Reading


How did I come to write about 19th-century Arctic exploration? It started with a song, as I explain in my essay “The Idea of North.” One thing led to another, and I was off on a tangent of research & reading, trying to make sense of such a diverse body of findings.

Surely, some might think, she’s not going to be able to fit Virginia Woolf into this one! But my work has a strong literary component, and Woolf belongs by virtue of my quest starting while I was staying in her home village and by a not-surprising-when-you-think-about-it connection in A Room of One’s Own.

The result was this piece, just published in The Baltimore Review, but my fascination with the subject continues, and I continue to read about polar ice and cold and the people who pursue it from the safety of sunny San Diego. Read “The Idea of North” here.

After having an essay published last year in Spry Literary Journal, I was invited to contribute to Spry’s ABC series. Writing for Beginners and Fiction Writing would be followed by the ABCs of Creative Nonfiction, and I could write on the letter of my choice.

I quickly claimed the letter “M” with its myriad manifestations–memoir, memory, motivation, and metaphor, to name just a few. And what about mentors and muses? I’d written a chapter, “A Muse of One’s Own,” for the 2014 book Writing after Retirement (yes, of course I spotlight Virginia Woolf!)–so I adapted it for this project.

My link is to the entire list–I’m reading through them, & you may want to do the same. My favorite so far is “A is for Accoutrements” by Spry’s editor, Erin Ollila. But before you get distracted, click here and scroll down to “M is for Mentors and Muses and Models, Oh My!”

I acknowledge in my essay that the topic has been done to death, & I ask what I could possibly add to it. My own take, that’s what, which draws not just from personal experience but from my reading: Virginia Woolf, of course, and others I admire–like Doris Grumbach and Rebecca Solnit–who’ve pondered and pontificated on the subject.

“Solo in Seattle” is the result, a meditation and homage, published in the latest issue of The Tishman Review. You’ll find it linked here, on pages 109-113.

With thanks to my friend and mentor, Priscilla Long, who not only makes my solitary retreat possible but whose encouragement and own writing are constant sources of inspiration. See you in July, Priscilla…!

My discovery of the obscure mid-20th-century novelist Isabel Bolton led to extensive research and an exploratory essay. I wasn’t surprised when early in my search I discovered critics’ comparisons of Bolton to Virginia Woolf, and when I read the first of Bolton’s modernist novels I could indeed see similarities in style and theme.

“In Search of Isabel Bolton” was jointly published this month by Bloom (linked here), one of my favorite sites for obvious reasons: a focus on late bloomers, qualified by the question “‘Late’ according to whom?”, and in the esteemed online magazine The Millions (linked here).

This project, on the heels of an earlier piece about Lillie Coit, is leading me into new territory in my writing, more research-based essays. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!

Several months ago I responded to a call for submissions on “Books that changed my life” at an entertaining and eclectic site called The Drunken Odyssey – a podcast about the writing life. Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary changed my life dramatically more than 25 years ago. This was a great opportunity to tell my tale outside of the usual Woolfian circles—to preach beyond the choir.

My husband is a musician with a home studio, so he recorded the piece, edited out my faltering and fumbling, and added guitar and sound accompaniment. The segment was published this month in Episode 189 of The Drunken Odyssey (linked here). It starts with a lengthy discussion about Lawrence Ferlinghetti. If you want to skip ahead, I’m at the end, starting at about 51:50.

 

 

 

I don’t often post or write about what I’m reading. Maybe because it’s overdone–too many of us cluttering the cosmos with our likes & dislikes–or maybe, as I suggest in this link, it’s a little presumptuous. But I can if I want to–isn’t that the point of it all?–and when Amor Towles, the author of Rules of Civility, came to town, I took the opportunity to shout it from the vantage point of my latest Presidio Sentinel column. I call it “You’ve gotta read this!”

I plan to write a year-end column on people’s favorite reads of 2012. What’s yours? Repeats don’t count, so it can’t be your second go at War & Peace (unless you never finished it the first time) or your annual reading of Pride & Prejudice or my third time through Rules of Civility, although I did, in fact, enjoy it more than anything else I’ve read this year, even on my third reading.

 

I was in Portland last week visiting Eva and Jim who happen to live just a few blocks from Powell’s, the ultimate in bookstores, known for good reason as the “City of Books.” Room after room of books–new and used together, the feature I love most–encompassing a full city block (68,000 square feet) and that’s just the main location; there are several others around town. The Blue Room (literature) is where I head with my list, but I’m overwhelmed–it’s like Santa’s workshop to a kid, Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village to a mouse. I roam up and down the aisles, reading titles, plucking them off the shelf to fondle covers and leaf through pages, making notes.

I limit myself to three books–the new Paul Auster for Don’s birthday, a collection of Margaret Drabble’s stories, a 1926 novel by Sylvia Townsend Warner–and a couple of literary journals, which can no longer be found in San Diego. Judy Reeves says of Portland: “Envy their bookstores. Don’t envy their weather,” but I don’t know: what’s wrong with a little rain, ok a lot of rain, if you have enough books to read?

 A book I would have snapped up immediately if they’d had it is Toby’s Room by Pat Barker, but it won’t be released in the U.S. until October. In addition to being an avid fan of Barker’s work, her new one has strong connections to Virginia Woolf. Here’s more about it and it’s prequel, Life Class, which I did read, in my latest post on Blogging Woolf.

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