I just read two books back to back that made me realize there is this whole genre of books with a similar form. I have read many of them over the years, but never realized what they were. I decided to call this genre Brilliant Friends books after Elena Ferrante’s magical Neapolitan Quartet and its first book My Brilliant Friend. The stories are all told by an adult woman looking back on an intense high school friendship that was formative, changing their lives in some way or another. The narrator is the more subdued friend, the quiet one, the follower who is remembering the brilliant, defiant, bold, brave and ultimately tragic friend. Tragedy can take many forms, not just death, but always, the narrator ends in a better place than the brilliant friend. Thinking about it, both the books I just read (Marlena and Please Proceed to the Exit) fit that model but not just them. There’s The Girls by Emma Cline, The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, even All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, a mystery has the brilliant friend disappear, runaway or murder victim.
My computer has been on sabbatical since December 18th. It took a trip to Cupertino to soak in the warmer weather and pick up a new logic board. Luckily, it returned last night just in time for me to show off this gorgeous dress from ISON before Collabor88 shimmies itself into a new monthly showcase on the 8th. Is this not lovely and it comes in five colors and I posed on that pose stand clicking the HUD through those colors over and over and over and over again trying to decide. It was impossible, they are all wonderful. So, I eenie-meenied my way to this lovely rose shade. I am decisive like that sometimes.
I am reading The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen. I think I will have to just buy this book and return the copy I am reading to the library. Like Wendell Berry, Jensen’s book is too rich in subject matter to just read. It will be one I want to go back to again and again. I am reading it slowly, pausing after each conclusion or big idea to think. The underlying theme is that by viewing our world as an object to possess and exploit instead of seeing it as this living, breathing subject whose existence is vital, we become alienated from the world and all sorts of other ills are natural consequences of treating everything as an object to own. The writing is beautiful and powerful and full of ideas that I want to remember. He wrote that ““we have a need for enchantment that is as deep and devoted as our need for food and water.”
I think this is true. Wonder and awe are thinks we yearn for and they are most often found outdoors in the natural world.
There is wonder, too, in Second Life®, at the beautiful worlds and stunning landscapes of our virtual world. It is less powerful, but no less real. There is no fresh, brisk breeze with the restorative power of fresh air, but there is the calm and soothing joy of beauty. Take a walk at The Trace Too and the sights and sounds will entrance you. Now if only they could produce virtual fresh air.
I went to Misfit Ghetto last night and saw this sign. It comes from Robert Lowell who said “The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train.” Robert Lowell has been a favorite since I first discovered him in 7th grade. I was shy, a mumbler, constantly admonished to speak louder and my mother made me join the speech team. She believed in meeting challenges head on. I chose Extemporaneous Poetry as my specialty since I loved poetry and my mom made me memorize a poem a week. I figured I could get two for one out of the way.
For my first competition I drew “For the Union Dead” by Robert Lowell. The imagery bowled me over and I fell in love with his way of writing, though the poem was not without its problems for my 7th grade self. It used the n-word once, in quotes to indicate that was not a word Lowell would have used. It was a word I had never used and was certainly not acceptable. I had thirty minutes to prepare an introduction and decide how to address this dilemma. I punted and inserted the word soldiers instead. You know, as an adult, I think the person who picked the poems that day probably had not read them.
But also, from hindsight, I don’t mind, because that poem was thrilling to me. If you have seen the film Glory, you know the story memorialized in the statue he describes. But it was not the story, it was the images from phrases like his nose crawling like a snail on the aquarium glass and the yellow dinosaur steamshovels grunting as they work. Most of the poetry I had read (or my mom had chosen for me) had been prettier. She was a big Longfellow, Shelley and Shakespeare fan. Lowell was my introduction to a more robust kind of poetry. He felt rebellious and fierce and I gobbled him up. And yes, he was also bleak and grim and depressive – perfect for adolescence.