31 May 2012 § Leave a comment
. . . and I finally blog.
I’m alive. Hurrah!
Research is going fairly well, it has been wonderful to be with friends (Grace left last night, and we had a splendid time when she was here), and every day is quite different. The main point of this post is to tell you to write letters to me.
Photographic evidence soon!
15 May 2012 § Leave a comment
I’m not really on my way yet, but soon and very soon . . . ! For your amusement, here’s a list of things left to do:
1) Read the overwhelming stack of books I checked out of the library today . . . or at least the ones I can’t fit into my bag
2) Put clothes in bag: the dullest, and therefore most time-consuming, task
3) Email Helen Suzman‘s daughter back . . . I’m still so stunned by her reply that I can’t answer yet.
5) Make my mother’s birthday dinner right now. Must run!
Note: You may be wondering why there is no number 4. It is lost forever, like my debit card . . . oops. I can attribute anything I forget to having been in that category.
14 May 2012 § Leave a comment
Rain rain rain rain rain!
Or, as the Beatles say, “Raaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin . . . ”
Happy Mother’s Day! . . . especially to my wonderful mother and grandmother. Family is a beautiful thing.
12 May 2012 § Leave a comment
This morning, I was reading an old newspaper and came across an article about long biographies. It made me think of the massive book about King that my class read this semester. Taylor Branch came to one of our classes and told us that he had to cut half of his material (in which case his book would have occupied a month, rather than two weeks, of our class). He also asserted that there is no room for artistic license in historical writing. This came up because there are four or five instances of people blinking in the book; what effect does this have other than making the reader laugh? It’s still a mystery.
Yesterday, I finished Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die, which was on the syllabus this semester and then cancelled because we were in South Africa (and in the midst of reading Parting the Waters there…also a mystery). The language impressed me little, and the story is only as strong as its rather typecast characters. I wonder how true the book is to actual 1952 South Africa. Only a desire to finish the reading list and curiosity about the title and cover made me read it, and only end-of-the-semester exhaustion and mindlessness (read: insomnia) lessened my disappointment.
In search of real writing, I read John Rybicki’s When All the World Is Old, a collection of poetry he wrote about his wife dying. Mysteries slip in and out of Rybicki’s poetry, too, but they are the good sort, those that want wondering rather than solving. Dissecting it would destroy its beauty, so I’ll just write a bit of it:
We all try / to armor up, weather and walk this earth, curtsy and smile, / make light happen through our faces / as we talk and talk, but it takes this spiritual exertion. / If you are lucky you’ll find one choice soul who becomes / your safe ground. They’ll gather / your war shield and say, “No, I will carry this for you. / I will go before you and lead the way.” You must believe / the wounds in your love to be exquisite. / No other woman but Julie stood up to the storm that is me. / Some drank, even in lavish doses, the constellations and aliveness that moved through me. / She was the only one who ever threw her arms around the hurricane / and did not let go. I guess I made for her that safe place / where she could surrender, / let a whole forest of trees fall down inside her, fall down in my arms . . .
(from “Julie the Valiant”)
Next on the reading list includes finishing some James Baldwin . . .
11 May 2012 § Leave a comment
11 May 2012
Today is the first of my ten days of summer at home. Fleeting days of sun in the mountains, of awaking to birdsong, of long stretches of reading with no regard to time, scattered sparingly over four months. It seems odd, yet I won’t be in that many places; I hope to avoid that horrid running-around exhaustion that trails along with hordes of activities crammed into a sliver of time. Yesterday, my mother and I fetched little sister from school, managed to fit her impossibly large mountain of bags into the car, and then arrived home to find my father and the grandparents here. The grandfather left for London today, but he shall return anon. Watching the Shirley Temple version of Heidi might alleviate any confusion about unnatural articles here.
Right now, I have four more days at home, and then I’m going to South Africa to do research for my thesis next year. This semester, whilst in a comparative history program of the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid struggle, I began research on Lewis Nkosi, a South African journalist, novelist, playwright, and other writerly things, and this summer, I actually have the chance to interview people who knew him. One of them lives in a township. One of them is the daughter of an erstwhile MP. One of them, the journalist Allister Sparks, invited my class into his home for a chat about the present state of South Africa earlier in the semester. My principal memory from that is how I was sitting on the floor and fidgeting a lot because I felt restless and faint from the heat and also felt on the verge of tears because I thought the fidgeting would offend him. I’ll be mostly in Johannesburg from 17 May – 19 June, but right at the beginning I’m going to Durban to meet up with a professor. A most exciting prospect is that Grace is coming along for the first half of the trip!