Goodbye June…

It’s been a tough month, in more ways than I care to record, but in just over 15 minutes June will be over and July will begin…

What are you looking forward to in the coming month? What do you hope to overcome and/or accomplish?

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Summer…

This time last year, I was bursting with excitement because I’d just paid for my trip to Cuba and had something to which I could look forward. It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

This summer the only thing in my cards is the search for a new job…

What are you doing this summer?

One of the views from my hotel room in Cayo Coco. August 2016.

 

 

 

Who Are We? And What Are We Becoming?

Sapiens

If you want some help thinking about the answers to those questions, I highly recommend you read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

This book is brilliant! It’s packed with information (much of it new to me) but written in a witty, stimulating and totally accessible style. The whole time I was reading it I kept wishing I could sit in on one of Harari’s lectures!

One of my favourite sections comes early in the book (though you should absolutely read the whole thing). It’s Chapter Two: The Tree of Knowledge, in which Harari discusses the impact of language (for the purpose of “gossiping” about each other!) on our development as a species and explores the idea that we are bound together in our various groups (locally and globally) by our “collective imaginations” — our shared beliefs in myths and stories (or, as described in academia, ‘fictions’, ‘social constructs’ and ‘imagined realities’).

“Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persits, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. […] Most millionaires sincerely believe in the existence of money and limited liability companies. Most human-rights activists sincerely believe in the existence of human rights. […]

Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As times went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.”

Another favourite section is Chapter Seven: Memory Overload, which explores the development of written systems of communication. Read it to find out why Harari says…

“Writing was born as the maidservant of human consciousness, but is increasingly becoming its master.”

Sapiens is broad in its coverage (mathematics, anthropology, religion, psychology, evolution, geography, happiness and science, are just a few of the topics covered), and sweeping in many of its assessments, but that’s all it can be if it is to cover the whole history of humankind. It’s a well written, provocative and thoroughly engaging introduction to the study of human history. While it may not be the full meal, there is more than enough food for thought in this fascinating book to keep you from feeling a single hunger pang!

Have you read it? What do you think?

Line of Duty

I’ve just finished watching the finale of Line of Duty, Series Four and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’ve been a huge fan of the show since the first series and it never disappoints. It’s gripping from the first episode to the last, and every plot twist points the finger of suspicion in a new direction!

I don’t want to give anything away so I suggest you watch it, if you haven’t already, and tell me in the comment section… Did you figure it out?

Courtnay Writes Too!

I know I may be accused of bias, but my niece has written an insightful piece reminding us of the brilliance of Beyonce’s powerful visual album, Lemonade. You HAVE to read it!

Can you believe it’s already been a year since it was released?

Beyonce: A Year of Lemonade

Lemonade

Blogging Ain’t Easy…

…Especially when life constantly gets in the way or trips you up just at the moment you break out a smile because you think you’ve managed to sneak around it to get to your computer and start writing.

I can hear all the super regular, post every Monday through Friday (and sometimes on Sunday) blogger people saying, “But if it’s really important to you…” Yeah. I know. Still…

I can’t believe I laughed when I committed to writing two blog posts a month. I thought it would be so easy. Surely, I told myself, any self-respecting, wanna-finally-be-a-writer can come up with two blog posts a month. Well, I can’t.

Actually, I can but a lot of the ideas I have could result in friends and/or family members filing lawsuits against me for indecent exposure (i.e., exposing some of our their indecencies), so all of those ideas get scrapped (i.e., stay safely hidden in the confines of my little black books which, for your information, are locked way in bomb-proof (okay maybe just lockpicker-proof) safety deposit boxes to be used as blackmail material for… umm… nothing.

And please don’t suggest that I write what I think about that giant, orange poop emoji occupying the White House across the pond. I just can’t right now.

Seriously though, what are some of the things that keep you from writing regular posts for your blog? What do you do about them?

WOW! Really?

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger could easily be mistaken for models in an advertisement for Abercrombie and Fitch or Tommy Hilfiger clothing. They are not. Elva is a survivor of rape and Stranger is the perpetrator – Elva’s rapist. The two of them have written a book about the rape and are touring the world promoting it. Together.

Though I can’t imagine wanting to see a man who had raped me in any setting other than a courtroom or prison cell, I have absolutely no objection to Elva having chosen to heal from her ordeal in this way. Her way. What I do object to is the fact that Women of the World Festival (WOW) chose to include the Elva/Stranger performance piece, ‘South of Forgiveness’ in their programme of events. WOW is supposed to be a festival celebrating and honouring women. How does the presence of a known rapist who has never been prosecuted or punished for his crime, elevated onto a stage and lauded, sometimes applauded, for his willingness to accept responsibility for what he did to Elva (literally, the very least he could do), align with the purpose of the festival?

Women travel from all over the world to attend WOW. Many of those women come from countries in which they are shunned, cast out, punished and even murdered for the “crime” of having been sexually violated. What is WOW saying to them when they invite a rapist as a paid guest into their midst?

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director at Southbank and founder of WOW, has said that one of her aims in hosting ‘South of Forgiveness’ is the opening up of the dialogue around rape so that it no longer focuses solely on the survivor of rape but extends to the perpetrator. I agree, men do need to be part of the discourse. Should it be Elva’s rapist that opens the discourse at a festival designed to celebrate and honour women? I think not.

A Little Life

Hana Yanagihara’s A Little Life has been described as the story of four friends (Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB), but it’s actually one man’s story: Jude’s story. A story of love, friendship, loyalty and… disturbing, relentless, unsparing suffering often rendered in such graphic detail that I found myself choking up at some points and at others questioning what kind of literary sadist Yanagihara had to be in order to write it.

Engrossed at times and repulsed at others, I both loved and hated this novel. The story was as devastating as it was compelling with parts of it beautifully, sensitively written and others so overwritten and overwrought that I swear I heard a Greek chorus wailing behind me as I read.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or for anyone working through concerns related to emotional, physical and or sexual abuse. It’s a searing account of how wounds inflicted in childhood and left untreated can turn into equally horrific self-abuse: Jude’s rage is turned inward and then written all over his own body. Having said that, the descriptions of the abuse don’t feel gratuitous or sensationalist despite their graphic nature. And, every time you think you cannot take anymore, Yanagihara flashes forward (or backward) to a scene of tender exchange between Jude and one of the other characters (Willem, in particular) that provides some beautiful, moving relief.

The oft-proclaimed love and loyalty of Jude’s friends and adopted family are frequently tested throughout the novel, and one of the things I kept asking (sometimes out loud!) was why they were all so willing to go along with Jude’s refusal to accept psychiatric treatment. The conclusion I came to was that this physically and emotionally broken man was the canvas on which they were able to paint their best visions of themselves, and they couldn’t afford to lose him. They were all, subconsciously, to one degree or another, invested in him remaining broken.

At 700+ pages, there were a host of other questions I had about the characters and events in A Little Life. I may try writing a longer piece about it at a later date but, for now, I’m offering this little review.

Have you read it? What questions did you have?

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara.jpg

Awards and Accolades

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest cinema/movie theatre if you haven’t yet seen these masterpieces!
fences

hidden-figures

moonlight

O.J. Made in America.jpgI Am Not Your Negro2.jpg

13th