Friday, May 09, 2008

Doctor, O'Brian and Solnit

I took the day off for my follow-up with the Handsome Doctor. For a consultation that's just there to reassure me everything is fine -- even the severe cramps is considered "normal" -- it's costing me a lot of money.

I shouldn't be complaining. I am luckier than most, because thankfully, my company insurance promise to cover most of the hospital bill, as well as all expenses 3 months following the operation. Except it has been a month since the surgery and I have not yet seen the reimbursement for my medical bills. Then I read this piece of news, and I go, Hmmmm.

I'm currently reading two books: Rebecca Solnit's Storming the Gates of Paradise and Patrick O'Brian's The Surgeon's Mate. Both are interesting and absorbing in their own way.

In The Surgeon's Mate, the British is now at war with the Americans, so the action is picking up. I find the Aubrey/Maturin series very soothing. Like a musical composition, it thrives on patterns and repetitions, with dramatic highs and lows at strategic moments.

It amuses me that in the film version of Master and Commander (the one with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany), they changed the enemies from the Americans to the French. I liked the film, and because of it, I read the series with the image of Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany as Aubrey and Maturin. I imagine their manner of speech, Crowe's swaggering manliness when he takes charge of his ship, Bettany's pale reserve with blue glasses as he plays spy.

Storming the Gates of Paradise is more political than the previous two Solnit titles I have read (Wanderlust and A Field Guide to Getting Lost.) In Storming, Solnit is interested in exploring the political in landscape and space itself. Along the way she also discusses her own political activism, migration, art, culture, history - and even a meditation on astronomy and the constellation. One of the things I admire about her essays is the breadth of her interests, the way she is willing to wander off a topic to explore a related idea within the same essay. Where you first started might not always be where you end up, and so it is more interesting that way - because in it is a sense of discovery, by being willing to be lost, you allow yourself to find something new.

She discusses her literary wandering in the introduction, which is symptomatic of her distaste for fences and boundaries, especially fences on thoughts and ideas. This compartmentalizing of ideas - where we see can only see one facet of an idea - limits us. Ultimately, everything is linked: nature, culture, landscape, politics, the city, the country, are all inextricably interfused. Storming the Gates of Paradise asks us to take that leap of the imagination, to see how the world is larger than we realise - and to love it, and to do something about it.

I just re-read what I wrote about Solnit, and I realise how this book affects me. It is beautiful, and it is affecting. The case studies that Solnit cites are depressing, because it tells you how much injustice there is in this world that has been allowed, often sanctioned by the government against the interest of her people. Yet - I feel a possibility of hope in her writing. Injustice will always be there, which is why we have to do what we can against it.

Can I just end by telling you I am enjoying this book? :)

Well, bye. I'm off to the library. Books to return. Reservations to pick up.


Dorothy W. said...

I love the wandering style Solnit uses too - no wonder she cares so much about wandering and walking, and it's cool that her preoccupations and her writing style connect. Must read more Solnit soon ...

gartenfische said...

I have too many books out from the library right now, but this Solnit book sounds like something I would enjoy. I'm putting it on my list. Thank you!

Dark Orpheus said...

Dorothy I love that wandering style too - and the way she defends it is so positive. We don't think in linear patterns anyway - so why should we demand these limited structure on our writings? The mind works by leaps and connections, so that is how she writes.

Gartenfische You're welcome. I have a similar problem with too many books also, but I am glad I finally found the time to read Rebecca Solnit. She is worth it.