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a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Saturday, March 2, 2013

BOOK SELF


Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

I live surrounded by books.  Shelves packed with books, stacks of books, precarious piles teetering on the edges of tables and countertops, spilling out the tops of bags, neatly arranged on the coffee table. 

In fact, when I sit on this couch to write my slices I am a reading peninsula—surrounded on three sides by books. 

One day, I think to myself each time I sit here, one day I will reread each of these books.  I will reconnect with the version of my self—the self who read those stories the first time around. Somehow just looking at the books I’ve read and loved is a reminder of the self I left entangled in the stories—held fast between the ink on those pages. 

I look at the spine of Barren Ground by Ellen Glasgow—containing the impact Dorinda’s powerful character had on me as a young woman: independent, strong., wise—everything I wanted my self to grow to become.

Educating Esmé by Esmé Raji Codell perches on the edge of the shelf just above—a reminder of my ridiculously optimistic new teacher self.  

A cute little picture book version of Sarah Kay’s poem “Point B” holds its own amongst the larger titles—secreting away the hopes of motherhood my self keeps tucked out of reach.

Alfie Kohn’s The Schools Our Children Deserve boldly asserts itself—holding strong views of the way things should be that my self has learned to mediate.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers lies beneath an entire pile of powerful stories—hiding a depth of sadness no other story had revealed to my self before that first reading.

Looking at these spines, I am reminded of a book I encountered during a recent trip to the bookstore: My Ideal Bookshelf art by Jane Mount, edited by Thessaly La Force.
The concept is that famous people (like Tony Hawk and James Patterson) were given the assignment to create their ideal bookshelves.  The list of books is then turned in to a whimsical piece of artwork: a painting of the spines as if the books are indeed on a shelf.

The introduction contains an explanation of the assignment.  Here is a taste of the wonder and muse that is this book:

“Select a small shelf of books that represent you—the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites.  You begin, perhaps, by walking over to your bookshelf and skimming the spines on the top shelf.  You pull down a handful that you remember loving; you grab a couple that you read over and over again.  Some you know just by the color of their dust jackets.  One is in tatters—it was passed down by your mother—and it’s dog-eared and carefully held together by tape and tenderness.  The closer you look the trickier the task turns out to be.”

It is a delicious assignment, don’t you think?  What are the books that have made my self who I am today?  What are the books that best represent my self?  Are those truly the books with which I am surrounded?  What if I had to narrow it down?  What YA titles would I include?  What classics?  Which of the books my mother gave me?  Picture books?

I think this is what item #5 on my manifesto meant by: writing begets writing. Looks like I have a head start on a future slice! 

16 comments:

  1. I lOVE

    “Select a small shelf of books that represent you—the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites. You begin, perhaps, by walking over to your bookshelf and skimming the spines on the top shelf. You pull down a handful that you remember loving; you grab a couple that you read over and over again. Some you know just by the color of their dust jackets. One is in tatters—it was passed down by your mother—and it’s dog-eared and carefully held together by tape and tenderness. The closer you look the trickier the task turns out to be.”

    I will do it! Thanks so much Christy, Good to see you back for another March
    Bonnie

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  2. It seems that books define you. I think that is awesome!

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  3. I love this idea. . . decisions, decisions. I'd have to do some hard thinking on this one . . . as I am one that doesn't possess the greatest long term memory, but I know there would be books out there. This is something to ponder - thanks!

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  4. this is great! a long time ago, I used to think that re-reading books was a waste of time. I thought, if there are so many books in this world that i could never possibly read them all, why waste time reading one I've already read? and plus, I already know the end. I'm really glad I came to my senses and discovered the joy in revisiting a good one over and over

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  5. Wow--what an amazing idea....but one I admit leaves me a bit paralyzed....is there a shelf large enough? What if I forget one? Or several? How do you choose?
    But still--there is something more than a little intriguing about this. Hmmmm....

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  6. You have inspired me to reread those books I've considered spending time with again... It really is like visiting an old friend. I love the line, "I will reconnect with the version of my self—the self who read those stories the first time around. Somehow just looking at the books I’ve read and loved is a reminder of the self I left entangled in the stories—held fast between the ink on those pages."

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  7. Last year I loved composing a poem with book spines that some tried. This year this. Marvelous to contemplate. Books and words meet creativity. Repurposing at its best.

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  8. This would be a daunting task...how big can the shelf be? For here lies the challenge:
    "The closer you look the trickier the task turns out to be.”
    You have given me much to think about...

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  9. I love the creative possibilities your slice strikes within me. If only I could choose, I'd love to create a canvas. How about you? Should we paint this summer?

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  10. Love this idea Christy. I am printing your assignment & will slice about it, but like the others, how big, can it hold all I want to share, or should I learn right now to re-vise, use fewer books to say the same thing, etc.? Thank you for a great slice! I'm not sure I can paint so well (like Ruth suggests) but perhaps a pastel?

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  11. Defining one self through a bookshelf. You have given something to ponder about. Delicious assignment, as you said, but not easy.

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  12. Like the others, this slice opens a world of possibilities for more slices. Love it. But the line in your third paragraph that got me..."a reminder of the self I left entangled in the stories". It sent me to my bookshelf for a quote that sticks with me always and I had to get it right. It's from Inkspell by Cornelia Funke (do you know the Inkheart triolgy?) It goes like this:

    "Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?...As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar.)

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    1. I LOVE that quote! It is exactly what I was trying to articulate. I've had Inkheart for years, but in my avoidance of committing to lengthy books, I have never read it. It just moved up in my stack!

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    2. The quote is from the second book in the series. But Inkheart is one of my all time favorite books. Just imagine. Characters who come to life because someone read them aloud!

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  13. What a fun reflection! I think an "ideal bookshelf" post is in my future... and maybe a student project too? Thank you for sharing your book "selves", and I look forward to your "ideal bookshelf" post! :-)

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  14. What a beautiful thing to be surrounded by books! I love the bookshelf assignment... :) Thanks for sharing... :)

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