March 29, 2020

Review: A Lover's Discourse, by Roland Barthes

A lover's discourse



Title: A Lover's Discourse

Author: Roland Barthes

Publisher: Vintage

Date of Publication: 1977

Number of Pages: 234

See it on Goodreads: A Lover's Discourse




Summary

The language we use when we are in love is not a language we speak, for it is addressed to ourselves and to our imaginary beloved. It is a language of solitude, of mythology, of what Barthes calls an 'image repertoire'.

This book revives - beyond the psychological or clinical enterprises which have characterised such researches in our culture - the notion of the amorous subject. It will be enjoyed and understood by two groups of readers: those who have been in love (or think they have, which is the same thing), and those who have never been in love (or think they have not, which is the same thing). This book might be considered, in its restless search for authorities and examples, which range from Nietzsche to Zen, from Ruysbroek to Debussy, an encyclopaedia of that affirmative discourse which is the lover's.

Review

A Lover's Discourse is a book that I recently read and I have to say that it was a stimulating read. Before I go into details though, I will tell you of how I became aware of its existence. As I was browsing my social media (I know, I know) I came upon this wonderful quote that described the way that I was feeling at the moment. The quote went like this:

"Am I in love? -- yes, since I am waiting. The other one never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn't wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game. Whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover's fatal identity is precisely this: I am the one who waits."

However, this quote didn't have a source or anything (surprise!). So, I did the most logical next move - I Googled it. The result was A Lover's Discourse and I instantly decided to pick it up. Now, I had another reason that I wanted to read about love, and a Bathes' essay more specifically. 

I might have mentioned in the past that I was writing a novel. I have recently completed it and now I'm in the stage of editing it. Because my style is close to that of Japanese literature, my main character often shows things rather than saying them. For this reason, I needed some stimulants to fill my head with ideas that might produce something that might help me in this endeavour. Now, I can safely say that this book was the ideal stimulant for my case.

A Lover's Discourse (not to be confused with the YA novel The Lover's Dictionary) is a non-fiction book dedicated to the language of a lover. To be more precise, it is an essay on the expressions that a lover uses in his "outbursts of language" to explain his feelings. There are 80 small chapters in this book, each one dedicated to a different expression in the different phases of love. As Barthes underlines in his epilogue, he didn't place the chapters in an order that could potentially be interpreted into a story. However, if you really wanted to place them into a "correct" order to play out a story, you could easily do it.

One thing that surprised me is that I have never thought that a person could put into writing all those different feelings. If you have been in love or had a crush on someone, you know that there is a great variety when it comes to the thoughts and feelings that take over you. Those feelings are not all exactly love or despair, as there are many stages in between. However impossible this might sound, Roland Barthes manages to do it. There were cases, where I had to stop reading because I was thinking of a moment that I felt exactly the same way the author described in that particular chapter.

Having said that, it's time to talk about the language of A Lover's Discourse. This is not an easy read. There were times when I had to reread a certain part to understand its meaning. Furthermore, Roland Barthes uses a lot of references from various sources. However, I was not familiar with all of them. This didn't stop me from enjoying the book, even though I have a feeling that I might understand some parts better if I had an idea of what Barthes was actually talking about. Luckily for me, I had already read The Sorrows of Young Werther, which was heavily referenced in the book. Now, I simply feel that I want to reread Werther under the new light that A Lover's Discourse has given me.

Another trap that I found in this book is that it is very quotable. How is this a trap? I could easily fill my review with quotes from it, without any other context, and you would LOVE it. Yes, it is great. Yes, it might be the book I have underlined the most (perhaps along with De Profundis). Nevertheless, I fear that because it is too quotable I might have stayed on the surface of the subject - at least in some parts.

All in all, A Lover's Discourse was a challenging yet eye-opening book for me. I found it very relevant even though it was published in the '70s, especially now, with all the digital lovers and online dating. Just remember how many times you have been overanalyzing a text you received from your crush. A Lover's Discourse has given me a deeper understanding of this mystery that is love and all of its nuances. And with that, I'm leaving you with one more quote from the book:

"I love the other, not according to his (accountable) qualities, but according to his existence; by a movement one might well call mystical, I love, not what he is, but that he is."

Read more reviews here

March 24, 2020

Review: Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen Alan Moore Dave Gibbons
Title: Watchmen

Author: Alan Moore

Illustrator: Dave Gibbons

Colouring: John Higgins

Publisher: DC Comics

Date of Publication: September, 1986 (1st issue)

Number of Pages: 416


Summary

This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.

One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial best-seller, Watchmen has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V for Vendetta, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, The Sandman.

Review


Does the world really need another review of Watchmen? It's probably the most celebrated and studied super-hero comic. So, instead of writing a typical review, here I'll just write a "love letter" to this great comic book. But before anything else, if you haven't read it yet, just go! I'll wait for you! Seriously, this is a must-read!

The fact that I seriously ADORED this graphic novel is no surprise. You've probably heard it before, but here it is one more time: Watchmen is indeed the greatest graphic novel ever written. Ok, this might actually be an overstatement, but there are many arguments to support it, and for me, at least, it is. I was expecting greatness from the very beginning, but the story managed to surprise and move me in a way that I couldn't describe. So, here I am, some years since I've read it (I know it took me too long to pick it up), still thinking about it, and deciding to write my thoughts about it.

So, what makes Watchmen the comic it is? Is it the characters, the story, or the feelings? Is it a combination of those things? For me, it's the things that it stands for: being true to yourself. There is no distinction whether oneself is chaotic, has super-powers, is a somewhat ordinary guy trying to hunt some injustice, is a bloodthirsty creepy guy, or is just anyone.

All the characters have flaws, some even carry unforgivable sins, but they are heroes and they strive for a better world. Those flaws are present even from the Minutemen days. However, I will not dwell on the characters, as this is a topic discussed so often. I could talk about the form of this comic book, the deconstruction of the superhero genre, and its influence on comics. In this review though, I want to take a step back and examine two things in Watchmen - chance and chaos, and especially this iconic ending (in case you haven't noticed, some spoilers are ahead).

First of all, Watchmen doesn't have a clear protagonist or a villain. Yes, Ozymandias appears to be the anti-hero of the story, but what makes him the more villainous character rather than the Comedian, or Rorschach? We can say that the method he used was morally questionable, even though his ulterior motive wasn't. No, he didn't want world domination, the destruction of Earth, etc. Instead, he wanted a future for humanity. Was his plan of action the correct thing to do? I doubt it... so did the rest of the Watchmen. When we, and them, learn the truth, it comes as a shock. However, it would become a greater evil, if the world were to know. So they take the even more questionable decision - hide it from the public so that the world stays united.

This is where the part of Rorschach becomes interesting. To me, this character stands for the unpredictable. I would never say that he is a perfect character. In fact, he is one of the most perverted characters in Watchmen, and this comic book has an abundance of them. However, he does something interesting - he decides to write everything down. Before going for their final confrontation with Ozymandias, he sends his diary to a newspaper.

In his final entry, Rorschach writes: "...If reading this now, whether I am alive or dead, you will know truth: whatever precise nature of this conspiracy, Adrian Veidt responsible. Have done best to make this legible. Believe it paints disturbing picture..." and he later continues "...For my own part, regret nothing. Have lived life, free from compromise...and step into the shadow now without complaint."

This statement carries a significant weight. He, who has nothing to lose, can push humanity beyond its limits. Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, the big philanthropist, the billionaire, the image of the perfect citizen, will be uncovered as the mastermind behind this horrendous attack. He, who has nothing lose, will knowingly go to find his end in Antarctica.

Rorschach knows that his morality can only lead to darkness, as there is no middle ground. He is capable of labeling an action condemnable or not. However, near the end of the story, it is the first time that he realizes that, and I believe that this is the reason why he challenges Dr. Manhattan to kill him. But his death, doesn't mean anything as the damage has already been done.

When everything is said and done, people will forget the attack and go on with their lives. However, peace is fragile and actions should not be left unanswered. Was this what Rorschach wanted? Create chaos and destruction in the word, even though he is not a part of it anymore? The decision now comes to the hands of a newspaper employee. And this leads us to the greatest comic book panel of all time...

Watchmen last panel

All in all, even though Watchmen is filled with interesting characters and each one of them would be a could basis for an analysis (which there are plenty online), to me, it is Rorschach's actions that made this story unbelievably real. I have read this comic book some years ago, but I can't help thinking about it. Watchmen is still as relevant as it has ever been...

March 21, 2020

Happy World Poetry Day!

Hello, everyone and happy world poetry day! I hope that you are well and stay healthy. For this special day, I have chosen to post a poem by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, titled "Fear of the Inexplicable". I couldn't find a more fitting poem for this period of time. Enjoy!

rainer maria rilke

Fear of the Inexplicable


But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished
the existence of the individual; the relationship between
one human being and another has also been cramped by it,
as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of
endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the
bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone
that is responsible for human relationships repeating
themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and
unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new,unforeseeable
experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes
nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation
to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively
from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of
the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident
that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a
place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and
down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous
insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in
Poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons
and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about
us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
We are set down in life as in the element to which we best
correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of
years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we
hold still we are, through a happy mimicry,scarcely to be
distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to
mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors,
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abuses belong to us;
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we
arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now
still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust
and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those
ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless
that wants help from us.'

***
For more information about the poet visit: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/rainer-maria-rilke

March 16, 2020

Reading Challenge 2020

Reading Challenge 2020


Now that 2020 is here, it's time to set the new reading challenge! I'm keeping the same challenge that I did the previous years, although I have yet to complete it! This year, I feel very positive. Let's do this!


So, in 2020 I will read:
  1. a novel from Europe: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams
  2. a novel from Middle East
  3. a novel from East Asia: The Key, by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
  4. a novel from North America: 
  5. a novel from South America:
  6. a novel from Oceania: 
  7. a novel from Africa
  8. a novel that won the Man Booker Prize
  9. a novel than won the Pulitzer Prize
  10. a novel written by a Nobel Prize recipient
  11. a play
  12. a book of poetry: Love & Misadventure, by Lang Leav
  13. a collection of short stories
  14. a manga
  15. a superhero comic
  16. a non-superhero comic: Dr. Herbert West Astounding Tales of Medical Malpractice, by Bruce Brown
  17. a classic: Howards End, by E.M. Forster
  18. a non-fiction bookBrief Answers to the Big Questions, by Stephen Hawking
  19. a memoir/biography
  20. a novel that won the Nebula Award
So, this is it! This is the fourth year that I'm doing this challenge, and I'm really happy that it will "force" me to read more diverse books. Feel free to join me!

Play(list) by the Book - King Suckerman, by George Pelecanos


Hello, everyone! I hope that you are doing well and stay healthy. It's been a really long time. In the past few months I was buried in a tone of work and most of my personal projects were left behind. However, I still make the time to read and I will try to be more active (not making promises though). This is Play(list) by the Book which has been sitting on my drafts for a long and finally the time has come to share it with you! This playlist comes from the book King Suckerman, written by George Pelecanos. It's a quite lengthy list, so sit back and enjoy (or dance to the funk)!


As per usual, the playlist consists of songs mentioned in the book. I have also included songs of the artists and albums mentioned in the text. In those cases I have chosen a song that I really like. I couldn't find on Spotify Edwin Birdsong's song Rising Sign, so I included another song from him,.However, in King Suckerman there was a great number of albums mentioned, so I thought I should give you a complete list of them. If you notice any song or album missing, let me know in the comments below!

List of Albums:
01. Jimi Hendrix - Band of Gypsies
02. Jimi Hendrix - Axis: Bold as Love
03. Rufus ft. Chaka Khan - Rufisized
04. Parliament - America Eats Its Young
05. Robin Trower - Bridge of Sighs
06. Earth, Wind, & Fire - Gratitude
07. Big Star - Radio City
08. Captain Beefheart - Spotlight Kid
09. Captain Beefheart - Clear Spot
10. Buddy Miles - More Miles per Gallon
11. Mahavisnu Orchestra - Visions of Emerald Beyond
12. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III
13. Bachman Turner Overdrive - Not Fragile
14. David Sancious - Transformation (the speed of love)
15. Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything
16. Bonnie Raitt - Home Plate
17. Gill Scott Heron - Winter in America
18. Miles Davis - A Tribute to Jack Johnson
19. Lynyrd Skynyrd - (Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd)
20. Funkadelic - Standing on the Verge of Getting it On
21. Parliament - Osmium
22. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
23. Graham Central Station - Ain't no 'Bout-A-Doubt it
24. Johnny Winter - Johnny Winter And
25. Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
26. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
27. Gong - You
28. Barry White - Stone Gon'
29. Led Zeppelin - House of the Holy
30. Uriah Heep - Demons & Wizards
31. Mahogany Rush - Child of the Novelty
32. Blue Oyster Cult - Self-titled
33. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin I
34. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
35. Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby
36. Al Green - Call Me
37. J. Geils - Bloodshot
38. James Brown - The Payback
39. Kool & The Gang - Wild & Peaceful
40. Bachman Turner Overdrive - Bachman Turner Overdrive II
41. Rich Derringer - All American Boy
42. Jimi Hendrix - Are you Experienced?
43. Lou Reed - Sally Can't Dance


Find more playlists at: Play(list) by the Book
Radio Show: Play(list) by the Book