Sunday, April 14, 2013
Zeitgeist: Authors and Books: April 2013: Memoir
Zeitgeist posts are first person accounts of various subjects that strike me enough in my day to day life to write about. The title maybe ironic, only time will tell.
Authors and Books
This is about books that I cherish in my life. I have never been a natural reader. Like most children born after 1980, television was always a presence in my life. My parents did not allow television until the evening. School took care of monday through friday and the weekends were taken up by playing outside and chores. In the evening, though, there was definitely television. I have never used books for entertainment. I already had television.
I was required to read twenty minutes a day outside of school. I never wanted to do it. I wanted to watch television. My mom suggested I try reading comic books. I liked comic books. I could follow the story without losing my place on the page. Even if I did lose my place on the page I was given the privilege of looking at beautiful, alluring, and occasionally dark images while I found my place in the story again. I did this often because I tend to lose my place often. In everything. I always find it and that is important to me. I always learn and relearn in order to find my way and that makes me feel smart.
So I tried to make comics myself. I still do so, occasionally when I wonder if I still have the guts to create such an art form. It is a great art form and many have mastered it in one way or another.
Alan Moore, of course.
Frank Miller has found his sexy and violent niche.
I admire Anders Nilsen for his quiet bravery. He gives his reader everything he has in his brain while simultaneously proving he can meticulously build a great big beautiful doorstop of a saga. All with only pen and ink. Big Ideas if you are interested in reading a comic book that can also be used as a weapon.
There are so many more, but I am dying to get to the next part.
Kurt Vonnegut sold me on books, text, when I read Slaughterhouse Five in a hostel in San
Francisco. I had never connected with a book that way before. So I accessed the internet, read reviews of his various books, and decided to pick his best reviewed books for his second chance at connecting with me. Cat's Cradle.
After I read Cat's Cradle I made it a long term goal to read everything he had ever published. I was suppose to see him speak at Butler College in 2006, I believe. Or was it 2007?
He died before the speech.
This man and my father and my mother sold me on words due to nature and nurture. I too fall prey to the cult of personality.
A man of letters is destine to have all he keeps, but does not share, revealed.
Did I mention I enjoy aphorisms?
When there was nothing left of the dashes he made throughout his life, I realized I still needed more. I realized I was not in love with Kurt Vonnegut. I loved (love) Vonnegut's ability to use and manipulate words to make me laugh and feel better about myself in one of the only established codes I know, the alphabet.
Alpha Bet. One can certainly tinker with words.
I am a visual artist trying to write an abstract for a language arts course.
Do our schools have classes titled language arts, anymore?
Do we break down our language into flat panels of grammar and syntax?
Do we teach the limit of one hundred and forty characters, Twitter, as if it were haiku?
I no longer know.
I cannot remember if we had language arts courses at the high school I attended. Surely, there are young growing minds that love words as much as I loved art in high school, still?
I'll let this list speak for itself:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Funny, scary, profound, well researched and well written. This book captures everything that is incredible about the study of science, any science. It slices away most of the jargon, or politely explains it, in order to present it to any reader who chooses to engage it. This book made me love, fear, laugh at and eternally respect this world, this universe, this indefinable miracle.
I would write that A Walk in the Woods is less daunting, but I found nothing about Short History daunting. A Walk in the Woods is less thorough in a charming way. It is not a science book. It is a history book, a travel book and memoir. Both books are undoubtably from Bryson's hand and head: Funny, scary, profound, well researched and well written. At Home as well, though I will not go into details here. Beautiful.
White Noise by Don Delillo. I feel the hunger pangs of falling for a cult of personality once more. I want to read everything this man has ever published. White Noise is a new, semi-paranoid, Slaughterhouse Five for this version 2.0 I have become.
My mother and my father and Don Delillo taught me to trust them, but do not worship them. I also recently discovered the charm, wit and despair of T.S Eliot. Poetry never really made sense to me until now. I do not know why that is nor do I care at this time. I know I'm going to keep this in mind.
Tinkering is fun. I pray it does not become malicious.
I know it can.
Two Point O.
Don De Lil Lo.
I find it difficult to let this list speak for itself. I am a man with something to talk about, something to write about even if it is simply books. I know this annoys some people, but if they simply explained what it is that annoyed them a discourse could begin. Possibly a debate. Growing up, I never had a sport. I only had exercise. Ah! Hiking and and bike riding, what beautifully physical activities, like the best sex I have ever had.
Debate has become my substitute for sport and I'll leave it to an oral tradition.
Visual arts remain very similar to riding a bike or taking a hike.
Back to the list with a lighter heart:
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. Literary non-fiction about a road trip to the places where past American Presidents were assassinated. Travel and research are conducive to writing.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. Vignettes and musings on American Pop culture. Having a critical eye for the things most of us see as normal life is conducive to writing.
I must admit now that I finally read for entertainment as well as enlightenment. I am thinking about Ivanhoe or one of the Bernard Cornwell books my father cherishes. Of Le Morte D'Arthur or The Illiad and The Odyssey. As a heathen I ponder the stories of the Bible. I need all these edgy and oddball things I read and enjoy in order to deal with the fact that a book such as Blood Meridian exists.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. If gothic described this book goth music would have never grown a dance beat. All goth music would sound like a rock gaining momentum as it tumbled down an endless black hole. And it is historically accurate in a literary way. Somehow, Blood Meridian manages to transcend its own nihilism with its prose. The text is beautiful in almost every respect.
I could never write this book.
I hope I would never have to write a book such as Blood Meridian.
I had trouble reading Blood Meridian, but for one unexplainable reason or another, I could not keep myself from picking it up when I wanted to put it down.
It is almost evil. Almost.
Blood Meridian interprets evil in the most beautiful way our alphabet can. Alpha Bet.
I feel a possibly misguided pride in getting through it completely.
I'm done writing for now. I'm going to draw a Yin and a Yang and look up writers I have never consider. Balzac. Kenneth Rexroth. Elizabeth Bishop. Frank O'Hara. More T.S Eliot.
And finally, I will simply improvise.
Aaron C. Molden