solitary_summer: (schilf)
Busy week getting up at six every day for physiotherapy (too-often-for-comfort recurring pain in my lower back/hip/leg that I finally decided to see a doctor about; apparently caused by some kind of, for lack of a better word, knot in the muscle) before work. It would probably help more if I hadn't been unpacking a whole pallet of books yesterday, and more today. I was really feeling fine on Wednesday. *sigh*


Finished re-reading A Passage To India; somehow I didn't remember it being quite as disillusioned/depressing, but I still/again love this book so much. It's a crying shame that between what he wanted to write and what he could publish this should have been Forster's last novel.

Maybe it's a good idea revisiting the books from a period of my life where I was, in hindsight, the happiest. At any rate picking up Forster again helped me quite a bit towards regaining a better mental balance, because while he has ideals, he isn't dogmatic. Individuality, difference and variety of human experience; I realised that (paradoxically) therapy somehow made me lose track of that, chasing after some kind of elusive ideal and losing myself a bit in the process. (That's for another entry though, or this one will never be finished...)

Mostly I'm procrastinating (but really kind of enjoying it) and finally watching the DVDs I'd bought when amazon tempted me with offers, but somehow never got around to actually watch; S1 of Rome, which I really liked for the first seven episodes -- good cast; Casar (as well as most of the big historical figures) seemed a bit lacking in charisma for me, but maybe he wasn't supposed to have too much; OTOH Octavian was very well cast with those sudden flashes of brilliancy and coldness, as well as Atia and the other women, both Vorenus and Pullo were fantastic especially during the first half of the season, and hello!, Suzie from Torchwood. *g*

The Kleopatra episode, however, is horrid; racist beyond what I'd have believed possible at the beginning of the 21st century, to the point where it makes me wonder if it wasn't some vague modern anti-Eastern prejudice mixed into the Ancient Roman anti-Eastern prejudice. And while I mostly want to be entertained rather than nit-pick historical details, will people eventually get it into their heads that the Ptolemies were Macedonians? And after that, instead of culminating in tragedy, the show somehow peters out in melodrama. It still has its strong moments, but the plot becomes a bit lurid and soap-opera-esque when Servilia manipulates Octavia into seducing her brother, the scheming repetitive, Vorenus' moral dilemmas ditto, and the characters are simply not compelling enough any more. Considering that it is common knowledge that (and how) Ceasar will die, it somehow lacked the tension and proper dramatic build-up necessary to keep one's (or my, at any rate) interest.


Tool are always a bit too pretentious for me to really fangirl them, but I listened to Lateralus again driving home from feeding & cleaning & petting the horse last Wednsday, and this song is still pure genius.

solitary_summer: (Default)
[After the telephone drama with my aunt yesterday I slept till nine-ish today, read, had breakfast, internet'ed a bit, crawled back into bed, read some more, fell asleep & slept from twelve to around three-ish. *sigh* So much for Saturday. Did part of my Russian homework. Also sent a brief e-mail (Hi, googled you, congratulations!) to the very important former best friend, which probably was a stupid, sentimental and pointless thing to do, brought on by reading E.M.Forster and too many memories surfacing, and also totally inappropriate, because our (my) last contact was a long depressed & disappointed e-mail from me about the end of our friendship, but what the hell. We can't do less than not talk for another decade.]

On a slightly related note, few days ago I browsed through my teenage to early twenties paper diaries, which was at once interesting - retracing where one has come from and how much, or, in other respects, how little one has changed - and completely, utterly embarrassing. And not only because of the horrendous English.

I don't even want to know myself before I was 17. Oh. My. God. Child genius she certainly wasn't. I must have been pretty boring and generally... bland. Not really a personality. (But maybe that's the natural state of things at that age?) I can't even get a grip on who I was back then, before I at least sort of grew up. It does get better, though, after that. And fifteen to eighteen-ish me had, albeit in a rather on-and-off fashion one hell of a crush on David Bowie; I'd kind of managed to forgot how intense that had been over the Other Crush. Oh, and poetry from 1989-1993ish that is obviously bad and derived in all kinds of ways, but that I can't bring myself to hate, because I remember how good it felt writing it, enthusiastic and still so unashamed and unembarrassed. Endless images of the sea and beaches and mermaids, strange for someone who spent her first holiday on a beach on her Maturareise (not counting two brief trips to the seaside during two different holidays in London with the family when I was a child) I kind wonder if A. still has the copies I once gave her.

And again, not completely unrelated - I've reread Maurice and started to reread A Passage To India, and with all the reminiscing it struck me that E.M.Forster is the author that one way or the other has been with me the longest and probably influenced me the most, and whose work I can always come back to and discover aspects that I hadn't noticed when I was younger.

I must have seen A Room With A View first, because it has a late 1986 release date for Germany and this was before we even had a tv, much less a video recorder (I'm trying to remember who I saw it with, though. Fourteen, 5th grade? No idea.), but Maurice (early 1988 German release date, and in this case I even remember the cinema, watching it twice and being mildly uncomfortable because I was fifteen and Austria in the 80ies was very provincial and conservative and anything gay still rather taboo; the standard BRAVO/Dr. Sommer answer to the 'OMG am I gay?' question was 'It's just a phase, you'll get over it unless you're really unlucky') must have been the first novel I read, because I own the German translation, and I stopped reading English novels in translation... I guess around 16ish? I remember having A Passage To India on my English Maturaleseliste, possibly also A Room With A View, but according to my diary I read most of the other novels as well as the short stories a bit later, around nineteen, twenty. It's still difficult for me to put into words what exactly his writing means to me; perhaps the most immediately tangible thing and what always deeply impressed me was the emphasis on the importance of honesty towards oneself.

I just wish I could be more sure that I wasn't failing so abysmally at that.

solitary_summer: (books)
Not a Torchwood post. Shocking, I know. I'm surprised, too.

Books. Which I read. No, seriously. (Jan. & Feb.-ish)

Feridun Zaimoglu, Leyla

Liked it a lot, although I was perhaps more seduced by the prose than by the story itself, and somehow, after more than a month I find that not too much remains that I want to write about...

Perihan Mağden, The Messenger Boy Murders

Strangest book I've read in a long while. Charming, memorable, couldn't make sense of it at all. I'm not sure there is one. A bit surreal, dream-like. But I like her writing and wish more of her work was translated.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

fascinating )

Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil, Verbotene Lieben

Turkish novel originally from 1900 which I picked up because of a very favourable SPIEGEL review; Interesting psychology and characters, very fin de siècle. But on the whole too exclusively driven by romantic relationships to really draw me in.

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

Started out liking it, ended up disliking it strongly, and shouldn't E.M.Forster get credit for the plot? )

Vladimir Sorokin, Der Tag des Opritschniks

Shocking. Fascinating. By turns horrifying and funny. I'm not that intimately familiar with what is currently happening in Russia, so I there may be more specific jabs and bits of satire that I've missed, but if so it didn't take away anything from the book. I'm not usually a fan of first person narrators, but in this case it's the perfect choice: the book is only 220 pages long and covers not even 24 hours, but by the end of it you're thoroughly immersed, and while the brutality and perversion are still shocking on one level, one has already started to see them through the narrator's eyes and regard them as something almost normal, and it's frightening to experience how fast this happens... Definitely recommended, and I'd be very much tempted to immediately check out more of his work if I hadn't already such a very long backlog reading list...

solitary_summer: (Default)
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!)

solitary_summer: (creatrix (© clive barker))

Attempted the first morning run in three weeks & barely managed six lengths (some six or seven km) through the park in a rather longer time than I care to mention. Gah.

And that's about all the activity I can face today, except hop over to my parents' place to water their plants and possibly do my laundry, since I'm running out of towels.

I'm tired of feeling drained all the time. It's been two weeks since I've had the energy to do more on weekends than quietly collapse and take every minute of rest I can get. Three weeks since the last morning run, since the last time I went out to take photos. Thursday at work I had what may or may not have been a minor breakdown, sitting in out storeroom-cum-kitchen for half an hour, unable to stop crying, for no real reason except that suddenly it was all too much. I'd dragged myself to work the week before despite the less than pleasant side effects of the antibiotics, because I'd stupidly believed that things would immediately & miraculously improve afterwards, which of course they didn't, and suddenly it felt that there was nothing left of my life but work, sleep and feeling sick. Over the last couple of years I (think I) managed to address and accept the inadequacies and imperfections of my life, the way it fell rather short of my (and, probably the greater problem, everyone else's) expectations, my inability to form relationships, the lack of perspective and challenge of my work-situation (Perhaps this isn't the best or healthiest way of dealing with things, but I know I don't have the strength to make any fundamental changes, at least not at the moment, and the alternative would be to drive myself into depression again by constantly comparing myself to some day-dream ideal I'll never reach, and hating myself and everyone happier and more successful in the process.), but it's a fragile balance, and too easily shaken up even by minor crises.

All right, body, I get it. I'm rethinking my relationship with you. I'll treat you better. Just get healthy again, pretty please?

* * *

In the meantime, lethargically watched too much tv, not to mention all of SV S4.

Read, although over a longer span of time than just the last three weeks:

Ya,sar Kemal, Mehmed, mein Falke (beautiful, although I prefer his later books).

G. di Lampedusa, Der Leopard (very vivid and evocative, liked it a lot, even if it isn't a book I can actually connect to).

E.M.Forster, The Longest Journey (a re-read, still/again love it, sad and strange and very beautiful), A Room With A View (another re-read, never my favourite among his books, but not-quite-light and not-quite-sweet, and I'm genuinely fond of it) and Where Angels Fear To Tread (this one I barely have a recollection of having read before, and for some reason still don't like it too much. It's not bad of course, but, IMO, too academically constructed. With all of Forster's novels his characters and plots are very much vehicles for the message he wants to convey, but here more than anywhere else none of the characters strike me as alive nor their actions as natural, rather than illustrating some point.)

Naomi Novik ([ profile] naominovik), Throne Of Jade and Black Powder War: Now there's something that freaks me out a little about reviewing a book when the author's only a mouse-click or two away, especially with the culture of squee'n'gush prevalent on livejournal... Not that she'll ever read it, but still. It's not as if i didn't like the two sequels, but I wasn't as charmed and delighted as with the first book. The writing is good, there's plenty of lovely world building, enough plot to keep the story going, and I rather adore the dragon characters, but for me the problem is that for all the miles covered geographically, emotionally it just doesn't go anywhere. The first book was carried by the development of the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire, but this is from the beginning established as such a strong, mutually exclusive bond, to which even lovers must always come second, that there is little room for other emotional connections to form, and despite certain philosophical differences and the angstiness over possibly being parted in ToJ, the Laurence-Temeraire relationship has little room for development left, either unless Laurence should discover some Chinese spell to turn him into a dragon and they live happily ever after.

But then again, the problem might not be with the novels at all, but rather lie with the fact that I've made it through all but two and a half of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels before my exasperation with his rambling style of narration won out over my fondness for his characters, and perhaps I'm a little hesitant to start all over again with O'Brian light with dragons...
solitary_summer: (Default)

"I don't hate Aunt Emily. Honestly. But certainly I don't want to be near her or think about her. Don't you think there are two great things in life that we ought to aim at -- truth and kindness? Let's have both if we can, but let's be sure of having one or the other. My aunt gives up both for the sake of being funny."

(The Longest Journey)

The armour of falsehood is subtly wrought out of darkness, and hides a man not only from others, but from his own soul.

(A Room With A View)
solitary_summer: (schlosser: 3 poppies)

Helen sighed. She seemed humiliated, and buried her face in her hands. After a time she said: "Above love," a transition less abrupt than it appeared.

Margaret never stopped working.

"I mean a woman's love for a man. I supposed I should hang my life on to that once, and was driven up and down and about as if something was worrying through me. But everything is peaceful now; I seem cured. That Herr Forstmeister, whom Frieda keeps writing about, must be a noble character, but he doesn't see that I shall never marry him or anyone. It isn't shame or mistrust of myself. I simply couldn't. I'm ended. I used to be so dreamy about a man's love as a girl, and think that for good or evil love must be the great thing. But it hasn't been; it has been itself a dream. Do you agree?"

"I do not agree. I do not."

"I ought to remember Leonard as my lover," said Helen, stepping down into the field. "I tempted him, and killed him and it is surely the least I can do. I would like to throw out all my heart to Leonard on such an afternoon as this. But I cannot. It is no good pretending. I am forgetting him." Her eyes filled with tears. "How nothing seems to match--how, my darling, my precious--" She broke off. "Tommy!"

"Yes, please?"

"Baby's not to try and stand.--There's something wanting in me. I see you loving Henry, and understanding him better daily, and I know that death wouldn't part you in the least. But I--Is it some awful appalling, criminal defect?"

Margaret silenced her. She said: "It is only that people are far more different than is pretended. All over the world men and women are worrying because they cannot develop as they are supposed to develop. Here and there they have the matter out, and it comforts them. Don't fret yourself, Helen. Develop what you have; love your child. I do not love children. I am thankful to have none. I can play with their beauty and charm, but that is all--nothing real, not one scrap of what there ought to be. And others--others go farther still, and move outside humanity altogether. A place, as well as a person, may catch the glow. Don't you see that all this leads to comfort in the end? It is part of the battle against sameness. Differences--eternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey. Then I can't have you worrying about Leonard. Don't drag in the personal when it will not come. Forget him."

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

Do I agree? And with whom?

solitary_summer: (irina cowgirl)

Picked up Howard's End, which for one reason or the other I hadn't read in so long that I'd forgotten most of the plot (strangely I do remember Forster's other novels much more clearly); I've also re-read some of his short stories recently and it struck me how much... now I wonder, did he influence me? Or did his writing simply strike a chord with seventeen, eighteen year old me? In either case he's perhaps the author who is closest to my world-view, something at the core of my personality. Looking back from almost twice that age, I rather do think he must have influenced me on some deep-down level, even if I wasn't consciously aware of it.

And reading The Other Boat made me sad that he should have found himself caught up in this paralysing dilemma between what he wanted to write and what he could publish; sad for all the stories that might have been told, but never were.

Throne of Jade also arrived yesterday; I'm alternating between books at the moment, fickle person that I am.


I'm feeling balanced again for a change, strangely quiet and pleasantly relaxed. Had a good morning run yesterday, despite the fact that I barely made it out of bed & was convinced I'd collapse after one length through the park; I'm still not into this whole mystique of running -- I do it, sometimes I enjoy it a lot, sometimes less, I like to feel that my body is up to the challenge, but I don't think I've had any of that endorphin rushes or whatever it is the fitness enthusiasts talk about -- but despite the long break this year it seems easier to just fall into the motion and let my body take over. And it was beautiful, still very brisk, everything luscious green and fresh, an abundance of colours in the botanical garden, scent of all kinds of blossoming bushes, fainter scent of the chestnut trees in the cold moist morning air, silvery dew on the lawns.

Then there was work, with more than the usual share of batshit insane customers, and a boring evening at Ch.'s, but biking home there it was again, the quite chilly night air full of scents...

[Also, note to half-blind, procrastinating self, get a prescription for new glasses at the next eye-doctor appointment. I've pushed this off again and again because of the cost (yes, yes I admit it, I'm vain, I want pretty glasses that are not a centimeter thick...) and the fact that since I wear contacts most of the time anyway, I don't really need them (much), but I had a brief scare yesterday when my left eye was slightly irritated after an eyelash had got in there in the morning and I already thought I'd only see Madrid in something of a blur... Eh. ::sigh::]


There's something fundamentally wrong with the concept of trying to get into a CD. I'm not a musical person by a long, long way, and was even less of one a few years ago, but even so I never found either The Fragile or Lateralus inaccessible and found it strange when people claimed that. Sure, the appreciation changed over the weeks, months and years, but I was fascinated from the beginning.

With 10 000 days I find myself in the same predicament as with With Teeth a year ago. Looked forward to it, but in the end can't quite make myself like it, can't connect, don't care enough to make an effort and don't quite see why there should be an effort involved at all. There's beauty, certainly, especially in the first part, but the sense of over-familiarity lingers. Then there's the block from The Pot to Rosetta Stoned (is this supposed to be a clever title? dear god) which doesn't really do anything for me.

It's a little disappointing in a way, because while I wouldn't have called myself a tool fan, and never have been interested in whatever mysticism/ideology they (pretend to) shroud themselves in, when I saw them live, years ago, not expecting much, barely knowing one CD, I did feel there was something, for lack of a better word, spiritual, something intensely powerful, about the music. A positive energy, something transcending the mere rock concert frame. So I tended to ignore what (perhaps unfairly) strikes me as a quite enormous air of pretentiousness surrounding the band and their fans, and just enjoy the music, but, oh well. Then again there is plenty I'd strip away from Ænima, the supposed masterpiece, so perhaps I never understood anything at all. I like Lateralus because it is by far the most focused album, focused on the music without all kinds of (to me) distracting, pseudo-clever nonsense.

Now the RHCP's Stadium Arcadium? That's a CD that makes me happy, and not one I have to try to get into.
solitary_summer: (abarat. tower)

Looks like it's finally turning spring... Temperatures are rising, the last snow melted in the yard today, the Schneeglöckchen are out.

Had to drive out & check on the horse because Ch. is sick (again), feeling extremely irritated, but it turned out rather nice, I even got to ride; followed by family lunch, exasperating as usual, no surprises there.


Otherwise, continuing to read Th. Mann's diaries & enjoying it...

It must be about ten years ago now, I borrowed from the British Council library a volume of Virginia Woolf's diaries (or letters, can't quite remember which), and was suddenly struck with an acute sense of guilt at the voyeurism of reading something that was never meant for me to read. I vowed (sort of) never to do it again and one way or another actually kept the promise, though that might have been at least partly due to the fact that no author since sufficiently tempted me to want a direct glimpse into his/her life.

For whatever reason, reading Mann's diaries doesn't feel like such a breach of privacy. Either my attitude has changed, or the style and brevity make the reader feel less like a voyeur (was he aware that they might/would be published after his death? did he care?), or again, because his novels are in many ways much more intimate than the accounts of daily comings and goings, dinner parties, letters or problems with household staff.

What I found interesting in reading about the process of creation of 'Doktor Faustus' is how the relationship between Adrian and Rudi was consciously made more vague, all (comparatively) explicit mention of homosexuality erased. (Möglichkeit des geheimnisvollen Verschleierns [10.9.46], Knappe Kondensierung, Disretisierung der Äußerungen über Adrian-Rudi [21.12.46])

Geheimnisvolles Verschleiern, indeed. Across the cultural and linguistic barrier of fifty years and dealing with a character so emotionally distant as Adrian, who barely even has friends, for the greatest part of the novel (until Adrian's ... daß ich [...] lieben dürfte in Fleisch und Blut, was nicht weiblich war... ) I never was altogether sure how this was meant to be read, as friendship tinged with mostly sublimated sexual elements or outright sexual attraction/seduction. Maybe it doesn't matter at all and it's a misguided tendency of this day and age wanting to compartmentalise everything and slap a label on it, but it's interesting that where in the manuscript 'love' and 'sensuality' are presented as an unity there is only 'love' in the novel.

I think the cut makes sense, though - the reasons aren't given in the diary (and may be artistic, first and foremost) but the manuscript-text in question reads very much like a justification and I could see how he might have wanted to avoid the impression that there was a need for justification, especially with a first person narrator. Adrian's sense of guilt and subconscious destruction of the one person he dared love are ambivalent enough. (Just a thought, though, I may be wrong. Probably am.)

The way Mann tends to treat (read: kill off) his gay characters always bring to mind what his contemporary, E.M.Forster, another of my favourite authors, though dating back to an earlier period of my life, wrote in respect to his (unpublished until after his death) novel Maurice:

A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn't have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood. I dedicated it 'To a Happier Year' and not altogether vainly. Happiness is its keynote - which by the way has had an unexpected result: it has made the book more difficult to publish. (...) If it ended unhappily, with a lad dangling from a noose or with a suicide pact, all would be well, for there is no pornography or seduction of minors. But the lovers get away unpunished and consequently recommend crime.

It's maybe not the best novel ever, but I think one can't but admire the attitude, especially in the light of the fact that his love for personal honesty ultimately ruined his career as a writer. ("I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or published more, but sex has prevented the latter")


solitary_summer: (Default)

March 2013

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