Saturday, 31 August 2013

So many books, so little time - Frank Zappa

I need help. Your help. Somebody's help. I am oppressed. Under a heavy burden. Well, not that heavy. But oppressive, yes. And all in the form of one of my favourite authors. Milan Kundera.

It is of course not his fault. But his book of essays, Les Testaments trahis, is weighing heavily on me. Killing my spirit. Softly but surely. I can't finish it. I'm halfway through and now I'm blocked. I can't let it go. But I can't carry on.

You may recall that I started it back in May. With great gusto and enthusiasm, I might add. But maybe my tired brain is not up to this intellectual challenge. His undulating and mesmerising thought processes. And so I put it back on the shelf. Away from sight. And it's been hanging over me ever since.

I can't throw it aside never to read again. Although deep down in the darkest recesses of my being that's what I'd like to do. If I'm honest. Between me and you. But I seem incapable.

What is wrong with me? Held to ransom by a book! I have posted about this before. I thought I had made a step forward at that point. But no. It would seem that it was one step forward, two steps back...

And so, MK and his Testaments trahis remain on my Classics Club challenge list. Until I can be brave enough to remove them. If ever I can. Help me. Any advice would be welcome. Please...?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us - Franz Kafka

Wow! It's been such a long while since I last wrote. Holidays and visitors and projects have filled my time. As have vineyards and wine and photography. As well as good food and truffle-tasting. All of which were very pleasant, I might add.

As you can see for yourselves:!i=2702253428&k=fsTvDsb

But it's time to come back to earth and get on with life. Even reluctantly. And so to books...

Well, not much has been going on there. I did take books with me on my travels. And they were comforting to behold. Still, they never stayed out of the bag for too long.

These were hot, steamy, summer days. When we stopped, we slept. Basically because we didn't have the energy to do otherwise. When we moved, we were eating and drinking and tasting. And generally perspiring profusely. Conditions not conducive to books and paper and concentration.

Before I left, at the start of my time off work, I did read James and the Giant Peach. Just because nothing else would go in. And I really, really needed a frivolous tale and a happy ending. To which James answered perfectly.

But on my return home, Sylvia Plath was waiting for me. The Bell Jar. Not exactly holiday reading, of course. And certainly not the happiest of books. But then mental health issues are not meant to bring happiness methinks. Just possibly understanding. And a little of that would go a long way today...

TBJ makes for a powerful read. More shocking than anything. Scary too. Although unfortunately not totally unfamiliar. SP describes with frightening clarity the pain of a soul in torment. A soul misunderstood, losing control. Lost. Esther Greenwood - whose spends a year "in the bell jar" - presents her case without pomp or ceremony. Taking you along with her. And making no apologies for the bumps and discomfort that follow. Offering little explanation. Barely bewailing her fate. Just giving you the experience.

Esther increasingly isolates herself as her tale unfolds. Rejects all help, affection and love to the extent possible. And thereby the bell jar descends. You can really feel this odd sense of distance permeating her account. Distance from others, from reality, from the life she is attempting to get to grips with. Other people remain very much in the background of her existence. Her family. Her friends. Her colleagues, sponsors. Surrounding her. Part of her life. Yet cut off from her by her own inability to function. That said, their pain and frustration remain tangible somehow. 

The end brings little joy. The worst seems to have past, but there's little to convince that this is truly so. And yet such is life. For some more than others. One long struggle after another.

I read that this book was very much a shock to audiences when it first came out. Possibly because such things weren't talked about, or even imagined, in those days. Possibly because they were just hidden away. Today, I think it may be less shocking, but the whole remains equally uncomfortable. And sad. Just sad.

This was certainly a strange note on which to end my holidays. Of the reality of life. And its ups and downs. And why it's so very important to hold on tight to those ups. And all those who bring them...