Reading Matters: January

jan-2017-books

Overview

Living, dying, birds, art, life: beautiful prose-poem short stories from Lydia Davis and American history; January reading has been a good clear start – eclectic, rich and satisfying.

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Birds, Art, Life by Kyo Maclear

This is a book of small things and shares a year of observations. The book’s small blocks of writing have been welcome at a time when I have found it sometimes difficult to concentrate on reading. And then, at times the writing is overwrought and on occasion the smallness and attention to detail grates (a little) because I don’t always live life in the small stuff. That said, there’s no harm in spending some time there in contemplation and I found the book in parts, an immensely rich and rewarding read.

Maclear acknowledges in her introduction how life stress and worry can impact on the creative process:

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and

I had become so accustomed to being interrupted by emergency calls and hospital news, I began interrupting myself whenever I sat down to work. I leapt up from my seat every half hour as though an alarm had sounded. Time used to be deeper than this, I thought.

We follow Maclear as she walks through the vicissitudes of life: following birds across the Toronto sky line; tracking their flight paths and in the process tracking her own life with her companion, Jack Breakfast, guide and bird photographer (see below)

at a time when Maclear writes of having “lost her beat.”

I love this picture. Birds flying along the Toronto skyline, soaring. There is a fair bit of this in the book.

jack-breakfast-flock-of-whimbrels

My favourite words lay on the very last page of the book and have stayed with me over the coming days:

“Love only! Always onward” writes the bird guide, Jack Breakfast.

I’m going to get a tattoo of that on the nape of my neck, I pretend.

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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

These are a revelation. Here’s a quick taste..

Davis writes from that point where poetry seems to intersect with prose in a beautiful realistic style that mirrors a rich seam of life.

Hard to define somehow but so rewarding for a reader longing to connect but short on time. Each story delivers something real. An observation, a thought. Complete, unique. Each story has made me think deeply – pause and dive in to read more. Highly recommended.

Listen to Lydia Davis read more here and start with this short story “Story” which chimed deep within me

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and an excerpt is read by Lydia Davis in this short film

Hygge: the Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Soderberg

This was a Christmas gift.

HYGGE
The front cover is beautiful and the book itself is a complete embodiment of its topic. Hygge is a Danish word worth exploring and the book and its pictures and words from the author wrap themselves cosily and warmly around me as I curl up to read the book under a warm fleecy blanket. A bit of an escapist treat.

Dying: a Memoir by Cory Taylor.

I came to this book through a quote I read in a newspaper which drew me to the author.

 

accident-of-birth

The accident of birth see, its a powerful message of acceptance for an adoptee.

A Manual for Living

“Some things are in our control and others not”

Quite.

The first line of Epictetus’ manual of ethical advice, the Enchiridion and I know I am onto something. I came to this tiny book through a review in the New Yorker magazine and have been quietly applying these principles this month to what has become a difficult working life. For example, stuck on a train to a business meeting I had so wished to avoid, I cupped the text in my hand and offered my self to it for advice. On flipping through the book and stopping to open the pages, I found myself in a chapter on faithfulness and read deeply the advice therein.

And felt calmer.

Guided.

Handed a moral and ethical compass on which to navigate the choppy waters ahead.

And somehow, on that day, decisions came easier from that place. A little gem of a book. Highly recommended.

faithfulness

Team of Rivals is a big book!! Its going to be a year book, I think but I wanted the challenge of a big read and at 700+ pages, this one fits the bill (and I think its going to be quite a year)

(Illustration: Oliver Jeffers)

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