Sunday Share: A Round Up of Some of Culture Bean’s Favorite Culture Bits from the Past Week

5 Aug

During the past week I’ve heard, read, or seen a few things that I wanted to share briefly, so I thought I’d do a round up and share them:

NPR Poetry Games on Morning Edition: As homage to “the days when poetry and sports went hand in hand” at the ancient Greek Olympics, National Public Radio invited poets to compose original poems celebrating athletes and athletics.  Written by poets from around the globe, they were all strong and meaningful in their own way. One poem, however, stopped me in my tracks and commanded my attention,, “Swim Your Own Race,” written by Mbali Vilakazi in honor of South African swimmer, Helene du Toit, the first amputee to qualify for the Olympics. A teaser:

Swim Your Own Race

There is life here

Beneath the surface tension

of shattered

bones, dreams and splintered muscles

things broken

and those that may never be replaced

Pulling the weight of it

You do not tread the water wounded

Hear Vilakazi read the poem here.

“The Cheater’s Guide to Love,” by Juno Díaz,  The New Yorker (July 23, 2012, p. 60) and the accompanying online interview with Díaz. Díaz seems to have had a story in three out of every five New Yorkers this spring.  To be honest, while I’ve read them all, most have left me deeply dissatisfied with the main characters’ flaws, disregard for others, and/or (my perception of) his lack of understanding of his flaws. What I have liked is that each of them has at its core something lacking, an absence, either of a person or a necessity. This story is set across six years in the life of Yunior, a character we met in Díaz’s Pulitzer-Prize winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This episode–Yunior’s descent into depression after his fiancee leaves him–is heart-wrenching and real. We feel how his absence destroys him and how he learns to live again. The tensions between here and there–whehter NYC/Boston, USA/Dominican Republic, life with/life without a lover–are palpable.  Díaz has a collection of stories coming out this fall and after reading this, I’m excited to get my hand on it.

Gone Girlby Gillian Flynn: Okay, I may be the last blogger writing about this one. I found it compelling, unexpected, and artfully written. The ending, however, bothered me to no end. And, yet, I get that there is no other way to end this book. It can’t end happily, or easily. That it has to end with an untenable and awful compromise that, let’s face it, puts a child at risk, was painful to me.  Truly, I couldn’t put the book down for two days. Then I got to the last few pages and had to say, “What just happened.”  So unnerving and difficult. Perhaps that’s part of what is making this book so hot this summer.

Color Jam, A New Installation on State Street by Jessica Stockholder. Chicago has some of the most wonderful public art around. From the Agam and Picasso which still astound me when I walk by them, to Cloudgate and Crown Fountains. I love the changing exhibitions in Millennium Park, and the way art is built into the landscaping on Michigan Avenue. I’m open to conceptual art, have written about installation art, and appreciate experimental art. But, the truth is, I just don’t get Color Jam. So, go down to State and Adams, experience it for yourself and let me know what you think.

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