Category: book

Jan2017

 

Pictures left to right:

  1. Currently reading, “When Breath Becomes Air.
  2. Zonke Dikana at the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts
  3. Some of the food on display at the Hout Bay Market.

 

Quote from “When Breath Becomes Air”:

“Nights during a full moon, the light flooded the wilderness, so it was possible to hike with a headlamp. We would hit the trail at two A.M., summiting the nearest peak, Mount Tallac, just before sunrise, the clear, starry night reflected in the flat, still lakes spread below us. Snuggled together in sleeping bags at the peak, nearly ten thousand feet up, we weathered frigid blasts of wind with coffee someone had been thoughtful enough to bring. And then we would sit and watch as the first hint of sunlight, a light tinge of day blue, would leak out of the eastern horizon, slowly resting the stars. The day sky would spread wide and high, until the first ray of sun made an appearance. The morning commuters began to animate the distant South Lake Tahoe roads. But craning your head back, you could see the day’s blue darken halfway across the sky, and to the west, the night remained yet unconquered – pitch-black, stars in full glimmer, the full moon still pinned in the sky. To the east, the full light of day beamed toward you; to the west night reigned with no hint of surrender.”

 

When Breath Becomes Air

likewaterforchocolate
I got my first taste of magical realism this year through Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, “Love in the time of cholera”. I didn’t love it. I hated it. I found it over the top. Too romantic. Too unrealistic.  Just too much.

And if you were to ask me what the novel was about, I would probably reply with something glib, “It’s about a guy, who falls in love with a girl. They exchange letters and declare eternal everlasting love. She eventually breaks it off him and does something sensible by marrying a doctor. He whores around, and hopes that one day her husband will die. Not that he ever does anything to hasten the doctor’s death. Wimp.”

“Like water for chocolate” falls under the same genre, but oh boy am I emotionally invested in these characters. Eighteen pages in and I was whispering to the protagonist, Tita, “Man, you’ve got to poison that bitch.” The bitch of course is her mother, who forced Pedro, the love of her life to marry Tita’s sister.

Here’s a quote from the novel:

“Tita lowered her head, and the realization of her fate struck her as forcibly as her tears struck the table. From then on they knew, she and the table, that they could never have even the slightest say in the unknown forces that fate Tita to bow before her mother’s absurd decision, and the table to continue to receive the bitter tears that she had shed on the day of her birth.”

Magical realism

July2016

From left to right:

  1. Painting I saw at First Thursdays
  2. Pretty flowers on Lion’s Head
  3. Carrot cake flavoured ice-cream from The Creamery

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve booked my tickets to Victoria Falls International Airport and since then I haven’t done much in the way of research and planning. I haven’t booked accommodation, arranged for any tours or check that my yellow fever certification is still current, which is worrisome considering that I board said flight in less than two weeks. Instead I’ve spent the last two weeks feasting (Ramadaan just ended), teaching myself some Python scripting, and being paralyzed by fear.

 

You see, days after I booked my plane tickets to Victoria Falls (which is situated in Zimbabwe), I would learn via Twitter of the national shutdown protests in Zimbabwe. This ultimately leaves me with the following questions:

  • Is the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls safe to travel to?
  • Is it ethical to travel to a country where a majority of the citizens are clearly fed up with the current government?

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Anyway, I’m currently reading “Into Thin Air“.

Here’s an extract from the novel:

“Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet. I understood on some dim, detached level that the sweep of earth beneath my feet was a spectacular sight. I’d been fantasizing about this moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. But now that I was finally here, actually standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn’t summon the energy to care.

It was early in the afternoon of May 10, 1996. I hadn’t slept in fifty-seven hours. The only food I’d been able to force down over the preceding three days was a bowl of ramen soup and a handful of peanut M&Ms. Weeks of violent coughing had left me with two separated ribs that made ordinary breathing an excruciating trial. At 29, 028 feet up in the troposhere, so little oxygen was reaching my brain that my mental capacity was that of a slow child. Under the circumstances, I was incapable of feeling much of anything except cold and tired.”

Random_March

Some random photos (left to right):

  1. Tortoise spotted at work
  2. Protea
  3. Sunset over Sea Point swimming pool

I am currently reading Jazz by Toni Morrison.

Here’s an extract from the novel:

“Dorcas has been acknowledged, appraised and dismissed in the time it takes for a needle to find its opening groove. The stomach-jump of possible love is nothing compared to the ice floes that block up her veins now. The body she inhabits is unworthy. Although it is young and all she has, it is as if it had decayed on the vine at budding time. No wonder Neola closed her arm and held the pieces of her heart in her hand.

So by the time Joe Trace whispered to her through the crack of a closing door her life had become almost unbearable. Almost. The flesh, heavily despised by the brothers, held secret the love appetite soaring inside it.”

And if you’re looking to kill more time at work, may I suggest the following articles:

  1. A modern proposal by David Sedaris.
  2. The racist gatekeepers of Hollywood
  3. To anyone who thinks they’re falling behind in life
  4. Bad blogging in Turin, my favourite city in Italy

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I’ve just finished reading the book, “Into the Wild“. Below is two of my favourite passages. It’s on ice climbing.

All that held me to the mountainside, all that held me to the world, were two thin spikes of chrome molybdenum stuck half an inch into a smear of frozen water, yet the higher I climbed, the more comfortable I became. Early on a difficult climb, especially a difficult solo climb, you constantly feel the abyss pulling at your back. To resist takes a tremendous conscious effort; you don’t dare let your guard down for an instant. The siren song of the void puts you on edge; it makes your moments tentative, clumsy, herky-jerky. But as the climb goes on, you grow accustomed to the exposure, you get used to rubbing shoulders with doom, you come to believe in the reliability of your hands and feet and head. You learn to trust your self-control.

 

By and by your attention becomes so intensely focused that you no longer notice the raw knuckles, the cramping thighs, the strain of maintaining nonstop concentration. A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-today existence – the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison from your genes – all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.

I wish I could attempt something this scary. I want to be brave and strong. 

Wild mustard flowered on the cracked banks, and I picked a bouquet for Yvonne. What was a weed, anyway. A plant nobody planted? A seed escaped from a traveler’s coat, something that didn’t belong? Was it something that grew better that what should have been there? Wasn’t it just a word, weed, trailing its judgments. Useless, without value. Unwanted.  

Well, anyone could buy a green Jaguar, find beauty in a Japanese screen two thousand years old. I would rather be a connoisseur of neglected rivers and flowering mustard and the flush of iridescent pink on an intersection pigeon’s charcoal neck. I thought of the vet, warming dinner over a can, and the old woman feeding her pigeons in the intersection behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken, And what about the ladybug man, the blue of his eyes over the gray threaded black? There were me and Yvonne, Niki and Paul Trout, maybe even Sergei and Susan D. Valeris, why not? What were any of us but a handful of weed. Who was to say what our value was? What was the value of four Vietnam vets playing poker every afternoon in the front Spanish market on Glendale Boulevard, making their moves with a greasy deck missing a queen and a five? Maybe the world depended on them, maybe they were the Fates, or the Graces. Cézanne would have drawn them in charcoal. Van Gogh would have painted himself among them.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

White Oleander

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Photo taken in Turkey.

I’ve just finished reading, “Best White and Other Anxious Delusions” by Rebecca Davis.

My favourite extract from the novel:

“Then Desmond Tutu really set the cat among the pigeon by proposing that white South Africans should pay a ‘white tax’, to which many white people responded with fury that they already paid a ‘white tax’ called ‘tax’.

It’s cute how many white people genuinely believe they are the only ones who pay tax, as if whenever anyone else gets to the Shoprite till, the checkout lade presses a secret button marked ‘No VAT FOR DARKIES’.”

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Did you know that they pay a tampon tax in the UK? Coz tampons are a “luxury” item …

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Photograph taken somewhere in California.

I am currently reading “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink.

Here are two of my favourite passages from the book:

“When I let her alone to prepare pudding, she was not at the table when I came back. She had gone from room to room and was standing in my father’s study. I leaned quietly against the doorpost and watched her. She let her eyes drift over the bookshelves the filled the walls, as if she were reading a text. Then she went to a shelf, raised her right index finger chest high and ran it slowly along the backs of the books, moved to the next shelf, ran her finger further along, from one spine to the next, pacing off the room. She stopped at the window, looked out into the darkness, at the reflection of the bookshelves, and at her own.”

“When an aeroplane’s engines fail, it is not the end of the flight. Aeroplanes don’t fall out of the sky like stones. They glide on, the enormous multi-engined passenger jets, for thirty, forty-five minutes, only to smash themselves up when they attempt a landing. The passengers don’t notice a thing. Flying feels the same whether the engines are working or not. It’s quieter, but only slightly: the wind drowns out the engines as it buffets the tail and wings. At some point the earth or sea look dangerously close through the window. But perhaps the film is on, and the stewards and air hostesses have closed the blinds. Maybe the very quietness of the flight strikes the passengers as an improvement.”

What are you currently reading?

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Photo taken in San Diego.

I’ve just finished reading “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. It’s a gorgeous book and I found myself balling like a baby near the end.

 

Here’s an extract:

I told him to please let me go because I got to go to the toilet but he was just laffing at me and I dint know what to do. So I started crying, let me go. Let me go. And then I made. It went in my pants and it smelled bad and I was crying. He let go of me than and made a sick face and he looked scared then. He said For gods sake I didn’t mean anything Charlie.

 

But then Joe Carp came in and grabbed Klaus by the shirt and said leave him alone you lousy bastard or Ill brake your neck. Charlie is a good guy and nobodys gonna start up with him without answering for it. I felt ashamed and I ran to the toilet to clean myself and change my cloths.

 

When I got back Frank was there to and Joe was telling him about it and then Gimpy came in and they told him about it and he said theyd get rid of Klaus. They were gonna tell Mr Donner to fire him. I told them I dint think he should be fired and have to find another job because he had a wife and a kid. And besides he said he was sorry for what he did to me. And I remember how sad I was when I had to get fired from the bakery and go away. I said Klaus should get a second chance because now he wouldn’t do anything bad to me anymore.

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Photograph taken in San Francisco. 

I’ve just finished reading, “N.P.” by Banana Yoshimoto. It’s an odd book and it tries to touch on many themes: suicide, lesbianism, incest, abortion, the occult and drugging your friend.

Extract:

“How were her father and Otohiko different? With millions of men on the earth, why did she choose her own relatives?

Sui was selective about what she believed.

There’s no such thing as perfect love. If you and Otohiko break up, he will be relieved too.

Are you happy with your life up to this point? It’s your fault that nothing good has happened to you.

Despite her arrogance, she was well aware that hers was a slender existence. She believed in the groans of that dubious soul, and the brilliance of her own tuition.

She possessed a life force that was fundamental and untamed. She was like a kitten who is flung into muddy water and cries pitifully but still survives. Shoji lacked that tenacity, and people like Otohiko and I are unable to believe in it completely and remain ambivalent.”