There arrived in my mail box the magazine New Yorker – usually their material is received on line, the publication was dated November 16, 2020. Therein was a book review Love You More written by Alice Gregory. To say it was superb would be an understatement. The subject was Shirley Hazard and the “art of outsized intimacy” The important passages were underlined, it is almost entirely blue from the blue pen. I do love Hazard’s attitude. “She was , as she told the Paris Review, skeptical of fiction that was “hard, cool, indifferent:; she thought that literature should be an “intensification of life she ,” nor merely recapitulation of it.” Hazard had a fascinating life, died in 2016 at the age of 85. She grew up in Sydney, Australia ‘blessed’ by an alcoholic father and a bipolar mother Home Sweet Home, I laughingly said to myself. Her father accepted a diplomatic post so she lived in Hong Kong, viewing Hiroshima two years after the attack. Then to New Zealand, to New York City where the she worked at the United Nations. She was disappointed in the institution. “With its squandering of talent and misplaced ideals” (some things never change) but nevertheless featured the UN in two nonfiction books. She married a Flaubert scholar, living half the year in Manhattan, the other half in Capri. Not a bad life, one would say. Made friends with Graham Greene. My life seems most dull in comparison – although recently I have an invitation from a Middle Eastern Princess to meet – travel possible due to possession of a private jet. Not met her as yet, if that is really her – have met her brother.
But back to Shirley. A certain theme preoccupied her for a lifetime – “the way love can once become perishable, and in its reshaping of our minds, permanent. In “The Picnic” (1972) two distant relatives, who had an illicit relationship in the past “sit in awkward silence on a hillside.’, meeting after a decade of separation. Private thoughts, reveal what they “deny to themselves”, that they have lastingly altered each other’s very cognition, that each intrudes on each other’s thoughts almost every day, that they are themselves, in some ways, because of each other. Although they have not been together in years, they have, in this sense, never been quite apart. Love, which takes place in the mind, is “eternal, the only state in which all one’s capacities are engaged. The entire story spans a few minutes.”
This was rather chilling to read as I have experienced this phenomena more than once in my lifetime. But its effect is fading for many reasons, interestingly the habits, patterns, philosophy and teachings of the Islamic faith has transformed me.
Gregory’s writing is picturesque. She speaks of Hazard’s “treacherous grooming” ., she wore her hair pinned up in a bouffant through the late nineteen-sixties and seventies. A young friend of Hazard’ called her “preposterous, though not absurd.” Hmmmm, does that sound
like anyone we know? She apparently spoke in full, long paragraphs without line breaks.”
What is preposterous, what is absurd, what are the differences. Preposterous: contrary to reason or common sense. Whereas absurd is wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate: arousing amusement or derision; ridiculous. There is a fine line between the two of them but the young friend made the important distinction. My speech patterns do not resemble Hazard;s (I do not think) but, admittedly, I do talk a lot and admit that I have a big mouth. But what surprises people is that I listen, and remember.
They: How did you know that about me?
Me: You told me, silly!
They: I cannot remember telling you that and I am so surprised that you remember.
A truly amazing encounter took place yesterday. An appointment with my Primary Care Physician of 43 years was scheduled as I am suffering horrible pain occasioned by sciatica. Was prescribed strong anti inflammatories and a diet of physical therapy – a conservative but effective treatment modality. It was during the appointment that the following discussion took place.
He: How is it going, this being a Muslim?
Me: Great actually. I laugh at people telling them that this is not a fad – I shall not, next year, go back to becoming an atheist, or a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist.
He: I have never seen you in such peace and inner happiness since you have become a Muslim
Me: Thank you so much Doctor. I feel that and I am so honoured that you see that in me and appreciate it.
Readers do not know PCP, he is very scientific, very knowledgeable AND most compassionate and caring – the best of all traits for a physician. He is my hero, rescuing me often from horrible situations during my life, advising me to stay away from people and situations that are not good for me, making sure that I did not need to be on the anti-depressants that were wrongfully prescribed some twenty odd years ago. He said at the time.
PCP: You shall see Alexis. You will be much more creative now that you are free of that medication.
Me: Doctor – how could I be any more creative than what I am already?
I do have to admit, he was right and I was wrong. There was a surge in the expression of my creative gifts. This is a basic tenant of the Islamic faith – Allah gives you a gift but you are expected to use it, to express it, If one is given a gift in the Christian religion one is to thank Jesus for it – now that does not lead to an expression or the usefulness of the gift to society.
The photographs that accompany this blog are admittedly rather preposterous. They suddenly appeared on my iPhone – unbidden. Both were taken in the British Museum on May 29, 2016, my birthday. One is Dinham (his middle name), the man who famously said in front of several Japanese tourists.
He: You are cutting off my balls!
Me: How could I? You do not have any!
Friend Hannah said the Japanese tourists were most shocked. The other is a picture of me taken that same day. What is also preposterous is that I look younger today than I did four and a half years ago. Everyone says so, including my PCP.
The third picture shows the Christmas tree in the Clubhouse resplendent with all of its lights and my direction.
The Comcast technician came yesterday and connected all of my devices so I have WiFI and television and a printer. Bliss has descended! I spoke to CP last night.
He: What are you doing now?
Me: Watching television. Please tell your family!
He: I will! They will be so happy!
That is because his son came, put together my television stand and made initial (correct) connections but WiFi was no where to be found. He suggested getting a technician to come to my apartment, and I did!
Magic – but sometimes, in the words of Hilary Clinton, it takes a village. .