ARTS AND CULTURE


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Humanity found in ritual amid death camp horror

02 March 2016 | Tim Kroenert

In the history of the Second World War and the deathly screed of the Final Solution, the Sonderkommando cuts a pitiable figure. These Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz and other death camps who were forced to perform the logistics surrounding mass murder - the carting and disposal of dead flesh - though patently victims, were viewed by some as collaborators. Son of Saul provides an immersive and impressionistic extrapolation of this ethical and actual horror.


Death and the (young) maiden

3 Comments
01 March 2016 | Barry Gittins

Wolfgang the SpoodleThis year we faced the prospect of having Wolfgang, our 16-year-old apricot Spoodle, euthanised. This was sad for me, my wife, and our son. But for our daughter, entering her first year of high school, it presented a looming disaster. Mark Twain is purported to have said that 'the fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.' Timidity equals preoccupation with mortality? No disrespect to Samuel, but it's unlikely he shared that gem with his daughters.


In the ring with Stevens and Hemingway

1 Comment
29 February 2016 | Peter Gebhardt

Ernest Hemingway fighting stanceRounds and counts, jabs and feints. Glass jaws and upper-cuts, southpaws and the rest. It was a new word-world. Yet more colonial drill, and blood should spill. Meanwhile there was order by the key, water was washing, banter and barter in brief bargain. Then a jab to the jaw, fishbone cry, a hand cracks, skinless words.


Being myself doesn't work

11 Comments
28 February 2016 | Paul Micallef

Person alone on beachAutism typically makes people less likely to care what others think. When I was younger my default was to do what I wanted, to 'be myself', and not worry if others were not doing the same thing. You can imagine what happens when I put this into action: I end up alone. I am the only one not dancing. I am the only one who wants to crank the metal music at 7am. I like people. I want to share my experiences. But often my choice often comes down to: 'Do I be myself? Or do I be around others?'


Marriage interrupted by a life-lie disrupted

24 February 2016 | Tim Kroenert

As Kate plans a party for their 45th wedding anniversary, news arrives that the body of Katya, Geoff's long-dead first love, has been discovered in a Swiss glacier. The 'life-lie' that emerges turns out to be not so much a concealment but rather a minimisation of truth. The disruption it causes to an ostensibly happy marriage comes not in the form of shocking revelation, but slow-dawning realisation; not that Geoff isn't the man he purported to be, but that Kate may not be what she believed herself to be, to him.


Today won't be her eternity

22 February 2016 | N. N. Trakakis and Oscar Roos

Wet cobblestonesShe said she'll never write a book, and she hasn't: that's no book, it's a drop of experience Infused with the spirit of Sabi ... alcoholically she soils God with sour tears. The last time I saw her was in the obituary column: golden as always walking barefoot, cigarette in hand reflecting the sun's anonymity.


Harper Lee and the death of moral certainty

7 Comments
21 February 2016 | Ellena Savage

Go Set A WatchmanMy friend Z lives in Detroit and is rocked by the racial segregation she's exposed to there. When we were 15, she and I bonded over the passionate conversations Mockingbird inspired. 'I was in awe of Atticus,' she recalled as we reflected on Lee's death. 'I desperately wanted him to save the accused black man. Maybe if I had read it at my age now, I'd substitute the black man for the hero.' She articulated what I couldn't: that as moving a piece of rhetoric Mockingbird is, it is no longer adequate.


Reading in end times

5 Comments
18 February 2016 | Ellena Savage

Murukami's Norwegian Wood coverThere's a part in Murakami's Norwegian Wood, I told a friend, where a character loses someone, and walks for weeks around Japan until he reaches the beach, where he just stares out to sea. I feel so desolate, I said, that that's what I want to do. I don't know for sure that that's what really happened in the book, or if I was really that desolate ... Maybe that's what reading is for; to build a repertoire of emotional and social situations in order to connect with feelings that don't have words.


Gentle view of an Irish-American migrant experience

1 Comment
17 February 2016 | Tim Kroenert

Eilis' profound homesickness is evoked by the letters she composes for and receives from her long distant sister and mother. Her sense of awe at this new world is revealed in her interactions with the other, more brazen boarders; and at work, where she is chided by her manager for being too shy with customers. Gradually, familiarity and opportunity allow her to grow in confidence. Her coming-of-age is defined as gradual self-empowerment through the making of small, and sometimes large, choices.


Fenced in

5 Comments
15 February 2016 | Cheryl Howard

HorseThe lonely horse stands, welcomes the approach with a nod, which doesn't dislodge the flies from his face. The proffered dry grass becomes a gentle brush, freeing him from tormentors ... Simple and pure kindness can be like rain in a land parched of understanding.


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