Laura Gonzalez

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18 Oct 2017

The Ramayana (modern version by Ramesh Menon) ****


Reading dates: 14 June to 12 October 2017

This is such a beautiful, primordial story … the Adi Kavya, the first epic. I loved it. Despite its length (900 pages) it is very dynamic and contains a lot of philosophical teachings. The characters are archetypal, eternal (Rama, Sita, Hanuman) and the narrative is one that does not age. I developed such a love for Hanuman and for Sita … Yet, her suffering is heart-wrenching, the outcome of it, really sad. That is why I would not re-read it, and would not give it 5 stars. In The Mahabharata, Panchali (and womanhood) triumphs. In the Ramayana, it suffers beyond bounds. 

I also did not understand the Rakshasa (a force of evil) character Ravana. His story is told after the abduction is resolved but it does not quite fit for me, he remains bookish, wordy and two-dimensional. 

I still learned so much reading this … about Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, about love and desire, about loyalty and about engineering and magic. It was a brilliant read.

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6 Sep 2017

The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by S. A. Smith****

Reading dates: 02 August to 04 September 2017

It is not easy to find a short introductory book on a complex issue written with clarity, insight and in a manner that is not condescending. This is it. If you want to commemorate October 1917 by finding out more about what happened, this is an excellent and quick way into the subject. Granted sometimes one gets lost in the acronyms, the names and the places and soon enough I realised I had to read Smith with attention, but that was my issue as a reader more than the book. The account is both balanced and comprehensive, or at least as much as a 160pp book can be. It is paced well, written with flair and with beautiful quotes from letters and reports of the time.

We read it for our Dialectical Materialism book group (Neil’s choice) and we had a lively conversation about Venezuela, about the future of communism, about charismatic leaders and about the lack of events revisiting October 1917 in its centenary (which is a shame). We discussed, and endorsed, the intentions of the revolution as human emancipation but acknowledged, as is well argued in the book, the unforeseen events that came up from 1917 onwards and which made Stalin rise: the return of the repressed … Perhaps, before the next revolution, we need to be well analysed …

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1 Jul 2017

Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina****

Reading dates: 11 May – 14 June 2017.

I went to this book for comfort and it definitely delivered. I had been reading a well known and much loved contemporary classic and I just found it too worthy. I needed a book that was going to be like a friend listening to anxieties before dropping off to sleep, rather than one giving me advice on how to change my life. Slip of the Knife is the third in the Paddy Meehan series. She is such a brilliant, likeable detective. As ever with Mina, Glasgow, the city I have lived in for the last 12 years, is alive, well observed and represented. The plot is a good combination of new stuff and threads from the other books and everything is plausible and well pitched. I cannot take fault with anything here: it just gave me what I needed and that is all I ask of my books.

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13 May 2017

Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge*****

Reading dates: 4 March – 12 May 2017

For my yoga teacher training, which I will complete in July, I have been reading many yoga books. I was reading yoga books even before I started and wonderful as these classic, modern or manual texts are, they are of a particular kind. Lucy Edge’s book is like no other yoga book I have read. It is hilarious, personal, warm, enmeshed with life outside the mat, philosophical, down to earth, a travelogue, informative, loving … The other books I read were one or, at most three of these qualities, but not all. When I was traveling in India last December, I thought I would like to write a book titled ‘From ashram to ashram’ but this is it, this is what I wanted to write! I am glad it was Lucy Edge’s idea first, though, because she did a better job than I would have. I only have direct experience of one of the ashrams she visits, Amma’s in Amritapuri and I have to say that the account is very accurate so I can only assume she also has an observing eye for Osho, Ramana Maharshi, Rishikesh, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and the other sites she visits. Her narrative shows the strange but gets-under-your-skin India I know. The one of colours, flavours, madness and kindness. It makes you fall in love with the place.

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4 Mar 2017

Ripley Under Water by Patricia Highsmith****

Reading dates: 04 February – 02 March 2017

Although still not the best in the series, Ripley Under Water is better conceived than the previous book. Ripley was bound to get a stalker at some point so the main thread of the story makes sense. I am still not sure about the quality of the plot but the simplicity of the resolution is coherent in terms of Highsmith’s universe. Ripley is lucky, though, too lucky, but this is a novel and I will forgive that. Like most of the story lines, it all keeps coming back to book 2 and sometimes I wonder if Ripley ever has a thought for Jonathan (from book 3) or the boy who followed him (from book 4). It seems odd these characters are never mentioned again. Is Ripley so cold hearted, so self-centred, so focused on his own protection? In this novel, we travel to Tangiers and we still get plenty of the Paris suburbs. Place and anxiety are the two best attributes of the series, I think.

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9 Feb 2017

The boy who followed Ripley by Patricia Highsmith**

Reading dates: 24 December 2016 – 03 February 2017

Is it me or is this series withering as it goes along? I did not understand the purpose of this, the fourth Ripliad book. I did not get a sense of Tom Ripley’s decision making within the story. Why does he care about this boy so much and want to help him at whatever cost? Of course, the homoeroticism is present and very interestingly placed, but not explored enough within the psychology of Ripley. A missed opportunity that leaves the novel writing as surface. Mind you, I did enjoy the travels (especially East and West Berlin), and the cross dressing scene is utter genius. In fact, that scene alone earns the two stars. The rest to me seems more fan fiction than the actual primary source, which is a shame, as I still adore Ripley’s deviousness, self-preserving decision making and ruthlessness. The boy who followed Ripley is against those qualities.

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2 Jan 2017

Yoga Dharma by Hamish Hendry ****

Reading dates: 28–31 December 2016

I started by disliking the simplicity of this book, which I took to be full of generalisations. Hamish Hendry gives an overview of the important milestones in yogic texts, with summaries of the Sutras, the Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Upanishads and others. I thought it was a crazy task to begin with and I felt disappointed by the little knowledge of Hendry’s vast pool that came through. I have never practiced with him but all accounts I hear are that he is an excellent teacher, very experienced and knowledgeable. Why write a 60-odd page book covering everything yogic?

Yet, as I went on, I realised that Hendry wrote this book possibly as he teaches, giving enough but also creating space for the student to find their own journey. I am coming to think that yoga cannot be taught, certainly not imparted, but all one can do is invite the setting for someone to learn. Thought in this way, Yoga Dharma is a lovely little gift, with useful pointers (which made me read want to read the Ramayana next) and succinct but sound advice—’yoga comes and goes’, and ‘never replace practice with teaching’, or example, jumped out at me. It is hard, very hard to write a book like this, and it is also hard to read and do something with it. It is a book to return to and, frankly, how many of these are there? The book I wanted, the longer, fuller, one might have been easier to write and read, but would have it inspired me to go deeper?

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30 Dec 2016

Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith ***

Reading dates: 19—24 December 2016

I liked ‘Ripley’s Game’ less that any of the others so far but the reason is simple: Tom Ripley shares his protagonist role with someone else who becomes his sidekick but who is not as good as Tom on the page. Yet, from the point Tom appears by surprise on a certain train journey, the whole book changes for me, although I am still not convinced he needs a companion. It may work for Sherlock and Batman, and it does blur Ripley even more, but I am looking forward to selfish Tom looking out for himself and his interests, instead of trying out psychology on his neighbours. On to the next one …

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29 Dec 2016

Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith ****

Reading dates: 16—19 December 2016

While on holiday in India, and after reading ‘His Bloody Project’, nothing could satisfy me. I started ‘Crime and Punishment’ for the third time but was often more enthused by the clumsy bat and ball game next to me. Then I remember a conversation I had with Rob Wringham about the Ripliad and how I read the first of the five books relatively recently. So I found a reading project to complete: to read them in order. The second in the series is wonderfully gripping, with plenty of what makes Highsmith’s writing come alive: the details of the murders themselves, Ripley’s worry, his high life, the cities he travels too. It is a perfect holiday read, with intrigue, dubious morals and art forgeries. It is also written in Highsmith’s efficient style, which I find quite unique. It is evocative and, while I don’t consider it poetic or beautiful, it does what it needs to do for the main character. Her creation of Tom Ripley is an absolute success and in this book he comes alive (where in the previous one seemed still a bit of a caricature to me, just a calling card and origin story). I am already on to the next one, of course.

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28 Dec 2016

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet *****

Reading dates: 5—14 December 2016

Set in the Highlands of Scotland and with vivid witness and court accounts, this novel is one of the most intelligent and enjoyable books I have read all year. Burnet does not overdo either the plot or the prose and the novel is perfectly pitched, like a well-seasoned dish. I very much enjoyed the language, the strange Scottish words—he provides a helpful glossary embedded in the middle of the book. The characters and the story are absolutely believable and the way the story is told, with reference to the author, is an effective device reminiscent of The Quixote. I love crime fiction, mainly because it is a genre that lends itself to the literary although this is seldom achieved. Burnet does it with ease and elegance.

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About Me

I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.

I am currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. In 2013, together with Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner Frances Davies, I co-edited the book ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, to which I contributed a work authored with Eleanor Bowen. My book ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in 2016. In this text, investigates psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction, including an examination of parallels between artistic and analytic practices, a study of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes as objects of desire, a disturbing encounter with Marcel Duchamp’s last work, and the creation of a psychoanalytically inspired Discourse of the Artefact, a framework enabling the circulation of questions and answers through a relational approach to artworks.