Thursday, September 12, 2019

James Baldwin and Ocean Vuong / Leah Siegel covering Buckley covering Buckley / Learning Spanish / NAMI class

Ocean Vuong's book On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous was brought to my attention in the last month or so, and I put a hold on a copy at our public library.  I found the book to be extraordinary as well as difficult and worth the difficulty.  Ocean Vuong, like Toni Morrison, took me to places I've never been before (but not as "a tour guide to pre-made worlds" but as a "world maker," to use Ocean Vuong's words from the interview) and changed the way I see the world.  Before finishing the book, I took a 50-minute break to listen to Ocean Vuong and Jacqueline Woodson.  Previously, while reading the book, I had listened to several other interviews with Ocean Vuong in which he reminded me of a young Bob Dylan.  In the above Strand Bookstore interview, Ocean Vuong lights a James Baldwin votive candle before the interview begins, in honor of James Baldwin's illuminating presence.  In that moment, I realized that what I was perceiving as a similarity to Bob Dylan was actually a similarity to James Baldwin.  Bob Dylan's work and way of being in the world were strongly influenced by James Baldwin.  That is what I was seeing in Ocean Vuong.  James Baldwin lives on through his literary descendants.  Ocean Vuong is one of the most recent in that literary family tree.

Some quotes from Ocean Vuong:

"... the merciful light in the midst of all this darkness ..." (from the interview)

"Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence--but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it." (p. 231, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous)

This morning, I discovered this version of "Once I Was A Soldier" by Leah Siegel and wanted to share it.  I've never heard a woman sing that song before.

Beginning on September 4, I made a commitment to learn to speak Spanish, building on two years of Spanish in high school (escuela secundaria) 52 years ago.  There is a Spanish Conversation group that meets weekly at our local Senior Center around a table in a small meeting room and is facilitated by an engaging woman in her 60s from Mexico.  It is immersion in Spanish rather than a formal class.  I speak like a baby and that's okay!

In addition, I signed up for a evening class offered by our local branch of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  The class is for families and friends of people who suffer from mental illness and meets two nights a week for six weeks.  My hope is to learn how to take care of myself in the numerous encounters I have regularly with people who suffer from mental illnesses and to learn how I can be supportive of those who suffer from mental illnesses.  Once again, there are no easy answers, and I am open to learning what I can.

The next six weeks will be full, with not much time for posting.  I will be reading your blogs, sending love as always.

Here's a volunteer Mimulus that appeared on my porch:


LimnerC said...

I'm listening to Vuong's book and cannot get enough. The narrator is perfect. The story is almost too rich at times but I'm beyond hooked. It's nice knowing someone else thinks it is special.

37paddington said...

Such a rich and thoughtful post. I think Ocean Vuong’s book title may be the most poetic I ever heard.

Sabine said...

This book is on my reading list and I think I am on 3rd place on the inter library loan now. Thank you for these links. I have saved them for when I get to read the book.
Sending you lots of encouragement for your endeavours.

ellen abbott said...

I admire you, taking classes, expanding yourself. that is a beautiful title. I wonder if I could listen to books on my computer. would it work like playing music?

am said...

ellen abbott -- Yes. I have listened to books on CD on my laptop while drawing. I'm also going to be listening to a Spanish course (from the public library) on CD in my car. This morning I checked the CD course out from the library and am going to download the entire course to my laptop so that I can listen to it while working on the mandala I started and can't seem to find time to work on!

robin andrea said...

I like how busy you are, am! I love that you are learning to speak Spanish and how to be supportive of the mentally ill. Very kind and thoughtful of you, my friend.