Fear, Shmear

stefan zweig lit literature books

 

So I finished Stefan Zweig’s “Fear” a few days ago and have little to say about the uneventful ride. It felt like a reality-TV version of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” happy ending and hot-pot wife to boot.

I actively pursued Zweig because Wes Anderson reportedly built “The Grand Budapest Hotel” atop the Austrian writer’s work. But, I must have picked the wrong Zweig book, as “Fear” is not worth the read.

Here, I’ll summarize it for you:

All my married ladies, don’t cheat on your husbands. Especially if this husband is way smarter than your featherweight, booty-swinging self.

Those White Cliffs of Dover

2005-07-26_-_United_Kingdom_-_England_-_Dover_-_White_Cliffs_4_4888124626Last week, I wrote about a poem written by Randall Mann titled “Bernal Hill.” A discerning reader pointed at the near-obvious reference Mann’s poem makes to the classic “Dover Beach,” written in the mid-1800’s by English poet Matthew Arnold. I accept that the reference totally slipped my grasp, so I wanted to share Arnold’s poem this week.

“Dover Beach” was inspired by the famous, white-chalk English cliffs of Dover, which carry symbolic significance for the British because they face the nation’s European neighbors to the South.

For Arnold, Dover Beach was an ideal place in which to ruminate on love in the throes of his newly “modern” world, among other things. The result, below, is a romantic and Romantic poem, but relevant even today, in the throes of our “modern” world.

 

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the {AE}gean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Photo Credit: CGP Grey

December’s Poem of the Month!

 

Squirrel

You don’t see me.

Mouth full of food.

Acorn. Or chestnut.

Round and round the mulberry bush

Or tree

Sycamore I think.

Non native – like you.

Bloody foreigners.

Been here years you plead.

Family all work.

Pay our taxes.

People don’t like our colour.

Looks fine to me.

Silver.

Sleek.

It’s the accent, cant shake that.

I only wanted to take a photo.

Come back.

Foreigner.

 

***

 

Congratulations to Christopher Lough for winning December’s “Poem of the Month” Contest! It was a very difficult choice, but his intriguing piece “Squirrel” came out on top. A very big thank you to all who participated.

Here is a bit about Christopher:

Christopher Robert Lough is a Scottish writer, primarily writing poetry and non-fiction, who by day works in a call centre as a customer services representative. Currently calls Nottingham home, in a self-imposed reasonless exile.

He has an HND in Countryside Management which was a natural progression for furthering knowledge of animal behavior and the environment, as well as following his passion for all things ornithological.

Has been cursed with a zeal for travelling and has done time in Asia, Antipodea as well as Europe, which offer an endless well of characters, smells, sights and sounds to draw (or write) from.

 

Stay Tuned…Poem of the Month Will Be Announced this Week!

The winner of December’s “Poem of the Month” contest is just about ready to be revealed. So stay tuned…we could be announcing the results as early as tomorrow!

What It Is that Has to Give

poetry san francisco

Bernal Hill (pictured above) boasts an unobstructed view of photogenic San Francisco. So, it is unsurprising that it spawned a poem that bears its name.

The piece is by Randall Mann, an openly gay poet who often writes about life in San Francisco and who was the recipient of the prestigious Kenyon Review Prize in Poetryin 2003.

I like the poem because it is simple and it rhymes. And, anything that is simple, rhymes and works is an intentionally modest work of art.

 

Bernal Hill

Something has to give.
We stand above it all.
Below, the buildings’ tall
but tiny narrative.

 

The water’s always near,
you say. And so are you,
for now. It has to do.
There’s little left to fear.

 

A wind so cold, one might
forget that winter’s gone.
The city lights are on
for us, to us, tonight.

 

Photo Credit: Jack French, from San Francisco, CA

How to Avoid the Guilt Game by Dying

writing, literatureAt the end of the day, I write this for myself. So it does not matter that this post is about two months late.

While in Colombia in early December, I read a conspicuously short book in Spanish, anticipating that I wouldn’t have much time to read but also making the effort to keep my Spanish-reading-brain alive. I ended up reading the novel over night, at my husband’s icy family farm, two hours out of Bogotá.

The book is about euthanasia. It is about a painter whose son has such a bad car accident that the kid is left alive, but wanting to die.

As I’ve watched my father cling to life during these past few years — getting better for brief spurts of near enjoyment, only to end up disoriented and uncomfortable in a hospital bed — I think more and more about euthanasia. About how much I would embrace it. About how much I want my death to be quick and uneventful. About how illness causes families to make each other feel like shit by means of “The Suffering Game.”

The “Game,” being a guilt game, always needs a victim, never truly has a winner. I do not want this “Game” to be played in my name. Nor do I want to cling to life on a hospital bed. There is nothing better than a guest who knows when to leave. Well, we are guests here and we cannot be tricked by our advanced medicine, wearing the skirt of happy host, and insisting that we, please, just stay another night.

Anyway, for those who read Spanish, the book I read in December is called “La luz difícil,” or “The Difficult Light.” It is by Colombian author Tomas González, who deserves to be much more famous than he barely is.

Above is a loving passage from the novel that tells of a time before the tragic accident had occurred.