All posts tagged: Open City

post-election reading | edge of evening

What are you going through?

I had put dark brackets around the paragraph that began, “The love of our neighbour in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: ‘What are you going through?’” [Simone] Weil was talking about the Grail quest, about the king afflicted with a terrible wound, experiencing excruciating pain. She was talking about suffering. The Grail was said to belong to the one who is compelled, feels the compassion, knows to ask, and, most importantly, has the courage to ask the king, “What are you going through?” Which seemed a very easy thing to do, but of course this is complicated by those cold and sometimes necessary distances we keep from one another as human beings, by our reservations, by our worries about what might be appropriate, by protocols, by hesitation, by over-interpretation of who the sorrowing suffering Grail king might truly be. How is one to do this?Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay I’m a firm believer in the serendipity of reading: that each book finds us when we most need …

those days when everything moved

and we take from our lives those days when everything moved, tree, cloud, water, sun, blue between two clouds, and moon, days that danced, vibrating days, chance poem.from Richard Hugo’s poem ‘Letter to Kathy from Wisdom’ There was a heavy frost yesterday morning. After we’d dropped the ‘big’ children at school, the Pip-Pop & I walked across the playing fields to feed the ducks. The frost and the mist touched everything with that almost unbearable beauty of the familiar transformed. We met a couple of parents coming back along the path from the local pre-school alone & I felt so glad to have the Pip-Pop with me. There are times — perhaps rarer now the littles are getting older — when I know that one day, not so very long from now, I would give anything to be back in this moment. And that thought reminded me of the lines from Richard Hugo’s poem that I’d read earlier, in the still quiet house, the pool of lamp light falling on this table that used to belong to …

Dept. of Speculation

“The baby’s eyes were dark, almost black, and when I stared at her in the middle of the night, she’d stare at me with a stunned, shipwrecked look as if my body were the island she’d washed up on.” “My love for her seemed doomed, hopelessly unrequited. There should be songs for this, I thought, but if there were I didn’t know them.” So, I’ve been wanting to read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation for a while. Certainly since I read Helen Phillips’ short essay on Offill for the Literary Mothers project (which I wrote about here). And then even more so after I read this wonderful conversation & book list. For reasons of practicality (reading in the bath! shelf space!) and aesthetics (the UK cover was nothing on the US one), I didn’t want to buy it in hardback. So when I knew it was coming out in paperback, I ordered it. I had the dispatch email yesterday, publication day. Then, walking home from my second coffee date of the morning, I veered very …

Leaving the Atocha Station

I wanted to know what she had been crying about and I managed to communicate that desire mainly by repeating the words for ‘fire’ and ‘before’. She paused for a long moment and then began to speak; something about a home, but whether she meant a household or the literal structure, I couldn’t tell; I heard the names of streets and months; a list of things I thought were books or songs; hard times or hard weather, epoch, uncle, change, an analogy involving summer, something about buying and/or crashing a red car. I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds. How do you write a novel about the slippery instability of language? About the multiple simultaneous meanings of everything we try to communicate? About our fumbling, clumsy attempts to assign words to our emotions and to interpret the words of others? You probably need to be a poet to try. …

Open City

We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float. Nigeria was like that for me: mostly forgotten, except for those few things that I remembered with an outsize intensity. from Open City by Teju Cole It seems to me now, that to hear anything about this book before reading it would be to profoundly change your experience of it. Perhaps this is true of all books, but I think it is especially so here. So, don’t think of this as a review, don’t even think of it as my thoughts on the book; just think of someone pressing it into your hands, someone pointing you in its direction. What more can I say, without saying anything, to help you know that it’s the book for you? You might know that you have to read Teju Cole, as I did, …