Monthly Archives: March 2017

A philosopher speaks

[Simone de] Beauvoir sees every element of women’s situation as conspiring to box them in to mediocrity, not because they are innately inferior, but because they learn to become inward-looking, passive, self-doubting and overeager to please. Beauvoir finds most female writers disappointing because they do not seize hold of the human condition; they do not take it up as their own. They find it difficult to feel responsible for the universe. How can a woman ever announce, as Sartre does in Being and Nothingness, ‘I carry the weight of the world by myself ’?

Sarah Bakewell: At the Existentialist Café

(from here) 

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An artist speaks

When I say (in German) I’m a painter [Malerin] that is not he same as when a man says he is a painter [Maler] . If a man wants to convey the same meaning as me then he would have to say that he was a painting man. When I say I’m a painter then the significance of my statement lies primarily in that I’m describing not what I do but in that I do it as a woman . With the sentence “I’m a painter [Malerin]”, I differentiate myself and am differentiated from men who are painters. My vocabulary confines me to the company of women who are painters and thus my painting, too, is primarily considered with this limited context. Language confines women to segregated spaces, denies them any claim to universality which would put them in relation to all human beings . . . I want to put my painting in a relationship to all painting and that is not just out of personal ambition ..

Gisela Breitling.. (German artist born 1939)

(from here) 

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Looking at a photograph of one’s mother

Several weeks ago I discovered a photograph of my mother

sitting in the sun, her face flushed as with achievement or triumph.

The sun was shining. The dogs

were sleeping at her feet where time was also sleeping,

calm and unmoving as in all photographs.

 

I wiped the dust from my mother’s face.

Indeed dust covered everything; it seemed to me the persistent

haze of nostalgia that protects all relics of childhood.

. . . .

from A Summer Garden , Louise Gluck

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The frettings of the very rich

When one owns four homes and has fifteen full-time gardeners perfecting one’s seven gardens and eight man-made streams, one will, of necessity, spend a great deal of time racing between homes and from garden to garden, as so it is perhaps not surprising if, one afternoon, rushing to check on the progress of a dinner one’s cook is preparing for the board of one’s favourite charity, one finds oneself compelled to take a little rest, briefly dropping to one’s knee, then both knees, then pitching forward on to one’s face and, unable to rise, proceeding here for a more prolonged rest, only to find it not restful at all, since, while ostensibly resting, one finds oneself continually fretting about one’s carriages, gardens, furniture, homes et al., all of which (one hopes) patiently await one’s return, not having (Heaven forfend) fallen into the hands of some (reckless, careless, undeserving) Other.

percival “dash” collier

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo, p129

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The cover-up

The celebration of marriage. Nuptials.

When I married Ruthy, Aunt Idka showed up at our wedding with a Band-Aid on her arm. She had covered her number with a Band-Aid because she didn’t want to cast a pall on the happy occasion. I felt crushed with grief and compassion for her, for what she must have endured to do a thing like that. All evening I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her arm I felt as if under the clean little Band-Aid lay a deep abyss that was sucking us all in: the hall, the guests, the happy occasion, me. I had to put that story in here. Sorry. 

David Grossman, The Complete Encyclopaedia of Kazik’s Life

David Grossman, one of contemporary Israel’s leading writers, was born in Jerusalem in 1954. His family immigrated to Palestine from Poland in the 1930s, before the Second World War, so he is neither a Holocaust survivor nor a child of survivors.  . . .  His second novel, See Under: Love is an intensely creative treatment of the Holocaust and its aftermath. Some have criticized the degree of experimentation in the novel, given its grave subject matter. Nevertheless, the novel’s deeply compassionate evocation of the lives of survivors and their children, combined with its bold innovations in language and form, make See Under: Love a central achievement of modern Hebrew literature.

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Writing the truth of a life

The American poet Edward Hirsch wrote a poem about his only son who died of a seizure after taking drugs at a party. He was twenty-one. Hirsch is asked what his son would make of the poem about him.

“You can’t answer what your son would make of a poem about him because your son is not there . . . A lot of my friends have been reassuring about this in that they say Gabriel’s personality comes through. Gabriel was not a shrinking violet, he imposed himself on a room. He wanted people to know him.

I am also aware that there are things he didn’t like to talk about and wouldn’t have wanted known, but which are also part of his story. If you tell his story without talking about his disabilities, which he was embarrassed about, you wouldn’t be telling his story. He had all these tics, for example, which he didn’t like to acknowledge; but he had turned all those things quite triumphantly into a working person. It is me telling the story of Gabriel as a father. You go ahead because it is what you think is accurate.”

Tim Adams interview with Edward Hirsch, “Many of us carry the dead around with us. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of that.’ 14 Sept 2014, The Guardian

(from here) 

 

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Giving up control

My general approach to writing fiction is that you try to have as few conceptual notions as possible and you just respond to the energy that the story is making rather than having a big over plan. I think if you have a big over plan, the danger is that you might just take your plan and then you bore everybody. I always joke that it’s like going on a date with index cards. You know, at 7:30 p.m. I should ask about her mother. You keep all the control to yourself but you are kind of insulting to the other person.

In this book, [Lincoln in the Bardo]  the only thing I knew at the beginning was that Lincoln had to come and hold Willie’s body and then he had to stop doing that. And that it had to happen in one night. Then the whole thing became more about orchestrating the motion through the graveyard, and the motion through the graveyard would tell me who could talk and who you encountered. Something like that. (from here)  George Saunders interviewed by Kate Harloe in The Rumpus Interview , Feb 20, 2017

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Pretending everything is normal

People near me don’t know how difficult it is to pretend that nothing

happened, that everything is normal.

Czeslaw Milosz, Notebook, 

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