Tuesday, May 13, 2014

island reads II: "The End of Your Life Book Club" + "Talayot" + life without books

Having time to read... that was one of the great joys of the island time. I blogged about my island reads here already: island reads: "On Looking", "Road of... ", "Galapagos",  Munro + more . And here is the second part of the island reads:

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
A book about books- about the way books can "comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world." And also: a reflection on life, choices, and on dying. Here are some quotes:

“That's one of the amazing things great books like this do - they don't just get you to see the world differently, they get you to look at people, the people all around you, differently.”

“We're all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

After finishing the book I looked for an interview with the author, and found one that is both about the book and about life: books for better living - 5 Questions for Will Schwalbe  - his note on books made me think of the Joan Didion quote, that we tell ourselves stories in order to live: "The book club also allowed us to tackle painful and difficult subjects—big topics like death and courage and loneliness. Books gave us a way to talk about those subjects obliquely, not head-on. We could talk about them by talking about characters in books who were dealing with similar issues."

It's a book that moved me, and made me ponder. It's not so much about the single book-club-books themselves, rather about the conversations about them, and about dealing with difficult times. One of the books mentioned is a Buddhist book on Mindfulness: "Coming to Our Senses", another is "Daily Strength for Daily Needs", an inspirational book with bible quotes. They read Didion, too - "The Year of Magical Thinking". And yet another is: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" - for Will's mother, it is a book about a strong woman. Which she is herself, too - working for UN refugee projects, travelling to desperate places, and helping to get a library built in Afghanistan. It made me think of all the places where there literally are no books. Where many can't read. Of life, without books.


Talayot by Maike Hempel

The second book, "Talayot", is a book i especially picked especially for the island i went to: Mallorca has a rich history that reaches back to Neolithic times - to the time of the Talayot culture, with tribes living in early settlements. Nothing is left of them but the stone buildings, and some artifacts. But none of their stories survived. There's no book, no carved wall, no wall painting. Nothing.

In her book "Talayot", the German author Maike Hempel tries to bring back that time, weaving the real places into a story that is told in flashbacks, and merges the now and the past.

I visited one of the Talayot places in a previous stay, and reading about the other places was fascinating - it made me go and visit a second spot, and a museum. And altogether, it made the past of the island more present. Will try to do that more often: to look for books set in the place i travel to.


And 3 more links and notes...

The Didion quote on stories: 
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be 'interesting' to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest's clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely... by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria — which is our actual experience.”

Book List
I just saw that that there is this goodreads-list: The End of Your Life Book Club - Discussed Books

To tell the stories.. 
And then there was.. the story of an author going to Jordan, to help in the refugee camps, and more so, to tell the stories of the refugees who arrived there, fleeing from war:  Neil Gaiman is in Jordan right now. He blogs about it here, and writes: "I landed in Jordan late this afternoon. I'm in my hotel right now. I'll be up for a 6 am pick-up -- I need to be at the camp for bread distribution, first thing in the morning. ... I was invited to come out here by UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency - with the purpose of making one or more short films, telling stories and writing articles that draw attention to what's going on in refugee camps. They've created a web page at http://donate.unhcr.org/neilgaiman so that people can follow on and see what's happening."


Currently Reading + More Reads:

For 2014, i didn't join a specific reading challenge, but i try to read books / authors from different countries and continents, and also follow the “readwomen2014” initiative. Here’s more about it: 2014 - year of reading women

For more reading notes in this blog, click here: life as a journey with books- and a reading list by regions is online at: World Reads by country

Other book blog and their current reads: It's Monday! What are you reading? (join by blogging and adding your link)

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