Sunday, September 26, 2010

Author's Books and Author's Jobs

I had a "driveway moment" yesterday while listening to a story on NPR about a new book in which authors reminisce about various jobs they've held and how those experiences inform their writing. "Don't quit your day job" is both the title of the book and the facetious advice that the experienced novelist gave to the interviewer, an aspiring novelist. An aspiring novelist myself, I always appreciate hearing from those who have "been there, done that," and the reference to Truman Capote's maxim Write something true (and then start lying) was a good reminder.

While searching for the link to that story on NPR's website, I found another interesting book-related story about a reader discovering an author's personal library for sale in a used bookstore. How could she tell the book belonged to a writer? Because the book's previous owner had filled it with margin notes, conversing with the printed text in a close and thoughtful interaction.

Last night I was at a party and someone asked me how, as a writer, I decide what books to buy. My criteria for buying a new book is whether I might want to read it more than once. If I'm not sure that's the case, I will borrow it from a friend or the library. Used books, however, are not always held to the same standard, which is why I have a revolving-door relationship with Cherry Picked Books and Raven. I do love the idea of an author's library going out into the world, posthumously and diffusely, through the venue of a used bookstore. The books and their conversations could stay alive that way.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sign Language: Desire

Continuing with my collection of sign photographs inspired by Signs of Our Times, this month's theme is Desire.

"New Heart Attack" outside Hartford, CT

"Desperate to Sell" Miller Place, NY

"It Really Was" Seattle, WA

"Saving Space" Skinner State Park, South Hadley, MA

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Playground Pastoral

merry-go-round circles
under the trees

swing set, push, smile,
grasping hand

merrily tossed
gentle shadows

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reading List

Arthur Schopenhauer said, "Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents." How true this is! So many times I have bought books (usually nonfiction books) because they "looked good" (or better yet, like something I "should read") only to have them sit primly on my bookshelves for years unopened. Every so often I gather these books and sell them to a used bookstore, where I get a credit with which to buy books I have a slightly higher chance of reading (usually novels).

Now that I have committed to buying a book a month (ideally from a small publisher), I want to follow that up by actually reading said books. So far I am halfway through July's book (Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord) and have not opened August's (Granta's sex issue: not a book per se, but book-like enough in shape and heft), although I did get a head start when I heard its opening essay at a reading. September's book, which I just ordered, is Dear Al-Qaeda by Scott Creney (Black Ocean).

As if I didn't already have enough to read, I just subscribed to Writer's Digest (I also read Poets & Writers). The latest issue included many "top 10" lists including advice from bestselling authors. One of Sherman Alexie's tips was to "subscribe to as many literary journals as you can afford." I noted that he did not say, subscribe to as many literary journals as you can possibly read in your lifetime, because that would be a much smaller number for most of us.