October 24, 2009

Tragedy of Leprosy and Human Scorn Unraveled in Beautifully Told Story: The Pearl Diver review

Tragedy of Leprosy and Human Scorn Unraveled in Beautifully Told Story
The Pearl Diver

"The Pearl Diver" is a difficult book. Leprosy is not part of most our lives, and much of what we think of may involve Jesus Christ's healing of the 10 lepers in the Gospel of Luke. The book is not about leprosy, but it is the context which drives the story. It is about being confined in flesh, the ever present and ubiquitous human condition.

Imagine a young woman diving with great skill to the ocean floor. The grace, beauty and athleticism just off the shore of a Japanese island alone is an image to carry a reader through each page. Author Jeff Talarigo finds the proper tone and pace so as to begin the story well. A diagnosis of leprosy changes this scene, and the woman quickly moves to a leper colony. Her family cannot handle the shame and disowns her.

Giving context to the story are 'Artifacts', something Talarigo uses as object/symbols. The technique works like a subtitle within a chapter like as with "Artifact Number 0596: A bar of soap." The soap represents cleanliness and purity. Miss Fuji, as the young woman is called at the colony, carves them into shells or fish, and in them briefly finds freedom.

The tone of the book is beautifully dour. It never ebbs and flows like the waves of the ocean dove into, creating emotional exhaustion for readers who want to leave the book uplifted. But leprosy in the 1940s is not a happy disease. The disease itself is hard, as is the social outcasting that packaged with it.

It occasionally leaves a contemplative place and falls into sentimentality, and arcs into cynicism as Miss Fuji reacts against one patient who describes her faith to her. The most tragic portion is when Miss Fuji falls into intolerance, and "wants to rip their skin apart," whenever someone religious talks about what they believe. At once she claims it is OK for some, yet is enraged when patients discuss their beliefs openly.

The world continues on without her, and it will continue when she's gone. She understands this, but isn't satisfied and pursues freedom.

Excellently written, if a bit monotonic, "The Pearl Diver" is more than moralism wrapped in an exotic context. It looks for, and arrives at deliverance.


October 14, 2009

The Genesis of the Butterfly by Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo describes butterflies perfectly, so to all the butterfly hunters out there, take hope.

The Genesis of the Butterfly
by Victor Hugo

The dawn is smiling on the dew that covers
The tearful roses; lo, the little lovers
That kiss the buds, and all the flutterings
In jasmine bloom, and privet, of white wings,
That go and come, and fly, and peep and hide,
With muffled music, murmured far and wide.
Ah, the Spring time, when we think of all the lays
That dreamy lovers send to dreamy mays,
Of the fond hearts within a billet bound,
Of all the soft silk paper that pens wound,
The messages of love that mortals write
Filled with intoxication of delight,
Written in April and before the May time
Shredded and flown, playthings for the wind's playtime,
We dream that all white butterflies above,
Who seek through clouds or waters souls to love,
And leave their lady mistress in despair,
To flit to flowers, as kinder and more fair,
Are but torn love-letters, that through the skies
Flutter, and float, and change to butterflies

Selected Poems of Victor Hugo: A Bilingual Edition

October 12, 2009

Excellent Graphite Never Fades, But Erases Unwanted Old Flames Well: review Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased Black-Core #2 Pencils, Soft, Pre-Sharpened, 12 Count, Yellow

Excellent Graphite Never Fades, But Erases Unwanted Old Flames Well
Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased Black-Core #2 Pencils, Soft, Pre-Sharpened, 12 Count, Yellow

At a cafe, I doodled on a newspaper with my Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. As a classic #2, the soft graphite was dark, thick and steady, working well on the dim white recycled newsprint. Against the cafe's smell of burnt coffee rested the subtle sweet smell of wood freshly sharpened.

In walked an extraordinary beauty. How many years had passed since I first saw her here? No, this isn't the time for that. She was here. That mattered. What happened 10 years ago needed to be forgotten. She smiled and called me over. "Nancy," I said. And then, more was said, with more smiles.

Three hours and a loaf of bread later, it was time to go. Nancy grabbed her address book and a pen. She asked me my e-mail address while adjusting her lipstick. She took my pencil and wrote 'Brockeim' in flowing black-gray letters with curves like waves, yet completely legible. She could have used a pen, I noticed. She didn't. I have not heard from her since.

May your Dixon pencils never fade, and the tips never break.


October 01, 2009

My Deliverer of Meals and Romance: Inexpensive Chopsticks Are Perfect: Disposable Wrapped Chopstick 100 Pairs review

My Deliverer of Meals and Romance: Inexpensive Chopsticks Are Perfect
Disposable Wrapped Chopstick 100 Pairs

The chopsticks' long blond legs reached with grace toward a grain of rice. Chiseled, yet delicate, footless and firm, the chopsticks steered into the now empty bowl where remained but one small remnant of an evening that began and ended well.

Now, all candles snuffed, and the last taste of wine was sipped from my glass, I looked at this grain. I smiled I maneuvered the chopsticks to pick out the final bit. Nancy had gone home, leaving with plans for breakfast at the coast with me tomorrow.

These are fine chopsticks, the kind found in many Chinese restaurants, and will do as asked. You will not go hungry using these utensils. Tonight, as I pressed the two tips together on each side of the brown rice, I thought that this one grain should stay another night. This was no easy task. The rice was still soft, and unwilling to find its way out of the bowl. Why struggle, I thought? The rice is no doubt happier where it is.

The dishes, I decided, and the rice, could wait for tomorrow.

May your meals be as satisfying with these chopsticks, useful for eating rice comfortably.