Tag Archives: Literature

Heartbreaks just aren’t what they used to be

There are no Jane Austen moments anymore. There are no great scenes on the steps of a mansion, eyes following each other across the ballroom, love letters drenched in teardrops. Hearts are now broken over the phone, in a message on Facebook. We have even lost the right to a grand parting, a woeful farewell. Heartbreak has definitely lost its charm.

People now can no longer console themselves and say: “We are no longer together but our last moments were the stuff of 19th Century literature” (that later on gets adapted into a movie starring Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant). Jane Austen will not bother to write about our misfortunes of the heart. “It’s not bad, but not exactly Pride and Prejudice” she would say. I highly doubt that Mr. Darcy would think much of it.

So now, not only do we get our hearts broken, we also never get the satisfaction of it being worthy of fancy British settings.

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” That Emma took the words right out of my mouth. Our words are very quote-worthy nowadays. The it’s-not-you-it’s-me, mixed with the occasional I-can’t-do-this-anymore are sure to be anthologized in the near future.

I daresay I will try to stay out of love because having one’s heart broken is just not what it used to be anymore.

Jane Austen, what have you done to me!

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The Heart of Me

In times of melancholy and nostalgia, I seek solace in the poetry of Dorothy Parker. It makes me wonder what made her have her shirts altered so she could wear her heart on her sleeve, and who broke her heart so that she wore it like a wet, red stain on the breast of a velvet gown.

“Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.

And you laugh back, nor can you ever see

The thousand little deaths my heart has died”

Speaking of her loved one, she says: “But, oh, to have you down the lane is bitter to my heart”.

There we see it, the heart, the cradle of our “elan vital”, our life force, the tombstone on which all our aches are engraved.

And with that heart, comes the “oh”, the “oh” that carries the collective sigh of mankind, the “oh” that breaks your heart and exposes it for all to see, the inescapable “oh”.

“O”… the Scarlett Letter.

The “oh” that makes me understand you, a universal “oh” that might transcend language. An “oh” that leaves your lips in an open round shape while all else is shattering and closing down.

On sunday, I watched an experimental play called “In the Heart of the Heart of Another Body”, directed by Nagy Souraty. In it, we saw humans as hearts, contracting then releasing, spasming and dying, screaming and laughing. Hearts trying to live, struggling, hearts that are so fragile that they are made of glass and are hung for display. Hearts that get lost between the masses, hearts that sing old Arabic love songs which bring to memory times before your own. “The heart is a velvet-winged atomic bomb” said one character. “The heart is this milky way that runs from my mouth”, said another.

O heart! The very organ that makes Spanish songs sound sadder, that makes Dalida immortal in her rendition of “Avec le Temps”… parce que, avec le temps, on n’aime plus…

It rains and the heart overflows, it drowns, and you cry for each drop of rain that is born, grows and then dies when it reaches the ground with a silent crash… the birth of a tragedy, a human life in a raindrop, the inevitability of death that comes with life.

The thunder claps and your heart splits open, “fendu”, like a ripe fruit ready to be devoured, it opens itself for you.

The rain grows lighter and less violent, and the heart releases a sigh of relief, the heart exhales and settles back in its place to wait for the final moments of the storm to pass. It is an animal that goes into hiding for it knows that it will soon die. And somewhere along the way, the heart can no longer be a Phoenix, it can no longer dust the ashes and rise again. So it will remain, covered in soot and broken dreams, extinguished desires and dust. The heart will be dead.


Hamlet, Drop the Mirror!

Reporting live from my own bed, it is 4:20am and I… I am not asleep.

I have a Shakespeare class in 5 hours and 40 minutes, I have to start my day in 4 hours and 10 minutes… which approximately gives me 4 hours and 10 minutes… an ample time indeed, to fail to fall asleep.

I have just finished reading a Japanese Manga version of Hamlet (a Japanese-style comic). It is a very convenient way of reading Shakespeare for the comic manages to keep the main lines spoken in the play and rids itself of the rest in favor of drawings. Which leads me to one question: where was this book when I needed a reliable summary while studying for my midterm?

Hamlet concocts (yes, it is the word of the day) an elaborate play that would “catch the conscience of the king.” In other words, he is staging a play that will prove that indeed, it was his uncle that killed his father. Hamlet adds that by doing so, he will be holding up a mirror to nature. The play, this work of art, will “copy” life. Here we have an implied metaphor, in fact, it is so implied that I might be wrong. 😛

Art is a mirror.

If we hold this metaphor to be true, does it mean that we all own melting clocks, we are all waiting next to a tree for a man who never shows up and… are we all Dancing Queens, only seventeen?!!

If art does indeed hold a mirror up to nature… we’ve got ourselves a bit of a situation here. If it truly does, then I’m waiting for my own handsome vampire and werewolf… any minute now.

Why would I need a mirror reflecting what I experience on a daily basis? It’s like having a constant reminder that I’m having a bad hair day! If anything, I’ll pull off a Dorian Gray and cover my portrait until further notice… or a different hairdo.

I’d like to think of art as funhouse mirrors, you know, those mirrors that make you look extremely fat, or make your face as flat as my failed attempts at pancakes, or ideally… they make you look thin. Art is life under a faulty microscope, one that has been invented by a mad scientist. It is a French cook going nuts trying to figure out the perfect recipe for his new “life bourguignon” dish… while drowning it in red wine. It is me trying to finish this blog post.

In a novel, I’d be able to taste Proust’s Madeleine cookie with a cup of Starbucks coffee, convince Madame Bovary not to kill herself and invite her to watch a healthy dose of Oprah. I’d tell Jonathan Swift’s Houyhnhnms (pronounced “Winems”) to change their name and make our lives considerably easier.

Sure, Hamlet’s cause was a noble one… but he ended up dead.