A meditation on sense of brightly burning life when 99.9% of us are nervous about confronting the boss, and second-guess ourselves, and maybe just think of what we would have said had we burned brighter inside, suffer the indignity of knowing that we should have burned brighter, and still can’t figure out what burning brighter is better, if in the end it means rearranging piles of books of stories. At least that was my initial impression. But that is what an epigram does?
Re-read Boneland by Alan Garner, from 2012. I think I was put off the first time by the excessive compression. Re-reading it I enjoyed it much more, though the reach for mystery and frisson of eternity still eluded me. But I appreciate the tremendous craft, and I will anticipate a re-reading in a couple of years (most of Garner’s adult books are so compressed that each re-reading opens up more levels). A good review, by Ursula K. Le Guin (!) helps understand the context of the book.
Le centre multimédia de Houndé (CMH) dans la poursuite de ses objectifs de promouvoir les talents locaux à travers l’encadrement et la formation aux activités d’initiation aux outils informatique, encadrement en dessins et en écriture (création des livres pour enfants). Il a organisé le samedi 19 juin 2021 sous la direction de son responsable Koura Donkoui une séance d’initiation de 10 filles à la création des livres pour enfants. Elles ont eu le plaisir, la motivation à créer chacune son livre et de le saisir sur l’ordinateur. Nous les encourageons beaucoup à poursuivre l’œuvre et à s’améliorer au fil du temps. Car disons, c’est des petites actions qui deviendront des grandes actions.
Read Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas. It is a light, almost stand-uppy commentary on childhood as Iranian-American during the late 1970s and 1980s, and then vignettes from marriage (to a Frenchman). Not quite Thurberesque. People my age will recognize many of the anecdotes, and that is part of the effort, to remind readers that we all share much in common despite our different backgrounds. I wanted more insight about her mother, about her (perhaps non-existent) political engagement or thinking about Iran, and about her cosmopolitanism and what that means for others.
In our discussion I was of course reminded of the amazing Iranian film A Separation.
And then of course Mariam Satrapi’s fantastic graphic novel Persepolis. And lastly, my colleague’s Mary Hegland’s Days of Revolution: Political Culture and Process in an Iranian Village.
I saw this mentioned in Marc Bloch, so I got a copy through interlibrary loan. Hitler and I, by Otto Strasser was published in 1940, and is a hurriedly written account (one-sided, if that word applies to people in Hitler’s orbit?) of the German politics and intrigue leading to the rise of the Nazi Party. Strasser and his brother (who was killed by the SS) were early allies of Hitler in the 1920s. Otto Strasser broke early, and formed what was known as the Black Front to oppose Hitler. Anyone who reads this and isn’t terrified by the constant obvious parallels to our current Republican Party being taken over by right-wing fanatics is sleeping through life.
Enjoyed reading Alexander Todorov’s book, Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions, and discussing in my Friday morning (early!) book group. Coincidentally, in my class on the economics of gender in developing countries, I had touched on evolutionary psychology of gender differences. A student asked whether that kind of research (evolutionary approaches to the mind, etc) were not discredited. Indeed, most older research certainly has been discredited. Plenty of present research will also be discredited. And Todorov does a great job showing that! Does that mean the no new research should be conducted? I think not. Every responsible academic, though, should acknowledge how fraught the subject matter is. Todorov is an excellent writer, and a careful researcher. So this book is a fine introduction.
I thought this short story, “Blushes,” by Graham Swift, in The New Yorker, January 18 2021, was tremendous as a statement of quiet competence in writing, on a well-trodden theme: towards the end of life, looking back and having a childhood memory stick. (Rosebud?) Every human, one imagines, over a certain age is familiar with this sentiment, and one can imagine more clearly, when confronted with writing like this, what it would mean to not have these kinds of memory flashes. The sense of continuity constructed by the brain: “that self was myself, even as it was a different self,” is arguably one of our most mysterious human traits. Some commentary over at Mookse.
The story “Good-Looking” by Souvankham Thammavongsa in the March 1, 2021 issue of The New Yorker. Quite enjoyable read, for the craft. About as concise as possible as a portrayal of how the child remembers something, knows a bit of the backstory, can fill in many gaps, and sits there 30 years later, as an adult, and wonders about the gap between “knowing” someone like your own father, and your father’s knowing of himself. I found it interesting that she chose to use “air bubbles” at the end…? Carbon dioxide is not usually thought of as air. Deliberate? Mistake? Everything else is so precise, why that? Anyway, one cannot really complain about two pages written so lucidly and insightfully.