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Gratia Dei et contentione voluntatis excellentiam virtutis adipiscimur.

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Stuff I've Been Trying to Read

In Santa Cruz last month, I was angelic: I bought only one item that may remotely be considered ‘of the literary persuasion.’  It was the Fall 2015 issue of The Believer.  The thing is though, it's taking me forever to get through it — there are maybe three good bits in the whole darn thing.

One of them was the entirety of Nick Hornby's column, “Stuff I've Been Reading” — which both Andrew and I were pleased to see is still going.  Maybe he'll do another book?  Maybe!  In the meantime, and because both of these authors came up over the course of a single conversation the other day, here's some of what he wrote:

I am not the only one who has made links between Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard.  (I have done it in my head, and I have done it here, in this column, in the previous sentence.)  A writer in the Guardian did it, and a writer in the New Republic, and another writer did it in an email while expressing her enthusiasm for Ferrante's Brilliant Friend trilogy.  There are some obvious comparisons.  Both have embarked on ambitious multi-novel projects that seem, at least, to contain elements of autobiography...  Except, of course, that once you have begun that sentence (and it's hard to avoid it, if you want to talk about Knausgaard and Ferrante in the same paragraph), you're lost.  Knausgaard's books are dizzyingly, sometimes exasperatingly detailed autobiography—we know that because it's clear in every line that he's writing about himself, and because if you spend two minutes googling you discover that he's writing about real people and real events.  Ferrante, however, we know nothing about.  We don't know her real name, and she has never given an in-person interview promoting her books.  We can only guess that the central relationship between Elena and Lila has some kind of autobiographical element.  We are, therefore, comparing a singular work of autobiography with a possibly autobiographical novel—something I suspect we might not be bothering to do if the writers concerned were from the United Kingdom or the United States.  Let's face it: Ferrante and Knausgaard belong to the genre of "multivolume works by foreign people."  I am constantly embarrassed by the tiny amount of translated literature I read in any given year; I'm guessing none at all, two years out of three.  Well, maybe other people feel ashamed, too, which is why, when two people—one male, one female; one from Norway, one from Naples—produce books that against all odds find some kind of toe-hold in the English-speaking world, they become a movement.

He does eventually get around to actually reviewing My Brilliant Friend, and he's quite nice about it.  But then that may be because the folks at The Believer, err, ‘believe’ that their writers — critics included I guess — must be nice “or say nothing at all.”

What do I think about that?

Nothing at all, I guess.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[sabato 27 febbraio 2016 ore 23:05:31] []

A different kind of stethoscope.

Because things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.

Because there is only one thing you should do.  Go into yourself.  Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.  This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?  Dig into yourself for a deep answer.  And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Because your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance.—And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not.  Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it.

Because this is how you must keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.

Listen.  Can you hear it?

Happy anniversary, Herr Kappus.  (And happy birthday, Monsieur Laennec.)

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[mercoledì 17 febbraio 2016 ore 08:39:15] []

Animula, vagula, blandula.

But what is love?  This species of ardor, of warmth, that propels one inexorably toward another being?  Why give so much importance to the genitourinary system of people?  It does not define a whole being, and it is not even erotically true.  What matters, as I said, concerns emotions, relationships.  But whom you fall in love with depends largely on chance.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[domenica 14 febbraio 2016 ore 18:18:18] []

Roses, Rhododendron.  (Culaccino.)

The Italians have a word for the mark that's left on the wood after the glass is gone.

Here's a piece of a story I have had marked for years.  Didn't put here, for years.

I am sure that the Farrs, outwardly a conventional family, saw me as a neglected child.  I was so available for meals and overnight visits.  But that is not how I experienced my life—I simply felt free.  And an important thing to be said about Margot as a mother is that she never made me feel guilty for doing what I wanted to do.  And of how many mothers can that be said?

Didn't put here, for years.  Though I probably could have.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[giovedì 11 febbraio 2016 ore 10:43:45] []


Over at the Yellow Chair Review, a lovely little list of literary journals, all of which respond quicker than lickety.  I dig how sweetly Sarah puts it:

If you’re anything like me sometimes it’s nice to get a quick response.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giulio Cesare, Santa Marinella]
[domenica 07 febbraio 2016 ore 13:11:02] []