Saturday, November 27, 2010


(Do I translate this? I think I have to.)

This is a very familiar game. We're conditioned into believing in the beauty of chance, we can't help finding extraordinary meaning in ordinary objects. (Think romantic comedies, that unending misery of watching Serendipity!)

aysec. told me: "You're marked!"

"Go and stand in front of your bookshelf. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Brush your hands through the spines and pick one. Now open your eyes. You have chosen a book at random. Try to remember the moment you bought or received that book. Recall your impressions when you first read it. Then quickly pass through the pages, so that the scent of paper fills your lungs. Yes, what a wonderful fragrance! Now find page 55 and read it. Pick a paragraph from that page and feature it in your blog."

(Doesn't the breathless persona of this paragraph remind you of Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night A Traveler?

(The game also orders for the one who's marked to mark three other fellow bloggers, who must answer back. I'll skip that part for the time being.)

I chose Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. Or perhaps it chose me. But I haven't read it yet. In fact, the bookshelf in my room only contains the books I haven't read. So that's not a surprise.  Page 55 reads:

"(1952) Had lunch with film man. Discussed cast for Frontiers. So incredible wanted to laugh. I said no. Found myself being persuaded into it. Got up quickly and cut it short, even caught myself seeing the words Frontiers of War up outside a cinema. Though of course he wanted to call it Forbidden Love.

(1953) Spent all morning trying to remember myself back into sitting under the trees in the vlei near Mashopi. Failed."

There's a website dedicated to this book, an "experiment in close-reading in which seven women are reading the book and conducting a conversation in the margins."

Doris Lessing is, of course, a Nobel prize winner in literature.
I was mesmerized by her Fifth Child back in high school. I even considered stealing it from the library for a while.

Here's an excerpt from an article in Open Democracy:
"...Since that early period of radical political commitment, Doris Lessing has always been reluctant to be associated with high-profile or fashionable public causesYet she has been "taken up" by first one and then another movement: socialism, feminism and anti-psychiatry among them. It was The Golden Notebook that led to her adoption as a (somewhat reluctant) sister by second-wave feminism. The novel has been described as "the first tampax in world literature" for its frank treatment of female sexuality and domestic labour and its attempt to define what it means to be a "free woman". However, the novel's achievements have as much to do with the attempt to think beyond realism as a way of writing and grapple with the structural complexities necessitated by the heroine's writer's block and emotional breakdown."

Finally, I bought this book from the Strand at the corner of Central Park on a very windy day in New York. (Yes, how typical of me. The chain-second-hand-bookstore.)

Here's me having my first impressions by the lake, trying to comfort myself with literature in order to forget the wind slapping my freezing ears:

When that didn't work, we hopped on a bus and went to get some good stuff later in the day.

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