Friday 27 May 2011

Audiobook medley

Partly not feeling up to much and partly so that I can have accompaniment to my knitting I have had a few more audiobooks. The Awakening by Kate Chopin came from the Audiobook Library and as I listened I realised it was a book that my friend Julie had lent to me some years ago. It is a beautiful period piece set in late 19th century southern America, following the life of Edna, a relatively young married woman, as she falls unexpectedly in love with Robert, and comes to a new view of her constrained and socially dictated life. She seeks to find an alternative path, only to discover that none is, in reality, open to her. Although the voice reading the story irritated me from time to time I guess it had the right pitch of formality that is the backbone to the story and the lengthy passages about the social niceties that had to be observed create quite an intensely suffocating atmosphere. As when I read it before I was left frustrated on her behalf that her behaviour and choices were so confined. A truly classic book, full of repressed passion.

The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill was picked out at the library because of enjoying 'Woman in Black' so much, though this is one of a series of detective type novels she has written. In spite of it having a detective theme it is not really a 'murder mystery' at all, though there were plenty of dead bodies scattered throughout some were murdered, some suicide and some just died. Based in a fictitious cathedral city where Simon Serrailler lives it follows a variety of story threads; his own as a policeman and the child murder case he is pursuing, his sister who is a local GP and a woman patient dying of CJD, and a newly arrived local priest who gets caught up in the events. A very enjoyable book, driven very much by the characters, lots of little portraits of even minor players engage you with the complexity of how much people are bound up with each other. The story of the child abductor Ed is central but her determination to shut out the police means that she shuts out the reader too and I was left wanting to have understood her better. Mostly though it is a book about guilt and grief, and the ripple like consequences that such overwhelming emotions can have.

Reading in Bed by Sue Gee was just on in the background and it was ok but the style was really irritating. Short staccato sentences detailing the contents of people's mantlepieces made it sound at times more like an interiors magazine than a novel, ditto to the descriptions of what people wore and other meaningless, contentless padding. Dido and Georgia lifelong friends are both newly retired and looking forward to gently unfolding days of relaxation, only to find that things are not going to turn out as they hoped. The characters were all quite nice and it was just a saga of how easily perfect seeming lives can be turned upside down by small events and that the anxieties of being a parent don't diminish just because your children are grown ups too. It did pick up in the second half when she stopped waffling on about vases of flowers and got on with the story, and pulled itself round into a nice predictable (reasonably) happy ending. Light reading only, if you really have nothing better to do with your afternoon.

Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk should have had a lot more potential having won the Whitbread First Novel Award but I have abandoned it after one tape, I think it should probably be read as I am blog browsing at the same time and not engaging with the rather self-obsessed young woman in the story. Am now on the second CD of Testimony by Anita Shreve, picked up yesterday because I have read many, many of her novels and always enjoyed them. It is jumping from character to character rather swiftly but I will try and give it a chance to settle down before giving it up too. M and I will probably go back to Gilmore Girls when she gets back from drama group later.

Friday 20 May 2011


Sitting at home today feeling a bit sorry for myself after a minor op, but I have something nice to keep me company. I stopped over at the International Feltmakers Association the other day and bought some copies of their magazine, it used to be called 'Echoes' but is now somewhat unimaginatively titled 'Felt Matters'. For a mere £10 you can get a bundle of six back issues, considering it cost them over £3 to send this was quite a bargain. And they are just full of lovely inspiring photographs and stories about how people work. So in between sewing up one knitting project and working on Jacob's socks I have these to browse through.

Monday 16 May 2011

Post Office

I picked up 'Post Office' by Charles Bukowski on a two-for-one deal at a local charity shop, somewhat surprised to find that he had written a novel. In fact he wrote six, though his poetry collections must number nearly 40 (many of them published after his death in 1994). I quoted one of his poems on this blog back in June last year. I guess the fact that this book is about his time working as a postman really appealed to me.

In the flyleaf of the book is a memo from the Office of Postmaster:
"All postal personnel must act with unwavering integrity and complete devotion to the public interest. Postal personnel and expected to maintain the highest moral principles and to uphold the laws of the United States and the regulations and policies of the Post Office Department. Not only is ethical conduct required, but officials and employees must be alert to avoid actions which would appear to prevent fulfilment of postal obligations."

Now I had assumed that Bukowski was considered to be part of the Beat Generation, but I discover apparently not, though I feel that this book owes a lot to On The Road, partly in that it was similarly written in a mammoth one month stint, but also in it's style and delivery. It is pretty much what it appears, a recounting (although he claims it as a work of fiction) of his time working for the US postal service, some years spent on delivery and then an extended period working as a letter filing clerk (the use of sorting machines does date from around this time but much was still done by hand.) From a professional point of view I did enjoy his recounting of his job as it is fascinating to see how little the role has changed in sixty years. I know exactly what he means here, I like the challenge of taking on new duties and have no desire to get settled down, stuck on the same walk every day:

"After 3 years I made 'regular'. That meant holiday pay (subs didn't get paid for holidays) and a 40 hour week with 2 days off. The Stone was also forced to assign me as relief man to 5 different routes. That's all I had to carry - 5 different routes. In time, I would learn the cases well plus the shortcuts and traps on each route. Each day would be easier. I could begin to cultivate that comfortable look.
Somehow, I was not too happy. I was not a man to deliberately seek pain, the job was still difficult enough, but somehow it lacked the old glamour of my sub days - the not-knowing-what-the-hell was going to happen next." (p.39)

The main character Henry Chinaski is a dissolute drunk who's only aim in life appears to be to keep body and soul together so he can go on drinking. The story follows his desperate struggle against the supervisors who seem hell bent on making his life a misery, the women who drift in and out of focus, the mostly futile gambling and the ever present alcohol. What is great about the style is the atmosphere, the picture he creates of the lowest section of working class america, the people who have had the hardest of lives, the places that have been perpetually neglected and run-down, a sense of hopelessness and yet people just get on with living. He is a very astute observer of people, and it is the people that make this an interesting read.

"I was casing next to G.G. early one morning. That's what they call him: G.G. His actual name was George Greene. but for years he was simply called G.G. He had been a carrier since his early twenties and now he was in his late sixties. His voice was gone. He didn't speak. He croaked. And when he croaked he didn't say much. He was neither liked nor disliked. He was just there. His face had wrinkled into strange runs and mounds of unattractive flesh. No light shone from his face. He was just a hard crony who had done his job: G.G. The eyes looked like dull bits of clay dropped into the eye sockets. It was best if you didn't think about him or look at him." (p.34-5)

He knows his life is stuck in a rut, and intermittently he tries to change things, but then the book ends abruptly when he finally quits his job, gets drunk "I got drunker and stayed drunker than a shit skunk in Purgatory" with some kids he hardly knows, then ...
"In the morning it was morning and I was still alive.
Maybe I'll write a novel, I thought.
And then I did." (p.160)
Which kind of stunned me since there had been no hint of literary aspiration at any point through the rest of the saga, but it refers to the fact that his publisher at Black Sparrow Press who had been publishing his poetry, convinced him to quit and write full time, and this book was the result. Not sure I will try another novel but I am sure some more Bukowski poetry is definitely in the cards.

Saturday 14 May 2011

What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I decided it was only fair to disabuse people who might visit here and think I only read literary or obscure novels (though her surname is some kind of weird coincidence)... so occasionally I do read purely for entertainment. I requested this from the library based on a review I read online, intrigued by the plot device.

Our protagonist Alice wakes from a pleasant dream to find herself on the floor of a gym, surrounded by people she does not know, except for a good friend who is strangely different. She is convinced she is 29, madly in love with her new husband and pregnant with her first baby, but what she learns is that she is in fact 39, has three children and is going through a very messy divorce. She has fallen at her 'Friday Step Class' and banged her head, and in the process lost ten years of her memory. The story follows Alice's 29 year old self as she discovers with horror what has become of her idyllic life, and as she gets to know her children and reconnect with her estranged sister. The events of the following week are interspersed with chapters by other characters, her sister Elizabeth writing a diary for her therapist and her 'grandmother' Frannie who writes a blog, with contributions from her commenters, both of which fill you in with details that Alice could well do with to make sense of the world she finds herself in. This is kind of where the book falls down, because no one seems to take her memory loss very seriously and, instead of being traumatised, she spends her whole time trying to fake it, and telling people she is remembering things, stifling what she really wants to say, and guessing at things instead of demanding outright that her family tell her what is going on. Then there is the elusive Gina, who's name is mentioned in hushed tones, Dominick the handsome stranger who acts like her boyfriend, and Nick, her husband, who treats her with anger and distain when her own emotions are back at the beginning of their marriage.

The thing that really drew me in to the story, and had me sitting with the book after I got home from work yesterday until mid evening when I finished it, was the idea that she could change her own life, that her younger self could reclaim her life from the neurotic, controlling, rather self-obsessed and somewhat obnoxious older self who seemed to have made a real mess of things. As snippets of memory drift back into focus for Alice over the following days, the somewhat predictable ending also drifts into view for the reader, and I was just furious, I didn't want the 39 year old Alice to come back, I didn't like her much, as a person or a parent. However, try as she might, the old Alice just can't help the fact that the young Alice has snuck back into her consciousness, and the impact of her experience can't help but change everything. It's as if, from this strange perspective of having been able to look into her own future, she can suddenly see more clearly what she wants from her life, as if she had never really understood anything, but she now can see what really matters. You watch her clinging to the good memories and allowing them to help her see past all the negative stuff to what was strong about her relationship with Nick. In losing her memory she found herself, and her family, and pulled them all back together. It is like some kind of slightly clumsy metaphor but it reduced me to tears. It sparked such intense feelings of loss; that no matter how hard you work to create something new you cannot replace or repair a family that has been broken. That when you have gone through all the anger and bitterness all that is left is sadness. I feel as if I have years of memories that are lost because I cannot bear to remember them without regret, and I know that neat happy endings only happen in books.

Thursday 12 May 2011

The Hard Times Rehearsal

Photo here from the Library Theatre website showing some of the cast at their first read through. Having slaved over a hot keyboard all afternoon and evening my piece about the Hard Times rehearsal is now up on the Library Theatre's blog. It can be read over at
At the bottom of my post is a little film showing the cast visiting the mill for the first time to see their performance space. I am so enjoying feeling involved, however superficially, with such an interesting project. The preview is on the 6th June, so I will let you know how it all turns out.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

A Letter to D

A Letter to D by André Gorz.
M and I were browsing the history section at the library on Monday. We had been discussing Nazism on our way there and she said she wanted to know more about WWII. She didn't find anything that caught her interest but I spotted this, for some reason classified by the dewey decimal system under 'General history of Europe: France'.

André Gorz was an existentialist philosopher but I knew his name for his interest and involvement in the environmental movement and green politics, his book 'Ecology as Politics' used to sit on my bookshelf. I learn from the Wiki page that he also worked with Ivan Illich which endears him to me even more. This book takes the form of an open letter to his terminally ill wife, reminding her and himself of the history of their love affair, and as an overt apology for what he had written about her in a previous book that he had come to feel misrepresented both her and their relationship. It tells of their humble beginnings a few years after the war and how she supported him in his work and writing, their commitment to shared political ideals and a life together that spanned nearly 60 years.

I'm not sure this book will be picked up by many but it was quite a singular unique read. It is partly a history of the political left through the latter part of the 20th century told by one of it's most significant protagonists, but at the same time it revolves around Dorine, who, in spite of his adoration and admiration of her, even in this tale, remains a slightly enigmatic figure. Although very politically active, something that was central to their lives and relationship, she does not seem to have written anything herself, having devoted herself to the support of her husband.

"Ecology became a way of life and a daily practice for us, although that did not stop us from feeling that what was needed was a completely different civilisation. I'd reached the age where you ask yourself what you've done with your life, what you would have liked to have done with it. I had the impression of not having lived my life, of having always observed it at a distance, of having developed only one side of myself and being poor as a person. You were, and always have been, richer than I was. You'd blossomed and grown in every dimension. You were at one with your life; whereas I'd always been in a hurry to move on to the next task, as though our life would only really begin later." (p.101)

The book becomes his way of telling her that her existence was what allowed him to be the man, and the writer that he became. It is autobiographical in style, very straightforward, but all the more intimate for the lack of pretension with which he writes. While quite self-analytical and self-critical in places it never slides into sentimentality. The notes for the reader at the end contains a cast list of all the important figures in 20th century radical politics. A fascinating portrait of him and of their relationship, moving and poignant, and if you have a couple of hours to spare on a quiet afternoon you would certainly feel it was hours well spent.

"You've just turned 82. You're still beautiful, graceful and desirable. We've lived together now for 58 years and I love you more than ever. Lately I've fallen in love with you all over again and I once more feel a gnawing emptiness inside that can only be filled when your body is pressed against mine." (p.105)

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Hard Times: coming soon to a blog post near you

Some weeks ago I answered an appeal by the Library Theatre Company seeking bloggers to write posts for their website about the upcoming production of Charles Dickens' 'Hard Times'. In exchange for our efforts they offered the opportunity to observe a rehearsal and then a ticket to see one of the preview performances, since tickets are already hard to come by this has turned out to be quite an offer. The theatre has hired the one remaining untouched cotton mill in Manchester, Murray's Mills, and has built a series of ten sets within the mill, and the audience will follow the action as it moves around this vast stage.
So this afternoon I have spent about four hours watching the actors read and discuss, run through scenes and discuss some more, the minutiae of a particular sentence or a particular gesture, where to stand, where to move, where to look, their relationships and motivations. It sounds dull but was utterly fascinating. Now I have to gather my observations into some kind of coherent piece of writing, when it's done and is up on their website I will link to it here. Having seen a tantalising glimpse of how much work goes in to live theatre I await with eager anticipation the finished production in three weeks time.

Sunday 8 May 2011

The Birth Machine

In her 'Author's Note' at the end of The Birth Machine Elizabeth Baines describes how a revised edition had rearranged the order of the chapters and, she felt, subtly changing the meaning.
"What we read first in any piece of work filters what we read next (however differently each maverick reader reads), and I believe that the placing of the 'subjective' and non-satiric chapter at the start lent the whole a realist and 'confessional' slant, and it was this which prompted reading of the novel as a passionate plea for natural childbirth, rather than as the plea for logic I intended it to be."

This 2010 edition reverts to the original, and while I did not read it as a plea for natural childbirth it is first and foremost a story about a woman giving birth. Zelda is having her first child, and as the wife of a doctor she is being given 'extra special' care by the system. Blended skilfully in to her day in hospital are the vivid childhood memories that seem to be occupying her mind while she lies, waiting for the drugs to take effect, and the background of her pregnancy and the somewhat strained and tenuous relationship with her husband Roland. The book emphasises the sharp division between the cold clinician, in the shape of the Professor, and his students listening to the lecture, from the intensity of the emotional experience of having a baby. Similarly the other medical staff have titles not names, distancing them from Zelda, emphasising the impersonal nature of their relationship with her. To begin with it seems she is quietly acquiescing to their treatment of her but then we learn the events that led to her induction, her anxieties and, as the story reaches the end, the truth behind what is done to her. Written in 1982 at a time when the medicalisation of childbirth was becoming the norm, with routine procedures like foetal monitoring and increasing caesarian rates, it does not paint a pretty picture of the process.

Then the story dives back into the past and we see Zelda with her friends, their imaginary games, their fear of the village 'witch', cooking up magic potions in a den to protect themselves from unknown evils, seeing omens in jumping fish and circling birds, and then their illicit exploration of a building site in the company of a boy, who ends up dead.

"Since they had completed the spell, they were invulnerable. Or almost: they would have to be careful of counter spells. They would need to take care going past the old woman's cottage. They scrambled out. Long arms of brambles swung over the entrance, spiky and feathery. Now the den was well hidden. While they were gone the doll wold be safe inside the magic circle." (p.47-8)

There is a sense of emotional trauma that remained unspoken through into her adult life, and an implied affair adds to her fears about her baby and the notion that she deserves some kind of punishment. What was clever about the structure was that initially the memory sections were separate and distinct from the present day but as the day progresses, as the intensity of her labour increases the moments of memory become infused into what is happening to Zelda in the present. The whole story becomes very emotionally charged, though at the same time she has a sense that she is losing control and the merging of the memories becomes more vivid, until her childhood friend Hilary makes an actual appearance at the moment of delivery.

"The head smashes down through the bag of her abdomen. It won't come. It won't come out. Skull like a turnip, the enormous great big turnip that the farmer couldn't pull from the cold black earth. He pulled and pulled, but it wouldn't come up. The farmer called his wife. Sister calls Doctor. Doctor hears. Doctor sees. 'Foetal distress,' says Doctor; Foetal distress, said the textbook in its outdated type on good old-fashioned paper; 'Foetal distress,' calls the nurse. Sister calls the hospital porter. The farmers wife calls the boy. The doctor raises a syringe and plunges the needle into Zelda's arm." (p79)

Reading this part was very intense because it reminded me so graphically of my own hospital experience; the sense of unreality, dislocation from real life, and above all the loss of control over your own body, not just the fact of labour where your hormones are in control, but of course the hospital routines and procedures that dictate what happens to you. Her efforts to resist events are thwarted on all sides and then when they finally sedate her I found myself seething with anger on her behalf.

If the author says this book is about logic I am left to assume that it is written as an extended analogy (is that the right word?) Childbirth is among the most emotive of all subject and therefore perhaps the most lacking in logic. For the woman experiencing it it is a profoundly emotional, even spiritual (if you go for words like that), as well as physical event. In spite of their supposed 'scientific' approach the medical profession uses this emotion to their own advantage, routinely playing the 'safety of the baby' card to manipulate mothers into cooperating with procedures that have no necessity for either themselves or their baby. Women are very vulnerable when pregnant, and even more so when in labour, the huge rush of hormones does weird stuff to your mind, and the threat of being considered a 'bad mother' before the baby is even born is quite a powerful one. Zelda is drugged and abandoned, deprived of contact with her baby, reinforcing her irrational fears that she has been punished and the baby is deformed. However she gathers her remaining strength and does the only logical thing under the circumstances, and gets herself and her baby out of that crazy place ... I could have cheered. Don't let me say anything about Roland, he was about as useful as a chocolate fireguard, and that was all a bit too close to home for me too.

I would be really interested to know how a man might experience this book. I am guessing they would read it somewhat more dispassionately. Don't pick up this book if you are expecting; I think I could read it now because the whole childbirth thing is far enough in the past. It does allow me to recall with pleasure the birth of my youngest, M, who was born at home in Westminster Avenue. The whole labour lasted about two hours, most of which was spent sitting alone in the bath. There was no sense of loss of control or the unreality of the hospital, she slipped into our lives as if she had always been there, but maybe you have to go through the other stuff to appreciate just how special that is.

Friday 6 May 2011

Felted Tunic

More catch-up posting. This project has been mulled over for quite some time. I bought this large flimsy shawl on ebay about two year ago with the plan to make some nuno felt. It has this lovely crochet edging with tiny beads. It was over 2 metres long by about a metre wide so even allowing for shrinkage there would be lots of scope to create a garment. I gathered a few bits to experiment with embellishment.
The laying out process was very long winded and it took up the entire space of the 'dining room'. I used Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon yarn, some fine mohair sock yarn, lilac silk fibres with indigo coloured merino roving.
I laid it out last sunday evening and then carried on in the morning. Here is the layout completed and wetted down. I rolled it for a couple of hours on and off (it is pretty tiring and tough on the knees doing it on the floor.)
It has not turned out at all as I planned mainly because I put far too much roving on so it is much thicker and stiffer than I intended. I put a thin layer on the under side of the fabric and I was worried about the sari ribbon felting on well enough so there are two thin layers on the top. It shrank quite a lot widthwise, by about 50%, but for some reason hardly at all in the length. The silk fibres were laid very thin but they show up really well. I trimmed bits of roving where the edging had got caught in and am going to use a lacing up the sides through the edging. It is not 'floaty' enough to wear as a summer dress but it will be nice with leggings in cooler weather.

Spinning and Felted 'pod'

Just doing a bit of 'catch-up' posting, I have had a busy time over the recent bank holiday days.
Some home dyed roving I have had in the stash for quite some time:
here it is spun up:
One of the many, many felt blogs that I follow is Angela Barrow, not an amateur craft felter but a professional felt artist, and she makes amazing creations like this felt pod:
She very kindly created this very helpful tutorial so I decided to have a go at making a 'pod'. The first side laid out:
I made some thin dreads and decided to put them inside the pod (to protect them during the felting process I made the resist double thickness and put them between the two layers):
I decorated the outside with bits of contrasting grey and some red silk fibres (which don't really show up very well):
Here it is mid-felt, I decided to make several small openings:
I think it ended up looking a bit like a pixie house:

On The Road

On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Ok, I have been following this blog called 'The Daily Beat' for some time now, I can't recall how I came across it. Rick has been going on about the film being made of On The Road, and I like to read the book before I see the film, especially where such classics are concerned, so there we go. And now I am not so sure I want to see the film. I find that although I really like beat poets I am not that fond of Jack Kerouac. Confession time ... I think I may have started this book many years ago and abandoned it, and this time I was determined to finish but ended up skim reading in the hope that it would get better as it went along, and I think maybe it did but not until the last 20 pages or so when they go off to Mexico.

The saga goes that Kerouac wrote this book in a three week mammoth stint having taped sheets of paper together into a huge roll to save the interruption of having to change the sheets. This is the tale of Sal Paradise and his friend Dean Moriarty. I tried really hard to read it in the spirit in which it was written but I felt like it very quickly became somewhat like a primary school 'what I did on my holidays' essay. Sorry, I feel like I am being really harsh but it was quite literally, 'and then we did such and such and then we went such a place and then we got drunk and then we crashed with such and such friends'. For long stretches he describes in detail everything he did, down to the getting up in the morning and sitting down on sofas and what he ate, what people wore, lots of tedious details about cars. I was bored stupid. For some reason I expected it to be making some kind of political statement or social commentary but it never did. And then there is the whole Dean Moriarty thing. Why do people think he is so fascinating? What a most dislikable character; thoughtless, self-obsessed, utterly ego-centric, unsympathetic, and by the time I was half way through I could just imagine his "maniacal giggling" (mentioned ad nauseam) and knew it would irritate the hell out of me.
See now I feel like an old stick-in-the-mud frowning at all their fun and saying 'tut tut how irresponsible', but maybe it's because the idea of living like that is essentially quite disturbing. The book is about living for the moment and soaking up the sensual experiences that are on offer with very little thought of where life might go next, giving up any sense of control and allowing life to just happen and sweep you along with it. This quote kind of sums up the philosophy, how Sal kept making plans and then, because of the whole 'swept along' thing the plans were abandoned, but it's quite nice stylistically as it shows how Kerouac does do a good job of creating a picture of the world they moved in:

" 'Don't worry, man,' said big Ponzo. 'Tomorrow we make a lot of money; tonight we don't worry.' We went back and picked up Terry and her brother and the kid and drove to Fresno in the highway lights of night. We were all raving hungry. We bounced over the railroad tracks in Fresno and hit the wild streets of Fresno Mextown. Strange Chinese hung out of windows, digging the Sunday night streets; groups of Mex chicks swaggered around in slacks; mambo blasted from jukeboxes; the lights were festooned around like Halloween. We went into a Mexican restaurant and had tacos and mashed pinto beans rolled in tortillas; it was delicious. I whipped out my last shining five-dollar bill which stood between me and the New Jersey shore and paid for Terry and me. Now I had four bucks." (p.84)

Now I do have to say a small word about the misogyny, which I was trying not to judge too harshly because of course this book predates the women's movement and reflects attitudes towards women that predominated at the time, but they essentially see women as disposable sex object, even though Dean seems to have the habit of marrying women he has just met, there is no sense of them having any kind of meaningful relationships or even friendships with the women they meet. Sal seems to get rapidly emotionally entangled but just as rapidly abandons them without a backwards glance. They pick up women and take their money and leave them by the roadside. Marylou and Camille (Dean's first two wives) are the only women who appear consistently throughout the book and they came across to me as devoid of any real character, merely people who were trying to hamper their enjoyment of life by entrapping him with responsibilities. This quote gives the general gist:

"Walter's wife smiled and smiled as we repeated the insane thing all over again. She never said a word.
Out on the dawn street Dean said, 'Now you see, man, there's real woman for you. Never a harsh word, never a complaint, or modified; her old man can come in any hour of the night with anybody and have talks in the kitchen and drink the beer and leave any old time. This is a man and that's his castle.' " (p.185)

I'll move on to the end where maybe I just got into the swing of it or maybe he got more into his stride as he wrote. Sal, Dean and Stan travel down to Mexico, Dean to get a cheap divorce. They drive through the jungle at night, in Dean's beat up old car and there is this lovely scene where Sal tries to sleep on the roof of the car. I finally felt that the writing was doing something interesting:

"I went back to my bed of steel and stretched out with my arms spread. I didn't even know if branches or open sky were directly above me, and it made no difference. I opened my mouth to it and drew deep breaths of jungle atmosphere. It was not air, never air, but the palpable and living emanation of trees and swamp. I stayed awake. Roosters began to crow the dawn across the brakes somewhere. Still no air, no breeze, no dew, and the same Tropic of Cancer heaviness held us all pinned to earth, where we belonged and tingled. There was no sign of dawn in the skies." (p.269)

and their jungle experience is contrasted so starkly with the fabulous description of Mexico City as they drive down in the following day:

"A brief mountain pass took us suddenly to a height from which we saw all of Mexico City stretched out in its volcanic crater below and spewing city smokes and early dusklights. Down to it we zoomed, down Insurgentes Boulevard, straight towards the heart of town at Reforma. Kids played soccer in enormous sad fields and threw up dust. Taxi-drivers overtook us and wanted to know if we wanted girls. No, we didn't want girls now. Long, ragged adobe slums stretched out on the plain; we saw lonely figures in the dimming alleys. Soon night would come. Then the city roared in and suddenly we were passing crowded cafés and theaters and many lights. Newsboys yelled at us. Mechanics slouched by, barefoot, with wrenches and rags, Mad barefoot Indian drivers cut across us and surrounded us and tooted and made frantic traffic. The noise was incredible." (p.274)

Ok, last quote now. It is interesting that although I did not like or enjoy the book it raised a lot of thoughts. I guess the appeal of the book lies in the idea of stepping outside of normal life, abandoning all sense of morality and responsibility, the idea that life could be utterly free. It left me feeling a bit sad because I felt rather hollow, the lack of real connections with other people, in spite of this supposed bond between Sal and Dean. The book idealises this way of seeing existence, I just don't think I believe that it is as wonderful as he is trying to make out:

(Sal looking out at Dean)
"This was what we sensed about the ghost on the sidewalk. I looked out the window. He was alone in the doorway, digging the street. Bitterness, recriminations, advice, morality, sadness - everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being." (p.178)

Sunday 1 May 2011

Thursday and Friday

So Thursday Dunk and I rode our bikes along the Bridgewater Way to Dunham Massey, walked round the deer park and admired the trees for a while, then rode home again. Dunk has made a lovely film of our trip.
Friday I got up early to make nice stuff for our little Royal Wedding gathering. Ordinarily I am a republican but Julie was enjoying her new found britishness and wanted to join the celebration so she came round with most of her offspring and we watched the whole thing, complaining at the offspring (who were not really that interested) to shut up at the soppy moments.