Life round-up: February – March 2014

In February I celebrated my birthday. Then I spent the rest of the month being ill with a chest infection. March was emotionally intense, but it ended well with a visit to London that included meeting up with wonderful twitter friends.

Books

My favourite books were Patricia Highsmith’s novel Carol (1952) and Christopher Bram’s non-fiction work, Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers who Changed America. Carol is a wonderful lesbian novel, noirish, romantic, suspenseful and ultimately uncompromising.  I loved Eminent Outlaws and really want to write about it at length. I hung onto it until the library demanded it back, but I just couldn’t articulate my thoughts. At some point there may be a post about not being able to write about Eminent Outlaws.

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“Effort had always been my avenue for success. I may not have had the intelligence or the ability of others, but I could usually trump whatever I was lacking with my dogged determination. As I explored effort, I saw that much of my tension came from a need to succeed, and until I addressed that urge, the impulse to improve would be behind all my spiritual labor. As I explored the desire to achieve, the psychological pain of unworthiness that had been driving the effort surfaced. Other questions arose, like “Where is all this effort taking me?” and “How will I know when I get there?” I realized from these questions that I had no idea where my effort was pointing and no blueprint or arrival information. All I had was what other people had told me, and that just led to more confusion and striving. Perhaps the most disturbing understanding that arose through this line of inquiry was that I was on my own, and I now realized I was hopelessly lost.”

Rodney Smith, Stepping out of Self-Deception: the Buddha’s liberating teaching of no self, (Boston & London: Shambala, 2010), p. 67. 

It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores. Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over – the moment.

 

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, edited by David Bradshaw, (Oxford; New York, 2000), p. 27.

London Book Buying

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Gay’s the Word is an essential stop for us whenever we visit London. This time around, we picked up Alexis De Veaux’s Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (2004) in the used section for £5. The used shelves also yielded up a couple of good lesbian short story collections: Anna Livia and Lilian Mohan (eds.) The Pied Piper: Lesbian Feminist Fiction (1989), which contains stories by the likes of Gillian Hanscombe, Patricia Duncker and Mary Dorcey, and Ruthann Robson’s Lambda nominated Eye of a Hurricane (1989).

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Andy bought a new copy of Lolly Willows (1926) by Sylvia Townsend Warner. This is a novel about a middle-aged spinster who abandons her family responsibilities to become a witch. She also got Ash (2009) by Malinda Lo, which is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella and had the shop assistant raving. Apparently, he’s bought it for all his friends.

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January 2014 – Life Round-up

I felt mildly depressed during January. This is not unusual for me, but I think I handled it better this year. I increased my levels of self-care and rested a lot.

Reading

I finished three books: Joanna Russ’s On Strike against God (1980), Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Anna Akhmatova’s Selected Poems (trans. D.M Thomas). The Russ and the Austen actually complimented one another quite well, what with both being angry, funny books about the lives of women. On Strike against God is astounding. It’s a revelation of a book and has convinced me to give The Female Man another try. Anna Akhmatova’s poems are wonderful and terrifying.

I had a lot of other books on the go in January. I couldn’t decide which of my recently purchased Mammoth Books of Science Fiction to start, so I just started them all at once and am now about halfway through them. I’ve almost finished Elizabeth Bear’s short story collection, Shoggoths in Bloom and Ian Tattersall’s Masters of the Planet: The Search for our Human Origins (2012) (ignore the macho title, this is a quiet, thoughtful book about how we got to be who we are). I’ve also been reading Rodney Smith’s Stepping out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self (2010), which I’m finding helpful and alarming in about equal measures.

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5 Things (sand, fossils, junk food, vintage lesbians, dresses)

5 things that have interested me recently.

This image is one of my favourites, so I was delighted to discover this article from FACTS.FM which has more astonishing photographs revealing the Hidden Beauty of Sand. I’m especially taken with the grains of sand that are actually tiny fossils.

Continuing with the fossil theme, I adored David Attenborough’s 1989 documentary Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives.  Attenborough’s passion for the subject is so infectious and I think the documentary is improved by being produced before the advent of CGI. Without the option to create CGI images of the animals (which is almost certainly what would happen if this was made now), the documentary has to focus on the actual fossils.  So if you want to see fossils in abundance, this is the one to watch. I think it’s stunning and can’t wait to show it to my nephew when he’s old enough.

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