Friday, August 22, 2014

Reading the World: from New York to Berlin, with stopovers in Chile, Antigua, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka...

This summer, I am taking a trip around the world in short stories (more here: reading the missing parts of the world). The current destinations are: the Granta "Travel" issue, the New Yorker Fiction Podcast, and a Berlin collection.

Granta Travel
Published in summer 2013, the Granta travel collection is refreshing and different, offering unusual places, and an unusual stories. Here's the official note:
"From the Amazon to rural China, west Texas to the caves that lurk beneath the Peak District, this issue of Granta takes you out of your chair and out into the world. Haruki Murakami goes home to Kobe, Teju Cole meditates on danger in Lagos and Lina Wolff imagines a woman adrift in Madrid. Here are eighteen collisions between people and the places that have made them, shaped them and terrified them."
And here's the online page with excerpts of several of the stories and additional texts: Granta Travel


The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
It was during one of my online searches for international short stories that I arrived at the New Yorker Fiction Podcast page. I almost klicked away, then tried one of the podcasts - and then returned there several times. Such a great format and series. The podcast include both the stories and a talk about them. Here are some of the international talks / stories, with extra links:

New Zealand
Miranda July reads Janet Frame's short story “Prizes
"Life is hell but at least there are prizes. Or so one thought..." (Janet Frame Blog)

Edwidge Danticat  reads 2 stories by Jamaica Kincaid: "Girl” and “Wingless
"Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun;..." (story + interview with J. Kincaid)

Francisco Goldman reads Roberto Bolaño’s short story “Clara"
"Sometimes, when I’m alone and can’t get to sleep but don’t feel up to switching on the light, I think of Clara, who came in second in that beauty contest..." (& a user's guide to Bolano)

Hisham Matar reads “Shakespeare’s Memory” by Jorge Luis Borges
"This story, which is one of the last that Borges wrote, is a meditation on the mind, understanding, and inspiration—and it draws on the author’s deep erudition..."

Jonathan Safran Foer reads Amos Oz’s “The King of Norway”
"Zvi Provizor loved to convey bad news: earthquakes, plane crashes, buildings collapsing on their occupants, fires, and floods. He read the papers and listened to all the news broadcasts very early in the morning... (story link)


Berlin Metropole 
Parallel to the Granta Travel collection, i am reading a Berlin collection - this is another of the surprise treats telephone book box. The collection was published in 1999, and features stories and essays from the re-united and new / old capital Berlin, and was very timely back then with stories on Berlin turning to a huge building site, and the shift of the capital from Bonn back to Berlin, covering moments and views from the German reunification in 1990 to the capital shift that happened in 1999.

Unfortunately, there is no online page for the book, and no english versions of the stories. So no direct links to share from it, but it made me go and revisit my own memories of being in Berlin: "Four Berlins, or: I am (t)here"


The New Yorker Fiction Archive
And more reads, leading from Berlin back to New York and onwards: listening to the New Yorker Podcast and following the links included, I arrived in Haiti and Sri Lanka, in Ethiopia and Norway:

Edwidge Danticat: "Ghosts"
"Pascal Dorien was living in Bel Air—the Baghdad of Haiti, some people called it, but that would be Cité Pendue, an even more destitute and brutal neighborhood, where hundreds of middle-school children entering a national art contest drew M-16s and beheaded corpses. Bel Air was actually a mid-level slum.."

Sri Lanka
Romesh Gunesekra: "Roadkill"
"The first night I stayed in Kilinochchi I was a little apprehensive. Most of us living in the south of Sri Lanka had come to think of this town as the nerve center of terror..."

Dinaw Mengestu: "The Paper Revolution"
"When Isaac and I first met, at the university, we both pretended that the campus and the streets of the capital were as familiar to us as the dirt paths of the rural villages where we had grown up and lived until only a few months earlier..."

Karl Ove Knausgaard: "Come Together"
"I was almost twelve years old, going into the fifth year of barneskole..."


Links + More

Reading the world:  the collected list of stories is online here: global reading, and a note on the reading journey can be found here:  reading the (missing parts of) the world 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

links that touched me: august 2014

When I come across an interesting link / video / story that touches me, I often copy the link to blog about it at a later point. Yet by then, there's already another interesting link that is waiting... to keep the links from vanishing unblogged, I started this "links-that-touched-me" series. Here's the next part:

Previous links:
- July 2014: look in the mirror, 61 things...
- June 2014: travel is, Slowalk, real words
- May 2014: Perspectives, ISS, Poetry Storehouse
- March 2014: Kerouac, shipping yard, film fatales,Hiding, Guardian Film Show
- February 2014: transforming problems, noticing thejourney, poetry podcast
- January 2014: stop saying, when i was, worstpasswords, windows, why dieting....

Monday, August 18, 2014

from modern art ... to ancient celtic ways

after the art short trip to "Cool Places", i made a counterpart trip on Sunday, both by direction and theme: i went to the Alb Plateau, and visited the "Heidengraben".

it's a place where once, a Celtic group had built a settlement, one of the largest and oldest of the region.
i've been to before once, in winter, and first didn't find it. now it was easier.

there's a celtic walkway, which leads around the settlement area in a loop - 
walking the loop would take about 27 Kilometres / 6 hours.

here are some impressions and maps from the web, the first image shows the rather safe and island-like place of the settlement: on the plateau, above a stone cliff:

(here is more on a webpage "Heidengraben" ( in german)

it's always special to walk those ways, knowing that thousands of years ago, people walked there already, so close from here, and so far away in time.

and here's the blog post and an image of the first visit: 2200 years ago, near here

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Meta Cool Places, or: Paintings about painting - an art short trip

At the start of the year, I was in Stuttgart city for some meetings, and knew I might have some spare time at the end of the day before the museums close. In the end, all that remained were 30 minutes. I still went, and what seemed to be just a short art moment at the end of a winter day turned into a rough plan for the year:
"Trying to make space and time for mini-trips and for art - that's what I started in January 2014, and each time, I was glad for it." (Places & Links: art short trips)"

Cool Places

Last week, I was in Stuttgart again, and revisited the same museum, with its new exhibition "Cool Places". The exhibition features paintings that together form a reflection on modern painting, it was rather varied and colorful, with good contrasts, but also a bit abstract. I probably wouldn't have visited if I hadn't been in Stuttgart anyway. But again, I am so glad that I went.

Here are some impressions from the museum, combined with the official introduction - the museum is rather modern in architecture, constructed as a cube made out of cubes. The different rooms and levels open into each other, which creates open connections between the paintings and scultpures on display:

"With "Cool Places", the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart is devoting a large exhibition to important aspects of current painting, ranging from abstract and figurative to conceptual approaches. It includes examples of Neorealism, as well as works influenced by Appropriation Art, Constructivism, and Op-Art."

"On view will be over sixty keyworks, with numerous large scale pieces by Glenn Brown, André Butzer, Günther Förg, Philip Guston, Jeff Koons, Beatriz Milhazes, Albert Oehlen, Neo Rauch, Daniel Richter, Bridget Riley, Julian Schnabel, and Christopher Wool. The selection will be supplemented from sculptures by Glenn Brown, Jeff Koons, and Rebecca Warren, as well as films from Darren Almond that highlight the impact of painterly modes of expression in other media."


Beyond the paintings

While at the exhbition, I enjoyed being there, but felt a bit overwhelmed, too - both by the abstract theme, and by the open space that keeps pulling your attention to the next thing to see, wherever you are.

Also, I felt that the exhibition for me felt a bit too mixed with the different styles and topics, many different painters. But then, you probably need this kind of variety to develop a self reflective meta-theme and its many layers.

A day later, I looked up one of the painters, Bridget Riley, and was fascinated.

I saw some of her work before, and always thought she belonged to the current contemporary group of artists, but she is a pioneer really – and is 80 now! And still working and giving interviews and being part of exhibitions. I was stunned, and read an interview with her. Here is an image collage of Riley's work:

And now I am curious for the other painters, too. So maybe this is an exhibition that grows slower from effect. And good that there is the internet, which makes it possible to continue the exhibition in another way. Just following links to Riley's work brought me to 2 art network webites with blogrolls and exhibition links:

So the Cool Place (which actually is the name of both one of Riley's featured paintings, and of the exhibition itself) now leads to more cool places..

And finally, to follow the series of art selfies I started to take, here's the one from last week:


Friday, August 15, 2014

moody skies

the skies are moody this summer here in Europe: they bring a mix of rain and sun, clouds and wind, with some rare summer-sunny-days in between. it's April weather in August, all over Middle Europe. here are some impressions from this week:

sky watching 

after the rain... before the rain.


More skies in this blog: life as a journey with changing skies

More skies from everywhere: 
skywatch friday
More moody moments from everywhere at photo friday

Have a beautiful sky week ~

Thursday, August 14, 2014

when you are & your life is...

2 quotes to keep, thought of them while walking through the city buzz, and while in an s-train, commuting, with everyone in that in-transit-state:


"When You Are In A Hurry Go Slowly"
(Japanese Proverb)


“Your life is your practice. Your spiritual practice does not occur someplace other than in your life right now, and your life is nowhere other than where you are...
Live the life in front of you, be the life you are, and see what you find out for yourself.”
(Karen Maezen Millar, via mindfulbalance)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reading Lolita in Tehran & In Her Place

Reading right now: a memoir in books, from a place where more and more books were banned, and stories from"In Her Place"

Reading Lolita in Tehran
I haven't read Lolita yet. But if I wanted to, I could go into the next best book shop and order it. And read it. And blog about it. And invite friends to read it together with me. We could organize a public event. And we probably would have to find a way to catch attention for it, in these days of news buzz and scandals.

It's hard to imagine to live in a place where all this is dangerous or impossible. Where books are banned, where reading Lolita is forbidden. Azar Nafisi has been there, in this place. She put her experiences and memories into words, into a book: "Reading Lolita in Tehran" is a mosaic of situations, many of them directly related to novels and stories. The book is moving back and forth in time, it is sorted not by date, but by books, and has four main sections: "Lolita", "Gatsby", "James", and "Austen". And it includes countless thoughtful paragraphs with reflections on books and reading, like this one, from the Gatsby part:
"You don't read Gatsby, I said, to learn whether adultery is good or bad but to learn about how complicated issues such as adultery and fidelity and marriage are. A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil.” 
Nafisi gave the book the subtile: "A memoir in books", and what makes the book so special is that Nafisi is a wanderer between worlds: she lived in the Iran before the revolution, she lived in the US, and she lived in the Iran after the revolution. And was a literary professor at the university of Tehran.
“It is only through literature that one can put oneself in someone else’s shoes and understand the other’s different and contradictory sides and refrain from becoming too ruthless. Outside the sphere of literature only one aspect of individuals is revealed. But if you understand their different dimensions you cannot easily murder them.”
In the book, she tells about the way life changed in Iran, from an open society to a fundamentalist state that cut down one freedom after another, banned books and veiled women, and left more and more people stranded at home, isolated and afraid. At some point, Nafisis started to invite some of her former students to meet up and read together. Which was both a thing that helped them to stay mentally sane, but also had to be kept secret. She notes:
“The novels were an escape from reality in the sense that we could marvel at their beauty and perfection. Curiously, the novels we escaped into led us finally to question and prod our own realities, about which we felt so helplessly speechless.”
To imagine that: reading as a dangerous and forbidden activity.

Azir Nafisi lives in the US now. While reading the book, I also watched an interview with her - or rather a book talk with her. It is about Lolita, about life in a totalitarian state, about her own book, and about novels and the layers of life they include. And how stories are essential to our survival. here's the link: Interview with Azar Nafii, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Altogether, this book summary adds it up beautifully (and painfully): “In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature."

There's s goodreads page with quotes from "Reading..", it includes 4 pages with reflections on reading and books, like this one:
“A novel is not an allegory, I said as the period was about to come to an end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel; you inhale the experience. So start breathing.” 

In Her Place, or: Getting Around
More experiences: Earlier this year, i read a collection of travel stories called "Be There Now". Unfortunately, the anthology doesn't include biographies of the authors or links to their websites, but with the help of Google&co, i found some of the author blogs and links to other stories of the authors - and i found another story collection, one that is online: "In Her Place" - Stories about Women Who Get Around"

Here's their concept: "We recently had a call for submissions and received a huge response by some very talented authors. We read them all and selected a handful of the stories that we felt answered the call: “In what ways does being female affect one’s sense of place, placement, and/or (dis)location?”

So glad I followed links, got around, and arrived there, at this beautiful and thoughtful place. The author that brought me there is "Once in a Lifetime" by Terri Elders, and it is about a rare encounter. The plan now is to follow some more story links, see where they take me. I am still focusing on short stories, trying to read around the globe and visit places I haven't been to before in stories (more about that here: reading the world) - and In Her Place now added Guatemala and Puerto Rico to the map. 

Here are some direct links to stories from "In Her Place":

"Once in a Lifetime" by Terri Elders
"In l990 when I first moved to Antigua, Guatemala, my birder knowledge was…for the birds. Or at least my housemate, Kelly, saw it that way.."

Iraq / Mexico
"¿Cómo Se Dice Gravy?" by Huda Al-Marashi
"You are twenty-one years old. You have a college degree, and you were friends with your husband before you married him. Pull yourself together. Make a good memory for today, and then you can be sad again tomorrow..."

"Ebony has many shades", by Mira Desai
"Aruna’s skin burned, scorching seven layers, as she shaded her eyes and watched the black flecks circle overhead, wingspan spread, almost motionless as they rode invisible air currents. Death birds. Birds of prey..."

"A Popular Passport" by Avra Kouffman
"Try to get comfortable. It’s your first month in eastern Europe and you’re about to take a 14-hour train trip from Moldova to Bucharest, Romania. This overnight journey will be mired in the deepest humidity and where you actually want to go is Ukraine..."

Puerto Rico / Spain
"Spanish Flies" by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro
"In Spain, the flies do not leave, even if you try to scare them, whipping up your hands. They are different from the ones in Puerto Rico, where, at the slightest provocation, the insect flutters its wings and flies away..."


Links + More

Reading the world:  the collected list of stories is online here: global reading, and a note on the reading journey can be found here:  reading the (missing parts of) the world 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

from nature: feather, shine, fly

the new photo friday theme is "From Nature" - a good theme to revisit the photo files of the year and look for some tiny, beautiful moments. here are three:

a tiny feather, caught by a blade of grass 

first petals shining in spring light (that was february)

catching an unexpected fly in the photo

more nature moments: photo friday