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# I'm not actually dead. I've even been online, more or less - I used to insist that Salzburg/Maishofen was my internet and computer free time, just me and my books, detox, but I've finally caved and bought myself usb-stick internet for my sister's old laptop that I mainly got to familiarise my Mac using self with Office, Excel, etc., which I've totally failed to do so far. But, holiday internet. *conflicted sigh* I'm not using it as much as I do at home, partly, but hopefully not only because I'm paying for bandwidth; I'm feeling quieter here, more at peace, not as compelled to follow every bit of discussion or drama, because god forbid I should miss someone being wrong on the internet somewhere; more removed from it all; but the mere fact that this whole world is there when I want it is a reassurance. Which actually scares me quite a bit. We shouldn't be so dependent on things that... are real, I'm not going to argue that, but also in a way seem very fragile and... disappearable? Which isn't a word, I know. Maybe it's not having grown up with all this technology that makes me a bit wary of its permanence and ultimate reliability.

# Anyway. Had seven rather nice days of skiing... )

# With all this and my whole lack-of-fitness related state of constant tiredness I didn't get a lot of reading done so far. Finished re-reading TM's Königliche Hoheit, which I still find kind of... sad. There are brilliant ironic and genuinely funny parts, but the love story, while touching, strikes me as more melancholy than not.

Then read R. Safanski's Heidegger biography (Ein Meister aus Deutschland), which I picked rather randomly out of my father's bookcase for no very good reason, except that I vaguely wanted to start getting over my complete stupidity/lack of understanding/slight apprehension when it comes to philosophy, which I've always avoided because it seemed a bit too abstract for my too-materialist, too-concrete brain that finds it easier to look for models and answers in history, sociology and psychology, and found it readable and interesting when I opened it and gave it a cursory glance. And at least in the first part of the book Safranski did manage to convey even to me an idea what philosophy can be about, and while the philosophic parts were a bit of a difficult read at first for the complete newbie lacking even a good part of the basic terminology, also an impression of where Heidegger was going with his ideas. But then of course there's the inherent question about the worth of philosophy when it doesn't stop the philosopher from being just as fallible and wilfully blind as the next average, unphilosophic person... In any case, it was a fascinating introduction into the history of thought in the 20th century, and I found at least Heidegger's early philosophy with its importance of questions instead of answers, deconstruction of absolutes and emphasis on personal perception and immediate experience of living interesting, if a little too... self-involved, maybe, in the end? It touches something I've been wondering myself - how much, how far can you deconstruct absolutes and preconceptions, something that studying history does, too, until you're left with nothing, floating in relatives, questioning and second guessing your every opinion? Feeling like you're losing yourself in all the ifs and buts and OTOHs and looking at everything from every possible angle? And what then? Where, to quote Buffy & Co, do we go from here? Are there any answers? Or is this only a problem because on some fundamental level my ex-catholic brain hasn't quite given up wanting or believing in the existence of absolutes?

[On a side-note, in my personal and admittedly once again completely materialist opinion the next major revolution about human thought and self-perception, the definition of man and structure of society will be caused by what science will discover about the function of the human brain over the next decades.]

It also totally made me want to write something about the philosophic background in TW, which I guess is wildly, wildly inappropriate? Not to mention completely presumptuous and idiotic considering my vague to the point of barely-there-at-all knowledge about 20th century philosophy. But I already have ideas & notes! Gah! Read about Heidegger and wrote notes about Jack. Oh dear. *facepalm* But he's such a classic example of being 'thrown' into life, and if it isn't the knowledge of his own mortality that defines his life (rather the reverse), it's everyone else's. Would it be possible to do this sticking strictly to the TW-text and not dragging and actual philosophers into it & thereby making an utter fool of myself?

# Saw Avatar with G. last week before I left & was mainly bored & more bored (also cramped after three hours & I still find 3D movies exhausting to watch), although I have to say I kind of liked Neytiri. What completely baffles me is that apparently you can spend what must have been an absolutely indecent amount of money on the special effects, and still have a script & dialogue that are this bad. What could a good script writer have cost in comparison?

# I'll have to catch up with all the recorded figure skating when I come home, but I'm sad that Lambiel didn't make it on the podium. This was the one Olympic fairytale I really wanted to see happen.

# Friday already! Having to drive home the day after tomorrow. Still so much Russian homework to do. Back to work on Monday. I think I'm going to be sick.
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# Long time, no update. Mostly due to being tired and inarticulate and really boring, and did I mention tired? Slept until 11 on Sunday, and then again three or four hours in the afternoon. Didn't even manage to do my Russian homework.

# New layout, because I needed something a bit more colourful in this dreary weather, and liked this one when I saw it on someone else's journal. I only kind of wish I'd known it'd also involve hours of inapt chasing after and trying to eliminate all the underlines and bottom-borders that the usual A {text-decoration: none} typed into the custom CSS box wouldn't take care of, and then changing the link colour for the entries since the links were barely visible without the (pseudo-)underline, and giving them a mouse-over colour. However, mission accomplished. Stop laughing now, [ profile] nacktmull70. ;)

Alternatively, I wish I were less obsessive about underlined links. But I really do dislike them.

# Dollhouse ep.1 )

# Being Human ep.4 )

# There's some kind of huge TW S3 spoiler that I'll now have to avoid until, what, June? For months? Oh, *sigh*. Not that I actually hang out in TW or DW related communities, but I do remember where I found out about Snape killing Dumbledore, and it wasn't anywhere HP related...

# I got the DVD from our belly-dance show yesterday, but haven't dared watch it yet, because what if it makes me want to give up dancing out of complete embarrassment? Which would be a pity, because we're working with a veil this semester, and I do enjoy that...

# Read Robert Menasse's Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle over the weekend, the first book in a long while that I actually read from start to finish in three days and couldn't put down. Now if I only were able to say something appropriately clever about it... Part of the problem is that it's an intelligent and complex novel that I'd probably have to reread to really discuss, because I think I missed a lot, and my brain still doesn't seem to be completely online, but more importantly it struck me as a very personal book. I've read a few reviews, and most of them dwell on the the historic elements and insist that it's actually two novels, but IMO that is wrong, at least insofar as what the book is getting at and actually discussing is something beyond the sum of the two story-lines, something for which the historic elements and the whole structure of the book serves as a vehicle, a parable, a rhetoric figure, so to speak. Essentially, IMO, it's a book about identity, specifically Jewish identity, and it seems disrespectful to analyse and make assumptions from an outsider perspective.

I guess this is where people who embrace the whole 'Death of the Author' thing have it easier. I felt uncomfortable enough talking about TM's Doktor Faustus because it's such a personal novel, even if TM himself wrote a The Making Of novella emphasising how personal a book it is, and then handed over the missing pieces with the diaries, and maybe I should dig up, finish and post that entry one of these days. Not to mention he's been dead for quite a while.

# Every time I fall in love with a new show I have the tendency to friend all kinds of communities that I barely skim anymore a few weeks later mostly because of the ratio of stuff that's worth reading vs. stuff that isn't, but sometimes keeping them around is actually useful. [ profile] bbc_merlin_news linked an interesting essay by [ profile] lilithilien about Tarot symbolism in Merlin. What especially struck me in view of my own lengthy ramble about The Labyrinth of Gedref was how the image of Merlin and Arthur facing each other across the table and the two cups mirrors the Two Of Cups card in a way that I don't think can be coincidental. I'm not familiar with Tarot beyond the reading [ profile] soavezefiretto did for me once so I wasn't aware of the symbolism of the card (which essentially seems to be in keeping with the dragon's 'two halves of the same thing', and the process of getting there), or, in fact its existence, because as far as I remember it didn't turn up then, but it neatly falls into place with my own interpretation of the episode...

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Tired, and feeling rather blank and thought-less at the end of the third week of M.'s holiday. OToneH I actually like being by myself, without her; the responsibility, as well as having the leisure to actually sit down and read something if there's nothing to do. OTOH, on Monday & today I didn't even have a lunch break, and Tuesday and Wednesday only a very rushed one because R. was coming over, but didn't have a lot of time. Plus, it's hot, hot, hot (damn you, JB), and the electric fan doesn't help a lot, especially if one has to haul books around. Could actually feel my brain slowing down more and more over the afternoon until a complete sentence became a challenge.

As for the sitting down and reading part - one novel by Kathy Reichs (drearily boring, fast forwarded through it reading only enough not to lose track of the plot, and I much prefer the tv series version of Dr. Brennan), one by Simon Beckett (slightly, but not much better, lurid incest plot, and not too original - e.g., annoying reporter girl to forensic protagonist - 'I may know something, but oh noes, I can't break confidence, I can't tell you, woe, dilemma, but maybe I'll tell you tomorrow'; next page - annoying reporter girl: *dies in a fire*. [ profile] solitary_summer: *yawn*), although in both cases the German translation certainly did nothing to make me like it any better. One by Jo Nesbø, which was high literature in comparison, and so interesting that I actually took it home to finish yesterday, but if you're got two gay characters, and one of them is the killer (or more precisely one of the two killers, albeit the rather more likeable one), and the other a drug addict and rapist who makes the killer look positively pleasant by comparison, you're doing it wrong.

Also finished The Fall of Valor, which was an interesting read, although with the (for a gay themed novel written in the 1940ies) obligatory tragic ending. The interesting thing is, it doesn't feel... necessary in a way, not stringent. A possible, but not an inevitable conclusion, and perhaps prompted by the consideration of publication. To quote Thomas Mann's (who apparently also had some issues with it) letter to Ch. Jackson, 'Anyhow, it is possible, and I could not say how to do it differently.' Which he was probably right about at the time, because, as E.M.Forster, who wanted to and did do it differently, and as a consequence found himself with an even less publishable novel on his hands, wrote more than a decade later, 'If it ended unhappily [...] all would be well [...]. But the lovers get away unpunished and consequently recommend crime'.

Still need to listen to Lost Souls, but there's my dilemma with audiobooks all over again. I don't own any, except for Thomas Mann reading Tonio Kröger, and I still haven't finished that, because I never know what to do with them. Car? I rarely drive, and then I prefer music. iPod? Don't own one. Computer? Difficult to focus, at least in the way one focuses on a book when one reads it, because I'll be doing all kinds of other stuff besides listen. Just sitting on the sofa/lying in bed and listening to an audiobook? Feels weird. Also, my decades old CD player seems to be broken. Other options? Can't think of any.

Oh, and regarding my whining about my sister's Traubenwelke paper? She writes she's suddenly a lot more enthusiastic about it, so I guess it was at least worth it. :)

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::yawns:: I guess it would have been too much to ask to be eased gently from holiday-mode into work-mode.

Woke up from a nightmare today where - my sister, I think - killed someone and I spent the the best part of the dream trying to get rid of a plastic bag with (curiously small) body parts. Very relieved to wake up, let me tell you. That's what you get when you're wishing for 'real' nightmares instead of university/work related anxiety dreams. :)


Brief holiday summery.

# Lazy, lazy, lazy. Never even made it to Maishofen, stayed in Salzburg the whole two weeks.

# The single exeption from the general & completely embarrassing laziness was a lot of Russian learning. Once I actually brought myself to open the book & put the CD into the CD player, I really enjoyed it, or at least it wasn't a chore & gave me the sense of having achieved something and actually using my brain for once; I don't know why I kept putting off and off and off until I'd forgotten so much, for one and a half months. My brain works in strange and unfathomable ways. [ETA a couple of tiring work days (& coming home completely braindead) later... oh wait. Question answered.] Repeated, wrote a lot/много писала, and I mean a lot, used up almost a whole spiral notebook, the next person to use the recycling bin is going to wonder, because as it was I couldn't spell at all without checking with the textbook over and over, and sadly knowing how to pronounce the word rarely helps (*is nostalgic for Spanish*), browsed a bit through the rest of our textbook and went through the first six tracks of my vocabulary CD [новые слова изучала]. I hate the early stages of a language when you're hitting walls with every step & can't say anything beyond, Меня зовут Вероника, живу в Вене, русский язык изучаю, because you're lacking the grammar and words. Grr.

At one point, when I was tinkering with my TW fic I started to write g's for d's and cyrillic s's and for a moment couldn't remember how to write a latin one. *headdesk*

# Reading: Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus (reread), and then The Making Of Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus (new) & more about that later, because the desire to say something even remotely intelligent and coherent is what keeps me from hitting 'post' since Monday-ish; maybe when I've also reread the relevant diary years. Still very brilliant; still completely heartbreakingly sad. Struggled through the music passages like always with only a very shadowy understanding, because my theoretical knowledge stops at being able to read a (simple) score, but repeatedly caught myself at the thought that I must get the CDs. ::facepalm::

Finished Modern Nature and started Smiling in Slow Motion (rereads; & btw, watched The Garden just before I left, which is eerily, elegically beautiful & which I'm going to take a gazillion screencaps of for my screensaver folder to replace the current Torchwood wallpapers); read Dostojewskij's Aufzeichnungen aus dem Kellerloch (one of those books that are just a bit too close for comfort, even if you're aware of enough distance and difference not to actually identify) and Vladimir Sorokin's Der Himmelblaue Speck (No comment here; so far I've always liked his novels, but this was just crazy, and not a little shocking; I've no idea where, if anywhere, he's going with it; probably I've missed the point completely.)

Tried to reread Mrs Dalloway, but while I still love Virgininia Woolf's prose, I can't seem to focus. I stare at a paragraph for minutes, starting over and over, and my mind keeps drifting, I've no idea why.

# Discovered to my complete shock & amazement that I was still fit enough to run through the park, down the whole Hellbrunner Allee and back again without a break. More morning runs. A bit of biking around, to Bad Reichenhall and, once, around the Untersberg, this with a lot of ups & downs, geographically speaking.

# A bit of uninspired (everything too lush & green, too neat & picturesque) photography, although with some surprisingly nice results when I least expected them. Or at least that's what I thought when I quickly looked through the pictures yesterday.

# Watched some old school DW, Genesis of the Daleks, which was a bit... um, archaic?, and, er, maybe kind of stiff when you haven't grown up with it, but I can totally see the cult potential (although I think I prefer modern day Sarah Jane), and City of Death, which I genuinely enjoyed (without politely phrased reservations); funny, with Douglas Adams' touch very recognisable.

# Day-trip to Munich, Lenbachhaus and Pinakothek der Moderne. The former — lots of early Kandinsky landscapes; lovely but almost impossible to appreciate hanging side by side like that, one explosion of colour after another, impossible to chose; frustration at the sudden complete block in my mind at his abstract paintings, fighting my stupid and too literal brain for something like fifteen minutes, trying to make some kind of connection, with some success, but no real understanding. It's strange, or maybe more precisely, fascinating how these things work, or don't work. Earlier that morning I had the rather unsettling experience of looking at a painting and suddenly it kind of... dissolved and all I could see was strokes of paint on a canvas, and it meant nothing at all. It passed, but wtf, brain? Münter, Jawlensky, Marc; Klee, lovely - mystery and subtle humour. Sitting in the garden, the sun coming out after a rainy morning, writing this into my notebook, the square paving stones of the path, greyish- brown, with moss and the occasional small plant growing between them, like a Klee painting. Nothing that I completely loved, but a lot that I liked.

The Pinakothek - More expressionism, since it fit the theme of the day, skipped most of the rest.

# All the time the underlying (although not very worrying) question, why all this, what am I trying to find in all those, books, stories, art — distraction, entertainment, truth, a better understanding of life? Coupled with the suspicion that it all isn't quite real, quite essential, at least looking at it (creating might be different); but what is? The obvious answer is children, but I don't have the least desire for a child. So. ::shrugs:: Also a certain restlessness, dissatisfaction with the sameness & repetition; I think I need a out-of-Austria holiday soonish.

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Because [ profile] soavezefiretto made me think about my photography-killed-writing dilemma.

"Do you agree?" asked Margaret. "Do you think music is so different to pictures?"

"I--I should have thought so, kind of," he said.

"So should I. Now, my sister declares they're just the same. We have great arguments over it. She says I'm dense; I say she's sloppy." Getting under way, she cried: "Now, doesn't it seem absurd to you? What is the good of the Arts if they are interchangeable? What is the good of the ear if it tells you the same as the eye? Helen's one aim is to translate tunes into the language of painting, and pictures into the language of music. It's very ingenious, and she says several pretty things in the process, but what's gained, I'd like to know? Oh, it's all rubbish, radically false. If Monet's really Debussy, and Debussy's really Monet, neither gentleman is worth his salt--that's my opinion."

[E.M.Forster, Howard's End]

True or false, even when I read the novel for the first time some fifteen or more years ago, without much thought I instinctively knew I agreed with Margaret here. I don't really translate from one medium to another in my mind, either; I even slowly ceased immediately analysing any work of art I looked at, movie I saw or book I read once I'd ditched my ph.d. aspirations and academia, and found it actually liberated me and widened my horizon when I didn't feel obliged to file everything in neat categories, or even find words and descriptions for everything. I'm probably being unfair, because in all likelihood the fault was mine, not having the right words at my disposal, or enough of them, not enough intelligence or imagination to make them suit my own needs. (Then again, it was a brilliant writer who played devil's advocate here: "Was aber das >Wort< betrifft, so handelt es sich da vielleicht weniger um eine Erlösung als um ein Kaltstellen und Aufs-Eis-Legen der Empfindung? Im Ernst, es hat eine eisige und empörend anmaßliche Bewandtnis mit dieser prompten und oberflächlichen Erledigung des Gefühls durch die literarische Sprache." )

Writing and photography, even in the context of livejournal, are two very separate things for me; not because of some profound, deeply thought about principle, perhaps (and more likely) it's just lack of imagination: my mind works in very direct, literal ways most of the time. My pictures don't replace what I might have expressed in words otherwise. It's an entirely different way of thinking, of feeling, of looking at the world when I'm out with my camera. And at the moment, It's the more satisfying, easier one for me, the one that comes more natural, in a way. But it has reminded me to write more, too; to look at the world not only through a camera, because that's limiting myself, too. Different modes of expression are a good thing.

On a somewhat related note - I remember sitting on [ profile] soavezefiretto's balcony last May and watching the swallows swoop in the evening sky and over the roof of the house across the street, and I thought how wonderful, how exotic, and how there weren't any swallows in Vienna. Yesterday, waiting for the bus home after a four hour walk-with-camera I happened to look up, and there they were. Not as many, but certainly swallows, in the sky above central Vienna. How have I missed them until now? Chalk it up to living on the first floor?

(Also, flight to Madrid for August booked! whee!)

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Perhaps it's the remainder of Saturday with the prospect of Sunday (always so much more pleasant than Sundays themselves), but I'm feeling moderately relaxed for the first time this week. Did some actual, if minimal, cooking after coming home from work, frying chicken to go with the salad, and some belly-dancing practice, and will probably watch the remaining S1 Dr. Who episodes & relax & enjoy not feeling as anxious and depressed as most of last week. (Had another of those ridiculous embarrassing anxiety dreams where I am late to work; I wish my subconsciousness would at least chose to angst over more serious issues. Gah.)

... )

Since TM is a kind of comfort food reading when I'm in these kinds of moods, I reread both Tod In Venedig and Tonio Kröger this week, neither of which I remembered particularly well - and don't remember enjoying as much - and it's fascinating reading those two back to back with the ideas about art and the artist, the balance and relationship of art and life expressed in both. Interesting to compare the melancholy, but accepting, almost conciliatory ending of TK (is there even another example where TM doesn't kill off his artist-protagonist?) with the bleakness of TiV, the warmth of the one with the coldness of the other. Another thing I hadn't remembered is how dark TiV is, and I don't mean in a stylish, decadent sense, but in a cruel and relentless one. Even with a subject that allows little else, there's something almost self-torturing in lending auto-biographic traits to von Aschenbach and then taking him through this kind of experience and humiliation. What makes it more depressing and almost eerie is TM at thirty-eight writing out this fate for his something of a decade older protagonist...

After that tried TM's Die vertauschten Köpfe (couldn't get into it), Edgar Hilsenrath's Der Nazi & der Friseur (lying on my bed half-read since months) or Bulgakow's short stories (finished one, but was discouraged when the next one started with references to characters from Russian literature half of whom I didn't know).

So I picked W.A.Hoffman's Brethren - Raised by Wolves (the novel that so irritated me starting off with the three instances of eye-rolling in as many pages) up again, and while it does improve - no more eyes were being rolled until page 130something, although 'emerald orbs' make an appearance -, having read about 140 pages and skimmed through the rest I'm still far from enthusiastic.

... )

Also continued watching Dr. Who and really love it, although the seasons are sadly short and I've seen the Captain Jack episodes before. It's not the show to make me think deep thinky thoughts, but it's charming, got a lovely balance between gut-wrenching emotional and funny, drama and humour, enjoyable characters, and that's more than I've found in a show (Torchwood aside) for a while. And it's always nice to see the lovely John Barrowman in better than pixelated YouTube quality. :)

solitary_summer: (melancholy (© clive barker))

Dann ist nichts mehr, - Schweigen und Nacht. Aber der nachschwingend im Schweigen hängende Ton, der nicht mehr ist, dem nur die Seele noch nachlauscht, und der Ausklang der Trauer war, ist es nicht mehr, wandelt den Sinn, steht als ein Licht in der Nacht.

Nie hatte ich stärker den Vorteil der Musik, die nichts und alles sagt, vor der Eindeutigkeit des Wortes empfunden, ja, die schützende Unverbindlichkeit der Kunst überhaupt, im Vergleich mit der bloßstellenden Krudheit des unübertragenen Geständnisses. Dieses aber zu unterbrechen ging mir nicht nur gegen die Ehrfurcht, sondern es verlangte mich auch aus ganzer Seele, zu hören, mochten auch unter denen, die mit mir hörten, nur ganz wenige sein, die es wert waren. Haltet nur aus und hört, sprach ich im Geist zu den anderen, da er euch nun einmal alle als seine Mitmenschen geladen hat!

Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus

solitary_summer: (nymph (© clive barker))

Ich weiß, daß du es nicht darauf absiehst, mir Grausamkeiten zu sagen. Aber findest du es nicht grausam, mich wissen zu lassen, daß ich nur aus Unmenschlicheit bin was ich bin, und daß Menschlichkeit mir nicht zusteht? Grausam und gedankenlos, - wie ja Grausamkeit immer aus Gedankenlosigkeit kommt? Daß ich mit Menschlichkeit nichts zu tun habe, nichts zu tun haben darf, sagt mir einer, der mich mit staunenswerter Geduld fürs Menschliche gewann und mich zum Du bekehrte, einer, bei dem ich zum erstenmal in meinem Leben menschliche Wärme fand. [...]

In meinem Leben war einer, dessen beherztes Ausharren - man kann beinahe sagen: dan Tod überwand; der das Menschliche in mir frei machte, mich das Glück lehrte. Man wird vielleicht nichts davon wissen, es in keiner Biographie schreiben. Aber würde das seinem Verdienst Abbruch tun, die ehre schmälern, die ihm insgeheim gebührt?

Read this passage yesterday before going to sleep and it made me sad almost to the point of - well not tears exactly, but constricted throat and slight sniffling... for the context, the character, the author, myself.

I should re-read books more often.
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My attention span is all but non-existent these days. Pathetic.

During my one and a half week holiday I read... )

During the three weeks since I'm back I made my slow, slow way through The Wine-Dark Sea, half of The Commodore and the greater part of H.Heer's Vom Verschwinden der Täter, the last of which I read mostly at work.

Am now fiftysomething pages into Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I like so far, although after seventeen volumes of O'Brian I'm fairly yearning for something more modern than the Napoleonic age...

A.Oz's Eine Geschichte von Liebe und Finsternis is still lying around untouched, although I found the first few pages intriguing. Same with Yann Martel's Schiffbruch mit Tiger. And so on, and so on.

I just can't seem to focus at all, most of the time.

Instead, too much tv watchage, and is that even a word? )

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[ profile] 50bookchallenge:

#31: Thomas Mann, Tagebücher 1933-1934

Interesting as always, not the least because of the historical/political background.

#32: Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander

Very well written, a joy to read, introducing you to a world you've so far been unfamiliar with, a book to make you giggle and laugh out loud, characters quirkily original, at once interesting and likeable... How can you not love them? What more can one want in a book? I so enjoyed reading it that I feel quite bad for finding any fault with it, but the novel's one weakness is its plot, or rather the lack thereof. Over four hundred pages, where nothing much happens; there's the odd sea-fight, we see Jack establishing his authority and forging his crew into a well-functioning unit, there's the court martial in the end, but there are no great dramatic arcs, no real emotional build-up. Dillon's conflict of consciousness is touched upon, but never really resolved, the plot-line cut short by his death. It gives the whole thing a kind of soap-opera-esque quality, but after all, it only is the introduction to a twenty volume series...

But this is really a minor quibble and doesn't diminish the enjoyment.

What actually most amazed me was to learn that the series has a sizeable male following, because techno babble nautical terminology and details aside, more often than not this is reminiscent of nothing as much as Jane Austen. A gay kind of Jane Austen, on ship board instead of in a drawing room. More explict, with darker, appropriately realistic touches - while he doesn't exactly dwell on the more unpleasant sides of naval life or battle, he never lets you forget them for too long either - but there's a quite Austen-esque irony, sense of understated humour in small touches.

Perhaps one can't altogether escape clichéed ideas what male or female writing is 'supposed' to be like, even while rejecting them in one's mind, because what I find really wonderful is that these characters were in fact created by a man, male characters that aren't gruff, monosyllabic and generally emotionally stunted, but men who are emotional, moody, who have no problems talking about their feelings, who have this really deep, beautiful friendship...

And don't even let me start on the slashiness, that's a subject for a entry of its own...

Another pleasant thing is that this is a novel you can read whether or not you are interested in or knowledgable about ships: I don't have the slightest emotional attachment to ships (Conrad's novels tend to leave me slightly baffled) and probably couldn't identify the various parts of one even in German, but at the end of M&C one has acquired a tolerable knowledge of what's what, without ever having been left in a lurch for too long or bored by over-lengthy explanations.

I'm good for at least another volume or five, if perhaps not for all twenty of them...

#33: Peter David, The Long Night of Centauri Prime. Book 1: Legions of Fire

Not bad at all; the best and most in character B5 novel I've read so far. Perhaps not perfect, but definitely an improvement on what I've come to expect after Cavelo's and Drennan's work; competent prose, fast paced, the canon characters spot-on and the original characters quite interesting and fitting well into the plot.

#34: Donald Windham, The Dog Star

Strange, how in some ways utterly alien a novel set in the south of the US during the 40ies can be... Came across this book in TM's diaries, and it is indeed a powerful novel, that drew me in, despite the fact that the subject itself didn't instantly appeal to me. The protagonist's teenage angst sense of alienation, search for identity, the male insecurity turning (among other things) into misogyny and violence, is something that at this point of my life I have only limited interest in.

It was only towards the end that the narration really gripped me, when Blacky's decision to reject any outside influence, to cut all emotional ties, drives him faster and faster towards the inevitable outcome; here in my opinion the story transcends the subject and becomes more... universally valid, in a way.

The prose is maybe what fascinated me most throughout - quite spectecular, simple, clipped, sometimes almost brutal, yet at times also astonishingly poetical; very evocative, creating images and impressions that linger, lines and paragraphs that make you stop and re-read.
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[ profile] 50bookchallenge:

#21: Roswitha Gost, Die Geschichte des Harems

Picked up at work; focusing on the Ottoman empire, informative, unsensationalist.

#22: D. Ellmauer - H. Embacher - A. Lichtblau (Hrsg.), Geduldet, geschmäht und vertrieben: Salzburger Juden erzählen

#23: Horst Klengel, König Hammurapi und der Alltag Babylons

Interesting; turned out to be good preparation for Jospeh and His Brothers, even if I didn't read it with that in mind.

#24: Douglas Preston - Lincoln Child, Relic

Trash, obviously, but sometimes you need that kind of thing at the beginning of a holiday, sitting on the balcony in the sun... and what can I say, I just can't resist the combination of museum, academia and brain-eating monsters from South-American jungles.

#25&26: Thomas Mann, Joseph und seine Brüder

I'll admit I had some reservations because of the biblical subject (my lingering anti-religious prejudice is sometimes hard to over-come), and the first 100, 150 pages were a little hard to get through, but then, without really noticing when or how, I fell utterly in love. How did he do it, that even knowing the story and its outcome it is at times almost a page-turner, one still wants to know what happens next... It's not even that I exactly sympathised with Joseph or any other character, rather it's the book itself, the sheer scope of it, the humanism, the humour, the lovely style, richness, layers and layers of theology and mythology entwined ... the way he weaves his concept about repetition and variation of certain leitmotifs in the human mind throughout the novel, off-handedly hinting at Christ as one more natural and necessary variation of the complex relationship between god and man, of the theme of a god killed and resurrected...

I don't even know how many hints and connections I may have missed because of my sketchy theological and philosophical knowledge (and lack of an annotated edition); like, while it's never spelled out, the phrasing makes it obvious that Mut-em-enet, trying to bewitch Joseph so that she'll have at least his body, if not his soul - "Tot und verschlossen werden mir deine Augen sein in unsrer Umarmung, und nur dein schwellender Mund, allerdings wird mein sein" - is Salome's predecessor, is Salome, in the eternal repetition of things.

#27 - 29: Jeanne Cavelos, Casting Shadows; Summoning Light; Invoking Darkness (Babylon 5: The Passing of the Techno-Mages, I, II & III)

Readable, occasionally even good.

spoilery review )

#30: Thomas Mann, Tagebücher 1918-1921

(I kind of rushed through this one, the political rants didn't interest me all that much and I wanted to get to the 'Joseph' diaries...)
solitary_summer: (Default)

Uh. Barely arrived & somewhat revived, bags still unpacked & I'm already packing again, albeit only a small bag this time. So much for holiday...

Night-train to Bonn to see the exhibition about Thracian Art, perhaps a mini-trip to Köln, back Thu. morning.

The last two weeks were nice & very relaxing, a couple of hiking tours, a day in Munich to see the Bunte Götter exhibition, Edward II in Salzburg (so-so), not doing much of anything & enjoying it, no distracting tv or internet; read TM's Joseph und seine Brüder, and found when my sister arrived, that after 1600+ pages of TM's prose while barely talking to anyone for more than a week one's sentences tend to get a little... out of control Mann-esque. Especially, but not only, when the conversation drifts towards deeper and/or psychological subjects...

Yesterday, depressed & tired without any reasonable cause. Except, perhaps, missing the mountains...

Today it felt like autumn for the first time, despite the warmth...
solitary_summer: (Default)

Some rambling disjointed thoughts about TM's Felix Krull )

[Hoping that [ profile] soavezefiretto is too busy moving in, to pounce & disgustedly pick this apart. ;) ]
solitary_summer: (Default)

Also finished TM's Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, which I'm not quite sure yet what to think about, perhaps mainly because I find the protagonist almost impossible to like or even sympathise with, except for a few passages where Mann seems to speak more directly through him, giving him a little more character.

More later.
solitary_summer: (Default)

Unser Menschenhirn, unser Leib und Gebein - Mosaiken seien sie derselben Elementarteilchen, aus denen Sterne und Sternstaub, die dunklen, getriebenen Dunstwolken des interstellaren Raumes beständen.

(Thoman Mann, Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull)

Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain, perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff. We are the universe, made manifest, trying to figure itself out.

(Delenn to Sheridan, in B5: A Distant Star)

[Even if it isn't the most original thought ever, and most likely there are one (or several) common source(s) behind both quotes, it's still nice... connections, again.]
solitary_summer: (Default)

Read. Ate.

Watched a taped episode (the one after the pilot, I think) of Six Feet Under, which I kind of liked (first scene, interracial gay couple - what's not to like...), and kind of didn't, because how many shows about dysfunctional families can a person watch and not get tired of it; a funeral home setting doesn't make that much of a difference. And the sister so far seems to be something of a clone of whatshername from Cybill.


Re-watched the first two S4 B5 episodes, and am still trying to make sense of how we're to understand what happens to Sheridan on Za'ha'dum. There's the literal reading, obviously, but there's a metaphorical? psychological? philosophical? level to it, too. This isn't only about physical death, but what does Lorien mean by surrendering to death? Confronting your mortality? Giving up your sense of self, stripping yourself of everything, every desire, even the desire to live? Facing the darkness within yourself (as opposed to the idealism of seasons 2 and 3)?

Somehow I think there ought to be more to it than Delenn giving him a reason to live. It kind of connects with Comes the Inquisitor, but on the other hand it seems to me that another person, however beloved, cannot be the answer to the questions Lorien asks...

What happened, what did Sheridan see or realise, that turned him into the man we see afterwards, who in some ways is like Lorien said he needed to be, showing less doubts or fears, but also by consequence a lot harder, quick to take some pretty harsh decsions. How does this connect with the idealism and integrity of the character carefully established during the earlier seasons?

I understand how people can have issues with Sheridan's persona in S4, except that I don't believe he's supposed to be quite the same person as he was. We're meant to see the darker, dangerous side for what it is.

S4, with the resolution of the Shadow-war is metaphor for growing up (in fact IMO the metaphorical level overshadows the story telling level in this case), the emancipation from parental figures and the unquestioning acceptance of their values. But like the biblical myth of the fall of man, this must result in a loss of child-like innocence, which Delenn refers to in War Without End. (In fact there's an interesting detail that gains an extra perspective with the knowledge of how events really turned out - when the Delenn from the future talks about the terrible cost of winning the war, which could only have been avoided at too high a price, at this point the obvious meaning was the horror of the Shadows winning the war. But in retrospect the too-high price would also have been to remain in a state of child-like dependence and spiritual immaturity.)

I believe we're meant to see this loss of innocence already beginning to happen here.

There's another thing, though. The problem may be that Garibaldi's arc determines so much of S4, to the point of them having to fit Sheridan's arc around it; I think his character may suffer from that.


Las gestern die in der Mitte begonnenen Hadrianmemoiren zu Ende, bestaunte die Bibliographie des Arbeitsmaterials und fing von vorn an zu lesen. Tatsächlich benommen wie ein Jüngling von der Schönheit des Buches. (TM Tagebücher, 12. 12. 53)

He. It's always nice to discover a connection between your favourite authors. Makes me want to re-read it, too...
solitary_summer: (Default)

Bought a basket.

Still feeling... happy, smiling at the world.

Reading E. Fromm's Haben oder Sein (To Have Or to Be?). It's almost frightening, but satisfactory at the same time - even while I'm aware I'm far from living his ideas, I've never read an author whose worldview / theories / beliefs fit me so well, in the sense that they allow me to reconcile parts of my personality I thought were at odds, even irreconcilable, or maybe lost, my younger self and my recent self. It's like looking through a prism and suddenly seeing yourself whole where you only saw parts before, or shuffling pieces around and suddenly discover they fit. Seeing a process that led up to something, a foundation, upon which I can build.

The last author who changed my worldview like this was N.Elias, in the sense of shattering my subjectivism; but this, too fits & needed to happen.

It's almost too easy, I sometimes feel I should be wary.

I wonder, too, if it'll last.

[I guess it's probably no coincidence, that this all happenes after I gave up on the diss, though it's not quite clear to me, why, or how. Not so long ago I thought the diss was central to my self-image, my self-respect. I can only presume between the pressure to meet expectations not necessarily my own and the guilt trip it took up too much of my mental energy? But it was a necessary part of my life, too. This doesn't feel like resignation or defeat, rather like rediscovering a person I had lost far too long, with the added experience of what I learned since.]

More in TM's diaries at work, because I was too tired for anything philosophical. Still unable to define exactly why I enjoy reading them, except maybe in a roundabout way: I realise this isn't quite the same thing, but I remember some tv program where M. Reich-Ranicki (a great admirer of Mann), when asked if he ever met him (or would have wanted to meet him, given the chance, I forget which) said something that started with "Um *Himmels* Willen, nein!" ("For heaven's sake, no!") and went on about how supposedly everyone who did was disappointed &c.

Oscar Wilde makes Lord Wotton say something similar in The Picture of Dorian Gray, about great artist always being uninteresting and only bad ones personally fascinating.

I couldn't say how much truth there is in this, but this isn't my point. Personally, I've never managed to wholly separate my interest in a work of art from at least a certain degree of interest in the artist. And yes, especially if you're young you don't want to hear things that would knock your idol off its pedestal. But after all... So what if they're not perfect; no one is. This realisation shouldn't necessarily lead to disappointment, or loss of respect for the artist. It isn't about taking someone down, rather about appreciating them for what they are, but without blind, unreasonable idolisation. IMO this is the fascinating, the beautiful thing, the human being as a whole.

(And I think there's a lot more to be learned/understood this way.)

Does this make any sense at all?

[Will go to sleep early today & try to go running tomorrow, unless it's raining. Which the forecast says it will. Er. So much for fitness.]
solitary_summer: (abarat.ship)

Hm. Well, that bout of enthusiasm certainly died fast... slow day at work, tired from too little sleep, boredom barely broken by some illegal immigrants, who, for some reason I can't quite make sense of, were trying to get into the Ministry of Interior next door, and ended up camping out in front of it for an hour or so, police, tv, I'm actually surprised that none of the presidential candidates turned up; until they apparently were convinced to board a bus and were driven away. (And yes, I'm aware of how callous I sound. I do sympathise, really. But then, it was an extremely slow morning...) Then an old woman, who'd also been trying to get into the Ministry (she told K. some story that made no sense whatsoever and doesn't explain what she actually wanted in the Ministry, about being passed over at a doctor in favour of some foreigners) walking by, saw K. (pretty, blonde and apparently very non-foreign looking), who happened to be standing just outside the door, and ranted at her for ten minutes straight, no interruptions, no pauses, no logic or coherence, about evil generally and the evilness of foreigners specifically.


Left an hour early because there was nothing to do anyway and I still have surplus hours.

Made one last belated easter bunny cake for Ch. & can now thankfully pack up the moulds until next year...

[I'm in love with the pictures [ profile] apod brings to my f/list. There's something striking and beautiful and somehow meaningful about the juxtaposition of people's thoughts and the images of stars and galaxies...]

TM's diaries, continued...

Strange how you can get drawn into someone else's life without even noticing. I started with the 1944 - 1946 volume, for no good reason except that I'd already payed and taken home the earlier volumes and wanted something to read at work and then decided I might as well continue from there... 1952, the move back to Europe, the sale of the house in Pacific Palisades; the descriptions of autumn and winter in Switzerland after having read through years of brief notes about the Californian climate (wind from the sea, wind from the desert) are very vivid and touching.

Fange an zu merken, daß der erste europäische Winter nach so vielen Jahre kein Spaß sein wird. (2. 10. 52)

Hinunter an den See, wo wir uns in der Sonne ergingen. Hatte Freude am europäischen Herbst, der Verfärbung der Blätter, der feuchten, würzigen Luft, dem Spiel von Wolken und Sonne. (5. 10. 52)

Altvertrautheit und Neuheit des dunklen Wintermorgens. (3. 12. 52)

1/2 8 Uhr auf. Das Dunkel! (7. 12. 52)
solitary_summer: (abarat. tower)

*melodramatic sigh*

Turns out I have to make another of those stupid bunny cakes, as my sister seems to expect one...

New wallpaper stolen from this site... some of the artwork is really quite good.

Added [ profile] apod; Not that I'm even particularly interested in astronomy, but it's kind of inspiring to scroll down your friendslist and find pictures of galaxies & such...

(Concerning last night's entry, upon reconsideration I believe TM does have an influence upon my life (perhaps the diaries more than the books, or the diaries in connection with the books, but that remains to be seen), though I'm still very unsure about what exactly it is. I've been thinking a lot about life and happiness (or the lack thereof) recently, but mostly very incoherently, and am not even sure whether I like the direction my thoughts take...)
solitary_summer: (abarat. dragon)

It's amazing how my father can still off-handedly destroy my sketchy self-confidence and balance, probably out of sheer thoughtlessness, without even meaning to.

And there I am, always feeling guilty when I can't be as kind and affectionate towards him as I'd like to be. No more, though. No more.


[TM diaries]

Der Traum ist im Grunde nicht von schlechterer Substanz, als das wirkliche Erlebnis, das sich auch abschwächt und verfliegt, in die Vergangenheit sinkt u. auch nur noch Traum ist. (3. 2. 52)

Strange. Sad, too. Not true, I'd like to hope. Though recently when my memory kept bringing up dream fragments and fragments of real memories indifferently, I was in fact wondering whether my mind made any distinction at all between them.


solitary_summer: (Default)

March 2013

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