The temple doors shut
But oil lamps dancing
A Jackdaw sings
Too deep into the night
Crow, call again!
Hellfire on the streets
Far beyond what we can see
Over the smoke and moonlight
Past the Temple door
Crow, call again!
summer wind, summer wind
a silent eagle great over the clouds
winter quilt thick and deep over the future
A friend of mine remarked that Italy hasn’t produced many great authors. I asked “What about Umberto Eco” he answered “I said great”
Eco is an author of formidable repute. His fascination with Semiotics and Medieval Scholastism often find their way into his novels. Sadly he’s not much of a novelist, a fact that not enough people seem to take notice of.
In the “Island of the day after tomorrow” Eco takes us through his fascination with Renaissance era theories that stood in for the yet undiscovered germ theory and how people figured out Meridians -which is about as tedious as you would expect.
The excuse he uses to subject readers to this tedium is unfortunately filled with great potential. A member of the Italy gentry who finds himself called to war, learns over the course of a siege that chivalry no longer entails the prestige it once did and that battle lines are not as clear cut as they were during the high Medieval era.
A young gentleman finding his way through France during the emergence of a new mercantile class, in the age of discovery and prosperity in Europe has everything it needs for a fascinating story and this is a surprisingly under examined setting in litrature.
Even more neglected is the early days of colonialism and the spice trade. There’s a wealth of material to build stories about Europeans first setting foot on distant and alien lands, struggling to understand or conquer them.
In this book however our young gentleman goes to a siege to do nothing interesting for most of it. This should have been an early warning sign but I foolishly decided to finish reading this book. He goes all the way to Australia and save for the few pages where the flora and fauna are described he finds himself in contest with his literal evil twin. I’m not even faulting the Euro-centrism it’s the lack of imagination we should object to.
Why make your story global if you’re never going to actually explore your setting? Young Roberto could have stayed in a library or could just have argued with a Jesuit while standing in front of a globe without us losing too much from the story. A few kangaroos and stuff birds really don’t make much of a difference.
In our post modernist epoch the author is dead and the novel no longer needs to tie itself to strict guidelines but why do readers have to put themselves through something so boring? With a little effort this 513 page sloth could have actually included battles, drama, romance, interesting charcters and not to mention interesting European and non European cultures. Unfortunately this novel is just wasted potential and a monumental lack of effort on the part of its author who does little to ever exert any control over the many ideas he introduces. The voice of the narrator only turns up occasionally to introduce worthless clarifications that bring to light the ignorance of the very characters the narrator has invented. While the story flounders the narrator only wants to share clever but uninteresting details.
A majority of the book is taken up by the main character lost at sea and the only thing the book does well is to convey how boring that experience must be. I would not recommend this book. I think the rather lovely cover art had more structure and artistic coherence than the story.
Like weak moonlight
night after night
dancing smoke of embers
and now the scent punishes me!
the leaves rustling
in the night-wind
tombstones for your voice
Under the shallow stream
On that vacant riverbed
I remember red seeds in the clay
Who spilled these rubies
Like the light on a starry night
Among the snails on the pebbles
Where snakes take to water
But fish do not swim
Upon that empty bank
My heart is trapped
Oh Village of my ancestors
Whose fables are still sung
When I am with my people
I am alone in elephant grass
Dusty breezes folding them
My family a rainstorm
But in the shaky soil
My heart is strung
In the shallow mirror of water
My reflection looks back
Though I live far away
In the rituals of this land
Ancestors are called
Around a bonfire in the night
I, a tree alone, in grassland
Over the mountains tall
Have heard a siren call
With all his might
I had a few minutes between sessions today so I thought I’d meditate. I’ve been trying to master the “no mind state” over the past few weeks but have never managed to get beyond a minute.
The no mind state is when you consciously don’t think of anything at all- not easy at all. I decided I cut off any and all images, before I could tackle my ever descriptive inner monologue. I reasoned my inner eye and inner tongue might be easier than my inner ear My office has an absurdly high amount of eagles and other birds that sorround it, so without any thought deciding it, I sat still, eyes closed, only repeating what the birds said in my mind.
Suddenly it was not the call of eagles flying like little Joves that caught me, but love birds and other tiny birds. I don’t know the names of most of those birds, but I know from observation that a majority of them are tiny, small enough to be behind a few leaves.
Yet their calls, suddenly, were so loud, with interspecies duels and distant cries dominating my world which was now only just a wall clock and their tweeting. One after the other they would sing a tweet, waiting to hear back, and without exception they did recive a response from their own kind or from some other kind of bird. Could they even understand each other?
I imagined the evening, without seeing it, wondering about my village, then my hometown, recalling the distant dogs barking, the still silence of evenings which the sun always seemed to dominate. It felt like the birds were always louds but I never heard them.
Does the sunset lingering
The waterfall roaring
Make your first journey?
A faint yellow rose
Waving as I pass
In the early dawn
Don’t cry insects
If you meet
Snoring gray clouds
Deep in the air
Is the paintbrush
Of this slow river
Abhishek had just found himself a pocket watch with a yellowed face. It far too weighty to ever be worn comfortably.
The old Bunglow was supposed to be cleaned out but someone had missed this little crumbling box, damp and old, hidden in the nursery rooms cabinet. It was hard to say how old it really was, this mansion was built more than a century ago and had burned through a endless series of families.
Abishek clumbsly turn the heavy clock around, using both hands as one grew tired. It’s chain was abnormally shiny thought it seemed to be of the same metal and make as the watch. It had ivory encasing it, the image of Janus, the two faced God, etched onto the front. No details or other markings were present – not even a date of manufacture.
He rubbed his arm across his sweaty brown and went back out to set the watch right. He made his way back to den and jumped suddenly noticing the icy cold of the watch and more importantly the ticking that had returned to it, like a heartbeat. Amazed but a little unsteady, he sat down to test it. Another chill climbed up his back as he realised it was only off by a few minutes. “A minute too late” he told himself.
He heard his children’s footsteps across the attic and down the stairs. He sighed- they would be before him in a second. As he moved slowly to correct his watch their footsteps were almost on top of him. Clumbsly he set it back by an hour. He sighed again and put his hand on his chin and felt… his bread?!
His mouth agape he went through the events of the morning. He had shaved before starting his work on the nursery. He stepped out of the room to get some quite. He set the watch back by another hour. Then another. He tried setting it right but it didn’t work. He couldn’t change it again either. It kept ticking backwards.
He looked in his dresser mirror disappointed by the watch, then shocked. His beard was no longer full, rather it was scraggly like it had only begun to grow. He looked again at the watch delighted. The watch was making him younger. He struggle to force the hands of the watch back by a few hours again. He was so happy he never noticed his children grow quite. Eventually after several hours before the mirror he heard the screams of babies. He walked back to the living room, and saw two babies inexplicably in his living room.
He ran across the house looking for his children, running faster then he had in years. He came back to the living room with a heavy feeling in his chest only then recognising his children. When people across the world first started noticing themselves growing younger, the oldest were delighted. A few weeks later the Earth’s last human child cried it’s last, unattended.