Book Review – Bugs, by Whiti Hereaka

BugsBugs by Whiti Hereaka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of Bugs, a smart talking, street-wise 16 year old girl from small town New Zealand who thinks she’s got it all figured out.

And she does, in many ways.

Her Mum works double shifts as a cleaner at a fancy hotel servicing the booming tourist trade – a life she’d never had had if she hadn’t got pregnant with Bugs when she was a teenager. So Bugs knows about mistakes, because she is one.
Bugs has school counsellors telling her that, being Maori, she essentially has to defy statistics in order to achieve in life. So she’s knows about opportunities, because she has to make them for herself.
Bugs’ best friend, Jez, is routinely neglected by his mother and abused by his step-father, so she knows about hardship and disadvantage because her best mate doesn’t stand a chance.
Then a new girl hits town and upsets the balance.  She’s prissy, melodramatic, spoilt. A loudmouth, with no appreciation for the wealth that falls in her lap – so Bugs knows all about privilege and birthright, because she watches people like Stone Cold take it for granted every single day.
Bugs feels as though her life is just another plot from one of the dystopian novels she reads; and she already knows the script inside out.

Or does she?

You could probably draw quite a few parallels between Hereaka’s novel and Ted Dawes’ “Into the River” which won the supreme NZ Post Book Award last year. Both are YA adult novels featuring Maori protagonists during their final years of education. Both are set predominantly at school, with teachers as key characters. Both involve vulnerable youth at a point of crisis or crossroads, and both speak to the persistence of racist attitudes that prevail within the NZ education system.  But where Into the River really fell down for me was in the authenticity of the voice. I just never believed that I was inside the main character’s head – hearing his thoughts, feeling his feelings.

I didn’t have that problem with Bugs.

From the very first line, she grabbed me and drew me in. Normally, precocious young narrators drive me insane, but Bugs’ voice is utterly convincing, her experiences and perception of the world in every way believable. The connection between Bugs and Jez, a connection never fully realised or understood by either of them, is so powerful it left a clanging in my ears. 

The depictions of the farm and the dialogue between Bugs, her Uncle and her Grandparents made me feel as though I had a place right there at the table with them. Likewise, the weight of expectation Bugs carries on her shoulders is so heavy I could have sworn I was carrying it too.

For the three days this book kept me engrossed I felt like I’d returned to high school; could almost feel the dread as I walked through the school gates, smell the lockers, hear the scrape of the chairs on the lino and the droning of disinterested teachers. It’s gritty and unflinching and combative and sarcastic and deep. It builds to a climax that kept me up late, turning pages into the wee hours.  

It’s even scary. It rustled up the latent fear in me that I never realised I lived with during those high school years; the fear of getting caught, being found out, not knowing, being left behind, making the wrong choice.

As Bugs introduces us to her town, her school, her teachers, her mother and Grandparents, Jez and Stone Cold, we see the world as she sees it, but not necessarily as it is. The journey to discover what lies beneath, and to reconcile the choices her mother made with the choices she will have to make in the future, is what Bugs’ own dystopian novel must traverse.

Hereaka’s writing is beyond moving. It’s powerful, confident, fresh. It reminded me of the first time I ever read Witi Ihimaera, Albert Wendt, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme – it’s like a veil is lifted, and I am finally reading the world as I see it, as I actually experience it.

I will be sorely disappointed if this book is not on the Awards list next year – it is every bit as important as any book I have read from New Zealand in years, and hope to see it receive the accolades and recognition that its talented writer surely deserves.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

The God of Small Things – Getting better with age.

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most books give us something – but the really special books are the ones that take something away. A piece of ourselves. The God of Small Things is one such book – still.

The first time I read it, way back in 2001, it floored me. All these years later I couldn’t remember much detail about the plot, which is the fate of most books I fear, but I did remember the feeling it left me with; an aching, throbbing, painful sense of loss.

The The Book Thief and The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and and All the Pretty Horses and Birdsong to name but a few, are all books that fall into a similar category. The category of “books-that-live-on-long-after-you-finish them” category. Books whose characters are frozen in time in that one monumental scene; that one page you cannot forget. A page that was so real and vivid that there is a part of you convinced you were actually there. In The Book Thief it comes when Liesel rocks the body of her beloved Papa. In All The Pretty Horses it’s when John Grady Cole’s girl says to him “I cannot do what you ask. I love you. But I cannot.” With Edgar Mint, that moment comes when he finally pieces together the puzzle of his life, and sitting on the edge of the tub, holds his cursed head in his hand and cries….

And on and on. The unique thing about The God of Small Things, is that there are so many pages that hit you like this. Not solely for the revelations they contain, but for the unique way in which the story is told.

It bothers me that so many people dislike or have found The God of Small Things frustrating to read, so you’ll excuse me if this review takes on a defensive tone. I do understand why it is a polarising read. Once you learn that a little girl drowned amidst a backdrop of family scandal, which you do within the first 5 or 6 pages, for what purpose would you continue reading? Giving your readers the entire plot within the opening pages, and then cycling and double-backing over the events like you might crochet a blanket is certainly no conventional way to tell a story.

Yet somehow Roy still manages to achieve a perfect story arc. The climax – an event which you already know is coming – builds towards the end with a momentum that insists you seek out the detail; the small things.

Granted, the reader has to work hard to put together a time-sequence that works, pretty much for the duration of the novel, all while getting to know the many larger-than-life characters and where they fit into the web of intricate relationships that bind one to another (for an excellent review of the characters see Lisa’s review here). I understand that this could be tiring, especially if you’re not enamoured by wordplay, which has to be understood as a A Thing Itself (to borrow a quirk of expression from Roy).

You have to be able to appreciate words for their own sake; for their power, for their playfulness, for their precision, their ability to say one thing yet mean another, their weakness and inadequacy, their relationship to other words, their malleability but ultimately their authority.

This is particularly apparent in the dialogue between the twins, much of which is communicated silently, and often uses repetitive phrases and invented words.

Across the tall iron railing that separated Meeters from the Met, and Greeters from the Gret, Chacko, beaming, bursting through his suit and sideways tie, bowed to his new daughter and ex-wife. In his mind, Estha said, “Bow”.

People, places and adult interactions are also often described from the perspective of the children:

The skyblue Plymouth with tailfins had a smile for Sophie Mol. A chromebumpered sharksmile. A Paradise Pickles carsmile.

and

But the Waiting Air grew Angry….. In the quietness of the Play (the Blue Army in the green-heat still watching), Ammu walked back to the Plymouth, took out her suitcase, slammed the door, and walked away to her room, her shoulders shining.

But then how about this for a description:

The taxi smelled of old sleep. Old clothes rolled up. Damp towels. Armpits. It was, after all, the taxi driver’s home. He lived in it. It was the only place he had to store his smells. The seats had been killed. Ripped. A swathe of dirty yellow sponge spilled out and shivered on the backseat like an immense jaundiced liver. The driver had the ferrety alertness of a small rodent. He had a hooked Roman nose and a Little Richard mustache.

With the story focusing primarily on the twins in the days before and after Sophie Mol’s death, Roy subtly reinforces their overwhelming innocence, powerlessness and vulnerability in what happened (and in the actions and reactions of others), even though ultimately it became the singular event determining the future of their entire lives.

It is particularly painful, for example, when the children, starving for for the sunlight of mother’s affection, let her down – in the normal way that children let their parents down. But Ammu’s dedication to raising them well is an expression of her love, and when they misbehave she withdraws that love. Not deliberately, not maliciously, but in the way that hurt people sometimes hurt. In the way that adults sometimes do carelessly, with the blind certainty that comes from thinking you will have all the time in the world to make amends. As a mother, who knows the pleasure of being worshipped by her children (however fleeting it may be!), these were the scenes that raked at my chest like a breadknife. Because I’m flippant sometimes too. And we all make mistakes. It’s just that in Ammu’s case, the consequences of her arrogance were devastating.

“D’you know what happens when you hurt people?” Ammu said. “When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”

and

“Just go away!” Ammu had said. “Why can’t you just go away and leave me alone?!” So they had.

But Ammu is not heartless or callous. She is simply a fallible human being who had no way of predicting that her throw-away words would trigger such a fateful series of events. Besides, there are any number of other people who could be held responsible for the tragedy that unfolded on the river that day – depending on how far you want to go back and how wide you want to cast the net. Whether it be a disgruntled, jealous, conniving aunt, a drunk but well-meaning man o’ his times, the entire caste-system which prohibited the affair between Ammu and Velutha in the first place, a violent father whose abuse of his wife echoed on down through the generations, or the cops who were ‘just doing their duty’.

This is why Roy quotes John Berger in the preface to her novel “Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one.” The God of Small Things is more about the characters than it is about the things that happen to them. It’s no good to understand merely what happened, we need to know why. This requires close and diligent scrutiny of the detail. No stone should be left unturned. If someone is to blame for a tragedy, if someone must bear responsibility for the grief and misery and hardship that another has suffered, we must find out who. Is anyone truly innocent?

Or if no-one is to blame, perhaps we should blame the God of Small Things – the one who controls the tiny twists of fate that slowly contribute, build-up and accumulate over time, drop by drop, until finally the water breaches the brim and the bucket tips over – in which case, can any single person ever be held entirely responsible?

People have criticised the God of Small Things for forcing them to suffer under the weight of all this detail, but I want yell “No!!! The DETAIL is the Point!” Maybe if The God of Small Things were renamed The God of Detail, people would be less frustrated?

Rating in 2001 = 5 stars
Rating in 2013 = 5 stars

View all my reviews
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/daily-prompt-words/

The Perfect Novel: An Essential Checklist

The Miracle Life of Edgar MintThe Miracle Life of Edgar Mint is the Perfect Novel. Here is a list of the essential components of the Perfect Novel :

1) The Perfect Novel is almost impossible to review well.

Case in point
This review, clearly. For better summaries I recommend Scott’s equally glowing but much more coherent review. For a quick synopsis, the back blurb has put into words what I cannot: “Half-Apache and mostly orphaned, the adventures of Edgar Presely Mint begin on an Arizona reservation at the age of seven when the mailman’s jeep accidently runs over his head. Shunted from the hospital to a reform school to a Mormon foster family, comedy and trouble accompany Edgar – the irresistible innocent who never truly loses heart, and whose quest for the mailman eventually leads him to an unexpected home.”

2) The Perfect Novel has characters so real that you become convinced that THEY live in the real world and you live in a made-up one.

Case in point
Edgar Mint is a kid whose dead-pan, reflective voice belies the force with which he explodes on the page. Sometimes, some novels, you’re introduced to characters who take awhile to brew with you. You have sit with them awhile, follow them around a bit before you feel like they’re real. Edgar Mint, by contrast, is a kid who is so vivid, so authentic from the very first moment you meet him, that it’s you who feels like a fake.

3) The exercise of reading the Perfect Novel will, by default, render all other activities pointless, distracting and inconvenient in the extreme. Conversation will be scorned, commitments broken, sleep lost, meals missed and relationships with real-actual-people risked.

Case in point
If it’s not Edgar’s voice that grabs you, it’s his story. The opening line is: “If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was 7 years old the mail man ran over my head.” If this was a normal novel, you would be able to put this book down after reading a few chapters and continue about your daily tasks like a normal person. But, since this is not a normal novel, but in fact the Perfect Novel, you should know that it will be IMPOSSIBLE to put this book down until every last footnote, dedication and page number has been read, nay, inhaled.

4) The Perfect Novel always elicits some form of extreme emotion accompanied by its associated outward manifestation, i.e.: Happiness = laughter; tears = snot; anger = book tossing. Sometimes all at once.

Case in point
Edgar Mint’s life involves a series of unfortunate if not downright tragic turns that it’s hard to comprehend why it is that you find yourself laughing so heartily so frequently. But then all of a sudden (because it’s the Perfect Novel with the Perfect Story Arc), you unearth the mystery of Edgar’s near-death experience and find the laughter has all but evaporated, leaving in its place an enormous weight of sadness that can only, inevitably, result in snot.

5) The Perfect Novel may lead to hefty library fines.

Case in point
I can neither confirm nor deny whether I have yet returned Edgar Mint to the library after I borrowed it in January.

6) The Perfect Novel is not a book, but a friend.

Case in point
I still cruise by the bookshelf every now and again to say Hi to Edgar Mint, (who may or may not be on my bookshelf) and to flip through the dog-eared pages to re-read a few of my favourite passages. Because friendships, like the Perfect Novel, are forever.

View all my reviews

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel – A hard act to follow.

Half BrotherHalf Brother by Kenneth Oppel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cormac’s review (aged 10)

This book is about a family who adopt a baby chimp as part of an experiment to see whether he can be taught to communicate using sign language. The mother and father are both scientists and their son, Ben, is 13 when Zan comes to live with them. This is why the book is called Half Brother, because Ben has to accept this animal not as a pet, but as a brother. At first Ben has a hard time with this but eventually he comes to his senses and realises that Zan means more to him than a science experiment.

However his Dad ends up shutting down the project – he says it’s because Zan is getting too strong and dangerous but Ben knows it’s because he’s lost faith in the project and doesn’t believe Zan is learning language or ever will. So the whole book is about one boy’s fight to save his little chimp brother.
Along the way he meets many characters, some who play a key part in Zan’s life, such as the Godwin family and Tim Borden and especially Peter, a student who works with Zan and becomes his best friend. This book made me feel sad sometimes, and also excited – there were some intense bits in there. I also learnt about biomedical labs and how cruel they are to animals. It’s funny, sad and tragic all at the same time.

Mum’s 2 cents.

Cormac laid out the plot so well there should be little for me to add. WRONG! There is in fact so much more to be said about Half Brother – that I’m actually going to need to resort to bullet points:

– First up, most importantly, it’s superbly well written. I don’t know exactly what it is that distinguishes YA fiction from adult fiction, because at no point did I feel that this book was beneath my reading level, yet nor did it seem to be above Cormac’s either. It was simply easy and welcoming to read, like settling into a (faux, of course) fur-covered beanbag.

– The story is gripping. It achieves the perfect balance of plot/pace to studied introspection, and the ethical issues, while paramount, somehow never dominate. In fact, I happen to know that a person can read this book and not become overly bogged down by the ethical dilemmas it throws up – Cormac being a case in point. Although we discussed the thorny issues as they cropped up, I don’t think Cormac, left to his own devices, would have beaten himself up about them. The dilemmas range from what does it mean to be human? to should scientists maintain emotional distance from their subjects? to is animal testing is ever justified, even if it helps to save human lives?. Although these issues are present all the way through the book, Oppel somehow escapes the tendency to slip into overt preaching – the story speaks for itself and leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions.

– The characters are authentic. From the long-haired hippy Peter, Zan’s handler, to Ben’s Mum and Dad, to the prissy private school kids and eager-to-please university students. They are developed primarily through dialogue, which helps keeps the narrator’s voice in the background and adds to their authenticity. This is particularly the case for Ben’s parents, who carry a lot of baggage in their relationship (that is to say, as much as anyone else!) leaving Ben to sift through the left-overs and make sense of his own place in the family. And all throughout there are alliances and trade-offs, politics, pride and finances at stake, ensuring the reader is well invested in Zan’s future by the final few pages.

– Authenticity of the period. This book is like the literary equivalent of Mad Men. Set in the 1970s, kids ride bikes and shoot BB guns, they’re “necking” at discos, listening to Abba and washing dishes by hand, they consider colour tv’s and digital clocks the height of technology, and experiments involving chimps are all the rage. The attention to detail is subtle but fantastic.

– The surprises. And there are a few – one or two outrageous scenes in particular left us laughing/gawping in a mixture of horror/hilarity. These scenes passed as briefly as they appeared with no explanation or comment, and I loved that. It reminded us, just as any good fiction should, that anything can happen.

– It made me cry – and in case you didn’t know, it’s hard to read out loud through tears.

I was worried Zan was getting upset, so I talked to him as I groomed him. I started telling him the story of his day, and flying on an aeroplane, but he wouldn’t remember any of that, and anyway, it was such a sad story I couldn’t keep going.

But if I had to dispense with all the bullet points, what would I say about Half Brother? I’d say it’s going to be a hard act to follow.

* Should also note that this book is likely based on true events (must look into it, no info is given in the book) – a movie I saw last year, Project Nim follows a very similar trajectory to that of Project Zan. Interestingly, I wanted to take the kids to see that film but it was rated R15 which I couldn’t quite understand, being as it was a documentary. It wasn’t until afterwards that I appreciated why… Boy, the 70s were a weird time…. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1814836/

View all my reviews

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Equal parts terrifying and wonderful. Read this aloud to the kids (aged 10, 7 and 6) round the camp fire over a series of nights on our Christmas camping holidays. As soon as it got dark the book came out, the fire crackling beside us only heightening our fear. As we neared the end of the book we continued by headlamp inside the tent… then, on the final day when we couldn’t wait any longer, we read first thing in the morning before getting out of our sleeping bags, before even eating breakfast – such was our need to know whether Coraline would triumph!

Neil Gaiman, take a bow.(interesting side note, I listened to a podcast in which Gaiman said his publisher initially said the book wouldn’t work “too scary” he said. Gaiman said “look, read the first four chapters to your kids and let them decide.” And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

View all my reviews

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal]What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoë Heller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the kind of book whose cover says outrageous things like “gripping” and “addictive” and is all the more so simply because for once, those damn reviewers aren’t lying.

Middle aged Sheba is a new teacher who becomes romantically involved with a 15 year old boy in her class, to the horror and destruction of her husband and family. Barbara, from whose perspective the novel is narrated, is the older woman, confidante and friend who stands by Sheba throughout the affair and trial that follows.

That’s about all anyone can really say without giving away spoilers. Except perhaps “beware when the stalker becomes the stalked”, and “don’t believe all you hear” and “wow, I’m gonna watch Single White Female again.”

I’ve since learned that this book was made into a film with Cate Blanchett cast as Sheba and Judi Dench as Barbara – Yes and Yes! Perfection.

Zoe Heller is one of those authors that make you feel immediately confident in her skill – you don’t always know where she’s going, but no word is superfluous, no paragraph or observation out of place. You can feel it all moving towards a crescendo which, when it’s done, you will want to stand up and applaud.

View all my reviews

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

Salmon Fishing In The YemenSalmon Fishing In The Yemen by Paul Torday

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fabulous, rip-roaringly wonderful read. If only all books could be as pleasurable an experience as this one. Is there any point in recapping the plot? This book’s been around for awhile now (kudos to Anna who gave me a copy in 2007 with assuranes of a guaranteed great read – which I ignored for a good half decade). And it’s just recently been made into a movie starring some good looking famous people.

There’s a love story (isn’t there always), a wealthy Sheikh (ditto), lots of political intrigue, scandal and oh, ego of course. Wherever you look, it’s just ego, ego, ego. Pure and hilarious. The frightening thing is, having worked within the public service for awhile and being a little bit familiar with the science of “getting stuff done” while managing sensitive diplomatic relations at the same time, much of what is depicted in Salmon Fishing seems to be really very close to reality. It’s satirised, to be sure, but I get the sense that Paul Torday’s cynicism isn’t based on nothing.

Of course, this book was always going to resonate with me more now, living in the Middle East where much of the book is set, than it did back in 2007 when I was living on the other side of the world in Samoa. But still, that’s no excuse. This book has broad appeal, I don’t care where you live. Deep down there’s a thoughtful message too, but my take away is definitely the humour. I’ll stop by my bookshelf often just to read and re-read the email exchanges between Alfred and his almost-not-quite-estranged wife. Oh, and the interludes with Peter Maxwell, whose TV show idea was spectacularly ridiculous in the extreme. P. 240. Read it and weep.

View all my reviews

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman, No fruit was abused in the writing of this review.

Call Me by Your Name
Love stories punctured by loss, doubt, regret and a lifetime of longing. Will the world ever have its fill of them? I hope not. They inspire the most beautiful writing, as you’ll witness when reading Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman.

Elio and Oliver are teenagers when they first meet in an unnamed coastal town in Italy. Oliver, a graduate student from America, is a guest in Elio’s home for the duration of the summer while he works on his dissertation. Narrated by Elio, a grown man reliving the intensity of that summer of sexual awakening with a maturity he never had at the time, the book is a meditation not only on the heat of lust and anxiety of wanting but also on the choices people make in life; what motivates us (are we ever fully conscious of what is at stake?) and more importantly whether we can ever be at peace with the consequences of our decisions.

The tragedy in Call Me by Your Name is that the young Elio is far too immature to be making the kinds of choices he is faced with at the end of the summer, or not faced with as it were. Because Oliver, who is considerably older at the time, simply does not offer him any. He leaves “Later!” – whether propelled by fear or indifference or simply the inevitability of a life led following the textbook, is never really clear (this provides an important dimension of authenticity to the story; how often are we ever truly privy to the motivations of others?  All-loving does not make us all-knowing).

It is interesting though that in the end, the person whose loss is felt most keenly is that of Oliver’s rather than Elio’s.  Although we don’t know the specifics of Elio’s circumstances, it is Oliver who clearly seems to be living a life which in a sense has fulfilled the prophecy that Elio’s father had warned about:

“Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those in between. But there’s only one.” (p. 225)

and:

“Some, for fear of taking any turns, find themselves leading the wrong life all along” (p. 99)

I understand Call Me by Your Name is often upheld as a kind of poster-book for the gay coming-of-age genre. Certainly there are passages within it, specifically the conversation that Elio has with his father, which will have a particular relevance to any young person dealing with the implications of ‘coming out’. Elio’s father handles their “talk” with a sensitivity and wisdom and ultimately unconditional love and acceptance that will make you weep.

But it would be criminal for such a thought-provoking and fine piece of literature to be shelved so narrowly. The writing is deep and brooding, the descriptions of scene and dialogue so perfectly observed, it is no wonder there are people driven to distraction trying to work out precisely where the novel is set so that they can visit the town in person. I, on the other hand, will never be able to look at an Apricot (Apricock?) the same way ever again.

Moreover, the things that the grown-up Elio is left contemplating after half his life has been lived and the summer with Oliver is but a distant memory, are the same that anyone might find themselves contemplating in later life. These are not idle musings about ‘what if?’, rather a very real sense that eventually the significance of those critical events and people that have so irrevocably and sometimes unexpectedly shaped our lives, might one day be understood, if not entirely accepted, in the grander scheme of things.

***This book has been Insta Book Reviewed! Don’t know what that is? Check it out! You may even be able to resolve your curiosity about the subtle references to fruit…****

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a multimedia review

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (Cover) Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is inspired by the true story of a village in Eyam, Derbyshire, who in the time of the Plague did a most unusual thing. Instead of each man and woman fleeing for their lives, they sought to halt the spread of the Plague by closing the village in and selflessly bearing out its wrath internally. Geraldine Brooks has done an incredible job of evoking the customs and superstitions of the period, the nuance of language and the hardship of labour, such that you feel completely immersed in the village and its fate. The historical detail is astounding, but it is the very personal nature of Anna’s friendship with the rector’s wife that makes the horror of the plague so much more vivid.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: A multimedia review.

Harold_Fry_CoverThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is about family secrets, regrets, shame, blame and the baggage we carry from the past. It is about the moment of reckoning, when all of the emotion comes bursting forth and demands to be understood. For Harold Fry, that moment comes when he receives a letter from a woman who he used to work with many years ago, and who now lies in a hospice at the other end of the country. Intending to send her a response by mail, Harold leaves his wife vacuuming in the hall and steps out to post the letter. But something happens inside his head and heart during the short walk to the box, and he doesn’t return. Instead, he continues to walk. On and on, a journey of months and several hundred miles, towards Queenie.

Your sample of passages, made misty and nostalgic with the help of Instagram: (click to enlarge & read descriptions)


A poetic voice to accompany Harold’s:

T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (excerpts only…)

[…]
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

[…]

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

[…]

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

Read the whole poem here

And as for the song… could there have been any other?! 500 Miles, by the Proclaimers