Sunday, March 30, 2014

John Berger About Time

Pop has always held in high regard, the writing of John Berger.

When he and I  met up in one of our yearly visits to London, we would hunt for Berger's writing in the used bookstores of the city. Charingcross Road, in the neighborhood of British Museum, even in the charity shops 'round Victoria Station! We left no stone unturned.

Then, each evening, we would take our days treasures and read them, side by side in our hotel room. Hotel room is a big word. We often stayed in some pretty meager places. School dormitories where the bathrooms and showers were down the hall. But there were beautiful cricket grounds out the window, good Indian restaurants in the neighborhood...On entering our room, Pop would put up his "groundfindings" along the window ledge and perhaps move what furniture there was into a more pleasing arrangement. The window ledge would become that days gallery of precious pebbles, colorful wrappings, a child's pacifier. He is, as you all know, an inveterate and unapologetic collector of street stuff.

And our books! So many treasures! Extra copies of John Berger, Angela Carter, stuff on circuses, flight, favorite architects James Stirling, Le Corbusier, et all, Leonard Cohen poetry, Japan, Korea.

I mention this aspect of him, because Tal Streeter is not someone that has an interest in just the one thing. Kites interested/interest him. But only as part of the wider picture. The sky, the universe, the phenomena of flight, play, childhood experience, those were just some of the things that kites lead to.

It's something that I hope all of you kite enthusiasts will remember about Tal Streeter. He has opened up thinking about those wider subjects, the wider world via a thing, a kite. Japan? India? China? Southeast Asia? Same thing. He described these mysterious and fascinating cultures via this thing, a kite !But it shouldn't end there!

Why kites ? Well I think kites and he have one very long ongoing history together.

Pop can reach into his memories as a boy flying a kite on the Kansas prairie. He would put one up and leave it there for days on end. Not able to see his kite as it was so far, he would "pinging" the kite string with his finger. It was still up there ! Traveling the world !

I think that cerebral connection Pop has with kites, indeed with all flying things, is one reason he wasn't all that bothered as to whether a kite would "fly" on command during a kite festival.

So what is important to him ?  What a kite represents/offers. A ticket to other cerebral worlds very much anchored in this natural one.  

I'm paraphrasing him here but I think he would agree : Don't get lost in the thing (a kite) itself. Let it be your passport, your map and entry ticket to something far larger.

But back to books.        

Pop has never liked hearing books "read out loud" or it isn't something that I remember him doing. But he did like that kind of reading in close proximity one another.  Passing writing to the other after finishing a chunk of it. It is something that i sorely wish he could still do. Read. Share what he is reading. But the damage to his right parietal has taken away that experience forever.

Last night, a serendipitous afternoon visit to the Centre Pompidou offered up my first, in person sighting of the writer John Berger . He was there, showing a film "Play Me Something" made some 25 years ago by the poet and writer Timothy Neal . John is the character of the "storyteller" who comes to serenade a group of waiting passengers in a small Scottish island airport. Tilda Swinton plays/is a luminous young woman listening...

How to describe seeing someone in person for the first time that you literally revere? Who's readings awake you on the ipod each morning. Someone for whom you have every book that they have ever published... What did this human look like?

Well I can report Mr Berger seemed have good humour, was dynamic and lively. He had plenty of generosity towards his companions. His french was passable. Odd that, for someone that has lived in this country for more than 50 years !  

Pop introduced me as a teenager to John Berger by giving me a copy of Ways of Seeing, the book drawn from the seminal BBC series of the early 1970's. I also saw two films for which Berger had wrote the scenarios: "La Salamandre" and "Jonah Who Will Be Twenty in the Year 2000" both by Alain Tanner, a Swiss director, around the same time.

Pop gave me Berger's novels: "G" and the Trilogy "Into Their Labours" Then years later, I gave him "To the Wedding" and "Here is Where We Meet" and "Hold Everything Dear". Along the way we shared numerous essays of Berger's gleaned from any number of publications.  On Matisse, on drawing, on photography/photographs and Berger's political interests...  These were/are important building blocks in my life certainly. In Tal's too. I think Berger was one of the only people writing art/photography criticism that he had any respect for.

So I'll be excited to report my sighting of him when next with Pop as well as show him the copy of "Play Me Something" that came with the republished version of Berger's book of writing that accompanied the photographs of Jean Mohr. I think he will appreciate the cadence of Berger's storytelling.

Happy happy generous moments ! John Berger, London with Pop, all very positive ...

Request for help/brainstormin' from our friends :

Pop's aural environment. He used to love old radio shows and listening to all manner of program as well as music on the radio. I 'm thinking it is time to offer him something a little more interesting.

Several years ago, Rob Wood set up a magnificent BOSE speaker system for listening to DVD's and music, but then the CD player went bust. etc. We have a small radio that Pop's friend Hall gave him and he listens to that with great pleasure, especially at night.   But it occurs to me that this needs work.

Pop is, after all, still( !!!!) someone with a remarkable intelligence and creative thought. I'd like to help that side of him as much as possible.  

Lissa in Paris, thinking of her Pop.      

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, Lissa. These stories are such a treasure and testament to your connection to your 'Pop'. Thank you!! George