I'd rather take this opportunity to point out that there's something inherently untrustworthy about any source claiming to understand any mode of thought that then seeks to discredit it. Indeed, if any of my students are reading this, please note that it's a useful rule of thumb regarding any Internet-based source that if it's obviously attacking something - a religion, a mode of thought or set of ideas, an individual, an institution - it needs to be read with particular care and scepticism. That's not to say all such material is flawed, but it's healthy to read it as if it is.And for those of my particular religious persuasion: selamat berpuasa to you all.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Hope Fahmi is in good voice - as his son Shibri rightly pointed out to the press, he's generally so gently spoken it's difficult to imagine him barking out orders on the big field. Actually he's one of the nicest blokes I know and it's lovely to think of him being centrestage. For once, we'll be glued to our tv screens for the whole jamboree come 9 August.
Friday, July 29, 2011
And it was at prayers that, in a moment of reflection, the ultimate 'message' of the show, in so far as a message may be discerned from so many voices, became apparent to me: In our guilt and our fear and our secrets and shame / On The Inside we are all much the same. (With apologies to Gabriel and his secret world.)
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sometimes it's good not to know. It's the closest we'll ever get to some kind of return to innocence.
Monday, July 25, 2011
It's an engaging album with genuine originality. My favourite track Amy, Amy, Amy actually manages self-deprecating humour, charm and real oomph. I understand she was just nineteen when she wrote it. They say she couldn't handle the fame her gift brought with it. She certainly couldn't handle the drugs.
I'm not thinking too deeply about this, except to say I loathe the kind of drug culture that battens on victims like this poor kid. Twenty-seven. Just at the beginning. People who know about these things sometimes refer to getting wasted on illegal substances. Absolutely - a complete waste.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
As I answered under the same comments, I find myself fitting into the world of Islam with remarkable ease. Its rich and varied thought world has been and is exciting to explore. I suppose I feel most at ease with what might broadly be termed the Sufi tendencies within the faith, but this is, as always, to oversimplify. I might add here that I follow Blake's dictum All Religions Are One, so what I find rewarding in Islam is not exclusive to the faith, but I do feel temperamentally attuned to the Muslim way of doing things. And another clarification is worthwhile here. I find a lot of people seem to assume that religious faiths are somehow monolithic in their dogma. Whilst I can understand why this assumption is made, it seems to me deeply uncharacteristic of the nature of those faiths. The capacity to cater to a vast range of needs and demands of their adherents is more obviously what distinguishes living faiths.
I certainly did need to convert in order to marry my wife, a need that was attended with deep joy. Would I have converted had I never met her? I think there's a fair chance I would have. Indeed, there's an argument that says once you are able to say: There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Messenger, you are muslim (though perhaps not Muslim.) I reckon accepting this argument might well exponentially increase the number of muslims in the world. However, had I remained on that level I'd never have experienced the rewards of Muslim practice - and there's an argument that Muslims might be distinguished by what they do, rather than what they believe.
As for the notion of steadfastness, I must say it doesn't have a lot of meaning for me. I don't find great obstacles to belief, quite the opposite, but I'm happy to consider well-founded, well-informed criticisms of Islam, or religious faith in general. I suppose you might say I don't feel in the least threatened by these. I've always been puzzled by the notion that theists of various colours don't feel doubt when it's so obvious that most, if not all, do - and rightly so. The dark night of the soul is a real lived experience, and possibly a necessary one.
Anyway that's my fairly obviously inadequate attempt to do justice to the questions. I'd get seriously worried if I found the answers flowing more readily.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
But, fear not, from Monday there won't be time to spit out as my dad used to say.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Fast forward to this year and old friend David H. e-mails me to say he's in the choir for the symphony (as a member of the Huddersfield Choral Society.) I happen to check out the Radio 3 page a couple of days ago and, blimey, they're providing a link to the actual performance. So being fated to listen I do.
And it was lovely stuff. Very English but ridiculously ambitious. All sorts going on, most of it tunefully. Loved every minute, of which there were many.
Monday, July 18, 2011
My plans for Ramadhan reading are pretty much in place. I picked up The God Delusion from the library, intending to test the 'robustness' of my faith. At least the blurb on the back says it will, so here's hoping. I'm intending to re-read Karen Armstrong's fine biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) since the last couple of biogaphies I read have been hagiographical if not devotional in nature - though very fine. (Martin Lings & Tariq Ramadhan.) And striking out into new territory (and not reading at all) I'm intending to watch the full BBC Life series (which Noi bought for a birthday that's now rather too long ago.) This is by way of reading the book of the world. Looking for signs, as they say.
I've decided to forego a reading of the Qur'an, partly because I feel it's time to tackle a different translation from the three I know, and I haven't got one.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
We ate outside on the front, like most of the other customers, wrapped in the sultry warmth of a typical Singapore evening. It was sort of busy but not really. And it was sort of wonderful, absolutely really.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
A trio of discoveries regarding my own creative juices, though not so much discoveries as confirmation of what I've always known:
Deadlines free me to write, and the more imminent the deadline the better.
I have very little interest in originality, much preferring to re-parcel whatever's been left lying around, a process so close to stealing that it's embarrassing.
I am almost completely immune to embarrassment once I'm near a stage.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Wise words of the evening (uttered by self): You can never have enough fridge magnets. (A lifetime's experience lies behind that, by the way.)
Sunday, July 10, 2011
And, although this is not strictly reading as such, I should mention that I listened to my CD set of Jim Norton reading Finnegans Wake from cover to cover, as it were. The editor reckons this covers a quarter of the actual text, which is pretty good going for a supposedly unreadable text. Whilst it may be unreadable it's far from unlistenable. Indeed, this is the medium in which I reckon it should be encountered as above all it reminds you, well me anyway, of what a delight the work is. Funny to think that the young Sam Beckett once sat taking Joyce's dictation on the Wake. Well not funny really. Illuminating.
What I didn't read in KL was Prof. Ricks's Keats and Embarrassment, though I started on it well before going up north. I mention this simply because I finished it this evening, having drawn out my reading just to slowly savour its insights. Apart from its many other virtues it contains long chunks of quite a number of Keats's letters, with attendant sympathetic readings, reminding me I don't have any edition of them for some reason I can't fathom. Ricks seems to think that many are as good as the poems, and he's right. The last one Keats ever wrote, to Charles Armitage Brown, is powerfully moving and Ricks leaves it until his particularly fine final chapter which in itself almost justifies the sorry business of lit. crit.
Note to self: Must get an edition of the letters and Andrew Motion's biography of Keats when I finally allow myself to buy some books again.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Two ways of making art - from the utterly sincere, to the entirely false. Both turn out to be true.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I didn't quite get that, back in the seventies, when I thought John had rather lost the plot. Yesterday I grasped the album for the first time - I mean I really got it. And when you're in it, it's difficult to get out, happily so.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Unfortunately I found Hitchens's rather silly book on the same lines so disappointing that it quite took away my enthusiasm for reading the more celebrated tome. And I'm still manfully avoiding the buying of new books until I clear the backlog on my shelves. So eventually I passed on the Dawkins, for the present at least. It might be fun to read in fasting month though!
Sunday, July 3, 2011
I love the LoA editions, of course, but it was odd finishing Ubik in the Philip K. Dick collection the other week as I can't help but feel that Dick should be read in cheap paperbacks. I don't mean this in an insulting way, far from it. Cheap paperbacks often feature fine works, as in the case of Dick, and the raw vigour of his novels seem better suited to them somehow.
Ubik was part of my scheduled holiday reading which, other than the stuff I've already blogged about, also included Ackroyd's nifty, and delightfully demotic, 'translation' of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Heaney's The Spirit Level, Beckett's Waiting For Godot and Sophocles's Oedipus Rex (in Don Taylor's translation). The last two are texts I am teaching later in the year, but I'm happy to say that I was reading them purely and wonderfully for pleasure. All in all, a fruitful list, I think, if a slightly odd bunch.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
That first section is like something out of Dostoyevsky, consciously so on Conrad's part, though I don't think he thought all that much of Dostoyevsky as a guide to life. When I first read it I was deeply into the second greatest Russian novelist - to the point that I thought him the greatest - which is something that should be the case for all literary-minded teenagers. (I suppose it's the intensity of it all that does it - like Dickens on amphetamines.) So, of course, the Dostoyevskian Conrad had me hooked. But then comes the Conradian Conrad, and this is a kind of criticism of Dostoevsky - distant, cool, ironic, sceptical - and I suppose I just didn't have the temperament for it then. Why the distancing narrative that makes us view Razumov from the outside rather than treating us directly to his tortured consciousness? Why the clear-eyed, jaundiced view of those loopy 'revolutionists'? In fact, why the jaundiced view of everyone and everything, except perhaps Miss Haldin (and that's a big perhaps)? Now I think I get it, I suppose because I share that jaundice.
In these troubled times Conrad is an amazingly prescient guide regarding fanaticism of all stripes. Reading Under Western Eyes today you get an extraordinary sense of how right Conrad was about early twentieth century Russia. Note to self: must find time to reread The Secret Agent soon.