Well, at least I made some progress during my 12 hour journey from New Jersey back to California. I am hoping to keep up the momentum as my husband and brother drive across the USA (they are in Kentucky now, so I think I have some time!). I read a number of texts, so this will be a bit long!
For starters, I read an essay on Hermann Hesse from Brain Pickings. Hesse talks about the problem with busyness and the tendency to overwork for no real reward– smart guy! Over a hundred years ago, he predicted one of the fundamental problems within the human race would be killing joy by feeling overworked. I could not agree more. He encourages the reader to get out there- admire a tree, look up at the sky, and remember all the little things that bring you happiness. It was a nice reminder as I felt completely worn out by my trip back East and was not as productive yesterday as I would have liked– sometimes we must surrender to our fatigue and simply accept a decrease in productivity, yeah? I adhered to this sage advice and find myself double-productive today! (6 pages)
Next up, I read a short biography on Lorine Niedecker by Jane Shaw Knox, which I found online and purchased through an Amazon used book seller– I think I got lucky to find a copy. It is worn and marked up as an old library book from Wisconsin, where it belongs, as this is where Niedecker is from. I think Niedecker is my favorite modern poet currently. I identify so much with her no-nonsense attitude, her no frills life and her never-ending desire to write regardless of whether or not it was acceptable. Niedecker lived a simple life– her mother was deaf, of which she writes about often, and how her mother was simply unhappy as a domestic wife. Niedecker elegantly touches on all of this in her writing, but having the biographical context makes me feel closer to her. The author was a librarian and became very interested in digging through Niedecker’s letters, journals, and anything else that was available– a very cool project for a librarian! She wrote this small biography out of love for the poetess. I love having this little book and look forward to revisiting it often. (48 pages).
Thirdly, I read Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, which was so kindly lent to me by Kate T., a fellow reader among us. I read this on one of my flights and found myself having to hold back tears– it was such a wonderful series of essays. If you have not read it, do. I read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat when I was in college and absolutely loved it. Sacks had fallen off my radar until this fell into my lap, and I am looking forward to checking out much of his other books. I hope to get to the library and see what they’ve got today.
This series of essays was written at the tail end of Sacks life and discusses his melanoma, his feelings of life and death (of which gratitude is the most abundant feeling he has, hence the book’s title). The essay Sabbath resonated with me as I started practicing the Sabbath every Friday – Saturday last August. It reaffirmed my belief in this practice as a way to get away from modernity. I can’t encourage reading this book enough! It is a true 5/5. (45 pages)
I also read LivingDying a collection of poetry by Cid Corman (of whom Lorine Niedecker was friends). On the back of studying Cid Corman for the last 8 weeks through an online course with some of my poetry friends, I felt the need to dig into this compilation and add some breadth to my Corman knowledge. Corman writes short, succinct poems (as does Niedecker)– they pack punch! (64 pages) Here are some poems I found of particular interest while reading:
And lastly, I started reading The Brothers Vonnegut by Ginger Strand to escape a very intense passenger next to me on my long flight from DC to Sacramento. This is a biographical account of both Kurt Vonnegut and his brother Bernard Vonnegut. I only read the first 49 pages, and so far they have talked about Kurt flunking out of college for chemistry (because he was too busy writing and editing the newspaper), Bernard being the scientist of the family and “more successful”. Bernard helps with the war — building weapons — and Kurt gets drafted and heads over. Kurt marries Jane, the love of his life, and when he returns he is anxious to get started with a ‘normal life.’ It is clear that Kurt can write and Jane fosters this in him. What touched me most about the story so far is when Kurt returns from the war, he insists on driving the family home and he told stories about his friends dying, of watching others die, of the destruction he witnessed and he cries the entire way through– and never stopped talking. This image really drives home for me the inspiration that Kurt had deep within him from this time. This contrasted against his brother’s career– building war machines– is too ironic not to be intrigued by. Looking forward to more!