I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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Sometimes I wonder how people come to recommend books, like how, or why it is that they decide on one book over another to share with a person. I do know that in reality it’s no more complicated than arbitrarily picking a title that you have either enjoyed or have heard about and suggesting it, but I don’t know, I think that I want it to mean more than that. A typical person reads on average four books a year, and when you consider how many books are published every year the whole concept of the arbitrary book recommendation—errgh—it’s like everybody flooding their unwanted political opinions throughout social media—you know, we’re living in the age of your fact being just as real as my opinion, when really almost everything that we do, in our social media life, is veiled by the umbrella of validation, it’s like someone saying, “damn it read it, cause I told you to, although I didn’t really read it either…”
But, we don’t recommend books to validate ourselves, so what is it actually that I’m trying to say?
While working in bookstores I learned pretty quickly that one of my most important responsibilities, at least in regards to customer service, is the book recommendation. People walking through the doors are most eager to inquire about their next read, and they leave this profound task upon the shoulders of a perfect stranger. I know from experience that many booksellers really are not that eager to engage with someone when it comes down to the recommendation because, for a number of booksellers, they tend to be a little highbrow in their tastes and, therefore, in the particular act of recommending a book to someone whom “has likely never even heard of a single author that [I] might go out of my way to suggest,” said bookseller will resort to recommending something as similar as possible to the last thing that you read, and it would be irrelevant to them whether you actually enjoyed it—assuming that is that the bookseller hasn’t brushed the request off by being “too busy.”
With that said, I have always enjoyed giving recommendations, in part because sharing is caring, right? I mean introducing a person to a new author, or a new style of writing, or even a book written by an author they might be familiar with though the title is unfamiliar to them, or perhaps they have always meant to read it and have never gotten around to it and I just happened to remind them. Regardless it’s irrelevant what someone may usually read, and whom they may not be familiar with—especially in terms of the last book one might have finished. Recommending books is an interesting challenge, and even more so when someone walks through the door looking for recommendations and have filters that need to be maneuvered.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman; this is a conventional historical novel—read in many book clubs—that takes place in Australia shortly after World War I, a young newly married couple suffered a stillbirth only to discover a small boat which has washed ashore, on which they find a dead man and a living infant girl, a happenstance that the young woman convinces her husband “to be a gift from God.” It is very well written, and is well worth your time
The Light Between Oceans
by M. L. Stedman
I googled book recommendations and went through a number of the sites that popped up—I noticed recently that I look at landing pages differently, and the ranked pages that are the first few that Google lists now that I have spent a great deal of time studying SEO—most of the articles offer the same incite, which is “Where do [we] even begin?” and then they all follow through to list a number of books but, I mean, if you’re a book reviewer or writer or you run a bookstore in some fashion writing about book recommendations is incredibly important if only to direct traffic to your site. I have, of course, thought about writing the blog many times over the past years, since I started this website and blog, and every time I actually sat down to write the blog the idea that I was trying to convey would be lost somewhere after the first few paragraphs, and I’m not sure if I can explain why. I could do exactly what every other site and article that I happened upon has done, which is to write a short introductive paragraph and start listing books, but I think, for one thing, and as I have mentioned in a previous blog: reading is deeply personal for me, I’m not always eager to share my experience of reading a particular book with anyone. I love the conversations that watching movies and listening to music and even writing often develops but reading, for whatever reason, is a conversation that I actively avoid, and especially the sharing of the experience.
However, I love sharing the act of reading with people, but because it’s so intrinsically existential I suppose, for me, recommending a book should have more of an impact than tossing a copy of Red Sky at Morning on the floor at someone’s feet whispering, “Read it.”
Red Sky at Morning
by Richard Bradford
There are a handful of authors that I have learned I really enjoy recommending, and I think it’s because there is a certain universality to them while also introducing people to someone new, but of course it depends greatly on whether whomever I’m talking to has heard of said author. I’ve also learned that depending on where I have lived certain authors are less commonly known, and I have become pretty good at reading people as a result. Haruki Murakami is one of those authors, and especially when recommending some of his earlier novels because they were considerably more epic than his more recent works, his newer stuff feels a little forced to me—although I have read everything, and will continue to—he is kind of known for being formulaic, his novels follow a very specific formula which I discuss in my blog Haruki Murakami: A Profile.
Kafka on the Shore
By Haruki Murakami
When I think about writing this blog, I’m looking for something more to say or to offer, as if I were attempting to create some platform of intent: after reading this blog you’ll have everything you need to in order to maneuver the subtleties of the book recommendation, like, for example, I would want to create an app, kind of like a dating app, you input some information, maybe take a compatibility test, and the next thing you know you are well on your way to exploring every book that would inherently consume your being, but alas “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
It is important to branch out, and to experience new writers, and new styles, and new ideas, but you will likely find that it’s also enjoyable. A friend of mine in high school and I used to introduce one another to new music. Every time we saw each other, which was every day, he would have new musicians or bands for me to listen to, and I would leave him with his own list to explore. Every one of the musicians that I listen to today was discovered because of that experience either directly or indirectly, as some ripple effect of those conversations. I have three friends, at least, from Barnes&Noble either in Salt Lake City or New York City whose friendship was enlisted in much the same way, although it was with books. We would simply throw ideas out at one another and dive into great new authors. It was also during one of those ventures that I learned that it is OK to not finish a book, if you really just don’t like it. Put it down, never pick it up again, and you know what, as a matter of fact, just get rid of it—I don’t mean to toss it out a 5th story walkup or to burn it but sell it back to a used bookstore for a little extra cash or trade.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; another conventional historical novel—also read in many book clubs—that takes place in German occupied France during World War II. I little girl goes blind when she was 6 years old and her father goes through extraordinary measures in order to help her to live an independent adult life.
All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
While I was browsing for book recommendation sites on Google I did come across this article on Mashable, and it’s no different than any other that I came across however the feeling I got while reading it was better than most. Also I came across a How To of recommendations on BookRiot’s website and, by the way, if this is a site that you have not yet visited take it on my word, you should. It’s a great site.
BookRiot’s 5 Tips for Being Great at Recommending Books:
1.) "Recognize Read-a-Likes. If the person asking you for a recommendation is asking for a book that is like another title, you’re looking to match two things: motifs and tone. Motifs are recurring elements in a book that give it its particular flavor; tone is atmosphere, how light/dark the book is, whether it’s cynical, hopeful, funny, etc. For example, if someone asks you to recommend a book to read if they loved The Night Circus, look for a book that has similar motifs (magic, Victoriana) and a similar tone (romantic, lush, hopeful, tense). Comb your book memory for a title with all or many of those things; of course, if you don’t have an encyclopedic memory of everything you’ve ever read, you’ll need to…"
2.) "Keep Good Records. If you have trouble remembering what you’ve read, keep a book journal, an account on Goodreads, a spreadsheet, or some record of your reading life. It should be easily accessible, so when you’re at dinner with a friend and she asks you for a rec, you can pull it out and quickly consult it. For 201 level record keeping, add tags to each title for its genre and the format in which you read it. Someone wants an excellent audiobook about nature? I can find one in my spreadsheet in about three seconds. Need a romance that you want to read digitally? Done and done. I can even tell you if it’s available at our local library."
3.) "Ask the key question. “What’s the last book you read that you loved?” is the only question you ever need when someone is asking you for a reading recommendation and you don’t know anything about their taste. The answer will give you motifs and tones to pull from; if you haven’t read it, you at least have a genre to pull from. If the person can’t remember or isn’t a big reader, ask the same question, but about movies. You might luck out and find they last watched a book adaptation, but even if that’s not the case, you’ll get an idea of what kind of story they enjoy."
4.) "Read wider. If you only read the classics and bestsellers, you’re not going to be a very effective or interesting recommender of books. No one needs you to tell them to read Dickens or Stephen King or Agatha Christie or whoever won the Pulitzer this year. Branch out. Read in the genres you haven’t read yet, pick up books from small presses. Read diversely from authors in translation, from authors from different ethnicities and sexual orientations than your own. Become a source of serendipity for the people you’re recommending for. Help them discover gems."
5.) Abandon snobbery. No one is going to ask you to recommend their next read if they think you’re going to judge them for their current one. If you still hold onto outdated ideas about science fiction or romance or comic books, you probably haven’t read from those genres for the last few decades: go do so. If your James-Patterson-obsessed dad wants a recommendation and you happen to be a little snooty about JPatz, you’re going to have to move away from that attitude to fairly consider what it is about those books that has your dad enthralled so you can give him the next book he’ll love. Books have readers for reasons. Be open to those reasons.
I often see friends of mine asking for book recommendations on Facebook, and I rarely make any suggestions, though I rarely engage on Facebook in any respect, with the exception only of my Communitea Books Facebook Page. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted a desperate need for a book recommendation and she listed a handful of filters, a number of books immediately came to mind, so I did browse the comments—which is another reason why I rarely engage on Facebook, the bloody comments, my goodness people will come up with any reason to bash Obama (even still) or to taunt Trump…whoa, I thought this was a book forum?!—but regardless of whether I was planning on actually commenting, I did want to at least, I don’t know, make sure that people were recommending books, but in the snobbish, “…these books are lame,” kind of mentality, it was more in the sense that I was looking to reinvigorate my hope in humanity—that people are still reading! Of course, I know they are, but it’s fantastic to be reminded of that.
…furthermore, if you are interested in a book recommendation please contact us at [email protected] I am quite good at it, and I’ll get the book, if we don’t already have it, for a better price than you will find anywhere online in comparison with the same book of condition and edition ;)
Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
Trade Paperback; Used. Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford.
"The classic coming-of-age story set in New Mexico during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Trade Paperback; Used. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Historical Fiction.
"...about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times)."
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Trade Paperback; Used. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
"Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.
Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, acclaimed author Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder, in what is a truly remarkable journey."
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It feels as if I have written a number of these, but never quite like this—I suppose—at least not how I might intend for this to come across; losing someone to death is difficult for people to understand and to cope with, especially when someone so young leaves us, to the point at which our common response is to offer condolences for our loss. To me it just seems to be more, I don’t know, comprehensive than that, aside from the unusually acquisitive the typical response discerns, I don’t know I think I take more exception to the idea that someone might actually be lost. I’ll return to more about what I mean by that later.
A number of people that I went to high school with have passed away, and it seems like an unusually high number of people to lose from a single class. I knew all of them, however there were only a few I knew well. I remember very well when Ben Shrear, Marina Becker, and Mary-Beth Farmer passed away, and very distinctly, and the three of them—until last year—affected me the greatest; last year Heather Vogt passed away, and I knew her fairly well, in high school, though we didn’t speak much afterwards—I moved away and rarely spoke to anyone from home (an unconscious decision that I now regret). There is a Boerne High School Class of ’03 Facebook group, and one of my classmates maintains a collection of people that have passed away, and it seems as if we lose someone every year, and every year for the last five or six years. Last week I learned that another of our Boerne High School class of 03’ classmates passed away, Christina Welch. And her loss kind of hit me, again. Not as hard as Heather, but it was enough. The thing is-is that Christina did not like me—at all really, and I had never been too understanding of her either. Her memorial was today, and actually it continues presently, as I type this. I wanted to go, however I felt as if it might be inappropriate, and still I knew that if I didn’t at least make an attempt I would regret it. So, I drove to the Ye Kendall Inn, where Christina’s memorial is being held, and I stood in the doorway for a few moments, and I looked around the room—the memorial was beautiful, but still it felt too intimate for me; someone who, as far as anyone else there might be concerned, was there only for the recognition of having been there, and the free food—so I paid my own respects from the doorway, and I left.
I knew someone many years ago who remained close with Christina, and one of the first thoughts circling through my head when I learned that Christina had passed away was of Christina’s friend, this someone who I had once known, I wanted to reach out to her, and to express my own compassion—in some way other than “I’m sorry for your loss.”—really just do acknowledge what she, and everyone else would be going through. I could not do it. I thought about reaching out to her for days, and even came close a number of times, but in the end I couldn’t.
I think differently that many people do. I process life, and people, and ideas, and situations, and death very differently than is normal, and throughout my adult life I have made it a point to develop what I consider a talent out of the way that I process things, and as I develop it more and more, fewer and fewer people make sense to me, although the few people that do hold a more profound and essential place in my heart, and in my life. The same process has allowed me to recognize that regardless of how well I may have been able to understand Christina it was still important for me to acknowledge her, and her life, and those that will be continue to be afflicted by her loss.
Those of you who are reading this that know Christina or Heather or Mary-Beth or Marina or Ben and for those of you that did not, and yet have inevitably suffered loss I ask you to consider that they are not lost, but that they will continue to exist, and not just in our memory or our hearts, but quite literally within us. We knew them in one way only, a way that allowed us to see them, and to hold them, and to laugh with them, but now we have to learn how to know them differently: imagine how you felt when they were around, at the best times, or the worst, when one of us suffered and the other brought solace all you have to do is think about those moments and the feelings will resurface and with that you will feel them again, as well. Imagine if their feelings, in the way that they only were capable of feeling and understanding and relating to them was shared with your own every time you thought about them.
If that is difficult for you to do try considering the possibility that we made a mistake when accepting the idea that we were created in the physical image of God, and that instead we were created in the emotional image of God, and that we’re capable of relating to-, and experiencing those that we lost exactly as they were—in their emotional image. I am affected by death but I rarely feel loss and I rarely feel sadness, because were some people cannot learn to relate to someone that has passed away differently, and in that place where they once occupied they feel emptiness, I still feel them, and I know that we are all capable of finding people that we thought were lost if we are willing to relate to them a little differently. I take comfort in knowing that Christina is still here, and I hope that the idea might offer some comfort to those of you whom are having difficulty finding it.
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I drove into San Antonio earlier this afternoon to run an errand at my bank. I live in Boerne which is roughly 30 miles north of SA along I-10, though when I make the trip I usually take the backroads, it might be slightly longer, and in part because the traffic on I-10 between Boerne and SA is ridiculous, and there is a considerable amount of construction along the entirety of the route, and the surrounding area is one of the fastest growing in the nation. So, the backroads are nice. The road is surrounded still by Oak and Cedar. I listen to-, and sing along with music from the moment I get into my car to the moment I step out. This afternoon I put on a playlist that I haven’t listened to in a while. It was a nice drive.
After my errand I stopped by Half Price Books at The Strand in/or near Huebner Oaks. I often make that stop before taking the trip home. If there is anything I need to pick up for my store I will and I’ll browse the bookshelves for new arrivals, and hopefully a signed copy or a first edition that one of the employees missed that will fit nicely into my collection or I’ll upload to the website, and I’ll browse the DVD’s just in case something catches my eye, but more often than not I leave empty handed. There is also a cute dark haired woman that I occasionally make an effort to speak with. I left empty handed today.
I continued home, and took a little detour out of my way to get back onto the backroads to Boerne, and I finished my playlist on the way. The last song that played was Convenience Stores by Buddy Wakefield which is actually spoken word, it’s “slam poetry.” The playlist ended about two miles from my house. I decided not to listen to anything else. Instead I sat in silence. As I was sitting at the last light before turning on to my street and heading home my mind wandered slightly, and I was enveloped with a thought that I have had, on occasion, when lying in bed waiting for sleep, and that thought was followed, per usual, with me wishing that I would remember this, and ideas similar to this, while I’m wide awake in the middle of the day, only the thought that followed this afternoon was slightly different because I was, in fact, remembering this while I was wide awake, in the middle of the day. I realized that it was contributed largely to the fact that I was sitting in silence, with the exception of the ambient noises of the world, outside the car. We all wish that we would remember various thoughts that pass through our minds late at night while falling asleep. Buddy Wakefield, in point of fact, has a great line in his poem Information Man that reads:
“I know there are times when you will lay your head to rest and have a moment of brilliance that will grow into a perfect order o words, but you will fall asleep instead of painting in down on paper. When you wake up you will have forgotten the idea completely, and miss it, like a front tooth, but, at least, you know how to recognize moments of brilliance, because even at your worst you are f&$king incredible. It comes, honest.”
All of our thoughts, and our ideas, our perfect order of words that we have a desire to hold on to are all still there, rattling around in our heads, but how often—really—do we sit in silence, allowing them to resurface? In a complete and repose stillness without the slightest expectation. I was sitting at the light looking through the window and I was not thinking, no I was listening, and not to anything in particular: I was listening to the sound of the air conditioner which I rarely hear, and how the sound of the air changed as it was introduced to the fabrics of my shirt and the seat that I was resting on, I was noticing the different shades of green in the grass near the intersection, and in my mind I pictured the area devoured in construction as it had been only a few months earlier. In the silence I heard my thought almost as if I was consciously intruding on a conversation with my subconscious and a passing energy, I heard the thought as if eaves dropping on a nearby conversation and entering it midway through, and then I became completely conscious of it.
I suppose you could call it a form of meditation.
That reminds me—bear with me this short tangent—there has been a video recently of Russell Brand practicing Kundalini Yoga, and specifically the Ego Eradicator pose, I have always found yoga to be physical and mentally rewarding, however while Brand was teaching and then practicing Breath of Fire, a breathing technique, and I was mirroring the exercise I could not shake the thought of how unnatural Breath of Fire [breathing] actually was, how can anything that requires an unnatural processes of breathing be anything more than superficially enlightening or beneficial? I’m sure there are a number of people that will blindly argue the point without really thinking about it, but it’s important, I think, to not lose sight of why we meditate or practice yoga, we do not do this simply for the sake of doing, and yoga really is not a “way of life.” We practice yoga and meditation in order to better understand and relate to ourselves, and to our world. It seems apparent to me that somewhere along the way many people have forgotten that, it is incredible important to be conscious about the balance we maintain of our body, our heart, and our mind.
Fortunately, and in point of fact, the problem is the same regarding our attitude towards silence, and not that we are deliberately avoiding it (though I’m sure some folks are), I believe that the simple truth is that we are no longer conscious of the consistency of a resounding noise. I do think about it occasionally, but as Kenny Loggins puts it:
“You say you’re aware, believe, and you care, but do you care enough? To talk with conviction of the heart?”
I’m as guilty of it as anyone. As I said myself, “from the moment I get into my car to the moment I step out” I’m listening to-, and singing along with music. Even now, as I write this, I have Pandora playing my St. Thomas playlist—Sean Watkins’ Starve Them to Death at the moment—nevertheless I believe that there are layers of issues that we’re consumed by, and I know it’s impossible to turn on the radio, or television, or social media or to even get groceries without hearing about-, or being reminded of our inherent problems, and how every day it seems like another revolution claims to understand the root of our problems. And, perhaps, in some ways, the constant noise makes it easier to drown all of that out, the irony of course is that if you cannot live in silence you’re always going to have to fill that space with something, maybe at night, while your mind wonders, you’ll tell yourself to try to remember, tomorrow, the sound of silence.
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Those of you whom follow my blog likely recognize that I am fascinated by human behavior. The way that we interact with one another; what we communicate; what we choose not to communicate; how we communicate; how we choose to perceive others, and why? Every one of our interactions and the people that we disregard and befriend and fall in love with all of it is based entirely in the foundation of a simple choice: whether we want the good to outweigh the bad in our perceptions of another, or not. As our various relationships develop more seriously we do begin to focus on how the behaviors of another might affect our own, and whether or not a person is more likely to bring the good out in us than the bad, however by that point we more often than not have established an intellectually abiding perspective of a person that will only be intermittently affected by how we might sometimes feel.
Most people do not recognize our interactions—whether positive or negative—to be a cognizant choice, we have a tendency to acknowledge the insight that our emotions offer without really understanding why we might feel a certain way about something, or someone. In essence few of us are capable of consciously acknowledging our emotions and the affect that they might have on us—our emotions are not built-in sages or an oracle subliminally ushering us through life’s incalculable isles leading us towards one’s eventual, and metaphorical ‘seat,’ as many of us innocently accept. Our emotions are only, and quite simply emotions and they are as easily influenced by our experiences as our political affiliations or a propelling intrinsic desire to play golf after you retire (regardless of the fact that you’ve always hated it).
I suppose this thought is why it is recommended to try to avoid worrying about whatever it might be that people think of you. It’s such an encompassing rabbit hole. Perhaps there is a healthy medium somewhere in the middle, and no, no I do not, by any means, mean to imply that you should find its moderation, I cannot stand the idea—there is a terribly fine line between moderation, what some might call reason, and inherent objectivism—don’t lost yourself to “the middle.” Unless, it’s the middle-of-nowhere in which case I’ll meet you somewhere in the middle.
I do think about what people might be thinking about me; or, more to a point, what people might be saying about me. Although I do not necessarily worry. And I do not think that you can overthink something as long as you preserve direction. However there is a pygmy of a setting located an inch or so below my solar plexus that revels in frustration over the thoughtlessness of a person negatively influencing my reputation over misconceptions, or anyone for that matter. I cannot stand listening to people engage in pointless banter about the hypothetical's of another's situations without the direct acknowledgment or rebuttal of said person. The negative influence is proliferated by means of the ripple effect that outlasts a collective, and truth, as well as time. I believe that it is immanently and intellectually irresponsible.
There are a handful of accounts throughout my life that I do kind of dwell on, none of which were considerably impactful these accounts were nothing more than events which I have accrued over the years like any other, but for one reason or another there are a few that have stuck with me. The senselessness of the preoccupation is irrefutable, and I know this because I have, at one time or another, returned to them intently to reconcile, if you will, the matter. And, more often than not each account reveals itself inasmuch the way that the following unfolded:
“So, several years back now, and I mean like many, many years ago you asked me if I would like a few of the Goosebumps books for Christmas; at the time I was reading them, and you were very excited, like you had put some thought and effort into this. And, for reasons that I still cannot understand, my response was, “I like Goosebumps, but I’m not sure that they would be, like, a good Christmas present. You know?” I’m not really sure what that even meant. And you just burst out crying. I felt so bad. I have felt bad about it since then, I still feel bad, and I’ve thought about that multiple times every year for the last 25 years, at least. Do you remember that?" ... "Nope.”
The most recent of my accounts that will likely haunt me for many years to come is slightly different and when it comes to mind I physically shake my head, as if to say “Geezus [email protected]%$ing Christ what the hell is wrong with you [me]!” I had a pair of friends not too long ago, and I fell unabashedly in love with one of them, though she was—and shall forever remain—inconveniently unavailable. Throughout the course of a particular happenstance I had either succumb to jealousy or was plagued by an unfortunate knowing about a new friendly party to us all—or it was quite possibly a mish-mash of the two—and I made quite the ass of myself, however I did venture to redeem myself, and was fairly successful until, that is, one evening when I boomingly exemplified each and every negative characteristic that I had accused our new friendly party of. The characterization was almost artful, as if I was intentionally wisping myself away like a leaf in the wind, blithely making myself irrelevant in a single flourishing display of indifference. But, of course, what I was really guilty of was overcompensating, which is something that I occasionally do when I feel something—an emotion—that I am momentarily unable to recognize, or that I am suspicious of. The inconvenient love began to ignore me after that, and shortly after the pair adventured towards new and pageant things. To be quite honest I’m not entirely sure that-that is why she stopped talking to me, but it seemed a reasonable inference to me, and furthermore it has contributed, like many things before, to developing a better and socially unique understanding of my emotions.
And, now to bring this insight full circle: I suggested before that our emotions are not some kind sage-like oracle providing angelic guidance from…wherever, but, I don’t know, maybe that’s not entirely true—however I would posit that unless you are capable of acknowledging and recognizing your emotions they will be more likely to lead you blithely into irrelevance than they will inspire some artistic and creative means to channel our inner hole-in-one.
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David Foster Wallace; Gregory David Roberts; Denis Johnson; Richard Powers; Haruki Murakami; Tom Robbins; Orhan Pamuk; Umberto Eco; Italo Calvino; Michael Chabon; Roberto Bolaño; Joseph Heller; Lydia Millet; Walker Percy; Karen Russell; Earnest Hemingway; Donna Tartt; Toni Morrison; Jonathan Carroll; Ha Jin; Don DeLillo; Sam Shepard; James Meek; Daniel Woodrell; Jose Saramago; Ayn Rand; Harper Lee; Truman Capote; Bob Shacochis; Robert Olmstead; Patrick McGrath; James Salter; Patrick DeWitt; Emily Brontë; Günter Grass; Mark Helprin; Will Self; Larry Watson; Peter Matthiessen; Jonathan Lethem; Milan Kundera; Philip Roth; V.S. Naipaul; Colm Tóibín; A. S. Byatt; Richard Ford; George R. R. Martin; W. G. Sebald; Russell Banks; Yukio Mishima; Tom Wolfe; Junot Diaz; Thomas Pynchon; Michael Crichton; Luis Alberto Urrea; David Mitchell; Richard Bradford; George Saunders; Mario Puzo; Emma Donoghue; William Least Heat Moon; Nick Hornby; Kenzaburō Ōe; Elmore Leonard; Aldous Huxley; Henry Miller; Leslie Marmon Silko; Richard Wright; Margaret Atwood; Richard Stark; Edgar Rice Burroughs; Neil Gaiman; John Nichols; Louise Erdrich; George Orwell; Rebecca Solnit; Kurt Vonnegut; Edward Abbey; Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Thomas L. Friedman; J. D. Salinger; Cara Black; Rachel Kushner; Salman Rushdie; Douglas Adams; J. R. R. Tolkien; Jonathan Franzen; Cormac McCarthy; Rick Bass; Susan Sontag; Michio Kaku; Sebastian Junger; Charles Dickens; John Steinbeck; Vladimir Nabokov; Alexie Sherman; Dave Eggers; Charles Portis; William S. Burroughs; William Faulkner; Jorge Luis Borges; Sapphire; Thomas Mann; Robert Mayer; Saul Bellow; J. K. Rowling; Franz Kafka; Rohinton Mistry; Roald Dahl; Thomas Harris; Gore Vidal; Thomas Wolfe; Sylvia Plath; Julian Barnes; Isaac Bashevis Singer; John Green; Leo Tolstoy; Raymond Chandler; Marcel Proust; Upton Sinclair; Mark Kurlansky; James Thurber; William Boyd; Hilary Mantel; Zadie Smith; Abraham Verghese; Jhumpa Lahiri; Shiva Naipaul; Jacqueline Woodson; Wallace Stegner; John Banville; Mark Z. Danielewski; Maya Angelou; Naguib Mahfouz; Manil Suri; Khaled Hosseini; Jonathan Safran Foer; Richard Bach; Peter Taylor; Rick Riordan; Iris Murdoch; John Updike; Boris Pasternak; Markus Zusak; Isaac Asimov; Hampton Sides; Stephen King; Daniel Defoe; Natsume Sōseki; James Joyce; Hunter S. Thompson; Fyodor Dostoyevsky; H. G. Wells; Mark Twain; Bill Bryson; Malcom Gladwell; Erik Larson; Oliver Sacks; Lewis Carroll; Daniel Wallace; Ivan Doig; Andrew Miller; Frank Herbert; P. L. Travers; William Wharton; Ian Fleming; Patrick Rothfuss; William DeBuys; Alan Moorehead; Dashiell Hammett; Isak Dinesen; Simon Winchester; Joseph Conrad; John Kennedy Toole; Susanna Clarke; Willy Vlautin; T. H. White; F. Scott Fitzgerald; Patricia Highsmith; Ray Bradbury; Christopher Moore; Gary Snyder; Thomas Hardy; William Shakespeare; Alexandre Dumas; Jess Walter; Victor LaValle; Barry Unsworth; Ian McEwan; Chuck Palahniuk; John Irving; Anthony Burgess; Ken Kesey; Vikram Seth; E. B. White; Lydia Peelle; Jane Austen; Arthur Conan Doyle; Agatha Christie; Henry James; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Herman Melville; Edgar Allen Poe; Charlotte Brontë; Rudyard Kipling; Mary Shelley; Oscar Wilde; Louisa May Alcott; T.S. Elliot; Jules Verne; Emily Dickenson; Gustave Flaubert; Miguel de Cervantes; D.H. Lawrence; Jack Kerouac; Robert Louis Stevenson; Edith Wharton; Honoré de Balzac; Samuel Richardson; Henry Fielding; William Makepeace Thackeray; Pierre Choderlos De Laclos; Thomas Love Peacock; George Eliot; Benjamin Disraeli; Laurence Sterne; Wilkie Collins; Anthony Trollope; Jerome K. Jerome; George Grossmith; John Buchan; Virginia Woolf; Ford Maddox Ford; Jonathan Swift; Louis-Ferdinand Celine; John Dos Passos; Nancy Mitford; Flannery O’Conner; Kingsley Amos; William Golding; Elizabeth Taylor; Beryl Bainbridge; Marilynne Robinson; Primo Levi; Kazuo Ishiguro; Peter Carey; James Ellroy; Phillip Pullman; Russell Hoban; Somerset Maugham; Emile Zola; George Bernard Shaw; Evelyn Waugh; Chinua Achebe; Elizabeth Bowen; Penelope Fitzgerald; Doris Lessing; Bret Easton Ellis; Albert Camus; Graham Greene; Don Miguel Ruiz; Jo Nesbo; Howard Zinn; Miyamoto Musashi; Patrick Süskind; Herman Hesse; Paul Auster; Richard Yates; Phillip K. Dick; Erica Jong; Ian Banks; Irvine Welsh; Allen Ginsberg; Douglas Coupland; Stieg Larsson; E. M. Forrester; Ray Kurzweil; Jeffrey Eugenides; Martin Amis; Norman Mailer; Victor Hugo; Mikhail Bulgakov; Muriel Spark; Eudora Welty; Ned Vizzini; Alasdair Gray; Wally Lamb; Joyce Carol Oates; John Le Carré; Yasmina Reza; Charles De Lint; Sebastian Faulks; Paulette Jiles; Anna Quindlen; Sebastian Barry; Par Lagerkvist; Jeff Shaara; Isabel Allende; Roger Zelazny; Yann Martel; Samuel Beckett; Jim Harrison; Orson Scott Card; R. L. Stine; Meg Wolitzer; Alan Lightman; Ruth Ozeki; Greg Iles; Joseph Kanon; Kōbō Abe; Tatiana de Rosnay; Alice Munro; Carlos Ruiz Zafon; Terry Pratchett; Jennifer Egan; Leon Uris; Anaïs Nin; Pat Barker; Alan Furst; H. P. Lovecraft; Patrick Rothfuss; Dinesh D’Souza; Mark Haddon; Jean-Paul Sartre; James Michener; Bruce Chatwin; Elizabeth Gilbert; Michael Ondaatje; Jeffrey Archer; Katherine Neville; Richard Flanagan; T. Coraghessan Boyle; Dorothy Parker; Kiran Desai; C. S. Lewis; Alice Hoffman; China Mieville; Joseph Campbell; Mary Doria Russell; Herman Woulk; Kahlil Gibran; Alice Sebold; Chris Bohjalian; Helen Oyeyemi; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Antoine de Saint-Exupery; Voltaire; Bharati Mukherjee; Homer; Ursula K. Le Guin; Tennessee Williams; Nora Ephron; Oscar Hijuelos; Anchee Min; Neal Stephenson; Paulo Coelho; Adam Gopnik; Mario Vargas Llosa; Eugene O’Neill; Paul Bowles; Anne Rice; Jean M. Auel; David Malouf; Roddy Doyle; Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Yasunari Kawabata; Saki; Jack London; Arthur C. Clarke; W. H. Auden; Harlan Ellison; David Sedaris; P. G. Wodehouse; Peter Benchley; Louis de Berniéres; Bertrand Russell; John Fowles; James Baldwin; Eoin Colfer; Dylan Thomas; Siri Hustvedt; Michael Moorcock; Anne Lamott; John Gardner; W. E. B. Du Bois; Pablo Neruda; Maurice Sendak; Patrick O’Brian; Michael Frayn; Rainer Maria Rilke; Chaim Potok; Elie Wiesel; Brian Copenhaver; Thomas Merton; Madeleine L’Engle; Stephen R. Donaldson; Andre Gide; Dorothy L. Sayers; N. Scott Momaday; Ben Fountain; Amy Bloom; Lloyd Alexander; Henry Roth; JM Coetzee; Ursula Hegi; Joan Didion; Stewart O’Nan; Anne Tyler; Carlos Castaneda; Andy Weir; Kent Haruf; Theodore Sturgeon; Lorrie Moore; W. E. B. Griffin; Theodore Roethke; Wasi Ahmed; E. L. Doctorow; Pete Hamill; Timothy Leary; Annie Dillard; Gay Talese; Thornton Wilder; Eleanor Catton; John Barth; Terry Goodkind; Will Durant; Richard Russo; Langston Hughes; Kurt Anderson; William Styron; John Lanchester; G. K Chesterton; A. A. Milne; Ezra Pound; Maeve Binchy; Jonathan Harr; Howard Jacobson; Archibald Low; Edwidge Danticat; Angela Carter; Gertrude Stein; Claire Messud; Martin Buber; Harold Pinter; Seamus Heaney; J. P. Donleavy; Italo Svevo; Norman Rush; Nadifa Mohamed; Peter Straub; Richard Brautigan; Daphne du Maurier; Rex Stout; Mary Higgins Clarke; Alice McDermott; Anita Diamant; Pearl S. Buck; Carl Sandburg; Walter Mosely; Michael Dorris; J.G. Ballard; Louis Sachar; Nelson DeMille; Arthur Miller; Joseph Brodsky; Mark Salzman; John Dunning; Anne McCaffrey…
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There is something that feels uniquely American about harboring severe judgements of radical intent which, I suppose, is to say that we have a tendency to lean fiercely towards the extreme ends of the spectrum, regardless of the spectrum. Once labeled you are the stereotype, as well as the many pendulous archetypes that follow. In the fall of 1994 my sister, mother, father and I would sit down weekly to watch the new Star Trek incarnation: Voyager, not one of us could be considered a Trekkie, however each of us could enjoy the series—and others like it—for any number of reasons: the outrageous plot lines, unilateral character development, and the exceptionally—and intentional—“B” status, among other reasons. It’s the same appreciation that would allow me to enjoy myself at a Star Trek convention while simultaneously gawking at the satiric humor of Galaxy Quest. Some people might clarify the mental wherewithal by suggesting to, “…do everything in moderation.” Though I make every attempt to avoid the particular aphorism. We enjoyed the show, but we were not consumed by it, and there has been little—if anything—in my life that has consumed me to the point of behavioral dissonance. Suggesting to, “…do everything in moderation,” sounds, to me, like the temptation otherwise might be great, though I struggle to accept moderation. In reality I am capable of enjoying something for what it is, and I generally don’t extend more to that appreciation than that of an intrinsic piece of entertainment.
Last August when I starting building my online bookstore and found myself sitting for hours uploading books, individually transferring relatable information for each and every one of my greater than 2,000 book collection I also discovered a renewed interest in television. I had previously stopped watching TV. I am not one of those obnoxious pseudotrites aspiring only to judge and condemn anyone whom acts, interests, or believes differently and in this case I did not quit watching TV because I had been elevated to a higher level of humanaic consciousness, for me it could be considered a general addiction, I stopped watching television because I likely wouldn’t have done anything else—I would posit, as well, that our pseudotrites are actually more like “us” than they would like to admit. As it turned out sit-coms were a convenient backdrop to my work once music, in that particular setting, became suddenly nettlesome. There were of course a number of shows that I had been “meaning” to watch for an exponential number of years, and so I thought, “What the hell!” I watched the Office, Parks & Rec, The Killing, Sherlock, Numb3rs, and Criminal Minds: Behavioral Analysis Unit as I was browsing for a new show, recently—I still spent a great deal of time working in my living room, uploading new books to communiteabooks.com, and Instagram, and Pinterest and diving deep into marketing and learning new marketing techniques—I discovered Star Trek Voyager on Amazon Prime, and so I have been re-watching it, and it has taken me back to a different time. I am almost finished with season 3 and I’m feeling nostalgic in a very healthy, and seemingly physiological way. I was nine when I first started watching this show, needless to say it was a simpler time, in many-many more ways than the one.
I am appreciating the nostalgia: the characters, the music, and remembering how differently members of my family would react as the story would unfold. The music, especially during the first two seasons, really struck me; the opening sequence would begin and as the solar flare passed and the shows name would appear—I smiled every time. I couldn’t help it. I have also noticed a few differences in me: how I would react to the show; how I would react to the characters; something similar happened to me when I watched Numb3rs: I had originally started watching the show years ago—I forget the circumstances exactly—and I never finished it, I made it through a season, maybe some of two. I remember thinking how bad Don Eppes was to his brother Charlie the first time I watched it. The second time around, however, when I picked it up again sometime last year I didn’t feel the same way. Their relationship was somewhat turbulent but not nearly to the extent that I had previously felt, but the show hadn’t changed—I did. I’m noticing something similar re-watching Voyager. When I was younger a nine, ten, eleven year old boy my Star Trek Voyager celebrity crush was on Kes played by Jennifer Lien, however this time around, as an older man, I find that I would be more interested in Lt. B’Elanna Torres now, played by Roxanne Dawson. The two characters are fairly different from one another, at least in respect to their worldviews and, it’s funny, I just realized that Tom Paris played by Robert Duncan McNeil also had an interest for both Kes and B’Elanna Torres, and although I like the actor Paris is one of my least favorite characters.
Communitea Books had a great week last week, and I’m enjoying the thought that returning to a more childlike place emotionally and mentally may be, in part, responsible for that. There was a lot about my childhood that I have been grateful for inasmuch as there has been a great deal about my adult life that I have been grateful for, however those two people had never really met—my present and former self. I was ripped out of my childhood and spent some time in kind of an emotional purgatory before allowing myself to become an adult. This time while I am re-watching the show I am learning to allow those two people to meet, by exploring my childhood and Star Trek Voyager is allowing for some previously dormant feelings and emotions to become wakeful and relevant again. I do believe that too often people lose sight of who they are by forgetting who they were, and the shadow of some warped belief that it’s necessary to give up part of your childhood, to adopt a kind of mutual cynicism, and accept some illusive, senseless, and insidious truth. It is that childlike purview that allows you to enjoy something simply for the sake of enjoying it. To enjoy Star Trek without worrying about the obscurities of stereotypes, and to rediscover a childlike sincerity that will only strengthen your efforts throughout life without concerning yourself with an over involvement of moderation.
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I have always envied people whom are capable of speed reading, and retaining all of the information, the extreme side of the spectrum is an eidetic memory, otherwise known as a photographic memory. Many scientist agree that you cannot develop and eidetic memory, but I am not so sure about that. I read an interesting fact about eidetic memory that I shall share with you is that: the memory does not rely upon visual input, but rather it utilizes the capacity of the other body senses (Koka, 2016). And, with that in mind, there are exercises that you can do to improve your memory, such as: working on visualization skills (e.g. memory recall in greater and greater detail), playing card games (learning to count cards, etc.), encourage active reading (reading something with intent to discover information), chunking information into smaller bites, learn to make [memory] multi-sensory (explore your surroundings with all your senses, consciously), the ‘Duel n Back’ game (which can be found at brain scale), and the method of loci, or ‘places,’ which is spatial memory (walking around your home with zero light using only your memory to guide you without running into anything).
Another method that presented itself one evening while I was watching Road Trip with Sean William Scott, Amy Smart, Tom Green and others: a key to learning, and retaining information quicker and with greater ease comes by relating new information with information that you already have.
“Rubin: “What Class is that again?” Josh: “Ancient Philosophy” Rubin: “Well I can teach you ancient philosophy in 46 hours.” Josh: “Really?” Rubin: “Yeah, I can teach Japanese to a monkey in 46 hours. The key is just finding a way to relate to the material.””
Many of us do not realize however that we actually do have to teach ourselves how to learn, and memory, as most of us were fortunate to realize at some point in high school, is a huge part of learning, and understanding that we are capable of stretching our memories to retain information that we do not really want to have. We never have a problem remembering things that we are interested in—those things that intrigue us—but all that other crap, all of that everything else, that we would rather not deal with—do we really need that? And why does it so often stick with us anyway? When I was growing up it was easier to separate the two, however now, with Facebook and our media—having changed as dramatically as it has—useless crap is spilling out of our ears. I, for one, have no interest in political memes, although one did help me to recall the correct response at trivia last week, nevertheless it occurred to me that if my brain has to retain that one piece of useless information that popped up on my Facebook feed that I could not care less about, I would much rather my brain simply remember everything that it sees, reads, and hears all of the time, exactly.
I watch Criminal Minds: Behavioral Analysis Unit and, for those of you who are also fans you already know where I am going with this: Dr. Spencer Reid is an [email protected]$king badass. Dr. Reid has an eidetic memory; the especially fantastical episodes or scenes are when he hits a switch in his brain and we watch him recalling information, even conversationally, verbatim. I want that! I read two books fairly recently that were incredibly fascinating, and I would like to come back to them once that I have made certain deductions about memory, I have a feeling I will get more from reading it with [those] in mind—you know by employing that thing I mentioned earlier called active reading—they were How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, a book which many people are familiar with, I think that it is required reading now in many college courses, and Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.
I dated a girl not too long ago that could open a book and within hours have finished it, and I am not talking about one of those pleasant ‘one sitting’ novels, I mean a novel that is, on average, three- to four-hundred pages and I suppose that she remembers a good bit of it, probably because in those hours she allows it to consume her. And now that I am thinking about it that thought, actually, might explain a lot. I envied that about her, but it was all that I envied about her, and now knowing that a novel, in as many ways as is possible, became, for those few hours, her reality and she became, for those few hours, whichever character she deemed fit, and as she would come out, many of those characteristics, those that she either shared with a character or wish she had, would become a part of her, and after a time, and many-many books, she had become a puzzle of a collection of pieces each of which allowed her to experience something about this world she was afraid to actually touch.
“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” William Gibson
My memory is unusual, I cannot make sense of it. I remember behaviors well, and intentions, and ambitions, alongside useless facts, and where at a table people sat, however there are some things that my memory does not seem to have an inclination for and the reason escapes me, but probably only because I am looking for it. The ultimate irony is how can I look for a memory that is behind me, and only in shadow?
“We take it for granted that life moves forward. You build memories; you build momentum. You move as a rower moves: facing backwards. You can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way.”
I think, when it comes down to how I perceive the world, in our humanity, and as emotional creatures it seems obvious to me that we are bound to our moods, and our feelings, and our emotions too entirely they affect us profoundly in a moment and then in the next moment that feeling is fleeting, and we are different. Memory, which lives in such high regard, as if memory in-, and of itself was a being of our own creation that we are indebted to and that follow us, and yet our memories are as fluid and fleeting as the feeling that inspired our behavior in the first place, I think that is why eidetic memories are so intriguing to me, because they are balance; imagine a space between logic and emotion that collects the pieces that are left behind, and that space is neutral—remembering everything as it was, exactly and not how our emotions wanted them to be. From my humanist perspective that would astounding, but, on the flip side of that it would also be pretty great to locate a single passage from War and Peace on a moments’ notice just for the hell of it from my head.
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Writing has been a part of my life for—I’d like to say forever, but I cannot, in good conscious say that—for…a long time. I recognized that I had a talent for-, and enjoyed writing when I was either a sophomore or junior in high school. I had this English teacher, and I know what some of you all may be thinking, that she had a deep appreciation for literature and writing, and she took me under wing and cultivated that talent within me, unfortunately that’s not exactly what happened. She did recognize a talent in me, and would write notes about my papers that would read somewhere along the lines of, “Great paper! I look forward to the next one.” And, “You have such a vivid imagination, and a talent for communicating that vision onto paper.” As a result I enjoyed being in the class, and I waned to learn, and to become a better writer, and to develop a better understanding for the language. However, one morning, coming to class, she wasn’t there, and she would never be there again, when queried it turned out that she could no longer take it, it would be nice if I could say that she could no longer take the immense developing shining light that was beginning to expose itself from within me, but no, she actually couldn’t take the ridicule and humiliation and intense drama steeping from hundreds of testosterone filled teenagers at my high school. That’s right, my graduating class was so unabashedly evil that we were responsible for breaking a handful of teachers. I was disappointed when I discovered that we had driven her away, I had never really had a mentor, and I was looking forward to what the course of that year would have to offer, and what might develop but, you know, eh, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Instead I found myself bringing new AFI albums to class [The Art of Drowning] and spending entire periods laying on the floor tossing a hacky-sack to myself, sometimes I would fall asleep, because our long-term temp apparently had better things to do, I suppose, than to pay attention to his students. It took a few months to find a replacement, and once they did, our new teacher was only slightly more engaged than our long-term substitute.
I would write here and there, on my own, from then on, and the next year, when I took a psychology course that the high school offered I discovered a new topic of interest and when, at first, it was an exciting new thing to write about, it quickly became the focus of my new potential career. I would even attend UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) as a psychology major with the intention of becoming a clinical psychologist. After three years of study I became disillusioned by the idea that our apathetic society would aspire only to a fifteen minute 'therapy' session at the end of which a tiny little pill would prescribe itself to the uncertain well-being of said person’s pointless life. It was a difficult time for me, when people were more concerned with the quick fix than they were talking to-, and working through their problems—it made me sad. I did not want to prescribe medication, I am not a believer of medicating psychological disorders, yes, I know, we could talk about exceptions for hours but I would rather talk about writing, and reading, and books, so let’s get back to that…
The prospect of becoming a writer resurfaced late one night while I was driving through the southwestern corner of Colorado, it had snowed so much during the week prior that everything looked the same, although I had never been where I happened to be that night, so I’m not sure that it would have made a difference anyway, and I got lost. I use that word loosely—“lost”—because I didn’t really have a destination in mind at the time, and I’m not positive that you can actually get lost if you don’t know where your going to begin with. Nevertheless it was 3:00 AM I was driving down a snowy dead end road, before I knew it was a dead end, and thought, I should write about this. When I decided to settle(ish) in Pocatello, Idaho, and sat down to write, in my incredible new studio apartment, what would come out had nothing whatsoever to do with that night when driving in Colorado, and still, to date, I haven’t really written about that experience, I have touched on it, maybe, but (similar to how I’m touching on it in this blog) but I haven’t yet written about it—someday. I started writing, instead, about being on an airplane, and about the people on the plane, and how they might relate to-, and with one another. At the time I intended this to be a novel, unfortunately this wouldn’t be a novel. It would become a collection of short stories, and the beginning of my creative writing career. A writing career that was not at all easy to get into, however I have learned over the course of the last several years that we often attribute hard work simply to that of allowing an idea, or a passion the opportunity of the test of time. The only “hard” thing about anything is not giving up, because it is, apparently, a conditioned aspect of our nature to give up if it takes longer than we want it to.
I often think about my childhood and how much I wish my parents would have aspired to find some passion in me, and to help me learn how to pursue it. I think about that English teacher, and how that relationship could have turned into a mentorship that may have filled in the blanks, or offered those subtle insights into having a talent in a professional world that would have allowed me to develop my creativity and my professional success simultaneously. Don’t get me wrong, when I talk about success I am not referring to a Stephen King level of success or even a David Foster Wallace level of success, I am simply referring to having developed the means to cultivate a talent while also building a career. I never had that, at least the mentor that many successful artists do. Everything I know I learned by making mistakes, and by not giving up, but alas I still find myself in positions to, you know, not give up. It would be nice, at this point, to not even have the option of giving up and pursing something else, and that alternative to be an acceptable norm in the eyes of some people (my parents). I find that the difference that that mentor would have made is in the little push over the edge, you know when you're almost there, and you're always only almost there, but that little push; you know, like when something goes viral it was because that one extra person decided to like, or comment, or share, or whatever—that one little push that made the difference.
Don’t get me wrong, hard work makes a huge difference, especially for yourself when you lay your head on the pillow at night, however learning to ask for help, and to keep asking, and to continue doing it, that is what will push you over that edge.
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I’m sure many of you look back on your childhood and wish that aspects of it were different, when you read biographies or hear stories about the way people grew up, and how it influenced their lives. David Foster Wallace’s parents were professors, Michael Jackson’s father was intensely involved in his children’s musical upbringing, and Haruki Murakami’s parents were both Japanese Literature professors. My own upbringing was incredibly unremarkable, my father was in the air force so we moved around a bit, including living in Japan in the mid-eighties, however I was never inspired to develop anything. My sister and I were kind of left to make our own mistakes without direction, I am very fond of allowing ourselves to make mistakes, but when aiming towards something, you know, like Thomas Edison’s great quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Haruki Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he would meet his wife Yoko, Murakami worked for a while at a record store before opening Peter Cat a coffeehouse during the day and a Jazz Bar in the evenings. They closed the jazz bar in 1981 when Murakami decided to attempt to make a career of writing full-time, with three novels already in his library, two of which he wrote both while working at Peter Cat and on his free time. There’s a popular story that while Murakami was at a baseball game in Tokyo watching American Dave Hilton hit a double Murakami was consumed with a “warm sensation,” and the realization that he could write a novel, he went home and started to write that evening. Over the next ten months Haruki would write his debut novel, Hear the Wind Sing, after finishing it he sent the manuscript to a literary contest and was awarded first prize. Murakami was 29.
Wild Sheep Chase would be Murakami’s break out success, the final book in The Trilogy of the Rat which included his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, and his sophomore novel, Pinball, 1973.
I read a blog by A Geek in Japan about trying to find Haruki Murakami’s jazz bar, Peter Cat, though closed, they were curious to experience the same sights, and hopefully feelings that Murakami would have felt while living and working in the area. First the blogger stopped into a Senta (public baths), that looked to have been around for a while, and though the woman who ran the place enjoyed discussing how wonderful the neighborhood was in those days, she had never been to Peter Cat. The Blogger stopped by a bookstore owned by a middle aged man who, “…didn’t really look friendly.” However when asked about Murakami the middle aged man’s demeanor changed and the two fell into a great conversation about how Haruki would occasionally stop by the bookstore, the gentlemen even went as far as to point out where Peter Cat used to be, it is now a restaurant-cafeteria. It’s a good read, and if you feel so inclined you can check it out here.
I cannot recall my first experience reading Murakami, for some reason I keep coming back to Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it was printed later than I remember my interest developing, so it must have been either Hardboiled Wonderland or the End of the World or Norwegian Wood, I do remember, very distinctly living in Santa Fe, I had been there only a couple of weeks, and had still been settling in to a perfectly sized casita for one directly in the heart of the downtown Santa Fe, and my new neighbor and I slowly began developing a friendship. She was about my age, an incredible young artist, from Maine whom had moved to Santa Fe not long before when her brother’s girlfriend, who had been from there, suggested she spend some time in New Mexico. She handed me a copy of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle which she had inscribed for me, the same copy that I have lent out and has been returned to me numerous times, it’s amazing actually how often I’ve lent this book out, and how it keeps coming back to me. The book is tattered, and worn, it had been read more than any book I’ve come across, It’s got tire treads on the inside cover after having been run over, there’s circular shaped tea stains on the rear cover where a mug had been left, and still I have this book, and I will probably always have it until I’m gone. It is books like this, editions like this, that I have that reinforce what it is that I do, and my love for, not only, literature, but books, just…books. I’ve read everything Haruki Murakami’s written, and I look forward to the October 9, 2018 release of his new book, Killing Commendatore.
Murakami has been criticized for following a pretty distinct template throughout his novels: a thoughtful/emotional protagonist loses someone/something and is compelled to retreat on a journey, and then returns, eh, semi-enlightened—in the meantime all of his characters experience surrealistic, relationship, and pop-culture themed development, and all-in-all, I’ve always felt, that it makes for wonderful storytelling, I love it, and recently Xi-Chen wrote an article for Medium which I posted on the Communitea Books Facebook Page, in this article Chen illustrates something that I believe to be important for all Murakami readers, “…because writing is a form of expression and he is going to keep writing the same book until he captures that “something” and fills in that void.” It’s a great article Why I Read Haruki Murakami, you can read it here. What Xi-Chen writes is beautiful, and exactly accurate, Murakami is one of the few writers in which I can truly experience the journey not just for the characters, and not just for the reader, but for him—for Haruki Murakami.
Murakami is a bit of a loner, he doesn’t spend time with other writers, and has not developed a community of literary friends like David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen or George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, and instead he relies on his wife, Yoko, as his first reader. He loves classical and jazz music, as well as rock, of course, as you will recognize in his writings such as Norwegian Wood, a classic [the] Beatles song, as well as Radiohead, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Johnny Rivers, The Doors, and more. He is an avid reader, and crime novel enthusiast, he read crime novels to teach himself English, such as The Name is Archer by Ross McDonald. Haruki Murakami is a fascinating man, and a great novelist, and, again, I look forward to Killing Commendatore, as well as those novels he has yet to write.
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The vast majority of people throughout the United States are unware of how different our country is depending on where it is that you live. It will rarely cross your mind that the people living in the Southwest are not experiencing the same thing as those living in the Midwest, and so-on-and-so-forth, there are, of course similarities, an example of which being McDonaldization and the illusion that efficiency and familiarity establish some deeply-rooted since of comfortability, though this is not entirely true. Yes, regardless, I did laugh at Tom Segura’s joke, “…the worse part, honestly, of traveling in our country is that there’s no surprises. I swear to you, I travel every week, and it’s really a disappointment. Every place is exactly what I thought it was going to be. You know? I can prove it to you. Picture a place you’ve never been to in this country. Picture it. Yup. That’s exactly how it is.”
…because there is truth to that, it’s those similarities, or differences that we actually think about: I live in Texas, in a little town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, I grew up here, I moved out of state after high school for ten years, and now I’m back, there are still people who believe that here in Texas we ride our horses to work, and granted in another little town about 40 miles from me called Bandera there is truth to that, but they do not speak for the rest of Texas, however, you would be surprised by how different things actually are.
I keep repeating myself, why? Because it’s important for you to understand the differences. When I was living in Salt Lake City I developed a strong craving for Jamba Juice one Sunday afternoon, I drove around for nearly two hours just hoping to find a Jamba Juice that was open on a Sunday. I remember having a conversation with a female friend—or so I thought she was—until I asked her, “So, can men and women be friends?” Her response was, “Yeah, I think so.” I continued with, “What if one of them is married?” To which her response was, “Oh, absolutely not.”
The way that people think, what people are interested in, how people express and act on those interests, all of which, and more, differ depending very much on where it is within the United States that you live. I was at the gym last week in the middle of a conversation—which, frankly, I still cannot understand what this friend of mine was thinking approaching me at the gym while I wearing headphones, I honestly don’t care how well I might know you—he asked me about my work, “So you run an online library, right? How’s that going?” I responded with, “Well, it’s a bookstore…you know, and it’s going great…” He looked at me after I corrected him about my business being a bookstore and not a library as if to say, what’s the difference? And there’s a truth to that, in Texas. If you’re even the slightest bibliophile (book person) living wherever it is that you might be living you are probably familiar with Book People in Austin and Larry McMurtry’s bookstore in Archer City, Booked Up, those are the two bookstores to speak of in the state—in the state of Texas! And most Texan’s are not familiar with them, but then again most Texan’s are still under the impression that printed books and bookstores are a thing of the past, most Texan’s are not aware that as of 2012 bookstores, and especially privately owned used bookstores have seen a steady increase both in new stores and sales, and that digital—or eBooks—had leveled out in sales.
It’s a result, entirely, of this misconception that though you might drive by (or thru) a number of familiar franchises between here and everywhere else, that everywhere else is not the same. They are not watching the same news stations, they are not hearing—or agreeing—with the same ideals, and I’m not referring to a political agenda, even though our government and media has managed to make everything seem like it’s a political arena in attempt to divide a manipulated American public, bu-bu-buuttt that’s not exactly the point of this blog. I want to talk about books, and about reading, guess what? Reading is alive and well, and you fellow Texan’s I’m not only talking about in “dirty liberal cities” like San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York, small town moderate (left of-, right of center Americans) are tearing through the spines of an increasing number of books and hauling them—after reading—to their local libraries or bookstores (what’s the difference again?) for reselling.
Did you know that Half Price Books started in Austin, Texas? HPB is one of the largest book retailers in the country, and, that’s right, it started here in lil ol’ Texas—there are five stores in San Antonio. Just outside of San Antonio in the numerous growing towns such as Boerne, Bandera, Comfort, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and New Braunfuls the only existing bookstores (that are not specialty stores) exist within the local libraries, which, unfortunately, do not have the means to offer to the town the inventory or the hours that the residents deserve. The main reason for this is the fact that most people in rural Texas do not understand that people still enjoy reading. I know, from a number of perspectives that might sound ludicrous, in the sense that how can a person not know what they like, but that’s not what I’m trying to get across, it’s that you don’t necessarily know what other people like, and individuals, for whatever reason, make the assumption that they are different from everybody else, that our own interests are not shared by the people around us, and it’s that idea exactly that is the catalyst behind the ‘mob mentality’ reaction to—well, now-a-days, to just about everything.
Printed books are not going anywhere. And it’s not just about nostalgia, though there is something about holding a book, smelling it, having it resting on our shelves, it’s not entirely about that, and it may not be the most logical understanding, but the simple truth is that the reason books are not going anywhere is because, they are books. The Gutenberg Bible was printed in 1455, that’s more than 560 years ago. Don’t let your misunderstanding of what others may or may not understand affect something that you actually enjoy doing, pick up a book, grab something of your shelf, open the spine, and start reading. Respond to this article, and tell me what you decided to read, and how it made you feel—or visit Communitea Books and share with me a story about a time when you stopped reading, for a while, and came back to it, or tell me about a book you never finished, the one that’ still sitting on the shelf with a bookmark in it.