urban literary-knot

Jeunesse dorée September 1, 2009

Gilded Youth

 

Kate Cambor’s first book opens in 1914, the year France lurched from the opulence of the Gilded Age into the clamor of the modern world. Gone were the days when debutantes danced until dawn at mountainside resorts and literary giants like Victor Hugo and Alphonse Daudet presided over exclusive Paris salons. Ushered in was an era of war and disorientation. “The new generation of writers and politicians . . . were engaged in a battle of epic and Oedipal proportions,” Cambor writes. “At stake was nothing less than the heart and soul of Mother France.”

This new age is seen through the eyes of three young Parisians: Léon Daudet was the son of novelist Alphonse Daudet, Jeanne Hugo the granddaughter of Victor Hugo, and Jean-Baptiste Charcot the son of neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Each was born at the height of Third Republic society, “poised, more than most, to take advantage of the promises of the dawning century.” Instead, the three friends fell victim to a string of personal and political crises. As Cambor notes, the problem was primarily one of momentum — the “faith in science and progress” that defined the Gilded Age was eroded by the arrival of mechanized combat, psychoanalytic theory and a dizzying rush of experimental art. Born to one era, Charcot, Daudet and Hugo struggled, and failed, to adjust to the mores of the next.

Matthew Shaer

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Transplanting in Fertile Soil April 11, 2008

This month’s reading has gotten a late start (no surprise there!) but the wait is well worth it when wrapping around Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel Unaccustomed Earth.  I think this is what happens as a writer when you don’t try to force yourself to crank out endless mundane or mediocre work just to satisfy the public, or put pressure upon oneself for the endless reasons.  Ms Lahiri constantly amazes me with her creative imaginary flare and such a gift to bring rich characters to the written page.

The LATimes and NewsWeek give your mind a nibble before we meet.

-ciao

 

 

 

 

 

Complicated Geniuses March 15, 2008

Her Husband

This month I’d like to delve deeper into two incredibly talented writers that seemed to have brushed popularity with novices simply due to tragedy- and Plath’s death was truly that. 

Middlebrook’s biography really keeps both Hughes and Plath simultaneously entwined yet distinctly apart, and she is refreshing in her detail, wit and compassion towards these two literary artists- blame and sensationalism is not the focus.  And for Plath especially, this is what seemed to overshadow so much of her less studied writings.

Smith College is also hosting a 75year Symposium next month in Ms Plaths honor- indeed well earned and timely.

-salut

 

‘Atheists with Attitude’ February 18, 2008

God Is Not Great

I know- I know… I’ve been aloof and inconsistent, neglectful and unreliable; I have a life that pulls me in too many directions, with little spare time- but I try. *sigh*

I’ve been mentally engaged by the commentary surrounding God Is Not Great  (and unfortunately I’ve been a year behind- and only now resuming the on again/off again re-reading of the book) and some critique is obviously much better than others.  But at this time of year, until the spring begins to thaw out the unyielding winter wonderland we’ve been enveloped in here in the Midwest, I’m quite intrigued, but not surprised to find the brilliance of Hitchens to evoke such passionate debate– as religion usually does.

If you’re inspired to keep the dialogue going drop an email for gathering together to discuss and deconstruct further.

 

‘Food Leviticus’ November 10, 2007

boots  Yes, I’m still slowly reading through AVMAnd I have been slow to post with further inspiring thoughts, but I’m loving Kingsolver’s journery, however pathetically I trudge through at the moment- my time is seriously divided upon other things- apologies.

I’m finding many have “heard” of the book, on NPR, or through someone else, and this is inspiring, to me anyway.  I also feel many of us want to continue to implement conscious food choices and practices, but with the endless bounty in the US, it’s all too easy to stay “comfortable” with the local super-mega food chains, isn’t it?

I’m also intrigued by some thoughts:

   “The main barrier standing between ourselves and a

   local-food culture is not price, but attitude.  The most

   difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of re-

   straint- virtues that are hardly the property of the

   wealthy.  These virtures seem to find precious little

   shelter, in fact, in any modern quarter of this nation

   founded by Puritans.  Furthermore, we apply them

   selectively…”    pg31

The way many of us have been raised, where we live, how much money we have at our disposal for going all “organic” or local to feed not only oursleves, but perhaps, if we have a family, one, two extra yearning mouths.

I’m pleased to sense Ms Kingsolver’s lack of piousness when directing her reading audience, even with such a personal story, which could make that leaning much easier.  This is a family journey that is ultimately genunine and sincere, and welcomes all.

-ciao

 

‘Looking for Mr Goodvegetable’… November 2, 2007

hands

It’s slightly ironic that I’m living in the city, close to Lake Michigan, and yearning restlessly to head back “to the country”; writing about urban irks and how irritating Wisconsin is for the most part. 

What country exactly I’m bemoaning about, more and more is continuously becoming less and less- that’s for certain.  When I take the occasional drive back to my childhood haunts I see McMansion’s rising up all over the those ‘ol farmlands.  

When we first moved “out there” as kids from the city, there were still wild turkeys in our backyard, pheasants galore, and the memories of cross-country skiing for endless stretches of snow-packed miles- it was great to have that kind of childhood abundance and freedom.

In this economy I’m constantly amazed at the cha-ching spilling over, and the sources for many of these endeavors is certainly questionable… all in the name of continued “growth and progress”- yadda-yadda..   

For all the “green” talk, you certainly don’t see much pause to reflect on the McMansion-builders and buyers side, the microcosm/macrocosm is quite blantant even if you are “too busy” for that type of  mental withdraw.

Only a few chapters into Barbra Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life  and admittedly, I’m completely taken up by the family’s adventure thus far..

Feel free to comment and discuss if you’ve already had the pleasure.