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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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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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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