Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Books Read

Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation

Best read over time, pick it up, read, put it down, mull over a poem...a sample....

Homcoming by Wendell Berry

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark and graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distance of our faith;
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.

The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings about Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom

The book was OK, but I ran out of time, and returned it to the library unfinished. It wasn't compelling enough for me to get it again. Many of the writers hailed from New York, and if there were two words that seemed to describe negotiations in their relationships, my impression would be "unkind" and "petty." No, not all of them, and not just one gender or the other. It made me glad for my significant lifelong friendships. Several of the men were in the position of the stay-at-home dad, and they especially seemed to live in a struggle of self-acceptance and wifely non-appreciation. One couple did have a creative solution that worked for them: they each traded places in the Ward and June Cleaver roles, their self-employment as writers allowing them this flexibility. They needed a form to let go of the resentment. Ay, there's the rub. Expectations and resentment. Where's the gratitude? Where's the willingness?

Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the End of the World by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu

Yang Erche Namu (Treasure Princess) cried a lot when she was a child. In a land where shamanism mixes with Buddhism, her mother was instructed to name her child by going to a certain place and having the first person that came along name the baby. That person was Lama Gatusa. When she had her name, the baby would stop crying. She didn't, exactly, but she did go far. She became a popular singer in China, and eventually found her way to the US. I especially liked the time she spent with her uncle on the mountain, herding animals, like Heidi with her grandfather. The wild vistas shaped her to be slightly different than her peers, even in her unusual Moso culture.

Someone sometime recommended this book to me as an example of society that practiced non-monogamy. Whereas polyamory today is usually different for different folks, this ancient form has some very prescribed rules. It is in a place so remote, nestled between China and Tibet, the anthropologists are still working on defining the cultural groups. There are many distinct cultures in this area, something I did not know.

Women run the households, with their brothers and uncles sleeping across the hall. Lovers visit the women in their "flower rooms". When communists swept through they wanted the people to live in monogamous marriages (why was that, if they were not religious I wondered). The people tried it, but went back to their old ways. However, Yang Erche Namu resisted accepting a lover in her flower room. She instinctively knew that if she let love happen, she wouldn't leave her small village. Through her singing, she did, eventually winning her way into a prestigious school of music.

Burning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man by Jessica Bruder

I've never been to Burning Man, nor am I likely to go. Flipping through this book gave me a glimpse of the creativity and images found there. There's a bit of reading too, you can get an overview of the history, some background about the giant artwork. I seriously thought about sending it to my nephews, themselves artists and tinkerers but not yet unbound by Wisconsin.

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