Jan 15, 2017

Sunday Links: “A succession of brief, amazing movements”

Me petting a cat
Good morning, friends. I thought I’d open with an entirely gratuitous cat photo, because why not? (In case you’re wondering, that’s a farm cat I petted during my Hope Valley hike — she was very friendly.)

Last time I said I’d be back soon to talk about my reading, but I’m afraid that in the past week I only made progress in the sense that I’m now in the middle of even more books. Still, I wanted to share the first lines of the year to stop me in my tracks: they’re the closing verses of Adrienne Rich’s “From a Survivor”, from Diving Into the Wreck:
Next year it would have been 20 years
and you are wastefully dead
who might have made the leap
we talked, too late, of making
which I live now
not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing movements
each one making possible the next
This idea of moving forward incrementally, of being patient, of closing the gap between the life you have and the life you long for step by step, is of course not new to me. Still, reading these verses had the force of revelation. This is what good writing does: it can tell you something new, but it can also reconfigure what you already know in a way that deepens your understanding of it. I needed this the day I read “From a Survivor”, without really knowing it was what I needed. I’ll need this patience, I think, both when it comes to my own life and to the world at large — which is of course still the stuff of my life.

I nearly forgot I had promised to show you the books I got for Christmas and my birthday. This year’s theme was, in part, “get nice editions of books I already love but don’t own”, which at least meant I wasn’t adding to my TBR pile as much:

Earthsea: The First Four Books omnibus edition, Sorrow's Know and Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Jem and the Holograms volumes 2 and 3Unstoppable Octabia May by Sharon Flake, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe


  • As I said, I’ve been reading slowly, but at least I’m also listening to a lot of music. I don’t seem to fall for new-to-me artists quite as often as I did when I was younger, probably for no reason other than that I haven’t been making the time for it. But when I read this Julia Byrne interview last year, I knew she was someone I wanted to invest time in. Her new album, “Not Even Happiness”, has just come out; I’ve only just started listening to it, but it strikes me as something I could really grow to love:
    For so much of my adult life, in great secrecy, I’ve felt a deep concern that part of me would always feel alone, misinterpreted, or unreachable. That feeling of aloneness was more familiar and constant to me than any romance had ever been, so much that I drew strength from it. The fear we experience, when despite all we try to give in love, we still emerge feeling that we may never truly be seen — this can have a bewildering effect that causes us to act in ways that aren’t true to who we are. In this case, to remain territorial even after the relationship ran its course, to assert our positions and entitlements, to find fault, the refusal to wish someone well when they no longer meet your personal needs. The song is an expression of faith in complete, unmotivated responsiveness in love and that our own capacity to love extends so far beyond the boundaries of what we’ve been told and lead to believe.
    It matters to me too, this idea.

  • Speaking of new-to-me artists I fell for hard, here’s a new Julien Baker song.

  • Two book lists, because presumably I won’t read this slowly forever: The Best Human Rights Books of 2016 and The Stop Trump Reading List from Haymarket Books.

  • Get Ready to Fight for What Matters: on libraries and resistance.

  • Here’s Dawn Foster on Labour pandering to anti-immigration sentiment. I’m honestly too upset about this to discuss it at length — it fills me with despair in a way that the right being the right no longer can — but Foster’s piece is good:
    But the argument that politicians have no choice but to submit to vague notions of public opinion ignores one crucial fact. Public opinion isn’t formed independently, but driven by narratives from the political class and the media. Decades of anti-migrant rhetoric in parliament and the press has resulted in few voters having realistic ideas of the genuine level of migration, on both a national level and in their local community.
    Be kind to yourselves and each other this coming week. I think we’re all going to need it.

    1. Dear Ana, you and Stefanie between you have persuaded me I must read some Adrienne Rich, and this will be the year that I do.

      Bah to Labour, they are such a mess at the moment.

      1. Oh Helen, did you just hear me cheer after reading your comment? :) I hope you love rich as much as Ana and I do!

      2. :) I've ordered a copy of Diving into the Wreck, am excited!

    2. Thank you for the links, as always. Re the article "By rejecting freedom of movement Labour MPs are betraying everything that they stand for" - I can't even agree with the title. I think there are so few politicians who actually stand for anything besides power and privilege, for themselves. To me, that is why they so easily can betray principles. But, as you say, how can one even stand to talk about it? Love the Rich poem excerpt - so poignant! And I love your line: "I thought I’d open with an entirely gratuitous cat photo, because why not?"

    3. What a great stack of books. I hope you enjoy all of your books. Like you, I feel like I keep adding more books to my current stacks but not making a lot of progress. Well, let's see if this week I make more progress! Have a wonderful week.

    4. Hope your reading picks up for you soon, but at least you have a bunch of shiny new books for your shelves!

    5. I continue to send you so many hugs and good thoughts, friend. These are frightening times, and it's hard to know where to focus energy and where to give yourself a break. I always appreciate your thoughtful words (for whatever that's worth).

      I was glad to read that last piece you linked. I am maddened by this world we seem to find ourselves in where facts don't matter at all. This seemed to start in the Bush presidency (or maybe that's just when I came of age in terms of political awareness) and it's only grown since then. I hate it so much. If we can't even agree on what reality is, how the hell are we supposed to make policies and decisions that affect that reality?

    6. Oh, thanks for the human rights books link, I had not seen that one.

      Not looking forward to Friday, but Saturday my husband and I will be attending the Women's March Twin Cities. Standing up and being counted, making our voices heard!

    7. Loved all the photos, from kitty to books. And what a nice edition of Earthsea. I'm toying with the idea of rereading the first 7 so that I can read the 8th. They are so wonderful. Especially the later ones. But there are so many fresh reads pulling at me too. Well, you know how THAT goes!

    8. Incremental care, from ourselves to our world, is so important. Things are not won or destroyed in an instant; even Trump's rise has long roots. We must pace ourselves but we will overcome. <3


    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.