Monday, April 27, 2009

To prevent readers and writers running out of source material

In reading Neil Gaiman's journal today, I followed a link over to John Crowley's journal where he recommends a list of books to writers, especially writers of science fiction and fantasy.

I link to it here not only for the list itself, but for the ensuing discussion as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My next reading assignment

Okay, so maybe not my immediate next reading assignment, but I think I might need to read this book.

Having arrived at work at about six thirty Friday morning (my attempts to defend my sleeping territory not being exactly successful), I decided at about eight thirty or so that breakfast was in order.  On the very short drive to Panera for a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich (protein, grease and salt - yum!), I heard the author of Arabian Knight being interviewed on npr and was captivated by the story of the meeting between FDR and the Saudi king.

It took me a while to track down the book because I was not spelling Lippman or Knight appropriately, but I got there eventually.

Part of yesterday's adventures included a stop at the bookstore to investigate this particular volume a bit more closely.

Before I even consider joining the United States Marine Corps (or Uncle Sam's Misguided Children as I was told by one member of their ranks a number of years ago as he changed the tire on my car), I must finish Isabel Allende's The Sum of Our Days, which is proving to be a somewhat difficult but rewarding journey.

It is a book to be savored rather than devoured, and it is a bit of a challenge to read because of the rather disjointed nature of the narrative as well as the deeply personal nature of the material.  It's written more like a letter or a journal with the intended audience a close relative or friend -- in this case her daughter Paula, who was the subject of a previous memoir.

The writing style and the language she uses are as beautiful as any found her novels which I have read, and I am inspired to dig out the rest and push them closer to the top of my reading list.  Her description of the process of researching and writing Aphrodite motivated me to order a copy.

Given all of the food related reading I have been doing lately, I'm a little surprised that I didn't think about it, but now that I have, it should fit in nicely with my current curriculum.  (I was recently described as being adventurous in the kitchen.  Personally, I hadn't really thought of it that way.  I just like to cook and want to be able to replicate some of the fabulous things I have eaten.)

When Allende describes writing her novels Portrait in Sepia and Daughter of Fortune, as well as her trilogy for younger readers, the way that she narrates her creative and writing processes is incredibly inspiring.  Even when she describes her written correspondence with her mother:

"The purpose of that methodical correspondence is to keep pulsing the cord that has joined us since the instance of my conception, but it is also an exercise to strengthen memory, that ephemeral mist in which our recollections dissipate, change and blend together; at the end of our days it turns out that we have lived only what we can evoke.  What I don't write I forget; it is as if it never happened.  That's why nothing significant is left out of those letters.  Sometimes my mother calls me to tell me something that has affected her in some major way, and the first thing I think to say is, 'Write me about it, so it won't fade away.'  If she dies before I do, which is probably, I will be able to read two letters every day, one of hers and one of mine, until I am one hundred and five years old, and as by then I will likely be deep in the confusion of senility, it will all seem new to me.  Thats to our correspondence, I will live twice." (pg. 200)

I am fairly certain that I keep my own journal for many of the same reasons.  I try to keep track of the major, important events, so that I can go back and renew my memories.  In a journal, it is not just events.  there are thoughts and emotions and observations as well.

"Writing is like magic tricks," Allende writes thirty pages later.  "[I]t isn't enough to pull rabbits from a hat, you have to do it with elegance and in a convincing manner."  Which makes me wonder how similar that notion is to speaking clearly and with authority.

She continues in her philosophical vein and eventually moves from writing to religion and faith:  "...the world is magic, and ... all the rest is man's delusion of greatness, given that we control almost nothing, know very little, and have only to take a quick look at history to understand the limits of the rational, it isn't strange that all things seem possible to me."  (pg. 231)

And a little later she addresses Paul directly: "Here in this world you left behind, men have kidnapped God.  They have created absurd religions that have survived for centuries -- I can't understand how -- and continue to grow.  They are implacable; they preach love, justice, and charity, and commit atrocities to impose their tenets.  The illustrious gentlemen who propagate these religions judge, punish and frown at happiness, pleasure, curiosity and imagination.  Many women of my generation have had to invent a spirituality that fits us, and if you had lived longer, maybe you would have done the same, for the patriarchal gods are definitely not suitable for us: they make us pay for the temptations and sins of men.  Why are they so afraid of us?  I like the idea of an inclusive and maternal divinity connected with nature, synonymous with life, and eternal process of renovations and evolution.  My Goddess is an ocean and we are drops of water, but he ocean exists because of the drops of water that form it." (pg 233)

Perfect.  Just perfect.  Perfectly and clearly and beautifully stated.  I couldn't agree more.

Right now, I am about forty pages from the end of the book to which I believe I shall devote part of my lazy Sunday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bow ties are not just for nerds!

I’m not sure which part I find most amusing – that the Wall Street Journal has a fashion column or that the president is a nerd.