IN PRAISE OF SHADOWS
Originally published in Japan in 1933, In Praise of Shadows by Junichirō Tanizaki is part rhapsodic ode to traditional Japanese aesthetics, part mournful lament in the face of rapid industrialisation. Drawing comparisons between the West's constant striving towards light and newness and the Japanese appreciation for shadow, nuance and wabi-sabi, Tanizaki is both poetic and practical. As he winds his way through subjects as far-ranging as architecture, paper, women and food, his often wry observations are countered by a meditative lyricism that drives the point home.
Noting that the Japanese proclivity towards darkness and shadows may well have come from an ability to find contentment within the imperfection and transience of everyday life, Tanizaki's essay is not only historical text but timeless celebration of lived experience - in essence: mindfulness. He speaks with equal reverence about time spent on the toilet, before a bowl of soup, and within the walls of a temple. And it is not only here that Tanizaki's words – written, amazingly, almost a century ago – feel relevant. Comments on the western-designed radio which fails to capture the 'special character of our voices and our music', bring to mind recent debates about facial recognition technologies, while his closing remarks feel almost painful as we consider how much of our lives are now lived in the stark bright light of social media: 'I would call back […] this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion […] I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration. I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off electric lights and see what it is like without them.'
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
It's 1987, Luton, and aspiring writer and British-Pakistani teen Javed is feeling more than a little constrained. Family expectations and obligations are bearing down, and life under Thatcher, surrounded by N.F. skinheads is no walk in the park. Factor in a non-existent love life and this born dreamer just can't catch a break. That is, until he hears Springsteen for the first time.
Based on the true early-life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who, as the rolling credits reveal, has seen Bruce Springsteen in concert over 150 times, Blinded by the Light is as much about the intensely personal, powerful connections we can have to music (especially as a teen), as it is a response to the current political climate.
Recalling the upbeat energy and unabashed dorkiness of 1980s coming-of-age movies: HBO's Euphoria it ain't. But, after a day of gloomy, baffling, unrelenting Brexit 'news', watching this Gurinder Chadha directed comedy-drama was exactly what we needed. As with the best Springsteen hits – even if they're not really your thing – you can't help but be uplifted.
An ordinary life was an obscure life, if we can extend the meaning of obscure to mean covered up by dailiness, glorious dailiness, shameful dailiness, dailiness that is difficult to figure out, that is not always clear until a long time afterward. Obscure: not readily noticed, easily understood, or clearly expressed. Which is a pretty good definition of life.
− Mary Ruefle, “I Remember, I Remember”
For those of us whose Notes app is chock-full of lists, words, and scrambled sentences about days and things we want to remember, Leigh Patterson's Moon Lists: A Guided Journal might be just the thing.
Initially a monthly interview series with notable women using a set of prompts, the genesis of the idea came after Patterson read an interview with National Geographic photographer Sam Abell where he mentioned that "every full moon, my wife and I construct something we call the Moon List — about 25 questions that have evolved over 10 years or so to reconstruct the past 30 days since the last full moon." Intrigued, Patterson wrote to Abell asking to see the list and for his permission to recreate and broaden the project, which he agreed to.
Part workbook, part analog scrapbook, Moon Lists expands the original questions and distills them into eighteen months' worth of cues which aim to encourage weekly and monthly reflection. The artfully designed pages (inspired by 1960s and 70s instruction manuals) hold blank space for your own scribbling and taped-in mementoes, interspersed with quotes from others (like the above), Patterson's own lists, things to consider ('Do a task in secret.'; 'It is okay to love something obvious.'; 'Eat something soggy.'), and curious archive images of circles, which act as reminders to 'seek spaciousness, step outside of your experience, and take note.'
Can't wait for your own book to arrive? Jump in here for a set of online questions, or peruse the last four years worth of interviews. Our favourite? Su Wu's.