Amateur philosopher, deep but impatient thinker, not much time on my hands, exremely opinionated on certain subjects (America, dog food, pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, math education ....)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Different Sort of Book Review

If you read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and someone asks you, “Is it a good book?” you will not know how to answer this question. Recently asked this question, regarding this book, by my husband, I was compelled to take a good ten minutes to answer. Not an answer full of effusive, superlative praise, but rather an answer that attempted to catch something of the incredible range of emotions I went through while reading the book.

Imagine it is a sunny day. You are on a lake in a boat drifting gently toward one end of the lake. You have few, if any, cares. There are a few fluffy white clouds, a warm, gentle breeze. If is neither too hot nor too cold and no insects mar your experience. You are comfortable, neither tired nor keyed up, but rather you are relaxed, alert and at complete ease. This is what reading the average (perhaps even the very good) book feels like.

Now imagine you reach the end of the lake and drift gently (you are still in your little rowboat) into a stream which drains the lake. Though you are perhaps somewhat surprised to find yourself in a new place, you don’t mind so very much. After all, it is still relaxing, it is still tranquil. (And you are still reading your book – perhaps now the story has taken an unexpected twist: if you had planned to put the book down in another page or two to see about making dinner, you might now readjust the pillow behind your back and decide that dinner can wait another half hour while you see what happens next).

But now let us assume that while your gaze was directed up at the clouds, floating gently downstream, your mind recalling perhaps an amusing, touching story, you suddenly become aware of a rushing sound in your ears. You look around and discover the gentle stream has become a swift-moving river. There are small rapids here and there because the landscape is changing. You take hold of the oars, intending to turn around because this isn’t what you were expecting at all. You desired tranquility and peace and a pleasurable experience. If adventure was a part of the afternoon, you meant for it to be safe.

But it is too late. The stream moves even faster than when you first found yourself to be in this unexpected situation. You look around rather helplessly. You have never come this way before. You are quite sure there are no massive waterfalls, but even of this you cannot be completely certain. The quality of the day, the time of day, (dinner) is forgotten, as you start to realize you are quite at the mercy of the stream. And, now, your yoga training kicks in and you realize surrendering to what IS, as what IS cannot be changed, is the wisest course, because you may as well as live this experience and enjoy it, as you are having this experience, whether you like it or not.

By now, the stream is a pounding river. The rapids turn your little rowboat to odd angles, lifting it high only to bring it crashing back down again, and now you abandon the oars, dropping them in your little boat. You grip the sides of the boat, plant your feet and surrender to the ride. Despite yourself, you are having starting to have fun, and it is exhilarating. You wonder where you’ll end up, finding you don’t attach a great deal of importance to the outcome.

Welcome, gentle readers. You are reading Lolita.

This describes my feelings until well past half-way through the book, when a single sentence prevented me from picking up the book for two whole days. Then, like the compulsive, out-of-control read that it is, you simply must pick it up again. You have to know how it will all come out.

How can an author so brilliantly evoke all this? How can an author create a narrator who is (from at least my own experience) the most egomaniacal individual ever created – living, dead, fictional, or real. A character you want so much to hate, and whom you often do, but mostly you are amused, and simultaneously you are horrified. You revile him. You sympathize with him. You understand him. You so completely fail to understand him. He is pathetically predictable yet impossible to figure out because he is so maddeningly complex. His monstrous ego does not prevent him from making up words in order to appeal to the reader’s sensibilities. Despite this massive ego, I think it is truly important to him that we understand his story, suggesting the narrator has some humility.

And so it goes until the final page. And when you finally close the book and your spouse asks, “Was it good?”, you answer in the manner I have because the book’s genius demands it. When they next ask, “Do you think I would enjoy it?”, you answer this question the only way you can, too: you’ll have to read it for yourself. That is Lolita.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ikea ruled the day

I found the shelves I was looking for and some bed linens - ohmigosh they're beautiful. The duvet cover has those old German-style buttons on it; they're fabric-covered, indistinguishable from the bed linens I inherited from my grandmother, real German bed linens 40 or 50 years old. And white. Pure white. Just like bed linens ought to be. Gorgeous. So I had to buy a set. So, a very successful afternoon shopping with a friend, together with iced tea in her back yard afterwards.

Big Behemoth Ikea or stay at home?

What will it be this afternoon? I really need to get some shelves to organize my basement. The day before I hauled 420 kg of concrete and clay tiles to the dump, we hauled a pickup truck full of stuff from the basement to the dump. We cleaned out all the shelves on one wall of the basement, took down the shelves (they were so saggy they were embarassing) and, as I said, got rid of a lot of stuff at the dump, but there is a lot that needs to be gone through more thoroughly, and either shredded (old EATON's statements -- yes, the now-defunct department store which has been defunct for about five years, old phone bills, etc.) or reorganized, and I can't do that very well at all since I have no shelves. So, it's off to Ikea. I think. Maybe. Thing is, fortuitously, both my afternoon students cancelled, so I have this ocean of time to do something with.

And I'm not going to quit blogging. I have made too many wonderful friends this way. Who knows what surprise is in store next?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Alive & Kicking & we finally have a summer

I am still considering quitting blogging. I like it. I really do. It's just that I'm now working half-time because the kids are out of school (not my kids, I don't have any, just kids -- students -- in general) and I still don't have any time to get all the things done I want to. I've also started journalling again (you remember what that is ... pen, paper, notebooks; yes, I AM a bit of a neo-luddite) and that takes a good 1/2 hour to 1 hour per day. I'm playing more piano and making great strides and tutoring, and leaving a little time for hubby in there, and it just doesn't leave much time for anything else. Sigh.

But I miss you all. I was surprised to see a comment from Chandira today. Don't even know when you left it it's been so long since I've blogged.

Well, we've got summer on the go, though. It's been beautiful weather, and a combination diet change and lots of walking has resulted in nine lost pounds. Yay! I still have a ways to go but I already feel so much better.

Not much to report other than what you see above. In-between yoga sessions right now; they don't start up again until next Thursday (i.e., not tomorrow, but a week tomorrow), and am looking forward to getting going with them again.

Oh, here's some news. The other day, I hauled all those bricks and tiles I pulled up in the backyard, like 1 1/2 months ago, to the dump. 420 kg worth; for my American friends, that's about a tonne. Yeah, no wonder I'm losing weight, right? All within a couple of feet of a wasp's nest. It turns out though, that wasps are good pests, and so I accorded them some respect and worked cautiously, and it was all good. They didn't sting me, though I had the feeling the longer I was there, the angrier they became. A nice guy dumping some stuff next to me helped me unload about half of my haul. That was nice because it was very hot. The cool shower I took when I got home never felt so good! Now, lots more gardening as I plan to plant about four trees and do some other major work.

Until soon, again, I hope.