Literature

The Flattering Illusion

‘An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable’. 

George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter 27.

Tropic of Chaos

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

By Christian Parenti 

Nation Books, 304 pages 

From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In 

Tropic of Chaos

, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the planet's midlatitudes. Here he finds failed states amid climatic disasters. But he also reveals the unsettling presence of Western military forces and explains how they see an opportunity in the crisis to prepare for open-ended global counterinsurgency.  Parenti argues that this incipient "climate fascism"--a political hardening of wealthy states-- is bound to fail. The struggling states of the developing world cannot be allowed to collapse, as they will take other nations down as well. Instead, we must work to meet the challenge of climate-driven violence with a very different set of sustainable economic and development policies.

Angela Carter - BBC Radio 3 Interview - 1991

Angela Carter - BBC Radio 3 - 1991 by DecorporationNotes

I was first given a copy of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber in high school by the smartest person I knew, and I am sad to say I can now no longer look forward to reading any more novels by her (having read them all in rapid succession after my first encounter).  I can, however, continue to reread the stories and novels, rediscovering the immense explorations she undertakes in the various phases of her work — from anarcho-feminist fantasy to farcical family romance and everything in between — and continue to ferret out gems like this 1991 Radio 3 interview.  In it, she displays all the power of her timeless vocabulary, iconoclastic vigor and bawdy charm (as in her description of the public reception of the political themes in her books: "One is only supposed to be pink and insouciant after a day in the sun"), and provides much insight into her methods and inspirations.   I highly recommend leafing through any of her brilliant novels or essays (LoveThe Bloody Chamber, and Wise Children having positions of the greatest importance in my literary pantheon) some afternoon — with a bag of apples by your side, of course.

A Moment In The Sun

A Moment In The Sun

by John Sayles

McSweeney's, 935 pages

"Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, 

A Moment in the Sun

 takes the whole era in its sights—from the white-racist coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the first stirrings of the motion-picture industry, to the bloody dawn of U.S. interventionism in Cuba and the Philippines. The result of years of writing and research, the book is built on the voices of a breathtaking range of men and women—Hod Brackenridge, a gold-chaser turned Army recruit; Royal Scott, an African American infantryman whose life outside the military has been destroyed; Diosdado Concepcíon, a Filipino insurgent preparing to fight against his country’s new colonizers; and more than a dozen others, Mark Twain, Damon Runyon, and President William McKinley’s assassin among them. Shot through with a lyrical intensity and stunning detail that recall Doctorow and 

Deadwood

 both, this is a story as big as its subject: history rediscovered through the lives of the people who made it happen."

The Twitter Fiction of Noel Fielding

 

Over the past year or two, Noel Fielding (of the Mighty Boosh), has been emitting increasingly complex parables via frantic bursts of tweets, and I feel sad for anybody not reading them.  They usually begin from what is ostensibly a matter-of-fact "status update" and then progress into a drunkenly remembered narrative of insular magical logic, often involving debaucherous inanimate objects, fashion mishaps, and unicorns.  While similar to his stand-up material and the universe he and Julian Barratt created with the Mighty Boosh, these micro-fictions seem to only make sense in the context of twitter. You can follow him on at @noelfielding11.
Here is the last one, from about an hour ago:
worked on my art book today with bongo brown who is a visual wizard. There was also a spanish bull in the mix and a sausage sandwich. x.

i think the bull was famous at some point although he was well balanced and not aloof in anyway. x.

cant say the same for the sausage sandwich though. He was up his own arse. x.

And he told a really long story that didnt really go anywhere. dick head.

but he thought it was the best story ever and started rolling about the desk making a grunting sound.

i could tell Dave and the bull were both equally disgusted and rightly so. That sausage was unbearable.

i felt bad for the sausage in the end because he had no social skills and it turned out that he his wife had been sleeping around.

although to be fair to her if he tells stories like that and makes that grunting noise all the time its not surprising.

i always feel sorry for outsiders i cant help it so i offered to go camping with him in europe. Nightmare. Why did i do that?

i hate camping and that noise he makes goes right through me. Disaster.  

I feel in my heart the sausage knew this though.

I think I saw him crossing out Daves number from his phone book. in permanent marker.

Anyway to cut a long story short I turn up at the sausages penthouse flat with my ground sheet and him and @jimmylazers have already left.

So now i have to turn my chariot around and persuade my unicorns to take me back home. But they already had another job booked in.

So not only have i been double crossed by the sausage I am walking home with a ground sheet over my head. I look like a small plastic hill.

And @jimmylazers and the sausage are in the south of france in a two man tent. living the dream.

worse was to come I got back to mine and the Bull was there drunk trying on my clothes. this is like a nightmare.

hes stretched most of my good stuff. The stuff I keep for night times. Dry cleaning only stuff. He's in a track suit now doing shots.

He's so wide its ridiculous. He is dancing around the bedroom with electrical appliances hanging off him. all caught round his legs.

And my best hat hanging from one of his horns. Its bent out of shape. I will have to steam press that tomorrow.

I am standing directly on the bulls head now as he crashes about the kitchen looking for more southern comfort.

He is so drunk he is shouting to the bedroom for me to come and help him and I am standing on his head. He's out of control.

Well if you cant beat them join them. x x x.  

The guy from next door has heard all the noise and is banging on my door. Gonna send the bull out to answer the door dressed as me. Ha Ha Ha.  

Oh no the bull is bringing the guy from next door in. Unbelievable its not the guy from next door its the sausage. Wearing a pancake.  

Hes got a crepe poncho on and is throwing playing cards everywhere. @jimmylazers is here as well dressed as the pope.

This is not how I saw my evening panning out. Boom for real.  

me standing on a drunk bulls head whilst a sausage in a pancake overcoat pelts @jimmylazers dressed as the pope with playing cards.

Ive got my French Nan staying with me as well. x.  

Anyway hope you guys are having a good night x Bye x

 

Progress and Resistance in Central India, Part 3

Arundhati Roy has republished her essays on the Maoist struggle in central India (previously discussed

here

and

here

) in her new book of essays,

Broken Republic

.  Of course, like all of her work, these essays follow the logical and poetic implications of the injustices and struggles of indigenous people in India to global and metaphysical levels, providing novel possbilities of understanding and inspiration.  I can say without having read the new edition and the third essay it contains that this is a must-read for advocates of indigenous rights, environmentalists, and anti-capitalists of all stripes.

Here is a BBC interview with Arundhati Roy about the book:

Sonnet en -yx by Stéphane Mallarmé

Her pure nails sprung up exalting their onyx,
Anxiety, this midnight, bearing light, sustains,
In twilight many dreams burnt up by the Phoenix
Whose smoky ashes no sepulchral urn contains

Atop the sideboards, in the empty room: no ptyx,
That voided toy of vibrant nonsense, left inside,
(Because the Master’s gone to draw the tears from Styx
With that exclusive object wherein Naught takes pride.)

In vacant north seen through the casement frames, a gold
May agonize at times, within the setting, to behold
Fire-breathing unicorns arrayed against a nix,

She, lifeless naked mirror image, repetition
Whom in the twinkling framed forgetting, is to fix
Through sparkling timed in septet, composition.

Translated by MX


Blue & Green

Blue & Green, by Virginia Woolf.  Published by the Hogarth Press in 1921 in the collection of short stories entitled Monday or Tuesday.

 

GREEN

The ported fingers of glass hang downwards. The light slides down the glass, and drops a pool of green. All day long the ten fingers of the lustre drop green upon the marble. The feathers of parakeets—their harsh cries—sharp blades of palm trees—green, too; green needles glittering in the sun. But the hard glass drips on to the marble; the pools hover above the dessert sand; the camels lurch through them; the pools settle on the marble; rushes edge them; weeds clog them; here and there a white blossom; the frog flops over; at night the stars are set there unbroken. Evening comes, and the shadow sweeps the green over the mantelpiece; the ruffled surface of ocean. No ships come; the aimless waves sway beneath the empty sky. It’s night; the needles drip blots of blue. The green’s out.

 

BLUE

The snub–nosed monster rises to the surface and spouts through his blunt nostrils two columns of water, which, fiery–white in the centre, spray off into a fringe of blue beads. Strokes of blue line the black tarpaulin of his hide. Slushing the water through mouth and nostrils he sings, heavy with water, and the blue closes over him dowsing the polished pebbles of his eyes. Thrown upon the beach he lies, blunt, obtuse, shedding dry blue scales. Their metallic blue stains the rusty iron on the beach. Blue are the ribs of the wrecked rowing boat. A wave rolls beneath the blue bells. But the cathedral’s different, cold, incense laden, faint blue with the veils of madonnas.