Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Impressions

The formality of the book review is a great thing but I must confess that I'm obsessed with copying down passages that resonate with me. I feel pretty anxious if I don't preserve a fragment or paragraph somewhere because it is a way of cataloguing the book in my brain. I hope to contruct an uneven and long trail of found words--fictional accounts that reflect some of my realities and the equal and opposing truths that make our world both bleak and wonderful. I recently read two very good books--The Gathering by Anne Enright and The Sorrows of An American by Siri Hustvedt. 
The Gathering is a book of immense power. Both were gifts from my permanent housemate -- the first he found while he was away in Delhi and the second, here in Singapore. He has my eternal gratitude for introducing me to Enright's wonderful writing. Here is a paragraph I felt compelled to copy. I haven't put it in a notebook yet like I usually do, but recording it on this blog seems to assuage the anxiety of losing track of it. 
"There are so few people given us to love. I want to tell my daughters this, that each time you fall in love it is important, even at nineteen. Especially at nineteen. And if you can, at nineteen, count the people you love on one hand, you will not, at forty, have run out of fingers on the other. There are so few people given us to love and they all stick."
Siri Hustvedt's 'What I Loved' is a stunning book so I had great expectations for her newest book,  'The Sorrows of An American'. She explores psychotherapy and neurological machinations as well as the compulsion to document, exhibit and reveal. My only quarrels with this book were a couple of almost made-for-Hollywood type climactic scenarios. That said, it is a great read and this bit stayed with me. It is so, so brilliant:
"I've often thought none of us is what we imagine, that each of us normalises the terrible strangeness of inner life with a variety of convenient fictions."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's a mad, mad world

Is it a sign of a feeble mind to latch on to a song by Tears for Fears in the un-ending sameness that is the inside of a mall? I walk around the giant mall I work next to and I'm always reminded of these words; "All around me are familiar faces/Worn out places, worn out faces/Bright and early for their daily races/Going nowhere, going nowhere."

I look at the store windows and there are so many ugly clothes that money can buy and think that it is just as well I don't really have all that much money, right now at least. Think of it; Grey leopard print tights, leopard print bra with underwiring hard enough to cut the soft skin that usually covers a woman’s ribs. Even if she has unfortunate taste in clothes, it is too harsh a punishment.

It is all rather absurd--the shiny floors of shops, the too-bright lights and the made-up salesgirls with the fake, glued-on, too-impossibly-thick caterpillar eyelashes and the for-sale signs and the everything-must-go loudness of the piped-in muzak that surrounds my head as it registers 'Made in China,’ 'Made in China' and ' Made in China ' labels all around the Disneyland wondering, wondering, wondering how many hours somebody worked to deliver this batch of clothes or those shoes and these bags and how much they got paid and what percentage mark-up and why am I wandering about here with my aching feet on ill-thought high heels when I won’t buy anything and what if I do buy that foxy grey top with the metal sequins that nobody over 25 should rightly attempt to wear, what would that choice make me? An easily-influenced, insecure woman who is responding excellently to all the advertisements that urge her to cling desperately to the vestiges of girlhood, that's what.

Turns out that maybe, just today, I know better than to be that woman. That's the great thing about growing older. Some of us really do get wiser, even if wisdom only strikes momentarily, like clear lightning, disappearing swiftly again into clouds of unreason.