READING DIARY: Holding Patterns (Jean Marie Casbarian)
Definition of Hold from Oxford English Dictionary
Excerpts from A Lover’s Discourse, Roland Barthes
Other Self: An Interview with Angie Hobbs, Cabinet Magazine
Dans ton Coeur dort un clair de lune, by Henri Duparc
Excerpts from Blue Eyes Black Hair, Marguerite Duras
Mirrors, Lucy Grealy
Island (Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung
A Wing and a Prayer, Tom Vanderbilt in Cabinet Magazine
Think with Me about Your Extension of Now, Olafur Eliasson
Excerpts from Dictee, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Georges Perec
Jean Marie Casbarian
I initially tried to approach each of the above readings as a single idea and quickly realized that trying to grasp such an eclectic mix of essays and place them into a neatly compacted conceptual box wasn't going to work. Where was the idea of holding? How do the characters hold? What patterns of holding are immerging?
However, it wasn't until reading Olafur Eliasson's essay, Think with Me about Your Extension of Now, that the connection slowly started to immerge – they all hold a sense of time through the abstract notion of a "now." Each of the readings had a powerful presence of "now," and all approached this idea in a myriad of different styles. From the sensual and at times bordering on a psychological thriller in Marguerite Duras' Blue Eyes Black Hair, through to the almost compulsive list making observations of a single field of vision in a small area of Paris in George Perec's An Attempt at Exhausting A Place in Paris. The two styles of writing couldn't be more different; each writer approached an idea that seemed poles apart and yet both hold such a strong commitment to the presence of a "now."
The sadness and anger felt when reading the Island (Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940),– resonated particularly strongly with me as I grapple with the shame of our current (Australian) government in doing the same thing with refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. The sense of hopelessness felt by humans when they can't see a future – held permanently in the pattern of turmoil and an unpromising now. Having no sense of hope for the future creates a sense of despair, even suicidal tendencies, towards the present.
Holding patterns became clearer as a conceptual idea after connecting the sense of now in all of the essays - both the positive ideas associated with holding and the negative containment of being held against your will. I had never considered the extent of meaning related to holding; pages of definitions, all of their subtle innuendo, ranging from the similar through to the extreme opposite – a myriad of emotions experienced when being held with love compared to being forcibly held in detention.
Perec's essay, An Attempt at Exhausting A Place in Paris, shouldn't in effect have been an interesting read, and yet I found myself captivated by the mundane simplicity of it. Familiarity with the area in Paris may have been an influencing factor in the intrigue held within what was essentially a list of the simple, often banal passings through a single field of vision. Although written four decades ago the similarities to today imply a monotonous repetition of daily life that transcends decades rather than just three days. Is the human experience so repetitive and essentially unremarkable; even in one of the most romanticized cities in the world? I would like to read a similar account of the area 100 years ago or in 100 years from now to see how long this pattern holds such a strong sense of the familiar. I guess if rewritten now mobile phones would play a role - notably absent from the streets of 1975. But what else would be particularly different?
Although the patterns of holding as a sense of time were cohesive amongst this group of essays, it was Lucy Grealy's Mirrors, that captivated a sense absence in the now rather than a presence in it and that differed greatly from the other writings. To see a reflection in the mirror/window/ coffee machine is one of the most ‘real' ideas we understand in grasping or capturing a sense of now. At yet for Grealy it was the act of not looking that determined it. How difficult it is to avoid taking the opportunity to glimpse our projection onto the world. How traumatizing it must be when your projection/reflection is haunted by a truth that the surrounding world refuses to accept. Or maybe, more importantly, it is a truth that we, ourselves can't/won't accept.