Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An Outdoor Boston Bookstore and May's Book List

Nestled on the corner of West Street and Washington Street is a cozy three story building housing a plethora of used books known as Brattle Book Shop. Before making your way into the old building, you will want to peruse through
the outdoor lot of books lined along several shelves. After working through the books outside, more books are located inside, with old and rare books located on the third story. Although I didn't walk away with any books, I was tempted to buy Antonia Fraser's book Love and Louis XIV to add to my slowly growing collection of French history, as well as a few books on art.

Last month I did happen to include a book related to art, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, which really provided personal details into Van Gogh's life concerning the dynamics of his relationship with his father and brother Theo, love and the types of women he'd often find himself with, poverty and illness, and of course his journey in becoming an artist, which includes his travels, his struggles, and his growth in the techniques he was learning and developing. I found it most interesting to read his personal thoughts, to follow along with his descriptions about the types of drawings or paintings he was working on, to become familiar with those artists who inspired him, to feel the depth of his relationship with his brother Theo, and to listen to him poetically depict the colors, tones, light, and shadows of the pieces he was working on. He writes, "Behind those saplings, behind that brownish-red ground, is a sky of a very delicate blue-grey, warm, hardly blue at all, sparkling. And against it there is a hazy border of greens and a network of saplings and yellowish leaves. A few figures of wood gatherers are foraging about, dark masses of mysterious shadows. The white bonnet of a woman bending down to pick up a dry branch stands out suddenly against the deep reddish-bround of the ground. A skirt catches the light..." (p.194).

A Confederacy of Dunces was very comedic due to the types of characters and how their worldview shaped the way they interacted with, perceived, and judged each other. The main character, Ignatius, is like the Don Quixote of New Orleans. He is somewhat obese, tall, with little manners, who considers himself to be right about everything, doesn't like to work, lies a lot, is often irritable, is a bit of an outcast to society, and is always criticizing society. His interaction and perception of society is usually mistaken due to his lack of awareness and medieval worldview concerning reality. Nevertheless, it is comic to see how his interaction with the different characters, although first seen as troublesome and disastrous, eventually produces positive outcomes for those characters in the end. Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was the author's writing and descriptions. For example, in describing the main character, he writes, "Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black mustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs (p.1)".

Lastly, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies addressed the role words have in shaping and influencing culture, and in how we communicate and interpret words. She speaks about the urgency to reshape our view of words, to care about them as we would about any other natural resource. We live in a day and age where words are constantly being thrown at us through media, advertisements, and social media that we often avoid taking the time "to pause over them, ponder them, reflect upon them" (p.19). She encourages the reader to become a steward of words through various strategies laid out through the chapters, such as to love words, "Loving language means cherishing it for its beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal. And it means using words as instruments of love" (p.23). When discussing the strategy of reading well, she states, "How we choose to read, how we submit to or question or resist the terms set by the writer, are choices that shape the habits of our minds and the habit of our hearts" (p.69). There were so many moments, while reading this book, that made me pause and ponder. It inspired me to be so much more intentional about the things I read and how I read them, as well as the way I communicate through speaking and writing.

The books on this month's list focus more on pursuing your dreams and on writing. One day I had come across an instagram post mentioning how good The Alchemist was. In a short Q&A on Amazon, the author shares the inspiration behind this book and his reflection on why it took him so long to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. He writes how The Alchemist is, "a novel about someone who needs to fulfill his or her dream, but takes too long because he or she thinks it's impossible." He ends the interview by saying, "I can't live with a dream that I did not even try to fulfill."

The other two books on this list are Bird by Bird and Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. I first came across Bird by Bird while perusing the well-known Powell's bookstore in Portland. I recognized the author's name, but hadn't read anything of hers, and because I didn't want to leave the store empty-handed, I grabbed this book. I've since read it at least twice, but I occasionally refer back to it, especially when facing writer's block and in need of motivation to keep at it. Lastly, I've added the book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. I first learned of this book when I read an article of recommended books for aspiring artists/creatives.

May's Book List:

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont

3. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

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