It could not even see or hear. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world

snail-elizabeth-tova-bailey

I finished this book a month ago and it hasn’t left my consciousness. Who would have thought a book about a snail would have so captured my attention, and held it for so long.  Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal…told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.”

And here’s a few memorable passages:

“…I observed without thinking, looking into the terrarium simply to feel connected to another creature; another life was being lived just a few inches away.”

“By day, the strangeness of my situation was sharpest: I was bed-bound at a time when my friends and peers were moving forward in their careers and raising families. Yet the snail’s daytime sleeping habits gave me a fresh perspective; I was not the only one resting away the days. The snail naturally slept by day, even on the sunniest of afternoons. Its companionship was a comfort to me and buffered my feelings of uselessness.”

“…my snail could not see the moss over which it glided or even the plants it climbed. It could not see the trees, nor the stars overhead. It could not hear birdsong at daybreak, nor the midnight howls of coyotes. It could not even see or hear its own kin, let alone a predator. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world.” [Read more…]

Is there any other way?

why-poetry

Excerpts from A Few Questions for Poetry by Daniel Halpern:

Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? […]

A question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”

Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. […]

[Read more…]

pop a beautiful sentence in my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop

lemon-drop-candy

My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence in my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.

Bohumil HrabalToo Loud a Solitude

 


Photo: forkandbeans.com via mouthwateringvegan

He is running, running, running

spill-simmer-falter-wither-book-jacket

He is running, running, running. And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoof-rucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down dead. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock. This time, there’s no chance for sniff and scavenge and scoff. There are no steel bars to end his lap, no chain to jerk at the limit of its extension, no bellowing to trick and bully him back. This time, he’s further than he’s ever seen before, past every marker along the horizon line, every hump and spork he learned by heart. […]

He is running, running, running. And there’s no course or current to deter him. There’s no impulse from the root of his brain to the roof of his skull which says other than RUN.

~ Sara Baume, from the Prologue of Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)


Ray, a 57-year-old loner on Britain’s southern coast, adopts a one-eyed terrier. You can guess what happens next: Ray falls head over heels in love and is soon organizing his life around One Eye’s walks and feedings…Ray falls deeper under the spell of the damaged but joy-filled dog who has transformed his “squat, vacant life” and renewed his interest in his surroundings…This lovely book seems destined to become a small classic of animal communion literature, fervently handed along among friends and family…Early on, Ray asks himself a question that anyone whose life has been changed by a pet will recognize: “What did I use to do all day without you? Already I can’t remember.”

~ Sam Sacks, from his book review of Spill Simmer Falter Wither


One of NPR’s Best Books of 2016.  See NPR book review: For A Young Irish Artist And Author, Words Are Anchored In Images

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

bryan-cranston-a-life-in-parts

But it’s not odd to me. Actors are storytellers. And storytelling is the essential human art. It’s how we understand who we are. I don’t mean to make it sound high-flown. It’s not. It’s discipline and repetition and failure and perseverance and dumb luck and blind faith and devotion. It’s showing up when you don’t feel like it, when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t go on. Transcendent moments come when you’ve laid the groundwork and you’re open to the moment. They happen when you do the work. In the end, it’s about the work.

~ Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts


Related Post: Bryan Cranston – Breaking Good

Truth

books-reading-read

There’s only one thing, one constant thing that I believe keeps me moving closer to my goals, and keeps me fixed on what I want to do. It’s got nothing to do with being close to the universe or attracting things to me with positive energy.

My secret weapon is that I read.

Running a business, being a writer, living a full life — these things depend on the knowledge that we can gain and use. What we call following our gut, is really us being subconsciously guided by every piece of information we’ve ever consumed, shaping our instincts and ideas and forming us.

I read constantly, throughout every single day. I read obsessively, consuming new books and revisiting old at an alarming rate…I read books on my iPhone when I’m on the treadmill at the gym, every morning…I read books about business, and startups, and entrepreneurship …I read books about dragons and wizards and ancient spells, and I read books where there are worlds full of fantastic creatures and heroes, and I read books where there are sacrifices and victories and where good people mourn their lovers…I read books about musketeers, and lamp posts in the woods, and the dangerous business of going out your front door. I read books about boarding schools and battlefields and a bridge to Terabithia…I read about economic theory…I read new books, to find new characters and ideas, and old books because there’s always a detail I missed or a theme that I’ve forgotten, no matter how many times I’ve gone over them. […]

So here’s my advice. If you want to accomplish anything of value, challenge yourself to read…If you don’t read, you won’t gain the information and the insight and the inspiration that you need to make the right calls, at the right time. You won’t learn to see beyond the shit that you have to deal with, every day.

I think people want to believe that there’s a secret, to what I do. When they ask me for advice, it’s as if they think I’ve hidden away a key, that can unlock writing and business and make everything happen the way I want it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that my habit of reading is what’s made the difference in my life, and I think it’s incredibly important.

Make reading a good book a part of what you do. If you’re the busiest person on earth, just give yourself 15 minutes a day.

Jon Westenberg, excerpts from Here’s My Secret Weapon

 


Photo: Your Eyes Blaze Out

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Stalk it!

annie-dillard

We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – even of silence – by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting.

I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.

– Annie Dillard, Living Like Weasels


Notes:

Deep shame, maximum self-consciousness.

walk-through-walls-marina-abramovic

Deep shame, maximum self-consciousness. When I was young it was impossible for me to talk to people. Now I can stand in front of three thousand people without any notes, any preconception of what I’m going to say, even without visual material, and I can look at everyone in the audience and talk for two hours easily.

What happened?

Art happened.

When I was fourteen, I asked my father for a set of oil paints. He bought them for me, and also arranged for a painting lesson from an old partisan friend of his, an artist named Filo Filipović. Filipović, who was part of a group called Informel, painted what he called abstract landscapes. He arrived in my little studio carrying paints, canvas, and some other materials, and he gave me my first painting lesson.

He cut out a piece of canvas and put it on the floor. He opened a can of glue and threw the liquid on the canvas; he added a little bit of sand, some yellow pigment, some red pigment, and some black. Then he poured about half a liter of gasoline on it, lit a match, and everything exploded. “This is a sunset,” he told me. And then he left.

This made a big impression on me. I waited until the charred mess had dried, and then very carefully pinned it to the wall. Then my family and I left for vacation. When I came back, the August sun had dried everything up. The color was gone and the sand had fallen off. There was nothing left but a pile of ashes and sand on the floor. The sunset didn’t exist anymore.

Later on, I understood why this experience was so important. It taught me that the process was more important than the result, just as the performance means more to me than the object.

~ Marina Abramovic, Walk Through Walls: A Memoir (October 25, 2016)


Marina Abramović, 69, is a Serbian performance artist based in New York. Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. Active for over three decades, Abramović has been described as the “grandmother of performance art.” She pioneered a new notion of identity by bringing in the participation of observers, focusing on “confronting pain, blood, and physical limits of the body.” The passage above is from her recently recently memoir.

Over 30,000,000 viewers have watched her performance on this Youtube video: Don’t miss it here.


Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: Ove!

frederik-backman

Fredrik Backman got tepid responses when he sent out the manuscript for his debut novel, “A Man Called Ove.” Most publishers ignored him, and several turned it down. After a few months and a few more rejections, he began to think perhaps there wasn’t a market for a story about a cranky 59-year-old Swedish widower… “It was rejected by one publisher with the line, ‘We like your novel, we think your writing has potential, but we see no commercial potential,” said Mr. Backman, 35, who lives outside Stockholm with his wife and two children. “That note I kept.”

In hindsight, that critique seems wildly, comically off base. Four years later, “A Man Called Ove” has sold more than 2.8 million copies worldwide…Translation rights have sold in 38 languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Latvian, Thai and Japanese. Mr. Backman has gained a passionate fan base in South Korea, where the novel became a huge best-seller. “No one really knows why,” Mr. Backman said in a recent telephone interview. “Not even the Korean publisher understands what the hell is going on.”

In the United States, “Ove” got off to a slow start. For months, it sold steadily but in modest numbers. Then sales surged. It landed on the best-seller list 18 months after it was first published and has remained there for 42 weeks. Demand has been so unrelenting that Atria Books has reprinted the novel 40 times and now has more than a million copies in print. […]

A college dropout, he once worked as a forklift driver at a food warehouse, taking night and weekend shifts so that he could write during the day…Mr. Backman said. “I’m not very socially competent. I’m not great at talking to people. My wife tends to say, your volume is always at 1 or 11, never in between.”

Mr. Backman started writing blog posts for Cafe about his own pet peeves and outbursts, under the heading, “I Am a Man Called Ove.”  Mr. Backman realized that he had the blueprint for a compelling fictional character, and the novel began to take shape. “There’s a lot of me in him,” he said of Ove. “When we get angry, it’s about a principle, and we get angry because people don’t understand why we’re angry.” […]

Mr. Backman still hasn’t adjusted to the life of a famous author.  “Everyone keeps telling you how great you are and what a great writer you are, and they want selfies, and that’s not healthy, because you start liking that,” he said. “You still have to write like you’re writing for 20 people, or you’re going to freak out.”

~ Alexandra Alter, The Man Behind ‘A Man Called Ove’ 


Notes:

 

My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive

mary-oliver-upstream

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist. […]

It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Of Power and Time” in Upstream, Selected Essays (Penguin Press, October 2016)


Notes:

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