Why I write

Let me make one thing clear on the front end of this piece: why someone writes is their business. No artist of any kind is under any obligation to explain why he or she creates. Responding with, I’m sorry, but that’s none of your business, is a just response. It is no one’s business.

As far as I’m concerned, whatever it takes a writer to put words on a page is fine with me. First off, the page can be a hard place to get to and, once there, the necessary experience of being fully present in the moment can be heavy lifting at times. Its the words, the writing that I care most about.  An actor who hopes to win an Oscar is no more betraying the craft of acting than a writer who hopes to win a Pulitzer is betraying the craft of writing. Wanting or hoping for an accolade is not a betrayal of creative purity. To think it is is misguided in the best light, and rubbish in any other light.

I have no problem explaining, to some extent, why I write. For some years now my short answer has been pretty much the same: Sometimes I write because I want to, always I write because I have to. I suppose I could polish that sentence into finer stuff, but I’m leaving it as it is because it was born that way.

It is the sanctuary of language itself that brings me to the page, writing or reading. As far back as I can remember, books and writing have provided sanctuaries I could depend on. Even when I was homeless they were they. I am not by nature a thief, but, when I was on the street, I had no problem at all pinching paperback books off those always-squeaky! book racks in drugstores.

Language is a living thing for me. Words are living beings; they have  shape, movement, sound; they each have their own pulse; they can be moody. I short, words have personality, every damn one of them.

And then, of course, there is this: language is great company. I am never alone when I write or read. Like I said: Sometimes I write because I want to, always I write because I have to.

 

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Books Read – 2016

As those of you who’ve been following this blog over its 10-year life span know, I have the admittedly self-indulgent habit of publishing the list of  books I read in a given year. I would give all the gold in the world to see the list of books my parents and grandparents read. When I read a book I know someone in my family read, I know I am hiking on a trail of words they hiked before me. It’s a nice feeling. I miss them all, beyond the reach of any words ever written.

  1. The English Major, by Jim Harrison
  2. Greenwich, by Howard Fast
  3. The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford
  4. Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley
  5. Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual, by Nicholas Murray
  6. The Big Seven, by Jim Harrison
  7. Appointment in Samarra, by John O’Hara
  8. The Great Leader, by Jim Harrison
  9. The Summer He Didn’t Die, by Jim Harrison
  10. The African Queen, by C.S. Forester
  11. The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, #2), by Agatha Christie
  12. Legends of the Fall, by Jim Harrison
  13. Break In (Kit Fielding, #1), by Dick Francis
  14. The River Swimmer: Novellas, by Jim Harrison
  15. The Ancient Minstrel: Novellas, by Jim Harrison
  16. Letting Go, by Philip Roth
  17. The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  18. The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley
  19. Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo
  20. A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1), by Anthony Powell
  21. Dangerous Davies, the Last Detective,  by Leslie Thomas
  22. The A.B.C. Murders (Hercule Poirot, #13), by Agatha Christie
  23. A Buyer’s Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2), by Anthony Powell
  24. Dangerous In Love, by Leslie Thomas
  25. The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3), by Anthony Powell
  26. Can You Forgive Her?, Volume I, by Anthony Trollope
  27. At Lady Molly’s (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4), by Anthony Powell
  28. Dangerous By Moonlight, by Leslie Davies
  29. Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5), by Anthony Powell
  30. What’s Become of Waring, by Anthony Powell

************

Books Read – 2015

  1. “Don’t Look Back,” by Karin Fossum
  2. “Knots and Crosses,” by Ian Rankin
  3. “He Who Fears the Wolf,” by Karin Fossum
  4. “The Indian Bride,” by Karin Fossum
  5. “The Return of the Soldier,” by Rebecca West
  6. “Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life,” by Phillip Davis
  7. “Black Seconds,” by Karin Fossum
  8. “The Officers’ Ward,” by Marc Dugain
  9. “When the Devil Holds the Candle,” by Karin Fossum
  10. “Bad Intentions,” by Karin Fossum
  11. “The Water’s Edge,” by Karin Fossum
  12. “The Caller,” by Karin Fossum
  13. “The Lighthouse,” by PD James
  14. “Cover Her Face,” by PD James
  15. “A Mind to Murder,” by PD James
  16. “The G File,” by Håkan Nesser
  17. “Shroud for a Nightingale,” by PD James
  18. “Unnatural Causes,” by PD James
  19. “Updike,” by Adam Begley
  20. “From Doon With Death,” by Ruth Wendell
  21. “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman
  22. “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry,” by Gabrielle Zevin
  23. “His Family,” by Ernest Poole
  24. “Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady,” by Louis Bromfield
  25. “The Fruit of the Tree,” by Edith Wharton
  26. “The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg,” by Louis Bromfield
  27. “Certain People,” by Edith Wharton
  28. “A Son at the Front,” by Edith Wharton
  29. “Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street,” by Richard R. Lingeman
  30. “Edith Wharton,” by RWB Lewis
  31. “All That Is,” by James Salter
  32. “Light Years,” by James Salter
  33. “The Wright Brothers,” by David McCullough
  34. “Tortilla Flat,” by John Steinbeck
  35. “The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge,” by David McCullough
  36. “East Side Story: A Novel,” by Louis Auchincloss
  37. “Père Goriot,” by Honoré de Balzac
  38. “New England White,” by Stephen L. Carter
  39. “Last Night: Stories,” by James Salter
  40. “Dusk and Other Stories,” by James Salter
  41. “Palace Council,” by Stephen L. Carter
  42. “Jericho’s Fall,” by Stephen L. Carter
  43. “Burning the Days: Recollection,” by James Salter
  44. “Rich Man Poor Man,” by Irwin Shaw
  45. “Voices Of A Summer Day,” by Irwin Shaw
  46. “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling,” by Henry Fielding
  47. “Our Souls at Night,” by Kent Haruf
  48. “The Road to Los Angeles,” by John Fante
  49. “Sanctuary,” by William Faulkner
  50. “Ask the Dust,” by John Fante
  51. “Dreams from Bunker Hill,” by John Fante
  52. “Redemption,” by Howard Fast

No more pipe dreams: a sketch in words

There was almost a gentleness to knowing the balance of his life had come down to nothing but the words he wrote on a page. Nothing, more or less, save, of course, for the blessedly endless supply of books to read. Such was his love of reading that he knew, in the end, if he was aware of its arrival, a deep ache-sadness at not having read all he’d wanted to read would be present.

Not sad, so much, this truth. So many around him seemingly spinning in place or out of control (held up to the light at the right angle this could indeed be redundant) in their misery. The chase for the material, gullible minds digesting to the point of blind and foolish faith that wealth meant joy and happiness. In short, pipe dreams.

Leaning back in his chair with a cup of tea, a brief and admittedly cursory self-examination led him to conclude he was free of pipe dreams.

No more pipe dreams. Reality for me, he thought.

Books read 2014

  1. “The Brothers Karamazov,” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  2. “Oh What a Paradise It Seems, by John Cheever
  3. “Back to Blood,” by Tom Wolfe
  4. “Charles Dickens His Tragedy and Triumph” by Edgar Johnson
  5. “Master and Commander,” by Patrick O’Brian
  6. “Still Life with Bread Crumbs,” by Anna Quindlen
  7. “The Waterworks,” by E.L. Doctorow
  8. “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens
  9. “Marry Me: A Romance,” by John Updike
  10. “Saint Maybe,” by Anne Tyler
  11. “Bech” A Book,” by John Updike
  12. “Post Captain,” by Patrick O’Brian
  13. “Villages,” by John Updike
  14. “H.M.S. Surprise,” by Patrick O’Brian
  15. “The Best Times: An Informal Memoir,” by John Dos Passos
  16. “Tolstoy: A Russian Life,” by Rosamund Bartlett
  17. “The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens,” Frederick W. Dupee
  18. “The Chimes” by Charles Dickens
  19. “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy
  20. “Dry Bones in the Valley,” Tom Bouman
  21. “The Troubled Man,” by Henning Mankell
  22. “Faceless Killers,” by Henning Mankell
  23. “The Man from Beijing,” by Henning Mankell
  24. “Jar City,” by Arnaldur Indrioason
  25. “The Garner Files: A Memoir,” by James Garner
  26. “The Dogs of Riga” by Henning Mankell
  27. “Sidetracked,” by Henning Mankell
  28. “The Fifth Woman,” by Henning Mankell
  29. “The White Lioness,” by Henning Mankell
  30. “One Step Behind,” by Henning Mankell
  31. “The Man Who Smiled,” by Henning Mankell
  32. “Sweet Thunder,” by Ivan Doig
  33. “Italian Shoes,” by Henning Mankell
  34. “Firewall,” by Henning Mankell
  35. “Tea-Bag,” by Henning Mankell
  36. “A Treacherous Paradise,” by Henning Mankell
  37. “An Event in Autumn,” by Henning Mankell
  38. “What’s Bred in the Bone,” by Robertson Davies
  39. “Before the Frost,” by Henning Mankell
  40. “The Return of the Dancing Master,” by Henning Mankell
  41. “The Mind’s Eye,” by Hakan Nesser
  42. “Woman with Birthmark,” by Hakan Nesser
  43. “Borkmann’s Point,” by Hakan Nesser
  44. “The Return,” by Hakan Nesser
  45. “The Inspector and Silence,” by Hakan Nesser
  46. “Munsters Fall” by Hakan Nesser
  47. “Regeneration,” by Pat Barker
  48. “Sun and Shadow,” by Ake Edwardson
  49. “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” by Stephen L. Carter
  50. “Never End,” by Ake Edwardon
  51. “Frozen Tracks,” by Ake Edwardson
  52. “Sail of Stone,” by Ake Edwardson