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Tue Jul 22nd, 2014

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10:00 pm - Of pudding and places
I sigh for the purin of Japanese convenience stores. Crème caramel and excellent, for pennies; and can you get anything like it over here? Loblaws has a crème brûlée, and I bought it, only to discover that you have to caramelize the top yourself with an instrument I've never heard of but which Loblaws assumes you will but naturally possess. (Wikipedia recommends a blowtorch. I don't have that either.) Alternatively you can stick it in an oven to melt. (In July. No.) And there's no caramely syrup at the bottom either, which renders crème brûlée pointless, by me.

A quote from The Geography of Bliss, a surprisingly interesting read.
Space and time, the two dimensions we humans inhabit, are closely linked. "Landscape is personal and tribal history made visible," wrote the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan in his book Space and Place. What he means, I think, is that places are like time machines. They transport us back to years past. As Rebecca Solnit observes in her lovely, lyrical book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, "Perhaps it's true that you can't go back in time, but you can return to the scene of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of fateful decisions; the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal."
Geography is memory, as I've always maintained; glad someone else agrees with me.

And this, from the section on Thailand:
I continue to meander through Bangkok. Asian cities are tough nuts to crack. So much remains invisible in plain sight. Somerset Maugham observed this when he traveled the region in the 1920s. "They are hard and glittering... and give you nothing. But when you leave them it is with a feeling that you have missed something, and you cannot help thinking that they have some secret that they have kept from you."
Erm yes well, the secret is probably that you're a foreigner who's interrogating the landscape from the wrong cultural perspective. It's not *for* you, after all. But I may have to read some Maugham after all just to see someone else describe this thing I've felt myself.

Mhh- note that Tuan has some very interesting sounding books, including The Landscapes of Sherlock Holmes. Reference library only, rottit...

(2 comments | post comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
Last term I had lectures on this very subject, as related to Classical times, and Tuan was featured prominently on the lecture notes' bibliographies. I recall that the lectures were very interesting, but also very obscure: the quotes seemed to say in very many words with several arcane turns of phrase things that could have been expressed within a couple of sentences at most. Mind you, that's my problem with post-modern analysis in a nutshell. Anyway, this Bliss looks like a much more readable version of the intriguing theory, so onto the list it goes.
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
I was sort of hoping Tuan wouldn't be academic-obscure, but maybe that's too much to expect. But Weiner's book is interesting and easy-read, even if it does a lot of specific-to-general generalization. OTOH it's all specifically linked to his own reactions to places, which grounds it in the personal rather than airy-fairying out in the blue.

On the other other hand, his personal U.S. is Miami, which is um well. One cannot generalize the U.S. from a single city, however well the method may work in Iceland or Bhutan.

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