Book Nook Browsing.
The TV is set up. But what about that reading?
I got the TV set up in the new place just in time to see my Warriors lose heartbreakingly and frustratingly (again) on one night and then get demolished on the other night, not too many days after the 49ers were sidelined like a Formula 1 car that gets pushed into the gravel by the world’s worst luck, so I guess it’s time to start watching fiction instead of sports and I also guess this post is no longer super relevant:
It’s a temporary set-up but hey, the TV is set-up, so there’s that. I’ll send a picture of its vibey brilliance when it’s truly done.
Trying to unpack and watch and work and find some pants and that piece of paper with that important number on it hasn’t been ideal, so let me bust out another sports mention for you since I’ve already dropped three: Former 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith once had his college football coach, Urban Meyer, say that until Smith memorized the entire playbook, he would essentially be “non-functional,” which, on the one hand, would have been great had Meyer revealed that before the 49ers drafted him (you know, instead of Aaron Rodgers) and, on the other hand, is totally understandable to me. Because I really need my home space completely set up or I am, essentially, “non-functional.”
Like I recently had three mystifying financial issues pop up in succession and I can’t find any of the information I would need to put out those fires. They are in a box, I presume. It’s maddening. I am more than aware that this is just the vagaries of life, but still. At least I found the wine corkscrew and my toothbrush.
On the plus side, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the book nook — also not done but already pretty fabulous — and I’ve found the most recent books I got, via Christmas presents. They are:
I asked for these specifically from my partner KB. I love Saunders’ “Story Club” Substack and all of its wonderful advice and insight about writing. This is his new book and it will be interesting to see what he conjures. And even though Murakami can be polarizing in some ways, I’m fascinated with his rule breaking on story structure (although I wonder if there really are any rules anymore?). I am a very slow reader, which I blame partly on being a journalist and weirdly looking for typos and things of that nature. I’m also slow because I like to marinate in each paragraph or, depending on the author, each sentence.
At one point in my life I hated to read writers who were exceptionally great and thus exponentially better than I was at describing scenes in minute detail. Listen, I was young, and I was reading a LOT and feeling like I could never do what they were doing, failing to realize that not many people could, but also missing the more salient point that I now understand well: Knowing what you’re good at is important. I’m an adequate literary describer of scenes. I’m much better at dialogue, story invention and mood. Play to your strengths.
Back in those days I would read some writers and think, “Shit, I can do that.” I would then stop reading their work, even though I liked it. Because of I could do it, why read it? What I failed to grasp was: 1) Are you sure? 2) If that’s what you can do, maybe people will put your book down, too. Don’t be an asshole.
Thankfully, we all grow.
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Like most people, I was once an English major. Like some people, I worked in a bookstore and dreamed of writing my own. (I worked at Tower Books in Mountain View, which I realize isn’t as cool as working at Tower Records, but it was next door and I was able to slide to the other side pretty much daily and buy stuff like…cassettes; I would absolutely work at a bookstore now and if I ever stay in Portland long enough to get a shift at Powell’s I would do that without any shame).
Despite all of that, I am a terrible reader. I will admit that. For someone who has collected books forever, I somewhere along the line (thinks back to start of TV critic career) stopped reading. Now I’m trying to get back in the habit. These are the two I want to start with first. I’m excited.
Not excited to actually start, but still.
I also got these books as Christmas presents from Kabes:
Ah, now we’re talking. I’m already a fan of how concise Susie Hodge was when she did “The Short Story Of Art,” so of course I wanted this one because it’s exactly the kind of reference book I will read over a fiction book 99 out of 100 times — which is a big part of the problem mentioned above. I have already thumbed through it. Love it. I am new to Akiko Busch but I’m game for anything that reflects on home and design, as you know, so I picked up her book and instantly was transfixed by the simple, bare, lovely essays. On that, I have two thoughts: 1) It hadn’t really occurred to me to write what are essentially “mini essays.” 2) I should do that.
I’m enjoying both books. I need more time or maybe less clutter to put away so I can get to them.
I also got this from KB, who is obviously an expert gift-giver:
You probably already know that I’m mad about all kinds of music, but specifically really extraordinary singer-songwriters. Lyrics are everything to me. And so I’m a huge fan of Frightened Rabbit and, like a lot of FR fans, sort of became oddly obsessed with the mostly depressive, sometimes hopeful real life where these lyrics were coming from, even though I should have known better. I mean, Hutchison wrote a lot about suicide, including a song that detailed how he was going to do it and, yeah, he did it. Music history (and literature, for that matter) is filled with writers whose life you can’t look away from even though you feel a little guilty for staring at the wreckage or even the messaging about a wreckage to come, because, with a little life experience of your own, you know how it ends.
And that’s how it ended for Hutchison. But I loved his work, in each manifestation (in later years he started new bands, trying I think to reinvent a different way for himself). Scott was able to make tiny changes to this earth, and now there’s a mental health charity in his honor, called Tiny Changes.
This was a great gift, but I’m going to have to be in the right space to read it.
As for an actual space, yeah, the book nook is where it’ll happen. It’s almost ready. I was downstairs writing and my daughter took a picture of her dog — some of you will remember Bear from earlier posts when he was tiny — through a book case as he sat disappointedly unable to come disturb me:
Let’s hear what you’re reading and how it’s coming. I now some people use a tracker to stay on pace. Is that helpful? Does it encourage you or make you feel bad? Let’s hear it. And let’s hear it for reading, the second most important thing on my New Year’s Resolution list.
I’ve just finished reading “Love Poems” by Nâzim Hikmet, and I am about to finish “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. I generally alternate fiction and non-fiction, so some non-fiction will be soon my next read.
I am a very slow reader. I savor words. Downside is I absolutely hate overwriting with a fiery passion that knows no bounds. It means I cannot read people like Stephen King or George RR Martin because I find their books horribly over written.
World's been so bleak and horrible the past couple of years I've seriously regressed to comfort reading, and Patricia A. McKillip is at the very top of that list. Just finished Winter Rose for the second time, read it years and years ago, and started Solistice Wood tonight, which I've never read before. If you've never heard of her, start with Riddle-Master of Hed or Changling Sea (both personal favorites).
Other recent comfort reads were The Sign of Four by Doyle and Murder at the Vicarage by Christie.
Also finally finished The Iliad. My god, but that was a slog. It took months. The Odyssey is much better