Posts with tag: books/reading/writing

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“I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, The Liars’ Club. Not just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular, but by its totality—she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years.”

—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I found a copy of this book at The Dusty Bookshelf here in Lawrence, KS today. It’s reputation proceeds it but I would have purchased it on the strength of the epigram alone.

“When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”

—An old Jew of Galicia
The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz, 1953

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It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the real­ization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Their bread, their work, their private lives began to depend on this or that decision in disputes on principles to which, until then, they had never paid any attention. In their eyes, the philosopher had always been a sort of dreamer whose divagations had no effect on real­ity. The average human being, even if he had once been exposed to it, wrote philosophy off as utterly impractical and useless. Therefore the great intellec­tual work of the Marxists could easily pass as just one more variation on a sterile pastime. Only a few in­dividuals understood the causes and probable conse­quences of this general indifference.

—Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind, 1953

Always be Reading

Boy reading in bombed bookstore. London, 1940.
Boy reading in bombed bookstore. London, 1940.

What would stop you from reading?


The Long Room Of The Old Library At Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
Photo by Jonathan Singer.

On the reading page for Terrible Ideas, the Currently Reading section now contains 9 books. The list doesn’t contain any books that I want to give up on, so it’s time to get moving.

The On Deck section, on the other hand, is completely ridiculous. I’m going to have to do some revising and reconsidering there. There are forty books “on deck” and for some of them, I should consider adding a “wishful thinking” section. There are also quite a few unlisted recent acquisitions that are trying to push for the top of that list. It’s time for a little planning and purging.

There’s definitely going to be more poetry read. Poetry increases strength and builds muscles.

What are the books on your list for 2021?


First Paragraph:

It was one of the mixed blocks over on Central Avenue, the blocks that are not yet all Negro. I had just come out of a three-chair barber shop where an agency thought a relief barber named Dimitrios Aleidis might be working. It was a small matter. His wife said she was willing to spend a little money to have him come home.

I never found him, but Mrs. Aleidis never paid me any money either.

—Raymond Chandler. “Farewell, My Lovely.” 1940

Cover. Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury, 1962

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The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.”

—Ray Bradbury. “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” 1962

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It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

—Raymond Chandler. “The Big Sleep.” 1939

Today’s Arrival.

After a few random samples and the Dave Eggers* forward, I am really looking forward to digging into this one.

First Paragraph:

“I debated for a time as to whether I ought to open these memoirs at the beginning or at the end—that is, if I would start out with my birth or with my death. Granting that the common practice may be to begin with one’s birth, two considerations led me to adopt a different method: the first is that I am not exactly an author recently deceased, but a deceased man recently an author, for whom the tomb was another cradle; the second is that this would make the writing wittier and more novel. Moses, who also recounted his own death, did not put it at the commencement but at the finish: a radical difference between this book and the Pentateuch.”

—Machado De Assis. “The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas.” 1881

*Eggers is the founder of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, also both worth your time.


Madeleine L’Engle

Book Slipcase - The Wrinkle in Time Quartet
Madeleine L’Engle – The Wrinkle in Time Quartet

This month’s installment from the Library of America arrived today. The Wrinkle in Time Quartet (which I believe became a quintet before L’Engle passed.)

I haven’t read any of these, but maybe I can get Marilyn Jane to read A … the rest “Madeleine L’Engle”


Everybody

People in a public space.
Photo by Timon Studler.

Nine year old Nina is sharing a treat with Count Rostov at the Hotel Metropol, Moscow.

“So,” said the Count, “are you looking forward to your visit home?”

“Yes, it will be nice to see everyone,” said Nina. “But when

the rest “Everybody”

Cover photo, A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

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At half past six on the twenty-first of June 1922, when Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was escorted through the gates of the Kremlin onto Red Square, it was glorious and cool. Drawing his shoulders back without breaking stride, the Count inhaled the air like one fresh from a swim. The sky was the very blue that the cupolas of St. Basil’s had been painted for. Their pinks, greens, and golds shimmered as if it were the sole purpose of a religion to cheer its Divinity. Even the Bolshevik girls conversing before the windows of the State Department Store seemed dressed to celebrate the last days of spring.

—Amor Towles. “A Gentleman in Moscow.” 2016

Cartoon by The Gentleman’s Armchair.

The virtues and vices are all put in motion by interest.

—Francois de La Rochefoucauld

I blame my reading habit on a variety of the most insistent pushers and pimps.

New arrivals. From left to right, joy and laughter, literary gravitas, trepidation.


Forgot to check the mail yesterday, and this morning a nice surprise.

Break the Mirror: The Poems of Nanao Sakaki, 1986. I ordered another volume, Let’s Eat Stars, which will hopefully arrive on Monday. How to Live on the Planet Earth: Collected Poems is probably next.

The poems date from 1966 and they are translated into English by the author.

Some people like their books to be in pristine condition but I have become less picky over the years. There is an inscription in this book that puts a smile on my face.

“To Another World Citizen…”

—Chris Iverson, Clara Dugan, Shannon & Meghan

I posted the untitled first poem from this collection the other day. I repeat it again here.

If you have time to chatter
Read books
If you have time to read
Walk into mountain, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot

And a random selection:

Sharpening a Knife

Nanao, keep your knife clean
Nanao, keep your mind clean

Sea breeze is bad for a knife they say
Sea breeze is good for a m mind they say

Sea Breeze not bad for a knife
Sharpen your knife, that’s all

Sea breeze neither bad nor good
The ocean a whetstone for mind

A clean knife mind
A clean mind ocean
Nanao, sleep well tonight
Blossoming crinum lily as a shelter
The coral sand beach as a bed
The Southern Cross as a pillow.

—Iriomote, Japan, Under the Tropic of Cancer, February 1976

Line three of Sharpening a Knife is typed here as it appears in the print version but I suspect a possible editing mistake. Perhaps it should read “Sea breeze is good for the mind they say.”

By the way, I ordered this book from AbeBooks which I recommend if you are looking for something out of print.


An installment of my Library of America subscription arrived today. Melville. I should be able to rip through this in no-time.

Pierre, Israel Potter, The Piazza Tales, The Confidence-Man, Uncollected Prose, Billy Budd

Cover photo from American Harvest
American Harvest, Marie Mutsuki Mockett, 2020

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THIS IS THE LAND OF PRIMARY COLORS: red combine, blue sky, yellow wheat. Under the earth, pancaked layers of sediment conceal elusive minerals coveted by men, and the strewn, jigsaw bones of monsters awaiting reassembly. Untouched, the surface is a prairie, a tough lattice of grasses and shrubs that frame the darting meadowlarks and snakes who work together with the ants to survive dry days. There is little moisture, though winters can bring three feet of snow; rain will bring only half that. The Oglala Sioux, the Comanche, the Kiowa, and other Native Americans who once lived on this land by themselves hunted for buffalo and foraged for berries, nuts, and wild potatoes. But Europeans supplanted those potatoes for wheat. The buffalo have dwindled. The Indians who live here no longer predominate. Now the land is dotted with windmills and farms, though the coyotes still sing in the evening, and you can train your eyes to spot the thin caramel-colored frames of the antelope camouflaged by kicked-up dust smearing the spaces between the clusters of hardy yucca.”

—Marie Mutsuki Mockett. “American Harvest.”

Rabbit, Run book cover
Rabbit Run, John Updike, 1960

First Paragraph:

BOYS are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Legs, shouts. The scrape and snap of Keds on loose alley pebbles seems to catapult their voices high into the moist March air blue above the wires. Rabbit Angstrom, coming up the alley in a business suit, stops and watches, though he’s twenty-six and six three. So tall, he seems an unlikely rabbit, but the breadth of white face, the pallor of his blue irises, and a nervous flutter under his brief nose as he stabs a cigarette into his mouth partially explain the nickname, which was given to him when he too was a boy. He stands there thinking, the kids keep coming, they keep crowding you up.

—John Updike. “Rabbit, Run.”