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Time Since Reboot

  • 1216 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes, 39 seconds ago

The 2018 Reading List

Guess who’s not dead. It’s me!

Amongst the annual nebulous thoughts on what my new year’s resolutions should be is the idea (prompted by Blu… hi Blu!) of starting the year off with a book number goal comprised of a list of to-read books plus open slots to fill with spur-of-the-moment decisions. My reading in 2017 was dreadful, and it almost seems like my thoughts have become fat and lazy because of it. Time to establish a rhythm again. My number goal is 30: 10 fiction, 10 non-fiction, 10 open slots. Let’s go.

Fiction
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
The Death of Virgil – Hermann Broch
Suttree – Cormac McCarthy
The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
Absalom, Absalom! – William Faulkner
The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
John Dies at the End – David Wong
Tenth of December – George Saunders

Non-Fiction
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – Rebecca West
Running With the Mind of Meditation – Sakyong Mipham
The Endurance Diet – Matt Fitzgerald
Future Sex – Emily Witt
Inside of a Dog – Alexandra Horowitz
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
The Discoverers – Daniel J. Boorstin
The Gift: Imagination & the Erotic Life of Property – Lewis Hyde
Seeing Like a State – James C. Scott
Finite and Infinite Games – James Carse

My Year In Reading: 2013

Beauty is precious, you see, and the more beautiful something is, the more precious it is; and the more precious it is the more it hurts us that it will fade away; and the more we are hurt by beauty, the more we love the world.

~ Louis de Bernieres, Birds Without Wings

I was a bad reader in 2013, though I started off with enthusiasm and great intentions.  Gadgets, football, and an oddly short attention span are mostly to blame for getting off course.  I only managed to read 32 books this year – 9 fewer than in 2012 and 10 less than my stated goal of 42 (which I will adopt as my 2014 goal as well).  

No fanfare or rambling.  Here are my top ten reads from last year.  

  1. The Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski
  2. Birds Without Wings, Louis de Bernieres
  3. Vox, Nicholson Baker
  4. Alien vs. Predator, Michael Robbins
  5. 2 4get her, Anatol Knotek
  6. Crescent & Star, Stephen Kinzer
  7. The Practice of Contemplative Photography, Andy Karr
  8. The Four Questions of Melancholy, Tomaz Salamun
  9. Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Manuel Alvarez Bravo
  10. Beautiful Soon Enough, Margo Berdeshevsky

2013 was extremely photography-centric, personally, so it makes sense that Szarkowski’s classic The Photographer’s Eye ended up being the year’s favorite.  You’ll notice two other photography books slipped into the top ten as well: Andy Karr’s photography-as-meditation manual and the photographs of Manuel Alvarez Bravo.  Fiction-wise, Bernieres edged out Baker for the number two slot.  It’s worth noting that Birds Without Wings is set in Turkey, the year’s overseas destination (and subject of many, many photographs – so sorry so many, blog readers).  Kinzer’s concise history of modern Turkey also made the list.  At the same time, Nicholson Baker is the only author to have cracked my top ten list two years running.  Good on you, Nicholson – that means I shall be reading more of you in the future.  The best poetry book was the awesome Alien vs. Predator, followed closely by Anatol Knotek’s self-published 2 4get her

[The camera] only produces a perceived reality that is remembered after the thing or event has passed. While people believe that photographs do not lie, this is an illusion caused by the mistaken belief that the subject and the picture of the subject is the same thing. … Because we see reality in different ways, we must understand that we are looking at different truths rather than the truth and that, therefore, all photographs lie in one way or another. Today’s technological advances in digital manipulation of images that the public sees regularly in photographs and films now only makes it easier to understand what has always been true.

~ John Szarkowski, The Photographer’s Eye

Anyway, there you have that.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

It’s Timesucker Time!

Some links for your Tuesday night.

First as is foremost on my mind: Turkey.  The 13th Istanbul Biennial began last weekend.  Read about it and other city art-related activities at Cornucopia.

Park Fiction - Christoph Schafer

50 of the best books you haven’t read by authors you already love.  Nabokov for the win.

Ted Spagna’s photo series of people sleeping… is mesmerizing…

…as is this 80,000 photo stop-animation (that took Gioacchino Petronicce three years to create).

And rest in peace, Álvaro Mutis.  Maqroll the Gaviero is one of my favorite characters of all time, and reading his adventures is one of my fondest literary memories.  Everyone should find a copy of his masterpiece and spend a week or two devouring it.

Quotations Post

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself,
I am large, I contain multitudes.

~ Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself

I would define intellectual elegance as a mind that is continually refining itself with education and knowledge. Intellectual elegance is the opposite of intellectual vulgarity.

~ Massimo Vignelli

We forfeit three-quarters of ourselves in order to be like other people.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you – beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.

~ Edward Abbey

People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.

~ Richard Dawkins, from a birthday letter to his 10-year-old daughter

Poetry should be written the way adultery is committed: on the run, on the sly, during the time not accounted for. And then you come home, as if nothing ever happened.

~ Vera Pavlova

Just start at page one and write like a son of a bitch.

~ Jim Harrison

My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.

~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

My Year In Reading: 2012

They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them.  The shadows of the smallest stones lay like pencil lines across the sand and the shapes of the men and their mounts advanced elongate before them like strands of the night from which they’d ridden, like tentacles to bind them to the darkness yet to come. 

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

After a year in the overstressed, overworked wilderness, I returned to form and then some in 2012.  The grand total of books read stands at 41 (up from 27 in 2010 and ‘not enough for a top ten list’ in 2011).  Here, in the spirit of The Millions’ Year In Reading series, is my own reading year recap – beginning with the ten books I most enjoyed. 

  1. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
  2. The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch
  3. The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut
  4. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  5. The Pale King, David Foster Wallace
  6. The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker
  7. A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin

It was really a toss-up among the top three contenders for favorite book of the year, and it came down to the heavy, ponderous, biblical language of Blood Meridian – I can honestly say I’ve never read a novel written more gorgeously, poetically… amazing stuff – and my preference for fiction over memoir.  McCarthy’s masterpiece lived up to its hype and then some.  He completely transcended the vernacular of traditional literature with that one.  Not to mention: it takes a lot to get me to even crack open a quote-unquote Western.  One for the "to be re-read" pile. 

Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir runs a close, close second for my yearly affections.  It is beautifully written in its own right, as she weaves her personal story of triumph over sadness and abuse with an overarching love of words and writing and, with them, self-discovery and re-discovery.  And Vonnegut, of course, even in the most outlandish science-fiction story, always tells the truth.  Always.

I won’t comment on every single one of these.  There are many reasons behind what makes a particular book enjoyable to me.  I’ve tried to broaden my horizons and not thumb my nose at what some might regard as mere pop literature (the Song of Ice and Fire series is fun, is what I’m saying… and book #3 has been the best in the series so far).  I also try to vary my bookshelf selections and shift between fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art/photography, etc. 

Those that just missed the cut and deserve honorable mention include The Shining and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, both of which were very good reads thrust upon me as it were by my friend and partner in bookishness, Blu.  The best book of poetry I read in 2012 was Tomas Tranströmer’s Selected Poems.  And in the spirit of "fun" reads, I have to at least recommend John Waters’ Role Models.  A terrific departure from my normal predisposition for serious literature. 

It was all so sad.  But it was all so beautiful, too.

Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

For archival purposes, I present the full population in the order in which they were read:

Untitled

Whatever it was or was not, there were words.  Not just my own.  I wrote stories, I wrote books, but the more I wrote the more I saw a door opening behind me, and I saw that if I jammed my motherfucking foot in it, more of us could get through.  And that we could make things.  Together. 

It’s not easy to leave one self and embrace another.  Your freedoms will scar you.  Maybe even kill you.  Or one of your yous.  It’s OK though.  There are more.
How many times do we die?
Words, like selves, are worth it.

Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Here’s to new reads in the new year and the many years to come.

Darkness & Light: Some Stimulating Selections

Vladimir Nabokov

There is truth and then again there is truth. For all that the world is full of people who go around believing they’ve got you or your neighbor figured out, there really is no bottom to what is not known. The truth about us is endless. As are the lies.

~Philip Roth, from The Human Stain

THE POEM

Not the sunset poem you make when you think
aloud,
with its linden tree in India ink
and the telegraph wires across its pink
cloud;

not the mirror in you and her delicate bare
shoulder still glimmering there;
not the lyrical click of a pocket rhyme—
the tiny music that tells the time;

and not the pennies and weights on those
evening papers piled up in the rain;
not the cacodemons of carnal pain;
not the things you can say so much better in plain prose—

but the poem that hurtles from heights unknown
—when you wait for the splash of the stone
deep below, and grope for your pen,
and then comes the shiver, and then—

in the tangle of sounds, the leopards of words,
the leaflike insects, the eye-spotted birds
fuse and form a silent, intense,
mimetic pattern of perfect sense.

~Vladimir Nabokov, from Selected Poems

(…which I will be purchasing immediately upon its release in paperback form, paperbacks being easier to hold and read.  I’m a finicky reader.)

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery — isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.

~Charles Bukowski

(There could really be a Bukowski quote in every ‘quote’ post I compile.)

Each of us starts out a watertight vessel. And these things happen – these people leave us, or don’t love us, or don’t get us, or we don’t get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in places . . . Once the vessel cracks open, the end becomes inevitable . . . But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it is only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs.

~John Green, from Paper Towns

The truth is you already know what it’s like. You already know the difference between the size and speed of everything that flashes through you and the tiny inadequate bit of it all you can ever let anyone know. As though inside you is this enormous room full of what seems like everything in the whole universe at one time or another and yet the only parts that get out have to somehow squeeze out through one of those tiny keyholes you see under the knob in older doors. As if we are all trying to see each other through these tiny keyholes.

But it does have a knob, the door can open. But not in the way you think. The truth is you’ve already heard this. That this is what it’s like. That it’s what makes room for the universes inside you, all the endless inbent fractals of connection and symphonies of different voices, the infinities you can never show another soul.

~David Foster Wallace, from Oblivion

(Like Bukowski – ditto times 10 for DFW.  Actually reading Oblivion now.)

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

~Stanley Kubrick

Okay, we didn’t work, and all
memories to tell you the truth aren’t good.
But sometimes there were good times.
Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep
beside me and never dreamed afraid.

There should be stars for great wars
like ours.

~Sandra Cisneros, from "One Last Poem for Richard"

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

~T.S. Eliot, from Four Quartets

Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know—because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly…And when I got it it turned to dust in my hands.

~F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Beautiful and the Damned

The greatest satisfaction you can obtain from life is your pleasure in producing, in your own individual way, something of value to your fellowmen. That is creative living!

When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob?

~William J. Reilly, from How to Avoid Work