Arturo Bandini narrates his life and struggles as a writer in LA
Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.
“I just got a letter from my agent,” I told her. “My agent in New York. He says I sold another one; he doesn’t say where, but he says he’s got one sold. So don’t worry Mrs. Hargraves, don’t you fret, I’ll have it in a day or so.” But she couldn’t believe a liar like me. It wasn’t really a lie; it was a wish, not a lie, and maybe it wasn’t even a wish, maybe it was a fact, and the only way to find out was watch the mailman, watch him closely, check his mail as he laid it on the desk in the lobby, ask him point blank if he had anything for Bandini. But I didn’t have to ask after six months at that hotel. He saw me coming and he always nodded yes or no before I asked: no, three million times; yes, once.
Oh for a Mexican girl! I used to think of her all the time, my Mexican girl. I didn’t have one, but the streets were full of them, the Plaza and Chinatown were afire with them, and in my fashion they were mine, this one and that one, and some day when another check came it would be a fact. Meanwhile it was free and they were Aztec princesses and Mayan princesses, the peon girls in the Grand Central Market, in the Church of Our Lady, and I even went to Mass to look at them.
The lean days of determination. That was the word for it, determination: Arturo Bandini in front of his typewriter two full days in succession, determined to succeed; but it didn’t work, the longest siege of hard and fast determination in his life, and not one line done, only two words written over and over across the page, up and down, the same words: palm tree, palm tree, palm tree, a battle to the death between the palm tree and me, and the palm tree won: see it out there swaying in the blue air, creaking sweetly in the blue air.
I was twenty then. What the hell, I used to say, take your time, Bandini. You got ten years to write a book, so take it easy, get out and learn about life, walk the streets. That’s your trouble: your ignorance of life. Why, my God, man, do you realize you’ve never had any experience with a woman? Oh yes I have, oh I’ve had plenty. Oh no you haven’t. You need a woman, you need a bath, you need a good swift kick, you need money.
Ten dollars: it will pay the rent for two and a half weeks, it will buy me three pairs of shoes, two pair of pants, or one thousand postage stamps to send material to the editors; indeed! But you haven’t any material, your talent is dubious, your talent is pitiful, you haven’t any talent, and stop lying to yourself day after day because you know The Little Dog Laughed is no good, and it will always be no good.
Here was the Church of Our Lady, very old, the adobe blackened with age. For sentimental reasons I will go inside. For sentimental reasons only. I have not read Lenin, but I have heard him quoted, religion is the opium of the people. Talking to myself on the church steps: yeah, the opium of the people. Myself, I am an atheist: I have read The Anti-Christ and I regard it as a capital piece of work. I believe in the transvaluation of values, Sir. The Church must go, it is the haven of the booboisie, of boobs and bounders and all brummagem mountebanks.
A prayer. Sure, one prayer: for sentimental reasons. Almighty God, I am sorry I am now an atheist, but have You read Nietzsche? Ah, such a book!
Bandini (being interviewed prior to departure for Sweden): “My advice to all young writers is quite simple. I would caution them never to evade a new experience. I would urge them to live life in the raw, to grapple with it bravely, to attack it with naked fists.”
An interesting innovation, peaches and oranges. My teeth tore them to pulp, the juices skewering and whimpering at the bottom of my stomach. It was so sad down there in my stomach. There was much weeping, and little gloomy clouds of gas pinched my heart.
My plight drove me to the typewriter. I sat before it, overwhelmed with grief for Arturo Bandini. Sometimes an idea floated harmlessly through the room. It was like a small white bird. It meant no ill-will. It only wanted to help me, dear little bird. But I would strike at it, hammer it out across the keyboard, and it would die on my hands.
When I got back to my room I threw myself on the bed and wept from deep inside my chest. I let it flow from every part of me, and after I could not cry anymore I felt fine again. I felt truthful and clean.
There was a letter from Hackmuth in my box. I knew it was from Hackmuth. I could tell a Hackmuth letter a mile away. I could feel a Hackmuth letter, and it felt like an icicle sliding down my spine.
Ah, Evelyn and Vivian, I love you both, I love you for your sad lives, the empty misery of your coming home at dawn. You too are alone, but you are not like Arturo Bandini, who is neither fish, fowl nor good red herring. So have your champagne, because I love you both, and you, too Vivian, even if your mouth looks like it had been dug out with raw fingernails and your old child’s eyes swim in blood written like mad sonnets.
Something was wrong with her and it was not alcohol and I wanted to find out what it was.
Vera Rivken, Arturo Bandini. It was not meant that way: it was never meant that way. I was wrong. I had committed a mortal sin. I could figure it mathematically, philosophically, psychologically: I could prove it a dozen ways, but I was wrong, for there was no denying the warm even rhythm of my guilt. Sick in my soul I tried to face the ordeal of seeking forgiveness. From whom? What God, what Christ? They were myths I once believed, and now they were beliefs I felt were myths.
What I got out of it
Ryan Holiday recommended this book as it is one of his favorites about Los Angeles and having just moved here wanted to see what it was all about it. Great story and so beautifully written
A bitter satire aimed at the oppressive Stalin-era Russian regime of the 1930’s. It intricately interweaves three stories which help highlight and satirize the difficult and often hypocritical situations Russians of this era had to live with
Manuscripts don’t burn – “an absolute trust in the triumph of poetry, imagination, the free wore, over terror and oppression
Cowardice is the most terrible of vices – “touched the inner experience of generations of Russians
“Bulgakov’ gentle irony is a warning against the mistake, more common in our time than we might think, of equating artistic mastery with a sort of saintliness, or, in Kierkegaard’s terms, of confusing the aesthetic with the ethical.” – from intro
“Once terror is identified with the world, it becomes invisible. Bulgakov’s portrayal of Moscow under Stalin’s terror is remarkable precisely for its weightless, circus-like theatricality and lack of pathos.”
He [Pontius] waited for some time, knowing that no power could silence the crowd before it exhaled all that was pent up in it and fell silent of itself
And here Styopa’s thoughts began running on twin tracks, but, as always happens in times of catastrophe, in the same direction, and, generally, the devil knows where
The findirector’s position was very difficult. It was necessary at once, right on the spot, to invent ordinary explanations for extraordinary phenomena
…fact is the most stubborn thing in the world
She had a passion for anyone who did something top-notch
‘That’s the way!’ ‘That’s the way!’ Woland’s retinue repeated like an echo. ‘We’ve been testing you, said Woland. ‘Never ask for anything! Never for anything, and especially from those who are stronger than you. They’ll make the offer themselves, and give everything themselves.
‘Listen to the stillness,’ Margarita said to the Master, and the sand rustled under her bare feet, ‘listen and enjoy what you were not given in life – Peace. Look, there ahead is your eternal home, which you have been given as a reward. I can already see the Venetian window and the Reising vibe, it climbs right up to the roof. Here is your home, your eternal home. I know that in evenings you will be visited by those you love, those who interest you and who will never trouble you…you will fall asleep, having a smile on your lips. Sleep will strengthen you, you will reason wisely. And you will no longer be able to drive me away. I will watch over your sleep.’
What I got out of it
I had to go and read an analysis of the book after I finished to pick up a lot of the nuances, allegories and satire that Bulgakov interwove. However, this novel was a fun and worthwhile read and the analysis only made it that much richer
A historical novel by Michener is a survey of the Jewish people and the land of Israel from pre-history to the birth of Israel
that work, productive work, is the salvation of man, and especially of the Jew.
Symphonies and cathedrals are not built by the children of upper-middle-class families. They’re built by the units we saw tonight. You need these people very much, Cullinane, but we can’t spare them and you’re too frightened to take them.”
But the fear which the family was now discovering was of another kind: it sprang from the slow-maturing apprehension regarding the relationship of man to his world, the gnawing suspicion that perhaps things were not so simple as they seemed on this average autumn day when ripening grain hid in the stalks and a rumor of deer echoed in the forest.
it was a rule of life that the Family of Ur was discovering: the more committed a family becomes to a given project, the more vulnerable it also becomes. Having partially conquered nature, they were now a prey to it.
It was instructive and accurate to imagine earliest man as living for most of his first two million years within an insulation of stupidity, not fully differentiating himself from the physical world, the spiritual world, or the world of the other sentient animals.
A woman requires jewelry as a man requires food. Still, he thought, it was remarkable and a mystery not yet explained why contemporary men, who could watch the birds and animals and see that it was the male who was gaudy in decoration, had decided that among human beings this fundamental law should be reversed.
The beauty of this new device was that its curved tip sought out the stalks of wheat and brought them to the cutting edge, as if a man’s arm had been extended enormously. Entire families from the cave came to stand and watch enviously as the boy’s mother swung her arm in extensive circles, gathering the wheat to her and cutting it with an unbroken motion. It was miraculous.
NOTE: the raw power of technology. man is a tool building creature
And the anguish that Ur knew that night—the mystery of death, the triumph of evil, the terrible loneliness of being alone, the discovery that self of itself is insufficient—is the anxiety that torments the world to this day.
She was reluctant to think that the moral structure of a town could determine the kind of people who lived therein, but that appeared to be the case.
“El has no home, for he is everywhere.” This simple idea reached Timna’s inquisitive mind like sunshine after storm, like a rainbow after a fall of cold rain. She recognized Joktan’s explanation as the concept she had been groping for: a solitary god of no form, residing in no monolith, with no specific voice.
For the past three thousand years copper tools had been known in these regions, and at least two thousand years ago smithies in the towns had discovered that if they mixed one part of tin to nine parts of copper they could produce bronze, which was harder than either of the original component metals used alone.
He was a most difficult god to understand. He was incorporeal, yet he spoke. He was invisible, yet he could move as a pillar of fire. He was all-powerful, yet he tolerated the lesser gods of the Canaanites. He controlled the lives of men, yet he encouraged them to exercise their own judgment. He was benevolent, yet he could command the extinction of an entire town—as he had done with the town of Timri when Zadok had been a child of seven. He lived in all places, yet he was peculiarly the god of this one group of Hebrews. He was a jealous god, yet he allowed non-Hebrews to worship whatever lesser gods they pleased.
Reliance upon El-Shaddai, the unseen, the unknown, was a religion requiring the most exquisite faith, for at no point in their lives could these lonely travelers be sure;
The Hebrews insisted upon the circumcision of their men for a logical reason: it not only formed a covenant between the man and El-Shaddai, an unbreakable allegiance whose mark remained forever, but it also had the practical value of indicating without question or quibble the fact that the man so marked was a Hebrew. In war against the uncircumcised the coward might want to run away and later on deny that he had been a Hebrew. His captors had only to inspect him to prove he was a liar, so the circumcised man had better fight to the death because for him there was no masking his identity.
Deuteronomy was a living book and to the living Jew it had contemporary force.
Makor now contained more than one hundred and eighty houses and the greatest internal population it would know—nearly fourteen hundred persons. Another five hundred farmers lived outside the walls, which were broken by two large gates built of oak imported from Tyre.
NOTE: reminds me of my recent trip to fort city Jaisalmer
The Hebrews, on the other hand, beginning with the same god having the same attributes, had freed him of limiting characteristics, launching a process that would ultimately transform him into an infinite god of infinite power. Each modification the Hebrews introduced in the desert years intensified the abstract powers of El. They called him Elohim, all the gods; or Elyon, the most high; or El-Shaddai, the god almighty. And soon they would end by dropping the El altogether and calling him by no name at all, representing him only by the mysterious, unpronounceable letters YHWH, whereupon his transformation would be complete. But later generations would back away from the austere Hebrew apotheosis and would once more give him a name: God.
The complaisant town of Makor with its amiable gods could never have produced Yahweh; that transformation required the captivity in Egypt, the conflict with the Pharaohs, the exodus, the years of hunger and thirst in the desert, the longing for a settled home and the spiritual yearning for a known god … these were the things required for the forging of Yahweh.
Most of all, he could see that Greek life centered on the temple of Zeus, which no one took seriously, and on the gymnasium, which everyone did, whereas the Jews clung to their plain old synagogue; but he did not appreciate the fact that these differences were fundamental.
“Wisdom is still the only thing, if with wisdom you also get understanding.”
Thus the greatest of gods was called YHWH, which had no pronunciation; he was known to ordinary Jews as Adonai, which was purely arbitrary; and he would conquer the world as Jehovah, a name which had never belonged to him or to anything else.
Men who had never played games would not have recognized this smile, but anyone who, like the gymnasiarch, had engaged in athletic contests most of his life would observe it with respect, because it was from such self-confidence that victory was built.
When I was your age I fought like a warrior, but I also studied and the time came when the empire needed a governor, and I was chosen. But I had won the office long before.
“We must be prudent, for he that is slow to anger is stronger than the mighty, and he who controls his temper is more powerful than he who rules a city.”
It is ironic that I should now be imprisoned in this temple, but if it is true that each man in this life builds his own prison, and inhabits it the way crawling fish inhabit shells along the beach at Caesarea, then I have built for myself an exquisite jail, exactly suited to the kind of man I have always wanted to be.
“A man is never old if he can still be moved emotionally by a woman of his own age.”
“Where do these Jews find their arrogance?” “They’ve always been stubborn,” Trajan said. “They want few things, but those few they insist upon.”
began a sequence of events which, involving
“You children may live your lives as slaves in some far country,” he said with little outward emotion, “and it may be difficult for you to remain Jews. But if you remember only two things it will be easy to be faithful. There is but one God. He has no assistants, no separations, no form, no personality. He is God, one and alone. The second thing never to forget is that God has chosen Israel for special duties and responsibilities. Perform them well.”
“Deal leniently with others but strictly with yourself.”
For what the rabbis were doing, in part consciously and in part unconsciously, was to create a body of law that would bind the Jews together as they went into exile to the Diaspora.
Without a homeland the Jews would live within their law and become a nation mightier than those which had oppressed them.
Gentiles, observing their homelessness, would construct the myth of the Wandering Jew, but in reality this phrase was meaningless, for no matter where the Jew wandered, if he took with him the Talmud he was home.
A man who laughs is more to be cherished than one who weeps; a woman who sings, than one who wails. And God is very close to the child who dances for reasons which he cannot explain.”
Humbly the Roman asked, ‘Then what is the law?’ And Gimzo said quietly, ‘It’s doing the best we can to ascertain God’s intention, for there were indeed two men on a roof, and they did climb down the same chimney. The first man emerged completely clean while it was the second who was covered with soot, and neither man washed his face, because you forgot to ask me whether there was any water in the basin. There was none.’
And Menahem, who at twenty-five had been driven to consider truth for himself, threw back what would become the timeless answer of the Christian: “God intended salvation to be within the reach of anyone: even me.
“The money we’ll find somehow,” he promised, and John experienced what he had not known before: men who loved beauty as an enhancement of life.
He stopped and buried his face in his hands, like an animal that has been wounded from an unknown quarter, and he knew then that he would never be free to leave Makor, since he was now as firmly bound to the basilica as he had been to the synagogue, for when a man builds a place of worship he walls himself inside.
The difference between Christian law and Jewish would be this: to enforce their law the Jews, who would never be in supreme political control, would be limited to public opinion including such punishments as ostracism, as great minds like Baruch Spinoza would discover; but the Christians, to enforce theirs, would be free, since they would enjoy supreme power, to use strangulation, burning and the extirpation of entire provinces.
The destruction could not be halted, for the hatred of the imperial troops was directed against abstract ideas: not Jews but the places where they worshiped, the homes where they lived.
For the Prophet had said that when God created men he lifted dust from all parts of the earth, and some was black and some red and some white, but all men were made of that dust and all were therefore brothers.
And so as Muslim troops approached from the east on that mighty conquest which would terminate the power of Byzantium in the Galilee, the citizens of that contentious area continued their bitter arguments over the nature of Christ, not realizing that they were engaged in an extension of the same argument that had agitated Makor in the days when the young Jew Menahem ben Yohanan joined the new church as Mark, and the debate was no more trivial now than it had been then: it was an effort to build a base from which Christianity could conquer the world. If one considered Jesus to be all man, His divinity was rendered meaningless, while the miracle of Mary as the Mother of God vanished; on the other hand, if one argued that He was all God, the significance of human redemption was diminished and the crucifixion could be interpreted merely as a device adopted by God to prove a point: no human suffering or agony need be involved. However, if a concept of Jesus could be evolved whereby His substance, His nature and His will could all be accepted as both divine and human, then Christianity would have acquired a subtle unifying principle upon which enormous structures of faith and philosophies of life could be built.
“If a man asks for fifteen pieces, give him sixteen … if you expect to do business with him again.”
What I got out of it
A pretty good book which gives a lot of great historical context in a fictional setting in a way only Michener can do
A story based in India which unfolds while the conflict between Russia and Britain unfolds in Central Asia
All India is full of holy men stammering gospels in strange tongues; shaken and consumed in the fires of their own zeal; dreamers, babblers, and visionaries: as it has been from the beginning and will continue to the end.
‘Give a woman an old wife’s tale and a weaver-bird a leaf and a thread, they will weave wonderful things,’ said the Sikh.
‘There is no pride,’ said the lama, after a pause, ‘there is no pride among such as follow the Middle Way.’
“Abide a little and the wind turns.
‘Let the Gods order it. I have never pestered Them with prayers. I do not think They will pester me. Look you, I have noticed in my long life that those who eternally break in upon Those Above with complaints and reports and bellowings and weepings are presently sent for in haste, as our Colonel used to send for slack-jawed down-country men who talked too much. No, I have never wearied the Gods. They will remember this, and give me a quiet place where I can drive my lance in the shade, and wait to welcome my sons:
Many wear the Robe, but few keep the Way.’
‘But why not sit and rest?’ said one of the escort. ‘Only the devils and the English walk to and fro without reason.’
‘What is to do now?’ ‘Wait. Let us wait.’
‘Never speak to a white man till he is fed,’ said Kim, quoting a well-known proverb.
‘That is not well. These men follow desire and come to emptiness. Thou must not be of their sort.’
Injia’s a wild land for a God-fearin’ man.
We can only walk one step at a time in this world, praise God!
Trousers and jacket crippled body and mind alike, so he abandoned the project and fell back, Oriental-fashion, on time and chance.
‘The more one knows about natives the less can one say what they will or won’t do.’
‘As regards that young horse,’ said Mahbub, ‘I say that when a colt is born to be a polo-pony, closely following the ball without teaching—when such a colt knows the game by divination—then I say it is a great wrong to break that colt to a heavy cart, Sahib!’
No man could be a fool who knew the language so intimately, who moved so gently and silently, and whose eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes of other Sahibs.
‘Yes, and thou must learn how to make pictures of roads and mountains and rivers—to carry these pictures in thine eye till a suitable time comes to set them upon paper.
I know the price that will be paid for the answer, but I do not know why the question is asked.’
Their pay was cut for ignorance. There is no sin so great as ignorance. Remember this.’
‘Much is gained by forgetting, little brother,’
‘Men are like horses. At certain times they need salt, and if that salt is not in the mangers they will lick it up from the earth.
‘Learn first—teach later,’ said Lurgan Sahib. ‘Is he thy master?’ ‘Truly. But how is it done?’ ‘By doing it many times over till it is done perfectly—for it is worth doing.’
Lurgan Sahib had a hawk’s eye to detect the least flaw in the make-up; and lying on a worn teak-wood couch, would explain by the half-hour together how such and such a caste talked, or walked, or coughed, or spat, or sneezed, and, since ‘hows’ matter little in this world, the ‘why’ of everything.
‘There is no holding the young pony from the game,’ said the horse-dealer when the Colonel pointed out that vagabonding over India in holiday time was absurd. ‘If permission be refused to go and come as he chooses, he will make light of the refusal. Then who is to catch him? Colonel Sahib, only once in a thousand years is a horse born so well fitted for the game as this our colt. And we need men.
What I got out of it
Read it to prepare for India but stopped half way through. Didn’t feel it was worth the commitment
Stephenson weaves virtual reality, Sumerian myth and a strange future in a great thriller
Hiro protagonist, TY, Raven, uncle Enzo, Mr. Lee
Hiro delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo but in the “metaverse” he is a warrior prince
A new computer virus is killing hackers all over and his quest is to destroy the villain behind the virus
“Is it a religion, a drug or a virus? What’s the difference?”
There is deep linguistic infrastructure which he to exist for us to be able to acquire languages. There are certain phrases that c an be used to get right to this deeper pet and bypass language. Brain is unable to protect itself in this case and body becomes a slave. Until Enki, first fully conscious and modern man arrived in Sumer and was able to create new phrases which control people. Makes analogy that this language is like a virus, both biologically which stays with the person forever and metaphorically. Reminds me of Jaynes’ Origin of Consciousness
What I got out of it
Interesting read and although strange and futuristic, many parallels to today’s wolr
Sparknotes can do a much better job summarizing it than I can but Raskolnikov murders a pawnbroker for money, feels terribly guilty and the whole novel is about how he deals with his feelings, his lack of understanding of cause and effect and his final confession
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov – protagonist, murderer, filled with self-loathing and is overwhelmed by what he did
Profiry – in charge of the murder investigation, Raskolnikov’s antagonist
What I got out of it
Very interesting book and Dostoevsky is known for his incredible understanding of human nature. Much like Brothers Karamazov, I found it good but not great (perhaps because I listened to both books and wasn’t really able to completely dive into the book and its characters)
As Shadow is about to leave prison, he is told that his wife was killed in a car crash. He ends up partnering with a shady character named Wednesday and from there is taken on a wild and scary road trip where he is caught in the middle of a war between the gods of the old world (think of Odin) and the new (think the media and internet).
Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.
‘The kind of behavior that works in a specialized environment, such as prison, can fail to work and in fact become harmful when used outside such an environment’?”
“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”
“Liberty,” boomed Wednesday, as they walked to the car, “is a bitch who must be bedded on a mattress of corpses.”
“That,” said Wednesday, driving off, “is the eternal folly of man. To be chasing after the sweet flesh, without realizing that it is simply a pretty cover for the bones. Worm food. At night, you’re rubbing yourself against worm food. No offense meant.”
“This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.” “What?” “The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.”
“Now, as all of you will have had reason aplenty to discover for yourselves, there are new gods growing in America, clinging to growing knots of belief: gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon. Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures, puffed up with their own newness and importance.
All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.
Death had vanished from the streets of America, thought Shadow; now it happened in hospital rooms and in ambulances.
There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”
No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island
“This isn’t about what is,” said Mr. Nancy. “It’s about what people think is. It’s all imaginary anyway. That’s why it’s important. People only fight over imaginary things.”
“It is only a gesture,” he said, turning back to Shadow. “But gestures mean everything.
He hoped he would live though this, but he was willing to die, if that was what it took to be alive.
We do not always remember the things that do no credit to us. We justify them, cover them in bright lies or with the thick dust of forgetfulness. All of the things that Shadow had done in his life of which he was not proud, all the things he wished he had done otherwise or left undone, came at him then in a swirling storm of guilt and regret and shame, and he had nowhere to hide from them. He was as naked and as open as a corpse on a table…
People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.
What I got out of it
Compelling read and interesting take on gods and death.