Posted by: roamingolivia | April 26, 2011

What I want to blog about when I am not blogging


This title is a bit disingenuous because what I really want to blog about is the variety of trips and adventures I’ve had in the past, oh, month since I blogged last. But I have pictures only on my phone, and I don’t have the cable for it here (I will have to hunt for it at home), and meanwhile I’m busy having other adventures, which leave little time for blogging.

However, I guess it’s best for this not to be a blog about why I am not blogging. It can be a blog about some of the random things I’ve been thinking about for the past month or so, in a very stream-of-consciousness way.

Most of what I was thinking about was sunshine. It was incredibly beautiful weather for at least three weeks, to such an extent that I cannot remember a grey day (I am sure there were some, but they made no impression) or rain. I have had lunches outside in the park with friends and colleagues, and I have had the windows open at home. Birds chirp, and the trees are (were) full of fluffy pink and white blossoms that, unlike the cherry blossoms in DC, managed to avoid any allergic reaction. In short, it’s been perfect for a while. Today is grey and cloudy, but I spent all weekend roaming the hills of Yorkshire, and even have a kind of tan on my face.

Another thought process results from the fact that I have a knack for being able to converse with groups of men pretty easily – potentially more easily than with women, depending on the women – and one night went out with a pretty laddish group of guys related to work. That ended with my own deep disappointment / depression about the plight of women in the workplace and their ability to be taken seriously or indeed viewed as actual human beings. Luckily, this is not my overt day-to-day experience, but it now hangs in the back of my mind, and I am formulating various theories and having some interesting conversations about it (offline, a.k.a. in real life). And I am returning to various feminist theory books to see if they have something relevant and interesting to say. Thoughts or reading recommendations welcome (preferably over tea or coffee, but email is also good).

I am reading Nabokov’s The Gift (in English), and it is very good. I tried to read it when I was younger, I thought the writing was as always amazing and superbly quoteable (“love only what is fanciful and rare”). However, I had no idea that there was a story, and that story is now very valuable to me. I think that, before, I got too distracted by all the quotes to have any clue about the plot. I think that this was before my brain was fully formed (i.e., before I was 26, according to some studies), and although I’m being flippant about the brain-formation thing, Nabokov is one of the many writers who make so much more sense when one is an adult and has an adult’s understanding of the complexity of human emotion and thought. I think the same is true for The Great Gatsby; one cannot truly read that book in high school, or most people (including 15-year-old me) cannot, as they do not really understand loss. Perhaps I still don’t. I hope to return to these “grown-up” books repeatedly in my life.

This thought brings me to another disappointment in the recent months, which is a new disillusionment with contemporary literature, or at least in contemporary literary criticism. Much of this links to my dislike for The Finkler Question (which won the Booker Prize last year, in case you missed all of my rants on the topic) and Room (which is shortlisted for the Orange Prize this year). I would like very much to have a favourite living writer, but I don’t think most books that are praised by literary critics are for grown-ups. I don’t necessarily mean that books should be hard and that one should be constantly challenging oneself (okay, I do actually mean that, but I can understand that this is not a universally held value). I just mean that the books are not adventurous or daring in really confronting issues that real adults face – or should admit that they face – in real life. I think this is what bothered me about Franzen’s Freedom, although I am still thinking about exactly why I didn’t like that book. It was a kind of less-complex version of various dilemmas people face in real life, and thus ultimately unfulfilling; I felt I could have a more interesting meditation on the limits of freedom and the destructiveness of laissez-faire attitudes with friends and colleagues, and I would have hoped to have the opposite from something that was proclaimed as the pinnacle of literature for 2010.

All of this means that I am struggling to think of a single living writer I truly admire, although I guess Javier Marias and Haruki Murakami are okay picks if they can manage to put something decent out in the relatively near future. Do you have a favourite living writer?

That’s about it. Maybe I’m just starting my new-found adulthood, now that I’ve turned 30, with a huge dose of pretentiousness.

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