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BIBLIOGRIND

Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Archive for The Prague Blog

Enroute to Pamplona … the night in LIMBO

Hi there!

It’s 12:55 am at Stansted Airport, and we await our morning flight to Bilbao, the most direct route to Pamplona — at one time this seemed such a distant possibility — and our new home. We’re at Costa Coffee and the place is rocking like a Vegas eatery after a Sinatra show!

Stansted is a 24/7/365 airport, and, while the departing flights are now over, the Int’l Arrivals still spew humans looking ready, tired, wacked, drunk, hampered, bland, or happy. I took a walk around a while ago. Many humans of various shades and smells have taken up spots along walls, in corners, or one of the several all-night places. The cheapos won’t fork over the price of a Panini & coffee & dessert for a comfortable chair. Fuck them.

We’ve got a great corner seat with high-back cushioned seats with a view of all the action. I downed a big-big-big coffee about two hours ago, and I’m flying. Maybe I’ll not even get a wink of sleep; looks like a game of Scrabble is on the menu!

We’ve left our palace apartment in Prague for good. We took a last walk around an hour or so before we left; good times in that home, and in the city where we were married. Yet only as we left, and the door closing behind us, did it really strike that we’d never again go into that apartment. No tears were shed, and the feeling left us as we boarded the metro toward the airport.

Now we have a new flat to move into in Pamplona tomorrow. We’ll get there in the afternoon, see our NEW flat, and begin a new story in our lives, a continuation of what we have together, yet in environs and under conditions excitingly new, adventurous, and exotic (in some ways).

But … we’re in limbo at the moment: no apartment in Prague; Pamplona a day away; we’re in an airport with dozens of others doing much the same thing, only their stories intersect with our only for this night. That is, unless I use one in a story some day.

I’m taking notes.

Books Read Lately: Durrell, Tosches, Fitzgerald

Nunquam by Lawrence Durrell

A thoroughly weird book, in which so much transferred knowledge comes from the first book (Tunc) that to not have read it leaves you in a dark forest without even a bag of popcorn. Basically, the man who has gotten free from the world-dominating corporation, now is asked to help run it. And what happens to the man who never wanted the responsibility? He takes it!

In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches

The narrative dichotomy in this novel proves that you can have a modern thriller and its language/characters leafed within the voice/writing of a Medieval story enveloped by religion and poetry and doubt and mere survival. Some of the best scenes find the reader taken into the confidence of a man whom none of us would like to befriend.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott pretty much nailed the character of Nicole Diver as the pseudonym for his crazy-bitch real-life wife, Zelda. Despite the love he had for her, there were things that any person could not accept and still call himself his/her own person.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Where is the springtime weather?

Winter hung around until summer, evidently. There hasn’t been a spring – temp-wise — while summer in May lets me leave the house before 7am with only a sport jacket.

The advantage of this is just that we get to be outside, finally. Playtime in the park, or walking among the flowering trees, even having the windows open early in the morning is a relief from the cold.

And … boy oh boy, not much else to say recently. Might as well honor the weather.

An April Entry — yeah!!

Before the calendar rolls to double digits on the April chart, here’s what’s happening in Prague:

NOTHING!

however … in the house of the naughty rabbit & fox, we’re journal writing, vocabulary recording/learning, and watching movies on the weekend. Just how we like it, where the outside beasts are kept at bay.

Books Read Lately: Durrell, Bolano, Durant

This has been a roller coaster two-month stretch of reading. Two BIG books and one decidedly philosophical, though wholly a fiction. Last year was The Year of the BIG Book, yet so far in 2013 I’ve luxuriated in some whopper-length stories and just completed a long-but-oh-so-accessible survey of Western Philosophy (and for anybody who likes philosophy, it’s a winner; for the philo-phtoowee people, you could do a lot worse — and probably have, in which case has determined your aversion ratio).

TUNC by Lawrence Durrell

Durrell has fun with this “novel of science-ideas” in that he plays with language in a way that you wonder if your leg is being pulled from the get-go. This isn’t the case, although the footing which the reader stands upon is moving. Ostensibly, the story follows an applied engineering inventor, Charlock, and his relationship with a worldwide company, the ubiquitous Merlin. To work for Merlin is to be set for life: steady income that grows to real wealth, keeper of your own patents, prestige, freedom of thought and work. But Charlock is a skittish sort, and he wants to know Why? all this must be so wonderful. Thus begins the ride.

2666 by Robert Bolano

Bolano gave us five short novels as he prepared to die (look him up on Wikipedia). The estate-cum-publisher decided to sandwich them, thus presenting a massive tome. But there is not just one story, so that’s okay, too. Each section follows different people, though there is a loose connection between the stories, and sometimes the odd character (or main one) appears in another story. The last story, “The Part About Archimboldi”, was for me the most coherent. Where the others left of as if Bolano died before he typed the last page, the story of Archimboldi is as complete a picture of a human as a reader could hope to get. Really heartfelt stuff, in a world of uncompromising treachery, delivering himself from evil with no help from north or south, and living by his wits.

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant

This classic survey of “the world’s greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey” is such a fascinating read because Durant brings reasoned thought, intellect, wisdom, and humor to a whole ship-full of good prose. I’ve always disliked reading (or slogging through) the actual texts of many philosophers (Niezsche is brutal; Russel is obscure; Kant is dense as twice-baked cheesecake) but I thoroughly enjoy having a mature philosopher to pull out the best (and readable) bits from all those guys. Durant does this so well that I wanted him to give me the delineation on all the included philos’ works; alas, such an undertaking is “voluminous.” Nevertheless, we learn about the men behind their works, which partly explains the reasons they came to their … um … reasoning. And what I came away with this time, at this point in my life, is that most of the major philos were lonely, had been pushed down by society (or gov’t), rejected in love, hounded by peers, and in this built a view of life that, amazingly, captured the attention of those same people and society and gov’t that dumped on them.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

We’re Still Eating! … the Pope Francis garlic toast

Homemade nan bread, oven tandoori chicken, and curried lentels

Homemade nan bread, oven tandoori chicken, and curried lentels

Yeah, as winter stumbles along, we at the Chodska Palace flat are up to our eyes in good food … but still maintaining weight and proper nutritional intake.

Homemade fries w/teriaky burger ... Mmmmmm

Homemade fries w/teriaky burger … Mmmmmm

Yesterday we happened to be around for the Vatican’s declaration of the new pope, for which all good Catholics (don’t look my way) have had their eyes peeled. When Cardinal Bergoglio came onto the balcony, I did a quick Wiki-bio check. Looks like an alright guy, very down to earth, complete with the state-of-the-times gestures that should appeal to the pious young as well as the conservative-and-pious old  (just as long as he’s not from the Ratz category of shuffling American-priest pedophiles around Central and South America).

So in the Catholic Holy See’s honor, I made Pope Francis Garlic Toast. It’s a pretty simple recipe: your favorite garlic bread with a crucifix fashioned from your favorite vegetable. Green olives worked nicely this evening. Notice the bite taken out of the corner … in homage to the pope’s missing lung.

Make your own Pope Francis Garlic Bread!

Make your own Pope Francis Garlic Bread!

Bonus photo: Asia with her new journal!

Asia shows me her new journal, in which thoughts and aspirations appear almost daily.

Asia shows me her new journal, in which thoughts and aspirations appear almost daily.

Winter Orchid Bloom: Asia’s Androecia Artistry

A couple weeks ago, thanks to Asia’s care, one of her orchids gave us a winter bloom. Our three plants sit in southern exposure, a gift for winter survival, and the light has kept them green, robust, and sprouting those weirdly digitus roots. Then one day a shoot pointed toward Ursa Major, and we knew that another flower pod was on its way.

Asia's Winter Orchids

One thing I’ve discovered about orchids is that when the bloom shoot (finally) shows itself, its growth is faster than watching paint dry (yeah, try that metaphor on for size!). The other beauty of orchids is that their blooms last for many weeks. We may have these beauties until the first day of spring!

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

Last of 2013 Prague Winter?

The Little Fox in a Snowstorm

Another little snowstorm rolled in today – the biggest of the four days this week Prague has seen snow. Earlier this week I didn’t have my camera with me, but this morning I was sure to plan a walk over to the JZP park and get a long view of this urban winter.

JZP park in Prague

We woke at 7am and it was snowing from an overnight flaky storm. The snow was still falling at 2:30 when we left the house for post-lunch forced march (after breaded chicken cutlets and boil-fried potatoes, we needed it). As per standard, these idiots hadn’t done any street plowing nor sidewalk shoveling. If it had been 75 degrees instead of 25, we might have been walking along a San Diego beach.

Asia-Wife in the snowstorm

Lots of kiddies out with mommy & daddy (or just one of them, as is also usual—dad probably too drunk or mom just coming back from the clandestine lover’s house [according to statistics via confidential surveys, it appears that some 30% of Czech men are raising the child of another man without having the foggiest idea]) on the mini sled hills. Lots of dogs, too, those crazy mutts.

Mark Beyer photos and novels

We took a walk up to the Flora area, where we ducked into the mall and checked out some Paperblanks journals. We’ve both got a little collection of these gems going, for lots of writing. Then a quick ride on the metro to Wenceslaus Square to the Marks & Spencer, where, oddly enough, butter/white-chocolate cookies weren’t on sale (and neither was the Napoleon Brandy) ;-))))

Novelist Mark Beyer's Paperblanks notebooks

As the afternoon light fell we trudged up the STILL UNPLOWED sidewalks (I guess these morons shall wait until Monday to dig themselves out of a mere 8 inches of snow). Our dinner of cookies and coffee (and the brandy, don’t you know) won’t probably stop us from doing yoga later.

But maybe it will.

AsiaWife modeling in the snow

Books Read Lately: Boyd, Ondaatje, Atwood

In 2012 I was fortunate to have been able to read 27 books. This year I’d like to read more than 30; if I can read 35 I’ll be truly a happy reader, and better off for the challenge. While I’m not in this for some speed contest, I do make time each day to read, usually about 50 pages.

Here are my first three titles of the year. Oh – I should have dated this column from Jan 22nd, which is when I finished the third book (I always post in groups of 3 books read) but I’ve been busy writing my next novel, and generally occupied otherwise.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

I didn’t want to like this book after I read the first 50 pages. All the events and coincidences seemed too pat. And then something happened: life wasn’t so cheery and easy after all. And that’s where this book makes its true mark. We readers sometimes forget that, in point of fact, we can put ourselves into the shoes of characters. In this book, it’s inevitable that you think about where your own life has tread, and where it’s headed.

Her tan is complete, opaque brown all over. She continues on without a glance at me, this old man in his cream suit. Two worlds collide at this moment, it seems to me — mine and the future. Who could have imagined that such an encounter would have been possible on a beach in my lifetime? I find it quite exhilarating: the old writer and the naked Dutch girl—perhaps we need a Rembrandt to do it full justice.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

There is a decidedly poet nature to this short novel that packs so much story into its fast-reading pages. I think the imagery helps fill out what one might think is “missing.” But beware, this story of a love affair (two or three, actually) demands that you peer closely at each scene. There is a world being built, one stone at a time.

Sometimes when she is able to spend the night with him they are wakened by the three minarets of the city beginning their prayers before dawn. he walks with her through the indigo markets that lie between South Cairo and her home. The beautiful songs of faith enter the air like arrows, one minaret answering another, as if passing on a rumour of the two of them as they walk through the cold morning air, the smell of charcoal and hemp already making the air profound. Sinners in a holy city.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

The notorious Grace Marks was convicted of killing two people outside Toronto in the 1840s. Her story was the topic of newspapers, magazines, books, and the public for months, even years. Just that minute portion of doubt regarding her full duplicity in the crimes saved her from the gallows. Her life of 28 years behind bars, and the days leading up to and after the crime, are chronicled by Atwood’s careful hand, inquisitive mind, and steady pacing.

The minister looked like a heron, with a pointed beak of a nose and a long skinny neck, and a tuft of hair sticking up from the top of his head. The sermon was on the subject of Divine Grace, and how we could be saved by it alone, and not through any efforts on our own part, or any good works we might do. But this did not mean we should stop making efforts, or doing good works; but we could not count on them, or be certain that we had been saved, just because we were respected for our efforts and good works; because Divine Grace was a mystery, and the recipients of it were known to God alone[.]

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

The Gift of Ignorance

Without a TV and having little desire to learn Czech, there are benefits. Like today.

It began to snow about 9 a.m. as I was walking out of a class toward the subway. Within a half hour the flakes had grown in size and intensity of their fall. By 12 the sky was alight with fat snowflakes and a real micro-blizzard had descended on the city.

DSCN3130

I’d not heard of nor anticipated snowfall, although winter had finally come to Prague on Saturday. The snow is still falling, and though I wished it had come like this on Christmas and New Year’s, there is a sense of beautiful wonder in the air.

DSCN3131

And this is the gift of ignorance. We who are so connected with the absolute-everyday-and-uptotheminute somehow have lost our sense of wonder, or at least anticipation. Weather is a simple thing, but it has an effect on our emotions, among other things that don’t much count in life. So to walk out of an everyday existence into the absolute of sudden and unexpected snow is to have a present tossed at you.

 

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