Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Edge of the World

I haven't really been writing.
What I HAVE been doing is reading. Thinking. Dreaming. Musing.
Trying to look at my life from the inside-out. Forty awaits in less than six short months.
Forty, I think, has a lot to tell me and probably even more to show me.
Forty, finally, no longer frightens me.

Here's some of what I've been reading:

Rules of Civility,  Amor Towles. A debut novel from a new author (I can only pray he writes more.) My friend T. lent it to me.  Pre-WWII New York City. Girls working in typing pools and at magazines. Bluebloods with family money and houses in the Adirondacks. Trains. Quips and witticisms. The heroine of the book herself a bibliophile. Her tastes towards the classics and her habit of weaving books and their narratives into her everyday life. Her dead father.

"Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee.  Only decades later would I realize that he had been giving me a piece of advice."

The chapters have actual titles. There are no quotation marks anywhere in the book.  I don't want to give it away. I haven't read a writer this visually gifted in a long time and I've had several tired mornings this week after reading it late into the night. Oh, and I don't want it to end. Always a sign of a great read.

Tiny Beautiful Things,  Cheryl Strayed.
I've talked about this book before. I've finished it now and I'm re-reading snippets of it, prior to actually buying a physical copy for myself, and for the birthdays of all of my friends for the rest of the year. It's a book for the collection. This sums it up: Strayed was the advice-giver working under the guise of anonymity for the advice column on The, called Dear Sugar. This is a collection of the columns, and I think, her best book. Torch and Wild are her other two books, both great reads, but this book really got me.

"The useless days will add up to something.  The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal.  The long meandering walks.  The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people's diaires and wondering about sex and God ...  These things are your becoming."

There it is in a few short sentences.
My twenties in a nutshell.

Torch, Cheryl Strayed.
I know, based on her memoir Wild, that Torch, too, includes autobiographical material. Again, I don't want to spoil this book. It's tender and sparse, open and brave. A great read.

The Dinner, Herman Koch.
A so-so read, I have to say. I know that the reviews are stellar, the translation from the Dutch very good, and the topic very socially relevant in these very troubled times we live in. But it was clunky. There's no other word for it. But very plot-driven. In a maddening kind of way. And no, I could not surmise the ending.

We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver.
I think I've mentioned this one before, too, but it's worth talking about again. It's a disturbing read, but I think it should be distributed amongst parents, mandatory reading for those who've decided to add to the herd on this very crowded planet. Similar subject matter to The Dinner, but much darker, and handled by a more adept writer. Tough to get through, though, I will warn you.

For a Saturday morning, I put aside the books and delved into this beautiful article in the New York Times, translated from Norwegian and containing some beautiful phrases that I've been reading over and over again, like this little paragraph that I've been thinking about all morning:

The northern lights compel your eyes upward. They’re impossible to ignore. A simple phenomenon, rays striking the atmosphere, no more mysterious than the beam from a flashlight — yet the lights convey a sense of being at the very edge of the world and looking out at the endless, empty universe through which we are all careening.

As this was a photo essay, the second link, a series of photographs, entitled "God's Light Show" accompanies the article.
Worth a read and a look on a cold, grey, March day before you go out and careen through this little time-blip known as your Weekend.

Happy Saturday.

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