Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chores, eggs, books, dogs, and whales. That enough?

Chore day, 'nuff said.

I asked yesterday how you boil an egg without cracking it... Dorky Dad had an entire post on the subject. I can never confine myself so thoroughly...anyway, I had always considered myself capable of boiling an egg before I read his blog, but apparently if the eggs crack, your DSQ. Disqualified. I've been tossed out of the egg-boiling fraternity. Fortunately,Jocelyn posted a comment saying that the technique is to put the room temperature egg into room temperature water...no problem there, we don't have a fridge, and boil it for 1 MINUTE ONLY. Then let it sit for twenty. I did that. Well, I let it sit for closer to 40 minutes, but I still cracked one out of the two. I'll have to try it again. What am I doing wrong?


I've been reading a lot of "LIT'RACHAH" lately. I am not really a novel kind of girl...I have always preferred non-fiction, but what with living on the boat and now being in Spain, well, beggars can't be choosers. I also made an obligatory dive into CanLit one summer, in between gleefully engulfing lots of books I love. Here's what bites me about LITERARY writing. It is so depressing. I mean stick-your-head-in-the-oven slit-your-wrists-in-the-bathroom depressing. Why is that? I mean really. Classic artistic tradition recognizes two major forms. Comedy and tragedy, yet our culture has so degraded comedy as a meaningful art form, and means to convey serious commentary and meaning that it is left to the Eddie Murphys and Jim Belushi's of the planet. Comedy is a legitimate means of speaking to others.

Why do we have to wallow in the despair of the world around us in order to speak to each other? Why cannot great work be uplifting? Why are these kinds of books basement-ed into "chic-lit" One of the defining characteristics of the modern novel is that it looks at the psychological evolution of the main characters in interaction with their environment. Well, why is it that they eternally have to be headed irrevocably down for it to count.

There are really great writers that are producing beautifully written works that communicate tremendous depth of meaning and are not wrist-slitters
. I have just finished Barbara Kingsoliver's "Animal Dreams". A brilliant book with great potential for being terminally depressing. Heck, it's all there....massive environmental degradation, war, political corruption, death of cultures, death of family. I mean my goodness, the lead character has lost her mother and baby, is losing her father, and her sister dies over the course of the book. Yet, despite all this, it is a book about hope and redemption. About moving forward out of the shit. It is hopeful.

"It's a most dangerous thing, hope....hope involves giving a great deal of yourself away"
"That's a pitiful excuse."[for hopelessness]

Not only do I find these wallowing novels depressing, but in a lot of ways I despise them. It is so easy to point out the blackness of the world around us. It is there. We have to work bloody hard to ignore it. It is easy to wallow in it in a narcissistic navel-obsessed pitiful selfish way. To be able to discuss these problems and move beyond that, to raise your eyes, and the readers eyes from the filth and give a chance or an inspiration to move beyond it, that, as the character from Kingfisher's book above says, is dangerous. It is brave, it is giving a great deal of yourself away. I have infinitely more respect for an artist who is able to achieve this. They are out there. Hell's bell's Shakespeare wrote comedies. He made some of his most important points with a laugh.

Another great book in this field...Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, a Canadian poet and author, she manages to write about a Jewish boy whose entire family is annihilated and who escapes to hide in the woods...and his life and his education. Certainly a dark book. But it isn't. It is about healing and creating beauty and music and poetry despite the darkness. It is about singing and more importantly do-ing in the face of despair. A much braver work.

So there.

How do I move on from that smoothly? I can never restrict myself on a post.

Chuck and I walked over to the next town which is very beautiful. I hadn't been there before. I can't speak for Chuck, but he hasn't been there with me. Lots of little narrow streets, and stone work, and flowers. Quintessentially European beauty. If I ever get this camera thing sorted out, I'll go back. They have crappy bus service though. Nothing to Barcelona, just a bus to the nearest train station six times a day, and not on weekends. There you go. Gotta getta car if you want to live there. Probably they'll buy a SUV. What is that?

The Chuckster dignified himself with ever greater chicken-heartedness...he was afraid of a kitten. Yup. A teeny tiny kitten that would fit into a mug. Had one little sniff and backed away hurriedly, towing me out of the door of the pet shop, to the sound of all of our laughter. Un grand gallina. A big CHICKEN!

Fish Feet once again has come up with a brilliant site... click here to see a life size whale swimming across your screen, very slowly. You can also move around the screen and sightsee. More importantly, go here to shout out against the RESUMPTION OF WHALING. Yes indeed. You might have thought THAT battle was over, but no sweeties. These CITES listed endangered animals are going to be hunted again. It often feels quite futile to send off these letters, but it only takes a moment, and you know what...it really makes a difference. So please, I love the sea, fill in the form. The whales have as much right to live as we do.


Sarda Sahney said...

Thanks for the meme, what a great idea! So many blogs to choose from. I am going to have a good hard think about it and post it on Sunday. Sarda

Helen said...

For a long time I have thought the same abou "literary" novels. If they don't fit into the narrow category then they get branded something else - chick lit, sf, humour whatever and looked down on because of it. Some of the literary stuff is excellent (Life of Pi) but other which win awards are not that great. There's a Barry Unsworth novel - about the slave trade but I've forgotten the title, something hunger - which won the Booker and really needed serious editing - it sags. That is why I read so much sf, crime etc because they are telling stories, not twisting their spines to look up their own backsides, and make everyone feel gloomy. Same thing with theatre. Doom and gloom is worthy, comedy is not, though any actor will tell you comedy is harder to do. go figure!

Beth said...

As you know (I think) I read many, many books. And you're right - some are extremely depressing, leave you in despair over the condition of the world. That's why I intersperse the "heavy" with the "light." And I include many of these "light" books in the good literature category.
Your access to books is limited but I'm able to make sure I always have an uplifting book around to raise my spirits.

I am now off to check out that whaling site.

Boo and Trev said...

Why do some books get tagged "literary"? Surely if something is literary it is written in a published form. So the Da Vinci Code is just as literary as Hamlet. But not quite as well written......
I "so" hate our corrupted language...

oreneta said...

Sarda: I've never been thanked for a meme before, but your welcome.

Helen: SF, though I don't read that much of it, does provide some really interesting possibilities for looking at the interacions of people and culture and the psychology of humans....by talking about aliens...but it's true, you can make a world, and simply remove an element for instance, like say...religions, and then try to make a harmonious whole, and see what you get....it has fascinating opportunities for arm chair experimenting as well as commentary on the real world.

What is good. Obviously Ursula LeGuin, though the kids weren't keen and Asimnov...?

Beth: I have to confess, I check out of the depressing ones. If they are spiralling down and down, and I am loosing hope, I go and read the end. If it goes where I think it's headed, I'm outathere...if I'm surprised, or confused, I'll probably see what the author has to say. Probably. Life is too short, and there is far far to much to despair about to bother with it in my free time.

Boo: The language certainly has a lot of....flexibility.....to it. I love how people haven't noticed that the Da Vinci Code is in the FICTION section. You know, FICTION. As in, he MADE IT UP. It is not investigative journalism....hello? Anybody out there?

Boo and Trev said...

Actually, Trev wrote that! We were discussing it while walking the hound. I am reading a book of essays by Nick Hornby and he complains about literary novels and it occured to me that I don't really know what a literary novel is. I think that they are maybe novels that are well written but he doesn't like!
I know exactly what you mean about the Da Vinci Code. Really, some people have NO sense of proportion!

Joanne PL said...

have to say that i agree with you on some "literature" - depresso city - like that foavorite of Mom's who writes short stories - name escapes me - but when i was quite young i also realised that not all lietrahchah is at all like that - (ok margeret atwood also) - for example dostoyevsky? a RIOT - Catcher in the Rye? oh yeah - as a 14 year old - i was like BRING ON the literaczah! and as you mentioned - shakespeare - funny as hell - but also agree that much light stuff is underated and perhaps wrongly classified - like (ok - this may create some comments) Stephen King - think (or thought - haven't read any in a while) that much of it is really good - BUT when it comes down to it - and I am looking for a good book in a bookstore or online - I start with BOOKER, and ORANGE prize winners - and filter depressing vs good based on the description. Whitbread also ok - Nobel prize also stay the hell away from ;-)

Helen said...

SF worth looking at - le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Alfred Bester, Lloyd Biggle Jnr, Terry Pratchett, the dragon novels of Anne McCaffrey esp the early ones, Cordwainer Smith (if you can find them, probably all out of print)- avoid endless sagas which are mostly sub Tolkein and probably more I can't think of at the moment. Asimov has aged badly.