Recommended Reading, or, the stuff that’s usually in my school bag

Yesterday I only had one class, but having to sit in the train for four hours, I always bring along far more books than neccesary, simply to be able to read some good books in the train. As a result, I always have three to four books in my schoolbag that have nothing to do with psychology (my main course at university.) , and -on top of that-  a journal and a notebook for short stories. It used to be worse, i used to have a larger bag and dragged along five to six non-psychology books. of course, my bag consequently is way too heavy so that i get shoulderaches and backaches, but I don’t mind :). 
In the picture you can see what I drag along to Amsterdam on a regular day :). I’d recommend all six of these books to you, they’re great:

       1) my notebook for my short fantasy stories (I called it “The Fantastic Tales/ Fantastiska Berättelser/ Fantastische verhalen). A friend of mine used a similar moleskine notebook, and that inspired me to write my short fantasy stories in such a notebook. All you need as a writer is a good notebook and a great fountain pen.

      2) even though this “the popular ballads of Lucky Fonz III” looks like a book, this is actually my organizer. I made its cover resemble an old book cover, using an online version of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads (a.k.a. the Child Ballads) as a template. One day a university librarian mistook it for a library book, that made me very happy. Lucky Fonz III , who you can see on the cover, is an amazing Amsterdam singer-songwriter.
     
       3) my journal. I used to keep my journal in the same notepad which I also used for keeping notes and writing short stories, but that made me need a new notepad every week, and i think writing your thoughts in a beautiful journal gives you a greater awareness of the fact that your thoughts are worthwhile.
      
     4) Sylvia Plath’s poetry collection Crossing the Water , from my university library.Though I don’t think that the quality of a university depends entirely on its library, but I do think that a large library is a great asset for a university.
      
       5) Ingmar Bergman’s Scener ur ett Äktenskap (also from the university library)  Bergman is my hero, and I think he single-handedly lifted dialogue writing for films to a whole new level, because his film dialogues are profound, powerful and yet very cinematic and direct.  It’s in Swedish of course 🙂 such amazing works should be read in the original language 🙂
     
       6) St. Augustine’s Confessions, my dad found this lovely old copy in the library of a pastor friend of his, who was giving away all of his books. It has both the latin text and a dutch translation, so reading it also improves my latin, and I love the old-fashioned dutch it uses. Saint Augustine says a lot of very true and insightful things and there is a tremendous amount of wisdom and gorgeous poetry in this book, though I do not agree with everything he says, such as his very platonic mindset as well as his misanthropy.   (hums Kevin Max with “Angel with no wings” “So come on  back when you can make some tea/ and read St. Augustine”. yep. that’s me. )

      These I dragged along to Amsterdam yesterday morning,  along with  two notepads and this little booklet about writing psychology papers (number 10 and 11).

         But after class I visited my best friend, we had a great time and walked around in the city where she lives a little, and we ended up in our favorite second-hand bookstore, and I found some real treasures there :). That’s why I came home with 6 non-psychology books, instead of the 3 I’d left home with :).

      7) E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Märchen : wonderfully weird fairytales.
    
      8  ) Bulfinch’s Mythology.
      
      9) George MacDonald’s Lilith : Finding this book made me go “sqeee!”, cuz I’ve been looking for this dutch translation everywhere for a few years now, since I found this dutch version of Phantastes. The title Phantastes is translated as “Droomwereld”, literally “dream world”. These dutch translations were published in 1974 and 1975 (though they were written in the 19th century) so they’re wonderfully hippie-esque, and you can tell that their covers are inspired by Harry Clarke‘s art. They’re so pretty !! Like all of George MacDonald’s books, they’re quite unique, unusual and enchanting.

In addition to its sense of history, one of the things I like best about this copy is that it apparently was a present given to someone in 1976 , cuz on the third page the following is written:

How cool is it that it says “Voor Guusje, van Ab”? ( FYI: that means “To Guusje, from Ab”; Guusje is a girl’s name.)  That tiny inscription is just an entire story in itself. It makes you wonder “who were those people? What happened to them? He must have liked her, you can tell by the little flower doodle.” A second-hand book with its inscriptions, dedications, scribbles in the margins and stains often is a text in itself, and that’s why you can’t help liking second-hand books a  lot.

So, though I dont recommend carrying way too many books around as well,  I highly recommend you try browsing through your local second-hand bookstore every now and then 🙂

take care.
    

…this is why the Bodleian must be the best library on earth.

…this is why I think the Bodleian library must be the best library on earth: as Bibliodyssey pointed out today, this wonderful Oxford library has made a proportion of its manuscript images available to the general public : http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/medievalimages/. If you love medieval and renaissance manuscripts, this is a must-see. As you may have noticed,  I’m extremely fond of anything medieval, and especially of miniatures and bestiaries, and I think it’s wonderful that the Bodleian allows the general public all over the world to see some of the treasures it has aquired throughout the ages. There is a lot of history, beauty and wonder to be discovered on that site.    

(the library stamp was found in this google-books version of Crofton-Croker’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. The inscription reads “Dominus Illuminatio Mea” which means “The Lord is my light”, the motto of the university of Oxford.) 

a medieval legend about St. Augustine.

 by Benezzo Gozzoli

The more you read St. Augustine’s books, the more you become a fan of his: The Confessions are quite amazing and I can’t wait to read his other works.
On a less canonical note, in that gorgeous 15th century book of saints’  lives by Jacobus de Voragine, called Legenda Aurea or The Golden Legend, an amazing story about St. Augustine is found. Taken from http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/golden259.htm this book was translated by William Caxton, the first English printer. You may perhaps find the style old-fashioned, but I didnt have the heart to change anything about it.

Many other miracles hath God showed by his life, and also after his death, which were overlong to write in this book, for they would, I suppose, contain a book as much as all this and more, but among other corrections, I will set herein one miracle, which I have seen painted on an altar of Saint Austin at the black frirs at Antwerp, howbeit I find it not in the legend, mine exemplar, neither in English, French, ne in Latin. It was so that this glorious doctor made and compiled many volumes, as afore is said, among whom he made a book of the Trinity, in which he studied and mused sore in his mind, so far forth that on a time as he went by tbe sea-side in Africa, studying on theTrinity, he found by the sea-side a little child which had made a little pit in the sand, and in his hand a little spoon. And with the spoon he took out water of the large sea and poured it into the pit. And when Saint Augustin beheld him he marvelled, and demanded him what he did. And he answered and said: I will lade out and bring all this water of the sea into this pit. What? said he, it is impossible, how may it be done, sith the sea is so great and large, and thy pit and spoon so little? Yes, forsooth, said he, I shall lightlier and sooner draw all the water of the sea and bring it into this pit than thou shalt bring the mystery of the Trinity and his divinity into thy little understanding as to the regard thereof; for the mystery of the Trinity is greater and larger to the comparison of thy wit and brain than is this great sea unto this little pit. And therewith the child vanished away. Then here may every man take ensample that no man, and especially simple lettered men, ne unlearned, presume to intermit ne to muse on high things of the godhead, farther than we be informed by our faith, for our only faith shall suffice us.

Left-wing art?

Accusing all modern art of being left-wing probably doesn’t get us very far. What might be more useful is to ask whether there is a dominant consensus when it comes to political attitudes in modern art today.
Full article here

Thanks to Paul for telling me about this article.
The issue is somewhat close to my heart as ALL ART HERE IN CHILE is in the hand of Left wingers. When I say Left wingers I mean Socialists (and some Communists) more than anything else. The reason for this is simple. Right wingers in Chile supported Pinochet’s regime. And Pinochet was against art of course (theatre, music – which during this time was called “the new song” and spoke of social equality… ever heard of Victor Jara?). During the regime the left wingers were the ones to break curfew and hold clandestine meetings and make clandestine art. And that tradition pretty much continues till now…

So… is this the best way to make art? To let art be in the hand of just one segment of society? I’d have to ponder that one. The thing is I am sooo used to seeing the Left wingers have all the artistic ideas that I cannot envision the Chilean right making art.

I’m also left-wing in case you’re wondering, but I’m stuck somewhere at the “gates” of the left-wing if you know what I mean. Not in the left-wing forest. =)

Note. When I refer to Right vs. Left I really don’t mean conservatives vs. liberals as in Republicans vs. Democrats because the way we Latinos see it, Democrats and Republicans in the US are pretty much two sides of the same “conservative” coin, which is just the US being the US and making politics. In Chile there is a huge gap between the left and right.

Lauren Winner discusses Sex and Christianity

I mean seriously, how hard is it to accept that sex outside of marriage spoils the original intent of sex? Over at Bohemian Alien, we’re no prudes… the issue has nothing to do with decorum or packaged clichés Christianity may have fed you from birth. It is a matter of reading the New Testament and abiding God’s law which as Lauren Winner states:

… (life lived inside the contours of God’s law) humanizes us and makes us beautiful. It makes us creatures living well in the created order. It gives us the opportunity to become who we are meant to be.

Lauren Winner makes a fine point in this article.

However the reader’s comments leave you shaking your head. At least I shook my head.

Afterthought: So, were does that leave kissing or other types of demonstrations of affection? I believe moderation is the key.

Of course, in today’s very sexual/sexed-up society, maintaining your resolve to lead a chaste life (until the time comes to party!) may be at times, extremely difficult. Yet not impossible. So, I ask myself, why does everyone look for excuses to justify behavior that 1) in the light of scripture if you’re a fundamentalist hard-core Christian is unjustifiable and 2) if you’re one of those laissez faire, laissez passer type Christians -umm… which I would not recommend – then how about the very simple fact that sex is a powerful force, the ultimate act of love between two individuals that want to unite as one (so much as they can inside the physical realm) and this union, far from being a sporting event, is a union that probably has repercussions in the spiritual realm (Mathew 14.6)? Shouldn’t this simple reasoning be enough to wait? To save the good stuff till marriage?

Why does dating necessarily imply sex? Even for Christians? I really don’t get it.

I mean come on… when did virtues such as chastity, virginity become a thing to be ashamed of…? And best not discussed, not even in Churches (among all those other topics that churches don’t/won’t discuss…)?

Seriously…

And finally, a quote from the movie Bicentennial Man in which the character of Andrew Hardy (Robin Williams) says regarding sex:

That you can lose yourself. Everything. All boundaries. All time. That two bodies can become so mixed up, that you don’t know who’s who or what’s what. And just when the sweet confusion is so intense you think you’re gonna die… you kind of do. Leaving you alone in your separate body, but the one you love is still there. That’s a miracle. You can go to heaven and come back alive. You can go back anytime you want with the one you love.

T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” and a children’s book illustration

from lambiek.net

it is a little early for this, but this poem by T.S. Eliot, written in 1927, is one of my favorite poems. I think it is one of the poems in the English language, and it is one of the poems that comes back to me every cold and wintry morning when I cycle to university.

The picture above is an illustration by Eppo Doeve  from an amazing 1962 children’s book (or comic book, depending on your definition of comic book), called Kleine Isar, de Vierde Koning  (“Little Isar, the Fourth King”). It was written by the dutch poet Bertus Aafjes; unfortunately it has never been translated into english and is horribly out of print.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the T.S. Eliot poem.  

Journey of the Magi  

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly. 

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening,
not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory 
 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way forBirth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death. 

When life suddenly becomes ironic and people dear to our hearts become a letdown

 

(Dorothy) Sayers’s frustrations in young adulthood were exacerbated by crises in her personal life.
One of the most traumatic incidents was her relationship with writer John Cournos.

They met in 1921 and Sayers became deeply committed to him. Cournos claimed to oppose marriage and having children on principle, but was willing to be Sayers’s lover if they used contraception. She refused, ending the affair in 1922 because she desired marriage and despised the anxieties of a clandestine relationship: “One can’t be ecstatic about something which involves telling lies to one’s charwoman!” (1:222)

Cournos had also scorned detective stories, even as Sayers was beginning to write them. She was thus wounded deeply to learn in 1924 that he had wed an American detective writer with two children.

Her letters to him following this discovery are the most poignant in these volumes, not only because of the specific suffering Cournos had caused Sayers, but also because these missives were one of the rare times that she gave full expression to her emotions.”

Touchstone Magazine, Article “Mind of a Maker” by Adam Schwartz – 2000, re-print 2007