history and literature

Chetan Jeevan (Conscious Life)
  • Chetan Jeevan (Conscious Life)
  • Nitin Sawhney
  • Human
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The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable, of what has been expelled from the land of language, removed as a result of ancient prohibitions. The unconscious speaks – in dreams, in verbal slips, in sudden associations – with borrowed words, stolen symbols, linguistic contraband, until literature redeems these territories and annexes them to the language of the waking world.

Italo Calvino in The Uses of Literature

Song: “Chetan Jeevan (Conscious Life)” by Nitin Sawhney

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My Bartoli…I don’t know how to write love letters.  But I wanted to tell you that my whole being opened for you. Since I fell in love with you everything is transformed and is full of beauty…. love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain.  You know, my sky, you rain on me and I, like the earth, receive you.

Frida Kahlo’s newly discovered love letters to Spanish artist Jose Bartoli. Compare and contrast with her passionate love letters to Diego Rivera.

Complement with this wonderful picture-book about Kahlo’s life of love and art.

For more beautiful love letters, see those of Vladimir Nabokov, Margaret Mead, Franz Kafka, Oscar Wilde, Violet Trefusis, and Mozart.

The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf—that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie. Perhaps it should be.
—  In her cover essay on silencing women in the October 2014 issue of Harper’s, Rebecca Solnit once again proves that she is one of our era’s greatest essayist – further evidence here and here.
I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent—and when you don’t, panic sets in. The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.
— 

Malcolm Gladwell on overcoming writer’s block – a fine addition to our ongoing archive of advice on writing. And wisdom from more famous artists, writers, and designers

( Longreads)

Ever finished a book? I mean, truly finished one? Cover to cover. Closed the spine with that slow awakening that comes with reentering consciousness?

You take a breath, deep from the bottom of your lungs and sit there. Book in both hands, your head staring down at the cover, back page or wall in front of you.

You’re grateful, thoughtful, pensive. You feel like a piece of you was just gained and lost. You’ve just experienced something deep, something intimate… Full from the experience, the connection, the richness that comes after digesting another soul.

[…]

It’s no surprise that readers are better people. Having experienced someone else’s life through abstract eyes, they’ve learned what it’s like to leave their bodies and see the world through other frames of reference. They have access to hundreds of souls, and the collected wisdom of all them.

— 

Beautiful read on why readers are, “scientifically,” the best people to date

Perhaps Kafka’s timeless contention that books are “the axe for the frozen sea inside us” applies equally to the frozen sea between us. 

Don’t worry about being original, she said dismissively. Yes, everything’s been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible.
— 

Alexander Chee reminisces about studying with the inimitable Annie Dillard, who echoes Mark Twain’s contention that “all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, Alexander Graham Bell’s assertion that “our most original compositions are composed exclusively of expressions derived from others,” and young Virginia Woolf’s observation that “all the Arts … imitate as far as they can the one great truth that all can see.”

Chee’s full essay is well worth the read. Pair with Annie Dillard on writing.

You should read the book that you see someone on the train reading and trying to hide that they’re laughing.

You should read the book that you see someone on the train reading and trying to hide that they’re crying.

You should read the book you find in your grandparents’ house that’s inscribed “To Ray, all my love, Christmas 1949.”

You should read books mentioned in other books.

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Over at The Millions, Janet Potter, who has worked in bookstores all over the world for more than a decade, responds to Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime and similar rankings with a beautiful blueprint to the reading life.

Pair with Joseph Brodsky on how to develop your taste in reading.