Month: June 2015

The Folded Clock & Ongoingness

I started keeping a diary twenty-five years ago. It’s eight hundred thousand words long. I didn’t want to lose anything. That was my main problem. I couldn’t face the end of the day without a record of everything that had ever happened. Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso Today I wondered What is the worth of a day? Once, a day was long. It was bright and then it wasn’t, meals happened and school happened, and sports practice, maybe, happened and two days from this day there would be a test, or an English paper would be due, or there would be a party for which I’d been waiting, it would seem, for years. Days were ages. […] Not anymore. The “day” no longer exists. The smallest unit of time I experience is the week. But in recent years the week, like the penny, has also become a uselessly small currency. The month is, more typically, the smallest unit of time I experience. But truthfully months are not so noticeable either. […] Since I am suddenly ten …

Making friends with reality

In a way, work is like a love affair. It demands commitment, absorption, and care. The difference is that it is a love affair with oneself, or at least with one’s creative abilities, and with an abstract world of ideas. Learning to Work, Virginia Valian People have a conception, however implicit and unarticulated, of who they ‘really’ are, which I am calling true self and others may call identity […] Some people […] cannot point to a period in their lives in which they were able to act in accord with their true selves. Such people may thus have particular difficulty in trusting their perceptions of their true selves. They impugn their motivation, for example, by thinking, “if it’s so hard for me I must not want to do it.” […] My claim is that people are not wrong about their true selves. A related claim is that to encourage someone to doubt his or her true self is to do them the gravest psychological disservice.Solving a Work Problem, Virginia Valian In planning each weekly …

We love: Rasmus and the Tramp

Rasmus was sitting in his regular notch in the linden tree, thinking about things that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Potatoes were at the top of the list. Cooked, with gravy on them for Sunday dinner they were all right, but when they kept on sprouting in the field and had to be dug up — then they shouldn’t be tolerated. Thanks to our sweet neighbour, a retired teacher who had read this one to her classes many times over, we have just finished Rasmus and the Tramp (Rasmus and the Vagabond in the US) by Astrid Lindgren, famous for her Pippi Longstocking stories. It was a very special read for this family, and for the five year-old Moose in particular, because it’s the first time that he’s ever encountered his name in print. And a huge thrill for the one who gave him such an unusual name (for the UK at least — he’d be commonplace in Estonia or Scandinavia), to have such a feisty, resourceful and kind namesake to read to him about. Rasmus …

The Neapolitan Novels

I’m a storyteller. I’ve always been more interested in storytelling than in writing. Even today, Italy has a weak narrative tradition. Beautiful, magnificent, very carefully crafted pages abound, but not the flow of storytelling that despite its density manages to sweep you away. Elena Ferrante interviewed by her Italian publisher, New York Times, December 2014 It’s about four weeks since I finished my Ferrante-thon. It started on a sofa in Paris and from the first I was captivated. I needed to know — in a way that now strikes me as increasingly rare in my reading — what happened next. I was drawn into the world of Lenù and Lila, the world of the neighbourhood in Naples where they spend their childhood, into the increasingly complexities of their lives, and I never wanted to leave. And so when Jia Tolentino writes that Ferrante is ‘equally pulpy and brilliant’, I’m reminded of my own observation that there is something almost soap-opera-like about the Neapolitan novels, and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. My reading …