Here’s the tea: I’ve been trying to write a post for a couple of days now. I ended up churning out some pretty dramatic paragraphs about the time I nearly died of swine flu, because that felt relevant, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t up to the task of serious reflection. Illness is uncertainty. Some of us are more vulnerable. As a collective, we humans grossly overestimate our preparedness and immunity time and again. We should give a shit about each other every day, but we don’t. That’s about the sum of it. Talk to me in six months. I might have a deep post ready then. At the moment, I’ve had enough of them. So here’s something I’m sure you’ve never seen before… A PERSONAL UPDATE!
My Very Madrileña Quarantine
On Monday, I decided to escape from my apartment because my flatmate had left and I am (see: previous brush with death) a high-risk bitch. That being the case, I prefer to be with my boyfriend, who can brave the outside world for any of my pharmaceutical needs and who also, it just so happens, has half of my medical supplies in his fridge. So my escape was legit, guys. Mr. Sánchez, if you’re reading this, it was justified. I covered my face with a scarf and walked down the hill with two shopping bags, bringing only the essentials and the perishables–from medicines to mascarpone. When I arrived at my destination, I washed my hands for three full ABC’s.
Truth be told, I felt bad about leaving my neighbors. For the first time in the four years I’ve called Madrid home, I saw their faces. We hung our heads out of the windows of the interior patio on Sunday—introduced ourselves, announced pregnancies, and planned communal Bingo games. Notably absent were the 6th floor couple who my flatmate and I have taken to calling “the sex dungeon.” I support them 100% in their passion, but I think that perhaps they lacked some foresight in this matter. With the whole building home and living under this new quarantine-quiet, all of that very-audible and increasingly violent ball-slapping was bound to create some awkward tension in our nascent community. Such is life. I, for one, hope that the sex dungeon integrates themselves and that all those relative strangers will forgive me my betrayal in this bizarre time.
Do you have any questions about the quarantine coming your way? Literature suggestions? Hopes, dreams, tips, or tricks? Send them my way and, as they say these days, please keep your ass at home.
I think this decade will be cute, even though everything is on fire and egomaniacs are ruling the world. I feel like I’ve got my priorities straight and my ass on right, at least.
A friend recently recommended “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” to me, so that will be my first project of 2020. I’m cheap but I also, like the rest of the adult world, probably need semi-extensive therapy. So, this is it.
After reading chapter one, I sort of feel like Julia Cameron wouldn’t mind if I went to bible study. There’s a lot of God talk going on. Nevertheless, Martin Scorsese endorses it and, regardless of how you feel about her particular brand of self-discovery, so does Elizabeth Gilbert.
For those like me–uncomfortable with hippy-dippy shit and the suggestion that your ego might not be serving you as well as you’d like to believe it is, I suspect this book might be difficult to digest at times, but whatever. It’s definitely going to be more productive than psychoanalyzing Trisha Paytas.
I began July with three books half-started and I left it with two half-finished.
Are you interested in hearing about the what and why and how I felt about them? If so, you just hit the jackpot. The following reviews/recommendations/rants are all my own:
The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino As soon as I cracked this one open, I felt like 8-year-old me reading the first page of The Sorcerer’s Stone again. That is not to say, of course, that Rowling and Calvino are both accessible to grade-schoolers, but that they do share the ability to captivate & mesmerize. These stories somehow manage to evoke very human pathos for characters as varied as dinosaurs in disguise, mathematical concepts, and aquatic curmudgeons.The collection opens with “The Distance of the Moon,” a tale about a time when the moon was close enough to earth that one could simply prop a ladder up against it and climb up to its craters. Darwin posited this theory more than a century ago (minus the ladder bit) and Calvino, using his creative sorcery, manipulated it into a beautiful tale about unrequited love. It may or may not have made me cry.
Disclaimer: “A Sign in Space” is essentially an ode to semiotics, and a few other stories require some similarly dense wading-through, but this is by far the most original, creative collection of stories I’ve ever read on Life’s Big Questions, and I can’t wait to re-read them in English.
SHOULD YOU READ IT? If you are at all intrigued by what a mollusk might have to say about passion, yes.
el libro de las aguas by Eduard Limónov (I can’t find it in English, so maybe it doesn’t exist).
Limónov’s memoir-ish work el libro de las aguas is about war, politics, and a rotating set of women whose vaginas (and souls, supposedly) have played a part in his life. He wrote it while in prison, expecting to live out his last days there. All of the events discussed, battles fought, and women boned, are centered around bodies of water–oceans, rivers, swamps, you get the idea. Founder of the National Bolshevik Party, guerrilla fighter, and unapologetic misogynist, Limónov certainly has a lot to say. I really wanted to enjoy his autobiography, and I did want him to be the sort of asshole I’d hate to love.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t, and he wasn’t.
I’ve taken some liberty in my interpretation of Limonóvs writing on women. However poetic it may have actually been, this is what it sounded like to me:
“Little tiny Nastia was 19 and wrote furiously. People probably thought that I was her grandfather, but little did they know we fucked the shit out of each other at home. I also would like to let you all know, again, that she had a young, very young body, which was pure art. Also, it is important for me to let you know that many people have been jealous of and impressed by the number of perfect butts that I have bedded over my lifetime. I am going to prison now and I am so sad, because I do not know what this 19-year-old will do without my dick. Surely, she will never find another one like it.”
These types of sentences made me want to roll myself onto the metro floor and invite the masses to stampede me. I was more interested in hearing Nastia’s story and I tired rather quickly of Limónov’s appraisal of female body parts. It is not not by any means the bulk of the book’s content — I have, however, had it up to my EARLOBES with tedious analyses of the perfect curve, breast, loin, and so on, so I decided to move on with my life. Dear Men Who Write, I do not want to castrate you — I would just like for you to stop boring my tits off.
I will give the book another shot once I’ve brushed up on my eastern European history because yes, I will admit, there may be something more there. For now, however, she’s going back on the shelf.
BUT SHOULD YOU READ IT? If you are into guns, dicks, and the male ego, this memoir will get you hot & bothered in all the right ways.
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Consider the Lobster begins with “Big Red Son,” an exposé on the American pornography industry told through the vehicle of the AVN awards (the adult movie industry’s Oscars).
I tried to read Infinite Jest at 20 and I ended up leaving it in Granada because I was too busy being nasty-happy to indulge Wallace’s love for the footnote. This essay, and a great majority of the following ones, however, were a joy to read. To be honest, I could have done without “Authority and American Usage.” If you’ve read any of this blog, it should be obvious that I’m not particularly fond of grammar rules.
IS IT WORTH READING THO? If you love a well-crafted, humorous, borderline manic argument and/or exploring America’s wacko cultural phenomena, these essays will not disappoint. Although they were written in the late nighties and early aughts, it’s shocking and just a little bit disturbing to see how relevant many of them continue to be, especially where media and politics are concerned.
Well, would-be finger-waggers, please take that final glowing review as evidence that I can indeed appreciate art even when it is made or written by misogynistic trolls. I’ve been having an issue with this lately, because I still feel like I need to apologize for wanting to read about female characters who are more than “perfect” curves or owners of astoundingly gorgeous asses that YOU CAN HARDLY BELIEVE ARE OVER THIRTY! I don’t understand why part of me feels that I am being “too harsh” on this topic. A very heterosexual friend of mine recently complained to me that it’s just, like, men can’t do or say anything anymore!
I don’t know. I love beauty as much as the next idiot, but as soon as I realized that I was an actual person, these sort of descriptors got real old, real quick. Any competent editor will tell a writer to dig deeper, but these butt-ballads are as surface level as it gets.
So, women and men: have you any wisdom? What have you been reading?
I stole this excerpt from Brain Pickings (sidenote: Maria Popova is the stuff that dreams are made of). Here you have Anaïs Nin counseling an adolescent on emotion:
You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
I ducked, narrowly dodging one Captain Sparrow and two medieval wenches. Gray-bluish-white flashed before my eyes, I uttered a single “dammit,” and pedalled on.
Thirty minutes later, I parked the bike and began making my way up the street. Madrid was uncharacteristically breezy this evening, Plaza de los Carros was full of mid-week drinkers, and seeing San Isidro Church pressed up against the sky got me thinking about a cheesy quote I saw recently: “remember when you wanted what you currently have.”
And it was happening again! This time there were three of them, all in a row: a flourish of fat, monochrome bodies rising off the ground, and the distinct brush of dirty feathers against my bare shoulder.
If hating pigeons is generic, I am basic bitch #1. There isn’t room enough for the both of us in this city.
Anyway, I suppose that this is, along with impatient metro-patrons and post-Saturday piss-whiffs on public streets, part of what I signed up for when moving to the capital. I wanted this, really, as much as anything else.