#Bookmas: 3 More Books To Give, Read or Ignore

by - December 22, 2016

Still can't decide what to get? Maybe these books are more your cup of tea...

by Bernadette Murphy

Do you like severed ears and mental breakdowns? Or to put it more politely: do you like a mystery to be solved around one of the greatest, if not most famous artists in this world? Well this is your chance! In this book Murphy describes her reseacrh into -what can only be described as- the second most disturbing nights in Van Gogh's life. The first most disturbing night naturally being the night that he dies after he tried to kill himself. But trust me, this second-best story is definitely worth a read. Even if you're not a Van Gogh fan, you must give credit to the way this reseacrhhas unfolded itself. It's truly through perseverance and a good head that this truth can finally be filed away as a truth. 

The book was really easy to read and followed the research as it was done. On the one hand this is a very strong point of the book as it gives you a sense of research in general (which is good when you, like me, are busy doing a research of your own and you're a bit stuck; although the theme and scale aren't the same, the idea of how to 'do it' is quite inspiring). On the other hand however this can lead you to such sentences as 'I've just had lunch with this person from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and it was really nice. The people here are very nice.' Like, why? Why is that included in the final copy of this book? Sure it gives you a sense that this was purely a individuals passion project, but, like, why? Why should I care about your lunch with the person from the Van Gogh Museum? Why? Why should I care? I mean, I get it when it's related to a break-through (for instance when she had dinner, I think, in this restaurant where there was this poster, or something, on which stood something, I don't know, something important about prostitutes or something -or was it the way Arles used to look before the Second World War?- which led her to something else important that actually helped her to get closer to the truth). Anyway, to summarise: good book, easy to read, very interesting subject, sometimes unimportant blabber.

by Bo Burnham

And now for something entirely different... I love this book (collection of poems). Although I don't think I've ever mentioned it anywhere. It's brilliant, it's sweet, it's funny, it's ironic and it's smart. But most of all it's addicting. Once you start reading there's no stopping you. On the one side that's a good thing: you want more and more and more and more, but then, after you realised what you've done, after you've consumed every last bit of it and you haven't had the time to breathe out, you'll feel silly and guilty and consumeristic. There's never enough. Nothing is ever enough. So then, on a second read, you take your time. You breathe in and breathe out and you look at the words and think about the words you just looked at. Then you read -what can only be described as- a fart joke and a single salty tear slowly makes its way down your chin into your tea. Art.

by Wayne Koestenbaum

In short:
My 1980s & Other Essays made me feel cultured yet very uncultured. It made me question. And question some more. It made me tilt my head, sigh, and just read through because I knew I wouldn't get it anyway, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

In long:
Monday 12 September 2016, 21:47

I just picked up My 1980s & Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum (not only because, I reassured my bullet journal, Debbie Harry is on the front cover) after finishing Van Gogh's Ear by Bernadette Murphy the day before (not only because it's about Vincent van Gogh). Although I'd spend the whole day reading about 'museum-making' and 'narrative spaces' for school purposes, I still felt a need to read. To read just for pleasure. To unwind before going to sleep (which is funny, may this notebook be my witness, I always end up rewinding instead of unwinding when reading. Uproaring my thoughts and feeling the need to write them down in an excercise that doesn't actually help me to sleep but in return instigates slept-driven thoughts to keep me awake at night). In the back of my mind I was thinking, planning, this blogpost-series (inception?), 'celebrating' my birthday. Although I hate it, this, in secret, so deeply, but any excuse will do to make me and my mum to feverishly knit 7 jumpers. In the name of entertainment.

My 1980s & Other Essays starts with, who'd thought, an essay called 'My 1980s'. While reading I thought that this style of writing/ordering/telling a story might be fun to duplicate/immitate (in my own way) for this series. But then, on a second thought, I remembered that my life isn't firstly as eventful or secondly as interesting as the one written before my eyes. I read further, absorbed in the words, when I camed to page 11 and this was being projected into my brain:

"I was not thinking about the world. I was not thinking about history. I was thinking about my body's small, precise, limited, hungry movement forward into a future that seemed at every instant on the verge of being shut down."

And the fact that this, this, was printed on the 11th page of the book means so much to me, which is hard to explain (and hopefully you'll accept that this goes beyond the notion of me being born on the 11th around 11 o'clock, but then again to also keep in mind that that, in many ways, is also one of the reasons for my excitement, my enthusiasm, but also -mainly- my hesitation and adoration towards these words. These words that aren't mine, but made me to pick up this notebook in the first place, to -again feverishly- write down these words in the hope they'll still mean as much to me in the morning as they do right now). Basically, if I were to write a similar kind of style essay this would basically be it. At this very moment in time (tomorrow morning may be different).


As if it was meant to be, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a short extract, posted by Tavi Gevinson, of her early NYC diaries (which are now up on Rookie, but which I haven't read). And I find, on some level, that what she says, what I can read on Instagram, to connect with the afore mentioned:

"Chirs Kraus wrote that every letter is a love letter. David Foster Wallace frequently used "Every Love Story is a Ghost Story" in private writings, though its origin is unknown. Lorde says she doesn't write love songs, but how can that be true? Every song is a love song, is a ghost song. We love something so much that we have to write it down, and in doing so, we've killed it, like Barthes' characterization of loved ones in a photo: "Anesthetized and fastened down like butterflies." Now I'm interested in love, in letters, in songs, that are not concerned with the end; that are incapable of accessing on aerial view, on image,  story; I would like to stop trying to conquer death by documentation, feeling like the end-game will always be the page."

I always where I've been. What I've done. Or better: what I've done wrong for not being so, not necessarily smart, but cultivated (and smart). (Is it you, instagram, have you killed my brain, my ability to be(come) smart?). To be well-read and well-thought. To be able to make connections and then to connect them to your own experiences/feelings/thoughts. Lately I feel clumsy with words (not only because I wonder where I'm writing to and perhaps what I'm writing for (purpose). I'm writing mostly for my own amusements. I've always liked writing, but I feel like this past year it really has become 'something' for me (but what?). I wonder whether this is interesting or not (probably not. Me moaning and then publishing it on my own blog because 'I can' (Yes we can). What do I accomplish? Embarrassment? Self-consciousness? I've always been filled with a self-centred interest, but as I may believe one of my other current readings (a thesis: Fashion Beyond Identity by Rebecca L. Breuer), 'I' am all but a dream.

Page 12 (My 1980s):

"Does any of this information matter? I am not responsible for what matters and what doesn't matter. Offbeat definition of materialism: a worldview in which every detail matters, in which every factual statement is material."


Funnily enough, now moved on to the second essay (Heidegger's Mistress), it starts with: "I'm trying to figure out why -or how- or if - I became intellectual."

Tuesday 13 September 2016, 23:46

(Susan Sontag essay on Roland Barthes, quoted, p. 47): "(...) 'the writer's freedom that describes is, in part flight. The writer is the deputy of his own ego - of that self in perpetual flight before what is fixed before writing, as the mind is in perpetual flight from doctrine. 'Who speaks is not who writes is not who is.' Barthes wants to move on - that is one of the imperatives of the aesthete's sensibility.' Move on, Sontag urged. Leave the field untilled. Switch projects. Change hemispheres. Make a film. Direct a play. Write a novel. Fly to Hanoi. Nonspecialist, she refused restriction, scorned the limiting identity of the expert. She would rather have been considered a collector, connoisseur, sad perfert - anything but an academic."

Wednesday 14 September 2016, 10:19

Reading, for me, has three reasons (in no particular order):
1. To (be) entertain(ed)
2. To forget
3. To (be) submerge(d)

The first one is quite self-explanatory; I read to find a certain entertainment, pleasure perhaps, which keeps me reading. It's hard to read something when the *spark* isn't there (although you'll understand I don't ascribe this singularly to predestined entertainment or fiction).

It's funny how I'm someone who needs to forget and still anxiously holds on to every little thought/experience she (I) can (in my mind).

To forget, the bad thoughts (of yourself or those reminiscent of -the words of- others). To forget sitting in a train. To forget being alone or overcrowded. To forget the day, the night, the hour or even the moment. Which is closely related to the idea to submerge. To submerge myself into a certain topic, a way of writing, thinking (a process of connecting the words on paper to the music in your head and the images that have once passed your eyes). To submerge, to take a bite, out of the words (out of the world). To, for the time being, be the words (to be the writer perhaps).


Page 71: "When I write, I'm always not yet a poet; I'm a striver, a yearner, hoping to crash the House of Poetry."

Thursday 29 September 2016, 00:09

P. 98 [about Schuyler]

"He indulges the words he loves, as he wishes each passing day would pamper him. Some typical titles: 'June 30, 1974.' 'Dec. 28, 1974.' 'February 13, 1975.' August first, 1974.' Each day ia an eclectic collection of moods and circumstances, potentially catastrophic; toward a ruined day's end, cheerfulness sometimes breaks through it."

P. 98-99

"To include the fruit beside the blanket page, the page on which one is about to write a sentence is to be indolent enough to notice wild beauty, to stare at it, to wonder what words might begin to be useful in a description of it, but to stop several steps short of actually writing the words down."

Am I killing the words? I've got this bad habit of writing stuff down. For my research, for my memory, for my pleasure. Something physical that's in my own handwriting (in my own words?). I've been mocked about my way of 'going around' things. Making stuff happen. Writing stuff down. It's funny how I, in a crisi of my believe in myself and my capabilities find a calmness in one of the things I'm criticised for. For something I can't do. So is me writing down those words - the words of others - killing them by making them my own? Connecting them, remembering them?

"We love something so much we have to write it down and in doing so, we've killed it."

I wasn't consciously on a slaughtering session. And anyway I think Tavi is in this case mainly referring to experiences (the same goes for taking pictures). I'm still killing these words I'm reading (an experience an sich?). I've murdered to experience by writing about it. To quote. To literally convert them -sticking a knife in the back- into my own handwriting.
Nothing is sacred.
Nothing is safe.
A brain that works,
a body that moves,
is always contaminating, poisoning the water.

P. 104
"Not all poems need to be written. Part of the beauty of the lyric enterprise is that one can store at verse from across a rift of silent inaction and remark on the unwritten poems. Sometimes it is enough to have thought to do."

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  1. Now these are books I will have to save for when I will especially feel the lack intellectualism in my gullet. For now, I am excusing myself because I am in the midst of reading Anne of Avonlea, which due to its publication within the first half of the twentieth century, I am allowing myself to believe that I am indulging in 'The Classics'. (We both know that is not really the case, but it's ok. let us humor me). and as for your recommendations--anything with the title Egghead is bound to be marvelous.


    1. Oh anything to make you feel just that tad bit smarter... (and with 'you' I naturally mean me). ;) I think it's a way to outbalance my oh so beloved and sadly deemed 'not so intellectual' fashion books (although I believe anything can be made intellectual. It's not always neccesarily the material that's in front of your nose, but the material that's inside your head... DEEP MAN, DEEP). And of all the books I've recommended, Egghead is THE book I recommend. I simply just love it! It's funny, smart and [other words I typed above].