To me, a good book is one I don’t want to stop reading. It engages. I’ve read a lot of literary high brow books in my life, but I don’t especially enjoy it. I’ve read a lot of nonfiction on social justice topics, but I don’t especially enjoy it. What I really enjoy is a good mystery, something that drags me along with well-defined characters and a fascinating plot.
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It was an ordinary day in the park. I was sitting on a bench in the sunshine, reading “The Museum of Extraordinary Things.” A group of about 20 young people walked down the path, humming “Dance Me to the End of Love.” They set up in an open space, formed a semi-circle and began to sing in earnest. I put my book down and listened for almost an hour. They sang nothing but Leonard Cohen songs. When I got home I learned he died. I felt like I’d been in the park of extraordinary things.
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Isn’t it kind of strange that we read books on electronic devices that tell us exactly how much of the book we’ve read? You can say to someone, “I’ve only read 67%, so don’t tell me the ending.” So precise. None of this looking at the bookmark sticking out of the pages and saying, “Oh, I’m about 2/3 of the way through.” No, none of that.
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“What’s on?” People want to know what’s on your iPod, your TV, your stereo, your X Box, your bedside table, your car radio. They think it says something about you. It probably does. So you should know that I watched “Marcella” all weekend, I listened to Natalie Merchant and Al Jarreau in my car, keep my radio tuned to NPR and I finished reading “The Marriage of Opposites” this weekend. Now you know all my secrets.
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“Whose book is this?”
“It was mine, but I gave it to Jane and then she passed it on to Sylvia.” I shrugged. “You could say it belongs to whoever wants to read it next.”
“Okay,” she said. She stuffed the book in her purse. “Now it’s mine.”
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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert is must reading for any writer. Or any artist of any kind. This book made me feel as if my entire life was given validation. Reading it gave me the sense that I have been right about everything I’ve done, that my creative life wasn’t a mistake or a waste of time but an example of big magic.
All those unseen pages in the file cabinet. All those books that only sold a few copies. All those blog posts with 8 views. All part of Big Magic.
I just began My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. The Prelude made me cry when I read this line, “. . . inside each of us has a purple motorcycle. We have only to discover it – and ride.” (My dream has always been a Vespa.)
Then I read the Introduction and found the page I photographed above. In honor of Gloria Steinem, who has been my lifelong inspiration, we will no longer have comments. We will have an open space for your story on every page.
When I was a kid I never had bookmarks. I would tear bits of paper from the newspaper or shred a paper napkin to use as a bookmark. Now I collect bookmarks. I have some beautiful ones. Some I love but never use because they are thick – leather or fabric – and bad for the spine of a book. My favorite has a photo of Frida Kahlo at the top and a tassle at the bottom.
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Have you read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed? I read it some time ago. At first I saw some parallels between societies that fail and the US. As time has gone by the the country’s political climate and income disparity grow, I see more and more. I hope our country can avoid the collapse described in this book. I hope.
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It’s so much easier to examine the evidence for what the effect of climate change or capitalism or any other issue for another country than it is for our own country. When it comes to our own country we have opinions, not evidence. The same is true for personal life. We can see the evidence of someone else’s behavior so much more clearly than we can for our own behavior. The human mind is flawed, but why?
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If you are a fan of Sue Grafton’s alphabet novels, you may have noticed that the prompts this week came from the first 5 titles of her books. She’s up to X now and I’m looking forward to her next book. She’s a master of her genre.