Posts Tagged 'Books'

O’ Autumn

There are simple joys in life and autumn seems to unleash them for me. There is something about the feeling of it that gets into your bones and chills you in that way that makes you feel alive not cold. It’s getting dark earlier. This puts a damper on running sometimes, because I really like a good 6pm run; but it also means jackets and sweaters. Fall is great, because its cooler, but you can add a simple layer of clothing and become instantly comfortable. The winter destroys this pleasure, trading in the discomfort of being cold for that of being bundled up to the point of physical discomfort (I’m speaking from the experience of the mid-west winter. It’s a bit different in Southern California). Summer is the opposite. There’s no way to de-clothe in order to be cooler. Even if you’re naked, you’re still boiling lava hot.


Tonight, I sat in my courtyard reading Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird. I can’t imagine a better fall book, the same way On the Road takes on particular charms when read while traveling. You can’t help but feel little tinges of melancholy in autumn, or at least I can’t. But with a good book or two (Infinite Jest is quickly becoming an all-time favorite) little lonely moments don’t have to be all about loneliness. They kindof make me smile in a weird, fall way. It feels like me. It’s the same with writing. Sometimes you need to just stop and bask in aloneness. This is why I prefer living alone. The sounds of the place become exclusive to you.

bird-by-birdI miss school. I miss classes. I miss writing papers. But because Bird by Bird is written in sortof a classroom lesson-ish style, taken directly from things she says when teaching writing, it feels sortof right. Sitting outside, feeling it getting dark, my feet in the hot-tub, not boiling, but perfectly counteracting the slight, oncoming chill of evening. It’s not the same if I’d read it in the summer, in blazing heat. I would’ve felt somehow out of place.

The advice is great, too. I’d call her writing effortless if she didn’t spend so much time in the book explaining how painstaking it is for her to write. The writing is comfortable and clear and really damn good. She doesn’t try to impress the reader with swirling passages of confusing writing that deconstructs the process of it. It’s practical, good advice. She talks about the dangers of trying to write perfectly.

Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived… Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.

She is funny and honest and has a chapter called “Shitty First Drafts,” in which she basically explains that you have to get through them to get on to the good stuff. You have to just do, just write, and then, later, after you’ve stopped pre-judging it, you can go back and find those few things that are good about what you’ve written. And those become what you write about. You probably toss the rest of it, but it’s worth it for those sparks you’ve created.

The year after I graduated from college, I dedicated myself to writing a screenplay. I’d written a few before that, but I wanted a new one. I sat down to write a horror movie, but what came out was a 250 page behemoth of a psychological thriller that was about guilt and death and violence and love and, for some reason, also about high-schoolers and teachers and philosophy. It’s not very good. Not at all. I didn’t really pre-write much, didn’t map it out in my mind or my notebook. I had the beginning and I had a character, and I thought those would bring me through. Well, that’s just silly. No one has read this screenplay. My friend BJ convinced me to give him a copy, but luckily that PhD program has kept him too busy to read it. I haven’t touched the screenplay in 2 1/2 years, I’ve moved on. If I go back, it will be a Page 1 rewrite, and I don’t know that I have enough interest in the story for that. But I have no doubt if Anne Lamott or anyone else read it, they would instantly declare it a shitty first draft.


2009 Reading List

Who watches The Watchmen?

Who watches The Watchmen?


1. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer (finished on 1.20.09) – ** (look for a little blog about the book coming soon)

2. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

3. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

4. The 27th City, by Jonathan Franzen

Welcome to your life

Welcome to your life

5. Purple America, by Rick Moody

6. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

7. Strong Motion, by Jonathan Franzen

8. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne

9. Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet

10. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

11. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce

12. Yellow Dog, by Martin Amis

13. Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes

14. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace


There is No Escape

There is No Escape

I am not reading nearly as many books this year. I often try to jam pack my life with as many as possible, just so I can get through them. And maybe it’s maturity, and maybe it’s laziness, but I came to feel when making my list that I have the rest of my life to read books. They’re not going anywhere. Yes, as each day passes, the list grows larger. But where’s the good in reading too fast to enjoy and really take in one book? Also, in exchange for sheer numbers, i have picked some behemoths – Tristam Shandy, Don Quixote, and Infinite Jest, most of all. The final of which is at least two books, maybe three books, wrapped in one. 

But there is a sense, with books, movies, and most things, that I have to do them now now now. No. I’ve seen the first 4 Seasons of “LOST” and the 5th is on right now. But I do not have time for it. I TiVo’d the season premiere and thought “Okay, here we go, I have NO idea how this will work.” And then I decided I’ll just wait. It’s a very good show, but does it require immediate attention? Not really.

I’m also forcing myself to do something I rarely do: re-read books. Jonathan Franzen is my favorite novelist, and after only one read, I decided The Corrections was my favorite novel. I haven’t read it in six years. It’s not old enough to be conisdered nostalgia, but I’ve done a lot of reading since then, and it will be interesting to see what it effect is this go around. Please feel free to comment on what you are reading, I would love to know.

The Library!!!

It’s hard to admit that I’ve lived in Kansas City for over two years now, and only yesterday did I go get a library card. For shame, Eaken, for shame. And let me tell you, a whole new world has opened up before my eyes. Books, Mr. Montag… books! And they just GIVE them to you! This is a real sign, I think, that you are a part of a community. Do you have a library card? It’s a big commitment. It says, I have a strong enough relationship to this place that I will ask to borrow items from it on a regular basis. You can’t do that with a place you’ve just met or only visit occasionally. It’s not right, and the libraries will reject you. 

For my inaugural check-out, I got 11 items (only 5 of which are books). I got a book of short stories by Rick Moody, one of my favorite authors, and his short stories are often very good and interesting. Some short story collections you feel like the author is stretching it, the idea doesn’t quite fit the cope of a short story. Moody’s are great. I also got 4 books about Christ, specifically about the history of the Bible. It’s very interesting, I got books from both major perspectives. I know where I stand, but I want to see the arguments in depth for the other side. And I want a more complete historical understanding. One of the best points I’ve read so far is that it is suspect to declare that the Bible was written only by God or only by Man, when the heart of Christianity is the combination of the two. 

Other than that, I am very pleased to report that the library not only has a great collection of music (I picked up a Beck album, a Ray Davies CD I’d heard good things about, and Grinderman), it has a FANTASTIC DVD selection. I stopped myself at 3, since they can only be checked out for one week: The Powell and Pressburger film “Black Narcissus,” Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo” and Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers.” 2 of the 3 are a part of the Criterion Collection, they have countless silent films, more Bergman, including his “God Trilogy” and many of his earlier films that I haven’t seen yet. I put my Netflix on hold a while back because I was far too busy. I miss it sometimes, I won’t lie, and now the library has given me the perfect balance. We are new best friends. Now if only there was a sexy librarian woman in my life.

It Has Come to This

June 2019
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