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Daniel Hahn Archipelago Books Paper, pp. Several characters Ventura has dealings with serve to fill in the picture of a country undergoing an uneasy and fragile transition from hostilities to peace. There is menace in this tightly wrapped story to both main parties, from different sources, and without giving anything away, it can be said that the atmosphere around the amusing or profound thoughts of the Borges gecko act like a lantern held up against a darkness that could swallow everything.

Agualusa undercuts their truthfulness emotional and factitious by mingling the tales of characters who seem real with those we are told, almost assured, are not. Where we land depends on what we choose to believe. Here, as in The Book of Chameleons , there is a fine degree of control over a debilitating existence lived under almost constant strife and mayhem. Many of the same themes are present in A General Theory of Oblivion ; English translation published in , which is set between the mids and the early s.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, John Dos Passos, and William Vollmann, along with many more, have rescued important and hidden facts from historical oblivion and worked to keep alive the memory of incidents that plunged entire peoples into despair or periods of ferocious activity, and they have contributed new angles from which to analyze obscure and well-known events. Similarly, Agualusa is mining a rich and deep national memory and has much to tell readers.

The cast recalls those from the previous books: Above them all is Ludovica Ludo who has accompanied her sister, Odete, and her new brother-in-law, Orlando, from Portugal to Angola just before independence is brought about. She is the figure Agualusa focuses on. Through her, despite her isolation in an apartment building, we are given an overview of Angolan history and society.

As conditions throughout the capital and the nation deteriorate and people flee the country, the other tenants vanish until Ludo is, perhaps, the only one remaining. She has many books to read and, for a short period, a working telephone, radio, and phonograph. For food she at first relies on a stuffed pantry and crops from seeds Orlando had planted in his terrace. Covered in a cardboard box with eye and armholes to protect her from the sky, she attends to this tiny, life-sustaining garden, catching water from rainfalls when the municipal systems start to fail.

But it is often dry, electricity dies, and supplies eventually run out:. For weeks, weeks as long as months, Ludo barely ate. She fed Phantom on a flour porridge. The nights merged into the days. She would wake to find the dog watching over her with a fierce eagerness.

She would fall asleep and feel his burning breath. She went to the kitchen to fetch a knife, the one with the longest blade there was, the sharpest one, and took to carrying it around attached to her waist like a sword.

She, too, would lean over the animal as he slept. Several times she brought the knife to his throat. Over the course of the many years spent without other human company that she wishes to contact—for after a while the apartment building attracts new residents—the window is her sole connection with the outside world. When a monkey enters her garden she is ruthless.

Ludo writes her thoughts down in a series of notebooks, and Agualusa gives us some of those entries, as well as later ones using other surfaces always presented in italics:. The days slide by as if they were liquid. I have no more notebooks to write in. I have no more pens either. I write on the walls, with pieces of charcoal, brief lines. I spare my wrists [1]. Burning furniture, books, and paintings keeps her warm. Her eyesight is going. Life is getting truly desperate, and then a young boy, Sabalu, begins bringing her food, though he starts as a thief entering her apartment through the window while she sleeps and stealing what looks valuable.

His own life story changes once they talk. By the time he shows up, well past the halfway mark, we have met others who, while unaware of Ludo, are linked to her and to each other.

Many of the other characters—Arnaldo Cruz a sometime political activist turned businessman, more commonly referred to as Little Chief , Magno Moreira Monte an intelligence officer , Jeremias a Portuguese soldier , and Daniel Benchimol a journalist , to name a few—receive time in the narrative for their stories to be fleshed out. That centre point is also a symbol for something else. Windows, walls, and doors can be many things, including hymens, and in a metaphorical sense Sebalu and Ludo are reborn when the wall comes down, this time into a changed world, surrounded by those who are not quite family, but close.

Trapped and cut off from news, Ludo speculates about what is going on, often in language inspired, perhaps, by the many books she has read: I am foreign to everything, like a bird that has fallen into the current of a river.

There is a dancing hippo. People are not recognized for who they are: Burning Ulysses , by Joyce, she had lost Dublin. Getting rid of Three Trapped Tigers , she had incinerated old Havana. Descriptions of scenery and nature are used sparingly but effectively: They found a bit of water. The wind began to blow. The wind carried heavy shadows along with it, as though it were carrying night, in shreds, yanked away from some other, even more distant desert. There were guys locked up for diamond trafficking, and others for not having stood to attention during the raising of the flag.

Some of the prisoners had been important leaders in the party. They took pride in their friendship with the President. Is history over for Angola? What I mean to suggest is not that the history of a nation can be wrapped up once and for all in narratives there will always be more stories, and then there are the counter-narratives , but that, to my mind, the conclusion of A General Theory of Oblivion unwittingly indicates that events can come to a neat close.

Ludo, for example, has a background that is useful to link her to Sebalu, but since they become family quickly enough as it is, when the narrative provides us with that story it is, by then, unrequired and in any case too familiar. Certain characters glance off each other and are forever paired, and this happens many times, too many when you dwell on the length of time of the action—decades—and the gigantic sprawl of the canvas, thereby provoking a disbelief, and shutting down critical sympathy.

Less reliance on clearing up every mystery could have resulted in a more satisfying novel, especially since there is so much that is bloody and messy. The communal and personal histories combine, as they often can, but more disorder and loss—what Ludo described as being swept along by her adopted country in its long state of turmoil—would have removed the feeling that we are reading something that is artistically schematic and contrived to finish in a burst of sentimentality. This short novel, written with confidence and poise, contains sharply sketched characters, an evolving and engaging main narrative around Ludo, and years of conflict succinctly summarized and easily understandable.

His forthcoming book, Centring the Margins: Present in this excerpt from A General Theory of Oblivion, translated by Daniel Hahn , are some of the recurring themes of the novel: The language is relaxed and the details vivid. In the last lines those who engage in brutality are said to acknowledge the power of words. Put another way, Agualusa shows that civilization is held in regard even as vengeance, chaos, and an eternal thirst for more, threaten to swallow his country.

A ny one of us, over the course of our lives, can know many different existences. Not many, however, are given the opportunity to wear a different skin. Jeremias Carrasco had something very like this happen to him. He awoke, after facing a careless firing squad, in a bed that was too short for his six feet, and so narrow that were he to uncross his arms they would both hang down with their fingers touching the cement floor, one on each side.

He had a lot of pain in his mouth, neck, and chest, and terrible trouble breathing. He saw, on opening his eyes, a low ceiling that was discolored and cracked. A small gecko, hanging directly above him, was studying him curiously. The morning was coming in, wavy and scented, through a tiny window high up on the facing wall, just below the ceiling. Even supposing that the gecko was indeed God, he would appear to be hesitating about what fate to assign to him. To Jeremias this indecision was even stranger than finding himself face-to-face with the Creator and the fact that He had taken on the form of a reptile.

Jeremias knew, and had known for quite some time, that he was destined to burn for all eternity in the flames of Hell. He had killed, he had tortured. He only felt awake, whole, when he was racing through the night, in pursuit of other men. Or rather, he tried to say, but all that came out of his mouth was a dull, tangled thread of sounds.

He made a second attempt, and, as in a nightmare, the dark rush of noise came again. Then he turned his eyes toward the right and saw a hugely fat woman leaning against the door.

Her hands, with tiny, fragile fingers, danced before her as she spoke:. They said you were a devil. You died, you were reborn, and you have another chance.

Make the most of it. Madalena had been working at the Maria Pia Hospital for five years. Before that she had been a nun. A neighbor had witnessed the shooting of the mercenaries at a distance and had notified her.

The nurse drove to the site on her own. One of the men was still alive. A second projectile had gone into his mouth, shattering his two upper incisors, then perforating his throat. Were you trying to catch the bullet in your teeth? The light seemed to laugh with her. It would have killed you or left you paralyzed.

I thought it best not to take you to the hospital. I just have to get you out of Luanda. She hid him for nearly five months.


My sons come for long visits every year. Friends come from South Carolina and from France. I can hardly be said to live here. I feel I am just passing through, practically unobserved, like a ghost. The consequences vary widely. Chief among the more serious are liver failure and lung destruction…. In other words, I am dying, and rather rapidly. Most writers, most artists, can identify with that. He has a lot of knowledge which, because of his position, will never be put to use.

He fails at sign language, learned from a slender pamphlet, the only time he gets to try it, and typing is impossible for him. He can play the piano, but this never helps him pick up girls. He prefers devouring books to anything else. An insatiable reader, he categorizes authors.

He is a rat who was raised with literature for sustenance, in every sense of the word. This trim novel is a modest delight, with its clever conceit, an abiding respect for literature, and geniality co-existing with melancholy. He writes letters to his ex-wife, women he knew years before, contributors to the failing journal, and impatient bill collectors, and these letters make up the majority of the novel, with the occasional excerpt from a diary and passages from a novel Whittaker has underway.

In the midst of the systemic corruption of the Nixon years, Whittaker embodies, on a modest level, smallness and pettiness, and is a reminder of how easily we can turn, or naturally be, rotten to others while deluding ourselves about our own importance. By focusing on a minor, carping, mean-spirited man, it shows that even an unedifying life can serve as a moral lesson. One wonders if Sam Savage is indicating that we live in a Godless universe, with Edna just one more creature in a glass cage, unloved and not made to last.

If so, then this is a chilling picture of old age and contemporary society. She does not look back with self-pity. Whether we can trust her is open to question. The integrity of the main character and of the story told, fascinating topics deftly handled, lead into another aspect of her that is equally rich. Why did his answer surprise me? Jeff Bursey is a literary critic and author of the picaresque novel Mirrors on which dust has fallen Verbivoracious Press, and the political satire Verbatim: It is a work of extraordinary emotional and psychological complexity, about a woman who locates salvation in her own creativity and is audacious enough to seek recognition in a world governed by men, from which it is not readily forthcoming.

This was a woman who ventured to publish her outlandish thoughts and writings when there was very little precedent for acts of this kind she was, after all, a woman, and constrained by the conventions which dogged her era. It is also a work of extraordinary emotional and psychological complexity, about a woman who locates salvation in her own creativity and is audacious enough to seek recognition in a world governed by men, from which it is not readily forthcoming.

On another level, it is a novel about a woman being pushed along the line that is her life, a woman being buffeted about and subjected to forces she has no control over—wars, illness, her own body—while others, including loved ones, drop away: In April, my sister Mary. In Ireland that summer my brother Tom was crushed by his horse. The following autumn, our mother was taken…Alone in my room in Paris, I felt oblivion creep near. Margaret Cavendish, the character Dutton has fashioned, is at once bold and insecure, audacious and isolated she is often more daring on the page than it is possible for her to be in person ; even when she is all the rage because her writing or eccentric attire is garnering attention she is without community; she is by turns an object of praise, admiration, ridicule and resentment.

In between these events, the young Margaret Lucas serves the queen as a lady-in-waiting, marries William Cavendish, an aristocrat with no money but good connections they dine and otherwise socialize with the best minds of the time: Hobbes, Descartes, Dryden, and others—all of whom more or less ignore Margaret , writes copiously though she has her crises , and moves with him, in exile, from place to place: They are Royalists and the English Civil War is raging.

Dutton, who identifies as a writer of fiction, is nonetheless preoccupied with forms of narrative which resist the very distinction between poetry and prose. Carla Harryman is another American prose-writer who works in something like this way, and Dutton is of course familiar with her.

But life changes on a dial, in a garden, a clinking of beetle wings, a shrimp bush and dry pink petals of Chinese lanterns dangling. But storms are furious in their own way, green lightning and bullets as big as hail in the desert, as frogs. My tongue reveals something faintly audible here. But birds come in off the low-slung roof and confess themselves atop cupboards.

Even the occasional warm bird sandwich is prohibited. I spend a term untouched, living in an abandoned chophouse, pulling weeds. I post banns up and down the avenue, on palm trees and street signs. I drive a simple bargain. Whereas Attempts at a Life consists of very short pieces which coalesce like poems it is almost tempting to think of them as prose-poems , SPRAWL , whose structure is supposed to reinforce its theme, consists of a single, stream-of-consciousness-like paragraph whose sentences inventory the phenomena making up an equally sprawling suburbia:.

We have a distinctive ecology involving cows, furniture, farms, real estate, azaleas, fires, corn, curtains, dust, passion, malefactors, milk, meat, cherries, wasps, mayors, pipefitters, fences… So we sit on the couch and drink cocktails with umbrellas and are strongly on this one side of taxation, with an emphasis on judges, unpleasant violent crime, serenity, the good life, biographies of famous leaders, science fiction, and marijuana.

Both books are textured, so to speak, like fiction, but the linguistic parts which make that texture up are allowed to sit next to each other in ways which are perhaps more mysterious than conventional fiction would allow and how do the elements making up a poem fit together?

In this vein, Dutton is an adept maker of lists. Many of her sentences, and paragraphs, too, assume the form of a list whose elements are motley enough to startle expectation, but coordinated enough to sustain a kind of sense overall.

This kind of slightly discontinuous listing, if we can call it that, makes Dutton seem aesthetically close to Gertrude Stein, who is one of her acknowledged influences Virginia Woolf and Georges Perec are others. Margaret the First makes use of this technique as well, though the items which make up its various lists are slightly more coordinated than they are motley. This is perhaps because the novel, unlike Attempts at a Life , say, although it too is made up of short, poetically-cohering sections, strives to transcend its parts to sustain a longer, unified story.

One morning that June, I took only a conserve of marigold for breakfast, trying to loosen a cough, and, after wandering the halls, went to the garden with two hard plums in my pocket.

I ate; the church bell tolled. The room was remarkably hot, for Mother believed in keeping windows shut, and a fat summer fly bumped against the glass. I stood at a table fiddling with a vase. I counted thirty-seven stems and dreamt up a ruby coat for a Chinese empress, a watery dress for Ophelia, a series of towering crystalline hats that rattled, sparkled, and shook—until from the hall came a series of noises. The kind of writing fictionalized Lady Cavendish does appears in the novel, too.

It is also described. This poetic is presented in a positive light, as if it is radical and desirable, fully endorsed, even loved. It disregards grammatical requirements as well, mainly because Margaret is unfamiliar with them, but refuses to be held back. In a word, her text is wild.

It is as wild as she is inexorable. It cuts what seems like it must be an impossible figure of freedom, but which is precisely not impossible: I chastised men who hunt for sport. Internally, she is enraged; externally, she is docile. Psychologically acute moments like this, subtle emotional swivels, rather than action per se, give this narrative shape and depth.

The single constant Margaret has in the world, besides her writing, is her husband, William, but even her relationship with him sours and sweetens.

He is initially supportive of her writing, even proud, going so far as to distribute copies of it to his eminent friends, but he becomes peevish later on at one point he even tells her—more or less—that women should be seen and not heard. She does not help matters, either: She attends the opening night for a play he has written with her breasts bared and nipples painted—something of a fashion experiment, which is much noted during the performance.

Lady Cavendish is undoubtedly a complex, perhaps even contradictory, character: She is an awkward character, to put this another way: The text holds a part of her in reserve, or seems to refrain from disclosing her fully. She wonders if William has forgiven her after the play-incident, but we are given little other insight into her anxiety: Its energy is inimitable; its curious aura—its curious beauty—burns a long while.

She is currently studying philosophy at the University of Toronto. She is still working on a hybrid novel. It was a cold Friday afternoon, last December, the 18th. We spoke about their influences, why poetry was important to them and what advice, if any, Adrian would give to Matthew about the writing life.

But first I wondered how a young boy from the Rathcoole housing estate, north of Belfast got interested in poetry and how he eventually found his way to North Carolina. While the joys of technology made this international video-interview possible, the pains or my lack of understanding of this same technology resulted in my external microphone only working intermittently. My solution was to edit my voice out of the recording and allow Adrian and Matthew to speak for themselves which you will soon realise they are more than competent in doing.

Darkness was dwindling As we arrived back at your house At dawn, late summer ghosting The curtained rooms,. To find two sparrows flying a frenzy Around the place, having tumbled Down the throat of the chimney, Spewed into domesticity. While you set about freeing the one Downstairs, I followed the other Up above and cornered it Against the window in the study,.

Butting frantically against the glass — Hope as a symbol with all hope lost. And it was then that I thought That losing all hope was a renewal,. Like the petering-out of a season. So, I offered it the last of my hope; I opened the study window And watched it disappear into sunlight. Across the kitchen floor — The smell of it like some old shanty Billowing out its breath Into the night,. Filling my field of vision With a plume-tailed epiphany, Holding the soul open For the briefest moment,.

Ebbing gently like the aftermath Of passing through a rain-soaked hedge Under falling cherry blossom — As the window is opened. Clean-edged vengeance-giver, Atreus separates them into pieces, aiming carefully at the wrists to make a clean sever, and, at pains to preserve the dignity of the young faces, makes a good stroke at removing their heads. The cooling breeze and carefree sway of high branches make playful shapes in the setting sun. The man out for an early morning stroll, taking a piss under the drooping trees, wonders briefly why the gardener in the distance is not moving and is down on his knees.

The ghostly snow-sphere of the dying dandelion That the child holds up in wide-eyed wonder,. Which the mother says to blow on to tell the time By how many breath-blows it takes before the airy seed. And where our humanness might go, who knows? And when it lands — takes root — what grows? It seemed like every single house had one Except us, though we had an aquarium, The other housed comfort of the working class, One behind the bars, the other behind glass.

I thought it odd that the underprivileged Would happily keep something tanked or caged, Considering our hard human condition. I guessed it was our identification With creatures as poorly predestined as we Often believed our hand-to-mouth selves to be. Keeping birds in seed is a real kind of love, And sprinkling fish-flakes like manna from above.

Now by a strange quirk of imagination — Some new light from within, something gene-given — Every time I saw a map of Ireland I rebelled against the usual notion, The birds-eye, map-driven visualization Of Ireland backed to the masculine mainland, Her leafy petticoats eyed-up for stripping, Her feminine fields ripe for penile ploughing.

Even as a child, I refused to see it As a victim, back-turned towards Brit- Ain, inviting colonial rear-ending. I saw it as a battling budgie, facing The mainland, proudly, prepared for what might come Winging over the waves from the gauntlet realm. So turned towards the royal raven of England, To my mind, our Irish budgie was crowned With the head of Ulster: Yes, no Catholic cage, nor Protestant pound, Could hold my dissenting ideal of Ireland.

She thought about murdering them with her sharpest knife,. On an unseasonably warm afternoon I am back on the porch, and the little wasps are trying to build in the hollow arms and legs of my aluminum chair. I wonder what they think of me, and feel sorry for them, almost guilty, even imagining the dark openings they seek as being cave mouths in which they wish to store some valuable scrolls. For I have a porch thirst.

Gasoline will win the day, for another year, anyway, and I will sit safely and securely behind my slatted battlements, scratching the pale page hoping, as always, to be stung by poetry. Matthew Rice was born in Belfast in He lives, works and writes in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.

His first sequence of poems appeared in Muck Island Moongate Publications, , a collaboration with leading Irish artist, Ross Wilson. A following chapbook, Impediments Abbey Press, , also earned widespread critical acclaim. The Emerging Poets Ed. Since then, Adrian and his wife Molly, and young son, Micah, have settled in Hickory, from where he now commutes to Boone for Doctoral studies at Appalachian State University.

O n a Thursday afternoon in September, some three decades ago, I sat in Mr. Six insignia-blue jets buzzed the hillsides of gold-orange trees and circled over the city before they threw down their landing gear.

It was opening day of the Worcester Air Show, and our sleepy hamlet had suddenly become center stage for a spectacle of aeronautic derring-do and unimaginable pageantry. We stood—two dozen mesmerized kids temporarily released from the rigors of life science—in the windows of that classroom, staring out as the blue planes, one by one, lined up and touched down. Belanger barked at us, and we returned to whatever irrelevant topics awaited in our textbooks. The roar of an approaching Skyhawk would send me sprinting outside as if the house were on fire.

Blue jets thundered overhead, practicing right above the yellowing sugar maple in my backyard. The ground rumbled as planes climbed, looped, crossed, barrel-rolled and boomed on high, turning the sky above Walter Street into a veritable six-ring circus. My friends and I dashed and chased, waving at the pilots who flew so low we could see their golden helmets and almost read their names painted on canopy sides.

Our prosaic lawn furniture became front row seats for an otherworldly show. Delta-winged jets, tucked inches apart, twirled heavenward before screaming back toward Earth. Even now, decades later, the memories of those days seem fantastic and utterly surreal. When the air show ended, I knew, and declared quite publicly, that one day, I would become a Navy pilot. Blue Angels in the A-4 Skyhawk, as the author first saw them.

Emerson writes that self-trust is the essence of heroism. The human spirit, in conflict with itself, must struggle against the trappings of society, ego, and expectation.

The enemy is a prevalent falsehood—the mask that we wear out in the world. To hear the Transcendentalist tell it, the hero removes the mask, revealing some inner light, illuminating a truer wisdom. I knew all about masks. The enduring myth of American meritocracy offered up a path for a good ole boy from West Virginia to convert passion and courage into an express ride to the very top of the pyramid—a test pilot, a general, a bona fide hero with world records to prove it.

If Yeager could do it, I reasoned, then why not me? I only had to find the appropriate mask, wear it with a rigid certainty, and suppress any and all emotion that might reveal hesitancy, doubt, or weakness. Ten years after the Worcester Air Show, still pursuing my dream of becoming a Navy pilot, I returned from physics lab to my room at the United States Naval Academy, only to find that a plebe from 10 th Company had climbed out of his fifth-floor window and plunged to the brick walkway below.

His shattered, uniformed body was visible from my window as paramedics rushed in vain to save his life. Ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars had cordoned off the road, but the air was eerily still. I expected sirens, but heard only the chirping of birds, the rustle of a breeze off the Chesapeake. Again, it was September. A warm, clear day sparkled. Spinnakers billowed on the Severn River as sailboats tacked their way out to the hazy bay. A moment later, my roommates came back from class.

Darren would quit the Naval Academy later that year and send letters from Wisconsin regaling us with tales of coeds and frat parties. Several firemen closed around the scene. Their arched backs formed a reverent, almost prayerful circle of yellow coats around the dying midshipman. Extending from the center of that circle were navy-blue uniform trousers, the same scratchy wool-polyester pants I wore that day, except the pants on that brick walkway below me were covered in dark blood.

Blood pooled on the bricks. At one point, the rescue workers all lurched back in unison. Blood, from a blown artery, geysered out from the center.

I felt my knees buckle. Just a few weeks into our sophomore year, we had been roommates only a short while. His silence could be unnerving, because I never knew what he was thinking, but in that strange moment, D. What good were words? Then an echolalia of chow calls began from open windows all around Bancroft Hall. Sir, you now have ten minutes until noon-meal formation. The uniform for noon-meal formation is working-uniform-blue-delta. Chow calls were one of the many tedious rituals plebes were forced to repeat, six times a day, at ten and five minutes before each meal.

One thousand plebes, minus one, repeated the rote words in a haunted chorus, a maddening mayday from a symphony of oblivious cuckoo clocks chiming the hour. Only this was no mayday. The unfolding misery below our window would not interrupt the routines.

Passions abound, both in the spring of life and in its autumn. We are filled with hope, doubt, fear, longing, joy, and grief. The boy dreams of taking flight, while the grown man reassembles the broken fragments of the past.

While my wife manages laboring patients, I spend my time worrying about car pools, sleepovers, birthday party gifts and baseball practice. What paths have they already begun to walk? What shapes their destinies?

What masks have they already begun to wear into the world? My son wants to play professional basketball; my daughter wants to ride horses and live on a ranch in Montana. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic , Emerson writes. At times, though, I want only simple happiness and security for my children. But life and wisdom always come with scars. Rituals at Annapolis were enshrined within a tradition and rigidity that even the most ardent cynic might admire. Each moment of our day creaked with customs, from reveille to taps.

We marched, saluted, studied, and trained. We followed honor codes and conduct codes. For four years we scoured our rooms, polished brass belt buckles, folded tee shirts and socks with mathematical precision. We tucked sheets into taut hospital corners as though it were a holy sacrament. We believed in big ideas—in America and freedom and power—and we worshipped those ideas through a steadfast devotion to the most minuscule details.

Our faith, like our duty, was absolute and unflinching. For the entire four years we lived together in Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in the world.

Bancroft Hall was a home and a prison, a hearth and a hell. The massive building, erected at the turn of the last century in the Beaux Arts style, mixed classical symmetries with rococo flourishes. Cold stone surfaces rose to slate gray mansard roofs, trimmed with oxidized copper flashing. Nautical-themed statuary and maritime bas-relief decorated the corners. The scale of the building imposed on us, a structural symbol of an institutional ethos: Neoclassical lines spoke of order.

For emphasis, brass cannons guarded the grand front staircase. In Memorial Hall, at the center of Bancroft, were inscribed the names of more than a thousand alumni who died in battle. That flag reminded each of us daily with its tattered motto: Annapolis pushed a hero-heavy curriculum. The ghosts on the yard were all once great warriors, and we were taught to borrow their masks. Tecumseh stood watch over manicured lawns. We revered warrior virtues and worshiped at the altar of self-sacrifice and bravery, all the while puffing out our chests with bravado and notions of coming glory.

Self-trust received little attention. To interpret the iconography: Death, however, came with obligations of community and valor. There would be no time-out for this suicide, no memorial to his sacrifice. My roommates stepped back from the window and continued getting ready.

Darren turned and D. All for one and one for all. I rolled the tape around my own fingers, uncertain what it all meant, and kept watching out the window. Auden reminds us that there is something rather mundane about the shape of human tragedy.

The subjective nature of suffering always leaves room for the rest of the world to carry out the logic of the day. Icarus goes kerflooey while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.

Early versions of this legend can be found carved on Etruscan jugs from the seventh century before Christ. Man has long dreamed of taking flight, even before the discovery of the physics and engineering that made such dreams possible.

And for even longer, humanity has managed to ignore tragedy with a blithe nonchalance. Perhaps our indifference is some vestigial hangover of evolution. Progress lacks easy definitions. As Auden says, everything turns away. Plebe year at Annapolis was the hell of it, ten grueling months stuffed with relentless military indoctrination, hazing, and physical exertion. But in that caldron of discipline and cruelty, an incredible thing happened. The yoking of regulation, discipline, and custom to our daily habits somehow managed to supplant the individual will.

Life became a form of ascetic retreat, with a scripted rigidity, uniforms, slogans, and beliefs. As cruel and brutal as it could be, the routines were also incredibly liberating. The mask simply fit. Ego vanished plebe year, perhaps not into some higher plane of spiritual awakening, but it was gone nonetheless.

You submitted to the will of the larger institution. You became invisible, indistinguishable, if only to avoid getting reamed out by any one of the three thousand upperclassmen who outranked you.

The regulations, routines, and discipline squeezed every last drop of individuality out of the blood, a dialysis designed to filter out lazy and timid habits from civilian life and replace them with the bellicose faith of military mythology and American altruism. To be certain, it was a herd mentality, but when in the crush and rhythm of the herd, oh what freedom!

The flipside to joining the herd was an obliteration of self-trust. To question, to exert, to challenge—these things were unimaginable. Membership exacted the steepest price.

The very last thing a military force can withstand is the warrior who thinks too much. The plebe who jumped that bright September day was named Kevin. Only later did I learn that Kevin came from Ohio. Kevin wanted to quit the Academy, perhaps to return to a more normal life along the shores of Lake Erie, but his well-meaning family, friends, and company officer all told him to stick it out.

So did the institutional codes. The reminders were everywhere: Sometimes the pressure just got to be too much. Did leaving for Kevin feel so much like failure that dying seemed a more reasonable option? Did words like sacrifice, duty, and hero slash at him as he pitted them against other words, like freedom, family, and home?

Abstract ideas can inspire men to great sacrifices, or they can bring about catastrophic consequences. No archetype exists, no books about domesticated heroes have been written. My day-to-day challenges involve time management and festering peccadilloes of unsorted laundry and unfinished homework. My failures and fuckups register in the emotional damage I can do with a raised voice or forgotten promise. My successes are far more muted.

There are no air shows, no bright blue jets and golden helmets. There are no uniforms to hide behind, no masks to wear. Some days this work seems important. I never became a Navy pilot, though I came close. I graduated from the Naval Academy, became an officer, and eventually reported to flight school at the very same base where the Blue Angels were stationed. For six months, I donned a helmet, a flight suit, and a parachute and learned how to fly.

On yet another September day, I climbed into a T and soloed. In fact, the closer I came to the finish line, the emptier I felt. I thought that becoming a Navy pilot would change something fundamental about who I was. I thought gold wings would somehow smooth out the rough edges, erase doubts, fill in the empty places.

But the opposite was happening. A month or so after that first solo, I suffered a seizure in an airplane. I was lucky to have survived, but I would never again pilot an airplane. I suppose words like surrender and failure often seem loaded, freighted with the tincture of forever: As a young man, words and ideas seemed ironclad, irrevocable, and failure felt freighted with only disgrace.

But the moral value of a win-at-all-cost mentality is a very shallow one, not to mention entirely false. When I was forced to stop flying, I assumed my life would never recover. But I grew up. I learned, listened, and saw beyond rigid notions of right and wrong. In somewhat equal proportions. At ten and at twenty, it was easier to believe in mythical, right-stuff heroism. My ego willingly surrendered to the bon mot and the battle flag. Only later, with failure, with surrender, was I able to begin to understand self-trust.

The author in his plebe year. My dreams were twisted and warped by the very myths in which I so vehemently believed. Watching the grisly aftermath of a shipmate leaping into the abyss was like watching some inverted, mangled, nightmarish version of my dream.

I wish I could go back and tell Kevin that things would have improved. Plebe year eventually would end. Whatever burdens he carried with him to the ledge that day were temporary ones. I wish I could have convinced him that there was no lasting shame in quitting the Academy. He would have recovered. Like my roommate, Darren, he could have written letters from a civilian college—boasting of frat parties and girlfriends—while his roommates back at Annapolis envied his freedom.

Instead, he opened a window on a glorious September day and jumped. And though my kinship with him was institutional—born of the anonymous Brigade of Midshipmen and the identical uniforms we wore—his short life became an enduring lesson.

From my window, I watched him take his final breaths. Something died in my own heart too. I would continue to believe in heroes. I would wear my class ring and feel an incredible pride as the Blue Angels roared over graduation. But I would also eventually leave behind the simplistic codes and the consuming urgency of an organization that esteems martyrdom.

I would eventually see through the cracks in the ivory tower, smell the rot in the walls. Was he trying to make a statement? Was I the only one who heard? The institution had long before turned deaf. His suicide hardly altered the plan of the day. But I felt the mask slip. Below my window, his navy-blue uniform pants and black shoes were drenched in blood, while I and four thousand other midshipmen simply prepared for lunch, as if nothing had really happened.

Sirens began, drowning out the wind, the birds, my own thoughts and feelings. I did what I had to do. I turned back from the window, straightened my belt buckle, and went out to formation. Self-trust was a tall order, especially for an idealistic young man who wanted the world to make sense.

Heroes carried on, even if carrying on was the least heroic thing any of us did that day. After the fall, Daedalus surely saw the sky as a burden for the rest of his life. Every cloud, every soaring bird, and every star became another reminder of his lost son. If self-trust perpetuates heroism, what does that say about self-doubt? I see not any road of perfect peace which a man can walk , Emerson writes, but to take counsel of his own bosom.

It is morning here, and birds are singing and the light is golden. Soon my kids will come bursting from their dreams, hungry, eager for whatever private desires spur them through the day and fill their beings.

But for now, I will make breakfast and oversee showers. We forge ahead on these fragile, corruptible paths, always capable of discovering great joys but never far from sadness either.

He is currently writing a collection of short stories and a novel. He lives with his family in San Diego. The earth turns along the scented irises along the birches the body moves nearer the fire in a deep grove a kind of music each ear bore with it our hiding our spit our having known more than evenings sailed against our ribs other bodies not us against the full light a mangled bird raises her one speaking wing. A morning difficult to walk across the slain crocuses a song or a silent movie a memory of a wound floated out to sea at the beginning of the war the fields covered by searchlights at the edge of a garden before we were born the shades drawn against what shook the walls of the house while the soldiers played cards moved farther away from the coast the lid rolled closed over the keyboard of a piano the facts of history which we do not believe for a moment we are among friends.

I n , I was lucky enough to land a job as a book reviewer for the Financial Times under the auspices of the great editor Annalena McAfee. In the 12 months I reviewed books for her, I posted 26 reviews and was introduced to some incredible writers and books.

One of those was Alice Munro who, believe it or not, was not that well known then outside of her native Canada and especially on my side of the Atlantic. The POV in her stories constantly shifted, too, and time seemed amorphous, easily sculpted by the author to suit her needs. Key dramatic moments in the stories were only mentioned in passing and the endings were highly uncertain and not really endings at all.

She broke all the rules and, because of that, her stories seemed remarkably true to life. I knew I had stumbled across a master storyteller. Cottar teases Sonje mercilessly about her bourgeoise aspirations. Cottar is a journalist who has scandalously travelled to communist China. Sonje and Cottar are on vacation in a rented cottage for the summer when Sonje meets and befriends a woman called Kath, who lives in the area permanently with her husband Kent.

Kath, who is darker and taller than Sonje, strikes Sonje as a free spirit and she compares herself unfavourably to Kath. Kath hints that she finds her own husband, Kent, conservative and stuffy. At a beach party one night, Sonje cooks and looks after her guests. She is the perfect hostess. Kath gets drunk and dances flirtatiously with a stranger, with whom she exchanges a fumbling kiss, while Kent stays at home looking after Noelle.

Kent and Kath have long since been divorced. Kath lives on her own beside a small lake near Toronto, her second husband recently dead, while Kent is married for a third time, to a much younger woman, Deborah, who is younger even than his own daughter, Noelle. Sonje explains to Kent that, while Cottar was away in the Far East, she received word that Cottar had died suddenly of an insect bite while he was in Jakarta. The tenses and time schemes in the story are all mixed and fractured. The story explores the fault lines of marriage—the personal struggle either to adhere to conventional notions of marriage or to find alternatives to it.

What is left so beautifully understated in the story is that, deep down, they both know it. A few years later, I came across a diagram called the Semiotic Square, originally devised by A. When I saw this diagram, something immediately clicked. An inkling, a recognition, that had always been there in the back of my mind became articulated by this diagram and I understood straightaway what Greimas meant. In the diagram, Greimas was trying to map the possible permutations of relationships between four people in a story.

Many great novels are studies of single characters—loners, outsiders or outcasts—e. And then there are those stories about love triangles, usually two men in love with the same woman—e.

The story is a working through of each of these relationships, beginning with the strongest—the most contradictory—and working down through the layers, ending with the implication that there might have been a connection between Cottar and Kath all along. Again, taken together, the novellas are an exploration of the kind and degree of the bond that each of these people has with the other three. Her husband finds this intolerable, as does her father and mother, and they seek to force her to eat meat.

Yeong-Hye resists so strongly that she cuts her wrist in protest. Her family have her committed to a psychiatric hospital, where she stays for several months. Yeong-Hye is now living on her own in an apartment and her brother-in-law begins to visit her. He asks for her help with an art project. He paints large flowers on Yeong-Hye naked body, then his own, and films them having sex together. Yeong-Hye has been committed to a psychiatric hospital again and, as her sister travels to visit her, the sister thinks back to when she first met her husband and to when her and her sister were young girls.

It transpires that their father used to physically abuse Yeong-Hye, about which her sister has feelings of shame and guilt. While in hospital, Yeong-Hye tells her sister that she has completed her metamorphosis from animal to vegetal and is now a tree.

The book ends with a vision of some trees on fire. As the novel progresses, so we shift around the edges of the square, or across the square, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the human relationships in the book.

The sister, who was barely mentioned at the start, evolves into a main character. Her husband, also hardly noticed at the start of the book, comes forward to have his own voice before then disappearing from the narrative altogether. The men disappear, the women remain. She remains an enigma from start to finish. The first part begins in the s with four intellectually arrogant school friends.

Towards the end of their school days another boy at the school hangs himself, apparently after getting a girl pregnant. The four friends discuss the philosophical difficulty of knowing exactly what happened. One of the friends, Adrian, goes to Cambridge while Tony goes to Bristol. Tony acquires a girlfriend, Veronica, at whose family home he spends an awkward weekend.

Their relationship fails in some acrimony. In his final year at university Tony receives a letter from Adrian informing him that he is going out with Veronica. Tony replies to the letter.

Some months later he is told that Adrian has committed suicide, leaving a note saying that the thinking person has a philosophical duty to examine their life, and may then choose to renounce it. These lead him to re-establish contact with Veronica and after a number of meetings with her, to re-evaluate the story he has narrated in the first part. I saw my initial in there. After thinking about this square structure in relation to Munro, Dubus, Han Kang and Barnes, I started to see this pattern everywhere: All these novels, so wildly different in style and tone, all shared a foundation built on the four corner stones of two sets of relationships and all were explorations of the four sides and crossways of these squares.

But then something struck me. Terry, however, is not allowed her own voice. She is the last to transgress her vows of marriage and it is this final transgression that finally brings about the collapse of one marriage and the re-evaluation of the other. Then, desperate and drunk, Jack told Terry about Edith. We hear from her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister, all of whom talk about Yeong-Hye, but she has no voice of her own in the narrative. This is the point of her story.

In order to fulfill her desire to move from an animal to a vegetal state of being, she makes the Bartleby-like decision not to engage with those around her on their terms, terms which she finds intolerable. She sacrifices herself in order to move to another realm of understanding and this move is what horrifies her husband and parents but is what her brother-in-law and, finally, her sister come to love and accept, admire even.

All these magnificent stories are highly organised, intense studies of humans interacting and behaving oddly with each other. They throw light on sublimated desires and warped motives. Ultimately, however, in all of these stories, it is some kind of lack, absence or failure of one corner of the square that triggers catastrophic change and collapse in the other three.

There must be a black hole, a sacrificial lamb, for the story to work and it is these black holes that are the secret keys to the stories. His work has been nominated for prizes and is published in seven languages. Self-portrait through a Keyhole: Nude with 3-urinal Chastity Belt: Digital, Pearl Metallic Paper, 7.

American Poetry with an Accent: I van Seng is an astonishingly gifted classical pianist and composer based in Asheville, North Carolina. His concert recitals reflect his wide-ranging interests: Bach, Shostakovich, Chopin, Haydn, Mendelsohn, Prokofiev; as well as contemporaries such as composer Kenneth Frazelle, with whom Seng has partnered in concert many times.

He left NC to attend Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he worked with Joseph Schwartz and Sanford Margolis, and returned to Winston-Salem for graduate study, where he studied composition with Michael Rothkopf in addition to his continued study with Matthews.

Seng has won numerous regional awards in both solo and chamber performance, including the College Chamber Music Competition, and was selected to perform in the Asheville Rising Stars concert series. He frequently collaborates with the ensemble Pan Harmonia and other chamber ensembles. When he talks, he bears an air of slight preoccupation, paired with a laser-sharp attention. Like one of his major influences, the post-World War II composer Iannis Xenakis, who was among the first to use computer programs to compose music, Seng draws his compositional forms not from classical constraints, but through mathematical formulas.

The heavens are not ordered. Xenakis was composing during a time ruptured by two world wars and the rise of totalitarianism in his own country, as well as the hugely influential compositional development that was serialism. The room had been dimly lit when Ivan took the stage. He explained that he would be premiering five works done using the SuperCollider programming language, gestured to the laptop whose screen was turned to the wall.

He inclined his head, as if taking the pulse of the room, and pressed a button on the computer. Sounds fell from the screen, single tones, stretched, extended. Clusters, then, a barrage, then — silence. Despite no apparent sense of structure — there was no sign of a theme, no underlying motif to hold these sounds together — there was, nevertheless, a sense of unity to his music.

Changes in the musical texture occur in sudden bursts and at a fairly rapid pace. Each burst affects only one musical feature at a time, such as speed, density, tone color, shape, or movement of sound. These happen in fairly rapid succession, and at unpredictable intervals of time. It seems to me that being a composer must be in some way like being an architect — well, I was thinking Xenakis, and of course that was his background. Because he was about 30 when he came to Paris, started working with Le Courbousier as an engineer and draftsman.

I think it was incredibly insightful of Messiaen [not to make Xenakis learn counterpoint. His graphic abilities were incredible. So I think that Messiaen realized that he [Xenakis] could use all the skills he already knew — they were unique, not many musicians had these skills, why force everyone into the traditional mode? Would you call that modernism? A late stage of it. We had Schoenberg and Webern and Stravinsky; that was the high point of modernism.

Boulez was brilliant at counterpoint, traditional tonal counterpoint. You can definitely see influences of contrapuntal thinking in his music. How these out-of-control multiple voices can be moving at the same time. He bases his music on very different principles. With Boulez, maybe the low voice will be doing this [waving hand above his head] and the top voice will be doing this [waving the other hand about his waist], and so how can you actually process the differences?

Why not just deal immediately with surfaces. So he uses mathematics to do that. I mean, sometimes Schoenberg will make a row into an obvious theme and maybe, after one or two listenings, you can recognize the theme. Like, is this texture gradually becoming more dense?

Like maybe it starts sparsely, and then you can hear this building of density, it gradually starts to collect notes and becomes more dense.

You can hear [everything you need to]. Random Walk X Winter Solstice: The changes have become smoother. Instead of sudden bursts, each musical parameter undergoes nearly continuous transition from one state to another.

Like, not all that auditory? Or, am I missing something? But I think what [Xenakis] really wanted to do was emulate the laws of nature. That has to come from a sort of intuitive sense of the entire shape of the piece. He uses formulas to create local texture — he wants to keep human patterns out of the immediate surface. Humans tend to create a certain kind of order.

He wants to keep that out. I want to ask you more about the pieces at the concert the other night. The Random Walk pieces. Like, I really want to know about that name, for instance. But also, you said they were composed using a SuperCollider software program? I was really surprised by that. Because, it seems to me that these compositions are anything but random. Well, random walk is a mathematical term. It comes from Brownian motion. Do you remember the story of the guy [botanist Robert Brown] who was looking though his microscope at tiny particles in water.

And [your particle, or sound, in its own placement is affected by the dictates of the die] and you start at a certain number, 0, and you can go up a step or down a step.

But you cannot predict which direction the die will dictate. One aspect of the piece, like pitch or duration? So, the title is supposed to evoke…?

So pitch, duration are 2 dimensions. So imagine this random walk not just going through 2-dimensional space, but 28—29 dimensions. Then my intention is to go on to develop pieces where I have chosen [more definitively]…. What do you like better? So sometimes things will happen that I would never have thought of, or I would not have thought would be interesting.

It sounds fresh, and new. The scale has already altered the sound of the piece. I can give it certain… I can choose specific [how would you put it? I can say choose between this volume and this volume, and so now it has two choices. I also tell it the rate of change — so it might change, on average, once every 40 seconds.

So one parameter is volume. So I give it a center volume, for a certain amount of time, and then it changes.

Well, I did put in pauses. It might not have been obvious enough. I think it was kind of obvious when a piece ended, but maybe not. I turned that away. That must be a punctuation of some sort. But, you know, maybe not? Yes, but really, I was thinking more about the — the visual.

For instance, in terms of visual, you know [the pianist] Sviatoslav Richter? Later in life, he became more eccentric — and he performed in the dark, with a lamp, and there was no other light in the auditorium. There was more focus on the listening. Maybe to become more aware of sounds and less dependent on visual cues. I think we can if we hone in on auditory information, I want people to start having the kinds of sensitivity that a blind person might have to sound.

I want that kind of attention to the sound rather than gesticulations. From dense masses of notes emerge structures that soon unravel again into chaos. And with electronic music, it can get pretty dense! Hundreds of sounds per second. There were some sounds that were less articulated, almost flute-like, and then others that sounded almost plucked.

Did you do that on purpose? I wanted to create similarities that would create flocks of notes. And also transitions, mutations, where you hear these dense masses of notes that gradually they change sound into something else. Did you just say, manipulating the envelope? Because of the laws of probability? Let me give you an example. Something not so significant happens a lot at a high frequency. And then larger, maybe foot, objects hit much less frequently, only every decade or so.

And those hit like every 65 million years or so. We live in a very dangerous universe. So that I think that informs the music. Especially with the issues we have in climate change. Carbon parts per million in the atmosphere are growing exponentially. Population is exploding exponentially. We do have an emotional connection with these things. We are living in these forms as we speak. Carolyn Ogburn lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she takes on a variety of worldly topics from the quiet comfort of her porch.

She writes on literature, autism, music, and disability rights. But also his fiction and a gorgeous, compendious interview with the novelist Sam Savage. But bey0nd his own words, he has contributed by bringing new writers into the fold, wonderful writers like S. Chrostowska and the experimental novelist Larry Fondation.

A spectacular instance of this background curating work is the fact that in this issue we have a huge Sam Savage annex, as it were, including an appreciation of the life and work by Jeff himself plus a new Sam Savage short story and an entire book of poems.

Jeff Bursey is a Canadian writer. He lives in Prince Edward Island. We love the aphorism, the short nonfiction form. Virgin Islands,Charlotte Amalie St. Lucia Vieux Fort ,,St. I'm quite happy with the data I've received in quality and in quantity and in the short time it took you to gether it and format it. IATA codes for all airports and areas From: The product aceresearcher cited gives you an one-year subscription for unlimited downloads. Efn, I know about the store and the costs involved.

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