I’ve Fallen in Love!
and it’s with a 📖… well… Honestly, with a couple of them…🤭
If you already subscribe to my newsletter you’ll know that I love books and writing and reading and all the things that have to do with language and words and paper and fountain pens.
This year I challenged myself to write more every week. So far it’s going okay- I mean, I have managed to get the newsletter out every week, not too many people dropped off my list and a bunch have subscribed. That’s about as far as my use of analytics goes…
In the “beforetimes” I wrote an almost daily blog. These days I find myself enjoying the pace of getting a weekly newsletter out. It’s satisfying and part of the challenge I’ve set for myself is to read a book a week and introduce others to it.
This week I FAILED!
I did! I picked up a book on Sunday, one that had been sitting on my shelf for a couple months, and sat down with a bit of sandwich. Truth be told, I was looking for some fiction but thought, “Well, I’ve had this one on the shelf long enough. I outta check it out”.
I failed and I’ve fallen in love… weird right?!?
The book that has caused this topsy-turvy-ness in my life is Salman Rushdie’s, “The Languages of Truth”. It’s a gorgeous collection of essays about language, writing, ideas, and the nature of reality versus what we think about when we talk about the “truth” of something.
Full disclosure, I’m only 1/2-way through at the moment. Clearly breaking my 1 book a week challenge. But I’ve fallen so deeply in love that I want to do all the things one does when one is in love. As though the book were my newest lover the title trips off my tongue every third sentence. Friends roll their eyes when they spy me walking, book tucked firmly under my arm as though hooked into a lover’s elbow. I read over a glass of red tea, stroking the pages slowly following words that have me reeling. I let myself dive into the words themselves, a few I’ve had to look up, delighted to be learning these new additions to my language.
Stop cooing and melting all over the place, you say.
I can’t. I won’t, I say. I’m in love.
Here’s what’s happened that has flabbergasted me. The essays are terrific, yes. And Rushdie is at his best in this collection which includes works between 2003 – 2020, so they address much of what has only become bigger (IMO worser) since then. Many if not all of the older essays have been broadened or modified with the writer’s current thinking. Many were re-written in part or annotated. What really had me falling in love was not that I have fallen in love with his writing (frankly I was already enamored of that.
What I’ve really fallen back in love with is the language of books themselves. Within his essays, he dives into the writings of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Vonnegut, and the playwright Harold Pinter. He offers a surprisingly nuanced approach to reading Phillip Roth that has got me thinking I might try tackling his work, despite my misgivings.
While I may not agree with his opinions about some books, writers or even some historic events, what the writing itself has done is lure me back into a deep reflection of books and writers in the way that I felt as a child, tucked into a corner with a book, a plate of chocolate-covered grahams and a cup of tea. I would tumble into the story so deeply that my mother often had to stand right over me before she got my attention. usually startling me out of whatever magical plot I’d fallen into, and her saying she’d been calling me for at least ten minutes.
Falling back in love with books has been a revelation to me. I read, yes. About a book a week until I hit this one. But now…
Now, I feel as though I can’t get enough books, enough time, enough quiet, enough lakesides and nooks and sunlit porches or shady trees or park-benches-near-duck-ponds to fold myself into and read uninterrupted like Alice-in-Wonderland falling onto a literary rabbit hole.
So…I promised you five books I think you will happily fall into so here they are in no particular order. I do hope you enjoy them and if you do, I’d love to hear from you.
No.1 Harold and The Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson. I actually love this book so much that I wrote an entire post about it. You can find that here. Here’s why it’s magical and applicable and wonderful and all those things that make me want to carry it around in my bag all the time.
- It’s about creativity and resourcefulness.
- It’s about believing in one’s own capability and ingenuity.
- It’s about finding happiness and about seeing possibilities within challenges.
- It’s all about curiosity and asking “What If?” (Two of my favorite questions to ask).
No.2 The Architect’s Apprentice, by Elif Shafak. Combining history, architecture, relationships, swashbuckling soldiers, and a surprisingly inventive apprentice whose golden heart will draw you deeper into the story. Set in the 16th Century Ottoman Empire, Shafak, who is Turkey’s leading woman and feminist writer, leads us on a trail of intrigue and the intersections of East and West. I think it’s the perfect book for Spring or Autumn; times of the year when you are looking for a more languorous novel. Hailed by the NYTimes and The Guardian as her “most accomplished novel”, I think you’ll enjoy this one tremendously!
No.3 All About Love, by Bell Hooks. This book changed my life, my thinking, my approach to relationships and my expectations of love. Pretty great for a paperback of 237 pages. I first read it last July 4th. I was staying at a tiny cabin, (8′ – 10′ with a woodstove and an honest-to-goodness outhouse), with my dog, in the mountains of Western Colorado. We were there for 3 days, escaping the massive and oft illegal fireworks extravaganza, (which I privately termed the town warzone celebrations). We hiked the trails to the top of rocky outcroppings. One had a bench built ingeniously into the rocks though one had to clamber over the back and once seated, my legs swung out over a sheer drop of hundreds of feet. I had All About Love with me, along with a sandwich, a thermos of tea, and a couple of cookies. My dog lay on the rocks to my left- no doubt keeping watch for mountain lions and deer. I read 1/2 the book in that sitting, hiked back down to the cabin, made more tea, curled up amongst cushions on an old wicker chair, and finished the rest. The next day I started reading it again this time, pen in hand adding marginalia galore! There aren’t many books that have evoked this response from me but this one? Well, this one is wonderful. As are the two “sequels”.
No. 3 Traveling Light, Poems by David Wagoner. I admit to liking poetry. Not all poetry. Often not likely most poetry all that much. Still, I have a fondness for a few key poets; Wagoner, Molly Naylor, Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, and Joseph Brodsky come first to mind. Wagoner’s poems gripped me the first time I picked up the book and ruffled the pages. My eyes caught words and phrases here and there and I was hooked as surely as if he’d been dangling a shimmering fly into my stream of consciousness. Apropos as he writes mostly about the natural world all around us and includes us humans as part of that nature, despite that we often forget we ARE nature ourselves. Traveling Light includes poems from 1956 – 1999. They are delightful, especially if you read them out of doors.
No.4 Is a book I’ve read over and over and still find magic in it each time. Big Sur and The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, by Henry Miller. Yes, THAT Henry Miller- BUT WAIT! This is a book about life, about writing, about being a writer and artist. years ago I gave it as assigned reading to my High School photography students, several of whom had to get second copies because their parents had “borrowed” their copies and were too ensconced to return them. It’s a book, that much like, Rilke’s, Letters To a Young Poet, invites the reader into the creative process. Not by describing what it is like, but by starting from an assumption that we are each creative in some way and we are learning how to express that creativity in our own lives. I’ve now read Miller’s book four or five times and it’s become a book that I flip through as though it were an I Ching when I am feeling stuck or low on motivation. It’s one of the very few books that unfurls a new level each time I read it and I’m left wondering how I didn’t see that, whatever that is, the last time I picked it up.
No.5 Is another book I’ve read so often the pages are soft and worn. Roald Dahl’s, Someone Like You, is a collection of definitely not-for-children stories, which will thrill you if you have the kind of dark sense of humor that appreciates Coen brothers’ films, Edgar Allen Poe and the original versions of The Brothers Grimm’s tales. Published in 1953, it’s a collection of 18 stories, some only a few pages long, each that will grab your attention and help it until the very last word. To my mind, it’s the perfect book for long winter nights or better still, gather a group of friends for a weekend of camping and finish each day around the campfire passing the book around and reading each story aloud.
And of course… the book that started me down this path, Salmon Rushdie’s, Languages of Truth.
I hope you enjoyed this and check out some of these books. If you have a couple of great books you’d love to recommend, please send them my way! You can email me directly or comment below.
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