And not a single prominent politician (that I’m aware of) has the balls to propose a plan to curb gun violence. Their condolences are pathetic.
When a writer who keeps a blog doesn’t update that blog for three weeks, mark that as a good sign. He’s writing.
To clarify, what I’m doing here seems like writing. Well, maybe not. The first sentence in this paragraph falls flat to my ear. But I’m not going to fret about it because I want to get to my point. I do take care in writing these blog entries; that is, I do revise. I sure hope someone has noticed. But the only time I can stroll around and feel as if I’ve written that day is when I’ve labored over my fiction. I can write three chapters of a textbook, seven blog entries, an extended journal entry, a detailed grocery list, but in my mind, none of that quite counts.
So instead of updating this blog, I’ve been working on a novel. And I’m proud to say, I’m done. The book took far too long to complete, interrupted by bouts of dejectedness and personal issues, but I was haunted by something Frederik Pohl once said to an audience at Writers Week: Finish what you start. Simple advice that turns out to be quite profound.
Finishing a novel includes many satisfactions, not the least of which is an end to the clutter of notes one keeps throughout the process. I had a stack of papers of different sizes about a foot high, amazed as I slowly pored through the pile by how many of the barely legible scratches found their way into the book. I even recall where I wrote many of the notes, usually during long walks around my neighborhood or while reading—and I recall my excitement. To stop midstride or mid-page to jot down an idea, c’mon, it must have been good. And the dumb ideas? The ones I eventually discarded? I’m fond of those too.
It’s not so much that my desk got cleaned, if that’s what you’re taking away from this. It’s the realization that all this chaos could be shaped into some kind of meaningful whole. Life doesn’t offer too many of these moments. Maybe that’s why I write: to sustain the illusion that the mess of working and failing and learning and loving means something in the end.
Now I have to pursue the business side of the equation. While the writing demands complete immersion, though you do have to lose yourself to a degree to create an imaginary world, the business side requires a kind of callousness. You have to put aside the personal, the hurt of rejection, and plow ahead with stupid persistence and hope.
Two people, days apart, gifted me the same book, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, so I figured I ought to read it. Since the book is categorized as young adult, I doubt I would have stumbled upon the title myself. Though I’m not sure anymore what constitutes YA. Yes, there’s no profanity in the book. I’m referring to only language now, the words we need to protect young people from. In actuality, young people don’t need much in this regard. Who we’re really protecting are the tender adults who believe their efforts will preserve a sanitized time that never existed in the first place other than in their warped imaginations and plugged memories. Yes, the main protagonist is a young girl, though other characters, including death himself, often take center stage. (I assume female readers won’t mind my assumption of death as male; that’s how I read it.) Other than that, and maybe the short chapters, I would not have known the book was meant as YA. The language is sophisticated; the descriptions are clear and often poetic; the struggles are real and moving. This is a beautiful book to be enjoyed by all ages.
I love summer reading lists, though I must admit I don’t understand them. Do we read differently during the summer? Are the books less challenging because that’s all we can handle with the sun beating down on our necks? Or do we simply have more time in the summer? If that’s the case, maybe the books are more challenging since we can patiently pore through them? I don’t need to know. Anything that gets people reading is fine by me. Here is my summer list. (But only because I have just read these books. I think they would be just as interesting with snow on the ground.) All the books have gotten rave reviews, so my endorsement is just piling on.
The Fault in Our Stars
This is the most emotionally engaging story on the list. Green is best known as a YA author, but this novel transcends the label. It’s smart and brisk, and yes, you won’t be able to put it down.
This book will not disappoint. It’s part mystery, part psychological thriller, and all engrossing. Another book you will pick up every chance you get. I can’t stop thinking about it and want to read it again.
This is one of those books that devotes pages and pages to the most mundane of details, which doesn’t sound like an endorsement, but the world of a boy whose parents rob a bank is rendered so beautifully that the details are luxurious and fully satisfying.
Van Gogh: The Life
Steven Naifen and Gregory White Smith
I think everyone knows that Van Gogh was unstable, but this book sheds sharp light on what fueled that instability. It’s a long book, and 200 pages in, Van Gogh is still trying to find his footing and hasn’t yet discovered his passion for painting. When he does, most of his great work is completed in ten years before the age of 40! He used art to console him, to the point of delusion. It’s an extraordinary work of research.
My reflections on writing, reading, and random thoughts.