La Pléiade are great French books

The “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade” is a French series of books published by Gallimard. As says Wikipedia, the “entry into the Pléiade” is considered a major sign of recognition for an author in France (it’s pretty rare to reach this when you’re alive), though most of the catalog (more than 800 titles) is made of classics, from Jane Austen to William Faulkner, Joyce, Goethe, Kundera or Tanizaki.

La Pléiade offers high quality appearance : leather bound, gold lettering, and a small format which makes them look like small bibles. “The use of bible paper allows the books to contain a high number of pages; it is common for a Pléiade book to contain at least 1500”. I think you have a similar collection in the USA, called Library of America…

Many people collect these books, which, most of the times, are never opened. Each one costs around $70 : they stay on the shelves, sometimes behind a display case…

You can see them like precious untouched books to show you’re wealthy, or you can also choose to consider they are solid pocket practical books. I bought some on eBay for $9.99 : months of bliss! They are a bit torn, but who cares : they are compact, they smell good, they are generous, each book stays open when you let it go of, etc.

I took a few pictures. On the last one you see my pretty cool Ernst Jünger box, a diary written in France during WWII…

Have a nice day!

 

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Sad Heart, Merry Spirit : Chronicle 9

I read in a Claude Roy diary, as he’s around 70 years old, that he would like to reach this season, this state : “Le temps du cœur triste et de l’esprit gai” – the time of the sad heart and the merry spirit.

Here I have a vocabulary problem : is “gai” happy, merry, gay, jolly? I don’t know. I chose merry.

But I’m very fascinated by this “goal”, from an aged author I liked very much. As if he knew he could never heal his heart. But, knowing this, building his own happiness, a “merry spirit”. This touched me, a lot.

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Just read an article evoking Robert Osborne, a TCM Television Presenter who just died at 87 years old. It is told that Olivia de Havilland had with him :

One phone call a week, for decades.

Awwweeee! (-> this was the sound of my merry spirit). I wish I had a friend so close that she would call me once a week until I die at 87. Like a whatever-happens-I-want-to-talk-with-you. Awwweeee again (my merry spirit if very merried by this idea).

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I read (but where, is it Casanova or Jünger?) about the Venice Purse, a knack which says that when you have to go to a “dangerous” place (which was Venice at the time), you needed to have two purses, one with a little money in case you’re robbed, attacked, knocked out, and another one with the main part of it – well hidden.

It’s just funny to know, but then you realize that when you travel abroad you really have to think about what you do with your passport, the amount of money you have with you, etc. I wonder what this concept can tell us about life in general : Be cautious? Watch the exits? Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket? But also : GO to places where you need to think about the Venice Purse, right?

Venice, in French, is VENISE. A perfect word to say : Venizzz. Elegant as a swan, right? Venice is more like braking at the end. No good. French better, sorry.

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Elmore Leonard says somewhere about novels writing : “If it seems written, I rewrite”.

What a beautiful idea, right? Writing Style Dissimulation Efforts.

And a paradox many artists know well : work, work, work, until nobody sees you worked. It’s an interesting goal, and the path itself is enthralling too. How to reach?

There’s a balance to find, I suppose. It means you have the eyes to know when it’s not OK, when it is OK. Experience.

Well I have a vocabulary problem again. When do you use “enthralling“, dear? Can you say that about a person? How is it radioactivitied? Thrilling? Fearful? Exciting? Or more like “plainfully satisfying”?

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I watched the Iowa episode of Aerial America yesterday. It’s amazing how many times I hear “French” in these. Detroits and Illinois were “frenchised” words, and how Iowa is a piece of this territory called Louisiana, the US bought to the French 214 years ago.

These TV programs tell me how BIG are the United States. Tonight I’ll watch Illinois, following the path of Bill Bryson’s book across America in car (cf Fixin’to traveling in the USA).

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OK, it’s too long. I seize the run-up since a few weeks (is “seize the run-up” a good title?), like making the most of an epistolary energy…

I stop here. Next Chronicle next week. Here’s le hug by Ze French :

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Have a nice day!

 

A woman’s hat on the table – Behaviorism in literature

In a Hemingway short story, the only visual information we have of a couple talking is that she took off her hat and put it on the table. Though, you can almost SEE them when you read the text, because of what they say.

Question :

In a book, do you prefer to read

  1. “She was sad, and about to disconnect herself from reality”
  2. An inner monologue as if she had a microphone in her head
  3. A description of her movements, her mouth, her actions

…showing her disconnected sadness.

Well it’s the same for movies. Do you want to see someone act slowly, randomly and break something, or do you prefer a narrator explaining that “This day, she was bored, sad and electric”?

“Behaviorism is a school of psychology that studies that only behavior that can be observed or measured. It does not include the study of emotions or motives”.

Of course, there are behaviorist writers, who like to SHOW what’s happening instead of EXPLAIN the psychology of characters, as if they were a god.

Tool : What could YOU do about this tool, this pattern, in another field, in poetry, photography, marketing? Show or explain? Do you consider you audience as ignorants you have to tell everything to, or do you trust their mind, their intelligence?

she took off her hat and put it on the table – what does it mean?

Thanks for reading!

 

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Decorticate Genius & Laughing Ferrymen

One of the best things, in the world of books and ideas, is to hear a passionate lecture by someone who knows a style, an author, a field, a book.

Some writers are great teachers. Umberto Eco‘s essays are delicious (so Italian!). The literature classes of Nabokov are fabulous (so Russian?). Some guys have this talent to tell you how and why some classics are relevant, interesting and useful even in your little lives.

Le Misanthrope is a French play from the 17th Century. I just read a book from Fabrice Luchini (“Comédie Française, ça a débuté comme ça”), a French actor who tried to write his autobiography, but offered, in fact, pages of passionate lectures about French poetry (Rimbaud), theater (Molière) or prose (Céline), telling us how and why these authors are so enthralling (giving all details he learned as a skilled actor : rhythm, words, sentences, concepts – we French love words, you know that, right?).

Decorticate and peel genius, and offer the recipe to others.

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Well, I won’t do it for you now, but I have a slicexample. Luchini evokes Le Misanthrope, a French play by Molière, 17th Century, and a dialog between two friends. One is the misanthrope, angry against humanity (the full text translated in English is here). The other one trying to tame… Let’s see :

Alceste…times I feel suddenly inclined to fly into a wilderness far from the approach of men.

Philinte…let us torment ourselves a little less about the vices of our age, and be a little more lenient to human nature. Let us not scrutinize it with the utmost severity, but look with some indulgence at its failings.

Sometimes with are Alceste, grouchy against fashion bloggers, or people with 4879 friends of Facebook incapable of communicate with real people around, and at other times we are more like Philinte, trying to understand that these people… do what they can, that they struggle a lot, they try to live, to love, to stand up alive. Maybe they’re unbearable, but they’re not guilty! It’s a balance, a swaying, wavering between both. Haecceity! This is life…

One of my pleasure these days is to discover these authors, I could call them the ferrymen.

Who are yours? Who do you lecture? Do you remember the way you laughed with jubilation? With who?

Thanks for reading!

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Proust & les Hirondelles : Chronicle 4

Absolutely no cunning could prevent a man
from being smashed against his dreams

 

I’m French, I’m sorry : my english is clumsy these days…

Have you ever visited the school you were in as a very little child, now you’re an adult? Among all the memories and the heartbeats you feel, you also find that… everything around is very little, right? You’re taller, now… you’re different. Perspective.

Today is the “braderie” in the city of La Madeleine. We love braderies in the North of France. It’s like your US garage sales, all along some streets : today was about 1.200 exhibitors (or displayers, how to say that?). I took a cool picture of motorbikes toys, you like it?

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I’ve been asked one day about my “goals in life“. I have been very disturbed by this question, which is so… all about efficiency. I couldn’t think of a goal, even one. I feel like Cioran, in shock and in anger, after being asked about what he was “preparing”. If a French says he has “goals” in life, he sounds ridiculously Action Man, that’s it. The idea itself is a nightmare – at least when you’re more than 22 years old. I don’t want to be efficient, I just try to live, right? Dreams, maybe… Dreams, OK.

Absolutely no cunning could… etc…

I’m too lazy to find it, but the stupidest quote ever is something like “Give yourself a very high goal, then maybe you’ll reach a lower but good stage”. Of course there’s a more accurate one, saying that while you try to do that, you fail choosing the right path to achievement, you stay blind to feedbacks, etc. Typical Wrong Way Up. Well yes, these are words only, I know.

I have no goal, not one. It could be “to be happy” or “to be creative” or “to be a better human” or “to help others”, but I already failed in all these fields, obviously! And who will feed my cat, while I John Wayne?

If you want some fun, though, Google Image “Goals Quotes”. Plenty of orders in capitals. Like : <<DON’T LET ANYTHING STOP YOU FROM REACHING YOUR GOAL>>. Ohlalalaa, my French eyes are hurt! I need a beer, I think.

So I found a goal : stay zen in front of bullsh*t 🙂

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It’s when the weather change (warmer air, higher sun, sudden showers) than you can have a rush of childhood memories. Or teenhood, say. Suddenly it’s HERE, you feel the same feeling you had in your mother’s arms, or at school when you were loving some shy redhead in silence, or when you were gathering interesting rocks under open sky. The idea of memories in Madeleines de Proust come from the food, but also from a smell (freshly cut grass, chocolate cake baking, little pot of white glue in kindergarten) or a sound (of swallows flying hunting between streets, or the familiar engine’s roar of you’re father’s car), but also from the light in the air, the clouds, a coming thunderstorm…

Marguerite Duras says somewhere that she can NOT write if the bed is not made. Strange thing is : I never forgot that, because… that’s true.

I bought a Raymond Carver book, “The American Chekhov”, as they say. I know Carver’s work pretty well, but I never read him in English. Good exercise. I can’t resist to a blurb on a book saying “The (Italian, Canadian, whatever country you choose) Chekhov”…

They have something in common, that’s right : they watch meticulously our little renunciations, our microscopic failures, our rushes never said, our words, spoken and immediately regretted, our love silliness, our boredom. But it’s not “laments”. It’s more like : “This is it, brother human, and it not even THAT dramatic”.

I found a rose, there. Is a rose, is a rose, Mrs Stein. Look where she is (“une rose”) :

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In the shades of break-up moods, you have the yellow poison of jealousy, the dark corners of loneliness, the twinge of uncertainty and many more. The invisible bitterness of “having being loved and then not” is sometimes like swimming against the cold current of a long deep river.

In the shades of illness… Oh, another time, OK?

You can read books (or see a therapist, it depends on how you’re made), self help or philosophy : you’ll read everywhere that you have to find your happiness inside you, right? Again? I “have to”? The capitalized ORDER quote is <<BE HAPPY AND SMILE>>. Yes, each time, you want to punch the author in the face! Bim! Paf! Pouf!

Give birth to a dancing star from the chaos you have within

Strange star, but that could be my Nietzsche goal, maybe… Well, see?

Thanks for reading! Merci!

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