GoodReads Review: Marquez’s Collected Stories

Collected Stories

Reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez is like coming home, a home crammed with the most wondrous oddities. Birds of wild plumage. Winds that scrape against sanity. Seas that overcome and drown you. But there’s not a trace of cold heart-stopping fear. Marquez’s realms are Sublime.

The first two stories of this collection, Eyes of a Blue Dog, are preoccupied with death. Though highly abstract, and, at the same time, visceral, the details twitch and flitter, making the skin crawl. Death elicits unease, yet this macabre obsession shows hints more toward a writer’s meager canvas. The characters embody smallness of mind. An ego coddling itself? Much of the first collection is filled with amorphous plots and insulated characters. As the stories progress, and, as we move from one collection to another, we see Marquez step outside of his own neuroses and evolve as artist. His maturation is one of literature’s greatest treasures. As the writer strengthens his style, the tales grow sophisticated…

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The Music Instinct | PBS

“If string theory is correct, at the heart of matter is music.”

The Music Instinct | PBS

PBS produces yet another brilliant series on the science of song.

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The Contest: The Winners of the MI Contest, “Noise Reinvented”

About:

The Music Instinct: Science and Song is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG – one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

Researchers and scientists from a variety of fields are using groundbreaking techniques that reveal startling new connections between music and the human mind, the body and the universe. Together with an array of musicians from rock and rap to jazz and classical, they are putting music under the microscope.

“The brain is teaching us about music and music is teaching us about the brain,” says Levitin.” Music allows us to understand better how the brain organizes information in the world. There are a lot of different factors that go into our emotional appreciation of music [like] the memories we have of a particular song that we heard at a particular time in our lives.”

William Boyd on London’s Parks

From Sunday, June 21, 2009 The Guardian | Culture | Books | Fiction, Boyd “takes an A-Z literary tour of London’s Parks” in his article “‘Its all too Beautiful'”. Brilliant method of organizing a stream-of-conscious essay!

Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, in the pantheon of English literature, perhaps best illustrate the split between the “town” writer as opposed to the “country” one. It is a very 19th-century juxtaposition, made particularly acute and particularly obvious as the industrial revolution took its remorseless grip on the nation. The widespread development of the city park, in turn, was largely a 19th-century phenomenon. The filth and foetor of the Victorian metropolis made the green spaces all the more important. I have a history of London composed solely by its maps, and one can see the exponential growth of the city over the centuries reflected by the steady appearance of its parks, like green islands in the burgeoning, cross-hatched grid of London’s streets – not so much the city’s “lungs” as the city’s verdant archipelago in its dark and grimy sea.

Definition of a park. It’s time to establish precisely what we mean by a “park”. I’m thinking principally of London, but I feel this definition will fit all parks in all cities of the world. There are certain determining characteristics, necessary conditions, for park status. First, there must be tall, mature trees, the older and taller the better. Second, the majority of the trees in the park must give the impression of random planting…Read more

GoodReads Review: Mukherjee’s dance between Casteneda and Conrad

Leave It to Me (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Leave It to Me by Bharati Mukherjee

My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Being citizen of the world is crazy-making. You belong to nowhere and every where claims you. You could be Egyptian, Thai, Fijian, Spanish or Persian, and strangers with a downright rudeness will marvel at your hair, dissect your skin color, and speak brazenly about the otherness of you. Mixed race, multi-culturals must learn to straddle borders and serve as ambassador to a crowd that only pretends to be homogenized. Members of the “rainbow tribe” learn to belong to multiple worlds and become schizophrenic in the process. Bharati Mukherjee’s rambunctious and mythic novel, Leave It To Me is a fast-paced tale that lassos and wrestles the mixed race experience to the ground. Her writing, as in Jasmine and Middlemen & Other Stories, scintillates. She cuts through all the B.S. and morass to get to the beating, bleeding heart of our racially complex world.

Debby DiMartino, or the reinvented and reincarnated Devi, is a force of a nature. What makes her a great main character is that we don’t know what she’s capable of and neither does she. The best literary characters instill just enough fear in their readers, so that we’re surprised, almost aghast, at their potency. Half Indian and half American, Devi raises a path of destruction and retribution as she seeks her birth parents. Born and raised in Schenectady by her adoptive Italian American parents, the family that cared for and loved her throughout childhood, adolescent, and teenage years gets tossed aside, while Devi follows a thin line between sanity and insanity, stalking her heritage to the Bay Area of California, a bastion for changelings and shape-shifters. Circuiting the cracked out Haight, berserk Berkeley, and even an off-road jaunt through the Caldicott Tunnel for an evening of suburban madness in Lafayette, Devi meets soul-searchers and cosmonauts who are more lost and more confused than her own orphaned and jumbled self. With psychic and transcripted transmissions from Rajasthan, Mukherjee alights the Pacific Rim with a burning tale of explosive souls enmeshed in a Vietnam love versus war saga. Devi’s origin is the twisted tale of a hippie American mother, who romanticizes the East, bowing to her Oriental lover and lo! a hapless baby with a hunger for revenge is borne. Leave It to Me, is a perverse dance of both classic and contemporary themes, when Casteneda meets Conrad.

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GoodReads Review: Answering to Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jane Eyre, at fifteen she seemed entirely too cerebral, almost to the point of pretension. Too downtrodden and bound to earthly matters, certainly no match for the metaphysical and passionate likes of her literary sister, Catherine Earnshaw. I was not a fan of Charlotte Bronte in high school. I much preferred the transcendental and other-worldly spiritedness of Cathy and Heathcliff. Charlotte and Jane were just too drab and dreary.

Some fifteen years later, most of my adolescent ardor has tempered. I no longer think The Doors are the end all be all, and I cringe at my idolisation of Jim Morrison. I see the gaping faults in Cathy and can’t forgive Heathcliff. And Jane, dear, wise, level-headed, answer-to-her-own-will and stick-to-her-own-principles, Jane Eyre is an end all be all in Charlotte’s profound and unsettling universe. I recently re-read Jane Eyre this past month and was so swept away with awe and inspiration, I read it again. That’s right, twice, in a row. Jane Eyre is as complicated, keen, and perceptive as any philosophical protagonist. Move over Stephen Daedalus, watch out Raskolnikov, shut your pipes, Pip, and stuff it Hans Castrop.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.

Jane is as strong willed and autonomous as any man. A critique of the Biblical story of woman as temptress, in Bronte’s world, men are weak and tempt damnation. Rochester urges Jane to live in sin with him, but Jane is too upstanding and moral, not in a cloying and nauseating way as Esther Summerson or any other Victorian female do-gooder, think Eliot’s Romola and take your pick of Dickens’ heroines. Jane stands apart because we see from the beginning that she holds firmly to her own principles. And, at most, we share her credo. We want her to leave Rochester, we hail her for rebelling against Mrs. Reed, and we hold the same caution as she does against Helen Burns’ extreme piety. The brilliance of Bronte’s first person narrator, is that we see exactly why and how Jane acts on her decisions, and we follow her every step and struggle with heart and reason. Throughout all the trails and turbulent tribulations, and even in the advent of marriage, Jane doesn’t lose her autonomy but gains only more agency and wisdom for herself while Rochester pays for his transgressions through his body and soul. He literally becomes a broken man by his own doing.

Such is the imperfect nature of man! Such spots are there on the disc of the clearest planet; and eyes like Miss Scatherd’s can only see those minute defects, and are blind to fill brightness of the orb.

The Brontes revel in flaws. Their characters are glorified by humanly fatal flaws. Jane is too headstrong. Rochester, prideful. There’s dogmatic Helen, the statuesque and too evangelical St. John, and Adele, who’s just too French. Bronte had just a smidge of the xenophobe in her. That’s sarcasm for you. Because, of course, there’s Bertha, the inner animal, the monstrous Other, who, despite her foreign origins, lives in each and everyone of us. Bertha is kin to Heathcliff. Without either the world would be a very cold, barren desert. Each character’s fault shapes them and makes them who they are, an Achilles Heel that makes them larger than life. Bronte magnifies each defect, and, in doing so, rejects perfection and purity. The only absolute is there are no absolutes. Absolutes are sent to the sweltering heat of India to wither and die. St. John, the model of perfection and piety, is a Greek god of beauty and has the morals to uphold his handsomeness. Yet his perfection is grotesque. And Rochester’s grotesqueness is not perfection, but we definitely prefer him over the maniacal rigidness of St. John who both repels and attracts women.

From the start, Eyre wants nothing more than earthly love. Burns says to her “Hush, Jane, you think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement.” Yet, Jane is extremely hardy and adaptable. She can grow without love. In darkness and solitude, she’ll survive and be better for it. She is capable of finding her inner strengths without outside support, and this makes her divine, god-like. Resilient and resourceful, as formidable a hero as Dante or Odysseus. Jane Eyre defines the heroine’s journey. Heroine as opposed to hero in that Jane thrives best in her relationships to those she loves and those who reciprocate equal care and compassion. “Only connect,” Jane embodies the mantra and shows us the truer and greater path, more significant than any trail a hero might trek. Our heroine happily and proudly commits herself to serve others, not in the service of god, not in any submissive or subservient manner but out of a deep sense of duty to simply care for those she loves. This is true nobility, truly heroic. To be of use, to have purpose, to fulfill duty, and uphold virtue in the Classical sense. Jane knows where she stands among the Cosmos. She knows the station to which she was born and does not seek to transcend her place, in terms of shirking from duties and responsibilities, but should anyone transgress against her rights to equality, free speech, or free thought, should anyone violate her own humanity, they will have to answer to Charlotte Bronte.

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Harper’s Magazine is on a roll

More greatness from Harper’s Magazine, “Plato’s World” published Sunday, June 6, 2009.

In Plato’s day, the world itself seemed boundless beyond comprehension, its resources inexhaustible, and the dangers and wonders of nature were a test for human knowledge. With the passage of time, humanity has grown much more conscious of the finite nature of the earth and its resources. And with time, Plato’s conceptualization of the earth as a living creature has also become a more appealing model–it pointed the way to discovery of the ecological systems by which the world breathed, moved, transformed and regenerated itself. Today humanity approaches final mastery of the world–but what does this mean for the world-soul and for humanity’s ultimate survival in its terrestrial setting?

Evocations of Panthea



Harpers’ Magazine
does it again with a wonderful commingling of Emerson and Beethoven contemplating the world-soul.

In The Dial of July 1841, close to the time of this poem’s composition, Emerson writes: “Music is the aspiration, the yearnings of the heart to the Infinite. It is the prayer of faith, which has no fear, no weakness in it. It delivers us from our actual bondage; it buoys us up above our accidents, and wafts us on waves of melody to the heart’s ideal home.” He has been to a concert performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s sixth symphony, the Pastoral. “Whoever has studied the Pastoral Symphony… will feel the difference between music which flows from an inward feeling of nature, from a common consciousness (as it were) with nature, and the music which only copies, from without, her single features. These pieces bring all summer sensations over you, but they do not let you identify a note or a passage as standing for a stream, or a bird. They do not say; look at this or that, now imagine nightingales, now thunder, now mountains, and now sunspots chasing shadows; but they make you feel as you would if you were lying on a grassy slope in a summer’s afternoon, with the melancholy leisure of a shepherd swain, and these things all around you without your noticing them.”

Read more at “Emerson’s World Soul” | Harper’s Magazine | 7, June 2009

Vince Gotera deconstructs a favorite poem on YouTube

This poem has haunted me since first encountering ee cummings. Vince Gotera provides an elegant and simple deconstruction via YouTube on his blog post “ee cummings l(a) deconstructed”:

If you’re like me, after reading cummings, you’ll perceive magic every time a leaf falls.

…What cummings uncovers for us here is how many times the number one (as suggested by the letter l) appears in the word loneliness: four times. And of course there’s also the letter l/number one in the word leaf…

Check out Gotera’s post here.