One Art

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”

Return

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

Magical Thinking

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. 

Once a Shipwreck, Always a Shipwreck

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.