Saturday 25 April 2020

Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge is a beautifully written and tender book about a woman, her marriage and the people in her community in coastal Maine. The narrative follows different individuals in each chapter who each try to determine what love looks like in the context of their challenging relationships.

This novel is explores how people recognise and accept love, reject or ignore love, crave it, are repulsed by it, confused or vexed by it, and overwhelmed with it. The characters investigate what it means to feel angry or betrayed by those they love and invested their love in, what it means to have had love and not known how to respond to it, and how loving someone in one way may have caused them a tremendous amount of hurt and baggage. These loves are manifested between husband and wife, friends, siblings, neighbours, strangers, lovers, parents and children.

Some questions:

How do we love people ways that are bad for them?
Is love most acknowledged or felt once it is lost or absent?
Can we forgive the dead for compromising memories of love through betrayals?
Can we forgive the living for loving us in painful ways?
Can we learn to love those we hate?
Can we understand our hate/repulsion as coming from a place of love?
How do we understand our acceptance and endurance of a love that is not respectful or equal?
How can we understand surprising moments when we love without feeling or knowing we are able?
Do we have reserves of love, sympathy and compassion that we are not aware of?
Do we have a finite amount of love or can we always muster more?
How much does our sense of our own "loveability" determine how we are loved or choose to be loved?

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Uses of 'nature'

I've been playing around with the word nature and the malleability of its uses.

Some variations:

- natural world
- it's in my nature
- the nature of this message
- it's only natural / that's not natural
- nature vs. nurture
- naturally / the natural thing to do is...
- natural peanut butter or other products


- wild / of the earth
- essence / personality / soul / temperament / disposition
- characteristic
- understandable
- DNA / genetic makeup
- obviously / obvious
- organic / without artificial additives

Ansel Adams, Rushing Water, Merced River, Yosemite National Park (1955)

Saturday 18 April 2020

Anna Atkins (1799-1871)

Cyanotypes by Anna Atkins, botanist and photographer. 

"English botanical artist, collector and photographer Anna Atkins was the first person to illustrate a book with photographic images...

Anna's self-published her detailed and meticulous botanical images using the cyanotype photographic process in her 1843 book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. With a limited number of copies, it was the first book ever to be printed and illustrated by photography.

Two more volumes were produced between 1843 and 1853. In the volumes held at the Museum there are 411 plates each, with their scientific names handwritten by Anna...

Women were restricted from professionally practicing science for most of the nineteenth century as it was an area dominated by men. Botany, however, was a subject that was accessible to all - in particular botanical art and illustration, which were considered a suitably genteel hobby for women."

- Natural History Museum

Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell

Always love getting lost in Gabrielle Bell's comics... feels like home.

Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other

Sunday 12 April 2020

Writing diaries during the coronavirus outbreak (New Yorker)

Interesting article in the New Yorker... some key points on keeping a diary/journal:

- no audience
- drive toward self-documentation 
- self-chronicler 
- mood regulation
- "weight-training for feelings"

Saturday 11 April 2020

Passages from Deborah Levy's lockdown diaries

To read anything by Deborah Levy is always a deep pleasure that leaves me with a sense of belonging. Here are some snippets from her lockdown diaries published in the Guardian

"I am trying to keep cheerful for both my daughters – the oldest lives away from home. Yet they both tell me they are nervous by how eerily calm I am about becoming ill with Covid-19. It seems, they say, that I have accepted the possibility that I will die, and they would prefer it if I freaked out more. After all, temporary morgues are being built around the country. Later, when I Google a recipe for shortbread with my younger daughter, the words that come up at the top of the search are “short of breath”."

"The opera singer downstairs is practising an aria. Colleagues who teach are having to do so online. Zoom seems to be the technology of choice; their students are now scattered all over the world, so they have to agree on a time zone that works for everyone. I hear from friends in Paris that a baby racoon is sleeping on their fire escape."

"The stereotype that we are a reserved nation who don’t very much like to touch each other seems to have blown out the window. Social distancing feels like unlearning every muscle memory in my body."

"We will have to investigate the magic of the universe from home."

"I have seen the best minds of my generation lost to Netflix."

"Spent the day watching Tiger King on Netflix. Nothing will tear me away from Joe Exotic and his big cats."

"“Flattening the curve” is now a familiar everyday phrase. It goes to show that you don’t have to have a PhD in art history to understand an abstract image."