Thursday, February 11, 2010

every word, every word

"Like any form of Art, literature's mission is to make the fulfillment of our essential duties more bearable. For a creature such as man, who must forge his destiny by means of thought and reflexivity, the knowledge gained from this will perforce be unbearably lucid. We know that we are beasts who have this weapon for survival and that we are not gods creating a world with our own thoughts, and something has to make our wisdom bearable, something has to save us from the woeful eternal fever of biological destiny."

- from page 244 of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (Gallic 2008 English Edition)

I am going to have this printed on to small cards so that when people ask me why I so desperately love literature and so desperately believe in authors who are the opposite of Dan Brown, I can give them a card, smile smugly and return to my book.

I was a bit suspicious of Barbery's book, because I am a snob who would prefer to read something no one else has read so I can be all snobby about it. It's a habit I picked up from an undesirable acquaintance and a habit I'm trying to get rid of. When Amanda recommended The Elegance of the Hedgehog I realised that I had to get over myself. I handed over my $25 (what is the deal with rising book prices, dear government, do you want to encourage boorishness?) and curled up with Lottie (who likes to gnaw everything, including the remote, whatever book I'm reading and her own tail). I was pleasantly surprised. While some of the writing style seems a little heavy, there's such intelligence within that you can forgive that. The autodidact concierge Renee and the anti-bourgeois teenager Paloma are delightful. I wish I'd been as intelligent as Paloma when I was twelve - the way that Barbery has written is mischievously world-weary, if one can be such a thing, without being cynically pretentious. And Renee is the sort of woman that I would like to have tea with. Self taught, secretly smarter than the people she has to work for, she's just delightful. The ebb and flow of the two women's voices is lovely, the way their thoughts intertwine and their lives begin to move closer together.

What I enjoyed most though, was the appreciation of little moments that Barbery and her characters have, whether it's watching owners try to separate their dogs or defending Grammar or watching rose petals, there is a feel that, as Paloma says (on page269) "beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it....Maybe that's what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying." You might find that morbid, but I think in this busy modern world where we worry about our superannuation when we're only 21, we need to find those dying moments, those things that will never happen again. If only so that we don't feel like beasts.


Dearest Cricket Australia,
It has been a summer of lots of cricket, hasn't it? And you're not finished yet, not by a long shot! I understand your desire to promote your sport and make as much money as possible, but I have one or two issues to raise with you. Firstly, there is too much cricket happening. We, the viewers, are bored. We are turning off the television, having stomached more than enough of Channel 9's abysmal excuse for a commentary team, we are staying away from the cricket grounds. Might I suggest that whatever you have planned for the 2010-2011 season, you cut in half. Yes, in half. Yes, I know this means the Ashes tour will be shorter, but really, unless the English cricket team can promise that all its players will be fit, in a competitive mood, then watching Australia beat the Poms 5 test matches in a row is going to be very very dull. Even if they do win back that little pot of ashes. So shall we say 3 tests instead of 5, half the number of one-day matches, and for goodness sake, don't schedule any Twenty20s. They are boring, bogan cricket and make Bill Lawry wet his pants. There is barely any tension in Test cricket, let alone one-dayers and Twenty20. Tension is the whole point of cricket. It is a gentleman's game, it's supposed to be full of barely restrained fury, twirly mustaches and cries of "jolly good show!". Not Bill Lawry's nasal cries of whatever it is he goes on about. While we're at it, new commentary team please. Perhaps with a woman or two involved - I'm sure I'd be fabulous at it.
My next issue with you, dear Cricket Australia, is your ticket prices. My brother and I were all set to help your declining audience numbers tomorrow at the one day match between the West Indies and Australia. At $50 for a Bronze ticket, which would put us two lily livered pasty pants out in the scorching sun for the majority of the match, I have to regretfully tell you to get stuffed, and lower your ticket prices. It's not worth it - not when the result of the match is practically a foregone conclusion. Which brings me to my final point - Until there is a team willing to get their act together and offer the Australians some decent competition, the Australian team must play not with 11 members, but 10. They must also bat with their less dominant hand and during batting power plays, at least 6 of the fielders must have a hand tied behind their backs. I say this not as someone proud of her national team, but as someone very very very very bored with Australia winning all the time. It's boring. And they are so ungracious about that. Someone get Jerome K. Jerome back from the dead, I'm sure he could teach them how a gentleman should play cricket.
So, dearest Cricket Australia, don't let me down. I (and probably all the other viewers who have turned off the teev) am counting on you.
P.S. If you could get Channel 9 to stop going to the news at 6 o'clock if the team that isn't Australia is batting, that'd be great. I wrote them a rude letter about the colonial racist undertones and double standards, but they haven't replied. Pip-pip!

1 comment:

Amanda Atkins said...

Dear Madeleine,

I am so glad you are enjoying The Elegance of the Hedgehog!! It is definitely heavy, but in a bearable way. I love the way you wrote about it. I think you should write book reviews.

I also love your idea of giving out the cards, haha! Do people really bug you about the kinds of books you read because they prefer the likes of Dan Brown? I feel like here, everyone (everyone my age, anyway) is purposely trying to be "cultured" in what they read and get secretly competitive about how smart their books are. (I also live in Boston, though, where everyone my age is studying theater/art/english/philosophy). I.E., no one here would ever ask you why you prefer your books to Dan Brown. :) They'd probably give you a challenging glance across the train. haha

It is interesting, though - I've been working in a bookstore for five months now and everyone buys the exact same books. It's really weird.

What is next on your list of books to read? Have you started up at school again yet?