But when we sit together, close...we melt into each other with phrases. We are edged with mist. We make an unsubstantial territory. -- Virginia Woolf
I've been wanting to pick up The Waves again but I can't seem to get past the first few pages. I think you have to be in a certain mind frame to read Virginia Woolf and I'm just not there right now. However, I absolutely love this quote. Especially the part about making an unsubstantial territory. It sounds so wildly glorious.
How about you, what are you reading lately? And has anyone read The Waves? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book.
Images taken at Ocean Beach via iPhone
The San Francisco International Film Festival is playing right now and I've been really lucky this year because all the films that I've chosen were very good so far. In fact, I was so moved by this one film that I saw this afternoon that I want to talk about it right away.
Me and You is the latest movie by the iconic director Bernardo Bertulocci (Last Tango in Paris, The Dreamers) and perhaps his most quiet and simple one. It tells us about 14 year-old Lorenzo who is very detached from the outside world and spends his time visiting pet shops and listening to his mp3 player. He lied to his mother about going to a class ski trip and spends a week in their apartment basement instead. Lorenzo's carefully planned solitary time was interrupted when his troubled half-sister Olivia suddenly turned up and with nowhere else to go they were forced to share the cramped basement and tolerate each other's presence.
I'm always drawn to films about introverted and broken people who finds a shared connection in the most unexpected places so this movie is definitely right up my alley. There is a scene towards the end of the film when Lorenzo and Olivia were slow dancing to David Bowie's Italian version of Space Oddity "Ragazzo solo, Ragazza sola" that moved me so much that I was even tearing up just thinking about it after the movie. The acting was pitch perfect and the song made it even more so.
"Tell me lonely boy where are you going to/ Why so much pain?", reads the English translation to the song's lyrics, and I think this sums up why that moment was so poignant for me. That these half-siblings who are essentially strangers saw each other's pain in a very honest way. And that by the end of the film, I felt like I've shared their inner struggles and recognized some my own, too.
Here is the film trailer. I really hope that it will be shown in movie theaters soon.
Film stills via sceglilfilm.it
To celebrate today's World Book Night and the Women Writers Reading Group, I'd like to introduce you to The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta.
Did you ever read a book that made you desperately wish you are a part of a fictional world, that you are sharing your joys and sorrows with all of its characters? The Piper's Son is one of those books for me. It's exquisitely written, tender, laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are flawed and their lives are messy but that's exactly what makes this book so heartbreaking, in the best possible way.
The Piper's Son is a companion novel to Saving Francesca but you don't have to have read the latter to enjoy this book. It is about 21-year old Thomas MacKee, how he had hit rock bottom two years after his beloved uncle Joe was tragically killed overseas, and how he tried to hold together pieces of his life when everything else has already fallen apart. It is about letting people down and being let down by the people you love the most. It is about love, family, and relationships worth living and fighting for.
I keep coming back to the characters because well, they are truly special. Melina Marchetta has this magical gift of portraying such well-developed characters that by the end of the book you will feel as if you already know all of their flaws and strengths and still want to continue getting to know them. And Thomas, is it possible to love this boy even more? Sure, he made a lot of terrible mistakes but he is such a decent person and he really has a good heart. And how can you not fall for a boy who knows his poetry, can play a mean guitar, and who's also smart and snarky as hell? His secret heartache for Tara and how he tried to win her back with his rambling emails is so sweet that you just can't help but root for him.
“Maybe she'd always been there. Maybe strangers enter your heart first and then you spent the rest of your life searching for them.”
Bottom line: Read it and prepare to have your heart stolen.
At the flower shop, I was immediately drawn to a bunch of peonies and said, "Oh how beautiful!" Then I saw the price tag of $16 and my face fell. I spent the next couple of minutes looking at other kinds of flowers but I kept glancing longingly at the peonies.
Some time later, the shopkeeper came up to me excitedly. "It's yours! He just paid for them," she said while pointing to the guy at the counter. I was so overwhelmed all I could say was thank you over and over again.
"My pleasure," he smiled. "You seem to love them so much it will be a shame to let you walk out of here without them."
And so it was on a Friday afternoon, April 19th, an hour after I heard the news that the second suspect was already captured in Boston, that I was nearly brought to tears by the kindness of a stranger. It had been such a difficult week but in that moment I was reminded that yes, there is still beauty and goodness in this world.
Here is a photo of the peonies.
Photo above was taken by me, on a ferry ride to Oakland.
Last Friday night, I was lucky enough to hear a talk by Natalie Goldberg at the Book Passage in Corte Madera. Natalie's book, Writing Down the Bones, has been such an inspiration to me all these years so I was naturally very excited to meet her in person.
She started her talk by telling us to sit and be quiet for a couple minutes, to close our eyes and just be. Then she called a friend who sang a lovely song about a wallflower who wants to dance, and I don't know how it happened but I suddenly felt so alive, so present.
"Sometimes I'm shy, sometimes I'm slow/ I fall out of step, I step on your toe/ I'm wanting to waltz more than you know/ Teach me to waltz."
Of course the feeling doesn't last long because after 5 minutes or so, I started to feel self-conscious and couldn't help but open my eyes to see what the others around me were doing. Why is it so hard to sit and just be, without the mind wandering elsewhere, without feeling the need to do something? I think it's even harder to do this now with the abundance of social media tools and our need to over document everything.
Natalie shared an anecdote about how she decided to start a writing practice by showing up at the same cafe at noon for 7 days and write everything that she sees in front of her without bringing herself in. Do you know how difficult that is, she said. I can only imagine. Speaking from my own experience, the old adage of showing instead of telling is definitely easier said than done. This also reminded of what the poet Ezra Pound said, that the role of the artist is to present the luminous detail but not to comment.
To pay attention, to simply notice. This is my hope for all of us in this month of poetry.