Seasons

I wonder what it would have been like for an ancient people migrating from an equatorial region and seeing seasons for the first time. Winter would seem like the end of the world…

The trees are dying all around, it’s getting colder and even the sun hides beyond the horizon most of the time. The birds are fleeing, animals are disappearing into hibernation… for someone unprepared, it might have seemed like a worldwide catastrophe, or supernatural evil…

I wonder what myths or religions could have originated in that way…

Love in the Time of Cholera

This was the story of love between many people over a lifetime.

There were so many little nuggets of goodness in this novel that it’s hard to give a general idea of why I liked it. I loved the description of Florintino, and found a lot of myself in him. He was also laughable at times, though, with his ridiculous ideas of love and his determination that bordered on obsession.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of youth and age, and how their views on love differed, but the views that others took of them remained the same–they were kept apart in their youth because they were too young, but in their old age, their families try to keep them apart because they are too old for love!

Fermina has a hard/hot headedness that Florintino refuses to give in to, and it is fun and emotional to read. He is a tireless, endless lover and you can’t help but cheer for him to keep trying.

The kind of love that lets you fall for someone in your youth, and then be unable to forget about them for fifty years, even when they never talk to you or even acknowledge your existence, is difficult to imagine. But Marquez does a great job of giving me an insight, and a hint at what that might feel like.

 

Language is neat

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The ‘sentence’ in that caption, is perfectly clear to young people today (and getting-old types like myself, too), even without the context of the picture. Yet, as little as 20 years ago it would be complete nonsense, and 20 years from now it will probably rejoin the incomprehensible. But we also have classics written hundreds of years of go that people still read with complete clarity today, and books written today that would be easily understood by people of centuries past.

It’s like we have two languages, one solid and long lasting, and another ephemeral and ever-changing. The second language experiments, invents and changes–while the main language stays as strong as it can. This allows us to maintain comprehensibility over the generations, while still allowing for evolution–since the best words created by the second language will make it into the main language eventually.

Creating new words is fascinating and cool to watch–but changing current words kind of grinds my gears. I know everyone on the internet and their moms and dogs have all had their say about how dumb it is that ‘literally’ now literally means figuratively, because people used it hyperbolically so often. The problem with this is that instead of creating a new word, we lost a word. Because ‘literally’ no longer means ‘I am not exaggerating or being metaphorical but am actually saying this.’ Now it means ‘maybe I mean this, maybe I don’t. You have to guess by the context.’ We have lost a word for that situation where we want to make it clear we are being literal. We still have ‘actually’ but who knows how long that will last. ‘Literally’ has lost its hyperbolic power, so now people might start saying “I laughed so hard I actually died.”

A similar thing happened to ‘begs the question,’ which people say when they mean ‘raises the question.’ Though, this was not due to being hyperbolic, but to people trying to sound smart and not knowing the meaning of what they were saying.

This kind of ‘change by misuse’ irritates me. But what can you do? Just be irritated, I guess!

 

 

Exploring

Writing a story based in a city I’ve never been in is interesting, and fun. I wonder how writers did it before the age of the internet. I can drop down into the streets and virtually walk them to get a feel for the city. I can look up bars and restaurants and read reviews and see pictures. Some even have virtual tours.

I have a feeling writers of the past had to be much more social than I do. They probably had to seek out people who’d been there and have conversations with them, pull out details, encourage descriptions of smells and sounds and ambiance.

Sounds like a lot of trouble!

Orlando, by Virginia Woolf

Orlando tells the story of an English nobleman living during the reign of Elizabeth I. At the age of 30 he mysteriously turns into a woman, then lives on for 300 further years. He is an aspiring writer and poet, and meets many people over his/her life.

At the start of the book, he falls in love with a Russian princess, Sasha, who then abandons him on the night they are to elope. The descriptions of his love for her were so detailed and identifiable that I thought sure they would end up together again somehow. I was a bit disappointed at the end when they did not. I thought the story was to be about how love endures over time and regardless of gender, and I imagined that they’d meet again when Orlando was a woman, and still love each other even though he had become she.

The book did not go that route though. Orlando travels through time always working on her poem, The Oak Tree, and meeting various people. In the end she meets and instantly marries a sea captain by the name of Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine (???) who, although he dresses like a woman sometimes, is still a man. I was slightly disappointed that she ended up marrying normally, and marrying a fairly normal man, as was expected of her, and it seems a sort of mild end to an otherwise ‘out there’ novel.

Though it lost me a bit at the end, I enjoyed it a lot. The writing was very clever and I laughed quite a few times.

Going to the Eclipse

I will see the total eclipse on the 21st! I will have to sleep in my car and drive for many hours, but I will see it!

I’ve never seen one, and can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for ancient peoples who had no idea what was going on. I’m sure total eclipses spawned religions like meat draws hornets…

The fear, the awe, the beauty… all of it combined must have driven people mad thinking the world was over. What did they do in those minutes of darkness?

Maybe I’ll find out next week…

Mind games

I’ve started reading ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse, mainly because the title made me think of go. The story features a fictional game that is very abstract and deals with concepts and ideas as the ‘pieces’. The players are intellectual elites who use pieces of knowledge or pieces of culture to play their games. The opening of the book is a history of the game’s origins and evolution to its current state, in the future world of the novel.

This opening, detailing a fictional future world where intellect and the mind are valued, made me wish our world could be like that. Thinking and knowledge for the sake of it, for the improvement of your own self and your understanding of the world–is not ‘in fashion’ anymore in our world. Knowledge and intellect are valued only as much as they can be used to make money or increase power. Philosophy is laughed at, the arts are considered a waste of time, history is viewed as a political tool, music is for selling tickets.

Can we return to an age of thought and reason and imagination and introspection? It’s what our species does best–what makes us stand out from the other animals. Let’s not let it fall away in favor of fighting and destruction.