I stumbled across this terrific essay that questions a lot of societal norms, including the pursuit of happiness, the idealized life, and the “dysfunction” of the creative mind. Here’s a tidbit:
Many of the people who have made the biggest contributions to our collective history—intellectuals, researchers, composers, writers, artists, and so on—have lived lives that, from the outside, seem fairly pathological. They have often been deeply solitary, have had trouble forming enduring relationships, have been consumed by their projects to the point of obsession, have plunged into the depths of despair, have doubted and disparaged themselves, and have had to endure the coldness and sharpness of the world\’s judgment. Yet who is to say that these lives are somehow less poignant than those that seem more wholesome?
The whole essay is worth a read and some thoughtful consideration: Happiness and Its Discontents – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.
It seems like we are exposed to nearly eleventy-billion articles every day about how the Twitter, e-books, iPhones, Google Glass or some other new-fangled thing means certain societal doom. It’s hard to believe that we didn’t invent this kind of senseless, panicked fear-mongering about new technologies in our modern technological age. No, fear of the new has been with us since Plato and the invention of writing. Click over to see a great timeline: These New-Fangled Books Will Doom Us All! | Tor.com.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been revisiting favorite authors from my childhood, just rereading one or two of their best novels. I read a lot of mysteries back then, but I’ve fallen off in my mystery reading since. First, I reread some Agatha Christies: And Then There Were None and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. She was one of my favorite authors back then, and if I hadn’t read all of her books, I came pretty close. I think it’s becoming obvious that I did little other than read as a child. Well, I was that kind of kid.
My most recent reread was Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night. Such an excellent book, and so much more rewarding to read now. Christie’s books are like bonbons, delicious and worth gobbling, but Sayers presents a more satisfying entree that needs to be savored.
Next, I’m thinking about revisiting Josephine Tey and P.D. James. Also, perhaps Martha Grimes and Ruth Rendell. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about all of these terrific ladies who wrote/write detective novels.
(Most links go to LibraryThing, except the link to Gaudy Night, which goes to the full review on my book-journaling blog.)
I spotted this beautiful minimalist home in the New York Times.
Source: Freedom in 704 Square Feet – NYTimes.com.
It’s gorgeous and well-designed to meet the specific needs of the couple who live in it. But what struck me most about this article was the animosity on display in the comments. Is it possible that some readers felt threatened by this couple choosing to live differently than the norm?
How would our world look if we all tried to do this? I don’t mean living in a 700-square-foot house–clearly, that would not work for everyone. What I mean is, what if each one of us thought about what we needed and wanted for our living spaces and our life, and then tailored them–as much as was feasible–to suit? We are all different individuals, so why are cookie-cutter houses and mcMansions the norm?
It seems like many of us avid readers have a fascination with what, and how much, some of our favorite authors could drink. There have been some wonderful love letters written to alcohol by some of our greatest literary talents.
Kingsley Amis was a prodigious drinker. We might almost call him a professional. His words on drinking have been gathered up in a little book: Everyday Drinking.
This is not a book for reading straight through as much as tippling from at odd times. But if you are at all fond of alcohol, it is a must-read.
There are actually three short books in this volume. The first, and best, section is Amis’s treatise on drink. It is quite funny, and some practical tips are scattered here and there. The second section reprints Amis’s newspaper columns on the subject of drink, and there is some repetition here. The final section contains several alcohol-related quizzes, which might be fun after having a few.
Keep this book by your bar, and remember to nip from it every now and then. It’s probably the only book on the subject you’ll need.
I guess these days we’re too health-conscious to drink like the masters did. Too many calories! The jury is out on whether this is a good thing for literature. But it sure doesn’t seem like being a writer is as much fun.
I realized with the first two reads of the year, I have an accidental theme going on: reptiles in my fiction! With Swamplandia! it was alligators; then there is a snake in The Burn Palace. Our upcoming book club read is set in Texas, so I wonder if a lizard will figure into the plot.
That got me wondering how many of my past reads featured reptiles, so I did a quick search. Snakes are by far the most common reptiles to show up in my book reviews and summaries. Going back in time, I see there were significant snake scenes in:
As for alligators and crocodiles, there is only Swamplandia! that I can recall. There may have been a crocodile in The Poisonwood Bible.
There are quite significant cosmic turtles in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, from which I’ve read Small Gods, and in It and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. As for actual turtles, they don’t seem as common, although the Mock Turtle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland certainly comes to mind.
I also can’t seem to find any books I’ve read with lizards in them, although there are dinosaurs of course in Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Would you be more or less likely to read a book with a snake in it? I’d rather meet one in fiction than in real life, that’s for sure!
Here’s a list of fictional reptiles from Wikipedia and a list of Reptiles in Fiction on LibraryThing, if you’d like to seek out even more reptiles in your fiction.
An interesting and thought-provoking piece in the New York Times Magazine this week: The Online Avengers – NYTimes.com.
This story is full of shades of gray. On the one hand, it is distressing that young girls are still being victimized, harassed, shamed, and subsequently ignored by law enforcement. I can understand the feeling of powerlessness that would lead online vigilante groups to take action, even illegal action, to try to right these wrongs. And the Internet has become a very powerful tool for getting the attention of media and authorities.
But on the other hand, this (again) reminds me of some of the more extreme dystopian elements of The Circle. Do we really want the court of public opinion to become the venue for justice? How long do our “crimes” follow us around in the Internet age–all our lives? Is it possible we may someday be outed and punished for the crimes of our ancestors as well, as portrayed in Eggers’ novel? And while it’s reasonable to expect that the perpetrators of a crime should not remain anonymous, why do those who out them get to enjoy that anonymity?
No easy answers here. Just another signpost on the road to a brave new world.