Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Joesph Conrad

For you lovers of darkness, of Africa, of greed, and exploitation, it is Conrad's birthday today.

He had an interesting life. Here's what APR had to say: Polish born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in Berdichev, which is now in the Ukraine. His father was a scholar and an outspoken opponent of the oppressive regime. He was arrested, and the family was exiled to a northern province in Russia, where both Joseph's parents contracted tuberculosis and died. So the boy went to live with his uncle in Switzerland. His uncle was kind and supportive, and he gave his nephew a good education. But Conrad was restless; he wanted to travel. So as a teenager, he headed to France, and from there, he went to sea. He ran guns, he smuggled, and he got himself in debt. He couldn't pay his creditors, he tried to commit suicide but failed, and he lost his job. But his uncle paid off his debts, and Józef changed his name to Joseph Conrad and went back to sea with the British.

In 1890, he captained a steamboat into the Congo, which was then the Belgian Congo, controlled by King Leopold II. He saw horrible atrocities there. People had been forced into slave labor camps, where many of them were abused and killed. He called it "the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of the human conscience."

He went back to England, settled in Kent, and never worked as a sailor again. He wrote adventure stories, and 10 years after returning from the Congo, he wrote Heart of Darkness (1902). It's about a man's journey down a river into the middle of Africa and about a powerful and mysterious trading agent named Kurtz. Kurtz has established himself as a god among the natives, surrounding his trading post with severed heads on stakes.

Joseph Conrad said, "My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything."

(Information from American Public Media)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Michael Ondaatje

Ondaatje, here, discusses Amil's Ghost, but also discusses Sri Lanka, his life, his career, writing and poetry.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May Readings

I've got quite a few books on my bedside table. I'm making scattered attempts at reading: Capote's In Cold Blood, Sudye Cauthen's Southern Comfort, James Olney's Memory & Narrative, Emma Goldman's Anarchy & Other Essays, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Science of Being and Art of Living, and Eckhart Tolle's The New Earth. One would think I'd concentrate on planning my summer class (Introduction to Creative Writing) but there's always time for that the day before the class begins. Well, I've taught it so many times.

Here's my latest thought about rearranging my memoir manuscript: it opens in Sopchoppy, Florida where I'm sitting by a fire I've built after a day of pulling weeds. Some friends are over and they're visiting me at my new place where I'm living in a tent behind my boyfriend's cabin. We get to talking and my mind wanders...back to my life in Pahokee, then to my life in New York, but always back to the present where I'm thinking about books, politics, communities, culture, art, etc and I'm living so sparingly: taking baths by candlelight from water in a bucket, walking to the outhouse to use the bathroom, squatting to take a pee, growing a garden, fighting weeds, nurturing a pond, learning home remedies, eating wild blackberries, and taking my dog for a long walk every night. I'm also writing this book in my tent. So I'm thinking about my life and how I got here. My 13 year old daughter sleeps beside me in the tent, and I'm struck with how my ideals are screwing up her life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

a Pablo Neruda poem

In The Night

In the night we shall go in,
we shall go in to steal
a flowering, flowering branch.

We shall climb over the wall
in the darkness of the alien garden,
two shadows in the shadow.

Winter is not yet gone,
and the apple tree appears
suddenly changed into
a fragment of cascade stars.

In the night we shall go in
up to its trembling firmament,
and your hands, your little hands
and mine will steal the stars.

And silently to our house
in the night and the shadow,
perfume's silent step,
and with starry feet,
the clear body of spring.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some Literary Blogs & Current Readings/Sightings

Blogger Jessa Crispin has done a great job of creating an interesting book-lovers blog at BookSlut.

But if you dislike the corporate ads and you need to attach and trust a literary critic, I highly recommend Laila Lalami's blog because she's personal, plus you can see a photo of her writing space. I like that. Maybe I'll add one of those here.

Me? I've recently reread Jonathon Swift's A Modest Proposal and caught myself wondering how satire might be used to get out of Iraq: a proposal to nuke the Middle East until it's one big hole in the ground? (I'm kidding.)

Saw the movie Byron today. British Jonney Lee Miller does a terrific job as the tortured, pleasurist poet who receives more than his share of society's disdain. My only gripe was not giving Mary Shelley and the famous horror-story challenge more of a place in Byron's life. Oh well. I do have new sympathy for Lord Byron. Now I want to revisit the movie Pandemonium about Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth as I'm having trouble remembering which came first: the radical Byron gang or the Coleridge trio (plus Dorothy Wordsworth).

Next on my agenda: Alexander Pope's mock-heroic poem "The Rape of the Lock." Also still reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose which is a misleading title since it mostly focuses on a thorough understanding of the ego, but then, I'm not finished yet.