Cavernous, yet cluttered

audreybreakfast1


Since honesty is my best policy, it is only fair to say that my imaginings of "New York life" are a quite predictably pastiche of Audrey Hepburn classic elegance and Sex and the City goings-on (without the awfully brash and over-emotional digressions which too often made me scrunch my nose up at that show). Reality has a way of disabusing one of the silly bits thrown in by imagination, but for someone strong in vision, reality only strengthens the joy of finding a resonance between life-as-imagined and life-as-experienced.

Anyway, I'm not very good at relaxing, and since my new position doesn't begin until next week and I have been acquainting myself with this behemoth of a city. It's always a funny thing to get to know somebody new. New York is new to me, it has been at various times (and in its imagined form in my mind), glossy, gritty, mysterious, frightening, unwanted, compelling. Now I am here and the reality of this place is like a silhouetted figure, impossible to know in detail, but just discernible enough to begin to grasp the form.

What really goes on here? People bustle and cars fume and buildings are adorned in scaffolding. People alternately wilt in the humidity and frost over with conditioned air. I imagine that much goes on behind doors, windows, facades; people are muttering to themselves or their secreted technological gadgets. They disappear into shops, cafes, galleries, cold steel buildings. They re-emerge, no one blinking or wide-eyed , almost everyone striding with determination.



The women are alternately thin, dumpy, elegant, eccentric, unnoticable, arresting. They wear shoes that must be uncomfortable, some are powdered and matte, others shine, gleam, or drip. Some wear horrendous colors, some beautiful fabrics. Some walk as if they want people to watch, others as if they wish they could disappear.
The men are amusing, some hold their power in a tight grasp and swing it alongside their pricey suits and gleaming loafers. Others hold power gracefully, stepping off bikes, careening around in rickshaws, sidestepping tourists. Some seem defeated, others glitter with hostility.
Visitors march and peer and consult. They linger on avenues and careen about corners.

The city breaks and shards and swarms, an endless sea of faces and fabric, clammy palms and sweat-dampened backs.

I have amused myself amidst this sea, primarily by walking, secondarily by finding the bookstores (Crawford and Doyle's is up by my apartment and immediately impressed me by having copies of Borges' Labyrinths and A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden), obtaining memberships to museums, pacing the park paths, ignoring sore feet, disinterestedly shopping, and retreating to the NY Public Library to read in the cool luxury. I have not enjoyed the expense of food, the frequent posturing, the teeth-gritted smiles of sales-people, take-out, the gulf between the world I love and the world I feel I ought to love.



459_chirico9a

[De Chirico: Mystery and Melancholy of a Street]

I don't like feeling as though "it is time" to put away my books and my thoughts and my loosely-scribbled ideas. I want to hold onto these, to read my books in my apartment, to look out the window over the head of the occasional passer-by, to adore the architecture of the older buildings and feel repulsed by the cold steel and glass. I enjoy the Beaux-Arts, the life of the quiet, self-examining, sometime-interacting person. I enjoy conversation, preferably in dark, quiet, comfortable places, perhaps over a glass or mug. I enjoy the few trees perking up and through the coldly decorated stone. I enjoy thinking about the fact that so many of those trees are gingkos, surviving still today, amidst these new monstrous creatures puffing smoke and bellowing with all their hideous strength.

So when I choose to sprawl out on my bed, window open, curtains ruffling with the mercurial weather, or curl up in my desk chair, AC on full blast and dressing gown sashed firmly, I want to feel alright about that, and not as if something were being missed, or I were moving too slowly. The fact is, I am not good at relaxing my mind, but I see no problem with the still body, exhausted from striding through noise and smell and dirt, settling in with a book, and turning from silly, glossed-up expectations.

Cavernous, yet cluttered

audreybreakfast1


Since honesty is my best policy, it is only fair to say that my imaginings of "New York life" are a quite predictably pastiche of Audrey Hepburn classic elegance and Sex and the City goings-on (without the awfully brash and over-emotional digressions which too often made me scrunch my nose up at that show). Reality has a way of disabusing one of the silly bits thrown in by imagination, but for someone strong in vision, reality only strengthens the joy of finding a resonance between life-as-imagined and life-as-experienced.

Anyway, I'm not very good at relaxing, and since my new position doesn't begin until next week and I have been acquainting myself with this behemoth of a city. It's always a funny thing to get to know somebody new. New York is new to me, it has been at various times (and in its imagined form in my mind), glossy, gritty, mysterious, frightening, unwanted, compelling. Now I am here and the reality of this place is like a silhouetted figure, impossible to know in detail, but just discernible enough to begin to grasp the form.

What really goes on here? People bustle and cars fume and buildings are adorned in scaffolding. People alternately wilt in the humidity and frost over with conditioned air. I imagine that much goes on behind doors, windows, facades; people are muttering to themselves or their secreted technological gadgets. They disappear into shops, cafes, galleries, cold steel buildings. They re-emerge, no one blinking or wide-eyed , almost everyone striding with determination.



The women are alternately thin, dumpy, elegant, eccentric, unnoticable, arresting. They wear shoes that must be uncomfortable, some are powdered and matte, others shine, gleam, or drip. Some wear horrendous colors, some beautiful fabrics. Some walk as if they want people to watch, others as if they wish they could disappear.
The men are amusing, some hold their power in a tight grasp and swing it alongside their pricey suits and gleaming loafers. Others hold power gracefully, stepping off bikes, careening around in rickshaws, sidestepping tourists. Some seem defeated, others glitter with hostility.
Visitors march and peer and consult. They linger on avenues and careen about corners.

The city breaks and shards and swarms, an endless sea of faces and fabric, clammy palms and sweat-dampened backs.

I have amused myself amidst this sea, primarily by walking, secondarily by finding the bookstores (Crawford and Doyle's is up by my apartment and immediately impressed me by having copies of Borges' Labyrinths and A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden), obtaining memberships to museums, pacing the park paths, ignoring sore feet, disinterestedly shopping, and retreating to the NY Public Library to read in the cool luxury. I have not enjoyed the expense of food, the frequent posturing, the teeth-gritted smiles of sales-people, take-out, the gulf between the world I love and the world I feel I ought to love.



459_chirico9a

[De Chirico: Mystery and Melancholy of a Street]

I don't like feeling as though "it is time" to put away my books and my thoughts and my loosely-scribbled ideas. I want to hold onto these, to read my books in my apartment, to look out the window over the head of the occasional passer-by, to adore the architecture of the older buildings and feel repulsed by the cold steel and glass. I enjoy the Beaux-Arts, the life of the quiet, self-examining, sometime-interacting person. I enjoy conversation, preferably in dark, quiet, comfortable places, perhaps over a glass or mug. I enjoy the few trees perking up and through the coldly decorated stone. I enjoy thinking about the fact that so many of those trees are gingkos, surviving still today, amidst these new monstrous creatures puffing smoke and bellowing with all their hideous strength.

So when I choose to sprawl out on my bed, window open, curtains ruffling with the mercurial weather, or curl up in my desk chair, AC on full blast and dressing gown sashed firmly, I want to feel alright about that, and not as if something were being missed, or I were moving too slowly. The fact is, I am not good at relaxing my mind, but I see no problem with the still body, exhausted from striding through noise and smell and dirt, settling in with a book, and turning from silly, glossed-up expectations.

Interim

In the time since my last post I have packed up one apartment, said goodbyes, and traveled to New York to move into a new apartment with the help of a few good family members and friends (Thanks!).

Until I can get my thoughts in order (which will follow getting my apartment in order), here are some words from Jean-Jacques, the narrator in Rousseau's Emile. They do not advise an easy life, but the seem to believe in a beautiful one. About a year ago I was convinced of this path to happiness, now I wonder if any sort of happiness must involve a healthy dose of disenchantment...

My son, there is no happiness without courage, nor virtue without a struggle. The word virtue is derived from a word signifying strength, and strength is the foundation of all virtue. Virtue is the heritage of a creature weak by nature but strong by will.

The illusions of pride are the source of our greatest ills; but the contemplation of human suffering keeps the wise humble. He keeps to his proper place and makes no attempt to depart from it; he does not waste his strength in getting what he cannot keep; and his whole strength being devoted to the right employment of what he has, he is in reality richer and more powerful in proportion as he desires less than we.

Would you live in wisdom and happiness, fix your heart on the beauty that is eternal; let your desires be limited by your position, let your duties take precedence of your wishes; extend the law of necessity into the region of morals; learn to lose what may be taken from you; learn to forsake all things at the command of virtue, to set yourself above the chances of life, to detach your heart before it is torn in pieces, to be brave in adversity so that you may never be wretched, to be steadfast in duty that you may never be guilty of a crime.

Interim

In the time since my last post I have packed up one apartment, said goodbyes, and traveled to New York to move into a new apartment with the help of a few good family members and friends (Thanks!).

Until I can get my thoughts in order (which will follow getting my apartment in order), here are some words from Jean-Jacques, the narrator in Rousseau's Emile. They do not advise an easy life, but the seem to believe in a beautiful one. About a year ago I was convinced of this path to happiness, now I wonder if any sort of happiness must involve a healthy dose of disenchantment...

My son, there is no happiness without courage, nor virtue without a struggle. The word virtue is derived from a word signifying strength, and strength is the foundation of all virtue. Virtue is the heritage of a creature weak by nature but strong by will.

The illusions of pride are the source of our greatest ills; but the contemplation of human suffering keeps the wise humble. He keeps to his proper place and makes no attempt to depart from it; he does not waste his strength in getting what he cannot keep; and his whole strength being devoted to the right employment of what he has, he is in reality richer and more powerful in proportion as he desires less than we.

Would you live in wisdom and happiness, fix your heart on the beauty that is eternal; let your desires be limited by your position, let your duties take precedence of your wishes; extend the law of necessity into the region of morals; learn to lose what may be taken from you; learn to forsake all things at the command of virtue, to set yourself above the chances of life, to detach your heart before it is torn in pieces, to be brave in adversity so that you may never be wretched, to be steadfast in duty that you may never be guilty of a crime.

Retro

[Flickr - Danske]

In lieu of original thoughts, I have chosen to recycle some postings from a now-defunct journal which no one but my beloved (aspiring actress) sister ever read.

One was on the idea of love, which is actually a very "sticky" word (found on everyone's tongues, in everyone's pockets, and generally gumming up our minds with nonsense) and a very "shady" word (what's the definition again?). But I did find an interesting passage that prompted these thoughts...

I've been long wondering what our idea of 'love' really means. It seems that 'love' is one of those words (like justice or freedom) that people use today to signpost their conversation as interesting. Love screams of passion in movies and sheds tears of loss in songs, it treads delicately in poems, and swashbuckles through in novels, but all of those depictions ring hollow somehow.

Stendhal says:"...an absence of mistrust is not enough; there must be a weariness of mistrusting, and, as it were, courage must be impatient with the hazards of life. You are unconsciously bored by living without loving, and convinced in spite of yourself by the example of others. You have overcome all life's fears, and are no longer content with the gloomy happiness which pride affords: you have conceived an ideal without knowing it. One day you come across someone not unlike this ideal; crystallization recognizes its theme by the disturbance which it creates, and consecrates for ever to the master of your destiny what you have dreamt of for so long."

And I like this. It seems to be saying that the lightning-flash of love occurs not like the lightning flash of a storm, but rather like the flash of the flashbulb photo. Love comes and freezes you, your self as it IS at a moment, and adorns it with the self of someone else. The someone-else-self that also "crystallizes" your ideal...as if the adornment of your completed (bored and prideful) self is the adornment of the self you conceived in your mind as an ideal...you as you are in reality plus you as you would have rather been.

But would you prefer this ideal to your own self? or would you regard this second, as-yet-unrealized ideal self as something necessarily existing outside of you?

Retro

[Flickr - Danske]

In lieu of original thoughts, I have chosen to recycle some postings from a now-defunct journal which no one but my beloved (aspiring actress) sister ever read.

One was on the idea of love, which is actually a very "sticky" word (found on everyone's tongues, in everyone's pockets, and generally gumming up our minds with nonsense) and a very "shady" word (what's the definition again?). But I did find an interesting passage that prompted these thoughts...

I've been long wondering what our idea of 'love' really means. It seems that 'love' is one of those words (like justice or freedom) that people use today to signpost their conversation as interesting. Love screams of passion in movies and sheds tears of loss in songs, it treads delicately in poems, and swashbuckles through in novels, but all of those depictions ring hollow somehow.

Stendhal says:"...an absence of mistrust is not enough; there must be a weariness of mistrusting, and, as it were, courage must be impatient with the hazards of life. You are unconsciously bored by living without loving, and convinced in spite of yourself by the example of others. You have overcome all life's fears, and are no longer content with the gloomy happiness which pride affords: you have conceived an ideal without knowing it. One day you come across someone not unlike this ideal; crystallization recognizes its theme by the disturbance which it creates, and consecrates for ever to the master of your destiny what you have dreamt of for so long."

And I like this. It seems to be saying that the lightning-flash of love occurs not like the lightning flash of a storm, but rather like the flash of the flashbulb photo. Love comes and freezes you, your self as it IS at a moment, and adorns it with the self of someone else. The someone-else-self that also "crystallizes" your ideal...as if the adornment of your completed (bored and prideful) self is the adornment of the self you conceived in your mind as an ideal...you as you are in reality plus you as you would have rather been.

But would you prefer this ideal to your own self? or would you regard this second, as-yet-unrealized ideal self as something necessarily existing outside of you?

The Heart of the Artichoke

Flickr

It was a struggle, but I wrested myself out of lethargy and returned to reading this week. Part of the impetus came from finding an apartment in NY to go with the new job. In two weeks I will no longer be a librarian, simply a busy bibliophile.

I have been reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar and have just finished the initial read-through. I was a bit surprised when I opened it up and found on the very first page, before any dedications or ephemera, a list of instructions. I am to read through chapters 1 -53 first, and follow by reading the outlined "hopscotch" pattern which incorporates a significant number of additional chapters. After completing the first read-through I felt mainly confused, and then a bit wary. The final chapters show Horacio in the asylum (where he works...he's not a patient), confronting the results of his confusion of one woman with another. Just as he and his best friend Traveler are said to doubles of one another, he believes Talita (Traveler's wife) is the double of La Maga, the woman for whom he seems to be weighed down by guilt.

Horacio is awake in the middle of the night, obsessed with the idea that Traveler is going to come for revenge because of the kiss that Horacio and Talita shared earlier (due to the confusion of women, or course).

Horacio's defense consists of a confusing edifice of (I think) strung up string and randomly placed basins of water. The idea is to create the effect of unseen cobwebs and wet pools to the unsuspecting victim who enters the darkened room. Horacio is at this point very distant from the calculating and cold metaphysical flaneur of the first half of the story, but it's hard to believe he is entirely mad.

I ended this first reading certain that this wasn't an ending, and that I needed to read a second time through. A lot of the themes are very unclear to me still.

But simultaneous with this adventure of reading, I was finally devoting myself to reading Sylvie by Gerard de Nerval, a novella that I learned of in a lecture by Umberto Eco in the "Interpretation and Overinterpretation" series. He had mentioned it briefly as a spell-binding work and very secretive about its methods. I picked up a copy from the library and read through it (very spell-binding and fog-like as Eco described, almost as if one has been submerged beneath the weight of memory and the imagined self of the past. There is a heady perfume and quieting song about the stories), but the real surprise came in reading Aurelia, the second story included in the edition I had selected.

Aurelia is Nerval's asylum-written account of dreams and visions. It is helpful to know that he begins by mentioning Swedenborg and that Proust has found Nerval to be extremely influential. There is an enormous amount of submerged discussion of the continuous self, of sleep v. wakefulness, or religion v. spirituality. There is also, strangely enough, an emphasis on the double or Doppleganger, and a bizarre section describing a dream in which the dreamer is described as being on a long wire, advancing toward an earth transversed by brightly colored veins of metals above which are suspended free-floating pools of water.

Now, the obvious danger of advancing an interpretation of Cortazar's story as illuminated by this passage from Nerval's work is clear to me...I did mention Eco's series of essays about this very danger. And I have not done an ounce of research into any sort of connection between Nerval and Cortazar, but Cortazar spent much time in Paris and is clearly interested in Dopplegangers, sleep v. wakefulness and time spent in asylums. So there may be a connection between Horacio's constructed defense of basins and cobwebs, and Nerval's vision of molten veins and floating pools.

Either way, it has been an excellent weekend of reading, just enough to sate me for dealing with a whole lot of packing, moving, and bubble-wrapped stress.

The Heart of the Artichoke

Flickr

It was a struggle, but I wrested myself out of lethargy and returned to reading this week. Part of the impetus came from finding an apartment in NY to go with the new job. In two weeks I will no longer be a librarian, simply a busy bibliophile.

I have been reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar and have just finished the initial read-through. I was a bit surprised when I opened it up and found on the very first page, before any dedications or ephemera, a list of instructions. I am to read through chapters 1 -53 first, and follow by reading the outlined "hopscotch" pattern which incorporates a significant number of additional chapters. After completing the first read-through I felt mainly confused, and then a bit wary. The final chapters show Horacio in the asylum (where he works...he's not a patient), confronting the results of his confusion of one woman with another. Just as he and his best friend Traveler are said to doubles of one another, he believes Talita (Traveler's wife) is the double of La Maga, the woman for whom he seems to be weighed down by guilt.

Horacio is awake in the middle of the night, obsessed with the idea that Traveler is going to come for revenge because of the kiss that Horacio and Talita shared earlier (due to the confusion of women, or course).

Horacio's defense consists of a confusing edifice of (I think) strung up string and randomly placed basins of water. The idea is to create the effect of unseen cobwebs and wet pools to the unsuspecting victim who enters the darkened room. Horacio is at this point very distant from the calculating and cold metaphysical flaneur of the first half of the story, but it's hard to believe he is entirely mad.

I ended this first reading certain that this wasn't an ending, and that I needed to read a second time through. A lot of the themes are very unclear to me still.

But simultaneous with this adventure of reading, I was finally devoting myself to reading Sylvie by Gerard de Nerval, a novella that I learned of in a lecture by Umberto Eco in the "Interpretation and Overinterpretation" series. He had mentioned it briefly as a spell-binding work and very secretive about its methods. I picked up a copy from the library and read through it (very spell-binding and fog-like as Eco described, almost as if one has been submerged beneath the weight of memory and the imagined self of the past. There is a heady perfume and quieting song about the stories), but the real surprise came in reading Aurelia, the second story included in the edition I had selected.

Aurelia is Nerval's asylum-written account of dreams and visions. It is helpful to know that he begins by mentioning Swedenborg and that Proust has found Nerval to be extremely influential. There is an enormous amount of submerged discussion of the continuous self, of sleep v. wakefulness, or religion v. spirituality. There is also, strangely enough, an emphasis on the double or Doppleganger, and a bizarre section describing a dream in which the dreamer is described as being on a long wire, advancing toward an earth transversed by brightly colored veins of metals above which are suspended free-floating pools of water.

Now, the obvious danger of advancing an interpretation of Cortazar's story as illuminated by this passage from Nerval's work is clear to me...I did mention Eco's series of essays about this very danger. And I have not done an ounce of research into any sort of connection between Nerval and Cortazar, but Cortazar spent much time in Paris and is clearly interested in Dopplegangers, sleep v. wakefulness and time spent in asylums. So there may be a connection between Horacio's constructed defense of basins and cobwebs, and Nerval's vision of molten veins and floating pools.

Either way, it has been an excellent weekend of reading, just enough to sate me for dealing with a whole lot of packing, moving, and bubble-wrapped stress.