if this was 2007, an alt title would be something with ‘random’ in it
— some songs that make me think of philosophy —
— it’s really hard tho, so here’s this —
— and i really like classical music so here are all my favorites —
Some Poems I Like
‘Discontinuous Poems,’ Alberto Caeiro / Fernando Pessoa: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/26784/discontinuous-poems
‘You Who Never Arrived,’ Rainer Maria Rilke: https://poems.com/poem/you-who-never-arrived/
‘Go to the Limits of Your Longing,’ Rainer Maria Rilke: https://onbeing.org/poetry/go-to-the-limits-of-your-longing/
‘In Blackwater Woods,’ Mary Oliver: http://www.phys.unm.edu/~tw/fas/yits/archive/oliver_inblackwaterwoods.html
Ulysses, Alfred Tennyson: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses
‘To The Woman Crying Uncontrollably In the Next Stall,’ Kim Addonizio: https://www.flickr.com/photos/olivewitch/43108166384
‘What I Didn’t Know Before,’ Ada Limón: https://www.washingtonsquarereview.com/ada-limn
‘It’s All So Light,’ Trista Mateer: https://tristamateer.tumblr.com/post/153765438459/nobody-is-in-love-with-me-and-everything-is-still
‘I Came To You,’ Jean Valetine: https://books.google.com/books?id=VQtM56YBOLUC&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=jean+valentine+i+came+to+you+lord+because+of+the+fucking+reticence&source=bl&ots=uVPs-ATE9v&sig=ACfU3U0POddCdn4wEFKY53cW63ZPVTq_bA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiC0Ji6vu3kAhUK-6wKHXHIC_IQ6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=jean%20valentine%20i%20came%20to%20you%20lord%20because%20of%20the%20fucking%20reticence&f=false
‘Bliss and Grief,’ Marie Ponsot: https://poets.org/poem/bliss-and-grief
‘i am a little church,’ e.e. cummings: https://reflections.yale.edu/article/how-firm-foundation-churches-face-future/i-am-little-church
‘On How to Use this Book,’ Sarah Gambito: https://poets.org/poem/how-use-book
Some Good Writing
(very, very non-exhaustative)
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I read this book on the recommendation of one of the first philosophy professors I ever had. it endures as one of my favorites because of this connection, its unflinching look into the excesses of the human spirit, & all the perfectly ambiguous philosophical themes.
In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust. I told myself I would never read these volumes because they are synonymous with pretentiousness. I ended up half-jokingly taking a class on it & fell in love. it is jaw-droppingly beautiful and I’m not sure if any collection of books has ever spoken to the aspects of myself this one speaks to. you will feel yourself heard, recognized, in ways that you didn’t know you could be. and, it contains some of the most beautiful prose in the world. i’ve been told its main themes are memory, beauty, love, time, and art; but honestly, for me, it’s about everything.
The Mandarins, by Simone de Beauvoir. I read this recently, and quickly. it captures, perfectly, the ambiguities of moments of political action. it breaks your heart, makes it swell larger than it has for a long while, and then breaks it again — over tragedy, over the minutia of love, and over how fucking exhausting it can be to just live a life. the women of this book still haunt me. I have like, 10 pages of notes & questions about it still, if anyone’s interested.
The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m a first-generation indian-american. this book has the (objectionable) tendency to narrow its focus on ‘being indian in america’; but it remains one of the few books that captures that experience. for me, it’s most notable in capturing the looming, ever-constant guilt of failing to be sufficiently indian or american. you find it in some of the most important plot lines, but just as strongly instantiated in the smallest details — wearing shoes on the carpet, defiantly with an ache in your stomach. these characters, who finally speak of a story like mine, employ many a coping mechanism to reckon with this adrift identity. they are all unsatisfying, and they hurt to read. but at the end, if you’re like me, some unvoiced sentiment finds expression. I called my parents a lot after reading this one. and obviously, cried a lot.
The Old Man & the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. this is very short, and I really thought, up until I was writing this very paragraph, that it contained the line which made it worthwhile for me: ‘this is what humans do.’ The line was to emerge after a long struggle of pain, one of the central themes exemplified by the titular old man. After basically re-reading the book to find this quote, I realize I’ve just made it up and my entire life is probably a lie — it’s not a line of the book! BUT, the theme is still resonant; I’ve found often that sometimes all I need to get through the various (thankfully small) struggles in my life is find the right phrase to say to myself. for a while, that line functioned as a pretty good one.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. I read this after going through many months without having read any fiction. Nothing was sticking, and I was afraid that my infatuation with literature was dependent on my coursework, a contingency that had dissolved. This book taught me that my fear was unfounded. it sucked me into its story, lifted me by my feet and out of my head, like I can’t remember a book doing since I was in elementary school. one of many a literary savior, for just being stupidly good. and now, a very helpful backdrop for a surprising number of trivia rounds.
Nausea, by Jean Paul Sartre. I read this at the urging of my friends. I’m not really an existentialist & tend to find (and dislike) that a lot of Sartre’s work speaks of forms of freedom that only seem open to very privileged classes. I like this book in spite of this general disdain. I read it quite slowly, meditatively; comparing the doses of metaphysical horror I’ve experienced at objects with the main character’s. and then found myself even more terrified, in anticipation, when the character goes beyond anything I’ve experienced. it’s good, but if you read it carefully, it embodies fear.
The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir. It’s philosophy, so in my head it shouldn’t technically be on here. but it’s one of the best works I’ve ever read — it it careful, readable, and is persistently relevant. I love de Beauvoir.
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin. “I did not intend to allow the white people of this country to tell me who I was, and limit me that way, and polish me off that way. And yet, of course, at the same time, I was being spat on and defined and described and limited, and could have been polished off with no effort whatever. Every Negro boy – in my situation during those years, at least – who reaches this point realizes, at once, profoundly, because he wants to live, that he stands in great peril and must find, with speed, a “thing,” a gimmick, to lift him out, to start him on his way. And it does not matter what that gimmick is.”
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. Anna is one of the best characters ever written. I don’t like way in which Tolstoy aims to moralize at the end, but throughout, the realism of her character and those around her is done to perfection. I think the 2012 movie version w/ Kiera Knightley is also pretty decent.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. I read this once when I was 16, once when I was 19, and again when I was 22. I’ve never quite figured out what it is about this book, that makes me keep coming back to it. But, I have ‘I am I am I am’ tattooed on my wrist.
The Crane Wife, by CJ Hauser. I’m not going to lie — I don’t like a lot of the way this is written. it feels sometimes very overwrought, obvious, and cliche. but, it taught me a lot about care, and about what it means to love and be loved & I send it to everyone.
How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation, by Anne Helen Peterson. Every generation has its afflictions.
Some Good Movies
(in no particular order)
La double vie de Véronique (1991): directed by one of my favorites, Krzysztof Kieslowski, this is an *amazing* look into emotion, intuition, identity, and the power / fragility of human connection. it’s also really quite beautiful & made me really consider getting into puppeteering.
In the Mood for Love (2000): this one is incredible for the little moments of life — standing in a street, a look that wasn’t, expansions and downplays of events that loom large. it’s beautiful, poignant, aching and somehow comes out realistic.
Pulp Fiction (1994): it’s earned its fame. consistently witty and dynamic, this is a film always seems to have the feel of a book you can’t put down.
Queen (2014): you know that place right underneath your heart, where your ribs end? watching this one is like having all your breath caught right there, as you hope and hope for the main character (who very quickly is your best friend) to succeed.
Vertigo (1958): a classic. go-to reference for the horrors of trying to (re)create the past, and life’s cruel / apathetic responses to these deeply human drives.
Mulan (1998): I still cry every time I see this one. the near overwhelming pressure to be someone who you aren’t, the pressure to do something good, the sexism, and stubbornness of self required to try and surmount all of it was a cathartic balm for this young indian girl.
The Matrix (1999): not sure if I could’ve visualized most of the brain-in-vat / evil demon / external world skepticism stuff without this as the launching pad, tbh. I think one of my favorite things about movies / film is that it makes you feel, make contact with the abstract things philosophers are supposedly talking about.
Some Good Art