Author Archives: Stephanie Suh

About Stephanie Suh

I write stuff of my interest that does not interest anyone in my blog. No grammarians, no copy editors, no marketers, no cynics are welcomed.

mobile pick of the day

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A double shot of imaginativeness

Added with packets of sweetness

Paired with milk of ingeniousness

Will turn tepid dullness into cool brilliance.

 

Author’s Note: While making an usual mobile selection of the Starbucks menu, I thought of this scribbling 🐶

Malaise – chapter ten

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‘Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?’ Iris, the interrupted woman whose inverted elitism outed her of the quotidian pleasure, was finally on the verge of private rebellion against the lofty isolation from the world that beckoned her yonder with an alluring panoply of all things sensuous, tactile and visceral, like the tempting fruit from the tree of knowledge. The more she thought about the mysterious man’s Byronic face and Olympian physique, the stronger the flame of her heart grew. It’s really a foolish heart, thought Iris, but when she had no other than a woman’s reason and thought him so, who could berate her? Call it the affair of the heart or whimsical infatuation of the beauty that looked so patrician, so elated, and so untouchable. Yet, her heart was telling her that this time she should surrender to the power of the human nature by letting the force of desire besiege her solitary castle and infiltrate it in all corners without mercy of the inter-cultural code of ethics built on puritanical dictatorship of the body and the soul.

Consumed in the flame of passion, the soul of Iris was in communion with that of Dido, who loved Aeneas more than he loved her. Poor Dido- She deserved a better man who could return her love, for she was beautiful inside and out. Silly Dido- She should have moved on even after her lover deserted her for the glory of his predestined royalty in a new land. Dido was a woman of passion, and so was Iris. They lived on the idea of love and must have figures of love, for that’s what gave them perks of life. But at least, Dido had Aeneas, and her love was consummated in the cave on a stormy day, albeit it was all staged by Venus, the goddess of love and the mother of Aeneas, and Juno, the ever-jealous goddess. Dido’s love was actualized even for a short period of time when she was alone together with Aeneas. Alas! Poor Iris, I knew her, my dear readers. It all seems to me now that Cupid’s arrows took aims at her, but not the figure of her love. Her love was alone, her existence was always invisible, and she was not allowed the joy of love. Iris was dissociated from a parliament of Love, a congress of lovers.

It was said that the idea of love to the classical Athenians was primarily erotic, rather than platonic, instinctual rather than spiritual, physical rather than mental. What we now understand about love was no more than a close bond between family members or a master and a horse or a dog. What Iris was feeling now was a combined love of Eros and Agape. She wanted the wholesomeness of love, as in the union of Cupid and Psyche. People would think that she was disinterested in love because of her beautiful but austere look that prevented people from being jovial with her. She never told her love to anyone but let concealment feed on her damask cheeks. She pined in thought with a green and yellow melancholy with solitude as her steady companion.

False histories

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History is a nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel, packed with actions, emotions, and characters, in the discovery of the universal human traits; it is both considered as parts of Humanities and Social Sciences in modern academia with the beauty of literature and the authority of science. That is why history is the most potent basis of political tool for manufacturing ideology in the form of a myth. Nazism was the proverbial example of the myth as an effective propaganda that called for the unity of the Germans. But the building of myth is not confined in the Germans; it’s an in-vogue political trend across the Seven Seas, which shoehorns ambitious political ideology into a suitably fashionable story of national pride and beguiling ethnocentrism.

Historian Michael Wood’s article “Dangerous Histories” in this month’s BBC History is the most apposite to such current revisionist view on history. In the article, his example of India, where the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement imbibes the populace with the mythical Hindu past that was claimed to be distorted by medieval Muslim conquests and British colonialism, bespeaks a danger of rewriting an untruthful history without objective facts, tempered by blind jingoism and askew ethnocentrism. In fact, such revisionist rewriting of history contributes to a powerful social cohesion of the populace  in times of national crisis. It’s really a case of mass mind-control by means of myth, the imagined history tinged with false patriotism and insular outlook on the world.

History is a collective narrative of a people who have been together through thick and thin, warts and all, sharing the same culture in the same place for centuries. Thus, it shapes the sense of identity of the people among others. However, if history serves to berating peoples of other nations to claim its own cultural superiority over them and therefore rightful subjugation of their cultures, then history as the factual subject in the academia loses its force of truth and becomes no more than a propagandist manifesto of jingoism. Let history be history, not a legend. Maybe it is high time we invoked the spirit of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who put forward factual and empirical elements in historical narratives.

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‘Coal Black Mornings’, by Brett Anderson – review

Coal Black MorningsCoal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Albert Einstein once said, “There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” That said, the story of Brett Anderson, the founder and lead singer of English rock band Suede from London, has a polyphony of vicissitudes woven by multiple strands of existential life experience and innate artistic sensibilities which seems to give him a status fused with the wisdom of an Orwellian thinker and the suaveness of a modern day troubadour in a stylishly insouciant way. Now, on his second calling as a writer, Anderson in Coal Black Mornings tells a story of his family and himself without “the usual coke and gold discs” in such a way that it strikes the hearts of the ordinary and underlings alike who feel a burden of existential needs on their shoulders that smother their creative spirits and ambitions.

Anderson traces the long and winding road that led him from a childhood as a sentimental boy from a poor but culturally sophisticated family. A poverty of material comforts was reconciled with a wealth of artistic sensibilities and intellectual proclivity inherited from his eccentric taxi-driving father whose saint was Franz Liest and his quiet and beautiful painter mother who used to make clothes for him and his elder sister. He evokes the grim, bleak, and dreary scenes of very real urban poverty in which a lack of money can make you feel debagged and insignificant, but he does not hold grudge against the discomfort of such poverty because it became a part of his inspiration for his music that empathizes with the feelings of others in distress. Anderson charts the wandering romance of loneliness and creativity in an existential reality where his wings of artistic aspiration were often clipped by chains of subsistence. It’s a literary catalog of his ongoing journey of life, a personal treaty on the depth and breadth of his life so far, which the author wants to dedicate to his son who will continue a saga of his beloved family.

This is a heartfelt, sincere memoir of an artist who tells it all about himself in hope of chiming the bells of emotions of readers whose life stories share the same elements of existential life when they collide with ideals and dreams that are universal in kindred spirits all around the world. Coal Black Mornings is a literary kaleidoscope of one man’s vicissitudes of life, many of which illuminate the glory of being beautifully misfit in materialistic society. Anderson said that this book was primarily written for his son and that any form of public accolade would be a bonus to him. He was right because the book told me that I wasn’t alone and that I am not alone by feeling misfit. Here we come, the beautiful ones.

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‘Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee’, by Casey Cep – review

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeFurious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The theory of “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”might have been a rule of thumb in the Wild West, but that was anathema to Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, which has become an epoch-defining classic in the canon of American literature.With her restive independent spirit that knew no compromise with tampered artistic sensibilities, Lee labored and waited until she found satisfactorily truthful narratives on her own, no matter how much time it would take. This journalistic trait of authorship combined with intellectual conscience could have been a reason that Lee, despite criticism of being a one-hit wonder, chose not to chase successive fame and discontinued what might have been her next best oeuvre called The Reverend. Casey Cep discovers Lee’s unfinished work and brings it to life and offers an unbiased portrait of one of the greatest American writers in this ambitious Furious Hours.

Furious Hours is composed of three parts: Reverend Willie Maxwell, Attorney Tom Radney, and Harper Lee. Reverend Maxwell was a black provincial Baptist preacher accused of killing five of his family members allegedly by means of Voodoo magic for insurance money in the 1970s. Into this courtroom drama entered a clever and magnanimous Alabaman lawyer named Tom Radney, who helped the reverend to be acquitted of the murder charge, but later found himself defending the killer of his former client. It was an irony of Fate, tragedy and comedy of a drama called life. The trial of the murder of the reverend was also a reprisal of the courtroom drama of To Kill a Mockingbird, where a black dependent was represented by a liberal white attorney. This real-life scenario in her beloved native Alabama piqued Harper Lee’s curiosity, and she decided to write a book called “The Reverend” by attending the trial herself. Cep introduces the elements of the trial in the discourse of the backgrounds of the trial as though she traveled back to the time and witnessed it all like an intelligent, observant time traveler.

Although Furious Hours is primarily about the forgotten case of the Reverend that was something of an OJ trial of the day in the context of regarding a black defendant and white legal bureaucracy, its linchpin behind the facade of the drama is Harper Lee, who thrived at the expense of Nella Harper Lee, an ambitious intelligent writer who moved from a big house in Alabama to a rent-controlled apartment in the New York City to pursue a literary career. It seems to me that Lee was disillusioned with the glamor of the city literati scene that looked priggish and stuffy. Her peers dismissed her book as a one-hit wonder and criticized it for being a lesser of serious literature. Notwithstanding this asinine and supercilious criticism, Lee did not conform to public demand of the next bestseller by declaring she had “said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.” Lee was in fact a writer who wanted to write a book with universal themes of human life, not bound by a vocation of regional specialty of “Southern” cultural backgrounds littered with sinful racism. She was a writer struggling to live up to her literary principle and personal conviction that her contemporaries did not appreciate. Maybe that’s why Cep introduces Lee in the last of the three parts of the book in the sense that a fashion designer always walks the runaway last in a fashion show escorted and applauded by models, staff, and spectators.

Furious Hours is a fine act of literary ventriloquism fused with Lee’s story-telling voice in Cep’s own narrative, which results in this ingenious creative nonfiction. It is a wonderful collaboration of two writers, a predecessor and a successor, bound by the magic of literature, transcendent of time and space, just as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Grand Horse” was superbly completed by Nina Akamu centuries later. This book will have more admirers of Harper Lee’s literature and new admirers of Cep’s feat of narrative skills that grasp the attention of the reader cap-a-pie.