Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question:

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

Because I buy or mooch a lot of used books, I don’t expect my books to be in pristine condition. But, even in the case of used books, I try to find ones that are in decent condition. Of course, used books, especially older paperbacks, no matter their condition, sometimes crack, lose pages, and fall apart.

As far as hardbacks go, I try to keep new ones in relatively good shape, only cracking the spine if it’s too stiff to read the book. The one thing I do try to preserve are the dust jackets, which is difficult, especially in moves.

I don’t dog-ear my books. I use a bookmark, and lately Post-It notes to tag spots I want to go back to. And yes, I also underline passages and make notes in the margin.


A Poll: A Question of Subtitles

This will be my first attempt at using the polling function, and it’s an idea borrowed from Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, who writes about going to a seminar on blogging and learning about the importance of subtitles. She put up a poll, asking readers for input about a subtitle. So, I’m going to try a poll as well.

I’ve only come up with two subtitles, so the poll will be small. As you can see, my ideas reference one of my favorite books, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’m open to suggestions. I’m trying to keep to the theme of exile, or feeling a little out of place and far from literary culture.

And thanks for playing.

Sunday Salon: Time Travel

The Sunday
There is a passage in The English Patient in which Almasy talks about how a lover wants to be a historian; he wants essentially to time travel and always be with his beloved Katherine.

When I started reading Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, I thought about Almasy’s musings, about the idea that lovers want to be historians of each other, and always be part of their beloved’s life. It’s what the novel’s Henry DeTamble is able to do because of a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel, although Niffenegger, in an interview here explains she had not considered that people actually want to live in their lover’s past, and was astonished to hear just such a longing was common.

As I’ve read the novel I’ve also pondered the possibility of time travel. Almost since we’ve known each other, my wife and I have wondered what it would be like if we had somehow met 14 years earlier, before she met her ex-husband. Would it change the present? Would we be attracted to each other then? And how would we have managed to coordinate it since we were, at the time, living in cities hundreds of miles apart? What would have directed me to her? Perhaps like Henry in the novel I would have the capability of meeting myself in the past or future, and telling myself the details I needed to know.

Of course the complications of time travel are numerous, most of which deal with the alteration of the past or future by the traveler. Can one adjustment twist the whole universe out of order? Would it be worth the risk?

So, would you time travel?


Editor’s Note: This post has been written as part of Sunday Salon.

Booking Through Thursday: Favorite Literary Couple, Real and Imagined

Here is the Booking Through Thursday prompt: “Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like . . .”

Hmmm . . . Initially I take this to mean a writer and his or her significant other — in that case it’s Henry Miller and Anais Nin, mainly because of the movie Henry & June (1990), which is one of my favorite movies.  The love triangle between Henry (Fred Ward), Anais (Maria de Medeiros), and June (Uma Thurman) is intriguing and complicated. The film itself is gorgeous, though a romanticized version of Paris in the ’30s.

Given that the film was drawn from Nin’s published journals it’s not surprising the film registers such a  romantic and stylized evocation of Paris in the ’30s. According to The Erotic Life of Anais Nin by Noel Riley Fitch, in her journals Nin created a stylized persona.

Arguably, of course, all writers — diarists, memoirists, novelists, etc.— create personae. Vivian Gornick argues in her wonderful little book on writing personal essays and memoirs The Situation and the Story that writers, even nonfiction writers — perhaps especially nonfiction writers— must create a persona when they write:

Out of the raw material of a writer’s own undisguised being a narrator is fashioned whose existence on the page is integral to the tale being told. This narrator becomes a persona. Its tone of voice, its angle of vision, the rhythm of its sentences, what it selects to observe and what to ignore are chosen to serve the subject; yet at the same time the way the narrator — or the persona — sees things is, to the largest degree, the thing being seen. . . .the creation of such a persona is vital in an essay or a memoir. It is the instrument of illumination. Without it there is neither subject nor story.

Now back to the subject of this post: literary couples (couples in a relationship, of course, also develop personae). After rereading the prompt, I also thought about literary lovers on the page, actual characters in a novel, and I’m really intrigued by the literary couple Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire in Audrey Niffenegger‘s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Such an interesting premise: A love story complicated by the fact that one of the lovers has a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel.

In the process of reading this novel, I’ve been pondering the idea of time travel. The whole what if of it. And so I have my own writing prompt for readers of this post:

What if you could time travel? What would you do? Would you try to influence the past or future in some way?

Post your answers either in comments or post a link to the answer. I’ll be posting my own answer later.

The Power of Attraction: An Interview With Rebecca Lawton and Jordan Rosenfeld

Compare their biographies (see below) and authors Rebecca Lawton and Jordan Rosenfeld seem on different journeys as writers, one leaning predominantly toward essays on natural science, the other toward freelance journalism and fiction. Brief biographies, however, are only surface geologies in the strata of a writer’s life. Each has layered her creative life with the power of attracting such a life by writing down her desires. Discovering this power of attraction was significant enough in their evolution as writers that after they met, both decided to share their discovery with other writers, first as a seminar and then through the book Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life (BeijaFlor/Kalupi, 2007). The book’s central idea is that a writer can attract the life he or she wants, and at the same time he or she can be un-mired from negative energy: negative energy, indeed, is the culprit that denies us our dreams. The book helps writers, or any creative person for that matter, focus on what they want by writing down their desires and acting on them.

While reading the book, I had some follow-up questions for Becca and Jordan, which they graciously answered. They also graciously agreed to an interview via e-mail to talk further about the book and their writing lives.

Below is the interview:

You both have diverse backgrounds as writers. Once you met, how did Write Free come together? Did you have different approaches to writing the book?

RL: Write Free, the book, came together as a result of our putting together a writer’s retreat at Wellspring Renewal Center on the Navarro River, California. Writers came from all over the country to share in our launching the Write Free work.  Jennie Landsfield arrived from Chicago — in the very moment Jordan and I

Rebecca Lawton

Rebecca Lawton

met her, she envisioned a book we’d be writing together. The subject: using writing to attract our ideal lives — writing lives, it turned out. We not only set to work on the book immediately after the retreat, we dedicated it to Jennie. We split the work of writing chapters down the middle, reviewed and revised each other’s work, and brought the diverse chapters into one piece. It came together fairly seamlessly.

JR: We had a startlingly easy time writing this book. Before we wrote the book we decided to organize a teaching-style retreat to share what we had discovered was happening in our own writing lives. We held our first ever Write Free retreat at the magnificent Wellspring retreat center in 2006, and from there the idea for the book just flowed. It felt like we were in synch when writing the book, even though, if you read carefully, you can feel tone and voice differences when Becca is writing, or when I am. Certainly we bring different lenses to bear on the subject, but I think Becca would agree we had (and have) a great synergy.

Were the principles of attraction shared? Were there ever any conflicts?

Jordan Rosenfeld

Jordan Rosenfeld

RL: We discovered the principles of attraction somewhat serendipitously — as we say in the book, we noticed that the things we desired for our lives seemed to come into being once we’d written them down, thereby defining them, and held them in a confident space.  A friend of mine who already knew of the work

of Lynn Grabhorn recommended we read Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting. We read that, and Grabhorn’s Playbook, sharing the journey of learning through weekly meetings either by phone or in person.  We only stopped meeting regularly when Jordan’s baby Ben was born, and no doubt we’ll soon be back on a schedule for meeting about our work. It’s been definitely a partnership, very smooth and conflict free.

JR: If you mean did we share the principles of attraction with others, yes we did in workshops and in classes. If you mean did we share the principles among ourselves, that’s a yes too. When we came to the work, we both had had “power of attraction” experiences already in our lives and were drawn to similar

material. We both felt a great connection to the idea for the book and I’m proud to say we really didn’t have any major conflicts.

As I’ve read the book and worked through the activities one word seems to stand out — “focus”. How important is focus for a writer to attract the creative life he or she wants?

RL: Attracting the life you want requires having the clearest possible picture of it you can muster. Focus is essential in that it distills and directs your energy toward having what you want. I believe your focus will change: some things will sharpen as you acquire more information and mature, just as other things will go out of focus. That’s evolution.  At any point in your evolution, it’s critical to take time to joyously and intuitively work out the focus for your next steps.

JR: Very. Focus is the way we communicate to the universe (and to ourselves) what we want. Setting an intention requires focus. Getting down to the act of writing requires focus (diverting one’s attention away from the many clamoring aspects of our lives, like jobs and spouses and children). Focus is an important key, and each of us does it differently but I think without it you can’t really get very far toward any creative project.

Thinking of maintaining focus, it seems that a lot of negative energy comes out of distraction? How can writers overcome distraction, especially everyday distractions: jobs, money, children, etc.?

RL: The best response to this I’ve heard yet is the poet Terry Ehret‘s solution for the distractions in a writer’s life: integrate them.  If money is an issue, write about it.  If children speak to you as you’re working, let the essence of what they’re saying flow on to the page.  These everyday distractions are the stuff of life — they’re material you can use, if you remember that you’re a writer first and foremost.  For many of us, families top our lists of what’s key to our lives.  Remembering that, and finding structure in your time that allows both their loving support and your writing, you’ll integrate distraction.

JR: This is one of those answers that’s like a Zen koan — you overcome distraction by doing the opposite of it — which as you point out, is focusing. I think part of the problem many writers have in terms of being distracted from writing comes from fears/beliefs we hold about how hard/scary, or even exciting (thus shameful) it is to write. A lot of people feel guilt for wanting to take time to themselves for something that doesn’t necessarily bring material wealth or immediate results. By doing the writing exercises in our book we hope to help people crystallize their passion for writing so that they see how much is missing from their lives without it. (And you could easily substitute painting, dancing or sculpting for writing).

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Sunday Salon: The Soul of A New Machine

The Sunday

In high school I thought I wanted to be a computer programmer, so I took the first computer classes offered at my school. It was such a strange contrast to see rows of Apple IIe computers (can you tell how old I am now?) in a classroom in a school that was once heated by wall radiators. In class we learned BASIC, and on Fridays we were allowed to play games: Oregon Trail and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were favorites.

Once I was out of high school and looking at colleges, I realized I didn’t have the math skills it took to be a real programmer, although I did program, using BASIC, a simple Q&A game on the Radio Shack computer that hooked up to my TV at home.

The first weeks of those high school computer classes we learned the history of computer technology, a simple history of vacuum tubes and CRT displays, but there was a lot more history we knew nothing about, especially the development of the corporate culture that arose as computer technology evolved.

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