Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Onze

I’m working on a piece of art. Approximately 4’ x 2.5’ – a collage painting. I’m using newspaper, paint, patterned paper, markers, and magazine clippings to create a colorful grid of alternating shapes, colors, and thoughts. But it is not really turning into what I had originally envisioned. Of its own volition it is morphing into something else. Something more colorful and bold than I really feel comfortable with. And this piece is making me wonder - is my life turning out the same way?

We all have a hodge podge of experiences and goals that come together to form who we are. And many of us have a dream of the person this clutter will begin to resemble. So what happens when the collage of our lives does not look like what we expected? We can’t get rid of anything. We must layer new things on top of the old things to create a new us. To make our accumulated accomplishments resemble our original dream.

For me, the patchwork of my life is not turning out at all as I envisioned. Much like the visual collection on my canvas. I keep adding to it and it seems to get further and further away from the original impression I had. I leave it alone and it stagnates. I try too hard and it becomes more confused than I want. All like life. So how can I solve the problems of my current existence? Maybe the answer lies in the completion of this piece of artwork.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Dix

Impulsivity versus Planning

Which is better: following a prepared path or letting whim grab you by the throat and shake you about like a dead mouse?

I have always arranged every moment and every minute event of my life path in excruciating detail. My day, my week, and every year of my life are my own personal cosmic to do list. I plan vacations years in advance. I plan home remodeling projects decades in advance. And I practice how to behave in any situation. What image of myself shall I present at a party? At work? To my mother? To my friends? I rehearse and analyze every damn conversation I have or have yet to have. It is a neverending tilt-a-whirl of a brain blitz, but it’s mine and I have grown accustomed to my self oppressive ways.

However, every now and again, I do these crazy impulsive things. I have gotten tattooed, I have pierced my ears myriad times, I have shorn my head, I have quit jobs and I have moved across the country. These are all unexpected and unstrategized events that throw my whole existence into redesign. Control is lost and I have to figure out the “what now” after I have done the “what the fuck?”
Now, there are many people who are able to lead a productive life of nothing but spontaneous decisions. I could not live blind like that, but I have great admiration for those who do not have to be control freaks as I am. I find that I fear being myself when I lose control, but I fear losing myself unless I am impulsive. The blade, I daresay, is not only double edged, but also serrated.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Neuf

I have a good friend who is making it her quest to blog her way through reading the Guardian’s list of the 1000 best novels that everyone should read. Time Magazine also created the lazy American’s version of this list with their 100 best novels that everyone should read. I surveyed the two lists and saw that I have read almost exactly 20% of each list. Not great, but probably better than the average person. The thing that intrigued me is which books fell into both lists. And the following lists emerged:

The first is the list of all the books I have read that appear on both the 1000 and the 100.
1) 1984 by George Orwell
2) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
3) Animal Farm by George Orwell
4) Atonement by Ian McEwan
5) Beloved by Toni Morrison
6) Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
7) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
8) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
9) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
10) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
11) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
12) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
13) The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
14) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
15) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The second, more important, list is the one that both the 1000 and the 100 recommend I read.
1) A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
2) A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
3) A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
4) American Pastoral by Philip Roth
5) An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
6) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
7) Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
8) Deliverance by James Dickey
9) Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
10) Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
11) Herzog by Saul Bellow
12) Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
13) Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male by Vladimir Nabokov
14) Lord of the Flies by William Golding
15) Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
16) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
17) Money by Martin Amis
18) Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
19) Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
20) Native Son by Richard Wright
21) Neuromancer by William Gibson
22) Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace
23) On the Road by Jack Kerouac
24) Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
25) Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
26) Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
27) Possession by AS Byatt
28) Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
29) Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
30) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
31) The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
32) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
33) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
34) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
35) The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
36) The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
37) The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
38) The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
39) The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
40) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
41) The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
42) The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
43) The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
44) The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
45) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
46) The Recognitions by William Gaddis
47) The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
48) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
49) The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
50) The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
51) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
52) To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
53) Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
54) Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
55) Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
56) White Teeth by Zadie Smith
57) Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I imagine it’s an honor to get one’s novel listed on any list of this sort. But to get two must mean something about the author is quite extraordinary. Imitation is the finest flattery, and so, inspired by my literary fellow, I shall begin my own quest with reading the following extraordinary writers who have been so honored.

Saul Bellow:
The Adventures of Augie March

Lolita, or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male
Pale Fire

Thomas Pynchon:
Gravity's Rainbow
The Crying of Lot 49

Philip Roth:
American Pastoral
Portnoy's Complaint

Virginia Woolf:
Mrs. Dalloway
To the Lighthouse

If interested in doing some reading, please visit the original lists:
Time 100 novels:
Guardian 1000 novels:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 2010 | Chapitre Huit

A friend told me tonight that I don’t really see the positive. A few weeks ago he told me I tend to veer toward the negative. Both are ridiculously hyperbolic understatements, of course, but there we are. This did manage to get me thinking about what my positive traits are. And after an eternally long millisecond of thought, this is the comprehensive list I have compiled:

* In my humble opinion, I can write like the devil. That may not get me a job any time soon, but it doesn’t matter. I love doing it and I do it well.

* I am a rock for my friends and family, co-workers, and clients. This does not mean I am a rock for myself, but at least I am there for everyone else.

* I am intelligent. I have respect for those who are stupid, but not for those who rejoice in stagnating in their own ignorance.

* And not that it really matters, but I have great hair. There. Someone had to say it.

In the interest of remaining positive I will not regale you with my negative traits, of which there are myriad. Instead, I will simply ponder why more traits do not leap to the tip of my brain. And does it matter? There are many others who have far fewer talents and I sense this is a list of which to feel proud. I may spend a lot of my days sinking in the quicksand of my mind, but at least I have one list to remind myself why I should reach out for the grapevine back to dry land. And for this, I have my friend to thank. Another positive. Whadaya know.