I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

‘I cannot travel anymore’ would be the next book to read. I would read it within a day or two: as long as a short trip for work usually lasts, or equal to the free time saved for reading when away for longer (work/duty) trips. It is a good title; a statement that shocks in real life. People ask immediately why. What to give as main reason: the physical strain (including the recovery time that becomes longer and longer), the shattering sense of loneliness among familiar faces (never managed to beat this one), the dislike of hotel rooms with their zombie tidiness, the limiting of the vital space within the frames of a suitcase and a crummy airplane seat, the food mostly under the acceptable standard (note: I like simple food), the goodbyes to loved ones, the current readings that must stay at home because of their volume and weight.

‘I cannot travel anymore’ does not exist as book title yet. I’ve had to do with other (more imaginative) titles, this recent period.

Here is a short selection of five:
A General Theory of Oblivion (2015, in EN) by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, an Angolan writer, famous (of what I read) and really special in his writing style and story building. I bought the book at Eason in Dublin; read it that evening sitting in my dorm bed and at the airport the next day before returning home.
The last days of New Paris (2016) by China Mieville, an English writer of fantasy fiction but also of history related to Marxism and the October revolution; here dealing with Surrealism and its role in history, with artists and Nazis in exploding encounters. I bought the book at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on my way to Athens; read it during the trip and one night in the Athenian heat of August (air-co on of course).
Swing Time (2016) by Zadie Smith, an English writer famous enough not to need introductions I think. This one is about the inevitable crashing of lives no matter what the predictions or the first indications might be. But, open as an artwork, others have read in it tales about friendship and such which is indeed the first level of the story. I bought it also at Schiphol airport on my way to Marrakech for a conference job; read it there and then in between work, dinners, talks, and through hours of sleeplessness.
Batavia’s Graveyard (2002) by Mike Dash, a Welsh writer of history. This is a scholarly publication with 100 pages of annotations and a full bibliography; yet an absolute page turner. It is the story of the Dutch ship ‘Batavia’ that left Holland in 1628 and shipwrecked a few months later onto a group of islands off the Australian west coast. The mutiny that followed, the killings, the living conditions on and off the ship(s), the scum of the earth that manned the East India ships and populated the colonies, and the retribution by the authorities: exciting by itself and told by a fantastic writer, all into it! I bought the book at the American Bookstore in The Hague and read it on my way to Kassel; a road trip this one.
The Red and the Black (1830) by Stendhal, the classic 19th century French writer, yes. Where did this come from, one would wonder. Well, apart from doing a refresh of early readings, I wanted to read through a good account of ambition and hypocrisy, together with love affairs with a purpose, horrendous (real) love entanglements, and the all-time hopelessness of those lacking social/cultural/financial capital. I bought it online and read it somewhere between Athens and Amsterdam. Though reading it in English was difficult, I found, cause the long sentences of the French language sound awkward in  English, the tone was well transferred.

Since the fall of Napoleon, all appearance of gallantry has been severely barred from provincial manners. There is fear of being deprived of one’s post. The scoundrels seek the support of the Congregation; and hypocrisy has made most wonderful progress even in the liberal ranks. Boredom redoubles itself. There remain no other pleasures but reading and agriculture. [p. 52]

P.S. Dedicated to all those who travel more than often, with admiration for their physical strength.

‘Highways and a dream: on wet roads’, oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 2015





Ordering books and combing the sea waves

Ordering books and combing the sea waves

This happened.

I was trying to order the books I had recently read; at first only mentally, as the physical order did not seem so imminent. Or was it a matter of difficulty in combining the idea of order with any kind of action? Order in action holds a sense of compromise, an aroma of conservatism, a swamping in conformity. Nevertheless, sometimes the rigidness of all that can be a safety net for the high flyers or an air bag for the perpetuate thrill seekers, if you wish.

Still, the idea of ordering my books did not even pass the mental phase; it rather provoked a self-annihilating categorization. Like trying ordering the sea waves according to those that reach the shore – the accomplished ones – those that vanish before the end, and those that seem to turn back to the main sea-mass without achieving anything individually.

Combing the sea waves is the picture I see when thinking of ordering books. Less importantly, this is also the urge I get (to comb it) when looking at the sea; even more when the capacity for getting any pleasure of it is dimmed down (the idea itself that the sea is a panacea oppresses me; certainties of any kind look like whirlpools; conclusions point to rooms without windows, etc.).

But, back to order and ordering books: If you can comb the sea waves even mentally, it is worth trying ordering your books.

p.s. All objects of awe, just to name music, writings, and the sea, cause the sharpest pain in periods of sinking.

p.s. 2 Please, don’t send me algorithms (poetry is always welcome)… (but can it categorize?).


Black is what you make it

A review of the book
The story of black,  by John Harvey
Reaktion Books, 2013

A book for those intrigued by black colour. It could be a pop-up book, an atlas with many dimensions and complex links between the exposed points; all drawing a story of a colour that is often discarded as not belonging and equally attributed to the “not belonging”. The story of black narrates in 300 pages the story of the colour black and its somewhat abstract characteristic, blackness, attached to art, to religion, to society, to fashion, to politics, to industry, to the environment, and of course to fears and prejudices, always inseparable from humans.

“One may speak of a will to find blackness within, because black bile is an invention, and its blackness another imaginary colour, like that of sin. For there is no black bile.” … For there is no talk about black colour without mentioning melancholia, depression as more modern term, as well as sin and the sense of an end, a death. But these are only a small part of what black can stand for; its story is much more fascinating.

John Harvey, Doctor of Letters of Cambridge University,  narrates with a privilege earned by teaching; of talking extensively and in detail  about a subject that can in the end stay an open discussion. Maybe every story must stay within reasonable limits so that what we call exhaustive does not become a dead-end. The author leaves the door open for further research and more stories to be told about black. However, what is narrated in this book is a story containing so much information that one has to come back to it, to one’s notes, to check again and combine, in time, with own thoughts and experiences. In that sense the Story of black is a study book that could become part of a curriculum.

Each reader will choose a part of the book to focus on, or associate with, while in the end art is what connects the dots; as a painter I appreciate that of course. As a black  painter at some stage of my painting life, somehow the most important till now, I found in certain thoughts of the author the spoken expression of that evasive sense of blackness.

“An element in Rotho’s depression –  and in the disappointment of other notable black painters – was the sense that they had led art to a final high place, and art had not stayed there.”

There are many ways to search for the ‘something more than’ ; black is one of them: a destination, as a safe place and an end, in one; a deep and pointless search at the time; closer to philosophy and music than to tangible successes and commerce (for those who care: the term creative industry hurts!)

“But still we call colours ‘delicious’: they give us a pleasure like the pleasure of taste. We might say colour feeds the soul, not the stomach. But still colour feeds, while black-and-white signifies”.

P.S.1 Some thoughts on black by the author of this article can be read here

P.S.2 I have referred to the book in this post too: “Nymphomaniac”- a study on hypocrisy

SpaceA, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 1999
SpaceA, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 1999, S.Kapnissi #blackandwhite


The Bukowski party

In the article signed by Sebastian Kort titled “Vrouwen willen seks. Bukowski niet” (women want sex. Bukowski not) published in nrc-next on 4 March, I read about the project in progress of uitgeverij Lebowski (Lebowski publishers #LebowskiBooks): to re-publish all the works of Charles Bukowski. The first three books are about to appear, within March, and for this occasion the publishers are organising a party with chicken and beer, film projections and performances. The author of the article found this rather anti-Bukowski(an), thinking that the poet himself would hate the idea of so many people around him. However, just for displeasing the expectations, the party can very well fit in the spirit, I find.

Breaking the pattern of compulsory book buying whenever travelling, I felt cool about not buying any during my last visit in Athens; the house of my parents has still a lot to offer book-wise. But then again, poetry (just like art) saves lives; I walked in front of it; this edition not new not old either, not  Greek neither in Greek.

“Love is a dog from hell” appeared on the shelf and I had to open it. Page 139: “the meek have inherited… if I suffer at this/ typewriter/ think how I’d feel/ among the lettuce-/ pickers of Salinas?” … eye down the page … “some suicides are never/ recorded.”

I turned, page 193: “melancholia … the history of melancholia/ includes all of us…”

I don’t know if Bukowski hated parties or was sometimes bored of women and sex; he did though hate paid slavery but kept it up for 13 continuous years, while keeping up writing too; there’s your hero and a good reason to party; off to Amsterdam!

P.S.1 The quotes are from the edition “Love is a dog from hell” of 2003 by HarperCollinsPublishers, poems 1974-1977 by Charles Bukowski; a beautiful edition.

P.S.2 It is great that Lebowski publishers undertook such a project, but it will be in Dutch; I always preferred dual language editions, when poetry was somehow difficult; but here, it is clear as the sky(?); saying this made me curious again…

"Assimilated information/ 3" , acrylic on wooden board, 2009
“Assimilated information/ 3”, acrylic on wooden board, 2009

The ideal state

“Five youngsters from level 2 were lying on the ground hit by astonishment from the sudden cracks of knuckles of the upper man, just before he disappeared. ‘He cracked twice’ the one whispered to the other with obvious fear but still detached as their life level demanded. The workers on level 1 just below them also followed the protocol, pretending not to notice what was happening beyond their sky. ‘He was a controller’ the youngsters startled while returning to normal mode. ‘He has information on us now… and went back to his level’. They looked with no other movement to their sky. There was nothing to see except of the normal flying devices. The spy had become invisible; he belonged to the third level of life, the accomplished state, where everyone and almost everything was transparent.

The land had established since long -and after a history of experiments- the ideal state of equality in unmixed horizontal levels. Visitors from upper to lower levels were mostly uncommon since all knew well their place  and their function was without doubt too. After the first shock which lasted a small few seconds, Ruhtra, the team chief, stood up and, while already walking away said ‘Faron will know’. The other four followed him to their mentor. Faron listened and without other comment pronounced as real teacher: ‘Fallen Angel’. Mentors were not supposed to say much on level 2, so the young men having nothing else to expect, left, with the two words floating in their heads.

They reached the main river without a word. Normally they would have analysed their experience and would now be discussing their opinions but instead they sat down in romantic positions staring at the river. This lasted a while. Haro scraped this silence stating ‘I’m scared’. He was the youngest, so still allowed to quote poetry but this old verse fell rather wrong to the team. ‘There is no time for philological analysis’ … ‘we must reach level 3, now’ chief Ruhtra said lifting his head up with mixed desire and anger. He stood up forcefully as in a move of impact, only to catch the others falling in sleeping mode. Before he could speak a word to reverse it they had disappeared in camouflaging colours, allowing only their  inaction to flash dimly in a rhythmic on-off, on-off. …”

P.S. the opening paragraphs of the story “the ideal state”. Keep tuned for the complete work.

"the acrobat" from the series "the state of sleeping" of 1995, acrylic on canvas, 130x130cm
“the acrobat” from the series “the state of sleeping” of 1995, acrylic on canvas, 130x130cm

“Patti, did art get us?”

Just kids by Patti Smith
2010, HarperCollins Publishers

A beautiful book, a must read, that is if you feel for young artists or for young people with a fire within. Patti Smith narrates her early youth as if it has just happened; so many details can only come from notebooks daily updated with devoted precision. The narration creates a picture where the trivial is evened with the mythical; that, due to the names that pass by their lives and through the pages of the book. P.Smith “wears” them in their life in Chelsey hotel just like the garments that they wore, she and Robert Mapplethorpe, in every occasion, described in provocative detail. Nevertheless this is more the “trivial” and the “provocative” of some people, young (or) artists; their youth does not differ so much from generation to generation: the fiery passion in deprivation from the basics, where basics are a safe place to live, food, warmth; the standard for average people from normal families in the west. Some of you will recognise the one sandwich and one drink shared at the diner, the one ticket to the museum where one sees the other one stays outside and waits for the description, the lack of sanitary commodities, the cold, etc.  P.Smith adds lice, peeing cups etc. to an extreme life that inevitably has a limited span.

Sometimes of course the more you are pushed down the more urge you show to come out and well. Conformity never brings out the best, but poverty neither. There is the key and the surprise of the story. In all the turbulence and doubt about art and life, they both found a way further through their life partners. For Mapplethorpe it was his rich patron/ partner who finally established him in the art scene; for Smith it was her musician husband that took her away from the whirlpool of New York and obviously gave her a good ground to develop her music and poetry. For both it was a blessing that they shared their moulding years closely together being equally blessed to part before swamping in a stereotype pattern.

Here comes a passer-by thought that the real thing is what comes after this youth; even though sometimes this “after”  does not even concern you, like when you are dead in any way.

P.S. a biography in poetical text; a rare gift

"universe", 2013, fiber art, 30x30cm
“universe”, 2013, fiber #art, 30x30cm

book-log launching on artB

My house belongs to that category of spaces that tend to create piles  mainly of books and papers. Be it its small size or the nature of its inhabitants, the fact is that these curious piles do have a purpose; their destiny though is to wait and try not to collapse.

Putting myself in front, I confess that I usually interpret  “going wild” as spending hours at the library browsing from theme to theme or equal time at the bookstore spending an unforgivable amount on books. Some of my best memories are days that I spent reading without interruption; a strong indicator of falling into a deep is when my ability to read fails me; when most daily activities are just duties, reading firmly overtakes them.

For those who understand this, I launch on this blog the category book-log where notes on books will be posted; maybe I am not that fast, yet I persevere. So stay tuned!