Friday, August 8, 2014

A peculiar crop in the garden

One thing I noticed in the backyard, sometime in early July, is that a bumper crop of spiders ripened up!  Webs here and there and everywhere.

I am no fan of spiders when they are in my house with me.  But I don't mind them out of doors and minding their own business.

About three years ago, I found my first backyard garden spider.  Since then, about midsummer, I find one or two.  This year, though, this year, I have four.  These are strangely pretty orb weavers and can get rather large for comfort.

And funnily enough, three of them are living in the same little clump of irises.  That's how I got the pictures, their webs are practically on top of each other.

The largest one had a bumblebee in her web a few days ago.  I'm afraid I might find a small child next!  :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quote Storm: The God of Small Things and The Book of Evidence

I haven't done a quote post in a while, and The God of Small Things definitely deserves one, so I might as well take care of two books with one post.

For The God of Small Things:

She had forgotten just how damp the monsoon air in Ayemenem could be. Swollen cupboards creaked. Locked windows burst open. Books got soft and wavy between their covers. Strange insects appeared like ideas in the evenings and burned themselves on dim forty-watt bulbs.


Estha had always been a quiet child, so no one could pinpoint with any degree of accuracy exactly when (the year, if not the month or day) he had stopped talking.  Stopped talking, altogether, that is. The fact is that there wasn't an "exactly when." It had been a gradual winding down and closing shop. 


He was exasperated because he didn't know what that look meant. He put it somewhere between indifference and despair. He didn't know that in some places, like the country that Rahel had come from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough. That something happened when personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation. That Big God howled like a hot wind, and demanded obeisance. Then Small God (cozy and contained, private and limited) came away cauterized, laughing numbly at his own temerity. Inured by the confirmation of his own inconsequence, he became resilient and truly indifferent. Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. And the less it mattered, the less it mattered.  It was never important enough. Because Worse Things had happened. In the country that she came from, poised forever between the terror of war and the horror of peace, Worse Things kept happening.


Insanity hovered close at hand, like an eager waiter at an expensive restaurant (lighting cigarettes, refilling glasses).


He walked on water. Perhaps. But could He have swum on land?


Ammu wondered at the transparency of that kiss.  It was a clear-as-glass kiss. Unclouded by passion or desire - that pair of dogs that sleep so soundly inside children, waiting for them to grow up. It was a kiss that demanded no kiss-back.

And from The Book of Evidence:

It was that abstracted, mildly dissatisfied air which first drew my attention to her. She was not nice, she was not good. She suited me.


We understood each other, yes, but that did not mean we knew each other, or wanted to. How would we have maintained that unselfconscious grace that was so important to us both, if we had not also maintained the essential secretness of our inner selves?


It is just that I do not believe that such moments mean anything - or any other moments, for that matter. They have significance, apparently. They may even have value of some sort. But they do not mean anything.


I have never really gotten used to being on this earth.  Sometimes I think our presence here is due to a cosmic blunder, that we were meant for another planet altogether, with other arrangements, and other laws, and other, grimmer skies. I try to imagine it, our true place, off on the far side of the galaxy, whirling and whirling. And the ones who were meant for here, are they out there, baffled and homesick, like us? No, they would have become extinct long ago. how could they survive, these gentle earthlings, in a world that was made to contain us?


The question is wrong, that's the trouble. It assumes that actions are determined by volition, deliberate thought, a careful weighing-up of facts, all that puppet-show twitching which passes for consciousness.


Monday morning. Ah, Monday morning. The ashen light, the noise, the sense of pointless but compulsory haste. I think it will be Monday morning when I am received in Hell.


The Book of Evidence

When the cover of a book describes it as "an astonishing, disturbing little novel that might have been coughed up from hell" you do start to wonder what you're getting into.

But for the most part, The Book of Evidence is a psychological study that looks at evil and how society addresses it.  And this look - accomplished by living inside the head of a nut case who ends up committing a murder - makes for an uncomfortable read.  You realize very quickly that the narrator is a pompous self-centered delusional windbag and you don't want to spend time with him but that's the only way to get to the end.

All that notwithstanding, this is a great book.  The author can run circles around the English language. He has the greatest descriptions of light and mood.  And questioning that inner dead space in all of us.  Haven't we all wanted to stop playing by the rules of society at some point?  Well, Freddie just does, and unsurprisingly, things don't go well for him.  And then he tries to figure out how to make it up and - dare we say, shows a glimmer of humanity after all?

Final call:

Some folks compare Banville to Nabokov because of the unlikeable first person narrators. Banville is far more approachable - give him a chance.