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A Contradictory Life

eBooks creatively crafted in the spirit of Athena

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Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. - Ernest Hemingway

I discovered a local blog called Wry Republic towards the end of 2012 and the site’s tagline;  “wit, wisdom and political water fights” was only a taste of the quirkiness that the blog offered. All the posts that I read were interesting as well as intelligent (not an easy combination to successfully pull off but here Candice Holdsworth and the other Wryters had done a sterling job). I emailed Candice to ask her to take a look at my blog and give me some suggestions/advice etc and I was so happy when she replied with some very lovely comments and asked me if she could republish some of my posts on her site. Of course! What an honour; a blog that I read everyday wanted to feature me? I was so proud to become a contributing Wryter and mentioned then that I envisaged great things to come from this entrepreneurial and spirited woman and I was right!

Candice has been absent from the blogging grid for a while and you should read her letter – The birth of Athena: Letter from the Editor – to understand why I missed her writing so much and her reasoning behind putting Wry Republic to rest and creating what is to become not only to a content driven blog but a work of art in itself: Athena | Creative Comets, Metaphorical Mash-ups.

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The blog ideas and articles have been “present[ed] in a series of topical “themes”. For instance, the current and significant paradigmatic shifts in the ways that human beings interact with technology, which is explored in [the] current theme: Science and Art; or, as human psychology alters as it becomes increasingly urbanized, which [is looked] at in an upcoming theme. [The] themes will be available on the site for five days and then [Athena] will move onto a new one. Some of this will be new material and some of it archival; Athena is mimicking the museum/ exhibition format, where new and historical pieces are exhibited alongside each other.”

As part of her re-launch she sent me two of her eBooks to review and the timing could not have been more perfect. I adore reading and when I am enthralled in a good book or story nothing else in this world exists. But, as my exam looms (two weeks to go!) I banned myself from starting any new books as the pull would just be too great to curl up on the couch whilst I am on leave rather than sit and focus behind a desk. These eBooks are composed of a selection of curated and original articles from Athena which meant I would have something to read by limiting myself to one story a day.

Centred around a combinatorial theme: science and art; love and the individual; the city and psychology; freedom, art and markets; and religion and modernity.”  the eBooks have been creatively crafted in the spirit of the blog but allow for a greater depth of exploration.

Sketches of the Heart

Of course I was drawn to this collection of stories first. Are we not all romantics at heart? Do we not all want love – in some form or another? The first is an abstract exploration of the concept of love by Robin Gilbert-Jones which is interesting because as the piece mentions, “the most problematic thing about love as a subject is that any attempt to subject it to dispassionate analysis tends to be dismissed as impossible and symptomatic of having not experienced it oneself.” and definitely made me think about how I would intelligibly explain the term love. Something that I often think about but am not able to communicate as eloquently. The second story is one about the impressionable (and lasting) impact of first love and is anecdotally written by Meera Ballen. In the third story of this series the writer, Vinay Patel, comes to the not-unexpected, but yet entirely so, realisation that his dad’s first love was not his (the writer’s) mother. Isn’t it strange how we cannot fathom our parents having lives before each other, particularly; before us? The opening line of the last story beautifully written by Candice Holdsworth is, “it was the saddest story most people have ever heard of”. A woman is found decaying in her London flat, three years dead already. It seems she had no love at all in a city that is supposedly constantly connected…

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Psyche in the City

In the long walk from rural life, mankind has evolved into “homo urbanus” – the city dweller, with a unique psyche that has become infused with the city. The life of the urban psyche is characterized by individuality, solitude, mobility, technology, and diversity. He lives longer than his rural ancestors, is more knowledgeable, is better educated, is less inclined to know his neighbours or be actively involved in the community; though surrounded by people, he feels no great desire to become acquainted with every one of them. The thought of living an isolated existence out in the countryside fills him with horror, yet he has a greater chance of dying alone.”  I absolute loved this collection of stories and it reminded me of a post published on Athena which you should also read (here)  – this week’s theme on Athena is coincidentally the exploration of the city and psychology. The first story in this series is written by Kanako Morishita and delves into the stark kind of loneliness which leads to desperation when the realisation arrives that bravely arriving in a city to relish a dream is not easy, and you are surrounded, but not supported, by hundreds of thousands of people trying to achieve too. In the second story it strikes Candice that, “traveling through a city is like exploring our collective consciousness” and that new architecture does not only juxtapose the old but is dependent on it and will be old itself soon as change is the only constant. It is a fascinating read! There has been a rise of urban exploration, “Urbex”, across the world, including South Africa (you just need to look at city tours and Instagram meets in town and the like) and in the third story of this series Robin Gilbert-Jones evokes a sense of serenity whilst explaining his experiences of exploring desolate buildings and abandoned ruins. I am a tourist of my own country, my family always has been, and I love the final story written by Vinay Patel which suggests that instead of becoming irritated by tourists you should learn from their childlike glee and start to see your city or town with a renewed sense of wonder and interest.

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The books really are so lovely, and really affordable! Pop on over to the site here to purchase a few and indulge in the poetic prose.