Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Readings: Eudora Welty, Margaret Atwood, Charles Saatchi, Candy Gourlay, Agatha Christie, Etc.

A Worn Path by Eudora Welty (Short Story) - An elderly African-American woman trudges through hills, corn fields, and dirt roads to get to town. All the while, she talks to herself and has imaginary encounters. She sees a boy offering her cake. The boy turned out to be actually NOT there. She mistakes a scarecrow for a real living and breathing thing. She asks the scarecrow for a dance. She falls. Her dress gets entangled among the trail bushes. Out of nowhere, she gets attacked by a not-so-friendly dog. But she soldiers on. She's bent on getting to town. And her name is Phoenix. Was it just a coincidence that Welty named the character Phoenix or was it a conscious reference to the story of the "phoenix rising out of the ashes"? Towards the end of the story, the reason for Phoenix's dogged determination to get to town gets known. This is a sad and depressing story. But somewhere in there, you can feel love and warmth and hope rising out to the surface.

Yoruba by Migene Gonzales-Wippler (Essay) - Gonzales-Wippler looks back to a very important event in her childhood. She was five years old then. Her nanny, a black woman, took her to the beach. At that beach, things were done and words were said that were new and confusing to the very young Gonzales-Wippler. Gonzales-Wippler recalls the events of that day as her introduction to Santeria - a religion that is basically the stew you get if you boil Roman Catholicism, Spiritism, and the traditional Yoruba religion of West Africa in the same pot. As an adult, Gonzales-Wippler is considered as one of the leading experts on Santeria. She has written numerous books about it. Prior to reading this essay, I've never heard of Santeria. And I'm someone who reads (rather doggedly) about world religions - not to find one that I can join but to understand why people still cling to them despite their countless absurdities.

Isis in Darkness by Margaret Atwood (Short Story) - If I remember correctly, this is the first short story by Atwood I've read. This piece has poets/writers as characters so it was a very interesting read. I usually find stories and novels with writers as characters as very interesting. As a writer myself, I find it a breeze to connect with the thoughts and actions of the writer/character. In a way, the writer/character makes me feel like I'm the character in the story. [Granta 31]

My Name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic (Book) - This is a book that reads like a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). It's basically a compilation of Saatchi's answers to questions that have been thrown at him by journalists, critics, and the general public. Saatchi is a very influential figure in the global art market. He can single-handedly direct how and where the art market goes. Love him or hate him, his thoughts on things related to art and advertising are worth listening to. Very direct with his words, he can sometimes come out as arrogant, self-indulgent, and completely full of himself. Be that as it may, the art world treats him like a god. So I repeat, his take on things are worth listening to.

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay (Book) - There's a dearth of novels out there with Igorots as the main characters. This book by Gourlay might as well be the only one. Off the top of my head, I can't recall any other full-length novel with Igorots as the main players. The more I try to think about this, the only works that come to my mind are the short stories featuring Igorot characters by F. Sionil Jose and Amador Daguio. Geared towards young adult readers, Bone Talk is an easy and breezy read. It's basically a coming-of-age story of an Igorot boy. The events mostly happen in an Igorot village. Serving as backdrops and plot movers are the arrival of the American colonizers and tribal conflicts which were quite rife during that time.

The Last Séance by Agatha Christie (Short Story) - Agatha Christie is an author I've been meaning to read for as long as I can remember. But for some reason, I never really got started. It's probably because of the sheer number of her works. There's just too many of them. Deciding where to start is such a nagging burden. Anyway, at a secondhand bookstore (Booksale), I came across a book - an old anthology of ghost stories called The 8th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (Copyright 1972). It contains nine short stories - a story titled The Last Seance by Agatha Christie was among them. I promptly added the book to my checkout pile. Back at home, right after dinner, I proceeded to dig into the book. I went first for Christie's tale. As the title of the story suggests, it's about a seance. I'm not going to go into detail about the story so as to not spoil anything. Did I like it? Not really. I didn't like the story itself. But I liked Christie's prose style. She reminds me of Ernest Hemingway. I can see why she has legions of adoring readers.

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert Park (Book) - In his review of this book, Richard Dawkins said "Professor Park does more than debunk, he crucifies". And I agree. This book is an unapologetic assault against foolishness and fraud. Equipped with logic, reason, and a clear writing style, Park is a man on an intellectual mission. He's very good at what he does. I wish that more people will read this book and his other works. Usually, when I finish reading a book, I get rid of it. In rare instances, the book is so good that I set it aside with the intention of rereading it in the near future. I set aside Voodoo Science. I see that it can also serve as a good reference book.