With its idiosyncratic combination of Faulknerian syntax and a Hemingway-spare vocabulary and disdain for commas (A Moveable Feast tends to come up a lot), this book is weirdly and wonderfully written. It’s easy to tumble down a page of rambling sentences and take such delight in their sound and structure that you almost forget to absorb what they mean; they twist in on themselves like the narrator’s mind.
Set in 1989 Norway and Denmark, I Curse the River of Time pits the future-oriented thrust of Communist ideology (crumbling along with the Berlin Wall) against the backward-glancing tendency of human thought; the amazing title comes from a nostalgic poem by Mao about leaving his childhood village, a perfect encapsulation of this tension. The narrator and one-time Communist activist Arvid is caught in a brutal positive feedback loop: never having lived in the moment, he is compelled to look back, and by looking back, he is kept from living in the moment.
As his marriage fails, the thirty-seven-year-old man-baby tries desperately to win his dying mother’s approval and is locked in an eternal and impossible-to-win competition with his younger brother, who died years earlier. Spared Arvid’s familial failings by his life’s sheer brevity, the brother achieves the kind of suspension in amber Arvid so desires through the thing he most fears: death.
“When it came to dying,” he writes, “I was scared. Not of being dead, that I could not comprehend, to be nothing was impossible to grasp and therefore really nothing to be scared of, but the dying itself I could comprehend, the very instant when you know that now comes what you have always feared, and you suddenly realise that every chance of being that person you really wanted to be, is gone forever, and the one you were, is the one those around you will remember.”
Like many New Yorkers, I love to hate this city: the incessant noise, the summertime stench, the relentless hordes, the extortionate cost of living. Nick Carr of Scouting New York recently uncovered a list of "101 Things to Love about New York City" from a 1976 article in the Times, and I'm almost loath to admit the twinge of tenderness and pride that I felt upon reading it. Carr spoke about the article on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, and you can listen to the full story (and become really nostalgic) here.
Why were so many female artists airbrushed from history? In much the same way that we’ve been unearthing unfairly forgotten women travel writers for our blog series, painter Annie Kevans has been researching and painting the portraits of incredible female artists who have largely been excluded from art history books.