April 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
Royal Consort Tilda
February 2, 2016 § 1 Comment
Truly, the most important reading I did last year was Beowulf. I got to read it in the original Old English with a group of amazingly brilliant people and to live in that super soundrich world for about two months. We also looked at a couple other translations; the Thom Meyer is really special. The next most important reading was for my comprehensive exams, which I wrote about here.
Hmm. I don’t really mean to hierarchize the value of these books. This is wrong. Maybe, since so far things have been listed chronologically (did Beowulf early last year, comps reading during the summer): a third highlight was Michael Donhauser’s Of Things (trans. Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron), which I read toward the end of the year, on my multiple flights home to Bangalore. It is a gorgeous and fierce book that reads fieldlife:
from “The Tomato”
To say once more “the tomato.”
On this autumn-saturated Sunday evening.
At the quiet of day’s end, the ringing of bells, cries of farewell.
When the fun stops and with it, the feeling of its insufficiency.
The waiting, the passing in silence, the rustling of leaves, being nowhere.
When Sunday, diminishing gradually, retires.
In sitting there, in spoiling away, in willingness.
With which we endure it: in praise of enduring.
To say it: that this has been a beautiful Sunday.
Yet the tomato takes the evening as an opportunity.
Favored by the given conditions: in all their sparseness.
By way of the light: allowing it to gently settle there.
By way of the surging traffic: in order to absorb it.
The humming, the droning, the vibrating: in order to transpose it.
Into the quieter variety of its seeds, into the juice of its fruit-flesh.
(No fruit has ever robbed me of every rebellion like this.)
The tomato appears in the shadow of language.
As moon (once again): as monad.
Darkened: a silken coal ember.
Here are the rest of my favorite books from last year: « Read the rest of this entry »
January 6, 2016 § 1 Comment
I saw Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire for the first time and thought it was overrated. I watched a lot of movies I love again this year, most notably Sergei Paradjanov’s The Color of Pomegranates. Steven Shainberg’s Secretary is still a fun watch. I also saw Taxi Driver again, finding it much worse than when I first saw it as a college student. I accidentally watched the prequel to Ringu, all the while confused as to why it seemed nothing like the Ringu I’d seen some years before. I saw some terrible in-flight movies. I’d meant to see Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night when it was in theatres in 2014 but eventually saw it on Netflix last year: it was too American for me. Iris Apfel is an extraordinary human being and up there with Tilda Swinton in the fashion constellation–you must see Albert Maysles’s documentary about her, which is still up on Netflix. (Aside: all of last year Netflix kept recommending movies with first names of women as titles: Iris, Ida, Pina, Barbara . . . Barbara was good; I left Ida and Pina for another year, maybe this one.) But this is the stuff I really liked:
Mario Bava. Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped. Italy, 1974/1977.
Peter Bogdanovich. The Last Picture Show. USA, 1971.
Robert Bresson. Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. France, 1945.
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Le fils. Belgium, 2002.
Richard Fleischer. Mandingo. USA, 1975.
Aleksey German. Hard to Be a God. Russia, 2013. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 14, 2015 § 1 Comment
Pass Pass Pass
Pass Pass Fail
Pass Fail Pass
Fail Pass Pass
Pass Fail Fail
Fail Fail Pass
Fail Pass Fail
Fail Fail Fail
are one of the above combinations.
Or they are what’s in this blog post.
What’s in this blog post is a list of books that I “discovered” this past summer, that shifted things for me in small or big ways, or that I simply enjoyed.
Comprehensive exams, where I go to school, involve picking three topics for which you create a list of at least thirty-five books each. Like most PhD amateurs I went overboard and had around two hundred books overall, then read about half of them.
You get the summer to read and make notes, then you get questions which you answer in five thousand words each and await results.
I don’t care much for waiting, so I’ve declared myself three wins.
Congratulations, me! You’ve done what millions before you have done.
The books I picked were of four main kinds:
books I’d read before that I knew would be core books for my essays
books I hadn’t read before that I knew would be important for me
books I hadn’t read before that were there because they were “supposed to be” there
books I picked by chance/that fell into my lap/that weren’t even on my precious lists but I read them
I don’t want to be a broken record about books I may have gushed about before, so I’m picking just a handful of books from the last three kinds.
Etel Adnan (major figure)
All of Etel Adnan’s books, which I either read or re-read this summer, are wonderful—I pick Journey because it works beautifully as both memoir and manifesto for how Adnan looks at the world. As you may know, Adnan has painted Mount Tamalpais for decades of her life. I expected Journey to tell me how she came to that work and how it has sustained her. I didn’t expect it to let me re-enter her written work—The Arab Apocalypse, Seasons, and Sea and Fog particularly—with a more nuanced sense of what she does. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from the book (context: Cézanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire repeatedly in a similar manner, so obviously is an influence):
Let us return to Cezanne. He is a petrol lamp. His glance lightens the things it touches. A sense of the tragic in the quality of a painter’s glance, in the moment of choice, in the phenomenon called vision. Cezanne was in love with the mountain (or the gardener, or the apples) but with the moment when his glance settled on them differently than when he was promenading or was involved in a conversation. A painter’s glance is bitter, in the sense Rimbaud gave this word. That’s why this glance seems to erase the very object that creates its intensity, the cause of its intensity. (“To abolish . . .,” Mallarme used to say.) Cezanne turns light into an impersonal and cruel prism. And if we so much like his watercolors, it is because they escape our direct glance, they slide like mercury under our eyes, because there is between them and us an invisible obstacle which is both transparent and irreducible. It can lead you to insanity.
I’m struggling to remember exactly why I put this book on my EA list . . . « Read the rest of this entry »
May 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
I have about ten notebooks currently in my possession. This may not sound like a lot, but they have notes in them from every class and every guest lecture I’ve attended as a graduate student. I write on every page and am very sparing with the use of paper. So it is a lot, actually.
I’m about to enter a summer of what is known as “comprehensive exam study.” It is about as bureaucratic as it sounds.
In order to prepare for it, I’ve been going through these notebooks, deciding what I need around me as I attempt to think this summer.
And the notebooks don’t want me to.
Here are some excerpts from my notebooks, at random.
why does apostrophe allow a move to the present?
thing: “a gathering of people to make law” (Saxon)
(Joy[c]e: thing mode)
the occasion for
in and what
comes out is
a new modality
but for Cecil [Taylor]
of the self
“consent not to
be a single
thing” « Read the rest of this entry »
February 16, 2015 § 1 Comment
Once upon a time I had a food blog but it disappeared. Then on Sunday I found myself stress baking, tweaking a recipe from my mother which is quite perfect on its own. It gave birth to this beautiful mini-loaf of cake and half a half a dozen cupcakes.
More butter, less sugar is what I did. It’s the dates. They vary in sweetness, so you may find yourself wanting more sugar than I did. The highest quantity is what’s listed on my mother’s version; the least is mine. Somewhere in between will work. And, yes, the smallest quantity of butter would, in fact, do. But why skimp.
You may call this a bread if you like. You may . . . indeed. However, it is not a bread. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
The most devastating film I watched last year was Kirill Serebrennikov’s Yuri’s Day (Russia, 2008). To my knowledge it is not available on DVD, or via usual other means, so I’m extremely grateful to the kind people who screened this right before I left Bangalore for Denver.
Here are the other films, listed alphabetically by director, I watched last year that affected me equally, or almost as much, or somewhat:
Vadim Abdrashitov. Parade of the Planets. USSR, 1984.
Michelangelo Antonioni. Blow-Up. UK, 1966.
Have you ever thought you’d seen a movie you hadn’t actually? For years I’ve gone around thinking I’d seen Blow-Up and then a few months ago I realized I was completely mistaken. Rectified.
Gabriel Axel. Babette’s Feast. Denmark, 1987.
Mainly for the crazy food.
Luis Buñuel. Viridiana. Spain/Mexico, 1961.
My new favorite Buñuel.
Peter Brooks. Marat/Sade. UK, 1967. « Read the rest of this entry »