Friday Buzz: Joseph Conrad

This is an excerpt from an interesting Guardian article on Joseph Conrad, another author I'd like to explore more, especially The Secret Agent.

For Conrad, none of the big stories, from Christianity to communism to psychoanalysis (he met a disciple of Freud's in 1921 and was extremely scornful of the books lent to him), provided adequate explanations of selfhood. He had seen the decline and fall of too many men who put their certitude in equality or justice or liberty tout court. His fundamental position is revealed in a letter to his friend, the socialist Robert Cunninghame Graham:

Life knows us not and we do not know life - we don't even know our own thoughts. Half the words we use have no meaning whatever and of the other half each man understands each word after the fashion of his own folly and conceit. Faith is a myth, and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of tomorrow.

But behind the modernist sentiments and fabulous sentence-making, there is something else going on: an idea of moral and cultural dialectic, a sense of virtue as relative rather than fixed and static. By its nature, such a conception of virtue is likely to appear in negative form. As Conrad put it in his 1905 essay "Books": "To be hopeful in an artistic sense it is not necessary to think that the world is good. It is enough to believe that there is no impossibility of it being made so."


Thoughts for Thursday - Pan con tomate

I couldn't eat a whole lot in Spain due to the traveler's bug, but I could eat this. It's tasty, fast, simple. Thought I'd share with you today. Trust me: Delicioso!

slices of thick, rustic style bread
cloves garlic peeled and cut in half
small ripe red tomatoes cut in half*
extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt or sea salt

*For the best flavor, use vine-ripe tomatoes, preferably home grown ones.

Grill the bread approximately 2 to 4 minutes per side on a barbecue or toast it lightly in the oven. Bread doesn't need to be toasted, either.

Next rub 1/2 clove of garlic over one side. Use a fresh piece of garlic for each slice.

Rub a cut tomato over the bread, pressing firmly to push the pulp into the bread, until the toast is covered with tomato; discard the skins and remaining pulp.

Drizzle olive oil over the bread and tomatoes; sprinkle with salt and if you'd like, add a couple grinds of fresh pepper. It's fun to serve guests with their own slices, garlic, tomatoes and a supply of olive oil and salt so everyone can make their own.

I suppose you can add manchego cheese, chorizo, or jamon -- but it's really quite good on its own.


Reading Dangerously...I like it!

Now that I'm back and refreshed (more on my vacation later this week, I promise! I actually need time to absorb all of the experience before I can write about it.), I've been chomping at the bit to get to a scholarship year -- that is, a year of writing and reading at a top level. Now that I work at a top University, I will access reading lists of the master's and PhD candidates. (Who knows? Maybe I can become a PhD candidate myself.)

Two ideas I like: Estella and Heather's "Year of Reading Dangerously." Okay, while I may pick and choose which novels in my 12 months, I admire their choices and will try to read along at least some of the time.

I also like this from Deweymonster: Reading from the New York Times Most Notable 100 Books of 2007.

I will probably combine the two.

In addition to continuing Proust, finishing Don Quixote and dipping into the NYT Most Notables, I want to tackle authors I've feared, classical literature, medieval literature, literary criticism, contemporary authors who are considered great, and some new names. Some of these authors include:

James Joyce
Don DeLillo
Toni Morrison
Virginia Woolf
Philip Roth
Salman Rushdie
Stewart O Nan
Ismail Kadare
Orman Pahmuk
Gary Shteyngart
Willa Cather
Margaret Atwood

I wanted to write them down for posterity, so I have a list to work with for the upcoming year.

Plus, I've started Hunchback of Notre Dame, which so far, I love.

Girona, Spain II


Girona, Spain

This is a sculpture we saw in Girona, Spain. I have not been able to find out anything about it so far...but naturally I love it.

Postscript: Thanks to D. Chedwick, I found this link about the sculpture. I can't speak Spanish, and all I get out of the text is a bunch of PR about reflecting the cultural life of Girona. Can anyone else translate this? I was hoping it had something to do with writers who wrote even during Franco's rule.