Laura Gonzalez


18 May 2015

Libra by Don Delillo****


Reading dates: 28 December 2014–17 May 2015

Don’t be fooled by the amount of time it took me to read this book. I loved it and I think it is a masterpiece. I savoured every intricate moment of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald told through the impeccable prose of Delillo. I wish this is how history was told. The book shows a lot of research. Invention too, for it is a work of fiction. Like when I read La Fiesta del Chivo, I was amazed at how accurate the account is, how much factual checking has gone into this work. Yet, I did not give it five stars because my criterion for that is whether I would re-read, and I am not sure I could go through the paranoiac roller coaster of Libra again. Whereas Vargas Llosa’s account of assassination is heart-wrenching but somewhat removed, Delillo is an expert at the psychological and, at times, I felt so involved I had to pinch myself to remember that it was only a book. I could not always read it before bed because it would play tricks on my dreams. This is precisely the power that makes it so accomplished and unique. It is definitely a reading experience, a good insight into conspiracies and the American mind and a beautiful historical account of a troubled time, culminating in a couple of bizarre days that changed the world. Can you imagine what it must have been like to live the events of 22–24 November 1963?

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2 May 2015

Selected poems by Pablo Neruda***


Reading dates: 14 January – 29 April 2014

We read a poem a night, both in the original Spanish and the English translation. Returning to my mother tongue, to moving specific muscles in the mouth to make familiar noises was comforting; hearing Neil try those same positions was rewarding, beautiful, memorable. I am not sure about the poems themselves. It might have been the selection but they seemed pretty limiting in terms of themes. Yet, there were some gems, of course, in particular those works referring to the sea. These are the poems of another time and another history and some times they felt very distant. A continent away, a lifetime away. Perhaps the language helped that remote quality. When did my mother tongue stop being my mother tongue; when did I become independent from my first language? It was beautiful to read, but with the qualities of returning home for Christmas, finding the quirks of the place you grew up in amusing only because you know you will leave it after boxing day. It is a necessary place, one that allows you to be who you are but is behind you. That’s what I felt with Neruda’s work. He was a favourite of mine during my teenage years and he continues to be there then, but not now. I wonder if the same would happen with Pedro Salinas, Miguel Hernández, Mario Benedetti and Gloria Fuertes if I shared them with Neil.

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20 Mar 2015

Tu rostro mañana 1. Fiebre y lanza by Javier Marías****


Reading dates: 17 May 2014 – 20 March 2015

Javier Marías is a curious writer, not for the faint hearted. His novels are somewhere in between a particular type of British fiction (think Ian McEwan) but with Spanish prose (think some Camilo Jose Cela or Luis Martin Santos, whom I despaired with). I also despaired with this novel at times, but its achievement is palpable in the words, in the acrobatics they make with the help of the syntax apparatus. His obsession with listening and looking, which I first came across in A Heart so White, continues here. Eloquently, he manages to break down the act of observing and to consider the ethics of acting on those observations or not. In fact, when it comes down to that, it almost reads like a non-fiction book, full of erudite descriptions and inferences. But of course, the novel hardly has any headings or subheadings so navigation to find these is almost impossible. A nice discovery when they come.

The book is about nothing, really. It is about the encounter of two friends (not too close, but friends) and the feeling that one wants to reveal something to the other. That is it. In between, there are many digressions about war, especially the Spanish civil war, about the social world, about a specific kind of spy work, about Oxford. It is extremely well observed, oddly structured. Will I read the other two in the trilogy? I am not sure if I am hooked enough. His work is a feat of language and the story is palatable at times, but the experience of reading was arduous, like a hard mountain to climb. I would not climb the same one again, and I am not sure I would climb one like it either. I am glad I did it, but it also showed me I don’t quite like climbing.

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21 Feb 2015

Malign Velocities by Benjamin Noys***


Reading dates: 23 January – 15 February 2015

In DiaMat, we are committed to critiquing capitalism, to exploring its transcendence, to think of alternatives. So, of course, the time came to read about accelerationism. Neil chose this book for the purpose as Noys provides a history and a critique of it. It is a succinct book and perhaps some of its problems lie there. There is scope for expanding and deepening every single one of its sections. I found the historical ones (futurism and Russia) the most interesting, as it helps ground current thought. It told me things I did not know about. But when the book addressed things I do know about (psychoanalysis, narcissism, the ego), I found his analysis so cursory it read wrong. I know it is brought about as a critique of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti Oedipus but still, if one is to discuss narcissism and the birth of the ego, better do it properly or not at all. Similarly, I have issues with this concept of jouissance, which is bandied as self-explanatory. Jouissance this and jouissance that without attempting to problematise it, or even refer to Lacan. Still Noys’ call for a reconfiguration of pleasure and of work were inspiring ideas, things that require further and deeper thought, of the philosophical rather than the political kind. I do hope he gets to expand on these (peppered throughout the book and expanded on in the conclusion) on a longer book. I will be reading it to satisfy what Malign Velocities left unanswered.

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8 Feb 2015

A sickness in the family by Denise Mina ***

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Reading dates: 1 – 6 February 2015

A sickness in the family is a gripping, well put together graphic novel, with exquisite drawings. It is a quick, intense, enjoyable read but one that, for me, fell flat at the resolution. It reminded me a little too much of Hitchcock’s film Psycho. Its complexity, however, was that of a short story. I like very few short stories, not my form. I wanted something more epic. Somehow the threads for this are there in each of the characters — especially the marriage counsellor — and the work could have expanded. Although, one could argue, at the expense of some dilution of the main narrative. Still, the theme (brought about by that resolution I was just dissing) is fascinating and rather original.

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24 Jan 2015

Critique of everyday life vol. 1 by Henri Lefebvre****


Reading dates: 25 October 2014 – 22 January 2015

Critique of everyday life was Ian’s choice for DiaMat. Having read and discussed David Harvey, one of our heroes, it was time to read one of his big influences. As Ian read during our discussion, Harvey writes:

Marx’s account of how capitalism arose out of feudalism in fact embodies such a “co-revolutionary theory.” Social change arises, he argues, through the dialectical unfolding of relations between seven moments within the social body politic:

a) technological and organizational forms of production, exchange and consumption
b) relations to nature
c) social relations between people
d) mental conceptions of the world, embracing knowledges and cultural understandings and beliefs
e) labor processes and production of specific goods, geographies, services or affects
f ) institutional, legal and governmental arrangements
g) the conduct of daily life and the activities of social reproduction.

And so Lefebvre deals with the last point. His work is a curious book, curiously written. Each of the six chapters is a world of its own in terms of focus and style. The first one, which very nearly put me off, is a rant against surrealism, literature and Baudelaire. It makes contextual sense once the other five chapters are read, but I felt there was very little critical distance in this writing. There is a lot in this book but I also found a lot of it difficult to grasp. While I understood the purpose and benefits of Dialectical Materialism as a method, I was not very clear on how one thinks dialectically; while I got very excited about the everyday and its critique, I am not sure I fully understood what it was. The centrality of alienation was clear, poetically explained, passionate: when ‘duality is exacerbated until even insanity is seen as acceptable’ (131), and we discussed how it begins with language (after John Zerzan).

The book does not remain in the theoretical, however, it is a call to action: ‘action and action alone can guide critical thinking, because it detects deception—and because it is deception which deflects from action’ (201). It is a good argument to Marxism and Marxist dialectical method where there is a ‘unity of theory and practice’ the tenet that sums up Marxism (198). But, again, the revolution is not quite clear to me. Lefebvre writes: ‘But in the last resort the revolutionary solution to economic and social contradictions will only become possible when the human masses are no longer willing to live as before’ (197). This, we argued, will be more of a process than an event, one that perhaps goes through other phases. We talked about space capitalism, green austerity, fully automated luxury communism. We considered the market and its forces, and sighed at Adam Smith’s nice conception of the market only being good for baubles and trinkets. Sadly, the market runs everything today. Including art. There is a lot in this book for the artist and the artivist, beautiful slogans, quotable passages. If this does not make you creative, nothing will:

When the eternal appears in the circumstantial — the marvellous in the familiar – the result is a beautiful work of art (122).

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14 Jan 2015

The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy***

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Reading dates: 01–13 January 2015

After finishing Pride and Prejudice and deciding to concentrate on reading poetry together for the time being, we settled on Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate. This collection writes women into history: Quasimodo’s wife, Circe, Medusa, Frau Freud …

It starts with a high, sustained, note; with this beautiful re-writing of red riding hood:

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The body, sexual desire, destiny placed into the woman’s hands, a problematic relation to the partner, usually male, defining them and voice, words, language are common themes uniting each of the pieces. This, The Devil’s Wife, was my favourite:

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I must admit that when Neil read it and I listened, I did not know what it was about. The clue, Neil explained, is in the peroxide on the last section, Appeal. Read it again. The buried doll. The devil is Ian Brady; the wife, Myra Hindley. I read it forward, and back, and forward again. What a perfect narrative.

Other than these two, the other poems were good, but not better than that. Apart from one, which made me laugh out loud (what are the chances of that with poetry?):


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1 Jan 2015

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel*****


Reading dates: 1 – 4 January 2015

How wonderful to start the year with a superb book. My dear friend Ian Macbeth gave me this for my birthday a couple of years ago. Many people had mentioned it to me but he did not hesitate: it was a book for me, and he was right. I could have read this in a single sitting but my mind whirled around too much. It is an intense graphic novel, a raw memoir of discoveries and insights. It is very sensitively put together – and I mean put together because the drawings tell the story as much as the words. Bechdel weaves her autobiography and family memories, making parallels with books and writers. The echoes of Oscar Wilde, Colette, and more importantly, Joyce’s Ulysses made me not only enjoy this book but also want to read and re-read some of the ones she mentions. What would I do without books … Together with my own body (and I am not sure about this one for every cell in it is renewed every seven years), books feel the only constant in my life. I have always read, I always return to books. This love of reading is evident in Fun Home and it made me feel very close to the narrative. Perhaps even closer than the main theme, Alison’s relation with her father. Although that was very resonant too, for we all come from a father, known or unknown.

I read Are you my mother? first, the story of her other progenitor. Lovers of Fun Home kept telling me they found the maternal line heavy handed. I enjoyed both, but I agree that the paternal story is closer in identification, more fluid, less reasoned. Dare I say, more loving? The two together, with their green and red hues, are a good example and satisfactory resolution of the Oedipus Complex, rigorously exemplified and tenderly drawn.

I could write a lot more about her theory of his suicide and his homosexuality but I don’t want to reveal too much to those I know are reading this and the book at the same time.* For Fun Home is that kind of book: the kind you lend as soon as you finish.

*If anyone wants to, though, I am happy to go into it, preferably with a glass of wine, for it might long and precise. Write below!

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1 Jan 2015

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen***


Reading dates: 5 September – 31 December 2014

I know it is somewhat harsh to give 3 stars to such a beloved classic novel but I have to admit that both Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy got on my nerves more than Mrs Bennett did. The heroine is a little wishy washy, boring, not the character of the Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Cathy. It is all about marriage, I thought, about matches rather than about love or fulfilment. And don’t get me started on the others … The only worthy ones of dialogue were the parents and wordy Mr Collins. Jane Austen writes well, though, despite using the word super-excellent (!) once. I had to do a double take. The book is worth reading for her prose.

The book is, I think, better than the TV adaptation as the narrative is better handled (the TV show has it in the wrong order) and it was a pleasure to hear Neil voice the witty words of Mr Bennett with such vivacity. We read the last eight chapters on New Year’s Eve and it made it a memorable one. Still, we were not as enthralled as we were with Mansfield Park or even Persuasion (for we knew nothing of the latter).

We read Pride and Prejudice at the same time as Phillip Larkin’s poems and the conclusion of this experiment in reading is a desire to read poetry to each other more than novels. There is something wonderfully thought provoking about voicing a poem before one dreams.

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31 Dec 2014

2014 reading round-up

2014 will be remembered as a ‘meh’ year, one where there has been bleak, bad stuff happening — difficult diagnoses, the loss of Klaus, the art school burning, the bin lorry accident, bodily-experienced misogyny and bullying — but also a year of personal challenges fulfilled and a lot to be grateful for — some of the diagnoses defeated, the strength received by witnessing that happening, a new reconfiguration of myself as someone who can do stuff I never thought possible, engagement in politics, handstands and headstands, alternative maternals, laughter and crying with Ellie, friends who move away but feel closer than ever despite being missed, broccoli trainers, all the amazing dances of 2014, Neil (in general and in particular). I have learned gratitude, forgiveness, discipline, compassion and I have been fortunate enough to be able to really test them.

I am looking forward to 2015: Rob and Samara will be closer which means merriment will be a norm. I am writing a book on my own and rather enjoying it; I have a 10 week sabbatical to concentrate on it. I am curating a show in London with artists who are a dream come true to work with because of their integrity and that of their work. The show comes with a conference where I may meet some of my heroines. I will do yoga at least twice a week, in the mornings, and I may do yoga every day in Crete for a while. I am going to learn from Kia, who I have heard so much about, and Peter and Caitlin may come to Glasgow to visit. I will see Ama again, and also look forward to catching up with Gaia, Jools and other London friends. And that only takes me till June.

Aside from life, 2014 has been a mediocre year for my reading, mainly down to the choices I have made, not those others have made for me in my reading groups. Sometimes I wonder if I know what I want, what I need, what is good for me. I used to think I was not a morning person, so could not get up early to do yoga. Now I don’t think, I just get up and go, I don’t give my brain a chance to complain and just do it for my body, for my whole integrated being. I has not failed me a single time, I have not regretted it. So I am wondering if I should go back to that kind of reading: the one that requires work but stays with you, rather than the garbage, quick gratification of whodunnits. Having said that, all my books this year have received 2* and above, which is an achievement of sorts. I also read less than I would like, but we can’t change that. Here’s the list with the awards.

[RED]: The book I would recommend (closely followed by ‘Madame Bovary’)
[GREY]: Not worth it (with ‘Tripwire’ as a close second)
[GREEN]: Book revelation of the year (‘A room with a view’ was my other choice)
[BLUE]: Most pleasurable reading experience
[*]: Read with Neil, aloud
Should have abandoned reading

  • *Pride and Prejudice by Austen, Jane
  • Gone Girl by Flynn, Gillian
  • *Collected Poems by Larkin, Philip
  • The Dead Hour (Paddy Meehan, #2) by Mina, Denise
  • Madame Bovary by Flaubert, Gustave
  • Revolt, She Said by Kristeva, Julia
  • Something Fresh (Blandings Castle, #1) by Wodehouse, P.G.
  • Tripwire (Jack Reacher, #3) by Child, Lee
  • Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures by Fisher, Mark
  • La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert by Dicker, Joël
  • Yes: The Radical Case for Scottish Independence by Foley, James and Peter Ramand
  • Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding, #2) by Peace, David
  • [*Ariel by Plath, Sylvia]
  • Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, #2) by Smith, Alexander McCall
  • Precarious Communism by Gilman-Opalsky, Richard
  • Lacan: In Spite Of Everything by Roudinesco, Elisabeth
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4) by Christie, Agatha
  • [Never Somewhere Else by Gray, Alex]
  • *The Awakening by Chopin, Kate
  • The Finishing School by Spark, Muriel
  • The Quadruple Object by Harman, Graham
  • [Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell by Angel, Katherine]
  • Field of Blood (Paddy Meehan, #1) by Mina, Denise
  • [I Love Dick by Kraus, Chris]
  • *Loitering With Intent by Spark, Muriel
  • The Dogs of Riga (Wallander #2) by Mankell, Henning
  • *My Man Jeeves (Jeeves, #1) by Wodehouse, P.G.
  • *A Room with a View by Forster, E.M.

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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. Her doctoral project, completed in 2010, investigated 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.

She is currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. Laura is a keen reader and, with Ian Macbeth, she founded the Dialectical Materialist Book Group.