Sunday, March 6, 2011 4:45:21 PM
Amy gave me a book a few years ago, Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, that I found again a couple weeks ago and that I really enjoyed reading. Amy had liked the book and wrote a note on the first page that she hoped I would enjoy the world the book creates as much as she did. Thanks, my friend, I enjoyed it immensely.
The author creates a wonderful world, where time stops to matter, a world that I knew would end and that I was loath to leave. It isn't about opera, but the story is weaved around opera. The story is that of a group of terrorists --adult and children-- somewhere in South America, who hold hostage forty or so men, and a soprano, during several months.
Here are the quotes that I liked particularly.
They were so shaken by the beauty of her voice that they wanted to cover her mouth with their mouth, drink in. Maybe music could be transferred, devoured, owned. What would it mean to kiss the lips that had held such a sound?
He saw La Sonnambula three nights in a row. He had never sought her out or made himself to be anything more than any other member of the audience. He did not assume his appreciation for her talent exceeded anyone else's. He was more inclined to believe that only a fool would not feed about her exactly how he felt. There was nothing more to want than the privilege to sit and listen.
No one could see her objectively anyway. Even those who saw her for the first time, before she had opened her mouth to sing, found her radiant, as if her talent could not be contained in her voice ans so poured like light through her skin.
There was a television in this room. A few of them had seen a television before, a wooden box with a curved piece of glass that threw back your reflection in peculiar ways. They were always, always broken. That was the nature of televisions. There was talk, big stories about what a television once had done, but no one believed it because no one had seen it.
His own daughters presented him with a mathematical impossibility, one minute running around the house wearing pajamas covered in images of the blankly staring Hello, Kitty, the next minute announcing they had dates who would be picking them up at seven. He believed his daughters were not old enough to date and yet clearly by the standards of this country they were old enough to be members of a terrorist organization. He tried to picture them, their plastic daisy barrettes and short white socks, picking at the door frame with the sharp tip of a knife.
Russian was by no means his best language, and if his concentration lapsed even for a moment it all became a blur of consonants, hard Cyrillic letters bouncing like hail off a tin roof.
Always we would go to the opera. As young men we would stand in the back for a few rubles, money we did not have at the time. But then jobs came we had seats, and with better jobs came proper seats. You could mark our rise in the world by our position in the opera house, by what we paid and, later, what we were given. Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, we saw everything that was Russian.
Again and again he sang the chorus, almost whispering for fear someone might hear him, mock him, punish him. He felt this too strongly to think that it was something he could get away with. Still, he wished he could open himself up the way she did, bellow it out, dig inside himself to see what was really there.
"God forgives you," the priest said.
Beatriz opened her eyes and blinked at the priest. "So it will go away?"
"You'll have to pray. You'll have to be sorry."
"I can do that." Maybe that was the answer, a sort of cycle of sinning and sorriness. She could come every Saturday, maybe more often than that, and he would keep having God forgive her, and then she would be free to go to heaven.
She closed her eyes and looked for her dark pile of sins, hoping she could release a few more on her own without the help of the priest, thinking that fewer sins would give her a lightness that these new men would recognize. But the sins were gone. She looked and looked behind the darkness of her eyelids but there was not a single sin left and she was amazed.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010 9:51:06 PM
I tapped into Maxf's excellent and extended collection of books and was intrigued by the title of a Douglas Adams' novel, 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency'.
I read it pretty quickly and it enchanted me. Just the kind of clever and humorous reading I was after.
Here are a few spoiler-free bits I particularly liked, in the order they appear in the book:
So after a hectic week of believing that war was peace, that good was bad, that the moon was made of blue cheese, and that God needed a lot of money sent to a certain box number, the Monk started to believe that thirty-five percent of all tables were hermaphrodites, and then broke down.
"Well, he's one of these people who can only think when he's walking. When he has ideas, he has to talk them out to whoever will listen. […]"
Pink valleys, hermaphrodite tables, these were all natural stages through which one had to pass on the path to true enlightenment.
[…] Richard had run into Dirk from time to time and had usually been greeted with that kind of guarded half smile that wants to know it you thick it owes you money before it blossoms into one that hopes you will lend it some.
"The man just liked to talk," he would later tell the police. "Man, I could have walked away to the toilet for ten minutes and he would've told it all to the till. If I'd been fifteen minutes the till would have walked away too.[…]"
That's the problem with crunch-heads -- they have one great idea that actually works and then they expect you to carry on funding them for years while they sit and calculate the topographies of their navels.
There was something odd about the horse, but he couldn't say what. Well, there was one thing that was clearly very odd about it indeed, which was that it was standing in a college bathroom. Maybe that was all.
What with that and the amount he talked, the traffic through his mouth was almost incessant. His ears, on the other hand, remained almost totally unused in normal conversation.
[…] the act of measurement collapses the probability waveform. Up until that point all the possible courses of action open to, say, an electron, coexist as probability waveform. Nothing is decided. Until it's measured.
The tall figure appeared to be not at all happy with what it saw, to be rather cross about it, in fact. To be more than cross. It appeared to be a tall dark figure who could very easily yank the heads off half a dozen chickens and still be cross at the end of it.
Dirk turned away and sagged sideways off his chair, much as the sitter for The Thinker probably did when Rodin went off to be excused.
"[…] Dirk Gently is the name under which I now trade. There are certain events in the past, I'm afraid, from which I would wish to dissociate myself." "Absolutely, I know how you feel. Most of the fourteenth century, for instance, was pretty grim," agreed Reg earnestly.
If you had seen the look on the poor child's face. So miserable. She thought the world would be a marvellous place, and all those appalling old dons were pouring their withering scorn on her just because it wasn't marvellous for them anymore.
"[…] may I ask you something that may be terribly personal? I will understand perfectly if you don't want to answer, but I will just keep pestering you until you do. Just my methods, you see."
"[…] I commend you on your scepticism, but even the sceptical mind must be prepared to accept the unacceptable when there is no alternative. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands."
He stood transfixed. If anyone had been looking at his face at that moment, it would have been abundantly clear to them that the single most astonishing event of this man's entire existence was currently happening to him.
Saturday, August 7, 2010 10:18:51 AM
I've just read Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book of 1884 which is set somewhere along the Mississippi River in the mid 1830s and tells the story of escape and freedom of Huckleberry, a white teenager and Jim a black grown-up runaway slave.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading that book. It took me a while to get used to the English old-fashioned vocabulary and grammar, as well as the language used by the slave Jim.
It was a surprise when I reached the end. Having read the five adventures, I would have gladly read some more.
Here are a few quotes and excerpts from the book that I found striking, amusing, or interesting.
About superstition, after Huck inadvertently killed a spider:
I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep the witches away. But I hadn't no confidence. You do that when you've lost a horseshoe that you've found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn't ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep off bad luck when you'd killed a spider.
About itching, as Huck had to remain immobile:
If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain't sleepy--if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.
About Stockholm Syndrome, discussion among Tom Sawyer's self-proclaimed gang, who plot to carry out adventurous crimes:
Kill the women? No -- nobody ever saw anything in the books like that. You fetch them to the cave, and you're always as polite as pie to them; and by and by they fall in love with you, and never want to go home any more.
Huck tells the truth about Mathematics, the truth, only the truth:
I had been to school most all the time and could spell and read just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don't reckon I could ever get any further than that if I was to live forever. I don't take no stock in mathematics, anyway.
Long but exquisite passage. Conversation between Huck and Jim about the language of the French:
"Why, Huck, doan' de French people talk de same way we does?"
"No, Jim; you couldn't understand a word they said--not a single word."
"Well, now I be ding-busted! How do dat come?"
"I don't know; but it's so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S'pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy--what would you think?"
"I wouldn't think nuff'n; I'd take en bust him over de head--dat is, if he weren't white. I wouldn't 'low no nigger to call me dat."
"Shucks, it ain't calling you anything. It's only saying, do you know how to talk French?"
"Well, den why couldn't he say it?"
"Why, he is a-saying it. That's a Frenchman's way of saying it."
"Well, it's a blame ridiculous way, en I doan' want to hear no mo' 'bout it. Dey ain' no sense in it."
"Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?"
"No, a cat don't."
"Well, does a cow?"
"No, a cow don't, nuther."
"Does a cat talk like a cow, or a cow talk like a cat?"
"No, dye don't."
"It's natural and right for 'em to talk different from each other, ain't it?"
"And ain't it natural and right for a cat and a cow to talk different from us?"
"Why, mos' sholy it is."
"Well, then, why ain't it natural and for a Frenchman to talk different from us? You answer me that."
"Is a cat a man, Huck?"
"Well, den, dye ain't no sense in a cat talkin' like a man. Is a cow a man?--er is a cow a cat?"
"No, she ain't got no business to talk either one er the yuther of 'em. Is a Frenchman a man?"
"Well, den! Dad blame it, why doan' he talk like a man? You answer me dat!"
I see it warn't no use wasting words--you can't learn a nigger to argue. So I quit.
Considerations from Huck and Jim when they're star gazing:
We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course if could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
When the King and the Duke rehearse properly the Balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet:
[…] after a while he said he done it pretty well; "only," he says, "you mustn't bellow out Romeo! that way, like a bull--you must say it soft and sick and languishy, so--R-o-o-meo! that is the idea; for Juliet's a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you know, and she doesn't bray like a jackass."
About the ignominy of people thinking Black people were sub-humans. Huck explains to Aunt Sally what delayed his steamboat:
"It warn't the grounding--that didn't keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head."
"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a nigger."
"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. […]
Saturday, April 4, 2009 12:45:11 PM
I was like a lost moon--my planet destroyed in some cataclysmic, disaster-movie scenario of desolation--that coninuted, nevertheless, to circle in a tight little orbit around the empty space left behind, ignoring the laws of gravity.
"New Moon", 2006
Wednesday, July 25, 2007 9:39:31 PM
I've been quite ignorant about the Harry Potter 7th book, although I've bought and read the others before. And then, about 10 days prior to the release, I chatted briefly with Richard who mentioned he had ordered it and would receive it at 8 a.m. on the morning of the release. I started to consider I could order it on Amazon. I also meant to order the DVD of Young Frankenstein.
A couple days before the release, the book was available. It wasn't an option to receive it on the Saturday morning. Nevermind, I was already happy it was available. I forgot to order the DVD, though.
So I've had the book a few days now. I won't be as fast as a bunch of colleagues who have already devoured it ;)