I just heard the news this morning, on my way to the Farmer's Market. I just started reading her this year after hearing this interview on the BBC and reading several other articles related to the release of No Time Like the Present:


The topic of the interview is 'what happens after the revolution' and it seemed an appropriate topic for her work and the time of her life.

She says, "We have been free for only 18 years. Not even a generation," and says that even the free world still struggles with the problems that plague South Africa.

NPR broadcast a short tribute this morning, cherry-picking extensively from her 1991 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Nadine Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, and in her Nobel address she said human beings devised writing to explore why we are here,

"Since humans became self-regarding they have sought, as well, explanations for the common phenomena of procreation, death, the cycle of seasons, the earth, sea, wind and stars, sun and moon, plenty and disaster," said Gordimer. "The oral story-tellers," she said, "began to feel out and formulate these mysteries, using the elements of daily life ... to make stories."

"Writers themselves don't analyze what they do," she said, "to analyze would be to look down while crossing a canyon on a tightrope."

Gordimer noted that, "Some of us have seen our books lie for years unread in our own countries, banned, and we have gone on writing." But she cited Flaubert, Strindberg, Chinua Achebe and Salman Rushdie more than herself.

"There is a paradox," she added. "In retaining this integrity, the writer sometimes must risk both the state's indictment of treason, and the liberation forces' complaint of lack of blind commitment. The writer is of service to humankind only insofar as the writer uses the word even against his or her own loyalties."


To get the full impact of the speech, her fierce intelligence, complex style, and zealous devotion to the Word you should read it, in its original, here:


The writer is of service to humankind only insofar as the writer uses the word even against his or her own loyalties, trusts the state of being, as it is revealed, to hold somewhere in its complexity filaments of the cord of truth, able to be bound together, here and there, in art: trusts the state of being to yield somewhere fragmentary phrases of truth, which is the final word of words, never changed by our stumbling efforts to spell it out and write it down, never changed by lies, by semantic sophistry, by the dirtying of the word for the purposes of racism, sexism, prejudice, domination, the glorification of destruction, the curses and the praise-songs.
Reb Zalman died today. I met him earlier this year, quite by chance. To see him --- to hear him teach and sing --- was to feel the heart opening. I thought the moment was important enough to note here. How strange to login and find my last post (private) was about him. I feel like I've been trying to find the words for the experience all year.

Here is a link to his obituary:

Here is a link to my last post, which I have now unlocked:
Several years ago I read a book called Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing by Charles Richard Johnson. I have no idea where this book came from, but it hit when the time was right. It was about what I did know (writing) and what I didn't know (Buddhism.) I remember thinking, "In a few years this will probably mean more."

At that time I put one of his books on my bookmooch wishlist. It was only a few weeks ago that it came available and turned up in the mail.

I LOVED the beginning of The Oxherding Tale. It is set in the antebellum south and is about the mixed-race son of a plantation owner's wife and a black butler. The origin tale is bawdy and funny... and the whole book is kind of a tragicomic meditation on on eastern spirituality via western philosophy. Which means my peeps the Transcendentalists are referenced, but so are a million other things.

Read more... )
Some nice animation, especially if you like dogs, but the ending packs a punch. Oscar nominated this year.

Genesis 3:11
It's snowing!

Last year I missed both autumn and first snow because I was in Costa Rica.

This year, I am grateful for both.

Read more... )
I think I may have mentioned a conversation I had a few weeks (months!) ago with workcrush in which he's asked, "Who are your people?"

I suspect that's a question that will take a lifetime to answer, because lacking blood affiliations outside my natal family, it's always changing. I suspect the same is true for people with blood-ties, but that is another topic for another time.

But last night I went to a reading by Terry Tempest Williams and as she reading (making me feel like she was both looking and speaking directly at me) I realized that I was among my people. Not just the elderly, environmental, lesbians that packed the crowd (okay, so most of them were probably not lesbians, but the typical late-middle aged readers that attend these things as they no longer have the obligations of blood-ties, parents having died, children having grown...) but Williams herself who was telling me about what it was like to be a woman and a writer.

It was the strangest mirror, at once a moment of recognition, and a kind of mystery that someone else had arrived at the same place without ever having encountered one another before. That she is an essayist, comes from a religious family (Mormon, but whatever), and is passionately dedicated to the West are also points of contact... but mostly it was the way she described her compulsion.

At one point she said, "As a writer, I am aware that every time I pick up my pencil I betray someone; my decision is to be true to myself." And that rang true enough to write it down.

The whole evening was eerie that way. I don't know quite what to make of it. Among other things she has had the career I dream about, and some of the awards to which I aspire. But perhaps most interesting is that in a family tree stuffed with British grandmothers, it was like I had found an American aunt or mother. So rare.

Afterwards when we queued for her to sign books it turned out she knew almost everyone in the audience. So when it was my turn she said, "I don't believe we've met before, how did you hear about this?" I told her about an interview I'd heard on a radio show and we chatted briefly before she asked, "What's your passion?"

"I'm a Woman of the Word, like you," I said.

She laughed and then signed my book, "For you, Sarah. Voice. Courage. Faith." It's probably how she signed everyone's books that evening, but it felt like a special benison, just for me.
Essayist and activist Terry Tempest Williams will be speaking at Tattered Cover Lodo June 14 @ 7:30. I will be attending. You are welcome to join me.

Here is a 2011 interview:


Her meditations on politics, family, the American West, and what she calls 'sacred rage' have always resonated strongly with me.

Related Jana Richman's The Last Cowgirl:


Both radically changed my thinking about the American West and the place of women (& religion) in it.

"I don't think civil discourse is enough... how do we really find a more meaningful conversation? It's not enough to get a smile from your enemy. What I want to know is what you're really thinking, what you're really feeling, and how did you come to that knowledge?" - Terry Tempest Williams
Brilliant interview with author Marilynn Robinson on John Calvin:


Start at 22:30

"The thing that Calvin valorizes beyond all things is the presence of the mind in the world."

When he asks why they are viewed as so severe she says they were on the losing end of many wars, and as the leading voices of Abolistionism in the US refused to find humor in human bondage... that is an interesting interpretation, and also one that resonates a little more than it ought.

For more about Calvin's links to 19C literature (inc her description of reading Moby Dick & the Institutes side by side) and her take on 'election' (aka pre-destination) listen to the interview!

This is a very different take than you will get elsewhere. And while Calvin certainly deserves the reputation he no doubt enjoys, and while all the nasty things you've heard about him are also true... she is right on the mark.

Loved Gilead, hated Home. Haven't read Housekeeping, but clearly need to keep up on her essays. Not very many people understand this interpretation. It's no wonder people keep sending me her books!
Reposted from FB, this Ben Hatke robot comic (courtesy of the beautiful [livejournal.com profile] sdn)

It brought to mind Samuel Taylor Coelridge's Lime Tree Bower My Prison


written upon his disappointment when he was not able to join his friend Charles Lamb on a long-anticipated walk. Charles Lamb had a life much marred by tragedy, not the least of which was the murder of his mother by his sister Mary. Rather than having her institutionalized, he took on her care for the rest of their lives. (They wrote together, among other things, Tales from Shakespeare, through which many --- including myself --- are introduced to the works of the Bard.)

Coelridge affirms in this poem that beauty doesn't just come from the pleasant friendships and vistas, but that "No sound is dissonant which tells of Life."

This poem, along with Work Without Hope (and of course, the BPs favorite Rime of the Ancient Mariner) has always had special meaning for me. It was given to me by a friend when I was going through my own difficult time... when life had given me way more citrus than I thought I could handle. Not only did it affirm our friendship, but it was a reminder that where there is life, there is not just hope, but beauty.

It also reminded me of one of my favorite aphorisms: "When life gives you lemons, stuff 'em in your bra. Can't hurt, might help." ;)
Finally, this op-ed about Nuns on the Frontier opened a whole new world of imagination for me. Not exactly Death Comes for the Archbishop, nor Two Mules for Sister Sara (which, despite its many failings, has a very sexy arrow removal scene. Go Clint!) But a sincere wish that Timothy Egan was writing better pieces on his West beat... His writing since Worst Hard Time have been somewhat disappointing. This article by Western scholar Anne M. Butler (whose work I've hit before) is more like it.

Absolutely exhausted last night. I came home from work after a 10 hour day, finished Elizbeth Wein's book Code Name Verity, which arrived in the mail this week, and went to bed.

Do you know how some books cast a kind of spell over you? A mood not easily broken? This book is still humming all around me. I suppose it's because it was so real. And it's interesting I should say that about a work of fiction that is very much concerned, itself, on the line between fact and truth.

Read more... )
I woke early this morning to the sight of the moon with a bite out of it. The sun rising on one hand, the moon eclipsing on the other. I thought I'd missed it under yesterdays cloud cover. Instead, it came as a surprise, an unexpected reward for (an undesired) early rising.
I've got a lot going on this morning, but because I have so many chores that need to be accomplished within a specific time frame I'm not free to sit and write. Instead, I'm offering link to two provocative lectures I listened to this week:

Germaine Greer at the Free Thinking Festival 2011 offers a provocative (and somewhat libertarian) interpretation of Freedom especially as relates to whether we will be able to live with the potential outcome of Arab Spring. I recognize the controversial nature of the lecture and the woman who gives it, and offer the disclaimer that I do no claim her or her philosophy for my own, but I thought it was worth a listen. Weirdly, I will be sending it to my mother in defense of the veil:


One of the interesting stances she takes issue with is Rousseau's notion that "Man was born free..." She does not include the second half of the quotation, "...and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they," but does address the problem in her lecture.

Also, from the same Festival, this lovely lecture on "the crisis of commitment" from the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, formerly the Canon Chancellor at St. Paul's Cathedral charged with contemporary ethics and engagement with the City of London. He resigned in October due to his stance that anti-capitalist protestors on the steps of the Cathedral should not be removed by force. This lecture --- which uses The Magnificent Seven as its primary illustration on the difference between being "a gunslinger" or "a farmer" and the different types of commitment these stances entail --- is very Xtian in tone, but does offer some really lovely glimpses into the possibility of a Xtian ethics as separate from the faith. It also defines in many ways the struggle I have found myself a part of in engaging with an adult life:


I particularly like his defense of the specific or the local.

Both address the topic of freedom as "the condition of moral action," something very close to my heart. Though the BP would no doubt take issue with the idea of "choice" in this context, instead focusing on the "intimacy of coexistence." He describes compassion as a kind of compulsion in which we are forced to act out of intimacy with other objects, not because it is right, not because it is ethical, but because we are all in this sh*t together. (Against the Grain @ 33:00-38:20) (Enter the Non-Human 44:00, "Viscosity is what compels us, what puts us in the zone of 'the imperative.' (Alphonso Lingis) In this zone choice is not the theatre of moral action....")
This summer I was lucky enough to get to review Catherine Fisher's Relic Master series, published in four consecutive months this summer. As a reader, I loved this approach. It gave me something to look forward to each month and less time between books to forget what had happened. I'm curious as to whether it worked from a publishing standpoint.

Catherine Fisher's work resonates very strongly with me, to the extent that I'm not sure I can view it objectively. While I think her book Incarceron---one of the best books of 2010---had a more intriguing premise, on a personal level Relic Master probably touched me more deeply. It almost *hurt* to read and I still have difficulty articulating why. The series certainly has some weaknesses and blindspots, but it does not lack in resonance or heart. You will not be surprised that the character I identified with most is Carys, the Watch spy, whose doubt is one of the central features of the story. Moved by Galen's certainty and Raffi's kindness, she comes to doubt the iconoclastic brutality of the Watch whose structure has shaped her life. For me, her experiences are the most interesting part of the series.

Read more... )





P.S. One of the unlikely characters in this series is a dwarf warlord named Alberic who has a fierce yearning for gold. I started the series before I saw The Ring, but now that I have finished the series I think that the reference is either unintentional, or a tiny clue to alert readers in the know that this Anara is experiencing its Götterdämmerung... the twilight of the gods in a world that they have abandoned.
I'm a few years late to this party, but thought the release of his latest book Level Up might be a chance to catch up on the work of noted graphic novelist (what's the correct phrase to use here) Gene Luen Yang. American Born Chinese is a mesh of three different narratives about the experience of growing up Asian American. Yang phrases it first through the Monkey King myth, then a school yard narrative, and then a kind of racist sitcom with a bucktoothed 'cousin' who comes to visit each year from China. The overall message is not only the brutality of cultural assimilation, but also the uneasy truce of where you come from and what comes before. Perhaps most moving is the mandate... as though it is from the gods... to be yourself, even if it's not particularly impressive or cool. The Monkey King, even after mastering incredible fighting forms, remains a monkey.

American Born Chinese )

Doris Lessing )
Lots of film news due to Cannes. For several weeks I've been interested that this season features two dual-earth films: Lars Von Trier's Melancholia and Another Earth. Von Trier really stuck his foot in it with his post-film interviews.

Terrence Mallick's new film is also coming out: Tree of Life. I am a huge fan of this auteur, who I discovered with New World. He has a kind *vision* a way of seeing that shifts perspective. I will never forget the way the New World works on one's brain so that by the time Pocahontas arrives in England that world has become utterly alien. The BP is always saying that a poem is like a machine to change your mind: and I think that works for many types of art.

Ebert's post on Tree of Life today captured a little of the evanescence I occasionally feel in my service:

Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life's experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer "to" anyone or anything, but prayer "about" everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.


Even without a god, we can still feel the awe and wonder of creation.
From the Ebert Club Newsletter:

"The Heretics' Gate" draws inspiration from Dante's Inferno, the first part of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. A twenty foot high, arched screen and a thirty foot long reflecting pool, are cleverly combined to deliver a mesmerizing and strangely ethereal vision of hell at the central focus point of the church's imposing gothic architecture.

What can I say... I'm waiting for the BP to weigh in. This must be quite amazing in situ... the following link has video of the piece and contains an interview with the artist...


But I have to say that I'm also quite enamored of the amateur links around the web with people walking by and talking... the 'bad' recordings that capture a something completely different about the piece.

Still, imagine wandering into a chapel at the cathedral and seeing THAT!
Some Sunday morning polyphony. Francis Poulenc is a 20C composer. I know him most for his art song, which my mother used extensively in her recitals. I am not familiar with his other choral works and heard these motets for the first time this morning. The Tenebrae especially caught my attention; it has some lovely dissonance and an interesting bass hum throughout, though the Tristis is also haunting. I think a compare/contrast with Gesulado (who also loved these texts and has an interesting relationship with chromaticism) would be an interesting exploration for another day. Though a warning before clicking: these are not uppers.

Read more... )

On a lighter note, the best Lenten comic EVER!:
I got word this morning that Rev. Peter J. Gomes --- one of the great preachers of our time --- has died. In addition to being a high profile African-American preacher in the halls of Harvard, Gomes shocked the religious establishment when he came out as a gay and a Christian in the early nineties. Despite a long affiliation with conservative politics, Gomes became increasingly radical as he aged, issuing a clarion call for the social gospel of Jesus, preaching tolerance and social justice. His influence and work reached far outside the walls of his church or the halls of the academy.


Just last month I wrote about Gomes in the following post about Benefactors & Succession , which I re-post here because it seems appropriate for the occasion:

Read more... )



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