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.

 

Advertisements

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 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

Books read in 2012

This has been a year of delicious reading for me. I’ve made friends with Anthony Trollope, Edith Wharton, and Saul Bellow to name a few. Trollope’s autobiography led me to feel great affection for him. I don’t know what I’d do without reading. I love books. I am utterly perplexed by those who don’t, and, frankly, feel a bit sorry for them. Books offer an endless number of experiences. The date at the end of each entry is the date I finished the book.

Books read in 2012 

1)  “Over by the river & other stories” by William Maxwell 1-5-12

2)  “Ghost Soldiers,” by Hampton Sides 1-17-12

3)  “Ethan Frome,” by Edith Wharton 1-19-12

4)  “Far from the Madding Crowd,” by Thomas Hardy 1-30-12

5)  “The Age of Innocence,” by Edith Wharton 2-7-12

6)  “Madame Bovary,” by Gustave Flaubert 2-16-12

7)  “Summer,” by Edith Wharton 2-19-12

8)  “The Warden,” by Anthony Trollope 2-26-12

9)  “A Ladder of Years,” by Anne Tyler 3-1-12

10)  “The Woman in White,” by Wilkie Collins 3-19-12

11)  “Barchester Towers” by Anthony Trollope 4-6-12

12)  “Autobiography of Anthony Trollope” by Anthony Trollope 4-19-12

13)  “Dr. Wortle’s School,” by Anthony Trollope 4-23-12

14)  “The Meaning of Everything,” by Simon Winchester 5-9-12

15)  “Ragtime,” by E.L. Doctorow 5-26-12

16)  “The Haunted Bookshop,” by Christopher Morley 6-12-12

17)  “The Way We Live Now Vol. I,” by Anthony Trollope 6-27-12

18)  “The Way We Live Now Vol. II” by Anthony Trollope 7-7-12

19)  “The New York Stories of Edith Wharton” by Edith Wharton 7-20-12

20)  “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham 7-30-12

21)  “Dr. Thorne,” by Anthony Trollope 8-26-12

22)  “The Given Day,” by Dennis Lehane 9-8-12

23)  “Moonlight Mile,” by Dennis Lehane 9-10-12

24)  “Shutter Island,” by Dennis Lehane 9-14-12

25)  “Fiddlers,” by Ed McBain 9-20-12

26)  “Fat Ollie’s Book,” by Ed McBain 9-25-12

27)  “Walking to Gatlinburg,” by Howard Frank Mosher 10-12-12

28)  “Pnin,” by Vladimir Nabokov 10-17-12

29)  “Life Class,” by Pat Barker 10-23-12

30)  “Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his world,” Richard Mullen 10-31-12

31)  “The Dangling Man,” by Saul Bellow 11-5-12

32)  “The Victim,” by Saul Bellow 11-10-12

33)  “Herzog,” by Saul Bellow 11-18-12

34)  “Roseanna,” by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö 11-21-12

35)  “The Man who went up in smoke,” by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö 11-22-12

36)  “Every Last One,” by Anna Quindlen 11-25-12

37)  “Humboldt’s Gift,” by Saul Bellow 12-8-12

38)  “More Die of Heartbreak,” by Saul Bellow 12-16-12

39)  “Tinkers,” by Paul Harding 12-20-12

40)  “Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned,” by John A. Farrell 12-26-12

Books read in 2010 & 2011

I’ve always been curious about the books people read. It fascinates me because, I suppose, what draws the undivided attention of the human mind fascinates me, and because I’ve carried on a love affair with books for as long as I have memory. What people read tends to draw my undivided attention. I even joined a delightful website called Goodreads where book lovers share their reading journeys. Some years ago I took to the habit of keep lists of the books I read, memorializing their completion by noting the day I finished them.

I enjoyed all these books. Long ago I learned from my father that if, after some pages, the book didn’t interest me, put it down and move on. 

Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch humanist and theologian, said, “When I have money, I buy books. If any money is left over, I buy food and clothes.” I’m with you all the way, sir.

Here are the books I read in 2010 and 2011.

2011

1) “Intruder in the Dust” by William Faulkner 1-5-11

2) “The Children” by Edith Wharton 1-11-11

3) “House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton 1-31-11

4) “The Ghost Writer” by Philip Roth 2-10-11

5) “Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius” by Leo Damrosch 2-22-11

6) “The Alice Behind Wonderland” by Simon Winchester 3-13-11

7) “The Tenants” by Bernard Malamud 3-25-11

8) “The Assistant” by Bernard Malamud 4-10-11

9) “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud 4-19-11

10) “The Fixer” by Bernard Malamud 4-28-11

11) “Dubin’s Lives” by Bernard Malamud 5-14-11

12) “A New Life” by Bernard Malamud 5-28-11

13) “Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stegner 6-24-11

14) “The Spectator Bird” by Wallace Stegner 6-28-11

15) “All the Little Live Things” by Wallace Stegner 7-3-11

16) “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner 7-10-11

17) “Shroud” by John Banville 7-23-11

18) “Mark Twain: A Life” by Ron Powers 7-29-11

19) “Troubles” by J.G. Farrell 8-5-11

20) “God’s Grace” by Bernard Malamud 8-8-11

21) “The Siege of Krishnapur” by J.G. Farrell 8-19-11

22) “The Singapore Grip” by J.G. Farrell 8-31-11

23) “The Trees” by Conrad Richter 9-7-11

24) “Girl in the head” by J.G. Farrell 10-4-11

25) “The Rebel Angels” by Robertson Davies 10-17-11

26) “Robert Louis Stevenson” by Frank McLynn 11-12-11

27) “The Edge of Sadness” by Edwin O’Connor 11-13-11

28) “The River King” by Alice Hoffman 11-16-11

29) “Time Will Darken it” by William Maxwell 12-15-11

30) “So Long, See You Tomorrow” by William Maxwell 12-18-11

31) “The Invention of Solitude” by Paul Auster 12-21-11

32) “They Came Like Swallows” by William Maxwell 12-26-11

33) “Washington Square” by Henry James 12-30-11

2010

1)  "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis 1-4-10

2) "It Can’t Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis  1-18-10

3) "Dodsworth" by Sinclair Lewis 1-31-10

4) "Kingsblood Royal" by Sinclair Lewis 2-10-20

5) "Cass Timberlane" by Sinclair Lewis 2-19-10

6) "Elmer Gantry" by Sinclair Lewis  3-4-10

7) "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson 3-15-10

8) "True North" by Jim Harrison 3-27-10

9) "The English Major" by Jim Harrison 4-5-10

10) "Blood Brothers" by Richard Price 4-7-10

11) "Wild Pitch" by A.B. Guthrie Jr. 4-10-10

12) "Returning to Earth" by Jim Harrison 4-19-10

13) "The Johnstown Flood" by David McCullough 5-3-10

14) "Widows of Eastwick" by John Updike 5-18-10

15) "The Centaur" by John Updike 5-31-10

16) "Three Soldiers" by John Dos Passos 6-27-10

17) "The 42nd Parallel" by John Dos Passos 7-?-10

18) "Child of God" by Cormac McCarthy 8-23-10

19) "Crack In the Edge of the World," by Simon Winchester 8-29-10

20) "1919" by John Dos Passos 9-6-10

21) "An Irish Country Village" by Patrick Taylor 9-16-10

22) "Big Money" by John Dos Passos 10-4-10

23) "Manhattan Transfer" by John Dos Passos 10-22-10

24) "Death in the Andes" by Mario Vargas Llosa 10-29-10

25) "Nemesis" by Philip Roth 11-4-10

26) "Exit Ghost" by Philip Roth 12-5-10

27) "The Humbling" by Philip Roth 12-9-10

28) "Everyman" by Philip Roth 12-13-10

29) "Indignation" by Philip Roth 12-19-10

30) "Mistler’s Exit" by Louis Begley 12-25-10

31) "The Reserve" by Russell Banks 12-29-10