Sunday Reads: Reading Readiness

Home Works, Vogue Italia, 2008. Miles Aldridge

Home Works, Vogue Italia, 2008. Miles Aldridge  Home Works, Vogue Italia, 2008.

Yup it is Sunday…

And I didn’t forget what day it is this time.

While walking into the local Banjoville Walmart, I was stopped by an employee. He was on his way to bring in carts and it was obvious that being a greeter was not among his regular duties. He said, rather forced, “Welcome to Walmart” and then proceeded to ask abruptly, “Is that tattoo on your arm Arabic?”

Now, picture me…in my long Indian brightly printed yellow, pink and red cotton wrap skirt, a plain bold colored maroon t-shirt, with my head wrapped in a magenta flowered batik bandanna. No…I say to the man. That is a Tibetan tattoo. So is this one, I show him my other arm, they are both Sanskrit. “Are you sure that isn’t Arabic?” he says. Yes, I’m positive. It is calligraphy. He continues to insist…”It looks like Arabic to me. I’m certain it is Arabic.” He would not believe me. I had to get a bit confrontational and walk away. The man would not let up.

I felt like saying. Look, you have to be the most idiotic shithead I’ve come across. First off, what are you doing profiling the shoppers of this store? B) Are you that stupid, do you think this bandanna is a Hijab? And second…no…that is not a pressure cooker bomb under my skirt…my ass is just really that big!

Well, it turned out the dude is considered, “Special Needs” but honestly, that “label” could be used as an excuse for most of the populace today. (For what it is worth, to keep repeating the word Arabic, he must get his news from FoxNews?) I still don’t think having a low IQ should mean that folks should get away with all the foul and disgusting things being said (or done) that are completely out of line. Especially when it comes to the shit-stain running for the Republican presidential ticket.

But I refuse to link to anything that con-orange-weave-wearing-asshole has said or done.

Today the links I will share are all related to Reading. Because I cannot take anymore bullshit…I’m just too fucking emotionally drained to do anything else.

Oh, and many of the images are by photographer Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me. | Blog. | The Creative Directory.

First up, take a look at this video: (I’ve embedded the video below, but if you do not see it, click on this link here.)

Rats still inundate major world cities, spreading disease, undermining buildings and generally grossing people out (even though they make great pets).

But thanks to one hardy biologist’s birth-control innovation, perfect harmony could now become reality.

 

From rats to bullies? Maybe: This is How Literary Fiction Teaches Us to Be Human

Think about every bully you can remember, whether from fiction or real life. What do they all have in common?

For the most part, they don’t read — and if they do, they probably aren’t ingesting much literary fiction.

This isn’t just snobbery, it’s a case that scientists are slowly building as they explore a field called Theory of Mind, described by Science Magazine as “the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.” Inan abstract published by the magazine in 2013, researchers found that reading literary fiction led to better results in subjects tested for Theory of Mind. That same year, another study found heightened brain activity in readers of fiction, specifically in the areas related to visualization and understanding language. As Mic explains: “A similar process happens when you envision yourself as a character in a book: You can take on the emotions they are feeling.”

More recently, Trends in Cognitive Sciences reported more findings that link reading and empathy, employing a test called “Mind of the Eyes” in which subjects viewed photographs of strangers’ eyes, describing what they believed that person was thinking or feeling (readers of fiction scored significantly higher). It turns out that the narrative aspect of fiction is key to this response.

815f7a1fdf2327d27a12f4d08eff5fbdSpend some time with that one by reading the rest at the link.

Another article for you, this time on the work of Walt Whitman: The Millions : An Essential Human Respect: Reading Walt Whitman During Troubled Times – The Millions

We live in contentious times.  In these frenzied days, it’s worth returning to Walt Whitman’s book of Civil War poetry, Drum-Taps.  First published in 1865, Drum-Taps reflects on the confrontation of grand visions and the human costs of realizing them.  It suggests the importance of empathy in the face of significant ideological disagreement.

[…]

Whitman took the side of the Union, the vision of which played a major role in both his poetic and political thinking. In his original preface to Leaves of Grass, Whitman called the United States “essentially the greatest poem,” and the visionary project of a poet for Whitman involved the creation of a broader fellowship that transcended the conventional boundaries of society.  He viewed the United States as a vehicle for this enterprise of fellowship.

In its record of the Civil War, Drum-Taps homes in on the juxtaposition of vision and the flesh, of aspiration and suffering.  For all the great ambition of the antebellum United States, it contained great pain, and the carnage of the Civil War painted in red, white, and gangrene the price of maintaining the hope of the Union.  Ideas clashed in the Civil War, but men and women bled.  Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust’s 2008 study This Republic of Suffering argues that the magnitude of suffering and death during the Civil War sent shockwaves through American culture; the equivalent of over 600,000 war deaths in 1861-1865 would be over 6 million deaths in 2016.

The horror of this legacy of pain influenced Whitman’s life and poetry. His brother George served in the Union army throughout the war, and Whitman himself had a front-row-seat for the carnage of the Civil War during his time as a medical orderly.  He spent countless hours comforting the wounded and sick soldiers in Washington D.C. and elsewhere.  In an 1863 report, he reflected on visiting the wounded at the capital’s Patent Office, which had been converted to a hospital:

A few weeks ago the vast area of the second story of that noblest of Washington buildings, the Patent Office, was crowded close with rows of sick, badly wounded and dying soldiers. They were placed in three very large apartments. I went there several times. It was a strange, solemn and, with all its features of suffering and death, a sort of fascinating sight.

Whitman attended to that magnitude of suffering in Drum-Taps.  In one of his notebooks, he claimed that “the expression of American personality through this war is not to be looked for in the great campaign, & the battle-fights. It is to be looked for…in the hospitals, among the wounded.”  In many respects, the poems of Drum-Taps are songs for and of the wounded.

10c0f1c798470093001e4d2a81aa5235One of the most famous poems of the collection, “The Dresser” (later titled “The Wound-Dresser”), narrates the experience of tending to those injured in battle:

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground, after the battle brought in;
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass, the ground;
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital;
To the long rows of cots, up and down, each side, I return;
To each and all, one after another, I draw near — not one do I miss;
An attendant follows, holding a tray — he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d again.

That refuse pail, ever filling and emptying, implies the seemingly endlessness of tending to bodies and spirits ravaged by war.  The figures of these soldiers are sacred and exalted — that “priceless blood” — but still they suffer.

Whitman’s verse does not hide that suffering, or the price it exacts:

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood;
Back on his pillow the soldier bends, with curv’d neck, and side-falling head;
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet looked on it.

With grim irony, these lines attend to amputations suffered in the name of preserving the Union.  Beyond the specific details of this wound-dressing, we see also the signs of the psychological pain of the amputee, who cannot even bear to look at the site of his dismemberment.  In “The Dresser” and elsewhere, the poetic speaker does not profess an ability to end this suffering or nullify the pain of the sufferers.  Instead, he can only act as a witness to this suffering.

Please read the rest at the link, this article is written by,   who teaches at Boston University.

3b5f7a14a00de61e57d5390783480c0fReading is a form of relaxation for some, a chance to relate to others, but for one woman the form of a book…the place where books are held, the reading room, a library, was something to capture. How One Woman Photographed Every Library in New York | Literary Hub

When architectural photographer Elizabeth Felicella was not working for clients, she spent her free time photographing all 210 branches of New York City’s Public Library system. Five years later, the resulting work, Reading Room, is essentially an enormous catalog of over 2,000 negatives covering libraries in all five boroughs. We chose some of our favorites to feature below…

[…]

Through arrangements with each of the library systems, I worked mornings before the branches opened to the public. I traveled by subway and bus and made six to twelve pictures of each branch, interiors and exteriors, using a 4 x 5 inch view camera. My archive, to date, holds over 2,000 negatives.

new_dorp2(photo)New Dorp Branch Library, Staten Island

The library was a generous subject—it served as a rich source for reflection on both the topic at hand and on my work as an architectural photographer.  One of Melvil Dewey’s objectives in establishing his decimal system for library classification was to encourage browsing: materials were organized by subject in open stacks so that a reader might encounter a related, but perhaps unknown book, on her trip to the shelf. I identified with Dewey’s reader and adopted “browsing” as a criterion for shooting—a process that might render more or different things than I anticipated.

I borrowed metaphors from the library and began thinking of my photography in terms of reading and writing. The library offered a reprieve from the often strict conventions of architectural photography. Without abandoning my objective of describing each branch in pictures, I took license to shoot in long and short sentences: big, overall views full of tables and chairs, but also plants, bathroom graffiti, pencil sharpeners (a lot of them), magazine covers, people waiting in line outside. No shot list was applied: I photographed what struck me, following tangents, filling out categories that emerged on their own over the course of the project. The richness of the process was the richness of the branches themselves. I found them beautiful, even and sometimes especially the most neglected, with their layers of use, fragments of earlier arrangements, updates, familiar elements, improvisations, accidents, incongruities: in short, places that look something like what everyday thinking feels like.

More pictures at the link….I only put one of the images up here. Be sure to go and look at the others. There is also more to read about the process of the work…

Here is another interesting story for you: Bad Bitches in the Canon

What if Anaïs Nin and Flannery O’Connor had been friends?

“Lila appeared in my life in first grade and immediately impressed me because she was very bad.” -Elena Ferrante, ‘My Brilliant Friend’

The writers Anaïs Nin and Flannery O’Connor both hit milestones in the 1950s: O’Connor won a whole bunch of literary awards, and Nin married her second husband, (twenty years her junior) while still married to her first. The former was thwarted only by lupus, the latter by the IRS, which would not let both husbands claim her on their tax returns. Such is the life of a literary bad bitch.

ff331e3f575f5a262357f16792354ca2Nin is famous for her unexpurgated memoir Henry and June, which details her 1931–2 sexual obsession with the American writer Henry Miller and, now and then, his wife June (who appears in the flesh for about two paragraphs). About three fucks out of every ten thousand, Henry and/or Anaïs wonders if they’re together because they cannot be with June. She is the parmesan to their pasta — what O’Connor, in her letters, would spell as cheeze — but never the main dish. Nin’s memoir should have been titled Henry and…Where’d she go? NY? Oh well. As for O’Connor, well, even Esquire lists her on their predominantly male must-read list. She’s right up there — a few spots ahead of Henry Miller.

The funny thing is, Anaïs Nin is not on that list, even though she was all over Henry Miller. Most people — and by ‘most people,’ I mean ‘most woefully inexperienced freshman English majors,’ by which I mean ‘myself, once’ — read Anaïs Nin to learn how artists love, if not how to be an artist in love. And then they go into therapy.

Ah, that should give you enough to go and finish it off on your own.

And yet, I have one last link for you, yes…it is another literary themed article.

4b70b09930c51125086fe9e84661c5e2A Beginning, Not a Decline: Colette on the Splendor of Autumn and the Autumn of Life – Brain Pickings

In praise of “the gaiety of those who have nothing more to lose and so excel at giving.”

The weather has seeded our earliest myths, inspired some of our greatest art, and even affects the way we think. In our divisive culture, where sharped-edged differences continue to fragment our unity, it is often the sole common ground for people bound by time and place — as we move through the seasons, we weather the whims of the weather together.

Of the four seasons, autumn is by far the most paradoxical. Wedged between an equinox and a solstice, it moors us to cosmic rhythms of deep time and at the same time envelops us in the palpable immediacy of its warm afternoon breeze, its evening chill, its unmistakable scentscape. It is a season considered temperate, but one often tempestuous in its sudden storms and ecstatic echoes of summer heat. We call it “fall” with the wistfulness of loss as we watch leaves and ripe fruit drop to the ground, but it is also the season of abundance, of labor coming to fruition in harvest.

The peculiar pleasures and paradoxes of autumn are what the great French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (January 28, 1873–August 3, 1954), better known as Colette, explores in a portion of Earthly Paradise: An Autobiography of Colette Drawn from Her Lifetime Writings (public library) — the posthumously published, out-of-print treasure that gave us her abiding wisdom on writing, withstanding criticism, and the obsessive-compulsiveness of creative work.

colette

Recounting an essay assignment from her schoolgirl days, Colette writes in the autumn of her life:

It has always remained in my memory, this note written with red ink in the margin of a French composition. I was eleven or twelve years old. In thirty lines I had stated that I could not agree with those who called the autumn a decline, and that I, for my part, referred to it as a beginning. Doubtless my opinion on the matter, which has not changed, had been badly expressed, and what I wanted to say what that this vast autumn, so imperceptibly hatched, issuing from the long days of June, was something I perceived by subtle signs, and especially with the aid of the most animal of my senses, which is my sense of smell. But a young girl of twelve rarely has at her disposal a vocabulary worthy of expressing what she thinks and feels. As the price of not having chosen the dappled spring and its nests, I was given a rather low mark.

She considers how autumn haunts the other seasons and signals its superior splendor:

The rage to grow, the passion to flower begin to fade in nature at the end of June. The universal green has by then grown darker, the brows of the woods take on the color of fields of eel grass in shallow seas. In the garden, the rose alone, governed more by man than by season, together with certain great poppies and some aconites, continues the spring and lends its character to the summer.

[…]

Depths of dark greenery, illusion of stability, incautious promise of duration! We gaze at these things and say: “Now this is really summer.” But at that moment, as in a windless dawn there sometimes floats an imperceptible humidity, a circle of vapor betraying by its presence in a field the subterranean stream beneath, just so, predicted by a bird, by a wormy apple with a hectically illuminated skin, by a smell of burning twigs, of mushrooms and of half-dried mud, the autumn at that moment steals unseen through the impassive summer…

[…]

Even a child cannot respond to everything. But its antennae quiver at the slightest signal.

Of course there is much more at the link, so be sure to read the rest of that thread…I know that you can’t resist it.

That is all for this first Sunday of Autumn in 2016.

This is an open thread.