River of Consciousness

An obituary in the New York Times said that neurological conditions, and his patients’ experiences of them, were for Oliver Sacks, occasions “for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition.”

As someone with a rare neurological condition (Chiari Malformation, since you ask), I have long had a love affair with Sacks’ interest in the field, and his beautiful way of synthesising material from his professional interest in them, and other material collected along the path of a voraciously curious life lived.  His death in 2015 moved me to tears, and I miss him intensely, in the same way there is a hole in my life without the likes of Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, Oliver Postgate and Robin Williams.

This book (“The River of Consciousness”, by Oliver Sacks, 2017, London: Picador) gives us a chance to spend ‘extra time’ with him following his death – allowing Sacks to spend time dwelling on interests stretching across marine biology; botany; the history of science; quantum physics; philosophy; and of course, neurology. It manages to knit together a collection of what appear at first glance to be unrelated contributions with his trademark hand-holding, and storyteller’s aplomb, to a point where you feel you are at the brink of making a new discovery yourself, by reflecting on all of the areas he has opened up, step-by-step – whether that be issues to do with ‘speed’; or ‘near death experiences’; or ‘plagiarism’; or ‘creativity’; ‘memory’, ‘consciousness’ or the way in which certain discoveries are filed away and forgotten, only to be celebrated again, many years later. He makes it all feel so easy. As Gavin Francis described it in a Guardian review, the book is able to showcase Sacks’s “agility of enthusiasms”.

A book that could all too easily be seen as an after-thought, or a publisher’s exercise to collect together Sacks material that happened to be lying around after his death, and package it up as an excuse to make more money, I found this, like all Sacks’ earlier work, a delight to read, and illuminating.

As a complete coincidence, I had only just picked up the book at the same time as I had been introduced to the work of philosopher/scientist/theologian/mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), and discovering too that he had written about neuro-anatomy (effectively discovering CSF – cerebrospinal fluid), and covered a similarly diverse terrain, making connections across it in much the same way, it further provoked my own reflective river of consciousness.  Where Sacks brought ferns, Mexico, sexuality, headaches and neurology to my table (all personal obsessions of sorts), Swedenborg is beginning to do the same with hovercraft, spinal fluid, the pituitary gland, charity, tremors, and the concept of an after-life and near-death experiences too – very similar territory at times to Sacks.  This posthumous set of writing has only served to fuel my love of Sacks, and his embrace of ‘the particular’ – a belief that the little, taken-for-granted human observations are just as important in helping to develop explanations for why things are as they are, as are the ‘big’ debates.

I will leave one final quote to Nicole Krauss, writing in the New York Times, who remarks on one of the most powerful insights I took away from one of the pieces in the book.

“This is an extraordinary insight, one that helped to establish our understanding of the self as flexible rather than static, and our sense of the past as an imaginative reconstruction, ever evolving, both of which make therapy possible. As a neurologist, Sacks deepened our understanding of the dynamic, creative abilities of the brain by uncovering, again and again, the unusual ways the impaired brain may deal with its handicaps, compensating in ingenious ways, or by creating plausible explanations for the nonsensical, thus preserving a form of coherence, however subjective. Taken together, his case studies illustrated how just as homeostasis, the maintenance of constant internal environment, is crucial to all organisms, so is a stable, cogent narrative of reality crucial to the mind and its construction of the self, such that even severely disordered brains will find ways of creating order.”

“The River of Consciousness” is now available in paperback.  I don’t know why I took so long to read the hardback that I had left by the side of my bed!

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How human creativity remakes the world

One of the questions I was most often asked as a lecturer was, “Can you recommend a good book about creativity?”  I usually struggled, and more often than not, felt that the idea was a contradiction anyway.  Then, last year, I heard a feature on a mid-morning show on BBC Radio 4 about this book during 2017, and it stopped me in my tracks.

“The Runaway Species” clearly and elegantly creates a way of explaining how creativity flourishes, and how we can apply to our own lives, as individuals and organisations (such as schools, and companies) to foster creativity and innovation.

The crux of the book is deciphering three key processes be which we transform existing ideas, and find or encourage creativity or innovation with them.  These are:-

Bending: modifying or twisting the original out of shape to create something new;

Breaking: the whole is taken apart, or smashed to pieces, to re-fashion it, or to find something new.

Blending: two or more sources are merged, to create something new.

Although I have had to retire due to Chiari, I still take part in my CIPR CPD, and as the deadline loomed large recently, it was clear that this book had to come ‘off’ the pile of books I had recently bought which are waiting to be read, because it had much to pass on.  I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the great things about the book  is that it uses many practical example from the worlds of art and science to demonstrate its formula, rather than leaving than leaving it as an abstract, impenetrable theory – and there are lots of pictures for a weighty book such as this!  My only disappointment is that I no longer have a course/curriculum into which to integrate this book as a lecturer.  I am genuinely impressed, and would have had a lot of excitement with students applying it.  It may have something to do with the book being written by Brandt (a composer) and Eagleman (a neuroscientist), with them both drawing on their respective passions for inspiration.

Forget the ‘eureka’ moments – we are talking more about ‘evolving sessions’.  This books demonstrates how our brains have been working, more like ‘jackdaws’, constantly fashioning a new nest, from the things they have collected.  It explains why human behaviour has these needs (such as the tension between predictability and surprise), and what we do to express them best – and how that can be harnessed to best effect.  And it looks at the issue of why some ideas take off – and others stay firmly in the sand-pit.

Bending; Breaking and Blending give us a kind of cognitive software –  an on-going way in which our brains are approaching the world, and coming up with new ideas, answers to problems, and creative flourish.  The more opportunity we give ourselves to do engage in this behaviour, the better.

Thoroughly recommend – much food for reflection: Brand, A. and Eagleman, D. (2017) “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes The World”, Edinburgh:  Canongate Books.

Questioning what makes a good life

Drabble, M. (2016) “The Dark Flood Rises“, Edinburgh:  Canongate Books

It’s not often I’m compelled to buy a book directly from what the blurb has to to say for itself on the sleeve, but with this book by Margaret Drabble, I was sold when I originally bought the book back in 2017.  It spoke to me, and despite it being fiction, it seemed to speak to the stage of life I find myself in, and the mood I found myself in while I was looking to spend money in the bookshop at the time last year.

The offending paragraphs inside the cover of The Dark Flood Rises read as follows:

“Fran may be old but she’s not going without a fight. So she dyes her hair, enjoys every glass of red wine, drives around the country for her job with a housing charity and lives in an insalubrious tower block that her loved ones disapprove of. And as each of them – her pampered ex Claude, old friend Jo, flamboyant son Christopher and earnest daughter Poppet – seeks happiness in their own way, what will the last reckoning be? Will they be waving or drowning when the end comes?

“By turns joyous and profound, darkly sardonic and moving, The Dark Flood Rises questions what makes a good life, and a good death. This triumphant, bravura novel takes in love, death, sun-drenched islands, poetry, Maria Callas, tidal waves, surprise endings – and new beginnings.”

Morbid I know, but it seemed to have many resonating themes for me with my, what can often feel stalling, middle age life.  As I approach the age of 48 years old, I recently had to retire early due to a neurological condition which can play many wonderful tricks on my body and mind.  Not only that, two years ago, I downsized from my fast-paced life in London, to return to the house I grew up in in a much slower part of Hampshire, and seem to hang out with many more people aged over 70 than I do with people of my own age, so many of the issues the book says it was going to address are live for me, and the people I see regularly.

That’s what I thought it was – the highs, lows and frustrations of growing old, and the challenges of modern life.  There was some of that, but in fact, it was much darker than that.  Bigger themes lying beneath the surface of what adds up to a ‘good life’ and how to see it out at the end – something facing us all as we apparently live longer, but better lives?  And not just us, but our families and friends too.  A lot of dying.

Because of my own situation, it did give much pause for reflection at times, and made me think a lot about people I know, places I pass on the bus, or charities I have considered partnering with on projects in the past.  In the work I have been doing on community podcasting at Sound Vault, for example, we have been thinking about doing projects on the role music can play in making memories, and have seen the difference simple conversations about music can have in people’s lives.

At times, I found the book a little too incredible – too many coincidental character links for example – only for a coincidental link to ‘pop-out’ at the very same moment I was reading about it, to match with a detail in my own life, so perhaps I was too quick to judge.  Too many of the characters in the book seemed to know each other by some twist of fate, but maybe that happens in particular professional sectors, even if they are separated by hundreds of miles at a particular stage in their life.

The book is powerful in that it creates a dark ‘oil’ which feels like it envelopes the reader.  It doesn’t judge, or prescribe.  It is not depressive (I finally got round to reading it during January 2018, when I am at my most optimistic, most proactive, most organised), but can help us all reflect a little more clearly, yet thoughtfully about the door marked ‘Exit’.  I don’t like to alarm anyone, but it’s approaching.  For many of my nearest and dearest, and others in my networks, it has already come.  And the public policy issues associated with it are growing.

 

 

Previous Reading (6):

I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog.  Sixth up:-

“The Faraway Nearby”, Solnit, R. (2014) London: Granta Books

farawaynearby

A beautifully written book which manages to succeed in helping to make faraway locations seem nearby, and to take the nearby/everyday or commonplace to different or faraway contexts, helping to bring fresh perspective on them in the process.

Solnit’s book is an elegant piece of memoir, almost of therapy.  It takes what at times can appear to be a random stream of deep reflections, and weaves them amongst strands which take us deep into the territory of the craft of storytelling.  Rather than just trying to unpick what makes a ‘good’ story, it uses these insights to heighten the experiences it introduces us to, making those feelings personal, and intense, and provoking us to reflect on our own story.  It is difficult to not start looking for and making connections in your own life, just as she has in hers.

The book is as good an example of psychogeography as you will find on the shelves, without ever trying to formalise such a definition for itself, or explore the concept – but place is important.

Marina Warner, writing a review for The Guardian (June 2013) said;

“Dominating Solnit’s rich repertoire are two main thoughts: that imagination activated through reading and art, can help overcome the feeling of being a stranger in the world, lost among strangers, and second, that characters and places can build another home, and provide alternative stories to the dismal and constrictive plots of our own lives!”

“We are all the heroes of our own stories,” she writes, “and one of the arts of perspective is to see yourself small on the stage of another’s story, to see the vast expanse of the world that is not about you and to see your power, to make your life, to make others or break them, to tell stories, rather than be told by them.”

I’ll end, by sharing the beginning of Solnit’s book, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a journey you want to pick up, and begin for yourself.  I can thoroughly recommend it.  It’s an engrossing book – at times, I was so effected by it, I forgot I was reading a book.  And their is a delightful device running throughout the book of a pile of slowly rotting apricots from a tree in her mother’s garden, how she has to deal with them, what they mean to her, and what their legacy becomes.  Beautiful, for a reader who has become obsessed with the sourdough revolution, and other baking for neighbours.

“What’s your story?  It’s all in the telling.  Stories are compasses and architecture, we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.  To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.”

“Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of travelling from here to there.  What is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the persons you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed.”

This book helps you find it, and feel it.

Previous Reading (5)

I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog.  Fifth up:-

“Hope in the Dark”, Solnit, R. (2016) Canongate Books

hope-in-the-dark

Solnit’s book was originally published in 2005, but has been updated to reflect what seems like ever increasing reasons for social and political gloom – particularly for those on the left – which is what drew me to the book.  I consider myself a thwarted optimist, rather than an out-and-out pessimist, and was attracted to a book that promised to help define, and find grounds for ‘hope’ for those looking for progressive change on a range of social, political and environmental causes, when the forces lined up against such change seem overwhelming.

As she wrote in her piece promoting the book’s publication in the Guardian, “We may be living through times of unprecedented change, but in uncertainty lies the power to influence the future.  Now is not the time to despair, but to act.”

For President Bush, and the Iraq War when the book was published in 2005, read Brexit, the prospect of Donald Trump, and the disarray in the state of the UK opposition parties in 2016.

Rebecca Solnit writes compellingly.  She asserts, “Hope doesn’t mean denying these realities.  It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty first century has brought, including the movements, heroes and shifts in consciousness that address these things now.”  She is big on identifying, remembering, and celebrating past campaigns, and successes – which are many and varied.

She synthesises a range of other writers to help build her case for real hope.  “Critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naivete,” the Bulgarian writer Maria Popova recently remarked.”

The key case for hope is laid out in the foreword to the 2015 edition:

“The tremendous human rights achievements – not only in gaining rights, but in redefining race, gender, sexuality, embodiment, spirituality, and the idea of the good life – of the past half century have flowered during a time of unprecedented ecological destruction and the rise of innovative new means of exploitation.  And the rise of new forms of resistance, including resistance enabled by an elegant understanding of that ecology and new ways for people to communicate and organise, and new and exhilarating alliances across distance and difference.”

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.  When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.  Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both the optimists and the pessimists.  Optimists think it will be fine without our involvement;  pessimists take the opposite position;  both excuse themselves from acting.  It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, and and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.  We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.”

So, that told me!  And it certainly answered a lot of the painful doubts I’d been having – and I know many of my friends have been having of late, on the topic of having hope.

By exploring past successes, particularly of the last fifty or so years, Rebecca Solnit gives us good reason to have hope – and plenty of source material from which to learn lessons as to how to build it.

“Mushroomed: after a rain mushrooms appear on the surface of the earth as if from nowhere.  Many do so from a sometimes vast underground fungus that remains invisible and largely unknown.  What we call mushrooms mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus.  uprisings and revolutions are considered to be spontaneous, but less visible long-term organising and groundwork – or underground work – often laid the foundation.  Changes in ideas and values often result from work done by writers, scholars, public intellectuals, social activists and participants in social media.  It seems insignificant or peripheral until very different outcomes emerge from transformed assumptions about who and what matters, who should be heard and believed, who has rights.”

“Ideas at first considered outrageous or ridiculous or extreme gradually become what people think they’ve always believed.  How the transformation happened is rarely remembered, in part because it’s compromising: it recalls the mainstream when the mainstream was, say, rabidly homophobic or racist in a way it no longer is; and it recalls that power comes from the shadows and the margins, that our hope is in the dark around the edges, not the limelight of the centre stage.  Our hope, and often our power.”

The book is a reference guide for a number of liberation struggles throughout the world which have made for success.  As Solnit says, “Memory of joy and liberation can become a navigational tool, an identity, a gift”.

One final lesson worth noting from what is a fabulously uplifting book – and one that is incredibly pertinent for those on the left of politics who, like me, have concerns about whether the vehicles we are operating in quite get the magnitude of the problems we face.

“It’s an argument for tiny and temporary victories, and for the possibility of partial victories in the absence or even the impossibility of total victories.  Total victory has always seemed like a secular equivalent of paradise: a place where all the problems are solved and there’s nothing to do, a fairly boring place.  The absolutists of the old left imagined that victory would, when it came, be total and permanent, which is practically the same as saying that victory was and is impossible and will never come.  It is, in fact, more than possible.  It is something that has arrived in innumerable ways, small and large and often incremental, but not in that way that was described and expected.  So victories slip by unheralded.  Failures are more readily detected.”

Rebecca Solnit provides us with grounds for hope!

Previous Reading (4):

I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog.  Fourth up:-

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World”, Grant, A. (2016) WH Allen

Originals_AdamGrant

This was the book I have been seeking for a long time.  Not only does it seek to distill the essence of creativity, it tries to discern what marks out those people who take creative ideas that one step further, and make them happen – ‘the originals’.  Using a series of true stories to which he returns throughout the book, Grant aims to chart what we can all do to make it more likely that we can move mountains – and he discovers that there are a number of often counter intuitive fixes that can increase the likelihood of fostering an environment where originals will blossom – and these are helpfully summarised in the final chapter.  For example, always questioning the ‘default’ setting in an organisation (it might be there for a reason – at least you will discover ‘why’ if it is); or, making your ideas more familiar (so those around you are more comfortable with your ideas, and so are more likely to adopt them); through to some tips for bringing through originality in children.  ‘Originals’ are not born special, but train themselves through experience, learning and common-sense is, I believe, his central argument.  We can all do it (well, maybe some more than others!)

Easy to read, and practical in approach, its strategies for encouraging adoption of new ideas have uses far beyond innovation in its narrowest sense.  I thoroughly recommend this book.  The video above gives a snapshot of Grant’s book from the man himself.

Previous Reading (3):

I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog.  Third up:-

“Wasted: How Misunderstanding Young Britain Threatens Our Future”, Gould, G. (2015) Little, Brown Book Group

Wasted

Although rooted in politics, this was a fascinating read with much to inform public services, private corporations and all our our human relationships with young people – or as the former might call them, a primary core audience!  It was upfront in articulating how much intelligence young people can bring to campaigns and decision-makers, and how much this is often overlooked and paid lip-service to.  One of the fascinating discussions came over the role (or potential lack of it) for corporate social responsibility, in a world where entrepreneurs put mutuality and cause at the heart of their business models, rather than as a ‘bolt-on’.  There are so many lessons from the book, it is difficult to know where to start.  One is the importance of not just involving young people, or inviting them in, but actually putting them ‘in the driving seat’ of organisations – not making their involvement a special event.  In order for young people to make the most of their involvement, whether that be in the workplace, or in constructing campaigns, we need to increase the capacity for them to contribute – and that has implications for how the PR profession (not just politicians) engages with schools, and the National Citizens Service, so it can play a part in helping young people find their voice.  This is even more vital after the EU referendum vote, when many young people (and many others!) may feel that the political system does not speak for them.  There is also a lot of stress on ensuring conversations across generational groups, and across social groups – and PR can have part to play in this.  The bottom line for all of this is that it is not just in the interests of young people – but it ensures that the communication and messages the profession is seeking to engage with actually work with with the future generations of this country, and the profession can then be seen to have a positive reputation amongst potential recruits across a more diverse range of faces and voices.

Most importantly, the book is about making society function more effectively again, by involving young people properly.  Much of what it has to say about decision-makers embracing more creativity, and unleashing more autonomy is probably something we would all say ‘amen’ to – not just young people.  Thoroughly recommend this book for its showcasing of a range on quality example case studies from around the country, and rich voices captured through in-depth qualitative interviews.

Other reviews and links here from the Guardian and The RSA.

Previous Reading (2):

I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog.  Second up:-

“Reaching Down The Rabbit Hole”, Ropper, A. and Burrell, B.D. (2015) Atlantic Books

Reaching Down The Rabbit Hole

Reaching Down The Rabbit Hole

Having been under the care of a neurologist since 1997, I was fascinated by a book written by a US neurologist of the old-school, outlining his approaching to patient care and crucially, diagnosis. At the same time, it is as much an account of a qualitative to professionalism, rejecting a numbers-based approach, to one that is based on human interactions, and looking out for the ‘particular’.

The account makes neuroscience sound more like an art, than it does a science, and goes some way to show why a young medical student might choose it as a specialism.  For someone who has a rare neurological condition, it is reassuring to know that the health services of the world still have figures like those revealed in the shape of the author, as he discusses how things went dealing with individual patients who crossed his path, ensuring he documents their lives with as much colour as is possible, without breaching any patient confidentiality.

A beautiful read about a beautiful organ, and a beautiful man.

Previous reading (1):

I’m in the process of tidying up up my blog. so I’m just posting a few book reviews I had posted elsewhere, but I wanted to make sure they were codified in the main body of the blog.  First up:-

“The Utopia of Rules”, Graeber, D. (2015) Melville House

The Utopia of Rules

The Utopia of Rules

Not an easy read, partly because of the density of the material, but partly because of the structure, but in my humble opinion, this book’s moment is now!  It’s central focus – society’s apparent fetishisation of bureaucracy, and our collusion in that onward march, has never been more apt.

While there is no clear manifesto to lance us of the boil that is all to apparent from personal testimony with which we can all concur, the book uses this as a starting point for reflection which incorporates a range of threads – bureaucracy as a diversion, from right wing oppression, but also from our own fright at embracing un-trammelled play, while this ‘utopia of rules’ at least provides a structured game, where there is at least some transparency on what basis we can expect decisions to be taken.

If you want to be left with a clear conclusion, this is not the book you are looking for.  However, if you are looking for signposts that will help unearth where the piece of the jigsaw might be that might help reveal a clearer sense of the whole picture of the crazy state of the world today, I think this book is on to something!

For a review elsewhere, see here.

Found in Translation

Back in June 2016, I was captivated by a programme on BBC Radio 4 about the Russian absurdist writer Daniil Kharms.  It chimed not only with me, but I felt with the times we find ourselves in, and ever since, I have been devouring his work.

Daniil Kharms - with thanks to an excellent piece by Chris Cumming

Daniil Kharms – with thanks to an excellent piece by Chris Cumming

Kharms was born in 1905 and died in 1942 – a suppressed Soviet-era surrealist and absurdist avant-garde writer.  Much of his work was not published during his lifetime, but was saved to be rediscovered in the 1960s and 1970s.  During the twentieth century, he was better known for his writing for children, which was tolerated by the authorities.  That toleration by the authorities didn’t last forever though, and he died of starvation on the psychiatric ward of a Soviet prison.  It was said he simulated insanity to avoid execution – but who can be sure?

You will find plenty of reviews and discussions of Kharms’ legacy on the internet (see below), but in the same way that I was transfixed by the playfulness of his work by the BBC Radio 4 programme, I wanted to share some of that excitement by reading a small number of his very short pieces.

Neat Widget Mic (left) and H5 digital recorder (right)

Neat Widget Mic (left) and H5 digital recorder (right)

The first four are recorded on a new desk mic I’ve bought which gives pretty good quality, but the remaining are on my digital H5 recorder which I’m trying properly for the first time here – a humdinger of a crystal clear sound (I can’t guarantee the quality of my voice!)

Tumbling Old Women is probably the best known of his works, and the one that really caught my ear first.

Fedya Davidovich embraces butter and toe clippings – which pretty much sounds like the story of my life!

Four Legged Crow spits at you – and pretty much hits the nail on the head about the state of relations on Twitter right now.

The Connection puts life in some philosophical context with the aid of a bed-bug.

An Incident on the Street is typical of his writings where an incident is seemingly leading us one way, only to lead us nowhere at all.

The Death of a Little Man vividly captures an important moment in a man’s life – his end.  No niceties or unnecessary gore – just as it comes.

How One Man Fell to Pieces seems to be a lesson about getting carried away, all the while showing that things still carry on as normal when we do, whether that be the use of the dustpan usually reserved for clearing horse manure, or the sweet smell of ‘puffy’ ladies.

Blue Notebook #10 is another signature piece of his writing, beginning by writing about one thing, but by the end of it, because the piece contains none of the things it was intending to cover, the writer either gives up and walks away (as in this case) – or dumps something completely different into the text.

kharms

Most of his works are hard to come by now, and a little on the expensive side, as I have found to my cost.  I can recommend “Today I Wrote Nothing” if any of the above plants a seed with you – available from Amazon and AbeBooks.  It is ‘hit and miss’ – a lot of the work can be more hard going or completely obscure, but that is also part of the charm of it.  There are are great reviews in the New York Times and in the London Review of Books.

As someone recently said on one of the UK’s soaps, “You only had to give her a cassette player and a block of cheese and she thought she was in heaven.”  That’s pretty much how Kharms has made me feel of late.  Thank you for indulging me.

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