A pink taxi

A pink taxi

September 26, 2012

Perks of Being a Wallflower

"A quick, easy read. Well written and one that I am re-reading at the moment." Signed by a dear clever friend.

I was gifted this gem of a novel. I will treasure its meaning for years to come. I was entertained while reading it: the characters likeable, the feelings sincere and real. The last day of reading, after I had devoured 90% of the narrative, I had an epiphany.

I try not to use the word epiphany frequently. I save it for the real moment, when something clicks inside and the deep realisation that this smart writer has wrapped in a book, a concept I couldn't express myself.

The book is about the coming of age of a 16 year old. It is the Catcher in the Rye rehashed in a perfect way. I had just finished Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, a huge fantastic tome about a fifteen year old. I still save the memory of Joey, Franzen's teenage character in Freedom. These books have taught me that most lessons learned, most new feelings occur in those formative years. There is a single reason: the discovery of love in its purest form, because it is the first love. Every experience relates to that period in your life. "We accept the love we think we deserve."

I keep repeating the title "Perks of being a Wallflower" and I consider perks to be one of my favourite words because my understanding of this rather colloquial word is "an advantage you get while you do something that doesn't really seem advantageous".

I had tweeted once, before I even read the book: #perksofgoingtothepublicpool in the signature hashtag tweet lingo that requires word attachment and in reference to the daily, monotonous kilometres I accumulated in the summer: bumping into a Chris Martin lookalike and talking about the smell of lavender. It really is a perk!

I didn't know what a wallflower was till I looked it up: a person who feels shy or awkward or excluded at a party. The protagonist Charlie defines himself as such. Yet, while that was an aspect of his character, the side-effects of that "role" got me thinking and resulted in an epiphany!

There is a lot of communication between the characters of the book. In the last pages, Sam takes Charlie aside and asks him why he has always been passive, why he doesn't assume his feelings, why he doesn't take risk in his actions. Why does he just stand aside and watch. "It's like you're not even there sometimes...you can't just sit there and put everyone's life ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You have to do things."

I realized then how easy it is to just "go for the ride", be there, but not invest your feelings into something completely, in self protection. There are moments in life, opportunities to express and to feel but always the reluctance to let go of the barriers.

Doesn't Cold Play sing, "every step that you take may be your biggest mistake? It may bend or it may break" Why take small shy steps? Why not assume an important step with confidence and take the risk? Why remain a wallflower?

September 23, 2012

Kafka On The Shore

@pinktaxiblogger: I predict Haruki Murakami will get a Nobel Prize @Haruki_tweets @paulocoelho @SalmanRushdie #watchthisspace

After running through, debating and constantly thinking of What I Talk about when I Talk about Running, attempting and aborting the reading of 1Q84, I picked Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami because I believe in his talent.

His Talk about Running, a non-fiction essay of sorts about his passion, introduced me to the writer as a resolute athlete. What better than a book on fitness written in literary words? There transpired his personality and his real story. Nothing of this, except his constant talent, and his personal style come through in Kafka on the Shore.

I was hooked to a story I refuse to divulge in this commentary. Suffice me to say that unlike the cult book 1Q84, I was able to decipher the magical world of Murakami here. Perhaps because the story isn't as extraordinary as the other one.

Yet I warn you that you will be precipitated in a world of manga, a modern Alice in Wonderland because it often narrates as a road trip, or a coming of age: a Japanese Catcher in the Rye. But it remains akin to a Hiroyuki Morita animation: The Cat Returns. It has the magical realism of Latin American literature and also alludes to Borges' favourite theme: reading. Here you read the books the protagonists read, making you part of their fantasy! The novel is also dipped into classical music. The characters ponder its beauty and significance.

There is a blurred line between reality and illusions because reality and feelings are simplified to their essence. From that perception, comes the appreciation for Murakami. Beauty simply is, and everything is possible in this novel.

September 12, 2012


Why do people scorn Damien Hirst's polka dots, Murikami's happy faces or Jeff Koons' balloon figures? Why are art critics dismissive of these artists as "cliché" or "over-exposed"? Do they not see the beauty in the trivial, the reassuring in the familiar, the genius in the mainstream?

I went on foot, by boat, by train and by tram on a four hour trip to see an exhibit by Jeff Koons and I returned that same blissful summer day, traversing Swiss highlands and lakes immediately after I having seen the impressive show.

The journey to Foundation Beyeler is the beginning of the annual adventure. Always a few kids or a single one in tow, in delectable anticipation of what I will discover in the architectural masterpiece by Renzo Piano. The granite structure awaits me, floating on the little pond of lilies. I enter the garden and run to its collections, both temporary and permanent. Who doesn't want to see 9 Rothkos in a single room, the Man Walking by Giacometti or the very large triptych by Monet of a pond of lilies, reflecting the real locality of the Basel institution. I point to the Calders and the Mondrians and my youngest wonders at Wassily Kandinski because he had been introduced to him in first grade.

Then we discover the curated show of Jeff Koons. We enter a room full of old model vacuum cleaners. Then follow rooms full of porcelain. These extra-large porcelain pieces represent simplified figures of animals and friendly cherubs. We are in the realm of fantasy. Jeff Koons celebrates children's birthdays with large canvases of pink cakes, balloons, and party hats with confetti everywhere.

My son recognises the large puppy shaped balloon because it featured in the movie "Night at the Museum". I carefully and very furtively touched it to confirm it was solid and permanent, not helium and temporarily air filled.

I recognised that I was traversing an atmosphere based on illusions. What with the very large twisted blue balloon floating on the pond, as if deposited by a gust of wind, instead of a crane?

I sat in the gardens, in the shade of a huge shrub designed by Koons, that looked like a dog/a cow an amalgamated animal of flowers. My son and I ate the last bunch of cherries on the last day of August and I told him how happy I was that "he" brought his mother to one of her favourite places on earth, Fondation Beyeler, where illusions are in fact reality.

September 6, 2012

Farewell Umm Ali Salaam

Strength is a quality Salaam women strive towards. My dear aunt Maha was more than that, she was known to be the Iron Lady. An example of strength and open mindedness, I will always and also cherish Maha's generosity and try to emulate it.

She has passed away and to honour her beautiful life, I have chosen to translate the very evocative eulogy that was written by Talal Salman in AsSafir (Sept 4,2012) It is an approximate translation that doesn't do justice to its perfect Arabic eloquence.

".... And thus came the time of departure, and the lady of all ladies left us and the sister of men, Maha Salaam, Um Ali, joining her life companion Salim Ali Salaam, whose spirit shows with every airplane that evokes the horizons, decorated with the cedar.

Precious, she was amongst the women, either with her political culture or her social network, with frank confrontation in the open and with diplomacy behind the scenes.

She has reunited with her lifetime companion, as she was in his brain as much as she was in his heart. Encouraging him to withstand difficulties, even alone, and encouraging him to stand up against wrong, even if it came from a friend or a relative. She would infuse him with abundance of optimism and certainty even if the wrong prevailed.

She stood besides him when alone he faced the intrigues and manoeuvres that were targeting the destruction of MEA and the control of the company. She participated in all his hobbies, except hunting, and she confronted with him, and after his departure, all manoeuvres that targeted the "lung" of Beirut, the Golf Club of Lebanon. Furthermore she supervised the improvement of the club's services and she maintained its membership after the departure of her lifelong partner, Abu Ali, who wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather "Abu Ali" Salim Ali Salaam. He was able to fullfill what he aimed for, even in a different direction.

After his departure, she tried and succeeded, as much as she was able, to make up for his absence. Her house remained full of friends and lifetime companions and she offered her love too. Her blessed offspring joined the success as the distinguished four: Ali, Karim, Nina and Chafica, until she was rewarded with grandchildren as well.

She was known as Umm Ali, to the elite of Beirut and all of Lebanon, and in many Arab countries, and to friends of the house. She passed yesterday, quietly, after a painful fight with sickness, that never stopped her from interacting with all whom she loved and befriended. May God shower his mercy on Umm Ali Salaam whose presence shone bright,the intelligent, emotional, friendly and courageous lady. May God keep her offspring and

'Inna lillah wa innah ilayhi i raji'un "we are from God and to Him we return"."