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Using a method unknown to me, Brian Dettmer carves carefully into the pages of books, exposing multiple layers of the artwork that makes up their insides. So compelling and complex. They’re the kind of thing you just have to see, so by all means.
As I mentioned a short time ago, I plan to read a lot of fiction this summer. Many of you, dear readers, gave me suggestions for which I am truly grateful, though most of them were of genres I’m not quite ready or in the mood to delve into right now (sci-fi/fantasy epics–thanks for trying, though!). Despite my picky, almost fearful approach to selecting fictional To-Reads, I’ve come up with a short list of recommendations (some online, but mostly from friends and family offline) and random browsing finds which I’m pretty excited about. Here it is:
Almanac of the Dead, by Leslie Marmon Silko
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Melancholy of Resistance, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
The Musical Illusionist, by Alex Rose
And something by Roberto Bolano, probably either By Night in Chile or the Savage Detectives.
Also, I’ll be reading the short stories Infra linked in the 19th comment of this thread, and I’ll definitely be watching the Call of Cthulhu as well. Maybe a To-See post later, too, now that I think of it…
Before I can begin on those, though, I must complete the small collection of books I’ve already amassed thanks to my mother and my aunt in the past few weeks, which inlcude Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (reading now), The Widening, by Carol Moldaw, and Half Life, by Shirley Jackson. In the past two days I’ve finished two others: Play it As it Lays, by Joan Didion, and Under My Roof, by Nick Mamatas, both of which elicited a pretty big “Eh” in response. Somehow I managed to enjoy Didion’s style, but not her subject. Her protagonists’ ambivalence/lack of control over her own life was more boring than it was engaging or interesting. My roommate and her brother have both convinced me to give Joan Didion another try, and I think her book Democracy is up next.
Under My Roof is a silly, satirical story set in a Long Island suburb at the peak of post-9/11 American irrationality and details the consequences of a father’s decision to plant a homemade nuclear weapon inside a garden gnome on his lawn and declare his family’s home and property a sovereign nation. This one did make me laugh out loud more than a few times, but as the book went on the laughs were shorter and farther apart. The book was fun for a short while, but it was also pretty insubstantial and a little stupid.
Anyway, there ya have my most recent reading update. Recommendations are still and always welcome, even if they’re for works of sci-fi/fantasy/things about werewolves and dragons. I mean, you never know.
And if you’re so inclined, leave a note about what your summer To-Reads are in comments; fiction, not, whatever. I’m interested.
A lot of what I look forward to every summer is completing a ton of leisure reading, and spring fever has hit me hard, so I’ve started preparing myself early. This means strolling the city, stopping into each and every bookstore I happen upon and browsing the shelves while I should be doing end-of-school-year related things instead.
The other day I set a goal for myself, which is to read only works of fiction this summer. This is a big deal for me. I rabidly consume almost only non-fiction on a variety of subjects. With non-fiction I’m not at all picky, indiscriminate almost to a fault.
But for some reason, I have the opposite problem when it comes to fiction. I don’t even know how to shop for fiction. I don’t know what sorts of fiction I want to read, and for some reason when looking at works of fiction, my ability to judge books I don’t know about by their covers and descriptions diminishes greatly (though not completely).
This is where you come in, dear reader. Help me out. What’s your favorite novel? Creative essay? Book of poems? Works of mass appeal, or that you suspect I’ll like from perusing the blog? I’m open to suggestions related to any and all topics, be they light and fluffy, challenging, disturbing, whatever.
It’s time to re-balance.
No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative, by Edgar S. Cahn, is the newest addition to our reading list. The book is so important, and so uncannily in line with our values, I’m not sure what to say about it. It’s about time dollars. You should read it. It’s full of the kind of ideas that are so good — so complete, so necessary — that, once you’ve heard them, you are floored by their obviousness. Ideas so revolutionary they shouldn’t be revolutionary, and how is it possible I never knew this? Why isn’t this taught in schools?
Some brief quotes to get you started.
So far, people seem to be able to master the complex mathematics of Time Banking: 1=1. One hour helping someone equals one Time Dollar or Time Credit. That’s it. More and more people understand that there is something basically wrong with a society where an elderly person can be despondent because, in their words, “I have nothing left to give but love.” How can love be “nothing”? (Cahn xii)
If we accept a market definition of work, there are a few minor omissions worth nothing. Work does not include: raising children, taking care of one’s elder parents, keeping one’s family, functioning, being a good neighbor, or being a good citizen. So work includes everything — except family, community and democracy. Some of us think those things are rather important. If they can’t be addressed as work within the market, it is clear we need a larger framework than that supplied by market. (Cahn 41)
Feminism, anti-capitalism, community, and love come together in this book, all dovetailed into a cohesive strategy, one way to save the world. Very relatedly, Emily (hopefully!), our friend Brenden and I, and my girlfriend and maybe other friends, too,* are all planning on going to this conference. If you’re in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area, you should come too! I am extremely excited.
* Isabel? Eh?
I found myself writing a book review for class today and figured it was high time we had another one of these, so this one is serving double duty.
If you’re only going to read one book about the Holocaust, make it The Diary of Anne Frank (I prefer the Definitive Edition). If you’re going to read two books, though, you should read The Kingdom Of Auschwitz, by Otto Friedrich. It’s concise, complex, and powerful. I read the entire thing while listening to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea; I recommend you do so as well.
The review, most of it below the fold:
“The truth about Auschwitz?” Józef Cyrankiewicz once reflected. “There is no person who could tell the whole truth about Auschwitz.” (Friedrich 102)
The Kingdom of Auschwitz, by Otto Friedrich, is not a new book — it was first published in 1982. During the last twenty-six year, however, is has only grown more relevant. In this moment of constant demonization of the other by zealots in both Middle America and the Middle East, Friedrich’s is one of the few messages with the power to stop people in their tracks before we go any farther along the road that leads to atrocities. Friedrich’s complex portrait of evil does not fall into the convenient and dangerous trap of disregarding Nazism as aberrant or insane. He does the brave thing, exploring the humanizing idiosyncrasies of Auschwitz. Friedrich’s point is that there isn’t a clear point to be inferred, that we must make room ambiguity and live with the unknowable — valuable insights for those who would attempt to understand the word by reducing it to separate spheres of good and evil.
Friedrich explores the many perplexing events surrounding Auschwitz. One particularly impenetrable happening occurred in May of 1944, when Adolf Eichmann made a deranged offer to the Allies. Hungarian Jews were about to be transported to Auschwitz; Eichmann announced that all of them could emigrate freely in exchange for ten thousand military trucks from the allies (68). Joel Brand, working on behalf of the Joint Distribution Committee — an American nonprofit helping to move European Jews — desperately tried to convince the Allies to comply, but they would not (68). Brand’s attempts were very much in vain: “Even while Brand’s hopeless negotiations continued, there was no interruption in the trains to Auschwitz” (68).
This anecdote is a microcosm of the larger story of the death camp as Friedrich tells it. Eichmann’s offer was crueler for its suggestion of mercy, for the Allies could never accept it. Brand’s efforts were obviously futile, yet he could not abandon them with some 400,000 lives (66) hanging in the balance. The Allies response was brutal — how could the lives of forty innocent people be worth less than one truck? Yet they had no real choice. Read the rest of this entry »
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I’ve been building myself into an igloo of books surrounding my bed.* I hope to emerge soon, for a bit…
Luckily, though, Daisy’s really been picking up the slack! Keep that keyboard polished, Daisy.
*I wish this was true in more than a metaphorical sense.
1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.
Despite appearances, Emily and I are in fact two separate people, so I’m doing this as Daisy. Emily, feel free to do your own and/or tag other people.
The book nearest to me is Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. I’ve been rereading it lately, it little gulps and snatches. It’s an incredibly important and beautiful book.
As we wrote in The Hannover Principles, “Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design are entwined with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations and recognize distant effects.” (123)
A convenient enough little segment.
I love Beasts!, an amazing book filled with drawings of mythical monsters, each by a different artist. It was my companion during at least two grueling standardized tests, cheering me up during our regulation 10-minute breaks.
So I was very excited to see this post at Drawn!, where I learned that a second volume is in progress, that they’re calling for submissions to it, and that we can all keep track of all of this over at the official Beasts! blog. Hooray!
A few weeks ago, I read Naomi Wolf’s The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. Wolf extensively and dauntingly documents what she calls current U.S. government’s “echoes” of past fascist shifts around the globe. Suffice it to say that the book presents the tireless factual groundwork from which to draw innumerable parallels between this most recent U.S. administration’s move toward a closed society (promulgated by the utilization of ten steps, which Naomi Wolf defines and titles her chapters as: Invoke an external and internal Threat, establish secret prisons, develop a paramilitary force, surveil ordinary citizens, infiltrate citizens’ groups, arbitrarily detain and release citizens, target key individuals, restrict the press, cast criticism as “espionage” and dissent as “treason”, and subvert the rule of law) and the successful closure of societies past.
While I can’t say I was utterly shocked by the premise that, hmm, the U.S. lately has been looking a little like, well, certain fascist dictatorships of latter centuries, it was still somewhat surprising just to hold so many pages positively littered with evidence with which to support such an observation. And also surprising that, well, the fascist shift now taking place in the U.S. is not at all veiled, really. Not only are the tactics now being used “echoes” of ones used before in Germany and/or Italy, etc., in many cases they are actually just the same ones, right down to the carefully chosen words used by the decider and his cohorts to rationalize them. And the utilization is overt and known. Which brings us to the book’s most important lesson.
The fascist shift will be reported on. We will continue to read about wiretapping, about waterboarding, about Blackwater. But this is not a sign that democracy stands inevitable and impenetrable in defense of its purveyors. This is a part of the shift itself, and is calculated. Knowledge of the shift is not uncensored because the powers that be would have us well informed and intellectually able to engage the reality of our situation, but because we cannot be intimidated if we do not know what’s going on, and fascist shift requires citizen intimidation. We’ll read about all of it in the papers, in the magazines, and hear about it on the radio. But nothing will seem that different in the majority of our daily lives. Until it all does.
And now, the moral of the story manifested in action. On a more concrete and personal level.
I’m an anxious traveler. The night before I was to fly home to my family and friends from the Big City for the holidays, I finished the chapter called “Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens”, set primarily in airports. I finished reading about “the list”–yes, there really is a list– of outspoken and dissenting political activists and academics kept by the TSA and, on the internet, the cruelties suffered by one Icelandic traveler Erla at JFK airport because of a three week visa overstay in the U.S. a decade ago.
And so I awoke frazzled, grasping for my photo ID and ticket information, and faced with a dilemma I had never been inspired to acknowledge before. I had packed a ton of books, mostly purchased for last semester’s political resistance class, into my suitcase and was planning to finish The End of America aboard my next flight. When I realized: they will see what I’ve been reading. They will know what information I have been ingesting about this, what I’m likely to say about that. They will know. “They” might track my e-mails, access my medical records, infiltrate any community group they think I might join. And have thus been successful enough in their endeavors that at 7:00 a.m. on the morn of my departure from school and long awaited return home, this is what I’m worried about. I am not only stressed and paranoid: this is what I am supposed to fear.
So, of course, I left all my packed books in their places and continued on my way with Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot in my carry-on. I had to. I paid both time and money to learn something in that political resistance class, after all. I didn’t get strip-searched when I went through security. Or even a second glance. I am completely low-profile, after all (but don’t most of us believe we are? It could be anyone…)
And when I took my seat aboard the aircraft, unabashedly opened my book and flashed the cover, I saw that the guy across the aisle from me was…dun dun dun…reading the same one. We gave each other a knowing nod, he said “crazy” a few times, and I made it home safely. Presumably, so did he.
But, given the systems recently put in place, it’s just as logical that it was by chance. Or that he didn’t. Or that we will simply think we know until we don’t. And in the name of defending democracy, we must reclaim the ordinary, every day patriot’s task of defending it, for it may only defend us until it no longer does.