Laura Gonzalez

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30 Jan 2016

Kill your friends by John Niven***

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Reading dates: 11–29 January 2016

In every difficult, worthwhile endeavour there will come a point when the easiest course of action is to abandon forward motion, to allow inertia to take over and to return to the status quo. It is the brave and great man who, upon recognising this point, resists inertia and smashes through to the far side. No matter the cost. I call this juncture the critical moment of will.
Hauptman, Unleash Your Monster (a fictional self-help book in ‘Kill Your Friends’).

This novel was the perfect antidote to ‘Little Dorrit’. Bold, gutsy, funny and relentless, the writing follows Steven Stelfox, a music A&R guy, as he lives one year of his life in coke, sex and intrigue. All of this is portrayed vividly and crassly and I learned more words for cocaine and sex positions I will ever need. He is an unlikely hero, a little John Self, a little Tom Ripley, a little Patrick Bateman. The work of the character is so internal, though, I am not sure if making it into a film would ever be successful. Literal would not work and the only possible solution would be cinematic license, as in ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. The book is funny, enjoyable and contemporary, perfect in its non-sense and, hopefully a little romantic in its idea of what it is to be in the music industry. I say romantic as a defence for myself, I suppose. I am not sure if I would be able to stand its pace.

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28 Jan 2016

Hysteria (Graphic Freud) by Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zárate***

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Reading dates: 01–28 January 2016

This is a delightful graphic novel which, although necessarily simplifying the many facets of hysteria according to Freud, is also able to give a glimpse of its complexity and its problems. I liked the focus on cases, the historical narrative intermingled with ghosts from the past and the future. It is beautifully written and drawn, literary but, as ever with hysteria, also romanticised. This is especially evident in the choice of giving the ghost of Princess Diana a voice and I wonder if more could have been done with it and with Freud’s own hysteria. My main problem with it is the glaring omission of Dora, one of Freud’s most important patients and his Irene Adler. I suspect this might be because she gets a book of her own, eventually. Even with this thought, she should be at least alluded to in this work. Drawn or mentioned, pointed at. But, of course, this is a graphic novel about Freud, and not hysteria, isn’t it? The process, the method, the research get the time and space.

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27 Jan 2016

24/7 by Jonathan Crary ****

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Reading dates: 20 Nov 2015 — 22 Jan 2016

24/7 was my choice for our Dialectical Materialism book group meeting. I love sleeping, and working for an international programme, I am very aware of the 24/7 culture of ‘all the time, without rest, without delay’. There are so many interesting aspects to Crary’s precise analysis: torture, social media as a form of control and not uprising, dreaming, waiting, neigbourliness. The book is poetic and critical, lucid and generous. Some things could have been looked at deeper or returned to (the torture aspects, perhaps, light) and I even forgive him his slightly misplaced attack on Freud and psychoanalysis because this books is so good and necessary. It is short, approachable and erudite without entering into unnnecessary complications or jargon. It is referenced without being academic, it is impeccably written, with flair and care for the reader. The idea of dreams as something shared, of sleeping as a political act of turning off is inspiring. I am off for a revolutionary and unproductive (for capitalism) siesta.

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16 Jan 2016

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens ***

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Reading dates: 23 Jul 2015 — 11 Jan 2016

Dickens is undoubtedly comforting. I very much enjoyed reading Little Dorrit and am glad I continued even though Neil abandoned us reading it out loud. The first chapters were too long and we had to read them in a fragmented way, which did not work for the format, but I persevered with the story. Then, why such a low number of stars? There are some lovely characters — Amy Dorrit herself is a very special girl, a very beautiful image — and the setting of the story in the Marshalsea prison is effective and evocative. The resolution of the main narrative plot is satisfactory, even if predictable. But I thought it lacked punch. There is no Mr Micawber, no Uriah Heep and the book felt more like a book than some of the other ones in which he makes the narrative family, life companions. I will read more of his work (yes, I will attempt Bleak House and Great Expectations) because Dickens is an excellent writer from whom I learn very much. Like A Tale of Two Cities, though, it made me want to come back to my own time.

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20 Nov 2015

On the Genealogy of Morality by Friedrich Nietzsche***

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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):

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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***

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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):
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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.

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4 Oct 2015

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg**

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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

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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 ***

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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****

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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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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.