Book art…clean and simple

November 27, 2011 § 4 Comments

 (photo courtesy of Google images)

Browsing the bookshop’s magazines, I found this site on the back of a magazine. It’s simple, clean, and just might strike your fancy, for literal or just-for-fun shopping….

Who doesn’t enjoy an artful “bookish” thing?

A boxing we will go…and there’s a bit about a book here, too

April 21, 2010 § 26 Comments

Oh, the darn mirrors!  I realize they help observe “form” but egads…

Nory won an opportunity to take ten friends to a boxing class and asked me and we didn’t know what to expect other than we might be out of our comfort zones (totally) and one of my great friends came along (so I wouldn’t be the sole middle-ager) and we got there and milled around a bit, asking questions and waiting for the second trainer to arrive and then there were real training gloves to don which was very cool and immediately transformed my attitude and energy and then the music came on and our trainer began demonstrating and shouting out directions and there we were jump roping and punching bags (as pictured above) and scooting around aerobically and kicking and punching and cardio-ing and weirdly, everything started to get easier as we went along except for the fatigue part where you think your arms will fall off and then we were “on the floor” doing crunches and crazy planks on our sides and then we were back up to punch and kick and starting to get the hang of it even though turning to rubber at the same time and glad I didn’t have to do 15 rounds in a ring which I still can’t imagine, and then we were up and down and up and down with tips and encouragement along the way and then suddenly, we were done.

Forty-five minutes went like this (insert snapping of fingers) and then there we were all pathetically drenched in sweat and no one minded and no one cared about their hair and everyone felt lighter, relaxed, and very worked out.
So thank you Nory for opening another door!

Denouement: We’re signing up for class once a week. “Once a week will change your life,” said the trainer. 

Me, Nory and friends, post-workout!

The Pugilist at Rest
by Thom Jones has been on my shelf for years. I read it as soon as  I purchased it, read it all the way through, searching for why he was considered a prize winning story-ist (he won an O Henry for his title short story). I don’t think I “got it” at the time. I think I need to go back and read him now. Though there was a lot of pain as well as boxing and also the Viet Nam war in his stories, I am curious again about his style and craft and overall what caught Updike’s eye when he included Jones in a Best Short Stories anthology.

New habit…and a bit on books about writing.

April 7, 2010 § 9 Comments

The experiment worked. I could tie its success to spiritual reasons but would likely lose you as a reader if I did so. Let’s just say that 40 days of daily writing “practice” can engender writing as a habit. It has. The “dailies” continue.

In fact, writing exercise has become something that I now look forward to. Crave. Need. Doesn’t matter if I do it for a half hour or half day or (let’s exaggerate here) half a minute. It is to the point that writing practice, writing exercise, feels good. And certain doors (certainly in my memory) bang open each time I sit down to write. (Mind you, this is writing exercise, not writing a novel or anything.)

EARLY WARNING: This blog entry will natter on about a book on writing that included writing exercises. Some of you are yawning already and I get that, it’s ok.

My recent personal challenge was to read my way through some books about writing. Here then, is one of the ones I have finished, and so far, have three notebooks full (on one side of each page) with writing exercises and writing lists. (the other side of the page is for gluing things like ticket stub, cartoons, ideas that I like but have no idea what to do with otherwise. Actually, what I’ve come up with is “scrap writing.”

I will say that the writing comes much more easily as a result of this daily practice. The writing is not  better; it just comes more easily. The words and thoughts and images and memories and silly or simple or silent plots just spill into the exercise book. No required looking back at what was written, no editing, no asking someone to read. It’s an exercise book, for pete’s sake.

And so, after reading/working my way through PEN ON FIRE (reviewed several blog entries ago), I next picked up POEMCRAZY. 
It seems to be a thin volume, maybe not taken too seriously in fact, but it’s doable. Once you slow down to tackle (once again, only some of) the exercises, the book takes much longer to get through, of course. You have to be true. If you attempt an exercise, you gotta take it to its max, not cheat the clock or any tangents the subject matter might inspire. You have to be “there.” You have to use pen and paper. Well, you don’t have to, but it works better.

I liked POEMCRAZY.  For several reasons, not the least of which is that poetry should infuse prose, I think. And author Wooldridge pulls out several poetical stops to inspire the writer. Note however that I am prone to elevate Poets to a certain literary pedestal and love them especially if I have even a glimmer of what they’re talking about.

I like the cover. (There we go, leaping!)

POEMCRAZY is a nice little tome, after all, and worth a read. Some of it is so obvious but then, that’s part of the point, dealing with the obvious and seeing it, making it fresh, giving stale vocabulary the boot, playing with structure, making up words. (Probably one of the best exercises in there.) 

Ms Wooldridge is sincere, light hearted yet serious about her work and she does a lot of poetry workshops with children. You have to appreciate that, at least. You get glimpses of her home, her husband and children, her yard, her trees, her walkways and the sounds and slant of light in California. (Thank you, Emily D, for the idea/phrase ” a certain slant of light.”)

Maybe worth having, at least for its size. I kept it in my purse (I carry a big purse, in fact it’s a bag, not a purse.)  The chapters are short, the exercises now and then concrete. Having written your way through it, and gleefully skipping some of the stuff she asks you to do (I begged off of labeling everything in the room with cutesy word combination “tickets”), you will feel accomplished, even if you don’t look back at what you did.

Books, magazines, and pens

February 17, 2009 § 9 Comments

“Read THE GOLDEN KEY,” said someone at the water cooler today. It’s an 1800s fairy tale, and surprisingly good. I don’t know the author and didn’t ask, but it came from a readaholic source, so there is likely something to it. 

In the current NEWSWEEK magazine dated Feb 23, 2009, (it’s Snarl’s but for some reason, comes to the house rather than going to his dorm. So I just kinda graze through it.) on page 44, there is a one-page article on  The Curse of Cursive by Jessica Bennett. While I find her arguments against cursive writing to be squashable and due primarily to the fact that she had so much trouble forming the letter “Q” in first grade (which I understand and with which I empathize), her anti-cursive diatribe is fortunately humorous because her arguments against the “loops and swirls” are weak. She has not a dotted “i” to stand on.
But funny wins the day at the end of the day and she manages some humor. 

However, Bennett comments during her essay that “by the 1890s, even Henry James dictated his novels to a secretary.”  Hmmm… well, we don’t know if it’s because his handwriting was awful OR because he didn’t enjoy writing in longhand OR if he had an injury OR if he maybe had a thing for the secretary and could thus keep her occupied and near him by dictating his words. I am always suspicious of facts plucked from Here and thrown into There to make a point. But, mention a writer and his or her habits, and you have my full attention.

Bennett’s last lines, following some of her anecdotal humor, are perhaps her best:  “So if loops and swirls make you feel better, be my guest. In fact, go buy a fountain pen. The economy needs all the help it can get.”

True enough, I suppose. Although I won’t have my precious pens slighted, nor thought merely precious.
I love my G2s; my freebies from Microsoft; my Tiffany slim silver pen that’s kept in all its royal velvet for doing hand-written notes only; my purple pens that write blue, a whole box of them given to me by a pharmaceutical rep three years ago; my straight blue stick BIC pens which my Dad always used, too; and then, the “tramp” pen, the one I find suddenly somewhere in the house, long forgotten, but it just happens to write beautifully.

As for cursive, to write cursively or not to write cursively, I laugh at how my own longhand has degenerated and take singular joy in NOT using the Palmer method anymore having adapted a blithe scrawl.

Books that didn’t work…(for me)

June 23, 2008 § 1 Comment

Nope, not trying to be negative. Just sharing and maybe tweaking your summer reading list, and maybe you could suggest how to get through the ones below that I have not yet finished.

THE FAITH OF A WRITER: LIFE, CRAFT, ART by Joyce Carol Oates: Great out of the box but as it progressed, too professorial/academic and not enough of her anecdotal experience. (finished it, though)

SOCIAL CRIMES by Jane Hitchcock– “older” chick lit that started out well but pitfell into a murder that just, well, didn’t fit. (finished it, though)

LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurty- I shouldn’t complain yet. I haven’t passed page 100 as I write this. But it’s…just…not…going…well…as in intriguing, fun, aha.  I do like Texas. I do like man lit.  I do love horses, and I prize independence and those who act cooly independent and smart. Yup, I’m sure this one will draw me in but, when? (not finished)

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN:AT HOME IN ITALY by Frances Mayes – Even the shallow movie worked better for me than the book. And,  the book and movie don’t even mirror one another. So, my book mark rests somewhere around page 121 and I blow the dust off the top of pages from time to time when I clean. (not finished)

THE YELLOW LIGHTED BOOKSHOP by Lewis Buzbee- I had heard from a frantic book collector/reader/writer that this was a prize pick at a book fair in NYC two years ago. That was enough recommendation for me. But it has too much on the history which would be good if it were not so broad and therefore faintly disinteresting.  And then there’s not enough on the human and anecdotal, even on his past as a reader, so…kaput. Not sure to whom I might give this one. It’s a nice little hardcover. Oddly, I like him, the author. I can tell. But…just…not…that…into…his…book. (not finished)

BEACH HOUSE by Paterson and DeJonge: Ok, no. Way too disturbing. Hey, I’m not a prude. You gotta realize that I am the one, however, who stopped watching Medium and CSI Miami (although I would like to know how things are going for H’s son). (not finished, in fact, barely begun)

MY COUSIN RACHEL by Daphne DuMaurier:  Oh, I just had to have this book, didn’t I, and finally found it on a bargain shelf. It’s a lovely copy. Maybe if I could just read it uninterruptedly. It’s a period piece so I need a period of time in which to read it. On a rainy day, on the living room couch? Is there room? WIll the beagle move over? (not finished – read about 20 pages…should I wait for a rainy day where I can pretend I’m out on the moors?)

JULIE AND JULIA: MY YEAR OF COOKING OF DANGEROUSLY by Julie Powell. Nothing happens. Don’t give me any “it’s minimal” crap. Nor is it Raymond Carver-ish. Nor is it Weiner-ish. I suspect the author started out with a blog and was told she should write a book (she really IS a good writer) but there’s no tension, no situation, and I kept reading just in case, like Heller’s SOMETHING HAPPENED that if you don’t keep going, you won’t get it. Anyway, I say “no” to this one and bet the movie will be better. But not if they set it in Long Island City. Better to lie (cheat the book) and put it on the West Side, along Riverside Drive. (finished it, though)


Book Swap of sorts

April 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

Three amigos we were not so long ago, doing writing workshops together, inspiring one another, meeting regularly, talking, writing, doing the book thing. 

We met last night over a chain restaurant dish of food and glass of wine (risky business in a mall eaterie but the waitress SAID it was a decent pinot grigio). It was our first trio gathering in more than a year.

Conversation ranged from hair to aging to travels to assignments. I found myself listening, asking questions and doing a lot of listening. Having leaped from topic to topic, when the plates were plunked down in front of us,  Marge asked “What books did you guys bring to share?” (She had planted the idea in an email the day before our get-together.)

Hippy Sue had forgotten to bring hers, which was totally understandable given the car repair run-around she was having and the frenetic planning that it requires.

I brought one book along. Just one. Knowing I might not see it again. It’s one I like. But you have to realize that book borrowers, while excited to have something “else” to read, something borrowed, often forget to return the book; it sits on their shelf until they’ve seen it so often, they believe it’s theirs.

I had chosen carefully. This was in fact a book that Marge had given me. I handed it over hoping, betting actually, that she would enjoy it. I figure it will come back some day; her inscription to me in the beginning of the book may be the prompt that brings it home. If it doesn’t boomerang, that’s cool, too. Her Colorado cabin will be a good place to be shelved.

It’s a book on writing. I am as crazy about books on writing, GOOD ones, as I am for books about NYC. She gave it a cursory glance and popped it into her purse. Displaying serious ADD tendencies, our conversation hopped to the next topic. One minute we were on that book, the next, on Harry Potter and the next, travels in Europe.

For her part, Marge offered a Bill Bryson, two self-publish type books, one on communication, the other on successful women, and book on writing, Stewart’s FOLLOW THE STORY, one I already own and cherish. Hippy Sue took it with some urging. I took the self-publish on successful women. I am curious about what defines a successful woman. Other than herself.

It was a good evening. We renewed and will come back together in another six or 12 months.

A true book swap should be a sharing of books you deeply care about; there should be some excitement there. The hunt continues among those of us who are true bookaholics for the next “find,” the next tome to clutch and admire and finally open and read and travel to the “where” the book creates. I salute you, those who are willing to part with a treasure, not sure if it will come home again or not. The risk is worth it among worthy books. Read on. Pass it on.

Oh, I need a book group.

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