Tag Archives: Joan Didion

Lost in a good book

They (the ubiquitous and amorphous they) say that reading makes you a better writer. I agree. Reading has allowed me to see the world in ways I hadn’t before, to find the beauty and significance in the everyday, to discover new ways of expressing what I see. All inspiration for my own writing.

However, I sometimes get so absorbed in someone else’s story that I forget to work on my own. For instance, lately my head has been full of the theme from Swan Lake (most likely spurred by the “Black Swan” references still cropping up because of the ballerina moment that happened at New York Fashion Week) and the book I’m currently reading, Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion. On the surface, the two have nothing in common. One is a ballet about an enchanted swan and her thwarted attempt at love (and eventual suicide); the other about Hollywood in the 60s and the horrors accompanying everyday life in that time. Both are beautiful – the music and dance, the significance and emotion felt in everyday moments. Both are terrifying. So I’ve become absorbed in the sublime – the combination of beauty and terror – and how the sublime is found in the everyday.

Not exactly a normal preoccupation.

Hopefully once I finish Play it as it Lays, I’ll be able to focus on other things. But I admit I’m relishing (just a bit!) this preoccupation of mine. Getting lost in another world, another time, another anything is what makes a story so satisfying. I can say with certainty that my next house (ok, tiny flat somewhere) will be filled with bookshelves. There will be large windows to sit by, and a cozy chair to curl up in with a book and a cup of coffee inside, and a chaise on a balcony or porch, if I am lucky enough to have one, to read on outside. The kitchen table will be home to a pile or two of books. There will be ample space to sit and get lost. Otherwise, I haven’t decided what the place will look like.

Though my current preoccupation has stalled my writing, I have a feeling that it will eventually inspire me to create something new. Maybe by getting lost in another’s story, I am learning how to get the reader to lose him or herself in my stories. Maybe not. But either way, getting lost could lead me somewhere wonderful. Or at least to several scratched out and reworked sentences in my notebook. Have to start somewhere – time to hit the books.

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Books (and authors) I couldn’t possibly live without

I admit I have a problem when it comes to books. Though my pasty skin can be mainly blamed on genetics, I’m sure my habit of reading for hours on end (inside or in the shade) contributes to my ghostly look. I also spend a lot on books, but I justify it to myself because I read most of them multiple times. I also like to decorate with books. But anyway.

I’ve been asked to give a short list of must-reads, so here are some books I’d drag with me to that desert island after the shipwreck (they would, of course, get priority on the plank of wood keeping me afloat. I can swim).

1. Everything Jane Austen wrote, but especially Pride and Prejudice, Northhanger Abbey, and her juvenalia (Lesley Castle, Lady Susan, Love and Freindship). And yes, it’s spelled that way on purpose.

2. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

4. Multiple works by Joyce Carol Oates – two of my favorites are Firefox and High Lonesome, a collection of short stories.

5. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

6. The Portable Dorothy Parker by, well, Dorothy Parker

7. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

8. Everything by Jasper Fforde

9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

10. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

What books could you never live without?

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