Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Little More Privacy, Please.

I know, that's funny, coming from a public blog, but there it is. My writing life lately has been a mostly internal affair and, to be honest, I'm pretty happy with it. Hence, no posts since March. Used to be (way back then) I'd chime in on twitter or facebook to roust some eyeballs for this page, but it's just not terribly important to me lately. Lately I'm content to surf a couple of days a week, log the session in my journal, tinker around with a manuscript I've been tinkering with for the past year, and read a lot. I think it's a reaction to what seems to be the hyper-monetizing of every aspect of modern life. It's sickening to me, really, and I feel no need to get anyone's attention. In fact, it's a pretty magical feeling to create a really nice work of art (poem, story, drawing, whatever) and share it with just a few people, for their own private enjoyment. That's something you can't discount, much less put a price tag on.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Holy Mahabharata, Batman!

Sometimes you finish a book, and the overriding feeling you get is of accomplishing a feat of endurance. Just so with the Mahabharata, the great Hindu epic of India. Now, the work in its entirety is eighteen volumes, so my one volume summary and translation is more like the Mahabharata Cliff's notes, but at 800 pages requiring over a month of dedicated reading, it was still quite a bit more substantial than a mere gloss. It was, to be frank, an effort to read it. Worth doing once, to be sure, but work nonetheless, and an effort I wouldn't have undertaken fifteen years ago, having in those days no tolerance for countless digressions and highly exaggerated and nearly interminable (even in summary) scenes of battlefield carnage.

In all honesty, it's an effort I probably wouldn't have undertaken now if not for another work: comic writer Grant Morrison's 18 Days, a retro-future (or more correctly, futuristic deep history) re-imagining of the eighteen day Bharata war, full of jaw-dropping illustrations by Mukesh Singh. 18 Days is, in a word, rad, and it's radness is such that it manages to infect the original with an apocalyptic relevance that makes it seem somehow less overblown and more accessible to the 21st century reader weaned on Science Fiction. If this seems trite, be assured that's not my intention. The Mahabharata is a great work, and certainly worth reading in summary with selected translations. The characters are astounding, particularly the incomparable man/god Krishna, and there are passages of incredible humanity and day to day relevance scattered like precious gems throughout. But it's not a casual read by any stretch of the imagination, and your mileage will vary with your patience.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Irate Looks At Forty

Not quite a week ago I turned 40 and for the past several days I've been trying to figure out if it means anything. The only real conclusion I've come to is that if I haven't figured it out by the end of the year, I'm letting it slide. I've learned this much in 40 years - You can't know everything, you can't control most things, and you shouldn't have to finish anything that's wasting your time. Also: Platitudes come easier with age, but they still smell like bullshit.

Hell, I'm not sure I'm even a grownup yet, or what that means. Just look at my birthday gifts: A trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (a shared present with my son and my wife), a Wave caster-board (a two wheeled device that's ridiculously fun but mostly ridden by eight to twelve year-olds), and a copy of the Mahabharata (abridged at almost 900 pages). I can't make sense of any of these things in combination and I suspect I shouldn't try. Better just to let it slide and go surfing instead.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Slim Margins Of Magnificence

I haven't been writing much in this new year, but I have burned through four or five books in the past three weeks- a survey on popular crime, a book on presidential sex scandals, a biography of Muhammad Ali, and the biographical segment of a book on Leonardo da Vinci. On the surface they don't seem much related, and I suppose they're not, not really, but one thing that struck me after reading them is a sense of the temporal brevity of any one person's fame (or infamy, in the case of crime and scandal). That a book of two hundred to four hundred pages can contain the significant instances of a man's life (several men usually), hold him in essence like a specimen in a glass jar, is incredible, humbling, and terrifying, all in one big burrito.

It also says, to me at least, that even the best of us, leading the most eventful of lives, have spent an incredible majority of their time doing utterly mundane things. I suppose that could be depressing, knowing that we're all in thrall to the inescapable ordinariness of life, but it also means that any one of us on any given day is only ten minutes of determination and luck (good or bad) from transcendence. It means too that even the greatest in our midst are still ninety nine percent human being, godlike for the blink of an eye, but no more. Time runs away, my friends, even if you don't bother to chase it.