I have taken this October day
in carefully measured-out doses of coffee beans.
I have counted the minutes of it,
the round pockets of hours, and I have learnt
one small thing: that the watched pot
really does boil.
The steam rises up,
and the water does
a funny dance around the rim.
If you watch it enough. Read More
The deconstruction of time and space in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room
At the forefront of Waiting for Godot and Jacob’s Room is the sense of absence. Firstly, there is a clear irony in Godot and Jacob even being mentioned in the titles of the texts; giving the impression they are major characters when in actual fact they are barely featured. Godot is only present in Beckett’s play through the dialogue of Estragon and Vladimir, and Jacob is a passive character whose life is told through others, primarily his mother, Mrs Flanders. He is referred to as a ‘fine young man’, but little else is revealed about him. This is epitomised in the ‘empty room’ (p. 247) that remains at the end of the novel; like his room, Jacob has been an empty character to us, and we, like the other characters in the book, have to come to terms with the fact that we do not know who Jacob Flanders is, despite following his life throughout the entire narrative. Similarly, Estragon and Vladimir are left still ‘waiting for Godot’, a mysterious man who never actually enters the play. Dramatic irony is lost as the audience is left in the dark as to who exactly Godot is, why the men are waiting and whether he will come. Godot and Jacob are, in Derrida’s terms, an absent presence, as, in Derrida’s words, ‘nothing… is anywhere ever simply present or absent’. The whole narratives depend upon them, but the characters barely exist other than as a type of ghost that haunts the texts.
The quote from Bertrand Russell goes like this: “There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” In my case, I decided to read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 for the former reason. I have read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood and the short-story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, and can safely declare that Murakami is one of my all time favourite writers; a true great whose appeal lies in his special ability to comment on the Japanese psyche whilst skilfully intertwining the mundane with the surreal. I would recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to anyone; it is a staggering literary achievement and remains, to this day, the best work of narrative prose I have ever had the pleasure to read. Picking up 1Q84, after the first few chapters, I felt reasonably convinced that, by the book’s ending, I would be saying something very similar.
Do we know where Mars is?
If we had a spaceship could we go there?
Well. If you had a really good spaceship and you had people to help you I suppose you could go.
Would there be food and stuff when you got there?
No. There’s nothing there.
Briefly breaking through the monotony of life in what we assume without complete certainty is the United States of America in a state of post-apocalyptic disintegration, the child at the heart of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road offers, through his naïve vision, a possibility of escape, of exploration and colonisation of a distant world by the human race as an alternative to an unbearable life on Earth. Read More
‘It’s there, do you see it?’
William Friedkin is a director well known for giving us one of the greatest car chase sequences in film history, in The French Connection (1971), and one of the greatest horror pictures in film history, The Exorcist (1973). Nearly 40 years later Friedkin remains a powerful force in the industry, finding a partnership with the American playwright Tracy Letts in his film adaptations of Letts’s plays Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2012). In each film Friedkin and Letts, who also wrote the screenplay for both films, present the audience with characters on the fringe of society: hollow characters who look around them to find a compass of morality. Unfortunately, the backgrounds and surroundings of these characters doom them to seek love, help and guidance in the wrong places. Read More
What are we to make of the flies that appear in contemporary art? Arundhati Roy had her moths, butterflies were written into Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the art of Ilya Kabakov also exhibited the The Life of Flies. If you remember, even Owl City had their catchy Fireflies. What is it that is so valuable about the life of a fly for artists and thinkers today? Read More