This week’s “Economist” magazine includes a review of a new biography on one of America’s greatest poets ever: Elizabeth Bishop.
Highlighted above is one of my favorite Bishop quotes, from her poem “One Art”:
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things feel filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster”
The silence of the poem returns:
Perhaps it is by sudden, suburban death
Close enough to cry in dry heaves of breath
Perhaps it is by ever-lasting absence
Of right mother —
The slamming down of my infant head
Confirms all sweetness now is fled
But then there are benches in this town
To go around
And I had a moment of silence
Where the pen my poem has found
Joan Didion on the importance of note taking.
From “The Year of Magical Thinking”.
Remarkable thoughts from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
Pains of the soul versus pains of the tooth. From Hans Christian Andersen’s story “Auntie Toothache,” found in the Penguin Classic compilation of his “Fairy Tales.”
For a few weeks this book has been on my mind. Didion, Didion, Didion. And her “Year of Magical Thinking,” written during the first year she mourned her husband’s sudden death.
This for me has proven to be a year of magical thinking, a year of metamorphosing concrete barricades into trampolines via transformative thought.
Magical thinking works. Didion said it first. I look forward to going through her words.
So I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Relato de un Náufrago” (“The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”) in one sitting. I had my doubts when buying it beacuse I tend to find that all shipwreck stories are the same. Sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish.
Indeed, my favorite part of the tale was Marquez’s introduction, which included the stupendous description above of the Colombian historical context at the time the story was published (apologies to non-Spanish readers).
And, while no one can say that Marquez’s shipwreck tale is bad, it’s a story of sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish. It does interweave an interesting message, however, of the difference between the fear of dying and the fear of death.
Death, actually being dead, does not scare the narrator. Death is a form of salvation, the end of water hell. But the act of dying is immediate, terrifying hell. The options are not good: sharks, imagined carnivorous turtles, burnt lungs.
Fear of going through such terrible experiences keeps the narrator from letting himself die, no matter how much he claims to want the out of death. As a result, he stays alive.
With this story Marquez confirms that our extreme cowardice when faced with gore, pain, any form of death by dying is so effective that it finally makes us brave.