We should not say improbable things, or things we do not know. We must see their real, and not their imagined, lives…
St Therese of Lisieux, the Patron Saint of Common Sense
Did you know that there is a patron sense of common sense? I was looking for the patron sense of Being Right, for a story, but it seems that St Therese might be the closest thing. She was canonised in 1925, and she also said “I love only simplicity. I have a horror of pretence.” Nice work if you can get it. Her father was a watchmaker and her mother made lace… the intricacy of the real world was clearly in her blood.
On the other hand…
I’ve been out of work for a few months, and been spending that time indulging in uncommon sense and sidereal panic, which is to say panic that you can chart in respect of the passage of the stars. Elevation and Azimuth.
While I’ve been searching for a new job I’ve been binge reading, which has been lovely fun, because other people’s brains have seemed to have been better appointed, and with preferable prospects.
If you’ll forgive me, while I read backwards…
Falling Towards England by Clive James reminded me of my first few months in London just as I was waving goodbye to London;
The View From The Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman was compassionate intelligence, with a wonderful piece about the importance of libraries, which was reassuring to read as my council attempted to close my local library down;
The Art Of Grendel by Matt Wagner, who had faith in an idea he had when he was a young man and then rode that idea to the end of the world;
Neonomicon and Providence by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, which are the most scary and intelligent comics ever written;
A Suspension Of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith was just the savage horror show disguised as a holiday postcard that you would expect;
The People V OJ Simpson: The Run Of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin was a guilty holiday read that made me more angry than pretty much any book I can remember reading lately;
At The Feet Of The Master by J Krishnamurti reminded me of the glorious flipside of that horrible world of Trump and Brexit and Austerity and Unemployment and OJ Simpson;
Play All by Clive James was my fourth book by Clive this year, because Clive James makes you feel his enthusiasm in your heart and your head;
Just One More Thing by Peter Falk, because he enlisted in the Israeli army on a whim, snuck behind the Iron Curtain, loved his wife, and starred in a surprising number of brilliant films that you’ve probably forgotten, even before he became Lt Columbo, the world’s greatest detective (sorry Holmes, sorry Batman);
The Art & Making Of Hannibal The TV Series by Jesse McLean, which was all the shades of red and black, in elegant plaid and between your sharp, white teeth;
Lee Miller On Both Sides Of The Camera by Carolyn Burke was my proper introduction to a new heroine: she endured a tragic childhood to become the epitome of flapper glamour in New York, then became Man Ray’s muse and partner, then started her own business, then ran away to Egypt, then seduced the Surrealists, then followed the Allied troops into Europe after the D-Day landings to be there and document the liberation of death camps and the fall of the Nazis, then began the second half of her life…
I Remember Nothing & Other Reflections by Nora Ephron, because I like having her kind, intelligent and hilarious voice in my head;
The Raven Steals The Light by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst, which was a wonderful surprise: a retelling of the folk tales of the Haida people of Canada. In his introduction, Claude Levi-Strauss said “the fact that the Amerindians placed a deceitful, insolent, libidinous and often grotesque character with a penchant for scatology in the forefront of their pantheon sometimes surprises people…”
The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham, which needs to be a movie today. Wyndham was criticised for writing “cosy apocalypses”, which is utterly unfair: he writes about the end of the world coming and people imagining that they can just ignore it, even as the sea level continues to rise… More than sixty years old and unforgivably relevant;
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson and Wonder Woman by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, which are two gorgeous Wonder Woman stories about a super hero who can stop a war with love and make a liar tell the truth… and if you think about it, and if you frame that image honestly in your mind without irony or sarcasm or mech-suits, is genuinely lovely and insightful and hopeful;
Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham, because I am old and young people creating what they want to create with love and honesty is glorious;
Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas, because I miss my dead cat Freya and Margaret Atwood is a very silly, very intelligent human being and the world needs more people called Strig Feleedus who can protect us from rat-faced plutocrats placed in precarious positions of power;
Little Birds by Anais Nin, because in spite of everything I do have a romantic bone in my body;
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, who also came up with the thinking/drinking pun, and then stuck a beautiful, misleading, cavorting reminiscence behind the title.
I need to read more, but don’t you just love it when you stare at ink-stained pieces of pulped tree until you hallucinate wildly about those other worlds that exist, or might exist, or should exist?