Men talking politics


Every time you hear a man talking politics, listen to what he says about his wife.

Σάρα Μος,The Tidal Zone

[το εξώφυλλο, από μόνο του ένας λόγος για να αγοράσεις το βιβλίο, είναι πίνακας του ζωγράφου Μάικλ Γκάσκελ. Εδώ μια συνέντευξή του με αφορμή τη δεύτερη θέση που πήρε για αυτό το πορτρέτο στο BP Portrait Award το 2015]

My mother was eaten by birds.


We remember our lives slowly. Memories don’t come all at once. Revelation, my father said, is like a funeral procession. The order within the procession tells a story of its own. There’s no point to rushing. You need quiet and patience.

Silas Dent ZobalThe Inconvenience of the Wings

Scarred and scared


Fairness is for happy people, for people who have been lucky enough to have lived a life defined more by certainties than by ambiguities.
Right and wrong, however, are for—well, not unhappy people, maybe, but scarred people; scared people.

Χάνια Γιαναγκιχάρα, A Little Life


Από συνέντευξη της Ελίζαμπεθ Κόλμπερτ για το βιβλίο της, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History:

You profile Kinohi, a Hawaiian crow in the San Diego zoo. Why him?
He’s one of about 100 of his kind left. Kinohi is being kept there so that his sperm can be collected by a very, very devoted specialist. She spends a lot of time stroking him and trying to get him to ejaculate.
Spending time with them showed me the amazing lengths people are willing to go through to preserve species. That’s the other side of the extinction story. With Kinohi, one felt the shadow of his impending death — he’s very old in bird years — and that of his species.
Extinction hangs over the whole enterprise. His tissue will be frozen when he dies, and they will take a cell line from him. And they will keep those cells alive. So there you have people being ingenious and devoted, and meanwhile all these things are going on that are having these tragic effects. His story brought together a lot of the strands of our relationships to other species. [Η συνέχεια της συνέντευξης εδώ]

Και εδώ μια ραδιοφωνική συνέντευξη της συγγραφέα για το βιβλίο.


[Το δράμα του Κινόχι μου θύμισε την ιστορία της Old Blue —μια ωραία καταγραφή της υπάρχει στο εξαιρετικό Birds & People του Μαρκ Κόκερ—, και τον αγώνα του Καρλ Τζόουνς να σώσει από την εξαφάνιση το κιρκινέζι του Μαυρίκιου —τον περιγράφει ωραία ο Ντέιβιντ Κουάμεν στο The Song of the Dodo, που μπορεί να διαβαστεί συμπληρωματικά με το The Sixth Extinction.]

The goshawk

After my father’s death a kind of psychological autopilot took over. You can’t tame grief, but you can tame a hawk. At the time I saw it as a way of escaping myself. I wanted to be like a goshawk. I didn’t test myself against the rugged exterior landscape. I brought the wild—in the form of the hawk—inside the home, and inside myself. That is where the battle raged. At heart it was a battle about who I was and what the world was for.


[πηγή της φωτογραφίας]

We carry the lives we ’ve imagined as we carry the lives we have, and sometimes a reckoning comes of all the lives we have lost.

Έλεν Μακντόναλντ, H is for Hawk


Perhaps not so little


Η Χάνια Γιαναγκιχάρα συζητά με τον επιμελητή της, Τζέρι Χάουαρντ, με αφορμή την έκδοση του A Little Life (εν θερμώ ρεπορτάζ από τα μισά της ανάγνωσης: τεράστιο, όχι μόνο ως προς τον αριθμό των σελίδων όσο, και κυρίως, σε συναισθηματική και λογοτεχνική δύναμη — ένα από τα σπάνια εκείνα μυθιστορήματα που απαιτούν να ζήσεις μαζί τους για ένα διάστημα, αν και απροσδόκητο δεύτερο βήμα μετά τον παγερό σίφουνα που είναι το The People in the Trees):

Howard: In your case of course, the two novels we’ve worked on together came in as complete manuscripts and by and large the published versions of The People in the Trees and A Little Life do not differ. As you know, I initially found A Little Life so challenging and upsetting and long that I had to work my way through to appreciating it. It arrived on my desk at a time when my wife was going through a difficult health crisis and my soul was raw and troubled, and if ever a book was devised to trouble a soul, it is A Little Life. But the power of the thing was so undeniable that walking away from it was not something I could easily contemplate.

Yanagihara: What was the most challenging part of working on this book for you?

Howard: My first editorial concern with A Little Life was with its length, and my initial opinion was that it would be a better and/or more salable book if 100 or even 200 pages could go. But when I sat down with my pen in hand to edit it, I found that in fact the book justifies its length. So much happens to your four college friends who are the principal characters over such a long span of time that the book gains richness and amplitude as it accrues. (My private little descriptive tag for the book is “miserabilist epic.”) So I was wrong about that. Where you and I parted company was at the places where I felt that too much suffering was being piled onto your main character Jude, the orphan with the baroquely bad backstory, and also at times onto subsidiary characters.

Yanagihara: Now that I look back on it, I can see that most of your notes were of a fairly minor nature. At the time of their receipt, however, they felt insurmountable, epic, and assaultive. Part of this was their sheer physical manifestation: a 1,000-plus-page manuscript made literally shaggy with Post-it notes. I had to leave it under the bed for two weeks until I was ready to face it. Another thing I remember, keenly, is your admission that your first read took place during a very difficult period, when your wife was suffering a series of health problems—which makes it all the more remarkable that, even through many, many, many disagreements on all matter of things, I always knew you loved this book, and would always fight for its place and right to exist.

[Εξτραδάκι: Nine Tips for Finishing That Novel]


Amnesia esoptrica


Από συνέντευξη του Βίκραμ Παράλκαρ για το βιβλίο του The Afflictions, μια απολαυστική ψευδοεγκυκλοπαίδεια ασθενειών μεταξύ Καλβίνο, Μπόρχες και (σύμφωνα, τουλάχιστον, με τη γιορς τρούλι) Μανγκανέλι:

Do you see the book taking place in a parallel world to ours?

There are clearly events and occurrences in the book that are physically impossible, considering the biology of our world, so there is a certain element of “speculative fiction” here. I suppose it would be a parallel world, although I’m not exactly very eager to apply the term “science fiction” to this, because the term tends to etch out a very specific genre. This is just a world in which these things happen, where epidemics can make people speak different languages, can make them hear music. It’s just that kind of world.

What are some influential works that you’ve read in speculative fiction?

The most obvious is Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. In it, Marco Polo is in Kublai Khan’s court, describing cities that he’s seen during his travels. Each city is a prose poem, conveying an idea or an image. My book probably has its greatest affinity to that kind of writing. I also greatly admire Jorge Luis Borges, who was terrific at starting with a phantasmagorical idea, and then teasing apart its mechanics to show the reader exactly what it would entail. One influence you might notice is Edgar Allen Poe, whose short stories I find endlessly fascinating. Another is a 17th century author named Robert Burton who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy. It’s a 1400 page tome that details all the possible causes of melancholy. But it isn’t really a medical work – it’s more an erudite collection of every possible perspective of human existence. It’s the kind of book that is impossible to read and yet impossible to stop reading.

Απόσπασμα από το βιβλίο:

Mirrored Amnesia

The invalid with Amnesia esoptrica, or Mirrored Amnesia, when still in the prime of his life, begins to notice blank spots in his memory. When he thinks of the interior of his village chapel, he can no longer picture the crucifix that ought to hang there. He cannot recall the names or faces of the boys who sang with him in the village choir. He can forge horseshoes but has no recollection of ever having entered a smithy. He recalls once fleeing from an orchard with an apple clutched in his hand but cannot remember climbing the tree to pluck it. He remembers a round breast with a tiny scar, glorious in its imperfection, but not the identity of the woman who possessed it, or how he became privy to such an intimate detail.
Day after day he combs the corridors of his mind and finds yet more things missing, and begs his friends and relatives to help him illuminate the voids. They recount their secondhand recollections of his life, until he knows his own history mostly by hearsay. It is in this absurd fashion that he must live, for only by memorizing the fragmented recollections of others can he hope to have any semblance of a past.
But the affliction overtakes his efforts at compensation. He begins to lose the part of himself that was known to him alone, witnessed by no other. He is left with no recourse but to fill his mind with suppositions and conjectures, with imagined memories of music he might have heard, lovers he might have wooed, sins he might have committed.
Scholars of memory report that in the terminal stages of Amnesia esoptrica, when all of the invalid’s own memories have been erased, he forgets even his own diseased state. He possesses only the fictions he has created in an attempt to bandage his failing mind and repeats them, again and again, as though they were truth. He wanders as a minstrel or a madman, for depending on the nature of the tales he has woven for himself, his fellow men regard him as a great storyteller — or a moonstruck fool.