|Ocean Park Beach|
photographer: Carl Jackson
I've been reading Nobel Prize winning writer Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. Yeah, light reading. Just kidding. I'm reading it in Russian, too. Just kidding. Actually, I'm not into the light reading thing. Light reading makes me feel anxious and depressed, seems to exacerbate my feelings of there never being enough time to read all the books. I feel the same about movies. Reading "light" or watching crap makes me want to throw myself in front of a train. Getting through my days, sometimes, is only possible because of the art of others. Right now, speaking of trains, I'm listening to Anna Karenina in the car as I drive around the shitty. Dang, ya'll. That novel is relevant, and it's not about throwing oneself in front of trains. It's about love and bullshit, about peasants and patriarchy. There's even a passage about doctors and their uselessness that yours truly could have written!
Reading the extraordinary accounts of survivors in Alexievich's book doesn't just give me perspective but highlights just how resilient and dogged and strong, human beings can be, not to mention black-humored (the best humor, at least to me). The oral histories aren't for the faint of heart, though, as you can imagine. They're as much about vulnerability as they are about strength, and that's why, I think, they appeal to me. I have been feeling particularly vulnerable and fragile of late, for obvious reason. Not a day goes by that I don't have some sort of fantasy of fleeing in either body or mind or both, and whether it's because of the poisonous political atmosphere (don't pose false equivalencies to me: #Imwithher), or the thought of living in the same country with those who support or make excuses for you-know-who or struggling with caregiving and Sophie's epilepsy, acknowledging that vulnerability and fragility restores me. Really great literature -- whether it's fiction or non-fiction or poetry -- restores me. Not long ago, a relative accused me of having my head up my ass as far as my politics go. I think she was also pretty disdainful of the poetry that I put up here. I really don't think it's one or the other. For me, the personal is political and the political is personal and the only mitigation is art.
I got distracted. I was going to make this post about my optimistic feeling that despite all the acrimony in the country, I honestly think the patriarchy is coming down. It might be messy, and it might get even messier, but it's coming down.
Here's some "poetry" from Alexievich's book:
Bulgakov writes in A Cabal of Hypocrites: "I've sinned my whole life. I was an actor." This is a consciousness of the sinfulness of art, of the amoral nature of looking into another person's life. But maybe, like a small bit of disease, this could serve as inoculation against someone else's mistakes. Chernobyl is a theme worthy of Dostoyevsky, an attempt to justify mankind. Or maybe the moral is simpler than that: You should come into this world on your tiptoes, and stop at the entrance? Into this miraculous world...
Aleksandr Revalskiy, historian