Looking Back, 2

A re-printing of “Literacy and Longing in LA” (SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2007)

The other day I went to Amoeba with Maggie and got not only The Double Life of Veronique, BUT ALSO The Decalogue and the box set of Kieslowski’s other films, which include The Scar, Blind Chance, No End, Camera Buff, A Short Film about Love and A Short Film about Killing. I’m actually tickled pink that I now have all Kieslowski’s films. This man is easily my favorite director, while Zhang Yimou isn’t too far behind him! Raise the Red Lantern anyone?

Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs Trilogy – Blue, White and Red – are my favorite films of all-time. Red is my favorite of the three, but Blue comes in close second. I know that most people say that Blue is their favorite and why wouldn’t they. The talented, beautiful Juliette Binoche and Kieslowski’s use of color, cinematography and music – the surges of music with the intense use of the color blue throughout the film rips you apart –make it a masterpiece!

However, there is something romantic about Red that made me love it the most. The way in which one character symbolizes another, the near misses and the way in which characters dance around one another completely draws me into the film time and time again. Over the last ten years, it has never gotten old. None of them have. Each time I sit down to watch these films is like the first time.

I love introducing people to these films. I think I am going to have a Blue, White and Red marathon in the next couple weeks and invite a small group of friends over to watch them on my rather tiny television. (I have a TV, but it is only there for DVDs. I do not have it hooked up to any channels. I do not have Cable.)

Instead, I have surrounded myself with books. I grew up with a library in my house and one in my Father’s den. My parents pushed reading and there were a number of sleepless night spent reading until the sun came up. My Mother would then allow me to skip school, because I hadn’t gotten any rest. My best friend in Boston, Amanda, and I are both buyers of books. We are obsessed. I am reading a book right now called “Literacy and Longing in LA” – some unusual light reading for me – that states this perfectly: “Women do different things when they’re depressed. Some smoke, others drink, some call their therapists, some eat… I do what I have always done – go off on a book bender.”

What I love about “Literacy and Longing in LA” (a novel by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack) are the literary references to not only books I personally love – in one paragraph she mentions Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, The End of the Affair, Wuthering Heights, and A Farewell to Arms – but books that I am now making a list of to read. I’m always looking for something amazing to discover.

At twenty-eight-years-old, Amanda and I both have pretty extensive libraries in our apartments. Our friendship was founded on our long talks about our favorite novels or non-fiction indulgences. We sometimes read the same book together, like when we tackled Anna Karenina when we were at Emerson College. When we met, Amanda and I immediately liked each other. We realized we had found someone else who shared not only an obsession with books and the written word, but who was also striving to become a writer. We are each other’s biggest fan. She is an amazing poet and short story writer. Her poetry sends you back against the wall.

Last time I counted I have more than SIX HUNDRED books in my office. Some of which (nearly two hundred of them) came from my Father’s den library back in our house in Newport, Rhode Island. After he died in 2005, we sold the house and Mother moved to Florida. I went into his library, which had a wall of books – thousands of them – and I picked out the books that I wanted to keep before the Naval War College came in and took the rest of the books away.

My Father had been many things in his life. A 4-tour of duty Vietnam Veteran, a UN Peace Keeper in Jerusalem, one of the Consultants to the Shaw in Iran in ‘78, and a diplomat in Malaysia and Russia, as well as a student and a teacher at the Naval War College. He never got his PhD, but he did have three Masters degrees. One was in International Relations, I think. Over the years, he had created a magnificent library of military and historical books from which he taught his classes or from which he got inspiration for his lectures. He had actually lectured a few years before he died at Oxford University in England.

Although I am far from being depressed like Dora in “Literacy and Longing in LA,” I do find reading, like watching films, to be a wonderful get away. Especially during this time in my life when all I really want to do is sublet my apartment, postpone my film, fly to France and “get to know” Paris and the countryside in a two to three month courtship. I want to court Paris. Date her. Have a love affair with the city.

I want to do that one country at a time. Maybe after France, I will go to Italy or Germany or Ireland. I have a story that I want to write that partially takes place in Malaysia and, for the last three years, I have wanted (intended) to go back to my childhood city and get to know the country again. While there I would also travel to Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Bali, Borneo, and maybe even travel up to China and Japan. Spend a couple months traveling throughout the area.

Before I take this trip, I will start learning French again – Berlitz course? – and inhale books about France, about Paris, about particular historical and artistic figures and books that are written by French writers, as well as “visitors of the area,” ex-pats, etc. On my trip to Prague, I stayed with my friend, Jamie, and her boyfriend, Jack, who are both ex-pats (from America and England, respectively) living in the Czech Republic teaching English. This was the ideal set-up (for me at least.) I got to stay at a friend’s apartment, have that base, and explore the city on my own. I would love to do that again and again all over the World. But I guess once you set-up a “basecamp,” rent an apartment or a room, you might feel more comfortable about your stability, although the instability of travel is also enticing.

When I do travel next, I will create my own travel book of odd, obscure information that only I would appreciate and “follow” a somewhat loosely planned agenda, but be excited about the unknown of traveling in a country, possibly alone… I like the idea of going to France by myself, but then again, I might change my mind as the date approaches. It is also a dream of mine to travel the World with someone special. It brings a whole other element to the trip when you can share it with someone else.