Saturday, March 24, 2012

Greatly Re-Reading

Someone mentioned the pleasure of re-reading favorite books and that made me think of how often I return to certain touchstone volumes for emotional and literary sustenance. How certain reading experiences were seminal for me, impressed on me as strongly as peak life experiences. And so I reread a strange little collection of dog-eared volumes that seem not to even be on speaking terms with each other. My Family and Other Animals, Emma, The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Travels with Alice, Bitter Lemons, The Towers of Trebizond. I like childhood memoirs by writers who were lonely children, travel writing that's funny, dysfunctional lopsided families that are funny and eccentric, and stories of desperation and loneliness that are funny. I guess if a book doesn't have humor somewhere in it -- or serious tips on the writing craft -- it just isn't going to remain on my shelf. Also descriptions of gorgeous landscapes and fascinating exotic locales. I've been to some fascinating exotic locales and never yet managed to write well about them. But I aspire. And continue to reread.

And yes, I've been there, to Jaipur. Did I write well about it? No, just some notes about the flocks of green parrots, the novelty of passing elephants in a bus, and the prevalent red stone. We moved on after one glorious night of staying in, literally, a palace, now turned into a hotel. I was too busy recovering from the previous night's dinner to tour the famous ancient Jaipur Observatory. So I missed a world landmark, thanks to "India Belly," which occupied a lot of that trip. But I do have notes. One of these days ... in the meantime, I'll reread funny, gorgeous travel memoirs, preferably ones loaded with hints about how to write well when traveling. And stay at home where I can count on the food agreeing with me. (I'm a lot like Emma's father in this respect.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dear Mary

It's seldom you get to send a thank you note to a poet who's been an inspiration and model for you to strive for a higher level of art, but today I had that chance, thanks to the wonderful blog Dear Mary. The brainchild of Julie L. Moore and Julie Brooks Barbour, the blog gives us the chance to write thank you notes to Mary Oliver. Mary is coping with illness at the moment -- expecting make a good recovery, but nonetheless struggling at the moment with it. So the Julies devised this terrific way to convey cheer and affection to Mary Oliver. I'm happy that my little note went on it today. I hope Ms. Oliver gets a chance to read this paragraph from a devoted fan.

Monday, March 19, 2012

If you are working on a book

Susan Rich, over at The Alchemist's Kitchen, has an interesting item up today. It's about the process of working on a book, including a wonderful poem on that theme by W.S. Merwin.

An exciting new multimedia project, including poetry, has been started at Kinship of Rivers. Wang Ping is a poet, writer, photographer, grant writer and fund-raiser, organizer for the trips and manager for the whole installation collaboration. Born in Shanghai, Wang Ping now lives on the bank of the Mississippi. She’s been photographing and writing about the two rivers for the past decade, and would like to build bridges across the rivers with her art and poetry and with this river project. Check it out, it's fascinating and bridge-building.

I don't usually post music here, but if you haven't heard this hip young French singer, you should get to know Zaz. Even if you don't speak French. I'm thinking Piaf reincarnated into much better circumstances.