of the fraudulent poem to Reid. I hope to have another go at the article tomorrow and see how this plays out.
(no por Borges)
Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido, de hecho
tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos, haría más viajes, contemplaría
más atardeceres, subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido, comería
más helados y menos habas, tendría más problemas
reales y menos imaginarios.
Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata y prolíficamente
cada minuto de su vida; claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría de tener
solamente buenos momentos.
Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida, sólo de momentos;
no te pierdas el ahora.
Yo era uno de esos que nunca iban a ninguna parte sin
una bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas y un paracaídas;
Si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.
Si pudiera volver a vivir comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera y seguiría así hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita, contemplaría más amaneceres
y jugaría con más niños, si tuviera otra vez la vida por delante.
Pero ya tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.
A little more: Almeida says Reid did publish this translation, in Queen's Quarterly of Autumn 1992, and seems to be a bit mystified as to why he would have done that. "Perhaps the history of literature is the history of grand errors in reading." Almeida finds the original author of this poem to be Nadine Stair of Kentucky, published in the March 27 1978 issue of Family Circle (Almeida bizarrely calls the magazine Family Circus). ...According to Bryon Crawford, the author's real name was Nadine Strain.
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