Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eating cherries around midnight - Bart Stouten

The book presentation was last week, yet I was so impressed I couldn't quite write it all down. It is like receiving a beautiful parcel and not daring to open it for fear the charm would disappear. But now it still holds. The title is wonderful. So was the presentation. It is a book with memories of how music came to be important in Bart's life. Yet also the sadder memories like the loss of his parents and twin sister were honestly spoken about. One could feel the lingering pain and uneasiness. One could feel the honesty. Interviewer, Anna Luyten and interviewee both bared part of their souls, without making the audience feel they are voyeurs, even when speaking about love and loss. Although knowing Bart for a while, I learned more about him. The book are memories beginning with his first piano lesson, when he fell in love with which instrument, the place of music in general in his life. He also is a longtime Zen practitioner. Of course the radio voice from Klara, Flemish classical music radio channel, provided some excellent music: Bach played on the accordion by Bart Wils was wonderfully moving. Now I am looking for a chunk of free time to relax and eat the cherries. Of course, the Permeke auditorium was well filled with all kind of interesting and interested people. A zen like experience, closed with a glass of wine and the chatter of friendly voices.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Stoner by John Williams

A Dutch friend gave me the book “Stoner” by John Williams. It is a very sad book, yet at the same time wise and deep. The quest for love is a main theme throughout the book. Yet also trying and failing and then picking up the pieces or yourself and go on doing what you have to do. The main characters are all young before the first world war. To me that generation and the generation born between WWI and WWII is unfathomable. To them it seems normal to do what one must do. Life is as it is and you have to live it and accept what is handed to you. A simple life of a simple man. A quest for love, not just between parents and children, man and woman, but also a deep love for literature and teaching. You are thwarted in your endeavors, be it by meanness, jealousy, yet you do your duty, even if what you do is considered by yourself as rather mediocre. Although often the main character doesn’t do anything at all remaining passive in a stubborn way, accepting what is put in his way. The language in the Dutch translation by Edzard Krol is elegant yet not clamoring for attention. Acceptance and duty, not giving up are the painful virtues of the unlikely hero. Just living one’s live seems after closing the book to be true heroism. The book is much like an ostinato in music. Thank you for this wonderful present.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ben Okri: Songs of Enchantment

Ben Okri's book calling out to me in a secondhand shop fulfilled all the promises it held. Years ago I had read The Famished Road, the book to which Songs of enchantment is a sequel. Azarro still lives in the mythical villages among malevolent forces and powers, corrupting the villagers. The child is still the narrator. Yet the book is not just a next installment, it does take you in a whirlwind of events and once again I lost myself in the dreams and charms, the magic of wandering lights, the sorcery, the transferences all told in an truly enchanting way. The story is driven by the supernatural events yet it does deal also with very earthy and human issues: poverty and power, politics with the party of the rich and the soul eating of the poor turning their followers into ghostlike creatures. I couldn't lay down the book. The words kept haunting me. Okri's language will do that to you with its firework of words that will cast a spell over you, will mesmerize the reader. Do read both books and don't forget to pack them for your desert island stay... The ghosts and spirits evoked may keep you company.
Ben Okri is an eminent and politically astute and aware author. Read every word and then read again between the lines.
Ben Okri, born in 1959, is a Nigerian poet and novelist one of the real strong post-modern African voices.
With the last sentences he comes full circle from the opening paragraph: : Maybe one day we will se the montains ahead of us. Maybe one day we will see the seven mountains of our mysterous destiny. Maybe one day we will see that beyond our chaos there could always be a new sunlight, and serenity.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Midnight fire

 Around the midnight hour suddenly the bell rings. I, lazily dismiss it. Then there is  the sound of sirens, which we hear often in this neighborhood where there are three hospitals. And it is obvious that they stop quite near. Two fire trucks, a lot of police, an armored money transport vehicle and neighbors, just as I, looking down from the balcony.
It is obvious that there is a fire in the bank. A burned smell raises up through the stairwell. Some people are on the phone, some feel that all is under control and go back in. I think about the evacuation route and just in case put on my shoes. But all is well. it looks as if a guard spend the night in front of the entrance of the bank. It is weird, suddenly to be a close spectator in a possibly dangerous situation. The smell of burning paper and what ever else was burning came in through the ventilation shaft. Well, the stability of what we feel is a stable situation in life has been demonstrated once again. Thanks to the fire brigade who kept all of us safe!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bones: one wonders...

Last night's episode of Bones raised a few questions. Near Seattle in the woods a piece of an arm is found and thus Bones and Booth go and investigate. They meet the Native American Forest Ranger, called Sherman. After General Sherman? After the tank named after the aforementioned general? After the best known wonderful poet and prose writer Sherman Alexie who lives in Seattle and hails from the Spokane Reservation... and is part of a milti-lingual project 'Harbors of the West' third part of the trilogy 'Sounds of Harbor'. Of course the ranger is immediately the prime suspect. It turns out there are marks on an arm that was found pointing to cannibalism. A dash of witchcraft is added to the mix of the script for good measure. When the ranger sees the FBI agent and his special expert 'Bones', he runs away. When caught and asked for the reason his reply is: "I don't want to be another Leonard Peltier. FBI and Indians don't mix well. Remember Wounded Knee?" Of course the ranger didn't kill anyone, nor eat anyone besides a black bear whose meat is in his deep freezer; a felony for which he is immediately handcuffed and put in jail. The series wouldn't be called 'Bones' if remains of victims weren't a full part of the script: thus a hand and more human bones are found in a killed bear. The interesting thing is that in different parts of the USA, e.g. in the Appalachian mountains a few years ago the remains of a young girl were found dating back to the 16th century, a girl who had been cannibalized, probably during a big famine. So I wonder: Are the contemporary Hollywood scripts based on a lot of research or are they kind of inside jokes and chuckles for the in crowd.

Of course we know that many Hollywood actors have been staunch supporters of Native American causes and especially of Leonard Peltier. May he be freed.

German TV: June 12.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sagesmoke over the water

I know I haven't been blogging for a while. Not that there wasn't anything to say. On the contrary there was too much to say. Too many e-mails clamoring for attention: yes most of them worthy causes. Too many activities. There was Hoboken goes West: friends of mine had organized and Dave from Scarborough came over for the occasion. He and I went 'junk shopping', checking out secondhand stores. I found Ben Okri's sequel to 'The famished road', I book I devoured. The book 'Songs of Enchantment' just 50 cents. And yes, the first paragraphs did again captivate me. 'The West' in Hoboken consisted of civil war reenactments, even a small field hospital and some Indians with leather robes and beaded patches and tipi's in the park and a Leonard Peltier stand..

 Family visits, and a solemn goodbye to a lady found dead in the water. Her daughters and family, her friends from NAIS, all were there. In a sober way Black Eagle smudged us all. Memories were shared. Questions remained unanswered.

 did she think
did she ponder
or just
did it
by accident
into the cold
purse on the quay
or did she let it happen
welcoming the push
was she alone
overcome by the pull of death and bliss
and was someone
watching her
was she standing
before the jump
or did she glide gently
off the quay
who after all this
took her phone
the little money
from her purse on the quay

and then
sage smoke and flowers
and silence for her voyage