Dedicated readers, all four of you, please accept my apology, although I never promised you consistency.
How OK I am with being inside worries me, albeit only slightly. In these forty-nine (?) days, I’ve read Marx and Tolstoy and Camus and Hesse and Flaubert. All great guys, really stand-up writers. But I started reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie two days ago, and now the thought of returning to Anna Karenina produces a sensation in me not unlike the one I feel when I think about cleaning out the shower drain.
Read the book, basically. It’s real good.
Other things I’ve been into:
- This Jeff Buckley cover of “I Know It’s Over.”
- Wondering what my life would have been like had I stayed in America.
- Wondering whether I could live in New York City without having a meltdown.
- Thinking about the past.
- Inexplicably, missing Greyhound buses.
- Thinking that education is really, really important.
- Feeling pessimistic and optimistic in the same breath.
- Herbal teas.
So that’s all I’ve got for today.
When I discovered the newsletter template on Microsoft Word as a child, I began publishing one to distribute to my family on a completely random basis. Visits from cousins were announced there. Requests for new pets–usually, puppies or kittens–were also included, along with hard-hitting reports on labor rights. After all, when our parents were off making money to both feed us and support our greatest hopes and dreams, we were expected to wash wash. And what did we get for it? A dollar a week? The indignity of it!
For the first two weeks of quarantine, I published something similar for the refrigerator. This week, however, I did not, because I was too busy drowning in some Victorian-era melancholy.
Allow me to provide some insight:
- I’m reading Anna Karenina and I know that somebody’s definitely gonna die and that Anna is totally gonna get down with Vronsky. There’s no stopping it. Kitty just got snubbed and she’ll probably be sent to a sanatorium because I guess heartbreak has the same symptoms as tuberculosis. What else could happen at this point? With 900+ pages left, there can only be drama. And death. And a healthy dose of social criticism and philosophy, I suppose. At any rate, I feel disproportionately sorry for Kitty for falling in love with the curly-haired count and rejecting the faithful farmer only to realize that the hot count didn’t give a single shit about her–we’ve all been there, girl.
- I’ve cried while watching the news twice this week (which, ok, normal enough) and once when I heard the song “Hallelujah” on a commercial (not so much).
- I cut my own hair in the bathroom mirror while listening Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2, which felt very Tolstoyesque and more than a little unsettling. Check it out here:
- For all of the aforementioned reasons, I fell into an internet black-hole while researching female hysteria. What if the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (imprisoned in her bedroom as a cure for postpartum depression) had had access to Beyonce’s Lemonade album, or like, I don’t know, any of Fiona Apple’s discography? Or Aretha Franklin?
Well, that’s all I’ve got to share this week. If anybody out there is feeling a bit darker than usual, rest assured that you are not alone.
Fight for your right…. to feeeeeeel,
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.
Do not fear the overflow, y’all.
Happy Saturday, from me and my bed.
Last night I was riding up Ribera de Curtidores on a Mad Bici (not sponsored), feeling on top of the world. I was zooming past the Friday night drunks and just about ready to ride that bike to the top of my five flights of stairs, except that the bike weighs 200 kilos, and is not mine, so I left it at the station.
And then I checked my phone.
I had a new message from my mother, saying something along the lines of…
“Hello dear, I’m sorry to say that a bill for 900 dollars arrived to the house for you.”
To which I responded: “I REFUSE. I WILL NEVER COME BACK TO AMERICA AGAIN.”
900 dollars for a medical test that took all of 2 seconds and involved inserting a common q-tip into my vag.
Now that I’ve got your attention, I’d like to inform y’all that I’ve been on a big reading kick recently. Here’s what I’ve been getting into for the past 21 days:
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
by Mark Haddon
Read on a Sunday afternoon, after a 5K. Heartwarming, eye-opening, easy-to-follow, and so on, and so forth.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s
by Truman Capote
This short, seminal classic had me hooked and is perfect for morning metro rides. The word seminal sounds like it has something to do with semen and, after flipping through the dictionary, I realize that it can and does. Seminal (adj.): pertaining to, containing, or consisting of semen. Awesome! That’s a great segue into my next book….
- The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddharta Mukherjee
Did you know that, for a time, the prevailing theory of genetics was called preformism? Scientists believed that semen contained tiny pre-formed humans that, once deposited into the uterus, would simply begin inflating into their mature form, a la Magic Grow Toys:
I happen to love scientific history and this book has me considering going back to school. 10/10!
Keep reading, keep biking.