Quiet, calming, astute, profound, discomfiting, bleak, real ... just some of the words I'd use to describe Didion's essay-writing subjects and feats i...moreQuiet, calming, astute, profound, discomfiting, bleak, real ... just some of the words I'd use to describe Didion's essay-writing subjects and feats in general, and all found in this wonderful collection. Here are some excellent bits ...
p. 15 -- "The patient to whom this psychiatric report refers is me. The tests mentioned ... were administered privately ... in the summer of 1968, shortly after I suffered the 'attack of vertigo and nausea' mentioned in the first sentence and shortly before I was named a Los Angeles Times 'Woman of the Year.' By way of comment I offer only that an attack of vertigo and nausea does not now seem to me an inappropriate response to the summer of 1968."
-- "In the years I'm talking about I was living in a large house in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described by one of my acquaintances as a 'senseless-killing neighborhood.'"
p. 42 -- "These early reports were garbled and contradictory. One caller would say hoods, the next would say chains. There were twenty dead, no, twelve, ten, eighteen. Black masses were imagined, and bad trips blamed. I remember all of the day's misinformation very clearly, and I also remember this, and wish I did not: I remember that no one was surprised."
p. 43 -- "Of these evenings I remember mainly my dread at entering the prison, at leaving for even an hour the infinite possibilities I suddenly perceived in the summer twilight. ... Each of the half-dozen doors that locked behind us as we entered Sybil Brand was a little death, and I would emerge after the interview like Persephone from the underworld, euphoric, elated. Once home I would have two drinks and make myself a hamburger and eat it ravenously. 'Dig it,' Gary Fleischman was always saying."
p. 43-44 -- "This particular juxtaposition of the spoken and the unspeakable was eerie and unsettling, and made my notebook a litany of little ironies so obvious as to be of interest only to dedicated absurdists. An example: Linda dreamed of opening a combination restaurant-boutique and pet shop."
p. 44 -- "During the years when I found it necessary to revise the circuitry of my mind I discovered that I was no longer interested in whether the woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor jumped or did not jump, or in why. I was only interested in the picture of her in my mind: her hair incandescent in the floodlights, her bare toes curled inward on the stone ledge. In this light all narrative was sentimental. In this light all connections were equally meaningful, and equally senseless."
page 76 -- "In short the Getty is a monument to 'fine art,' in the old-fashioned didactic sense, which is part of the problem people have with it. The place resists contemporary notions about what art is or should be or ever was. A museum is now supposed to kindle the untrained imagination, but this museum does not. A museum is now supposed to set the natural child in each of us free, but this museum does not. This was art acquired to teach a lesson, and there is also a lesson in the building which houses it: the Getty tells us that the past was perhaps different from the way we like to perceive it. Ancient marbles were not always attractively faded and worn. Ancient marbles once appeared just as they appear here: as strident, opulent evidence of imperial power and acquisition. Ancient murals were not always bleached and mellowed and 'tasteful.' Ancient murals once looked as they do here: as if dreamed by a Mafia don. Ancient fountains once worked, and drowned out the very silence we have come to expect and want from the past. Ancient bronzes once gleamed ostentatiously. The old world was once discomfitingly new, or even nouveau, as people like to say about the Getty. (I have never been sure what the word 'nouveau' can possibly mean in America, implying as it does that the speaker is gazing down six hundred years of rolled lawns.) At a time when all our public conventions remain rooted in a kind of knocked-down romanticism, when the celebration of natural man's capacity for moving onward and upward has become a kind of official tic, the Getty presents us with an illustrated lesson in classical doubt. The Getty advises us that not much changes. The Getty tells us that we were never any better than we are and will never be any better than we were, and in so doing makes a profoundly unpopular political statement."
p. 83 -- "To understand what was going on it is perhaps necessary to have participated in the freeway experience, which is the only secular communion Los Angeles has. Mere driving on the freeway is in no way the same as participating in it. Anyone can 'drive' on the freeway, and many people with no vocation for it do, hesitating here and resisting there, losing the rhythm of the lane change, thinking about where they came from and where they are going. Actual participants think only about where they are. Actual participation requires a total surrender, a concentration so intense as to seem a kind of narcosis, a rapture-of-the-freeway. The mind goes clean. The rhythm takes over. A distortion of time occurs, the same distortion that characterizes the instant before an accident."
p. 95 -- "It was a cry in the wilderness, and this resolute determination to meet 1950 head-on was a kind of refuge. Here were some people who had been led to believe that the future was always a rational extension of the past, that there would ever be world enough and time for 'turning attention,' for 'problems' and 'solutions.' Of course they would not admit their inchoate fears that the world was not that way any more. Of course they would not join the 'fashionable doubters.' Of course they would ignore the 'pessimistic pundits.' Late one afternoon I sat in the Miramar lobby, watching the rain fall and the steam rise off the heated pool outside and listening to a couple of Jaycees discussing student unrest and whether the 'solution' might not lie in on-campus Jaycee groups. I though about this astonishing notion for a long time. It occurred to me finally that I was listening to a true underground, to the voice of all those who have felt themselves not merely shocked but personally betrayed by recent history. It was supposed to have been their time. It was not."
p. 119 -- "To read a great deal of Doris Lessing over a short span of time is to feel that the original hound of heaven has commandeered the attic."
p. 146 -- "Certain places seem to exist mainly because someone has written about them. Kilimanjaro belongs to Ernest Hemingway. Oxford, Mississippi, belongs to William Faulkner, and one hot July week in Oxford I was moved to spend an afternoon walking the graveyard looking for his stone, a kind of courtesy call on the owner of the property. A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image ..."(less)
This is a truly terrifying look deep deep inside the world of Scientology -- how it evolved, biographical information about L. Ron Hubbard, and how it...moreThis is a truly terrifying look deep deep inside the world of Scientology -- how it evolved, biographical information about L. Ron Hubbard, and how it persists today. I couldn't believe some of the things I read (which is to say, I could literally believe it, but some of the things were so crazy!). There hasn't been an exhaustive biography of L. Ron Hubbard, though the Church of Scientology has a biographer for him; every time a book comes out, it seems to be suppressed. I recommend this book to anyone curious about or interested in religious evolution, Scientology, etc.
p. 94 "'Our enemies on this planet are less than twelve men,' Hubbard discloses. 'They own and control newspaper chains and they are oddly enough directors in all the mental health groups in the world.' Their plan was to 'use mental health, which is to say psychiatric electric shock and prefrontal lobotomy, to remove from their path any political dissenters.' For the first time, he openly talkes about the Sea Organization, or Sea Org, an elite group who would form the committed inner core of the religion, Hubbard's disciples, a Scientology clergy."
p. 105 "... billions of thetans were transported to Teegeeack, the planet now called Earth, where they were dropped into volcanoes and then blown up with hydrogen bombs... Because Teegeeack was a dumping ground for thetans, it became known as the Prison Planet, 'the planet of ill repute.' The Galactic Confederacy abandoned the area, although various invaders have appeared throughout the millennia. But these free-floating thetans remained behind. They are the souls of people who have been dead for seventy-five million years. They attach themselves to living people because they no longer have free will. There can be millions of them clustered inside a single person's body. Auditing for Scientologists at OT III and above would now focus on eliminating the 'body thetans' -- or BTs -- that stand in the way of spiritual progress."
p. 111 "Hubbard increasingly turned his wrath on children, who were becoming a nuisance on the ship. He thought they were best raised away from their parents, who were 'counter-intention' to their children. As a result, he became their only -- stern as well as neglectful -- parent. Children who committed minor infractions, such as laughing inappropriately or failing to remember a Scientology term, would be made to climb the crow's nest, at the top of the mast, four stories high, and spend the night, or sent to the hold and made to chip rust."
p. 311 "The church discourages such examination [looking into the charges brought against the Church of Scientology over the years], telling its members that negative articles are 'entheta' and will only cause spiritual upset. In 1996, the church sent CDs to members to help them build their own websites, which would then link them to the Scientology site; included in the software was a filter that would block any sites containing material that vilified the church or revealed esoteric doctrines. Keywords that triggered the censorship were Xenu, OT III, and the names of prominent Scientology critics."
This was a gripping, fascinating, and horrifying memoir about the mysteries the brain keeps hidden from us, even now, in the age of neurosurgeons and...moreThis was a gripping, fascinating, and horrifying memoir about the mysteries the brain keeps hidden from us, even now, in the age of neurosurgeons and neurologists. The brain is truly one of the greatest puzzles, I believe, and so so integral to our very existence, that any "malfunction" can be the end of us, though sometimes, the seeming "end" is someone aware and listening, but trapped in their body, unable to react, or trapped by mad-firing circuitry making it appear that psychosis has set in, and the person has no hope but a lifelong stay in an asylum. This story is about a woman who, at the age of 24, experiences a very rare autoimmune disease in which the brain becomes inflamed on one side, called NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis. The trials this one person went through for a doctor on the level of Dr. House (from the show) steeped in the awareness medical mysteries, to finally "figure it out" in the nick of time, as it turns out. The fact that Susannah Cahalan is a journalist for The New York Post, and completely FINE, and suddenly appears to have a mental breakdown or a schizophrenic episode, or a reveal of epileptic seizures, or a complete regression of mental fortitude to someone very handicapped, and who has to research HERSELF (video monitors, doctor patient files and notes, parent's journals and family interviews) simply to find out what she was like during this time, because she has no memory of it, makes the memoir even more gripping, and like we're experiencing everything anew and scary, all through her eyes.
I believe the greatest impression I came away with from this book is that fact that we know so horrifyingly little about our own brains, our own "operating systems." Somewhat like our very limited knowledge of space and dark matter, or the deepest places in the ocean, such as the Marianas Trench.
One quote: p. 187 -- "Despite my attempts at seeming blithe and careless, I was hyperattuned to the different ways people were treating me. Since this was a family event, the first question out of everybody's mouth was, 'How are you?' It was an unanswerable question at this stage. But that wasn't the worst part. It was the falsely enthusiastic, carefully enunciated tone people used; they were talking down to me, as if I were a toddler or a very old person. It was demoralizing, but I couldn't really blame them. No one had a clue about what was going on inside my head."
I related to this very much, and could totally experience this via Cahalan's words. (less)
Great book! The author is just hilarious! I never knew "scrupulosity" was a thing until this book -- I wonder how many people have this form of OCD .....moreGreat book! The author is just hilarious! I never knew "scrupulosity" was a thing until this book -- I wonder how many people have this form of OCD ... (less)
So I'm glad I finally "read" this book, especially after hearing all about what a terrible parent Amy Chua is. Ultimately, this book pissed me off. A...moreSo I'm glad I finally "read" this book, especially after hearing all about what a terrible parent Amy Chua is. Ultimately, this book pissed me off. A lot. Amy Chua reads the audiobook herself (which seems appropriate) and her unapologetic descriptions of the terrible things she said to her children, in the snobby know-it-all tone she takes, is just mind-blowingly anger-inducing. I don't agree with anything she did, and I don't get why her husband allowed some of the extremes to occur, I mean, parenting when there are two parents should be a team activity, so I'd be interested to hear his input. And I really never got any more from Chua than she was really doing all the shit she was doing for her own bragging rights. I just can't honestly believe she was doing this and treating her daughters the way she did for "their own good". Also, I don't like the ignorant bashing and sweeping generalizations about "Western parents" or "Chinese parents". She may know more about the Chinese way, but I think she even generalized there, a lot. And I know she makes her definitions at the start of the book, but still.
I don't know. I'm not a parent, nor do I ever want to be, but I was a kid, and treatment like this from a mom would've just been intolerable for me. Maybe her kids benefited or liked it or something ... I can't pretend to speak for them, but if I were Lulu, especially, I'd have some serious mommy-issues. (less)