Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Privacy

Off the Shelf, 2014

I was flipping through a magazine today, came across an article titled On Privacy, and just stopped and stared at the title, for a long time. I'm not sure if I was originally questioning the meaning of the word privacy, trying to figure out what privacy means to me, or wondering how privacy fits into our culture today, but soon all of these questions were darting about in my mind at once.

So much has changed so rapidly. What we can do with our phones, all we've so quickly learned to take for granted. It's mind boggling.

I know some of it is beneficial, but at what cost? What have we lost?

I cannot stop thinking about Mildred's parlor walls in Fahrenheit 451, her way of distracting herself from the outside world and engaging with others at the same time, all in the privacy of her living room.

Then I think of what I always think of when I'm feeling overwhelmed, the simple mud cabin in The Temptation of Saint Anthony, the pitcher, loaf of black bread, and knife, the description of the sky as the sun sinks. I think of Saint Anthony sitting cross-legged and weaving mats. Flaubert took thirty years to write this book and I think it's time I read it again. In solitude, Saint Anthony does have to deal with his demons and his doubt, but isn't that as it should be?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

About a Few Books I've Read Lately

Books, 2014

I bought Teju Cole's Open City after reading this blog post and finding out he had a fondness for Michael Ondaatje. What has lingered with me most is the end of the main character's visit to the American Folk Art Museum.
I lost all track of time before these images, fell deep into their world, as if all the time between them and me had somehow vanished, so that when the guard came up to me to say the museum was closing, I forgot how to speak and simply looked at him. When I eventually walked down the stairs and out of the museum, it was with the feeling of someone who had returned to the earth from a great distance.
I love that.

I honestly do not recall how I learned of Stoner by John Williams, but I do know it was mentioned by someone online. Thank you, mystery reader*. I borrowed Stoner from the library. It is one of those heavy books worth the weight. It left me contemplating my life, and all of the lives that have touched mine. There is a quote in the introduction (read after the book, as always...) from an interview with the author that I've been thinking about. Williams is disenchanted with the way literature is taught.
"as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experienced."
I'm with Williams on this one.

I found Rachel Zucker's The Pedestrians on the poetry table in Point Reyes Books. I almost always find something appealing in their little poetry section. The Pedestrians was published by Wave Books, and after reading Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, & Honey (Thanks, Shari), I had good feelings about Wave Books. Standing beside the poetry table, in a sort of up-for-anything mood, I opened The Pedestrians to the first entry in the fables section, jumped to the center of the page and read:
"Yes," she thought, through the haze of jet lag," there should be no limits placed on the value of a very fine cheese."
I decided I wanted to read more. Done. What stayed?
"The mountains looked as real as a photograph."
This sentence is a door into so many conversations. The way one perceives photography is endlessly fascinating to me. 

Before bed last night I was trying to decide what I would read next, Lorrie Moore's Anagrams, or Sam Shepard's Great Dream of Heaven. I'd pulled Anagrams from a pile of books someone left in the entryway of our building. A few of the tenants do this, place books on the hall table to see if another tenant might be interested. I found Great Dream of Heaven while wandering City Lights several months ago. This is the first sentence in Anagrams:
Gerarad Maines lived across the hall from a woman named Benna, who four minutes into any conversation always managed to say the word penis
Although I found this beginning sentence fairly entertaining, I decided to end my day with Sam Shepard.

What are you reading?

*Mystery solved on August 13, 2014. I learned about Stoner while reading a post about poppy seed bread. Carina mentioned being lost in a book and I had to comment and ask what book she had been lost in. Stoner was her answer.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Reason To Be

Someone I Met Earlier This Summer, in Palm Springs, 2014

I've been thinking about a phrase my friend Tiziana mentioned in an email. She wrote this email back in April. I know I have something to say about it, but it is still percolating...
"In Italian we would say "ha un suo perché" (it is a slang that we use when something unusual has its own reason to be)."