commonpeople1: (Default)
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and LossThe Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This biography deservedly won the Costa Book award for best non-fiction in 2010. Edmund de Waal not only writes beautifully but he takes the material he researched - in this case his entire father's family going back to the mid 1800s' - and distills it into a page turner.

The hare with amber eyes is one of hundreds of netsuke owned by his elderly gay uncle in Japan, which Edmund inherits after his death. Through these beautiful, tiny sculptures Edmund traces the history of his family - from the grand salons in France where they crossed paths with Manet, Renoir and Proust under the weight of the Japonism popular at the time - through Vienna and its fall to the Nazis. Because Edmund's family were originally Russian Jews - never allowed to forget their background despite their secularism - there's a growing tension in the book as you know that the concentration camps are just around the corner and their idyllic, rich lives will soon come to an end.

There's a neat, moving twist in the story: the secret as to how the netsuke survived the Second World War and the ransacking of the family's mansion. It had me thinking about my own family and how little I know about my ancestry. Also, it made me think of the objects we have around us and how disconnected we are from who created most of them, the journeys they took to get to us, and the cost (sometimes human) involved.

View all my reviews


Nov. 7th, 2011 12:37 pm
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Untitled by lilyrhoads
Untitled, a photo by lilyrhoads on Flickr.
There are certain technical words in the vocabulary of every academic discipline which tend to become stereotypes and cliches. Psychologists have a word which is probably used more frequently than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” This word is the ringing cry of the new child psychology.

Now in a sense all of us must live the well adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophemic personalities. But there are some things in our social system to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I suggest that you too ought to be maladjusted.

I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of mob-rule. I never intend to adjust myself to the evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to the tragic inequalities of an economic system which take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence.

I call upon you to be maladjusted. The challenge to you is to be maladjusted—as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let judgment run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream;” as maladjusted as Lincoln, who had the vision to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; as maladjusted as Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery could cry out, in words lifted to cosmic proportions, “All men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the persuit of Happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus who dared to dream a dream of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men. The world is in desperate need of such maladjustment.

Martin Luther King, April 25, 1957
commonpeople1: (Default)
I think I'm gonna have to give up NaNoWriMo: the good ol' RSI in both hands has returned. I need them hands. I need them for applying to jobs and recruitment agencies.

A few months ago I bought a ticket to see Hurts at the Brixton Academy. I was really looking forward to this gig and even penciled the date into my iCalendar. Except that I put down yesterday instead of Friday, the correct date. I found out my mistake yesterday morning.

In the afternoon, I took the No.8 bus downtown to meet [ profile] loveinsuburbia for a coffee. The bus now detours around St Paul's Cathedral, giving you a privileged view of the Occupy London campsite. It looks realy well organised and put together, with information and university tents, posters with info on all pillars and small groups of people having conversations every few feet. It also has a lot of tourists snapping pictures and the feel of a prominent tourist attraction if it stays there longer than a year. I'm keen to drop by soon and visit.

This is the time of year when everyone in London starts looking pale and horrible, pulling their dark clothes out of the wardrobe. I'm still in denial that it's winter time: you can find me walking around London with my hands in my light summer jacket's pockets, shivering. During my wander with [ profile] loveinsuburbia, we came across the #OLSX crowd again, this time marching down Tottenham Court Road; one of them was my upstairs neighbour, the one who sometimes stands outside Mile End Station handing out socialist flyers. She gave me a searing look because we were walking in the opposite direction.

Came back home and watched the frankly dreadful X Factor then an episode of The Wire season 4. During the night, I dreamt that Anne Wintour walked down a hallway - probably the most bizarre and pointless dream of my life.

I need to find a job soon, before this boredom and lack of money consumes me.
commonpeople1: (Cabbie)

Originally uploaded by shotbygrant
[ profile] wink_martindale and I sat beside Carole from Big Brother 8 this weekend. She was with a friend at the same coffee shop as us and she sang along to one of the songs on the radio at one point. I bet most of you don't remenber that particular Big Brother: it was the one where the housemates were initially all-female and then slowly men were introduced in the next couple of weeks. It was ferocious.

We had gone to the coffee shop to do our NaNoWriMo and I thankfully ended up breaking through my problem of not knowing what my story was about. I've now got a direction and I'm excited about my characters. I followed Natalie Goldberg and Ian McEwan's method of writing: jot down anything and everything - even if it means pages and pages of random narrative - until something clicks. It really does work.

Last night, we got home in time to see the fireworks in Victoria Park. As my landlady/friend correctly pointed out, it was probably the last one the park would have (thanks to the government's cuts.) The theme was the death of dozens of people at Bethnal Green tube station during the Second World War - where many had panicked after hearing sirens and rushed down the stairs, causing a crush that killed 176 people on 3 March 1943.

Just before the fireworks began, Wink told me that Bethnal Green was supposedly the most haunted station in London, with a very high amount of ghost sightings. Suddenly, in the park's darkness, sirens began to roar and lights pointed up at the sky. Tower Hamlets' logo at centre stage exploded on fire and two voices began to sing: "London Town is on Fire, London Town is on Fire..." It was very haunting and macabre. The fireworks were accompanied by popular hits from the 1940s. The memory of those who lived and died during the Great War was never far away.

commonpeople1: (Default)

Twin Cupboards
Originally uploaded by olliefern
Buddy and I watched Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent last night. It was the first time we were properly introduced to his ideas and what he stands for, which is (I think) a form of socialist anarchism that has the potential for being true democracy. The documentary is now dated, filmed when the internet didn't exist and people still permed their hair. Chomsky looks a lot like Buddy's dad and made a lot of sense to me, especially in his criticism of North America's news moguls and blunders by the American government in the past decades. The documentary even presented some of the accusations levelled at Chomsky over the years and then proceeded to destroy them in the best John Stewart way possible, allowing the man to come out intact in the end.

It got us both thinking about politics and why we don't engage more with it. Any of it. And how a lot of Chomsky's predictions in the 80s have come true nowadays, but also how a lot of good has been done (his help to expose, for example, the atrocities in East Timor.)

Have you noticed around London these posters about benefit thieves? The ads are on TV too (saw one last night during The X Factor.) Here it is. These ads show people from working class backgrounds who realistically don't make more than 10 grand a year portrayed as criminals. Let's suppose, theoretically, that the people in these ads stole one grand in benefits. They get caught, prosecuted and ordered to pay back. Perhaps they even get sent to prison. Then let's suppose that in prison they meet 498 other benefit criminals who also stole a grand each. That's 500 thousands pounds in total.

Well, why are there no ads around town, especially in Canary Wharf, targeting bankers who manipulated the financial system for their own greedy reasons until we were all in a mess, and who are now still walking home with millions of pounds in bonuses? Surely one of those bankers is worth more than 500 working class benefit scroungers? These ads strike me as so prejudiced that I'm left wishing the best of luck to any dole scrounger and benefit thief out there.

On a lighter note, I learnt in The Guardian yesterday of this interesting photo game played with Flickr accounts. It's called noticings. I think some of you photographers would enjoy it. To me, it's a good exercise in paying more attention to the environment around you within a set of rules and structure (this month, for example, you get bonus points for photographing red things). It looks like I'm the only person in my borough playing the game so far. Won't you play with me?
commonpeople1: (Krys)
Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's upcoming sci-fi/speculative fiction novel: The Year of the Flood

Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science, religion, and nature – has long predicted a disaster. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women remain: Ren, a young dancer locked away in a high-end sex club, and Toby, a former God’s Gardener, who barricades herself inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived? Ren’s bio-artist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy policing force of the ruling powers... As Adam One and his beleaguered followers regroup, Ren and Toby emerge into an altered world, where nothing – including the animal life – is predictable.

Sounds to me like a sequel of sorts to Oryx and Crake and completely barmy. I'll probably love it. I hope The Painballers are a homage of sorts to that classic The Warriors.

And her tour blog:

And her Twitter: [ profile] atwood_twitter (thanks to [ profile] mjl)
commonpeople1: (Tom)
Dear Friend,

I am James Barry, 1st Marine Division, 7th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion 4th Marines, Fallujah-Bagdad, Iraq. I am an army contractor attached to the US Military for the sole purpose of reconstruction work in Fullajah-Bagdad, Iraq.

On the 27th August 2008, I and my men discovered some metal boxes (4 in number) piled on top one another, each with a sign written on them, one filled with hard drugs (heroine), two filled with bullets and the other one to my amazement contained U.S. hundred dollar bills which we counted and discovered that the money in that box total to $5.2Million. We hide the box containing the money in untraceable location, I am now in desperate need of a reliable and Trustworthy person who would receive and secure this box of money containing the US Dollars until my assignment elapses.

We cannot afford to leave the box of money here in Iraq for any reason since Iraq is getting unsafe and dangerous every day. I am fully aware of what your thoughts would be next, but on receipt of your response, I will send my picture as well as my Identity, for you to know whom you are dealing with. I assure and promise to give you 15% of this fund, please assure me of your keeping this deal a topmost secret. Send your reply to my private E-mailing address;

My Sincere Regards,
James Barry.

Yo James,

That's fucking awesome. James Carvalho here, 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, currently back in the U.S. of A., stationed in Camp Horno. Yes, i promise to keep our dealings a topmost secret. You can have my word on that, and as any guy from my regiment will tell you, my word is the law when it comes to secrecy. And maybe you heard too, if my reputation got as far as you, there's some heavy shit i had to keep to myself when i got back from Iraq and, hey, i'm no stranger to having questions asked of me but keeping quiet in order to maintain the peace? Easy. Know what i mean?

Ok, your e-mail really interested me. i have no clue how you fucking found me but i'm assuming it was through one of our acquaintances. Whatever. i was kinda expecting some shit to blow my way, but i was thinking more along the lines of scoring some heroin. Now, you gotta tell me what you did with the other boxes. i'm not so curious about the bullets, but what did you do with the heroin box? See, in my view that's where the money is. Trust me JB, that box of US dough is fake. Kiddy money to keep the peace with the locals. Worth nothing. Burn a couple if you don't believe me. i know the heroin is the real deal though. Seen it used in some heavy duty negotiations, if you know what i mean.

i've got an aunt called Sister Jasmine (she's a nun) who's going to be in Iraq in a couple of days, doing some missionary work. i could arrange for you to meet her. And if you gave her a statue of the Virgin with the heroin in side it, she could fly it back to the States. But she can't know there's junk in the statue! i'll check the merchandise when it gets here and we can see how to get the rest over.

Now here's a photo of myself. Please send me a picture of yourself, with i.d., so i know that you ain't some time waster.

Catch you later,

James Carvalho

Marine James Carvalho
commonpeople1: (Patrick)
Leave a comment and I'll give you five topics to talk about in your journal. [ profile] sushidog gave me these:

BOYS! Summa-summa-time love, summa-summa-time love. Boys, boys, boys. What can I say, I started liking boys as soon as puberty hit. Unfortunately, I was part of a large group of boys that only liked girls. Then I fell in love with a singer who seemed to like boys but chose instead to be celibate for the rest of his life - it seemed at the time like a good idea. Then someone took me to a gay club in Montreal and my mouth hit the floor at the quantity of gorgeous men filling up the rooms. I never looked back. And now I have a boy of my own. We wander the streets of London and when a cute boy goes by we sigh: *boys*.

Incidentally, if you ever need to move your office, look no further than Ward Thomas Removals. Not only are they brilliantly efficient, their team is made up of all those hot Ozzies and Kiwis that come over to England for work experience and find their rugby muscles and friendly smiles appreciated and needed. Diamonds are a girl's best friend; boys are a boy's.

Being a long way from home
Is tough. When I returned from Brasil in January, I tried to convince Kevin that we should live at the farm with my mom and brothers. Kevin didn't like the idea but, with each passing day, he's warming up to it. The latest plan is for us to leave Britain for one year - a sort of sabbatical - and stay with my family. He could dedicate himself to his illustration and I could help with the running of the guesthouse and sort out my legal situation in Brasil, which is a mess right now. London is a sort of home, but so is Brasil. And my uncles and aunts are like parents, my cousins like siblings. Years are speeding away and I'm losing all that time I could be spending with them. They ask after Kevin - they know about us. With Kevin there with me, I'd be less afraid of growing bored from their sedate pace of life. I could write a million books from the comfort of our hammock.

Every writer is a gossip. Every longterm LJ user is a gossip - we are here because we enjoy sharing stories about ourselves and others. The ones that don't like that sort of thing gave up their journals a long time ago. Asking after someone's well being is gossip. Hanging out with a friend will eventually lead to gossip. We learn from the world through gossip. We can't resist a good story, an enthralling cliffhanger - we seek that from those closest to us, and we take pleasure when we find it unexpectedly. Thousands of years ago, when we were still picking fleas from each others hair after a long day of hunting, we developed language through gossip (I'm sure of it). Something dramatic had to be informed (so-and-so wasn't hunting tigers as they should; they were swimming in the river) and thus gossip was born.

I should do more of this. I eat too many ready-made soups and sandwiches. I've developed a bad habit of bringing kebab home on Thursdays (Kevin loves it.) But I'm a great cook - I've got the patience and attention to detail down to a tee. I make the best burek in the world. Doubtful? Come over and try for yourself (especially if you are a *boy*).

The environment
Depresses me. I look at my brother and friends who have children and I worry for all the problems they'll have to deal with - the diminishing natural resources (bound to cause wars), the exploding population, the way people don't give a shit about anything. My tower block's elevator is a testament to our species' impending destruction - all that garbage thrown on the floor each day says a lot about what the people here think of their "environment". When I'm feeling more positive, I remember science and all its recent giant leaps. I place my poker chips on them and hope that the nerd shall overcome.
commonpeople1: (Ronin)
Brasil's government has offered to intercede with Israel and try to stop the escalating atrocities in Palestine. It came to me suddenly last night that one way my country could help, at least in the short term, would be to offer asylum to those that are trapped in Israel or Palestine and wish to escape. They could offer to Israelis and Palestinians the following: "any one of you that is tired of this pointless war, of fighting for this bit of dirt, is welcome to move with your family to Brasil. A house will be provided as well as enough land to grow your own food or livestock; lessons in Portuguese will be provided for yourself and your children; and if you are already qualified in a profession, a programme will be created to help your transition into the country's equivalent field."

I can imagine many brasilians would be angry at first; with so many people living in shanty towns, below the poverty line, why is the government helping people who are not from here? (That argument so well known by Western Europeans.) The pay off for Brasil would be financial support in erecting houses and setting up programmes from countries belonging to the U.N. that wish to help the sane amongst the Palestinians and Israelis. I'm sure many people wouldn't want to leave because of their attachment to the land, but I also imagine that many would jump at the opportunity. And once here in Brasil - a country that doesn't know anything about the virulent hatred and war mentality that exists in the Middle East - they'd have a chance to lead some form of normal life.

There is a lot of land available in Brasil; the problem is that it's not well distributed, or it sits unused in the hands of a few (and I don't even mean the Amazon forest, but the vast farmlands in the South, for example.) A lot of Israelis already come here for holidays when they complete their military years because they enjoy the relaxed life and the warm weather; some even own businesses here; some stay behind and lead illegal lives as hippies, selling trinkets to tourists in Bahia's beaches. It would be easy to take families from Palestine and Israel and distribute them across coastal towns, farming communities, from North to South, mostly because brasilians are so welcoming and even ignorant of the details behind the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
commonpeople1: (Haru)
From [ profile] icymorning

Hit the Bush

I hope the game makers at Nintendo have seen this.
commonpeople1: (Eloise)
commonpeople1: (Steven Lubin)
Girl Meets boy: The Myth of Iphis

Ali Smith, Girl Meets boy: The Myth of Iphis, 2007
Ali Smith's work is poetic and lyrical even if it is often about the mundane: offices, supermarkets, overpasses, high street stores, people stuck in dead-end lives. She mixes current trends like Facebook with big political issues, like the preference for male babies in certain cultures or the impending global fight for water resources.

This story revolves around two Scottish sisters - Midge and Anthea - and the different ways they end up finding love. Both work for a corporation intent on making a fast buck with bottled water. Anthea, the first sister to realize there's something shady about the corporation, falls in love with an androgynous activist who was in school with Midge, leading Midge to question her own views on gender, masculinity and love.

This novel's mood seems to have been lifted straight out of The Cure's back catalogue: the disappearance of Midge and Anthea's grandparents while sailing the oceans made me think of "Just Like Heaven"; and the sisters nostalgic and romantic yearning for ideal relationships was a sweet combination of the band's greatest hits from the 80s. Too bad the story flows away as soon as the last page is read.

"Girl meets boy" is based on one of Ovid's Metamorphosis, as part of Canongate's Myth Series. Other authors who have taken up the challenge to re-interpret an ancient myth include Margaret Atwood with "The Penelopiad" and Jeanette Winterson with "Weight".
commonpeople1: (Log Lady)
Evangelical Christians have their eyes on Camp Crystal Lake

Documentaries like Jesus Camp [trailer] make me feel like never visiting America again. Scary people. Scary Jesus Land. Scary plans they have for their country, for the whole planet. The documentary did, however, give me good ideas for two horror films.

The first film is a new version of Friday 13th. The film starts with Camp Crystal Lake being purchased by an evangelical mega church for the purposes of using it to brainwash children and convert homos into good little Christians (the makers of the film could even get evangelical leader Ted Haggard to play the head of the church - I can't imagine he has much work since he got busted doing drugs with a male escort.) A group of teenagers arrive at the camp a few days before all the guests in order to bless and pray over each cottage. There's even a christian heavy metal group amidst them, who want to do a bit of soundchecking and rehearsing before the camp kicks off. It is thanks to the band's sonorous racket that Jason is brought back to life.

At first, the teenagers don't think much of the corpses they find because they think Jesus is striking dead the councellors that were indulging in sin (we can even include a bit of gay sex between two horny closeted christians that gets interruped by Jason.) Slowly, though, the horror dawns on them that Jason is not Jesus. He's the devil himself! They pray, they throw holy water at him, they hold crucifixes, they speak in tongues, but nothing can stop his killing spree. Finally, a councillor who was forced to work at the camp by her devout parents, and who is going through a crisis of faith, ends up being the solve survivor. She battles it out with Jason in Camp Crystal Lake's brand new church and manages to kill him (but not before blowing up the church to smithereens.)

The second horror film I had in mind is a sequel to the Japanese horror series Battle Royale. In this new film, two groups of people - evangelical christians and fundamentalist muslims - find themselves on a strange island in the middle of nowhere with an assortment of weapons (mostly of the medieval kind) at their disposal. A mysterious voice (who calls himself The Atheist) tells them that only one person will be allowed off the island, that they must fight each other to the end. After much bloodshed, one person stumbles alive to the island's escape pod, which from the start of the film both groups know only fits one person - and here I'm tempted to make one of the fundamentalist muslims be the survivor - only to find himself/herself ejected into outer space! The final scene shows The Atheist enjoying a glass of bubbly while staring at a peaceful sea.

I just know, deep in my soul, that I'd break all box office records.
commonpeople1: (George O'Brien)
Many of my dear readers won't be familiar with the annual European event called the Eurovision Song Contest. It's basically a giant car crash that throws kitschiness and politics through the driver's window, miles away from any ambulance remotely equipped to clean up the mess. If you thought American Idol was bad, think again. If you thought talent contests in high school were bad, think again. If you thought your local yobs singing karaoke down at the pub were bad, think again.

Now, having said that, I must confess that Eurovision parties can be sublime. People gathering together to celebrate trash (and yes, if you are there you are celebrating it) easily drop their guard and confess within the hour that they like Aqua, Abba and Limahl. Discussion on Sonia's height (she who competed for England in 1993) can easily last the whole night. [ profile] craig and [ profile] deadsarah throw the best parties, and are the hostesses with the mostesses. Last year, I was one of the two people who showed up to their apartment, for a night of pizza and horror (when it dawned on us that the Serbian lesbian had won against much stronger contestants, i.e. Ukraine's Verka Serduchka). This year, over 20 people decided to show up, though thankfully craig and sarah now live in much larger accomodations and have plenty of pink cushions for everyone. Unsurprisingly, the toe-curling entry from Russia won, beating much better fare such as the Azerbaijan entry (gay goths gone to hell), Croatia (the rapping grandpa) and my favourites, Latvia (pirates that had promised to "steal the show"). Along the way, there was much shouting at the television, laughter, conversations in the kitchen, on the leather sofa and on the floor (later in the night, when lying on the floor and propping your head with someone's purse wasn't such an embarrassing thing anymore.)

Terry Wogan, the presenter/spokesman for England, sounded more bitter, cynical and sarcastic than usual, though didn't get as drunk as last year. Serbia should have been given bonus points for a stage that resembled the devil. Speaking of points, they need to change the points system because it's obvious the Eastern Block is going to rule with an iron fist from now on - especially from next year, when England won't be automatically in the finals anymore, and thus will never ever make it past the semis. If we all know that countries vote based on ideological or nationalistic reasons, shouldn't something be done to stop it? Why is politics so complicated?
commonpeople1: (George O'Brien)
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent

James Meek, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, 2008
Anyone expecting a great follow up to James Meek's brilliant The People's Act of Love is in for a disappointment. Like his previous novel, this one revolves around war - this time, though, he tells the story of a journalist stationed in Afghanistan, Adam Kellas, who falls in love with hard-to-peg Astrid, another journalist. The novel then traces Adam's search for Astrid in America as his personal and professional life falls apart.

Meek's experience as a Guardian journalist during America's latest invasions seems to have been a large source of inspiration. Like his previous novel, Meek is very good at showing the surreal nature of life under war, and the horrors that can be visited upon someone without any notice, changing their lives forever. What he has failed to do here is create believable characters that can carry the reader through the story. What we get instead is dialogue that either explains plot or sounds artificial and stilted, meant to prove Meek's own views on war, America, or the publishing world, rather than any internal character life. At times, plot is revealed too ackwardly. An example is when Adam makes a discovery about Astrid, towards the end of the novel. Instead of Meek trusting the reader to understand what can easily be shown (and was there before) he feels the need to have his character explain the obvious. It kills what was meant to be meaningful and pivotal to the story.

Strangely, it's hard to completely dislike the novel. There are some very good scenes - like Adam's meeting with his American book agent, his overblown rage at a posh dinner party in London, and the shelling of a Taliban convoy. Hopefully, Meek's only way is up after this novel.
commonpeople1: (Steven Lubin)
Suite française

Irène Némirovsky, Suite française, 2004
Ce roman a été écrit pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale, par une auteur juif attrapée en France par l'invasion de l'Allemagne. De beaucoup de manières, la histoire de sa vie est plus intéressante que le roman lui-même (projeté d'avoir cinq parts et qu'elle n'a pas parvenu à accomplir.) Cette édition porte les deux premières parties, plus les lettres entre elle-même et ses amis qui ont essayé de la sauver des camps de concentration.

La première partie dépeint des caractères de différents cercles sociaux se sauvant de Paris pendant que les Nazis arrivent. La deuxième partie se concentre sur les tensions d'un petit village français forcé à recevoir les soldats allemands. Avec un réalisme acéré, Némirovsky prouve que la mesquinerie et l'égoïsme du Français étaient, de beaucoup de manières, plus horribles que la brutalité des Allemands.

On peut seulement imaginer le chef d'oeuvre qu'elle aurait créé si elle avait été permise de vivre.
commonpeople1: (Default)
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman, The Forever War, 1974
Many consider this to be one of the finest science-fiction novels ever written, and I can see why. Haldeman, a Vietnam war veteram, originally intended the novel to be an allegory for Vietnam; but years have gone by and the novel now works as an allegory for all of America's foreign incursions, in particular the disastrous war in Iraq. However, this novel is more than just about war: it's about life between and after war for soldiers - their sense of loss and displacement when they return to their homes and find no support; it's about the lives of women and men in the army, the relationships they form (and so quickly lose), and the politics attached to them.

I could write a whole essay on homosexuality as it appears in The Forever War. In the future, with the planet enduring a massive population explosion, the government imposes a "homosocial" law. Homosexuality is at first highly encouraged, then enforced. Finally, men and women are hatched to be the best soldiers they can be, as well as 100% queer. It's Sparta all over again, but with space ships. The narrator, one of the only heterosexuals left in humanity, experiences ostracism, prejudice, funny looks, etc, because he's an eccentric, with unusual tastes. It's not as black & white as it sounds; Haldeman delivers a lot of his ideas through humor, or as the fabric in the more general plot about Earth's war against an alien civilization. Coupled with some gorgeous writing, it makes for a very entertaining read.
commonpeople1: (Steven Lubin)

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, 2004
Marjane Satrapi was ten-years-old when the Islamic revolution took away her freedom and rights, thrusting Iran back into the Dark Ages. Through simple but elegant illustrations, Satrapi tells the story of her childhood in Tehran during this time in her country's history. She shows the horrors and deprivations caused by the rise of religious extremists, as well as the bitter humour and courage that each ordinary citizen found to survive such a period.

The amazing thing about this graphic novel is how Satrapi can convey and stir emotions through illustrations. The themes she explores are universal - families torn apart, innocents persecuted, evil gaining power - but she makes them all the more powerful by injecting her young self's punk humour into the storytelling and making the reader care for her and her family. There's a sequel, which I can't wait to read, as well as a film, which is being touted as 2008's winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

With Iran so often villified in the media, it's good to be reminded that the people in that country are just like you and I: not necessarily the choosers of their regime; and certainly not deserving of any bombs coming their way.
commonpeople1: (Morrissey)
Morrissey points his machine gun at the NME and presses the trigger.

Wouldn't it be sweetly ironic if the NME folded because of Morrissey winning against them in court?

April 2017



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