Books books books (and then some)

Books sometimes aren’t read. They’re purchased. They’re kept, usually. Some of the more popular ones get read quickly once acquired (Grisham, Patterson, Grafton, Steele). Others linger, like David Foster Wallace, Ron Chernow, Robert Pirsig, and James Joyce.

I once read the entirety of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, with the exception of the thirty-page speech that John Gault gives towards the end of the novel. I just couldn’t stay focused that long.

Now I will often quote John Waters (of Hairspray fame) who says: “Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Even Nick Hornby’s book Ten Years in the Tub (which I’m still working through) mentions that books we buy and don’t read reveal something about the person we are, or at least want to be.

I notice this type of inconsistency throughout my life. My girlfriend keeps telling me that I need to watch The Dallas Buyer’s Club. It’s on Netflix, I own the movie on Blu-Ray, and I have yet to watch it. Every night that I’m visiting, if we’re lying in bed thinking of things to watch, she asks, “Tonight?”

“No.” By the time we get to bed, it’s too late for that kind of movie. I don’t really watch tv in bed, unless I’m staying with her. Not anymore.

So, movies that are going to invoke thinking require a chunk of time and the attitude that such a movie is going to require. The seriousness. And I think books are the same way.

We tear through the legal mysteries and thrillers. Rejoice in the light-hearted fantasies and romances. But when it’s time for those books that are going to fire more neurons than we’re comfortable with, we have to give them time.

Maybe that’s a result of the way our culture is, throwing so much at us all the time. Our neurons feel so inundated with information that it’s hard to devote a full allotment of attention to anything that we think could be challenging material.


January Reading List 2018

January 2017

Books Bought

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag
  • Urban Monk – Pedram Shojai

Books Read

  • Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
  • Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
  • The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden
  • The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit – Michael Finkel
  • The Art of Stopping Time – Pedram Shojai (Unfinished)
  • Urban Monk – Pedram Shojai
  • Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (Unfinished)
  • The Wasteland and Other Poems – T.S. Eliot (Unfinished)

In trying to get back to monthly updates on reading, I’ve found myself doing extensive personal development of which whittling down my reading list was a considerable part of. This month I finished three novels, put a dent in nonfiction selections, and opened up February for diving in to the writing of Sontag.

In usual fashion, my reading selections unveiled themselves to me an air of synchronicity, and I started the audio book of Shadow and Bone at the same time I opened the hardcover edition of Bear and the Nightingale. Both take place in Russia, though Shadow’s depiction of the place is significantly altered to create a fantastical tone. Though in both, drinking kvas and wearing a kaftan is commonplace.

I discovered in my listening that Shadow was a book for young adults, whereas Bear needn’t have been; likely had not intended to be at all. Both carried strong female protagonists, each with a destiny that they neither understood nor could retreat from.

The formal antagonist of Shadow was introduced in a clandestine manner, while Bear’s antagonist, aptly called the Bear (or, Medved), was an elemental force, (What is this word? Not personified, but giving living characteristics to an unloving thing?) Anthropomorphized into the one-eyed terror that fed off fear and worship.

I enjoy retreats into the fantastical, and oftentimes gain some insight into more mundane matters simply by the exploits and endeavors of characters deftly written. Something about both called out my more naturalistic side, and in The Stranger in the Woods, I was introduced to a man named Christopher Night, who spent twenty-seven years in the Maine woods in solitude. Called a hermit, in those twenty-seven years he had said that he had contact with only one other person, and that was a brief exchange where Hello was the only word spoken. (Though one other encounter where no words were spoken was also mentioned.)

This man had returned to nature. Regrettably, for those twenty-seven years he had been burgling the local summer camp and other vacation cabins for food and supplies, but that he remained in solitude, fighting cold winters and possible discovery, is a feat of remarkable will. In this book, and also the works of Pedram Shojai, I felt my desire to escape growing to overwhelming levels.

Urban Monk spoke to my esoteric longing, and I found renewed vigor in the search of both spirituality and in reclaiming my health. Over the past year I’ve mentioned my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis several times, but haven’t gone into much detail. That will be changing in the coming year.

The rationale behind this blog was to have a space to air my thoughts, which had taken on a darkness as I progressed through a dark night of the soul. In favor of keeping a facade I neglected posting some of the darker inspirations, which I suppose defeated the purpose. Shojai presented wonderful information on using traditional Taoist techniques in modernity to live a balanced lifestyle. One of the elements that I needed the most work on was this blog, and what I was using it for, other than forum for my reading lists.

He presents Art of Stopping Time as a Gong, or a practice to be continued on. It’s 100 individual activities to be done, one day at a time, in an effort to becoming more inhabited in your body and in your environment, and if you don’t like it, give you the impetus to change it. Much of my personal development has also been focused on this.

Book purchases started being rather light. I’ve known for some time that I needed to focus on paying down debt, and I’ll further discuss that in later posts. This month I picked up Urban Monk after hearing Shojai’s interview on Bulletproof Radio. Also I was somehow led to the essays of Sontag, and I decided to give it a whirl. This is the Library of America publication, and I have a few of these for other authors as well (Kerouac’s poems, Lincoln’s speeches, etc.).

The unfinished books of the month will likely carry over to next month, or at least I’ll think about reopening them. I hadn’t gotten very far into any of those.

Until next time!

In the heat of August nights

August 2017

Books Bought:

  • Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
  • The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice – Deborah Adele
  • Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  • Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession – Ian Bostridge
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin
  • The Once and Future King – T.H. White
  • Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Every Day Life – Caroline Myss 

Books Read:

  • Welcome to Night Vale – Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (unfinished)
  • Awake in the World – Michael Stone (unfinished)
  • Religion for Atheists – Alain de Botton (unfinished)
  • Tibet: Opposing Viewpoints – Greenhaven Press (unfinished)
  • It – Stephen King (unfinished)
  • Full Wolf Moon – Lincoln Child
  • The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin
  • Tribes – Seth Godin
  • A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age – Daniel J. Levitin
  • Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom – Thomas E. Ricks (unfinished)
  • The House of the Worm – Mearle Prout (Short story)
  • Manuscript Found in a Milkbottle – Neil Gaiman (Short story)
  • Blood Monster – Neil Gaiman (Even shorter comic)
  • Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Every Day Life – Caroline Myss (unfinished)
  • Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby (Aug ’04 – Oct ’04)

The month came and went much as anticipated. Work has ramped up, days at different locations across Central Florida, nights at rehearsal, and plans, as they most frequently do, change at the drop of a hat. Several of those plans were unfinished books. 

First of all, Welcome to Night Vale I had been meaning to read for some time. I had learned of the podcast (not listened to it yet either) and then the book, possibly through a spot on NPR. I thought I’d knock the novel out pretty quickly. Well, best laid plans and all that. I could not find a groove to read it in. It’s witty, it’s playful, and it borders on the absurd (all things I immensely enjoy in my reading), and yet I struggled to get through the first hundred and fifty pages, at which point I decided I would put the book down. That’s not quite halfway.

If you make it halfway through a book, you might as well keep reading it. Prior to the half, you should have some options at giving it up. Film critic Mike D’Angelo wrote about watching the first 10 minutes of a movie in much the same way I’m describing the principle of setting down the book before getting to the midpoint. “Basically, I give the movie 10 minutes to grab my attention. Most of them [non-reviewed or poorly-reviewed films] fail, and get turned off at that point. If I’m still interested, though, I’ll watch for another 10 minutes. There are two more potential bail-out points at 0:30 and 0:40; if I still want to keep going after 40 minutes, I commit to watching the entire film, even if it turns awful later” (My italics added).

Obviously ten minutes with a book is not enough time to give you the full breadth of what you’re sitting down with. But you can probably get a feel for whether you’re going to like it or not. Anyway, Night Vale just didn’t grab me in the way I wanted to be grabbed. It could be an off month for reading, though, and I do accept fault for some great books that I just can’t get through. (I’m looking at you, A Hundred Years of Solitude; Great Expectations; and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.)

In an odd twist of fate, I got a bookstore email advertising the new Night Vale novel, It Devours!. And the guilt just keeps piling on.

Awake in the World, Religion for Atheists, and Invisible Acts maintain a pretty consistent theme. Spirituality, theology and philosophy keep me interested, and I do tend to gravitate towards those nonfiction titles, when I’m not in the mood for escapist fiction. All remain unfinished, as my intention was more ambitious than I was capable of achieving. Alain de Botton’s book is something I learned about while listening to On Being, oh, some months ago. I was fascinated in listening to his interview, and planned to get the book. The concept of what atheism lacks in terms of how the non believers interact is the fundamental point of the study, and I got through a swath of community before finally understanding that it wasn’t to be finished this month.

Now I’m neither overtly religious, nor am I an atheist. One of the problems I have with religions is typically a group-think mentality, where heretical views are shunned out of hand. Atheism, conversely, I feel leaves little sense of wonder to the Universe, so vast and amazing that try as we might for generations to come, we’ll only scratch the surface of understanding it. So, I fit somewhere along the interior of the scale.

Ms. Myss’s book was assigned for the book club at yoga studio I practice at. In addition to not reading the bulk of the book (and at just a couple of hundred pages, I really am only making excuses), I was not able to attend book club, and let them know in person that I had barely cracked it open.

Awake in the World is a book of excerpts from talks given by the author, Buddhist and yogi Michael Stone. It’s a continuation of my exploration of the yogic arts, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, spirituality and the like. This was a nice, quick read, and I enjoyed the tone of this book for much. Some takeaways include the paradox of entering life fully while still existing in the realm of language and thought, the practice of yoga as it applies to living (not just practicing forms, and the inherent duality in the commonality of the Universe. Boom! (That is the sound of my mind being blown. Feel free to imagine doing the outstretched hands beside my head as well).

I purchased Yamas & Niyamas to read at a later time, or to study over the course of my yoga practice.

Both of Godin’s books also touched on faith or religion in one form or another. I had remembered reading The Icarus Deception a few years ago. As a matter of fact, it was one book I commonly cited as inspirational to my planning back then, before the “incident.” (The incident, which at some point I’m sure I will be comfortable enough to describe in detail in a post, or several, was round about a year and a half ago. I’m still seeing the effects of that incident, and the choices I made following. It’s one of the reasons I dedicated myself to keeping this blog.)

Going back to Godin, Icarus is a book I would suggest to everyone, but especially those who are artists, or creatives; those who feel stuck at work, or capable of doing great things yet don’t know where to start; and those who are searching for their purpose. I sat there with about twenty new projects popping to my head, and I just wish I had the time and resources to go after them all right now. Tribes I had also read before, but didn’t remember it until I was a few chapters in. For me, not as resonant as Icarus, and yet still bursting with anecdotes and suggestions for being a leader.

Two other nonfiction books were Churchill & Orwell, and Field Guide to Lies. I finished the latter but not the former, though I enjoyed both in what I did read. I really only got through pre-WWII information in Ricks’s book. The two men lived extraordinary lives, and I was particularly taken by the section on Churchill’s love life, such as it was.

In Lies, it’s a lot of information. Basically, unless you know the source of statistical data, you should probably be dubious of what you’re told anecdotally or by the media.

Additionally, I’ve had a feeling of Halloween nearly this entire month. Part of that is owing to It, which I decided to read prior to the film coming out. At over a thousand pages in its paperback version, I had my work cut out for me. I made it halfway this month, and intend to finish it off for next month.

Full Wolf Moon was an odd little read, but I enjoyed the suspenseful nature of it. I’ve had a love affair with lycanthropy since I was a young boy. (I believe all young boys like werewolves, or like to be scared of werewolves. That’s normal, right?) Yet, and not to give away much, the villain wasn’t quite what I anticipated, and the supernatural elements left me equally unfulfilled. It seemed to me to be a right-brainer’s werewolf book.

Feeling in the spirit of a pagan holiday nearly two months away, I picked up copies of Call of Cthulu and Meddling Kids. Hell, even Hamlet has a ghost! I picked up this copy because it was an Arden printing, and on sale.

Let me mention Edgar Cantero, who I discovered several years ago with The Supernatural Enhancements. I enjoyed the book, loved the premise, the style, and the writing. I had been out from work for a week with a flare-up of arthritis, and started reading it. I finished it within a day or two. When I learned that he had a new work coming out, this one a loose take on Scooby-Doo, well, yeah, I had to get that. Hoping to read it over the next few weeks, as I’m giving It my full-ish attention.

Winter Journey and On Writing (King again) are books that I’ll read over the coming months, interspersed within my other endeavors. For those of you unfamiliar with Schubert’s Winterreise, and if you like male operatic singing, give it a listen. It’s lonely, sad, and evokes the seasonal isolation of snowy winter. Nothing like sunny Florida.

Then there’s Once and Future King, a lovely edition in yellow that is added to my book shelf more for aesthetic than reading. Somewhere I have a beat-up paperback of the book, along with a similarly ragged copy of The Book of Merlyn.

In spare time (hah!) I was able to knock out a couple short stories. Neil Gaiman remains generally my favorite author, and I had purchased his Humble Bundle a few years back as well, and still had some unread works in there. Honestly, I haven’t finished View from the Cheap Seats or even started Norse Mythology. So, that’s in my pile of books waiting for me to show them love and affection.

I found a journal entry, maybe from early last year, where I wrote, “…why I buy books. I seem to buy them to avoid reading what I have.” Then I come across this little gem in Ten Years in the Tub: “[So Many Books author Gabriel] Zaid’s finest moment, however, comes in his second paragraph, when he says that ‘the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.'”

As I think about my growing library, and how long I’ll continue collecting thoughts about what I’ve read, I look forward to knowing that I could spend a small fortune on books. Or, maybe I’m just resigned to the fact. Time to get another bookshelf.

The Books of Summer

July 2017

Books Bought:

  • Jack of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
  • The Game of Life and How to Play It – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • Your Word is Your Wand – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • The Secret Door to Success – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • The Power of the Spoken Word – Florence Scovel Shinn
  • Arguably – Christopher Hitchens
  • American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt – John Beckman
  • The Beauty of Humanity Movement – Camilla Gibb
  • I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President – Josh Lieb
  • Absolutely on Music – Haruki Murakami w/Seiji Ozawa
  • How to Be Like Walt – Pat Williams w/ Jim Denney

Books Read:

  • Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better – Pena Chödrön
  • Ethics – Baruch Spinoza
  • Lone Wolf and Cub, American TPB Vol 15 – Kazuo Koine & Goseki Kojima
  • Schopenhauer – Michael Tanner
  • Jack of Shadows – Roger Zelazny
  • Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville (unfinished…barely started)
  • Annie Get Your Gun – Book by Herbert & Dorothy Fields, Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
  • Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby (Feb ’04 – Jul ’04)
  • Glengarry Glen Ross – David Mamet

Truth be told, I see this list and I feel it’s misleading. For starters, it really seemed to me that I didn’t read much this month. But that list looks to me like I did. Still, Ten Years and Democracy in America lay unfinished. Schopenhauer and Fail were both small books, and Ethics I read, but didn’t fully understand it. That one may need another read.

And, perhaps I went on a bit of spending spree this month. At least that is what it looks like in the bought section. However, I purchased an ebook containing the four works of Florence Shovel Shinn, who I believe to be a sort of early 20th century mystic, or metaphysics practitioner. She was referenced and credited in Tosha Silver’s book Outrageous Openness, and I decided to give The Game of Life a read, when I can get around to it. The whole shebang was $1.99.

I also have a habit of shopping at the Dollar Tree. This started nearly two years ago, my first time attempting The Artist’s Way program, Julia Cameron’s brainchild on creative reinvigoration. It recommended, as a type of “artist date”, or creative activity to do with, by, & for yourself, that shopping at a dollar store and picking up things that could feed your inner child (or artist) would be beneficial. I like picking through the humble book racks. Over that time, I’ve purchased collected essays of David Foster Wallace; a book on Erasmus; a Vampire Hunter D novella, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano; and most recently, the following: American Fun, The Beauty of Humanity Movement, and I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil. All for $1! (Each.)

Arguably, Absolutely on Music, and How to be Like Walt, all full price. Though, I do get a discount for being a member at the bookstore.  I’ve been interested in Hitchens for a while, but haven’t read anything of his yet. Similar with Murakami.

Zelazny was also an ebook purchase, on sale at Amazon. I’m always amazed at the circuitous routes my reading habits take, and when I first read something by this author, I had to have barely been a teenager. It was on a trip to Tennessee, and my mom stopped at an outlet store shopping center, somewhere in Georgia I would think. I loved books, there was a used book store, and my mother was both supportive of my reading habit as well as being generally doting.

I spotted A Night in the Lonesome October among the stacks of discounted books. A hardback, the dust cover adorned with who I assumed Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and his monster, the Wolfman, and a rogue’s gallery of other characters. This particular hardback was illustrated by Gahan Wilson (who I later learned was a frequent contributor to Playboy, his comics being equal parts humorous and frightening). I still have the book, and will read it every two to three years at Halloween.

Neverwhere was my introduction to the work of Neil Gaiman, who quickly became my favorite author. Missing out the on the Sandman comic series until much later (I was given the first two volumes of Annotated Sandman, and quickly delved in a few years ago), I found great joy in Gaiman’s prose style. The second book of his I purchased was Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions. The author provides short explanations of each of the stories, including his comments on Only the End of the World Again: “This story came from a number of things coming together… One of them was the late Roger Zelazny’s book A Night in the Lonesome October, which has tremendous fun with the various stock characters of horror and fantasy…”

In Jack of Shadows, we follow the plight of a powerful entity, whose death, rebirth and subsequent search for vengeance is mostly fun. It was a little slow to get into, but once the resurrected Jack is first imprisoned, it begins to feel like a universe created by Zelazny, where possibility and danger are the usual mise en scène. It also hints of political intrigue, and I believe this to be more social commentary than Lonesome October.

As for the others. First of all, thank God for Pena Chödrön’s book. It isn’t that my reading  selections were unreasonably cumbersome. Though, Tocqueville is a whopping seven hundred pages, and I’m barely past the editor’s preface and author’s introduction. To wit, Spinoza’s book isn’t really large either, but the language carries weight that requires more time and attention. Chödrön just happened to be very readable. And pretty small.

Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better is taken from a commencement speech given in CO, and the ensuing interview that was a result. I’ve studied Buddhism for much of my life, in my exploration of theology and philosophy, particularly Eastern practices. Reading of the resiliency of human spirit, the way we can pick ourselves up after failure, is to Chödrön’s credit. She communicates her message of failing in magnificent ways, and I as a reader felt better about failing, as I have in both my recent and distant past.

Tanner’s rundown on Schopenhauer is also small, but at barely sixty pages it still turned into a three-day read. Mind you, the first two weeks of the month I had some difficulty in sitting down to get into anything, and was frequently distracted, fidgety, or just interested in other occupations. C-SPAN, for one. (Take that at face value, please.)

Again, I have a love affair with philosophical works, and should have gone into more heady practices than working with NASCAR, or fundraising for nonprofits. Not that either of those, or the numerous other jobs I’ve worked, can’t be rewarding or wonderful. But I like thinking about things that don’t have a clear answer.

Tanner didn’t really seem to like Schopenhauer all that much. The author was Lecturer in Philosophy at Cambridge until 1997, and was educated in the Royal Air Force. I’m apt to take him at his word, but I don’t have much of an opinion on the philosopher as a person. His concepts on art are well appreciated, especially by music enthusiasts. I’ll likely delve into more serious research on Schopenhauer in the future.

B.S. Baruch Spinoza. In the reading, I stumbled more than once. I wrote on one page of my journal as I was note taking: “Spinoza is full of shit.” Now, he may or may not be correct in any of his assumptions, but I was having serious difficulty reconciling the flow of his logical arguments. (Love philosophy. Just keep telling myself that I love philosophy.)

I did make some headway with Mr. Spinoza through, and I’ve turned from complete detractor of process to more of a curious doubter. I’m hoping to read through some of his correspondence over the coming months, to try and get a clearer picture of what he was talking about.

The rest was mostly aperitif. Lone Wolf is a comic series that I’ve yet to read in its entirety. I have the collect trade paperbacks, all 28 of them. I’m halfway through. Those unfamiliar with Kazure Okami, I highly recommend it. A wandering ronin traveling with his son; former executioner to the Shogun, and betrayed by the Yagyu clan. Now he seeks his revenge, while working an assassin in feudal Japan.


Mamet’s Glengarry is intensely fun, and the book came in the audio form, from a production done at L.A. Theatre Works. It included such voice talents as Richard Dreyfuss, Richard Schiff, and Joe Mantegna.

Additionally, I sat down to do a read through of Annie Get Your Gun, because I’ll be performing in the show in September. It’ll be my first time on stage in nearly a year, so I’m looking forward to it. This is a musical based on the early romantic endeavors of famous gunslinger Annie Oakley and her to-be husband Frank Butler. I did some early research, to discover that after Oakley died, Butler stopped eating, and joined his wife eighteen days later. How about that?

Expecting a less impressive month for the next post. I’ll be working out of town a lot, and may not have time to read all that I want to. A shame, too, because I’m sure to rack up late fees at the library.





Why I write

I was cleaning out some drawers today, and found an old note, possibly ten or twelve years old. It made me laugh.

It said: "I’m struggling to write. I’m searching for inspiration in an automobile drive. ’91 Lincoln Town Car around Chicago. Lights, towering buildings."

Not sure what my Town Car had to do with Chicago, because I don't recall ever driving it there. But, it's possible. There were some crazy weekends back then.

The thing that stuck out was the struggling to write. I don't recall ever wanting to be a writer. But I liked writing. Always. I used to write poetry, and stories. I have numerous scripts and longer stories, started or abandoned. Ideas always popped up, but I never took them to fruition.

I was actually taking all these old papers out of the drawer and getting them on my cloud in a document called Collected Junk Writings.

But, in a way, this blog is the creative interpretation of my enjoyment of writing. Things I think about I get down in a post, I leave it up for whoever happens across it, and I'm honing an activity that I like doing.

I'm passionate about so few things right now, in this awkward between state that I'm in. Now I'm looking for a job, having quit my other one. I'm thinking about whether I want to stay in Central Florida or move away. About whether to try and start a Ph.D. program next fall, or wait another year.

All these things rattle on in my head, and still I give this blog weekly attention. Now, it's three posts a week, and I'm ahead (for the most part) by about a week. Which means I'm writing this on Tuesday, and you may not see it until next Friday.

I'm sure that when life comes crashing in, and the Universe points me in that direction, I'll not be so ahead on my blog. I'll probably be scrambling for deadlines.

51YdazcA5yL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_I love the bit in Terry Pratchett's A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction, where he describes what he calls "A bit of writing about writing."

"Get up, have breakfast, switch on word processor, stare at screen.
Stare at screen some more."

This staring at screen, plus elements of procrastination come in for about the next thirty paragraphs. Finally: "Midnight…"

"Stare at screen. Vaguely aware right hand has hit keys to open new file. Start breathing very slowly. Write 1,943 words. Bed. For a day there, thought we weren't going to make it."

This is my blog. I write I because I like it. It's not an exceptional blog, and it's not terrible. But it's mine, and I get to share with you, the reader.

Call me nostalgic

We’re reducing the tactile sensations of our world to nothing more than keyboard and screen interactions. Consider:

Music early on was heavy; weighty. You picked up the albums and loaded them into gramophones, into record players. You lowered a needle. You would wipe the needle down, and the record off, lest you get the bumps and whine of interference. Perhaps you could listen for thirty minutes, then it was either flip to the B side, or repeat Side A. Then came the cassette, with it’s unique little flip-case. Crack, pop. Crack, pop. Unique sounds and feelings of taking a tape out, inserting it into a tape deck. 

CDs digitized the whole system, and suddenly sound quality changed drastically. Still, you had these CD cases, or maybe you put them in sleeves. You could bring a whole disocragphy with you, if you were so inclined. And then it went further digital with the advent of the digital music player, and multiple discographies were available in something the size of a cassette. 

Similarly books, whose only transitions have been to audio, and then to digital. It seems a bit harder to invent new ways to read rather than listen to music. 

Video also is all stored on the web now, and is available to watch or download at the click of the button. What started as the tactile sensation of adjusting rabbit ear antennae so that the signal would come in clear, then became inserting beta or VHS; laser disc; DVD; HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Now streaming. 

I think that’s why there’s a return to older sensibilities. Record players becoming en vogue again. Letter writing and stationary. Long has it been said that digital books would kill the print copy, yet even booksellers seem to be feeling the resurgence. We are beings that like touching things, and when too much exists in cyberspace, we just don’t know what to do with our idle hands. 

On the reading bug

Started reading a book (the intro really, plus a few entries) that I had purchased a few weeks ago. Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub: A decade soaking in great books. First, I love books. The idea of what Hornby did for The Believer, where each month he would just talk about the books he read and ones he bought, was entirely captivating to me.

So, this being the first entry of the month, I’d like to take a cue from Nick Hornby:

June 2017

Books Bought:

  • The Republic – Plato
  • Atlantis: The Eighth Continent – Charles Berlitz
  • Designing Your Life – Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
  • Conversational Spanish in 20 Lessons – Cortina Method
  • Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Thinking: The New Art of Decision-Making  – Edited by John Brockman

Books Read:

  • Do the Work! – Steven Pressfield
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
  • Outrageous Openness – Tosha Silver
  • The Perdition Score – Richard Kadrey
  • Sept. ’03 – Jan. ’04 of Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby
  • Worth Dying For – Lee Child
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield (started)

What can I tell you about the books I’ve read? Or bought? Why do we do this? I found a beautiful passage in the intro to Ten Years in the Tub, written by Jess Walter:

“That the books we buy are almost as important as those  we read. From the beginning there were always two columns [referring to Hornby’s monthly article], Books Bought and Books Read. By my crude math, Nick spent somewhere around ten or fifteen grand on books he hasn’t even read. Besides showing that he did his part to support publishing during a tough economic period, this suggests something important about reading. Looking around my own obsessively crowded shelves, I see there are two categories of books I tend to keep: those I love and those I hope one day to read. If the books we read reflect the person we are, the books we hope to read might just be who we aspire to be. There is something profound in that.”

I checked out Do the Work! and Dirk Gently from the library. Both came precariously close to being returned unread, but something about each grabbed me and made me change course. The library and, by extension, book stores, are sort of a second home to me. And in this in-between period, where the old life I lived has fallen away and the new one is just breaking out of its cocoon, they function more as my first home than the place that houses my stuff.

Do the Work! walks us through the creative process, highlighting the role of resistance in creation. Now, I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. Have been since I first stumbled across The Icarus Deception, oh, three years ago. At that time I was creatively stifled, my professional and personal lives not working out the way that I had intended. He begged his readers to do the work, fight resistance, and ship! Yes! I can get on board with that.

Pressfield’s book does much the same, but not as effectively. I do feel inspired to do the work, yet I get stuck on syntax when he delves into his theory on the contradictory nature of the Universe’s role in Resistance/Assistance. I’ll likely come at this book again a year or two down the road, and see if I agree or disagree more with the sentiment. The War of Art has been on my reading list for a few years, so it was time to pull the trigger and buy it. I’m just starting it, and seeing the themes revisited from Do the Work!

Adams is always fun, and Dirk Gently’s was no exception. The thought and connectivity he puts into a book about interconnectivity gives enough laugh-out-loud moments that I found myself flying through it.

Atlantis and the course on Spanish weren’t bought, per se. Rather free books in a stack at the library. There’s a girl from Barcelona I wish I were better able to communicate with, though she speaks  English more fluidly than I do. Atlantis, eh. Always curious about the esoteric and metaphysical.

In The Perdition Score, I got to resist the character Sandman Slim, aka James Stark, as he moved up and down a supernatural Los Angeles, and back into Hell. I began reading Kadrey’s series last February, what is that, fourteen months ago? Since then, I’ve read eight and just committed to reading the ninth when I saw it in the bookstore. Perdition is probably the best of the series since Sandman Slim, but I’m a sucker for watching Stark get even when someone goes after his friends.

Another series that I just began last year but have managed to put a considerable dent in is the Jack Reacher collection, by Lee Child. Worth Dying For is well-plotted mystery, and I had trouble putting it down as well. I spent the better part of two days catching up with Mr. Reacher in a little Nebraska town run by some no-goods that were, par for the course, up to no good. It’s a satisfying read, and moves the story towards him heading back to Virginia, which they adapted for film in last year’s Never Go Back.

Tosha Silver and Iyengar’s books are part of my required reading for the yoga practice. I bought Light on Yoga from a Los Angeles Goodwill on Amazon, so it’ll arrive soon. It was like five bucks. Outrageous Openness we discussed at the yoga studio, and it seems to be of big help to those of us who have trouble letting go and trusting that Divine help will be coming.

My first experience with that concept was back in November, 2015, when I started Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I know some crazy things can happen, once you say okay and let the Universe/Divine/God/Source start working on you.

I made it though five whole books this month, with two solid starts, and a few dips into other assorted writings. I can’t guarantee that many, but there is that new Sandman Slim out there, as well as a Reacher novel someone loaned me. Plus, there’s a stack of library books on philosophy that need to be returned this month, so it may be more likely that I get a sit down with Spinoza and Kierkegaard.