Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The point was that we both understood how easy it is to let your life pass along, totally in book, unless you take a risk, disrupt the expected patterns, and try to make something human happen.

—  CJ Hauser, The Crane Wife: A Memoir in Essays (Doubleday, July 12, 2022)


Notes:

  • Highly recommended. And if you can, listen on Audible.
  • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: TIME, THE GUARDIAN, GARDEN & GUN
  • Guardian Book Review July 19, 2022: The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser review – frank and funny essays on doomed romances.

Lightly Child, Lightly.

A year never passes without me thinking of them. India. Erica. Their names are stitched inside every white coat I have ever worn. I tell this story to stitch their names inside your clothes, too. A reminder to never forget. Medicine has taught me, really taught me, to accept the things I cannot change. A difficult-to-swallow serenity prayer. I’m not trying to change the past. I’m telling it in order to lay these ghosts to rest.

You paint feverishly, like Mama. Yet you got the steadfastness of Daddy. Your talents surely defy the notion of a gene pool. I watch you now, home from college, that time after graduation when y’all young people either find your way or slide down the slope of uncertainty. You’re sitting on the porch nuzzling the dog, a gray mutt of a pit bull who was once sent to die after snapping at a man’s face. In the six years we’ve had him, he has been more skittish than fierce, as if aware that one wrong look will spell his doom. What I now know is that kind of certainty, dire as it may be, is a gift.

The dog groans as you seek the right place to scratch. I wish someone would scratch me like that. Such exhaustion in my bones. I will be sixty-seven this year, but it is time. I’m ready to work in my yard, feel the damp earth between my fingers, sit with my memories like one of those long-tailed magpies whose wings don’t flap like they used to. These days, I wake up and want to roll right over and go back to sleep for another hour. Yes, it is time.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez, opening lines to “Take My Hand” (Berkley, April 12, 2022) 


Notes:

  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

There is something about churning through books that induces envy and even admiration, never more than at this time of year when piles of finished tomes are splashed across social media. Bragging rights seem to go to those who have read lots of books and read them quickly – how many times have you seen someone boast about finishing 10 books in a year? What about five?

But there is power in reading slowly, something the Chinese-American author Yiyun Li tells her creative writing students at Princeton University. “They say, ‘I can read 100 pages an hour’,” she says. “But I say, ‘I don’t want you to read 100 pages an hour. I want you to read three pages an hour’.”

That’s the speed Li is happy to read at, even if she is re-reading a familiar text. “People often say they devoured a book in one sitting. But I want to savour a book, which means I give myself just 10 pages a day of any book.” On an average day, Li, best known for her novels A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and Where Reasons End, reads 10 different books, spending half an hour on each title.

At that pace it can take Li up to three weeks to finish a novel. “When you spend two to three weeks with a book, you live in that world,” she says. “I think reading slowly is such an important skill. Nobody has ever talked about it, or taught me that. I’m a very patient reader. Even if it’s a very compelling book. I don’t want to rush from the beginning to the end.”

Elizabeth Strout, the Booker-shortlisted author of Olive Kitteridge and the Lucy Barton books, is also taking books at a more tranquil pace. “I was never a fast reader [but] I think I read more slowly than I used to. This is partly to savour every word. The way a sentence sounds to my ear is so important to me in the whole reading experience, and I always want to get it all – like when you read poetry.”

These words hit a nerve because I am an archetypal impatient reader, desperate to have finished a book as soon as I start. I want to know what happens – now. Ever since I started keeping track of the books I read (because I was sick of forgetting what I’d read) I’ve wanted to read more, to read faster.

So, in an effort to follow Li’s advice, I resolve both to linger and to juggle more than one book […]

Taking my time with multiple books at once feels liberating; as if I have permission to pick up books I’ve spent years meaning to tackle. I’m not promising never to cane something again but I really think Li is on to something. Oh, and I’m at 85 books for the year, not that I’m counting.

, from ‘I want to savour every word’: the joy of reading slowly‘ (The Guardian, December 2, 2022). Bragging rights seem to go to people who devour books, but, as this impatient reader found, turning the pages over many days or even weeks can immerse one deeper in the writer’s world

I believe in everything simultaneously. I don’t have a religion and don’t need one.

…While A Book of Days is dedicated to others, its cover is of Smith in a dashing, black, wide-brimmed hat carrying a Polaroid 250 Land Camera that now looks quaintly retro with her hand irresolutely over her mouth – reverie second nature to her. Its first image is of her hand raised in greeting. “HELLO EVERYBODY”, she exclaims. Hands appear throughout her books, in and out of dreams. Could we focus on her own? Surprised, she considers them: small, shapely, barely lined. Does she ever look at her hands and think: you’ve been with me through everything? She laughs, surprised: “Gosh, yes, I do think that. I look at them and see my whole life. I realise I’ve not changed all that much. I’m just older, older, older…” She feels particularly in touch with her 11-year-old self, “running through fields with my dog and free of social conformities”…

I see her as a literary pilgrim, I tell her, and she looks pleased. But what I most want to know is why she is so dedicated to celebrating other artists? She replies simply: “Because they magnify my life.”..

Does she believe in fate? She replies that, when younger, she saw life as a “huge prayer rug where the threads make a beautiful design but with intentional flaws”. She is still drawn to the “grand design” even if the carpet is a comforting fiction…

She also believes in free will. “I believe in everything simultaneously. I don’t have a religion and don’t need one.” Like most of us, she worries about the world. “Today, I woke at four in the morning out of a sound sleep, thinking of the women of Iran and of my daughter… my mind all over the place. I keep waking through the night. Part of me is always conscious of what is happening in Ukraine, the threat of nuclear weapons, the climate crisis, a part of Florida destroyed.” I look at her face – tired, I see that now: “All these things radiate from my mind and I can’t… we’re powerless to take care of everything but I try to keep these people in my consciousness just as I keep the dead in my consciousness. My father, my mother – I think of them. I can’t help all the women in Yemen watching their babies die of starvation. I can only radiate love toward them. I have to, as an individual, continue to do my work. I have to find a way to balance our troubled world with my own optimism, joy and obligations. So it is always on my mind and it’s complicated.”…

But her emphasis is always on life: “I just keep doing my work, try to take care of myself. I feel blessed to have the imagination I have but don’t think it makes me more important than anyone. I am who I am, with all my flaws – and I’m grateful.”..

—  Kate Kellaway, from “Patti Smith: ‘I am who I am with all my flaws’ (The Guardian, November 13, 2022)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

This idea that there’s something Posh about culture really upsets me. It really upsets me because the liberating nature of a beautiful piece of art, whether it’s music, whether it’s paint on canvas, whether it’s a poem, whether it’s a book, or whether it’s a play. It’s plays that I first plugged into as a kid. It’s so immensely important to your mental health, the simple ability to step outside your own brain. It’s meditative. It’s quasi-religious. It’s an ability to step outside the quotidian, The Daily Grind, to actually rise above the minutiae of your daily existence and soar into Uncharted Territory. It is a thing of absolute Beauty. And if you are laughing at me now, that is tragic because it means you don’t know what I’m talking about, which means you’ve never had that experience, which, means you’ve never been lucky enough to have a teacher or a parent or a friend or an accidental encounter with some music, you’ve never had that experience. Maybe some people get it at the football, actually at an amazing sporting event, which can be a mixture of religious and Theatrical, when you feel yourself soaring… I had a spiritual experience but I’ve had that experience in theaters and I’ve had that experience in my own home listening to a certain piece of music or reading a book. And why why why in this country are the words I have just said in any way emblematic of something that is linked to social class. Why I do not get it, I do not get it at all… Why is this country a place where we are told from a very early age, that the inner life, the imagination, the magic of art and culture, is something that is the sole Preserve of the wealthy, or the privileged. Where does that come from? …it breaks my heart.

— James O’Brien, from “This idea that there’s something posh about culture really upsets me” (LBC, Friday November 11, 2022)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

This week Annie Ernaux was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Ms. Ernaux’s parents were shopkeepers in the small town of Yvetot, France. They owned a grocery store and cafe, where her mother served women on the grocery side and her father served coffee and alcohol to men in the cafe. The three of them lived in the rooms upstairs.

Her parents wanted her to receive a proper education, to surpass them, and she did. As she writes of her mother in an early book, “I was both certain of her love for me and aware of one blatant injustice: She spent all day selling milk and potatoes so that I could sit in a lecture hall and learn about Plato.”

Many writers pay a debt to their parents or to the world they left behind. But by making the past a theme, Ms. Ernaux takes homage further than that.

Consider, for instance, the apparent simplicity of her language. It emerged from an aesthetic decision to have her work remain “a cut below literature.” Ms. Ernaux has written that her aversion to playing with metaphors comes from an allegiance to her parents. She doesn’t want to write in a way that is different from how the people she grew up with speak. […]

Ms. Ernaux presents time as something onto which, if just for a moment, the detritus of civilization attaches; it favors no one thing over anything else. Time leaves behind world wars as lightly as it leaves behind the greatest movie stars, sexual mores, one’s parents, grandparents, children.

“All the images will disappear,” reads the book’s opening sentence, which is followed by a list of the specific things that will disappear, including moments witnessed only by Ms. Ernaux (“the woman who squatted to urinate in broad daylight, behind the shack that served coffee”).

Her relationship to time — which demonstrates an almost holy respect for the authentic pastness of the past — developed slowly, patiently, over more than 20 books.

Ms. Ernaux is radically attuned to what it means to look backward. History will always resist our desire to lay our greedy hands on it. This brings a fascinating tension to her books. Despite the writer’s sincerest attempts, the past will always push us away, for it belongs not to us but to a world that was just as complicated as this one, coherent in itself and forever sealed off from the present.

The opening chapter of “The Years” concludes:

Everything will be erased in a second. The dictionary of words amassed between cradle and deathbed, eliminated. All there will be is silence and no words to say it. Nothing will come out of the open mouth, neither I nor me. … In conversation around a holiday table, we will be nothing but a first name, increasingly faceless, until we vanish into the vast anonymity of a distant generation.

The beautiful form of “The Years” is utterly its own, and I find it hard to think of a book more moving. She shows that humans are not their insides but their props and their settings. It is reassuring to imagine the self or the soul as something eternal, but it is harder to think that of a can of peas. It is a resolute — yet somehow euphoric — book about mortality, about how everything is always being lost to time, often without our even noticing it.

Although I don’t understand the need to declare winners in art, I was happy when I heard that Ms. Ernaux had been awarded the Nobel. All one wants for the writers one loves is for their names to never vanish into anonymity.

We can’t delude ourselves about what time does to books and civilizations, but with the help of this prize, hopefully an even more distant generation will remember the name of Annie Ernaux.

—  Sheila Heti, from “What Nobel Prize-Winner Annie Ernaux Understands About the Past“, NY Times, October 8, 2022.

 


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “Maybe the true purpose of my life is for my body, my sensations and my thoughts to become writing. In other words, something intelligible and universal, causing my existence to merge into the lives and heads of other people.” —  Annie Ernaux, Happening: A NovelTanya Leslie (Translator). (Seven Stories Press; May 14, 2019)

 

 

How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted

Lots of journalists have Salman Rushdie stories. He likes to talk and he is generous with his time. When I interviewed him a few years ago, we had lunch together… What I remember most, though, isn’t what happened there, but the fact that when we were finished, Rushdie insisted he would rather walk with me to Pimlico underground than pile into a taxi.

I think I was surprised. One of my very first jobs as a young journalist involved attending an event where Rushdie, then still in hiding, was rumoured to be going to appear (memory tells me that he did, emerging from behind a curtain like a stage magician). But I was also amused. He didn’t – it was obvious – quite know the best way to the station and in his outsize puffer jacket he rather meekly followed me, looking about happily as he strolled. I’ve thought of those few stuccoed streets, and of him padding along them in the sunshine, seemingly without a care, every day since he was attacked. How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted…

Reading is my oldest habit, which is just as well given that I’m one of the judges of this year’s Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction. If ingesting so many books so quickly is exhilarating, it’s also, at moments, arduous; hopefully, my years of training are about to pay off.

I read as I water the garden and wait for the kettle to boil. I read on the bus and the tube and at every pedestrian crossing.

What thoughts occur as I pick up, and put down, each title? All I can tell you is that the difference between a good book and a great one is both inexplicably small and ineffably vast – and that a cartoon I saw the other day in which a man headed to his book group in full armour and carrying a sword made me shudder more than it made me smile.

Rachel Cooke, from “Walking with Salman Rushdie to a tube station now seems like a distant age” (The Guardian, August 20, 2022)


Notes:

  • Inspired by Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh: “A sigh isn’t just a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.”
  • Portrait: Salman Rushdie, Murdo MacLeod, The Guardian

Tuesday Morning Walk

The sky is a soft blue and I begin the walk…winding down to the center of my everything.

—  Leila Mottley, Nightcrawling: A Novel (Knopf, June 7, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, July 23, 2022. 5:30 a.m. Stamford, CT.
  • DK Rating: Highly Recommended. Amazon Top Books of 2022.  Selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick. NY Times Editor’s Choice Top 10 Books of the Week. NY Times Book Review here.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I close my eyes. (They) both laugh when I do this. They think you gotta see to paint, but sight is just a distraction from what it really takes to translate image to art. I let it float out my fingers, escape out my breath, and I don’t need to see when my body is an entire vision.

Leila Mottley, Nightcrawling: A Novel (Knopf, June 7, 2022)


Notes:

  • DK Rating: Highly Recommended
  • Amazon Top Books of 2022. 
  • Selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
  • NY Times Editor’s Choice Top 10 Books of the Week. NY Times Book Review here.

Grace eludes you

I leave the restaurant after the sun has set. Rome is dark. I’m tired and need the shortest route to my hotel so I cut down a dim alley. The road turns rough. I trip along the way. I keep my head down, eyes squinting at my path, and so I don’t see the men first but hear them. They’re laughing. I move to one side of the alley and they move to the same side. I step the other way and so do they. There are four of them. I hear one speaking to me, but I don’t know what he is saying.

Their interest in me, their sound, turns me stony. I open my mouth and out comes not words, but strained guttural notes.

One man jogs past to stand behind me. Another puts his hand on my shoulder and backs me up, toward the wall, toward his friend. His friend is tall. They want to take my picture standing next to him. I’m short, a dwarf, which is funny, hysterical. I’m not real. Just a strange thing in the alley. The flash of their camera. I freeze. Then I’m back in the dark.

When I was a teenager, a man once watched me going up some stairs and he said, “Grace eludes you.” I seemed to be struggling, which struck him, I suppose, as ugly.

Does this man remember what he said to me? Does he return to the memory each time he sees stairs?

I still — two decades after this man watched me walk up the stairs — step aside to tie my shoe to allow people to go ahead of me. I fake phone calls so that others will walk up without me. I pretend to wait for someone who isn’t coming. I bide my time, clinging to my weak ruse of self protection, until no one is looking. I do not climb stairs until I can do so unobserved. I’ve never stopped preparing for the next person who will see me walk and deny me grace.

The way words stay, the way sentences stay, the way memories invade my present, the way a stranger looks at me and speaks: shards that become a mirror.

In Rome, men block my path. They are drunk. The tall one wants to leave, done with this picture project. Another man drops his phone. His friends laugh at his clumsiness. One taps the other’s chest and just like that they’re distracted by a new plan, a diverting interest, and they leave me without further incident and carry on with their night, never to think of this moment again.

Chloé Cooper Jones, Easy Beauty: A Memoir (Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, April 5, 2022)

“I am in a bar in Brooklyn, listening to two men, my friends, discuss whether my life is worth living.”

So begins Chloé Cooper Jones’s bold, revealing account of moving through the world in a body that looks different than most. Jones learned early on to factor “pain calculations” into every plan, every situation. Born with a rare congenital condition called sacral agenesis which affects both her stature and gait, her pain is physical. But there is also the pain of being judged and pitied for her appearance, of being dismissed as “less than.” The way she has been seen—or not seen—has informed her lens on the world her entire life. She resisted this reality by excelling academically and retreating to “the neutral room in her mind” until it passed. But after unexpectedly becoming a mother (in violation of unspoken social taboos about the disabled body), something in her shifts, and Jones sets off on a journey across the globe, reclaiming the spaces she’d been denied, and denied herself.

Sea of Tranquility: A beat. A sip of water. Pacing is everything.

While (he) slips immediately into the same stasis that overcame him… It isn’t quite listlessness. He makes a careful inventory of his thoughts and decides that he isn’t unhappy. He just desires no further movement, for the time being. If there’s pleasure in action, there’s peace in stillness.

—  Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility: A Novel (Knopf, April 5, 2022)


Notes:

  • Highly recommended.  Let’s just describe this as a Wow. (And if you can listen to book on Audible, a real plus. Excellent narration.)
  • NY Times Book Review: A Dazzling New Foray into Speculative Fiction From Emily St. John Mandel – “In Sea of Tranquility,” Mandel takes up existential questions of time and being…In “Sea of Tranquility,” Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and her ability to project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart. As in Ishiguro, this is not born of some cheap, made-for-television, faux-emotional gimmick or mechanism, but of empathy and hard-won understanding, beautifully built into language, for all of us who inhabit this “green-and-blue world” and who one day might live well beyond.
  • Image via CBC

it was my calling, the way a bird is drawn to the song of its own kind

I could get into med school.

Couldn’t I?

I could. I would. I did. But there was a complicating factor. Right after a thick acceptance letter arrived from Mac, another envelope came. This one had a postmark from the U.K. I was being offered a full scholarship to go to Oxford for a PhD in English.

The medical school acceptance letter was printed by a computer; the package from Oxford included a personal invitation on crinkly yellow paper to drink sherry with tutors. I could picture my new Oxford life: I’d have a bike with a basket, and spend hours at the Bodleian. The real white cliffs of Dover. Weekends in Paris. Wool sweaters from the highlands, and a hearth and a stone fireplace older than anyone I had ever met. Bookshelves full of Yeats and Tennyson, and a room of my own, like Virginia Woolf’s. A place where the words could pour out of my heart and onto the page, and maybe someday those pages would find their way onto other shelves, maybe even the Bodleian itself.

But lying awake on those tortured, miserable nights, working it all out as if it were a formula with an elusive right answer, the “Go” or “Stay” columns were really “tutors with sherry” versus my sister in her wheelchair, bent over at a forty-five-degree angle, holding her head in her hands and asking if I could please take her to the summer fair. Those tutors wanted to know my interests within postmodernism. My sister had a more basic question for me: When are you coming home? …

I didn’t need to study English at Oxford to learn the power of words. I’d already had my most important teacher. It was that doctor, yelling at my parents, There’s no brain left. He taught me that people with power have a duty to speak with care, because they have been entrusted with something fragile they have no right to break. He helped me understand that medicine itself was a very specific kind of power, one I would never, ever abuse, because I knew it was sacred. And anyway, I wasn’t drawn to power. I was drawn to medicine because it was my calling, the way a bird is drawn to the song of its own kind.

That was the only contest Wendy won in her whole life. She drew me home. Not out of pity, but out of love and its attendant duty, and a sense there might be things in life that would matter more to me in twenty years than whether I had a PhD from Oxford or had seen the Bodleian. So one day that summer, I was able to look Wendy in the eye and tell her something she would forget a few minutes later: because of her, I was going to be a doctor. And in a few years, I’d be coming home.

Jillian Horton, We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing (HarperCollins Publishers, February 23, 2021)


Notes:

  • Highly Recommended. And if you can listen to it on Audible, narration is absolutely the best.
  • Book Review: cecescott.com

Hard Truth

When Facebook (and all the others) decide what you see in your news feed, there are many thousands of things they could show you. So they have written a piece of code to automatically decide what you will see. There are all sorts of algorithms they could use—ways they could decide what you should see, and the order in which you should see them. They could have an algorithm designed to show you things that make you feel happy. They could have an algorithm designed to show you things that make you feel sad. They could have an algorithm to show you things that your friends are talking about most. The list of potential algorithms is long.

The algorithm they actually use varies all the time, but it has one key driving principle that is consistent. It shows you things that will keep you looking at your screen. That’s it. Remember: the more time you look, the more money they make. So the algorithm is always weighted toward figuring out what will keep you looking, and pumping more and more of that onto your screen to keep you from putting down your phone. It is designed to distract. But, Tristan was learning, that leads—quite unexpectedly, and without anyone intending it—to some other changes, which have turned out to be incredibly consequential.

Imagine two Facebook feeds. One is full of updates, news, and videos that make you feel calm and happy. The other is full of updates, news, and videos that make you feel angry and outraged. Which one does the algorithm select? The algorithm is neutral about the question of whether it wants you to be calm or angry. That’s not its concern. It only cares about one thing: Will you keep scrolling? Unfortunately, there’s a quirk of human behavior. On average, we will stare at something negative and outrageous for a lot longer than we will stare at something positive and calm. You will stare at a car crash longer than you will stare at a person handing out flowers by the side of the road, even though the flowers will give you a lot more pleasure than the mangled bodies in a crash. Scientists have been proving this effect in different contexts for a long time—if they showed you a photo of a crowd, and some of the people in it were happy, and some angry, you would instinctively pick out the angry faces first. Even ten-week-old babies respond differently to angry faces. This has been known about in psychology for years and is based on a broad body of evidence. It’s called “negativity bias.”

There is growing evidence that this natural human quirk has a huge effect online. On YouTube, what are the words that you should put into the title of your video, if you want to get picked up by the algorithm? They are—according to the best site monitoring YouTube trends—words such as “hates,” “obliterates,” “slams,” “destroys.” A major study at New York University found that for every word of moral outrage you add to a tweet, your retweet rate will go up by 20 percent on average, and the words that will increase your retweet rate most are “attack,” “bad,” and “blame.” A study by the Pew Research Center found that if you fill your Facebook posts with “indignant disagreement,” you’ll double your likes and shares. So an algorithm that prioritizes keeping you glued to the screen will—unintentionally but inevitably—prioritize outraging and angering you. If it’s more enraging, it’s more engaging.

If enough people are spending enough of their time being angered, that starts to change the culture. As Tristan told me, it “turns hate into a habit.” You can see this seeping into the bones of our society. When I was a teenager, there was a horrific crime in Britain, where two ten-year-old children murdered a toddler named Jamie Bulger. The Conservative prime minister at the time, John Major, responded by publicly saying that he believed we need “to condemn a little more, and understand a little less.” I remembered thinking then, at the age of fourteen, that this was surely wrong—that it’s always better to understand why people do things, even (perhaps especially) the most heinous acts. But today, this attitude—condemn more, understand less—has become the default response of almost everyone, from the right to the left, as we spend our lives dancing to the tune of algorithms that reward fury and penalize mercy.

In 2015 a researcher named Motahhare Eslami, as part of a team at the University of Illinois, took a group of ordinary Facebook users and explained to them how the Facebook algorithm works. She talked them through how it selects what they see. She discovered that 62 percent of them didn’t know their feeds were filtered at all, and they were astonished to learn about the algorithm’s existence. One person in the study compared it to the moment in the film The Matrix when the central character, Neo, discovers he is living in a computer simulation.

I called several of my relatives and asked them if they knew what an algorithm was. None of them—including the teenagers—did. I asked my neighbors. They looked at me blankly. It’s easy to assume most people know about this, but I don’t think it’s true.

Johann Hari, “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention–and How to Think Deeply Again” (Crown, January 25, 2022)


Notes:

And…Her.

7/ 3/ 54. I keep myself going with various kinds of dope: books, written and read, dreams, hopes, crossword puzzles, the sentimentality of friendships, and real friendships, and simply routine.

 Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)— Patricia Highsmith, Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995

 


Notes:

  • Photos: DK @ Daybreak. 6:45 am, Feb 8, 2022. 36° F, feels like 29° F, Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here.
  • Related Swan Posts: Swan1

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

It’s no good telling yourself that one day you will wish you had never made that change. It is no good anticipating regrets. Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.

Beryl Markham, West with the Night (first published in 1942)


I called B.S. when I read this testimonial by Ernest Hemingway. And then I read it. Wow. What a writer.  If you have an Audible membership, this book is free with the membership.  In the must read category.

…she has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer…she can write rings around all of us…I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.” — Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to Maxwell Perkins”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I always peek into baby buggies when I walk home, because I love to look at the little children who are lying asleep with upstretched hands on a ruffled pillowcase. I also like to look at people who in one way or another give expression to their feelings. I like to look at mothers caressing their children, and I willingly go a little out of my way in order to follow a young couple who are walking hand in hand and are openly in love. It gives me a wistful feeling of happiness and an indefinable hope for the future.

—  Tove Ditlevsen, Youth: The Copenhagen Trilogy (FSG Originals, January 26, 2021)


Highly Recommended. And the trilogy has been recommended as a Best Book of the Year in 2021.

as difficult to attain as a pair of wings and a halo

9/13/42. The most spiritual and “beautiful” literature has already been written—in the Bible, in the Greek dramas, in their philosophies. What we have to attain is at best the material representation, a poor substitute for the eternities we cannot logically hope to emulate. Spirituality in our day is as difficult to attain as a pair of wings and a halo.

 Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. December 20, 2021. 22° F, feels like 16° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

2/24/41. We must think of ourselves as a fertile land on which to draw. And if we do not, we grow rotten, like an unmilked cow. And if we leave something unexploited it dies within us wasted. But to tax one’s powers always at their maximum potentiality—this is the only way to live at all, in the proper sense of the word.

Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly.

What I want is the other world in this world. What I want is the way up and the way down, the way in and the way out. What I want is the poem that rears up like a mythic creature from the dark place of origins, only to transform into the holy, unrepeatable faces of the living. What I want is the mythic wings still thrumming inside them.

—  Joseph Fasano, from “Supernovae and Dark Stars: Some Notes on Universality in the Lyric Poem,” American Poet (no. 50, Spring/Summer 2016)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK – Moon @ Daybreak. 6:18 a.m. Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.
  • Quote via Memory’s Landscape
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

In Vienna there are shadows. The city is black and everything is done by rote. I want to be alone. I want to go to the Bohemian Forest. May, June, July, August, September, October. I must see new things and investigate them. I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds. I want to gaze with astonishment at moldy garden fences, I want to experience them all, to hear young birch plantations and trembling leaves, to see light and sun, enjoy wet, green-blue valleys in the evening, sense goldfish glinting, see white clouds building up in the sky, to speak to flowers. I want to look intently at grasses and pink people, old venerable churches, to know what little cathedrals say, to run without stopping along curving meadowy slopes across vast plains, kiss the earth and smell soft warm marshland flowers. And then I shall shape things so beautifully: fields of colour…

Egon Schiele, as quoted by Reinhard Steiner in Egon Schiele, 1890-1918: The Midnight Soul of the Artist.


Notes:

  • Photo: Angelika Horschlager, “we made no sound…and deep in the forest we get lost.” Taken in Lichtenau im Muhlkries (Austria)
  • Quote via The Vale of Soul-Making
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
%d bloggers like this: