Click below for more info about the project--a $15 donation gets you a PDF of her mini-comic "Little Beaky" as well as a copy of the book when it's printed.
Happy New Year!
The symbiosis between body, emotions, identity and appearance is still deeply mysterious to me. There is a delicate feedback loop here, which in a society hooked on images of perfection and technologies of control is easily corrupted, its pathways turned back against us. The notion that our bodies make us who we are is twisted into an equation between our appearance and our self-worth. Feeling bad about our physical selves puts us on a fast track to self-hatred. When we're growing up and get caught at the body's surface, we never reach the place where intuition, feeling, and a sense of who we are live inside us, and our spirits never reach escape velocity. (Lee Damsky, "Beauty Secrets")
In a women's studies class I took, we talked about the idea of women 'being' bodies rather than merely possessing bodies. A reading suggested that women were taught to separate their identities from their bodies, which distorted their self-image. (Allison Torres, "At Home in My Body")
For him that steals, or borrows and returns not, a book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw at his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not. And when at last he goes to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him for ever.Well then, if that curse doesn't cure your case of sticky-fingers, I'm not sure what will!
Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.And in the last section of the book, "Endpaper Pages," in which Manguel describes an imaginary tome of The History of Reading, he writes a passage that seems to aptly pay respect to his own admiration of the individual reader:
And yet, in its apparent randomness, there is a method: this book I see before me is the history not only of reading but also of common readers, the individuals who, through the ages, chose certain books over others, accepted in a few cases the verdict of their elders, but at other times rescued forgotten titles from the past, or put upon their library shelves the elect among their contemporaries. This is the story of their small triumphs and their secret sufferings, and of the manner in which these things came to pass. How it all happened is minutely chronicled in this book, in the daily life of a few ordinary people discovered here and there in family memoirs, village histories, accounts of life in distant places long ago. But it is always individuals who are spoken of, never vast nationalities or generations whose choices belong not to the history of reading but to that of statistics. Rilke once asked, 'Is it possible that the whole history of the world has been misunderstood? Is it possible that the past is false, because we've always spoken about its masses, as if we were telling about a gathering of people, instead of talking about the one person they were standing around, because he was a stranger and was dying? Yes, it's possible.' This misunderstanding the author of The History of Reading has surely recognized.This was overall just such a fun book. Reading is usually a solitary activity, pursued in silence. But after finishing A History of Reading I realize that the community of readers, both contemporary and historical, share their experiences through that silence and simply by taking part in the legacy of letters on the page, each of us weaving our own "history of reading," contributing to a larger history of common experience, teeming with unique subtly for each of us who can relate to it.
If you're wondering how almond trees ever got by before mankind figured this out, remember that, in their homeland, wild almonds didn't evolve to grow in great stands of clones. There was plenty of genetic diversity in the forest. They also didn't need to produce banner crops of almonds every year; a few new seedlings was enough. Only in the weirdness of hyperproductive clonal forests do you need weird pollination strategies.
We've ignored the natural tendencies of the bees (and the very plants that we grow and harvest) and have attempted to change their nature to fit our needs. Unfortunately, this sort of stress can only lead to collapse.
Although Jacobson attempts to get to the bottom of CCD throughout the book, he concludes in the end that CCD is not a single problem with a single solution. Jacobson insists that a more holistic approach must be considered if we value the environment and our most treasured sources of food:
...To me, trying so hard to find a single cause of CCD misses the point. CCD, like varroa, is a symptom of a larger disease--a disease of fossil fuels and chemical shortcuts, of billion-bee slums and the speed of the modern world. An imbalance in the system. Maybe IAPV or imidacloprid or fluvalinate is the latest manifestation of the disease, but until local agriculture replaces global agriculture, there will always be another parasite, another virus, another mysterious collapse. 'You keep digging to the bottom,' said Webster, 'that's what you'll always find. It's not a problem with the bees; it's a degradation of the whole environment.'
The accompanying letter explained that the author, Luigi Serafini, had created an encyclopedia of an imaginary world along the lines of a medieval scientific compendium: each page precisely depicted a specific entry, and the annotations, in a nonsensical alphabet which Serafini had also invented during two long years in a small apartment in Rome, were meant to explain the illustrations' intricacies. Ricci [the aforementioned publisher for whom Manguel was working], to his credit, published the work in two luxurious volumes with a delighted introduction by Italo Calvino; they are one of the most curious examples of an illustrated book I know. Made entirely of invented words and pictures, the Codex Seraphinianus must be read without the help of a common language, through signs for which there are no meanings except those furnished by a willing and inventive reader.
You wondered how they could survive but of course they did. In the skin were marks just visible through the ice-coating, like a secret writing, scars. Nor were they dead exactly, those fallen trees. They were alive, only not vertical. The heartbeat inside them had maybe slowed, only a murmur but if you squatted to listen, if you knew how to listen, if the wind would die down you would hear it.
It was only after Mao's death in 1976 that people woke up. We finally learned that the whole Cultural Revolution had been part of a power struggle at the highest levels of the Party. Our leader had taken advantage of our trust and loyalty to manipulate the whole country.