Showing posts from January, 2014

Heights and Depths

Levels of LifeBy Julian Barnes “You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed.” That is how the book begins. And the three essays in Barnes’s Levels of Life is a demonstration of how magic can be created by the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated things. The first one The Sin of Height is about ballooning in the 19th century - specifically about the pioneer Felix Tournachon (Nadar) who combines his twin passions of ballooning and photography to attempt aerial photography, an attempt that ultimately leads a century later to the Apollo 8 mission’s photograph of the earth from space. While describing Nadar’s experiments and successes, Barnes also points out his touching devotion to his ailing wife. The topic of  love, which is again, in some way a joining of two unrelated beings, is the subject in Barnes’s next essay On the Level. On the Level is about an imaginary love affair between Sarah Bernhardt, the legendary French actress and the Engl…

Speed, Revolution and Growing Up

The Flame Throwers 
by Rachel KushnerThe set pieces are wonderful. Reno speeding through the salt pans on her Valera bike, pushing the limits; the blackout in New York and Reno walking the streets observing the darker side of New Yorkers; Rome in revolutionary mode, students protesting against the government and Reno again the observer, watching what it is to be on the other side of privilege.There are more. Descriptive, poetic, alive. It’s the pieces in between that are a bit more problematic.
“Enchantment means to want something and also to know, somewhere inside yourself, not an obvious place, that you aren’t going to get it.” So thinks the 23 year unnamed narrator we only know as Reno, a name given to her because that’s the place she comes from. It’s the seventies and Reno is a very young, impressionable ‘land artist’ - someone who creates art on land, photographing the speed lines her bike makes on salt. She is also ‘enchanted’ - by the New York art world she hopes to enter, by Ron…