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Posts Tagged ‘authors’

I recently finished one of the most moving stories I have ever read – Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. Always fascinating, often moving, the book is captivating from the first line to the last, and I frequently found myself weeping (occasionally even crying out right) as I read (this was pretty embarrassing at times as I often read out and about in the world). I wept for the emotion, beauty, and sadness of the story. But it’s certainly not all sad, many of my tears sprung from the love (of nature, of fellow man) expressed by the tale.

Self-portrait of Chris McCandless - he died of starvation in this bus within weeks of this photo being taken

Into The Wild chases 23 year old Chris McCandless through his last two years on the planet. In 1990 McCandless walked away from his money, family, life, and possessions and wandered off into the world, travelling and adventuring about, meeting amazing folk, until he finally made it to Alaska two years later where he walked into the wild to live off the land for a few months and, due to a handful of bad decisions and unfortunate luck, starved to death.

Interspersed throughout the narrative progression are interviews with people whose hearts were touched by McCandless in those years, stories of other young adventurers who challenged themselves thus (some met with success, others with death), and a harrowing and inspirational account of the author’s own psychological and physical battle in his attempt to summit a daunting Alaskan peak.

What I enjoyed most of all was the angle of exploring one’s own humanity and the possibility for peaceful coexistence between human nature and mother nature. “Into the wild” is McCandless’ echoing call. My own is similar but instead of searching the great out there I hope to branch out into the wild interior of my own nature.

As an aside, I recently included the Sean Penn’s cinematic adaptation of Into The Wild in a post about movies to ignite your wanderlust. The film is magnificent.

I would argue that the book is even better. I loved it because it made me feel. I didn’t agree with everything McCandless thought, felt, said, or did but I admire him because he believed something strongly and acted emphatically on his beliefs.

Book Diva loved it too, while Lisa from Books on the Brain had mixed emotions about it and found it hard to relate to McCandless. This seems to be a book (and a character and a lifestyle for that matter) that polarises – you either love it or hate it.

Even the way Krakauer presents the story and examines McCandless seems to be contentious. On the one hand Erin Berman questions Krakauer’s objectivity, while Terrence Cantarella defends the book and says that Krakauer “has crafted a non-fiction book as inspiring, moving, and artful as the best works of fiction. He has offered up a real-world story of physical and spiritual escape, a bold tale of adventure, and a quest for something unseen.”

Have you read it? If so, I would love to hear how it impacted you emotionally and what you thought of it.

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I love interacting with my favourite books

It’s confession time. Warning: you might not want to read what I’m about to write. Ready? I like writing in books. I underline passages, write questions to the author, scribble my own reflections, and sketch symbols next to amusing parts, lines that have moved me, or remarkable ideas.

Many people feel funny about writing in books, believing it to be a kind of desecration. I respectfully disagree. For me, writing in my favourite friends is a way to enter into dialogue with the greats, a way to personalise the reading experience, and to convert my books into treasures I will hold onto for a lifetime.

Does anyone else write in their books?

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Do you ever get people crushes?* You know, when you meet a new person and, in a completely platonic way, you are just so completely amped to have met them and think they are beyond fabulous and then you find yourself ranting about how great they are to everyone you meet? (Do you get these sorts of crushes? Or is it just me, and my friend?*)

Anyhow, I have recently stumbled upon a new variation on the person crush. I’m calling it a blog crush. I have only recently started blogging again after more than a year on hiatus and I am positively addicted to perusing the thoughts of strangers! I love to find new bloggers with a kooky take on the world or a fabulous turn of phrase.

So, in order to honour my blog crushes, I thought I should mention them. Who knows, maybe other readers will find themselves equally crushed.

Susana examining her bones

So, without further ado, the inaugural blog crush mention goes to (drum roll please): One Foot Walking.

Susana Romatz’s blog had me hooked from first read. She blogs on such interesting topics and has such a unique voice that I keep waiting, breath bated, for each new post. In her three most recent posts she has mused on the use of crystal balls, velvet, and eggs for obtaining spiritual visions; keeping a written account of your every sin; and the skeleton in each of us.

I love reading Susana’s blog. I hope you enjoy it too.

* I got the term ‘people crush’ from a friend of mine who falls hard for new friends and who I believe to have coined the phrase.

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I want to share with you the opening page of the book I am currently reading – Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer:

I am living in Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.
Last night Boris discovered that he was lousy. I had to shave his armpits and even then the itching did not stop. How can one get lousy in a beautiful place like this? But no matter. We might never have known each other so intimately, Boris and I, had it not been for the lice.
Boris has just given me a summary of his views. He is a weather prophet. The weather will continue bad, he says. There will be more calamities, more death, more despair. Not the slightest indication of change anywhere. The cancer of time is eating us away. Our heroes have killed themselves, or are killing themselves. The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. We must get in step, a lock step, towards the prison of death. There is no escape. The weather will not change.

Henry Miller

It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom.
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.
This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty … what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse…
To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.

First of all, isn’t that a brilliant opening page? It sets the scene, the era, the character, and the mood so well. It seems to cover so much. It got me wondering – how important is a first line or an opening page for readers? I personally never read inside the book when deciding what to buy. I occasionally read the blurbs on the back but more often rely on recommendations from friends or references from other sources. For that reason, while the first page certainly makes an impression, I will usually read at least 30 pages before I decide if I will stick with it or not. What about you, how important are the opening lines of a book in your decision to buy/read it? And what are your favourite literary openings?

Secondly, I just love what Miller says about writing and being a writer – “six months ago, I thought I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am,” he writes. That is so powerful. I want to make a similarly strong proclamation…

I am a writer. (The essential thing is to want to write. I am writing.)

That felt good.

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A story about animals, you say? That will never sell!

I just read this fantastic article from the Book Examiner that Alexis Grant posted on her regular writers’ roundup.

Can you believe any publisher would be short-sighted and foolish enough to reject Nabokov, Borges, Proust, Orwell, and Kerouac? Well they did – many many times and with spectacularly crushing critiques. It is so great to read their rejections now that they are illuminated by the twin lights of success and hindsight. Classic.

If you are feeling despondent, worried you may never be published, or hurt by someone telling you your writing doesn’t cut the mustard, I recommend you read this article about 30 famous authors whose works were rejected by publishers. I guarantee you will feel better!

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