Remarkable thoughts from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
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.
I can think of few things I enjoy more than buying a new book at an airport. The thought of being trapped in the air inside a metal tube for hours with nothing to do but read or watch bad movies is thrilling. The more so with a brand new glossy book upon my lap.
On my flight today I carry the story above. Garcia Marquez’s first formal forray into the novelesque: a literary rendition of a true-life shipwreck tale. The “actual” story took place here, in Colombia, where I often work and play. Marquez’s version was first published in installments in one of the main national newspapers.
Which brings forth the question: why doesn’t installment writing happen anymore? Perhaps this blog will do something about that.
But, for now, there is nothing but paper and plane.
During a recent blissful Sunday afternoon on a London rooftop a friend dutifully informs me that, from an evolutionary perspective, our happiness is problematic. He then plops open the book he is currently logging around town to the page above.
Writer Yuval Noah Harari makes a good point: our evolution is not based on survival of the fittest but, rather, on survival of the hungriest, indeed, the horniest.
Those of us who are most adept at wanting and finding instant gratification have a better chance of surviving and reproducing out in the wild. But, we are no longer out in the wild.
Here, in an urban context, the constant need for instant gratification becomes a burden, one that hinders our ability to execute long-term plans, which are key to obtaining hapiness’ less attractive but more discerning older cousin: satisfaction.
Our biological need to get fed and laid is the reason why Mick Jagger et al can’t get no satisfaction. Perhaps the results would vary if we gave vegan sober abstinence a try. And a try. And a try.
After three days of intense art immersion, I took the early afternoon off to browse the book stalls along the Seine.
Here, I found what I consider to be the most beautiful works of art in the entire ville.
A child-drawn cover on Raymond Quenueau’s “Zazie dans le métro,” one of my favorite books of all time. An incendiary color scheme on naughty Robbe-Grillet’s “La maison de rendez-vous.” Minimal design on numerous Becket covers.
But the beauty of these works lies not in their covers, which are mearly invitations to discover the magic inside.
The best works of art in Paris are the rows of words set down by gigantic French writers, found in the dishevelled stands along the Seine’s quais.
Below is a shot of Marguerite Duras’s “Le ravissement of Lol V. Stein,” which by its second page already sets the ground for decades worth of post-feminist, post-modern, deconstructive thought, art, fashion and life.
I once thought I could know anything
The death knowledge of the Buddha
The clarifying call of Gabriel
Former lives and abetting suns
That enthrall worlds more able than mine
I too never doubted my time supply
To be the daughter to the dying father
Who buries without the blow of love regret
But my father is dying an excessive death
With a wounded body
That aligns rare moments of life
To the faint efforts of his mind
And I do
I offer my happy baby’s dance
Ask about our mayor and the bad president
We can wave our related heads with a laugh
I bring home the foods he likes to eat
A bag of sweet yellow tomatoes
That falls when his good hand forgets to grab
And when he insists on phoning my mother
Makes a promise that he won’t speak drink
I do I dance
Far from the Buddha knowledge of the giving death
Deaf to the recurring chant of Gabriel
Books by my bed and worlds of grace
That I grasp
But lack the good hand with which to grab
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