Laura Gonzalez


20 Nov 2015

On the Genealogy of Morality by Friedrich Nietzsche***


Reading dates: 19 September—19 November 2015.

This is an interesting book to read but an even more interesting one to discuss. Structured like a monumental rant against everything and not very much substantiated with any evidence, it is energetic and fun, even if a little contemptible. It turns morality on its head: what if what we understood as good was actually not good, but just culturally good, dependent on context? The book comprises three essays and the third is against the ascetic’s values. Nietzsche is an advocate of life, of ancient Greek culture, of the Dyonisian and, I have to say, having a choice between Apollonian and Dionysian is something that does appeal to me. Why does good only hold one possibility? Here’s Nietzsche, looking dapper with Lou Salomé (who is holding a nice whip):


Of course, for much of the night, we drifted to discuss terrorism and the Paris attacks, to look at these recent events from Nietzsche’s moral philosophy perspective. Why terrorism? What values do they uphold? Are they wrong and we are right? Is it so simple? These were the actual examples missing from Nietzsche’s narrative.

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15 Nov 2015

Poems Selected by John Fuller by W.H. Auden***


Reading dates: 01 October–14 November 2015

Reading poetry is still a challenge for me, even 16 years after I made English my main language. Reading poetry aloud is a challenge, but also the best training to understand it. Neil and I read two of Auden’s poems per night. He always let me chose which one I wanted; for the other, I just lay down and listen to him. Such a luxury. It is one of those moments I will remember forever, and, when the time comes, I will also miss deeply.

In this collection, Auden’s poems are organised chronologically. I liked the earlier ones much more than I thought; I even understood something in them. As the book went on, some images were still beautiful but I think he became too formal and I liked the poems less.

Detective Story was one of my favourites (and not only because of the theme):
2015-11-15 10.24.04

At the risk of being corny, I also liked Funeral Blues, featured in the rom com ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. I suppose that, with all the sadness around the world, the expression of grief and loss by someone who is precise and articulate, as well as having the gift of words, is a small breath.

2015-11-15 10.24.21

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4 Oct 2015

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg**


Reading dates: 21 September—04 October 2015

After the self-consciousness of Ben Lerner’s book, I craved the easy fix of crime fiction. I have been wanting to return to Scandinavian noir, perhaps because of the impinging Autumn, preparing myself for the weather to come. Läckberg had been recommended to me for a while and I do like my female crime writers. While there was an undoubted pleasure in reading this book, its echoes are a little vacuous. I made no notes, took down no thoughts; I just went early to bed to read, to see how the story would unravel. I could see it happen, though, but the characters were warm, the weather evocative and Fjällbacka sounded as beautiful as it seems from Google images. That was an itch well scratched, though nothing more.

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19 Sep 2015

Hegemony And Socialist Strategy: Towards A Radical Democratic Politics by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe


Reading dates: 30 July–18 September 2015

Ian chose this book for our Dialectical Materialism book group. It is an excruciatingly difficult book. I did not finish it and what I read, I am not sure I understood. Yet, the discussion was fascinating. We talked about classical marxism, labour power as commodity, surplus value, the point de caption, Trostky-ism, Podemos, Siriza, Corbyn, the referendum and imagination and, of course, Hegemony. It reminded me of the time when I saw the worst film I have ever seen (Outlaw) and had a fascinating conversation with Neil about cinema. Why do we go to our book group? It is certainly not to read easy, pleasurable works. I think we do it to disentangle knots, and, despite the fact that I don’t know what chapters two and three of Laclau and Mouffe’s book are about (I only read chapter one and half of four), I feel a few of my knots were made loser.


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19 Sep 2015

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner ***


Reading dates: 01–18 September 2015

I have been wanting to read contemporary novels for a while and Neil recommended me Ben Lerner’s work. It is a really interesting book, oppressive in its self-consciousness at times (that was so successful) but where the narrative gets clumsy towards the end. There is an attempt at resolution in the last five pages which, when not much happens, makes it fall flat. I say nothing happens, but, of course, there is a terrorist attack and a lot of protest, which the protagonist experiences from the computer in his apartment a few metres aways from it all. The remove is always there in the writing and that is what makes it work.

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30 Aug 2015

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith****


Reading dates: 05 – 31 August 2015

As I was finishing the edit of my new book Make Me Yours, I came across the chapter that discusses Tom Ripley, so I thought I would re-read the Ripliad. My experience of the first novel in the series was similar to the first time I read it, if not better. The Talented Mr. Ripley is a mediocre book to begin with, a little ruthless in its treatment of women, a little hateful, but which turns sublime about mid-way though. I don’t know why I like it so much. The writing is not extraordinary and I am sure other novels depict Italy more vividly. Yet, there is something about Tom Ripley’s insanity that I find so compelling … This is not identification, or perhaps it is, at an unconscious level. I, too, would like to get away with the worse.

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5 Aug 2015

Nineteen Eighty-Three by David Peace*****


Reading dates: 02 July – 05 Aug 2015

Sometimes, while reading the Red Riding Quartet (of which Nineteen Eighty-Three is the last book), I thought I would not make it. The intensity of that narrative made me get up and pace the room, uttering ‘fuck!’. It is relentless, dark and brilliant, but it messed and manipulated me, a little like Lars von Trier’s films do.

The last volume is as well written as the rest, with three alternating narrators telling the story mostly in first, second and third person. Quite an achievement. In addition, the novel has the added pressure of having to wrap up all the threads weaved, and to do so in a satisfactory way. Often, this is where crime novels fail. David Peace does it well and by that I mean he does not overdo it. When reading the last 10% of the book, I often though ‘but, of course!’ when a detail, unexplained in Nineteen Seventy Four, was revealed. The quartet is a masterpiece, no question, a set I will be re-reading and studying with care when I get to write my own crime novel. Many out there are ok, but this is genius.

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31 Jul 2015

The future by Marc Augé***


Reading dates: 10 – 30 July 2015

In DiaMat, we dither between the classic writers and the new, political economy, feminism, art and even fiction. We inhabit the past to learn from it, we think about the present and we try to predict the future (through Erik Olin Wright, Benjamin Noys, Marc Augé). This last endeavour is actually very rewarding but ultimately slightly pointless. This is what I would say Augé’s book is like. The intention is laudable:

We face another sort of emergency action these days: to reintroduce the critical gaze in domains that seem natural to us, in that we are part of them without knowing how that came about; to use the weapons of analysis to question the unarguable or the unargued. (pp. 90-91)

It has a fantastic analysis on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

(…) it is tempting to think that the lucidity without hope of Bovarism could be the only way out, the only justifiable madness in this world of lunatics. (p. 69)

It has some interesting thoughts on Sartre and innovation, and some ponderings on what education should be and what our psychology demands of us:

‘I know, but all the same’: denial of doubt is not willingly abandoned. If it is true that ambivalence is defined by the coexistence of two affirmations (I am this and that) and ambiguity by two denials (I am neither this nor that), in facing the political future we show ourselves as more ambiguous than ambivalent; we are neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but reveal ourselves to be attuned in advance to any plotline that might offer a way past that double denial. (p. 24)

Yet, there is not much future here. It feels like a ramble, a book written in haste, although with the experience of a veteran ethnologist.

His future is more linear than my psychoanalytic one, with the weight slightly forward, as one should not be in the virabhadrasana 2 yoga pose … In the book group, I asked the question whether it was worth thinking about the future when the present is left unassimilated. Ian thought the book was about the present, which is a good point based on evidence of various quotes:

As Michel Leiris has pointed out, you have to be totally of your time to be able to survive it. (p. 62)

But I still think the argument is too forward leaning. There is no balance found, it is not strong. Perhaps the issue is one highlighted by Augé himself:

Some will say that writing is the ultimate illusion, even an illusion twice over, in that it aspires to analyse a phenomenon of which it is just a symptom. (p. 61)

Since today is Guru Pūrṇimā and much of this book’s idea of the future is about changing the purpose of what we understand by education, I will end with my favourite quote in the book, which honours the encounter that happens when one has something to teach and another is willing to learn. Being a teacher, and having recently taken a life decision that will keep me as a teacher for a while longer, I am very thankful to those who have showed me the way (Sharon, Tom, Steve, Rosina, Ruth, Angel, Kia, Radha, Jude, Pierre, Lesley, Kim, Grayson, Roger, Alexander, Alberto, Ramon, Txete, Christine, John, Jane, Penny, Tom):

What am I, if not this fragile and tenacious will to understand? Shared awareness of this private tension defines the highest level of sociability, the most intense relation to others, the encounter. (p. 143)

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23 Jul 2015

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (translated by Stephen Mitchell)*****


Reading dates: 14 May – 22 July 2015

Neil and I started reading The Dhammapada together. We abandoned it. We then started the Tao Te Ching, and we kept at it. It was a very enjoyable experience to read this book aloud, one or two chapters each night while feeling the echoes of our voices and the teachings of the master afterwards. I liked it very much, and would like to re-read it to absorb more of what it can give. I am also reading Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and my mind is beginning to understand and bear these threads of wisdom both texts weave. They are very different from the books I normally read: argued, contended and densely expressed. The Tao, the way, is open and generous, a practice in doing, as well as in reading. Here’s my favourite chapter, which helped me so much when I was in the 2015 New Jammers programme ran by @TheGlasgowJam, thinking about facilitating contact improvisation (a rather complex thing you can read about here):

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

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9 Jul 2015

Nineteen eighty by David Peace*****


Reading dates: 24 June – 02 July 2015

I read this during the first week of my wonderful fortnight at Yoga Plus in Agios Pavlos (Crete) and the contrast between page and site could not be more marked.

Crime novels don’t get much better than this. Nineteen Eighty, like the other novels in David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet, is eerie, well-written and has evocative characters. But what makes this book stand out is the subject matter — the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper — its historical base and, above all, the detail of the police investigation, which I found fascinating. I enjoyed the oddity of this particular plot and how it links to the previous two volumes, while remaining separate, like a well placed parenthetic remark. The overall plot of Red Riding is masterly, delicately threaded and evocatively written. The repetitions in the text are a poetic litany acting like a mantra which gets you, as the reader, into the manic and intense frame of mind of the crime solving. I did not only read; I felt and I feared, I hoped and despaired. As ever with Peace, there is no redemption. Evil characters are truly evil and there is no mercy for the sake of resolution. This is how books should be written. With the heart (that Yorkshire), the skin (which crawls), the head (which knows what reading is) and the gut (which transports you to Christmas 1980, with smells and all). Unlike the previous crime novel I read (The girl on the train), there is plenty of gut here. This is a book for those who love crime fiction, literature, and are not afraid of a rough ride when reading. I recommend it to you, whomever you are. I will be re-reading it again when I get doubts about the genre. In my plan to write a crime fiction novel when I am 50, this is my ultimate model.

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About Me

Laura Gonzalez is an artist and writer. Her recent practice encompasses film, dance, photography and text, and her work has been exhibited and published in the UK, Spain and Portugal. She has 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 she is not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with her camera, she lectures postgraduate students at the Glasgow School of Art. She is currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric.

Laura is a contemporary dancer with Dance House Community Company and Glasgow Community Dance Theatre. She has also worked with many renowned choreographers and companies (Including Michael Clark, Natasha Gilmore and Janice Parker). She is a contact improvisation facilitator, trained by Penny Chivas and Tom Pritchard, dance artists and founders of The Glasgow Jam. Laura has been practicing Ashtanga yoga since 2013 and has been taught by Rosina Bonsu, Kia Naddermier, Radha Warrell and Pierre Seghir, John Scott and Cathy Moran. Ashtanga teaches her discipline, compassion, patience, and letting go. She is a keen reader and, with Ian Macbeth, she founded the Dialectical Materialist Book Group.