Halfway through summer

Somewhere in the early days of this blog I think I wrote something about trying to post something at least twice a week.  In retrospect it may have been a little too lofty a goal.  I seem to be doing well to get something out twice a month at this point.

There is always the hope that somewhere in my future I will find more time for writing and reading.  Realistically the six to seven months of winter we get here could work to my advantage.   During the long season I go to bed early and therefore find it relatively easy to get up at 5:30am and take advantage of a quiet house.   Summer in Alaska is a different story.  There is this climate-imposed pressure to fit as much into three months as others in a more southern locale could spread out over as many as six to eight months.   The garden needs tending, firewood needs stacking.  There are fish to catch, berries to pick and recreation to be had, all in addition to the regular household chores and my job.    I’ve heard people talk about “lazy summer days” but honestly I haven’t experienced many of them in the 18 years I’ve lived here.   Perhaps we’re programmed to keep moving until darkness settles in, which this time of year is around midnight. It’s a rather manic existence and I can sustain it for a while, but just lately I’ve reached the part of the summer where my concentration is low and my attention span is short.

Lately I’ve been craving some serious couch time.  The other day I found myself fantasizing about catching a summer cold that would force (allow?) me to sit still for a while with my books and my laptop.  When my reading and writing habits become mucked up in the long daylight portion of summer, I feel a little out of balance.  A sort of literary mania comes over me.  The problem is compounded by the fact that I work in a library.

It starts with me checking out more books and magazines than I could ever possibly find the time to read.  Then, when I start feeling bad about taking so many items out of circulation for the public use I begin digging through the book donation boxes in the back room.   My stack keeps getting higher and in my attempt to make up for all the years I spent reading Glamour magazine and listening to 80’s pop music when I should have been reading the classics I start having thoughts like, “How can I possibly be a good writer if I’ve never read Moby Dick, or anything by Steinbeck?  I must remedy this situation right now.”   The guilt I inflict upon myself is emotionally exhausting and by the time I actually have time to sit down on my couch with my oversized stack, (usually around 11:30 pm) I’m overwhelmed by the choices.   I do a lot of page flipping and a little reading (remember the short attention span I mentioned earlier) before I find myself too tired to think straight.  Then I fall into a hard sleep for about six hours.

Coherence returns, for a while at least, after a good sleep, so that’s when I try to write, even if it only amounts to a page or two in my notebook.   Some would say that journaling is a waste of time but I find that it’s a valuable tool for helping me keep my wits intact.   A while back it led me to a most obvious solution to my reading and writing problem of late:  short stories.  I’m working on a short story of my own, and what better way to learn the workings of the genre than to read a bunch of them?    And beautifully, I can manage complete works of fiction that are only 5-12 pages long, even during this crazy time of year when daylight lasts much longer than my brain’s ability to stay fully engaged.

And as for this blog, I still aspire to post more often, and maybe even liven it up with pictures once in a while.    In the meantime I’ll do what I can, and continue to enjoy the process.  I think I’ll also try to slow down a little and savor some of what summer has to offer.

Thanks everyone for reading.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!

2010 by the book

One of the problems or, some would say, blessings of working at the library is that I come across so many interesting books; way more than I’d ever have time to read and still be a functioning member of society.  In an attempt to keep myself focused, which means not start twelve books simultaneously, I have been compiling a list of books I hope to read in 2010.

I’ve started out the year with Eckhart Tolle’s  “A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose” and Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”   Along the way I’m sure I’ll add to the list because there has to be room for spontaneity.  Sometimes a book just calls out to you and you have to read it, whether it’s on your list or not.

Here’s what I’ve got so far, and I’m open to suggestions.

*Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen  (I will never have to tell another person I’ve never read Jane Austen.)

*Snow – Orhan Pamuk

*Tortilla Flat – John Steinbeck

*The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

*Ordinary Wolves – Seth Kantner

*The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides   (His book Middlesex was excellent.)

*Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese  (People at the library keep recommending this one.)

*The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver  (I have to read everything she writes.)

*The Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahansa Yogananda

*The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz

*Stitches: A Memoir – David Small  (The graphic novel Blankets got me hooked, and I hear this one is great.)

*Too Much Happiness – Alice Munro (The goddess of short stories.)

*Juliet Naked – Nick Hornby (Any book written by the man who wrote High Fidelity deserves to be read.)

*The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

*A Passage To India – E.M. Forster

*Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri

*Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse

*Strength in What Remains – Tracy Kidder

2009 by the book

Over the past few days I’ve been trying to remember the books that I’ve read from cover to cover in 2009.   Lately it seems like I have a short attention span with reading and my list of unfinished books is much longer than my list of finished books.  By listing the books I’ve completed I’ve managed to make myself feel a little better. The year has come and gone and I still haven’t organized my closet or painted my living room but, by God, I did finish a few books.  Imagine how smug I’d feel if I could tally all the blog posts, opinion pieces and news articles I’ve read on the internet.

2009 books

*The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

—— I read this book, with its intense description of hunger, during the holidays, when I was surrounded by food.

*The Help – Kathryn Stockett

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows

*Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout

——–I understand why this won the Pulitzer Prize.

*Amy and Isabelle – Elizabeth Strout

*Raising Ourselves – Velma Wallis

*The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

———Of all the books on this list I think this one made the biggest impact.

*First Indian on the Moon – Sherman Alexie

*Fancy Dancing – Sherman Alexie

——- I actually sent Sherman Alexie fan mail after reading this one.  I’d never done that.

*Eva Underground – Dandi Daley Mackall

*The Gathering – Anne Enright

*The Well and the Mine – Gin Phillips

*Saddle Up Your Own White Horse – Saundra Pelletier

*Rock, Water, Wild:  An Alaskan Life – Nancy Lord

——– I appreciated most of the essays in this book, but the last one about her aged father is beautiful and had me crying over my breakfast one morning.  (I took a memoir writing class from the author last winter.)

*The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

——– A graphic novel about a girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution.  Iranians are real people.

*The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards – Robert Boswell

*Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone – Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg

——-I was inspired to read this one after taking a Carter Family Singing class at Alaska Traditional Music Camp last summer.

*The Worst Hard Time – Timothy Egan

And the next two are ones I reread in 2009.

*The Shipping News – Annie Proulx

——–My favorite novel.

*Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

———I had to reread this one after watching the movie; to compare and contrast.

There may be more, but that’s what I can remember.  Happy New Year!