April 2010 Blogs
Last week, while I was sitting in the train, waiting to depart, I wondered about what could be a good topic to write about in my next blog. Suddenly I remembered that April is Poetry Month and started thinking about poetry books, authors, and other related topics that might interest you. My thoughts, however, were abruptly interrupted by a person’s loud conversation on her cell phone, and another, and another. Then I decided to combine the two elements that I had in my mind, cell phones and poetry, and here is the result:
by George Bilgere
Perhaps, in a distant café,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite café.
And perhaps someone there,
someone like me, is watching them as they frown,
or smile, or shrug
at their invisible friends or lovers,
jabbing the air for emphasis.
And, like me, he misses the old days,
when talking to yourself
meant you were crazy,
back when being crazy was a big deal,
not just an acronym
or something you could take a pill for.
I liked it
when people who were talking to themselves
might actually have been talking to God
or an angel.
You respected people like that.
You didn't want to kill them,
as I want to kill the woman at the next table
with the little blue light on her ear
who has been telling the emptiness in front of her
about her daughter's bridal shower
in astonishing detail
for the past thirty minutes.
O person like me,
phoneless in your distant café,
I wish we could meet to discuss this,
and perhaps you would help me
murder this woman on her cell phone,
after which we could have a cup of coffee,
maybe a bagel, and talk to each other,
face to face.
Poem reprinted with author’s permission.
Below are some books that would help us get along:
I See Rude People : One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners Into Impolite Society
Why Manners Matter: the Case for Civilized Behavior in a Barbarous World
The Civility Solution: What to do when People are Rude
- Talk to the Hand: the Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or, Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door
And if you like this poem, here is a book by the same author:
In John Irving’s twelfth novel, Last Night at Twisted River, a father and son carry a misspelled Italian surname – Baciagalupo. Literally, the name means "kiss of the wolf," from "bacio" (kiss) and "lupo" (wolf). This name is repeated over and over in the novel, and is finally used for the name of a restaurant. I thought John Irving had just made the name up entirely, but then I came across “Bacigalupi" as the author of the 2009 science fiction novel, The WindUp Girl. It was a fun moment, when two random experiences intersected.
Anyway, here are reviews of these two books:
Last Night at Twisted River
Dominic Baciagalupo, a cook for a logging community, and his son Daniel are co-protagonists in a story about manhood, family, love, friendship, and a lot of Italian cooking. The novel moves slowly back and forth in time. At times, it may move a bit too slow with all the detail, but Irving is a master at connecting the details and characters to create a book with a deep message. The first section of the book is set in the 1950s in the far north of New Hampshire. In the last half of the book the son, now grown-up and an author, struggles with the tragedies of his life - both accidental and avoidable - and with writing novels, striking a balance between the autobiographical and the imagined.
The Windup Girl
Paola Bacigalupi has been compared to William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and China Miéville. In this near future thriller, calories are the greatest commodity, and corporations control the world’s seed stock. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion. The windup girl of the title is a "New Person," a genetically modified girl brewed up from scratch by the Japanese as a toy. But her DNA is not so compromised that she doesn't still yearn to be human. The complex plot revolving around her, a future Thai kingdom, and many other complex characters require a great deal of commitment from readers.
There is a quotation by Pablo Picasso that says “Everything you can imagine is real,” and if we think about it carefully, it is true. Most of the books we read and the music we listen to was inspired by a little piece of reality. Have you ever wondered, what did inspire an author to write a book or an artist to create this masterpiece? What factual bit of information made this writer jump in his/her chair and start sketching the frame for his/her next novel?
What inspired a good book is not always known but in some cases, when writers tell us the source of their idea, the story they tell us is equally or more fantastic than their work itself. Such is the case of the book “Of Love and Other Demons” by Gabriel García Márquez. In the preface of this book he tells an amazing story about a convent in Cartagena, Colombia that was going to be transformed into a five star hotel. The tombs of those whom 200 years ago were considered important people were still there and were being exhumed. When they opened one of the graves, they found the skull of a young girl with a splendid head of hair that measured 22 meters long. García Márquez was very young at that time and was a witness to this event which he was covering as a journalist. At that moment he knew he would be writing a book based on this story sooner or later.
Sometimes, the beginning of a book can be as simple as a stewardess asking you “Beef or pasta?” That’s what happened to Andrew Rimas and then he wrote the book: "Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World." Or like in the case of Russell Banks who wrote his novel “Continental Drift” after reading a newspaper clipping about refugees from Haiti arriving on the shores of Florida. In some other cases, authors have found their inspiration in their personal interest like in "Halide’s Gift" a novel by Frances Kazan written because its author’s fascination with a particular time in history: when the Islamic and Ottoman Empires were about to collapse and a woman named Halide played an important role during this chaotic time.
Inspiration is an elusive friend: sometimes it will show its face in every corner, but it could also hide for months at a time, leaving without notice which could be an author’s or artist's nightmare. In the meantime, let’s sit back and enjoy a reflection of reality in the books we read.