When you finish a book and want to start another but you think the one you just finished deserves a moment of silence.
Illustration: Adara Sánchez Anguiano
When you finish a book and want to start another but you think the one you just finished deserves a moment of silence.
Illustration: Adara Sánchez Anguiano
“This is an uplifting story of one of those chance encounters that can radically change the course of someone’s life. Germain is a large and almost illiterate man in his fifties. He is unmarried and still lives with his mother with whom he has a fractious relationship. Margueritte is a tiny, elderly woman with a passion for the written word. There’s 40 years and 200 pounds’ difference between them and only one thing in common, a shared fondness for pigeons. When Germain happens to sit beside her on a park bench and Margueritte reads extracts from her novels to him, an unlikely and unexpected friendship develops. Under Margueritte’s tutelage, Germain discovers a love of literature and with it, a wisdom which confounds his friends at the bistro who have always treated him like an idiot. As Margueritte begins to lose her eyesight, Germain sees an opportunity to use his love for this sweet and mischievous grandma to improve both his own life and hers.”
Not always are love stories just made of love. Sometimes love is not named but it’s love just the same. This is not a typical love affair I met her on a bench in my local square. She made a little stir, tiny like a bird with her gentle feathers. She was surrounded by words, some as common as myself. She gave me books, two or three. Their pages have come alive for me. Don’t die now, you’ve still got time, just wait It’s not the hour, my little flower. Give me some more of you. More of the life in you.
If you have a passion for reading and books, you’ll enjoy this movie. A slow, gentle, feels-like-Disney-for-adults, fits-on-Sunday movie. French with English subtitles. Can be found on Amazon Instant Video for $2.99.
“Have you ever noticed the peculiar tendency you have to let praise pass through you, but to feel crushed by criticism? A thousand positive remarks can slip by unnoticed, but one “you suck” can linger in your head for days. One hypothesis as to why this and the backfire effect happen is that you spend much more time considering information you disagree with than you do information you accept. Information that lines up with what you already believe passes through the mind like a vapor, but when you come across something that threatens your beliefs, something that conflicts with your preconceived notions of how the world works, you seize up and take notice. Some psychologists speculate there is an evolutionary explanation. Your ancestors paid more attention and spent more time thinking about negative stimuli than positive because bad things required a response. Those who failed to address negative stimuli failed to keep breathing.”
- David McRaney
I’ve reached the half-way mark of Updike, a biography on John Updike written by Adam Begley. I pause to reflect on how I arrived here. “Here” being how did I come to be reading John Updike’s biography. Yes, it was Amazon’s Best Book of the Month for April, 2014. That helped, but that wasn’t it. It was that man in the photograph that is responsible. John VandeZande.
It was an undergraduate elective class titled “Good Books.” It was highly recommended by my senior jock buddies: “Just show up, read a few books and you’re done.” I signed up for the class. I sat in the back of the room. And hoped never to get called on.
He would assign Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Updike, in his biography, would describe them as “textual titans.” At the time, I would describe them as literary unknowns – – DK, a lover of Hardy Boys who then graduated to the genres of Jeffrey Archer (Kane & Abel), James Clavell (Shogun & Tai Pan) and Stephen King – – was being heaved up into the major leagues. I slumped further down in my chair at the back of the room.
He would break the awkwardness of the early classes by reading long passages from the assigned readings. He would sit on the edge of his desk. The book in his right hand. And then immerse himself in the passage. There were no pencils tapping. There was no shifting in chairs. We were gently transported with him on the journey.
He struck the match. And stoked the fire. And I went on a tear. First Hemingway with The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea. Then Faulkner with The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!. Followed by John Steinbeck with The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row and East of Eden. And then John Updike with Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux and Rabbit Is Rich. And to this day, my serial runs on “Textual Titans” continues. (In Begley’s biography of Updike, Updike explained that: “A real reader,” he explained, “reading to escape his own life thoroughly, tends to have runs on authors.” That had my head spinning.)
Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then — the glory — so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world. It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men.
~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden
“Pay attention to when the cart is getting before the horse. Notice when a painful initiation leads to irrational devotion, or when unsatisfying jobs start to seem worthwhile. Remind yourself pledges and promises have power, as do uniforms and parades. Remember in the absence of extrinsic rewards you will seek out or create intrinsic ones. Take into account [that] the higher the price you pay for your decisions the more you value them. See that ambivalence becomes certainty with time. Realize that lukewarm feelings become stronger once you commit to a group, club, or product. Be wary of the roles you play and the acts you put on, because you tend to fulfill the labels you accept. Above all, remember the more harm you cause, the more hate you feel. The more kindness you express, the more you come to love those you help.”
- David McRaney
Quote Source: Brainpickings – The Benjamin Franklin Effect: The Surprising Psychology of How to Handle Haters. Image from Amazon.
“My mother was always lavish with advice, little of it original…—“Count to 10 before you speak,” she frequently said, and she meant not just that you can’t take back what’s already been uttered. She meant that pauses are the spaces in which passions cool, civility gets its oxygen, and wisdom quite possibly finds its wings. She meant that slowing things down often classes them up….”
“What would she have made of the social media born long after she died? Of a world in which so many of us, entranced by the opportunity for instant expression and an immediate audience, post unformed thoughts, half-baked wit or splenetic reactions before we can even count to three?…I’m talking about a revved-up metabolism and roughened-up manners…That happens in part because the exchanges are disembodied: We don’t have to face whomever we’re lashing out at. But it’s also because they’re impulsive. Their timbre conforms to their tempo. Both are coarse…”
“Conversely, there was talk this year about the benefits of an activity that’s in some ways the antithesis of texting and tweeting with their rat-tat-tat rhythm. That activity is the reading of fiction. According to some researchers, people who settle into it are more empathetic — more attuned to what those around them think and feel — than people who don’t…” [Read more...]
It’s a big word for me.
I feel it everywhere.
Almost, but not quite.
~ Joan Bauer, “Almost Home”
Joan Bauer, 62, is an award-winning author of young adult literature. Before publishing her first book, Bauer worked for the Chicago Tribune, McGraw Hill books and WLS Radio.
“I had moved from journalism to screenwriting when one of the biggest challenges of my life occurred. I was in a serious auto accident which injured my neck and back severely and required neurosurgery. It was a long road back to wholeness, but during that time I wrote Squashed, my first young adult novel. The humor in that story kept me going. Over the years, I have come to understand how deeply I need to laugh. It’s like oxygen to me. My best times as a writer are when I’m working on a book and laughing while I’m writing. Then I know I’ve got something.”
“I remember it as October days are always remembered, cloudless, maple-flavored, the air gold and so clean it quivers.”
~ Leif Enger, Peace Like a River
“In 2002, Peace Like a River was a National Bestseller and hailed as one of the year’s top five novels by Time, and selected as one of the best books of the year by nearly all major newspapers.” If you haven’t read this wonderful book, it is worth your time. Find it here.
“Beauty is often treated as an essentially feminine subject, something trivial and frivolous that women are excessively concerned with. Men, meanwhile, are typically seen as having a straightforward and uncomplicated relationship with it: they are drawn to it. The implication is that this may be unfortunate—not exactly ideal morally—but it can’t be helped, because it’s natural, biological. This seems more than a little ironic. Women are not only subject to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny—they are also belittled for caring about their beauty, mocked for seeking to enhance or to hold onto their good looks, while men are just, well, being men.
The reality is, of course, far more complicated, as our best novelists show us. They train our gazes on men at not only their most shallow and status conscious but also at their most ridiculous (the clenched jaw). It’s not always easy to know what to make of these men, who certainly aren’t wholly bad. But in a world where women are so frequently judged by their looks, it’s refreshing to encounter male characters whose superficial thoughts are at least acknowledged by their creators.”
~ Adelle Waldman, in an excerpt from The New Yorker, “A First-Rate Girl”: The Problem of Female Beauty
“That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air… Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
— Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
By one my favorite authors from one of my favorite books, the Pulitzer Prize Winning Angle of Repose.
“I’ll read my books
and I’ll drink coffee
and I’ll listen to music,
and I’ll bolt the door.”
— J.D. Salinger, A Boy in France
The Saturday Evening Post, the nation’s oldest magazine, re-released in its July/August 2010 issue a rare J.D. Salinger short story, “A Boy in France,” first published in the magazine 65 years ago…The Post continues the magazine’s long history of publishing great fiction by re-releasing the story in memory of Salinger, the famously reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. Most of his earlier work, including the story in the July/August issue, has never been re-released. “J.D. Salinger’s ‘A Boy in France’ was originally published in The Post in 1945,” said SerVaas. “This evocative tale of a young solider struggling to maintain his sanity during the madness of war.” (Source: PRNewswire)
“Often when you take on the voice of a great writer, speak his or her words aloud, you are taking on the voice of inspiration, you are breathing their breath at the moment of their heightened feelings, that what all writers ultimately do is pass on their breath.”
I paused and reflected on the “great” writers that I have read. Marilynne Robinson immediately came to mind. She has the ability to transport me to another place and time – – writing with such grace, such beauty and such humanity. She’s won literary “hardware” for her three major novels.
Soon after I read Goldberg’s thoughts on great writers, I came this excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article shared at Lit Verve where the writer asks Robinson about Rev. John Ames, a congregational minister in Gilead, Iowa and the main character in her novel Gilead: [Read more...]
Open a book this minute and start reading.
Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty.
Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print.
Cover yourself with words.
Wash yourself away.
~ Carol Shields (The Republic of Love)
…In our haste to embrace a 24/7 lifestyle that makes increasing demands on our time, nocturnal hours once reserved for sociability, reflection and rest have been usurped. “What art thou good for … but only for love and fornication?” the character “Night” is asked in John Dryden’s comedy “Amphitryon” (1690). Today, not only is one-fifth of the labor force employed in shift work, but many day-to-day tasks (grocery shopping, for instance) are performed after dark. Silence and solitude fall prey to around-the-clock television and the allure of the Internet. Texting teenagers take their iPhones to bed. Burning the candle at both ends, we struggle to streamline sleep with the aid of plush pillows and prescription drugs and, in the process, impair our age-old ability to dream, a wellspring of ideas as inspiring as a starlit sky.
~A. Roger Ekirch, a review on Paul Bogard’s book titled The End of Night.
“…The prose in the last few pages of Ulysses is breathtakingly beautiful. Throughout Bloom’s day, we’ve been forced to see all the banal unattractive parts of life: boredom, hunger, despair, the need to go to the bathroom, broken trust, small-mindedness, unrealizable dreams, apathy, our own insignificance. Joyce gives us a lot of very good reasons to think that life is a pretty tiny and horrible thing. Of course, we read this and we think that our life isn’t going to be like Bloom’s. I mean, he’s one pathetic guy, our life will be infinitely better than Bloom’s. But, truth be told, we have no way of knowing what our life is going to be. It’s quite possible that one day we’ll find ourselves in Bloom’s shoes, in a marriage based more in fondness than in romantic love, in a place where most of our dreams are stretched out behind us rather than laid out in front of us. And for all that, Joyce is telling us: Do not despair. He’s telling us to say yes to life, to swallow it whole, to find happiness wherever we can…”
~ Sir John Richardson
Sir John Richardson, 89 year old art historian, set to receive the London Library’s Life in Literature award, one of his many honours, including a knighthood, accorded him for his multi-volume, still unfinished biography of Pablo Picasso. Volume One appeared in 1991, Volume Four is expected next year.
But NOT Biblioclast (Sacrilegious!), Biblioklept/Bibliolestes (Blasphemous!), Bibliopole (Rarely and with anxiety), Biblioriptos (No! Set them down gently, carefully, cautiously).
“Vladimir Nabokov was wont to fall into a reverie over nail clippings, bitten-off cuticles, tufts of lint plucked off a sleeve, bits of food picked from between the teeth and spat out. After disposing of these tiny scraps of human life, no one thinks of them any more. Since matter is neither created nor destroyed, what becomes of them? They go on existing, but in a realm beyond human concern. Nabokov called them the darlings of oblivion.
After nursing two of my children through week-long stomach viruses and then watching them bounce off to school this morning as if nothing had happened, I’ve been thinking about how much of human life consists of events that are also darlings of oblivion—the stomach cramps, the headaches, the sleepless nights, the full glasses of milk that are knocked over and spilled across the clean kitchen floors, the flat tires, the dead batteries, the traffic jams, the appointments that are late. Entire days can be lost to these events; they can be, at the time, as absorbing as tragedy; then, once they have passed, they are forgotten. How much of human life disappears into oblivion like this? These darlings almost never find their way into literature. And why is that?…”
~ D.G. Myers (Excerpt from May 9, 2013 post: Darlings of Oblivion)
From D. G. Myers blog: I am a faculty member in the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at the Ohio State University, I am the author of The Elephants Teach (Chicago, 2006) and coeditor (with Paul M. Hedeen) of Unrelenting Readers (Story Line, 2004). Educated in the public schools of Riverside, I earned my degrees from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where I founded the literary magazine Quarry (later Quarry West) with Raymond Carver; Washington University in St. Louis, where I wrote a masters thesis on Stanley Elkin under Stanley Elkin; and Northwestern University, where I held the TriQuarterlyFellowship and studied under Gerald Graff and Joseph Epstein. For twenty years I taught at Texas A&M University. Now I live in Columbus with my wife Naomi and our four children: Dov, Saul, Isaac, and Miriam (“Mimi”).
“During his most fertile years, from the late 1920s through the early ’40s, Faulkner worked at an astonishing pace, often completing three thousand words a day and occasionally twice that amount. (He once wrote to his mother that he had managed ten thousand words in one day, working between 10: 00 A.M. and midnight— a personal record.) ‘I write when the spirit moves me,’ Faulkner said, ‘and the spirit moves me every day.'”
~ Mason Currey on William Faulkner’s work ethic
William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897 – 1962), was an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Though his work was published as early as 1919, and largely during the 1920s and 1930s, Faulkner was relatively unknown until receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and his last novel The Reivers (1962), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century; also on the list were As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932).
As a schoolchild, Faulkner had much success early on. He excelled in the first grade, skipped the second, and continued doing well through the third and fourth grades. However, beginning somewhere in the fourth and fifth grades of his schooling, Faulkner became a much more quiet and withdrawn child. He began to play hooky occasionally and became somewhat indifferent to his schoolwork, even though he began to study the history of Mississippi on his own time in the seventh grade. The decline of his performance in school continued and Faulkner wound up repeating the eleventh, and then final grade, and never graduating from high school. (Source: Wiki)
I’m on the 6:22 am train to Grand Central.
One of few trips a month taking me back to Manhattan.
I drift away for a moment.
It has been six years.
Six years since I’ve changed Company. Changed routine. Changed my life.
Two hours a day of uninterrupted reading time.
To, near zero.
Churning through three books a week. 150 books a year.
To, near zero.
Lost. In a character. In a story. In another place. In another time. [Read more...]
Jessica Hagy’s new book was published this month. It is titled “How to Be Interesting. (In 10 Simple Steps).” The Lady is genius. Here are two examples:
And here’s the second:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
~ Dr. Seuss
Theodore Seuss Geisel was born today in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He attended Dartmouth College and Oxford. He was a perfectionist in his work and he would sometimes spend up to a year on a book. It was not uncommon for him to throw out 95% of his material until he settled on a theme for his book. Geisel’s first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times before it was finally published by Vanguard Press in 1937. The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957. Green Eggs and Ham in 1960. (Could it have been that long ago?) Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day.
Bryce Courtenay died yesterday. He was the author of one of my favorite books: The Power of One. The Guardian writes the following about Courtenay: He was born into poverty in South Africa and studied journalism in London. He started writing late in life after a 30-year career in advertising. He was known for his dedication to work and prolific output, often writing for 12 hours a day and usually producing one new book at year. This short < 1 minute clip was produced by Courtenay a few days ago before he died. Take a moment and watch…it is inspiring and moving.
And here are two of my favorite passages from “The Power of One“: [Read more...]
He’s Joe Queenan, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He started reading when he was 7 years old. Fifty-five years later, he has read 6,128 books. He “hopes to get through another 2,137 books before he dies.”
He often “reads dozens of books simultaneously.” “(He) starts a book in 1978 and finishes it 34 years later.”
He states that “a case can be made that people who read a preposterous number of books are not playing with a full deck. I prefer to think of us as dissatisfied customers. If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find ‘reality’ a bit of a disappointment.”
Thank you Maureen at Magnolia Beginnings for presenting me with The Booker Award. It’s a tall order to list my top 5 books of all time (so I’m giving you 11). And, I’ve excluded “self-help”, “business” and “autobiographies” from this list. Here we go:
My nominees for The Booker Award are listed below. If you choose to participate, the rules of the award are to: 1) Nominate 5-10 bloggers and let your recipients know. (2) Post The Booker Award picture. (3) Share your top 5 books of all time.
I’ve read books. Let’s say hundreds. Maybe more. (That’s not to brag, the point is coming.) Rather than focus on the wonderful books that I’ve read and the vast amounts of information, learning and pleasure that I’ve derived from this pastime, I spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on the less than 1% of the books that I haven’t finished. The incomplete. My inability to finish.
Resting firmly on top of this list is Ulysses by James Joyce. That’s the cover on the right. The book, the same hideous cover, has been sitting next to my desk for eight years. It stares me down. It torments me. Here come the low guttural whispers: Quitter. Not capable. Not good enough. Over your head. Farm boy. Loser! Public school project.
I happened to come across a recent article in Publishers Weekly titled “The Top 10 Most Difficult Books” and the festering sore opens wide again.
“…The “Difficult Books” series is devoted to identifying the hardest and most frustrating books ever written, as well as what made them so hard and frustrating…If you can somehow read all 10, you probably ascend to the being immediately above Homo sapiens…”
Here we go. Intelligentsia slapping me around again. You want to hit nerve – – hit me here. Hit me. Neanderthal man immediately surfaces.
“For every hundred words I write, I spend about thirty to sixty minutes of editing and rewriting.” Jeff Goins
In Jeff Goins’ book titled You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One), Goins shares his secret sauce on becoming a writer. And this message never seems to get old (for me):
Jeff Goins is an author, blogger, and speaker. In 2011, his blog, goinswriter.com, was voted as one of the “Top 10 Blogs on Writing” and his writing has been featured on some of the most popular blogs including Copyblogger, Problogger and Zen Habits.
My book summary:
From HBR Blog Network: For Those Who Want to Lead, Read. (DK: I believe all of this to be true.)
“…This is terrible for leadership, where trends are even more pronounced. Business people seem to be reading less — particularly material unrelated to business. But deep, broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders and can catalyze insight, innovation, empathy, and personal effectiveness.”
“…And history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.”
“…Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight…reading makes you smarter through “a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.” Reading…is one of the quickest ways to acquire and assimilate new information.” [Read more...]
There was no air conditioning, central, window or otherwise. There were no large, five-speed oscillating fans. The one 12-inch fan in the house, hummed like a diesel and was in the kitchen where it kept Mom cool while she was preparing our meal. Dinner included a cool cucumber soup, vareneki and peach pie – – cucumbers individually pulled off the vines in the garden and plump, ripe peaches picked from our fruit trees. The oven, running all afternoon, added to the oppressive heat in the house.
We had one TV, with one channel, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Hockey Night in Canada (Saturday Nights) was one of the few programs worthy of watching. And, in any event, watching TV during the day was taboo. We had one radio station, and it was country. (So no radio.) There was no internet. No Playstation. No iPhones, iTunes, iPods, iPads, iAnthing. No desktops or laptops. No Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks or Amazon. No Kindles, Nooks or Readers. The Public Library was miles away and I had never set my foot in it. We had a camera but that was off limits and of little interest. [Read more...]
Rule No. 1: Show and Tell.
Rule No. 2: Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration…you can’t force it. Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion…Your ideal subject should be like a stalker with limitless resources…
Rule No. 3: Write what you know…listen to your heart. Ask your heart, Is it true? And if it is, let it be. Once the lawyers sign off, you’re good to go…
Rule No. 4: Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences…
Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) “was an American journalist, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director and blogger. She was best known for her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle.” More than 800 celebrated her memorial at the Lincoln Center yesterday. R.I.P. Nora…
Earlier this month, I shared a post on Joan Didion’s essays titled “One runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.” One of my new blogger friends, Lori @ Donna & Diablo, mentioned in her response to my post that she planned to see Didion and was more excited about meeting her after reading the excerpts. I asked Lori if she wouldn’t mind sharing her thoughts about the meeting in a Guest Post. (I had never met a writer/author so I was looking to live the meeting-the-famous-author-moment vicariously through Lori’s post.) She graciously agreed. Lori also also mentioned that she didn’t know if it was good enough to post. I’ll let you make up your own minds. (Note to Me: If I could BANG LIKE on my own blog and keep BANG, BANG, BANGING LIKE, I would do so now…). Here’s Lori from Donna & Diablo on her meeting with Joan Didion…ENJOY!
Back in 2005, I read Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” after hearing much acclaim for the author and the book. I was underwhelmed and said so in my Amazon Review at the time. Yet, it rankled me that so many others were on the other side. (Why? Perhaps, I just missed what was readily understood by the intellectuals. Maybe you just didn’t get it Pal.)
Oh what delicious irony…the excerpts are “On Self-Respect.” (Excerpts on ‘On Self-Respect.’ Deepak Sharma would say ‘Nothing is a Coincidence.’)
The post left me shaking my head. (Sweet Jesus. I did miss something. Apparently I missed everything.)
On to the excerpts…
Ray Bradbury, 91, died on Tuesday. Bradbury, a celebrated fiction writer, is best known for Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles & The Illustrated Man. Brain Pickings had a terrific post on a speech he gave at a writer’s symposium. While his speech was directed to writers, there is an important message here for all of us. A few choice excerpts:
…Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it…It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else…
…People are always saying “Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing?…You’re being warned…Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for”.
…I’ve never worked a day in my life…The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: “Am I being joyful?” And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.
Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012)
If you are interested in a personal perspective on Bradbury, check out Christian Fahey’s post at The Upside: Ray Bradbury: An Appreciation
Sendak, in his quote below, summarizes my operating philosophy.
I’m certainly not the most intelligent leader. (Thundering applause in the stadium from my team – – in complete agreement.)
And, not the best strategic operator. Or even possess average analytical skills compared to the crackerjacks I’m surrounded by. (Roof coming off stadium – Team giddy in agreement.)
However. However, as to “fierce honesty” – FIERCE HONESTY, there’s no doubting the boss on his proclamation of competence in this area. (You can now hear a pin drop. With murmurs and grumbling oozing out of the rafters.)
Don’t let your team down.
Don’t let your team members get unfairly punished.
Don’t let your team “be dealt with a boring, simpering, crushing-of-the-spirit kind of way.”
In other words, L-E-A-D.
The Wall Street Journal: Photo-Op: Color Field:
“Everybody dreams of soaring like an eagle, but few consider that they probably wouldn’t be alone in the sky. The 200 photographs in John Downer’s ‘EarthFlight‘ offer the exultant wing-to-wing camaraderie enjoyed otherwise only by fighter pilots and birds themselves, juxtaposing graceful avians aloft and stunning landscapes beneath. To infiltrate the flocks, Downer and his team used…hang gliders, ultralight aircraft and the ‘vulturecam,’ a miniature remote-controlled plane disguised as a bird. Even more unusual were the tiny cameras they mounted on the backs of trained birds, such as a bald eagle that banked and wheeled above the Grand Canyon…Six continents and all four seasons are represented: A squadron of barnacle geese cross wintry fields on the south coast of Sweden, the pale shading of their feathers mirroring the snow cover below; a common crane (above) surveys the bright stripes of a Dutch tulip farm in the spring…(and) Hovering over the roofs of Rome, a cloud of starlings forms a dark calligraphic blob like something from a painting by Miró—a startling reminder that birds are always there, whether we notice them from the ground or not.”
A friend (thanks GP) shared a Financial Times article titled “Reasons to Be Cheerful. Seriously.” The article struck a chord. I read another similar themed article called “Defying the Doomsayers” in a book review in the Wall Street Journal.
Turn on the TV or radio or read the newspaper and you have a deluge of darkness. Joblessness. Poverty. Politics. Iran. Afghanistan. Kony. Poaching. Extinction of endangered species. Deforestation of rainforests. Racism. Global Warming. Violent crime. Hazings. Gas Prices. Poor test results for U.S. high school students. Cheating on college entrance exams. Steroid use. Corruption. Terrorism. Medicinal commercials for depression, constipation, virility, hair loss, anxiety, ADD and on and on and on. Is it any wonder that we are the most fully medicated generation to have existed?
As the FT article states: “If it bleeds, it leads” (the news broadcasts). One might conclude from the media that we are three steps shy of Apocalypse.
Solution? Turn off the tele. Feed your mind a more constructive source of fuel. And as the WSJ article closes: “The best way to predict the future, is to create it yourself.”
Here’s some excerpts that share an inspiring alternative view of the world – more inspiring than you will see on your nightly news and cable broadcasts or your morning paper:
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
– Franz Kafka
How one goes from this morning’s post on Charlie Brown and Snoopy and being-grateful-for-everything-dancing-and-whooping-it-up in the morning – to this topic in the evening – should give you a sense of my day. And it should also give you a sense of what I was reading on my train ride home from work. Yes, I question my own judgment on my forms of stress relief. Nonetheless, I made a commitment to me that I would post what was on my mind. So, this post is related to the “LIVE” part of “LEAD, LEARN, LIVE.” LIVE in capital letters. LIVE Forever.
WTMI* Factoid 2:
I’m a MWMC. (That’s Man-With-Mortality-Complex). I’m sayin’ like anxiety attacks – cold sweat – darkness. Fear of not waking up. THE END.
Conversely, there are few (very few) bouts of light on the subject. The most recent light being tied to a Steve Jobs story. (See Post Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow.)
So, when I saw a pre-release version of Stephen Cave’s new book: Immortality-The Quest To Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization – I thought maybe…just maybe, I tripped into the Holy Grail.
You know the pitch. Face your fears head on – and only then do you grow. Or Dorothy Thompson: “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” [Read more...]
Prior to my iPad acquisition, I was a minimum one-book-a-week reader. Now that’s slumped to maybe 2 per month and the trendline “ain’t pretty.” And I am the type that MUST finish my book…no matter what. (There must be a personality disorder for needing to finish a horrible book…no matter what.) I now have a growing collection of DNFs (Did-Not-Finish) and a knot in my stomach. DNFs are also so much easier to hide and forget on your eReader. This New York Times article sums up my malady: Finding Your Book Interrupted … By the Tablet You Read It On. Here’s some choice excerpts:
“Can you concentrate on Flaubert when Facebook is only a swipe away, or give your true devotion to Mr. Darcy while Twitter beckons?”
“E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.”
“Some of the millions of consumers who have bought tablets and sampled e-books on apps have come away with a conclusion: It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus on reading…These apps beg you to review them all the time…” [Read more...]
Stedman Graham is the CEO of his own management, marketing and consulting firm. He is the author of ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers including You Can Make It Happen – A Nine-Step Plan For Success. “The nine-step plan is a life management system that teaches you how to organize your personal and professional life around your identity.” Yet, with all of his accomplishments, Graham may be best known for being Oprah Winfrey’s life partner.
The core premise of this book is “Your happiness and success in life flow from becoming clear about who you are and establishing your authentic identity – first inside yourself and then externally with the world…building your identity is about knowing what your calling is, learning how to do it well and creating value in the world.” Graham states that he feels “extraordinary people are simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things that matter to them. They relentless align all the elements of their life to support their pursuit of what has deep meaning to them.”
You can find my full book review titled “Chicken Soup for Your Identity” at this link on Amazon.
Here are two of my favorite excerpts from the book:
I first watched this video 2 weeks ago. I found it a bit weird. (OK, maybe a lot wierd.) A bit quirky. Yet, I couldn’t shake it from my mind. I went back once. Then twice. On to 4, 5, 6 times. Perhaps it was the cadence of her voice. Perhaps it was her accent. (Purely Canadian.) Should I share? Hmmmm. I’ll be the weird-non-manly man sharing his bizarre poetry video. I checked the number of views: 4.2 million and counting. (Wow!) So, I’m not alone. Runway is clear. OK for me to share. Tanya Davis – BRAVO!
If you are at first lonely, be patient.
If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.
“The nectar that nurtured me turned me to poison.”
“Then what did you do?”
“What can one do in such circumstances? Accept it and go on. Please always remember that the secret of survival is to embrace change, and to adapt. To quote: ‘All things fall and are built again, and those that build them are gay.’”
“Yeats?” guessed Maneck.
The proofreader nodded, “You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.” He paused, considered what he had just said. “Yes,” he repeated. “In the end, it’s all a question of balance.”
~ Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
I’ve been wading (slowly) through this book. The core principles in Chapter Four (“Leading People Talent to Teams”) keep returning to my consciousness long since I’ve blown threw this chapter. Why? Why does it keep drifting back to needle me? Where does the time go in my day? What takes me away from my focus on my top performers? Why haven’t I spent more time building my bench? As they say, you can pay now or pay later. This book is getting under my skin and moving up the rating scale. Here’s a few excerpts from Chapter 4 of John Hamm’s book titled: Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required For the Practice of Great Leadership).
“No man can be happy, efficient, creative at his work when he is unhappy with his situation and lives for another day. All of us are too prone to postpone our living until some nebulous time when “our ship will come in.” Nothing is so apt to inject dissatisfaction into our lives as this wasteful attitude toward the most perishable of all things we know – time. Today, this very day, is the most important time of all, for what we do today determines what we will be tomorrow. Therefore turn all your attention to your labors of the moment, absorb yourself, take your satisfactions from each thing you do, however humble in your mind. Nothing is small or petty in this life. The massive door of a vault swings on the apex of a tiny jewel, and men have become great through learning how to do well the lowliest of jobs.
- U.S. Anderson, Three Magic Words
Related U.S. Andersen Posts:
“…Trust the power of allowing others to know you. Even though it can seem scary, and it requires the willingness to be vulnerable, it is the key to influence. The real you – no imitations and role playing – is what people want to know, and the real you is the person to whom they will commit…”
I had a series of separate meetings with professionals over a period of two days. (Including representation from our firm and two third-party firms.) All individuals conducted themselves professionally and exuded competence in their respective subject matter areas. Yet, after having some time to reflect on these meetings, two Leaders stood out. Two Leaders seemed to make the meeting come alive. They had executive presence. They had energy. They are fair but tough and resolute. They have fervent employee followership. (One not having a single regrettable employee resignation on the team in memory.)
However, that wasn’t the secret sauce.
THEY WERE AUTHENTIC…and AUTHENTIC LEADERS WIN. They were passionate about their vision. They have developed a reputation for execution and being in the trenches with their teams. They conduct themselves with humility. They share their anxieties and missteps. They have developed strong relationships with their teams at all levels. They don’t shade, color or hide from the truth.
So, when I finished the chapter on Authenticity in the new book I’m reading, I wasn’t surprised to find these two Leaders possessing the profile of “Unusually Excellent” Leaders. The book is authored by John Hamm and titled: Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required For the Practice of Great Leadership). Here’s a few excerpts from the chapter: