Books, Books, Books!

I apologize for my lack of posts in the past couple of weeks, but life has gotten crazy recently. But now I’m back and hopefully will have a few months of regular updates until things get crazy again. We’ll see.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given some free furniture from my aunt who is upgrading, and it included a couple of bookshelves, which when added to the bookshelf we bought from a friend moving last summer, allowed us to finally unpack all of our books and CDs, which was about ten boxes. And this is after we’d weeded through and removed several boxes to pass on and donate. So yes, we’re crazy about books. For me, I really do like to re-read series, and there are some series I’ve revisited so many times in my life, so it was like unpacking old friends. I still had several books I had saved from my youth that I put up in my son’s room, as we started reading chapter books together (a chapter a night, plus two picture books before bed – his first chapter book was The Little Prince). I’m excited to share the books I loved with him, and also it is definitely intentional that I am reading books with both male and female protagonists. I want him to love stories about every body.

Anyway, my big mother’s day gift that I asked for, since we’re still recovering financially, was time to alphabetize the books. So I did that. It’s the first time all of our books are together and organized since 2011. And 2010-2011 was the first time we ever had our full collection together in one spot. So it feels good. Because I’m a dork, I wanted to start reading through the shelf, reading one book in between two works on my Kindle (which is generally heavier works or indie books or whatever I can get for free that sounds interesting) but couldn’t decide if I wanted to start at the beginning or the end, so my husband suggested doing a random letter generator and I got ‘R’. So I just finished a short story collection of Kim Stanley Robinson called The Planet on the Table which I had never read. It was good. Really deep. There was one particular story that was a “what-if” about American WWII military involved in dropping the atomic bombs in Japan that dealt heavily with the notion of personal responsibility. It’s an important question to ask – who holds more responsibility? Who has more blood on their hands? The person giving the orders or the person pushing the button/pulling the trigger? To say “I was just following orders” does not erase culpability. Ever. But which carries the bigger burden?

I don’t get to read as much as I did when the baby was nursing more, but I still manage 10-20 minutes a day usually. Sometimes a little more. So now that the short story collection is done, I’m going back to the two I was flipping back and forth on the Kindle – a book on Qigong energy which I’ve been reading in segments and incorporating bits of what I’m learning into my little time for meditation I still manage to squeeze in during the week and Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea, volume 1 of 3 volumes, which is super long and intense but really good. I got up to a section on art that I’m going to do a post about eventually, but I don’t know how to cut down the section in the book. I’m about halfway through both of those, and then when I finish them, I’ll move on to re-reading the Harry Potter series, which I haven’t touched since I was given the 7th book when it first came out. So that will be a fun palate cleanser in between the heavier works I’m tackling.

So yeah, I’m a lifelong learner and I love exploring topics deeply, but I also enjoy disappearing into a good work of fiction. I’m glad that I am going to try to balance both moving forward. It may help inspire me to start writing fiction again.

“There are no happy endings because nothing ends.”

lastunicorn-10

My second favorite movie growing up was The Last Unicorn. My father had this huge collection of CED movies, and this was one that got played a lot along with my top favorite movie The Wizard of Oz. When I was older, the book by Peter S. Beagle that the movie was based on became one that I read over and over again. The Last Unicorn is rather dated (can we say soundtrack by America?), but there are wonderful, beautifully-written life lessons liberally sprinkled through the entire story. Obviously I most felt akin to the Unicorn/Amalthea as a little girl, but the wry humor and truth in Schmendrick’s dialogue always appealed to me and that is who I took the quote in the title from.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the works that influenced me very early in my life, and I’ve been wondering why some stories pulled me in more than others and remain with me even decades later. Do we build our foundation of our own truths from the myths and fairy tales we’re most drawn to, or is the groundwork already inherent within us so we find the stories that we most need along our way? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to consider.

Tricking Yourself Into Creativity

I am ashamed to admit that it is almost November, and aside from necessary reading for work, I’ve only managed to read three books this year. Me, who used to devour 1000+ page novels over a weekend, have had to limit myself, first since returning to work after having a child (oh, those handful of weeks of maternity leave, I read SO much, propping a book or the Kindle one-handed while nursing my son and holding him while he slept) and even further restricting myself since freelancing. It becomes a choice, after all – do I take this twenty minutes to read or to write my own work? Do I use the time my son is watching a show to try to catch up on housework that’s fallen behind, do I read, or do I just sit and cuddle him for a while? Do I use my precious time that I carve to occasionally soak in the tub to reconnect with myself or to escape in a book? And, this past year, book time has been losing.

But one of the three books I’ve managed to read was Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up. It’s a few years old now, but it was a relatively quick and fascinating read. This quote has been sticking with me.

I was in a conversation a few years ago with a friend, the painter Eric Fischl. We were comparing psychoanalysis with the making of art. I said, ‘Both require explorations of the subconscious, and in that way they are similar’. He agreed, thought about it, then added, ‘But there is a fundamental difference between the two. In psychoanalysis, you try to retain a discovery; in art, once the thing is made, you let it go’. He was right. I had not looked at or considered my stand-up career until writing this memoir; I had, in fact, abandoned it. Moving on and not looking back, not living in the past, was a way to trick myself into further creativity.

There is something in the phrase “trick myself into further creativity” that rings so true to me. The impetus to delve into the subconscious for inspiration, tapping that to actually do the physical creation itself, and then the risk in sharing that with others often requires some trickery. I often play mind-games on myself to convince myself to do what I should be doing, which (and I think I’ve mentioned this before) is vastly preferable to my playing mind-games on other people. It’s this strange kind of inward dance to shut the inner critic down, at least for a little while.

Even tonight, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to post here, but I told myself I had to post something. And here it is, after midnight, and I’m posting someone else’s quote because I didn’t feel quite up to being vulnerable enough to share any of my works-in-progress or older works. So I talked myself into “something is better than nothing” and am posting this. A little vulnerable is better than no vulnerability, but I still feel like I’m falling short lately on a lot of fronts. I think I’m just tired. But I continue to trick myself and create, and that makes everything worthwhile somehow.