Books

Welcome to the Sausage Fest: A Review of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

readerly rambles

A few weeks ago the blogosphere was filled with posts bemoaning blog malaise. Folks were exhausted, bored, and frustrated with blogging. I made my peace with blogging several years ago, but I still struggle with self-doubt and feeling like I could always be doing more. I have so many ideas and very little time to write. Also, I need to be doing things to write about: reading, baking, crafting, going places. If I spend all my free time writing or blogging then I run out of material or resort to bored naval-gazing and no one wants that. How in heavens name do people find the time to create?

Enter Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This book is comprised of brief entries about the daily and creative habits of famous writers, artists, dancers, scientists and inventors. Gleaned from biographies, letters, and diaries this book offers an inspiring look at how people make the time to create. Some have firm schedules (W.H. Auden), others superstitions habits (Truman Capote), and still others are decidedly weird (Thomas Wolfe liked to diddle himself before writing…ewww). I started tabbing the book when I noticed three recurring things with many of the subjects: waking early, daily exercise, and coffee. The green tabs are exercise, yellow is coffee, and pink/purple represent waking early. Blue tabs are just my favorite interesting quirks and facts.

wpid-wp-1412600249026.jpgI certainly give this book five stars for how interesting it is and the level of research it must have taken to assemble the over 150 different “daily rituals” into one volume.

HOWEVER…

This book absolutely pissed me off and I haven’t sworn at a book in quite a long time. This book is a freaking sausage fest. There are over 150 creators profiled in this book and only 26 women are represented. What. the. f*ck? There are also very few people of color or from non-American/European countries and nearly everyone in the book is well-off. Thanks for letting me know how hard it is to be a white, privileged, American man and I am so glad you found the time to create.

You will see loads of women on the pages of Daily Rituals. They’re fixing bowls of cornflakes, reading aloud to frustrated authors, editing shit drafts, typing entire novels written on index cards (hello, Mrs. Nabokov), tending children, or simply working to pay the bills. The interesting nature of the entries was marred by the exclusiveness of the artists and creators featured.

Mr. Currey could have saved this book in one of two ways:

  1. My least favorite way would be to talk about it. I just re-read the introduction and he states he, “…tried to provide examples of how a variety of brilliant and successful people have confronted many of the same challenges [finding time to create]“. A simple paragraph recognizing the book was skewed towards men would have gone a long way. He could have talked about class, gender, and race — even briefly — and detailed how it was easier to find privileged or male examples in diaries, letters, and biographies.
  2. The best remedy would have been for Mr. Currey to work a bit harder and find more women, people of color, and working class examples. The stuff is out there if only one would look. I would have especially liked some mothers featured. I know that everyone doesn’t chose to be a mother, but out of the women represented I think less than five mentioned children or household duties.

For inclusiveness I give this book one star meaning the book averages about three stars. In his introduction Currey hopes “that readers will find it [the book] encouraging rather than depressing”. Alas, I left this book depressed at the short-sightedness of the work and angry it was a catalog of the “struggles” wealthy, white men face. Boo, freaking, hoo.

Thursday Thoughts: On Weeding My Book Collection

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A little over a month ago I culled over 400 books from my home. That is about two-thirds of my collection. We were downsizing from a three bedroom, two bath house with a basement to an apartment. I would no longer have a study. I would no longer have built-in shelves in the living area. Instead I would have a little blip of wall in the dining room and a small shelf in my bedroom to fill. I needed to cut down on my books and needed to do it quickly.

First I cut two hundred.

Then I cut just over two hundred more.

If you count cookbooks and kids’ books, then I cleared out close to 450 titles.

I posted a picture on Instagram and immediately the comments came pouring in. “How can you cut Don Quixote!?” “You’re ditching Jane Austen?!” “No! That (insert historical title) is so good!”

Of course, I agreed with all the above statements. I was getting rid of some really good books.

Friends offered to store the books for me and, while the intentions were good, it made me uncomfortable. Do I really need to horde boxes of books in someone’s house for several years? No. Nothing I had was rare or had a high-cash value. Perhaps it is because I’ve worked in a library for ten years, but I don’t think holding onto the books for the sake of holding on to them is a good thing. The reason why I like to buy books is to have them readily available. You never know when you’ll want to read Wuthering Heights at three in the morning. And books are beautiful! Even though I didn’t read everything I owned, I loved gazing at so many rows of book spines and inhaling the wondrous papery smell. Packed up in a box they would just sit.

Then I started to think about my twelve-year old self growing a burgeoning collection of books. I received books for Christmas and birthdays, but we were a working class family and there was no money for extra books. I checked out my maximum allotment of books each week from the library, but books to own were scare. My mom had three large shelves of books, but I wanted my own. Lucky for me the public library had a huge library book sale once a year. I can remember filling up my paper bag with whatever titles looked good. In fact, that was how I first learned of Sylvia Plath. I found a well-worn copy of The Journals of Sylvia Plath at a library sale and I was hooked. I still have my first two library book sale purchases, two poetry books: English Romantic Poets and a blue book that is an old poetry textbook. From those books I breathed “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and “The Lady of Shalot” for a year. I was nine years old. Relatives gifted me boxes of books from yard sales and I always went to the book section of the thrift store first. My first job was at a book store and I used my first paycheck to buy Atlas Shrugged, Catcher in the Rye, and Slaughterhouse-5. I had books of my own because other people (and libraries) saw fit to rid themselves of excess books for very little money.

I also knew that I wanted to begin building a collection to keep on my shelves forever, Instead of a tattered, yellowed, falling-apart copy of The Woman in White, I wanted a Penguin Clothbound. I ditched my mish-mash of Austen because she is a favorite; I long to collect set of beautiful, deckle-edged, French-flapped Austen beauties. Obviously I cannot run out and purchase them all right now, but when I decide to re-read Persuasion I could probably swing the $15 to $20 to get the copy I want (or find a used copy for less). Honestly, I also missed the hunt. My full to bursting shelves didn’t allow for other book sales and pouring through thrift store shelves. Now I have a little room, a bit of space, and I can hunt for titles again.

I sold about a quarter of my books at a yard sale. The rest I gave away. A few were packaged and sent to friends throughout the country. Many were picked up by college work-study students at the library. Most went to the public library for their annual book sale. I consider it a way of “paying it forward” by passing on books I’m not using.

Weeding books can be liberating, but buying books is ecstasy. I’ve been selling you all on letting books g,o but guess who has two thumbs and is going to a massive charity sale next Friday? Yup. That would be me. I have a little bit of room, some stashed change, and a large and empty tote bag. And so it begins… again….

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List Love: Ten Books for Autumn

photograph by Amanda Bowman, creative commons license

photograph by Amanda Bowman, creative commons license

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a favorite — seasonal TBR list! Below I’ve listed my TBR for the Autumn and my goal is to have these books completed by December 1st. Note — this list does not include the titles I’m assembling for read-a-thon!

  1.  The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
  2. The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James
  3. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
  4. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  5. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  6. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
  7. Consequences by E.M. Delafield
  8. Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey
  9. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  10. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Now I have my list, I have a my cocoa, and I have some cooler nights to curl up at home with a book. Perfection.

Kindred Spirits for the Win!

I’ve had the most wonderful, friend-filled days recently.

Yesterday I worked a half-day and then met up with my friend Melissa. Melissa and I worked at the same library two years ago and she is a classic movie lover, bibliophile, and dear friend. The last time I saw Melissa I was pregnant with Persy and she was embarking on a huge out of state move to take a new job. Now she is working in Georgia again and lives only an hour away. Yay! We enjoyed some Thai food and talked about families, libraries, and books. AFter a few hours at the Thai restaurant, we went to Starbucks for coffee, cookies, and more conversation. I am a ninny and forgot to take a picture (excepting a picture of my cookie, how lame is that?). I am hopeful we can make getting together a regular occurance.

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I”m so lucky, today I got to spend the day with another friend — Catherine. That’s right, today was Caturday. I made the trip out to Athens while Sam hung out with the kids at home. First we chilled at Catherine’s house. She gifted me a cookbook from the Goodwill, The New Vegetarian Epicure — and each recipe looks divine. She also copied out a top secret-mother-of-all-scones recipe that I am eager to try.

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After a bit at her house we decided to go thrifting. Our first round of thrifting was a bit dismal. I purchased The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope and a collection of Chekov stories, but I didn’t see much else. Then we went to the GAP outlet and I bought some clothes for the kids. An old skool Optimus Prime shirt for Atticus and pants, pjs, a sweater, and a tank for Persy Jane.

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Then it was time for lunch. We went to my FAVORITE place: The Grit. I had a veggie omellette, taters, biscuits with yeast gravy, and coffee. It was heavenly. Luckily our server today happens to write one of my most favorite blogs, Grits and Moxie. I was finally able to introduce myself to Jennifer (I’ve seen her there before but she is always super busy and I didn’t want to disrupt her and, frankly, I was afraid I would sound like a dork introducing myself). It was so nice to meet a blogger in person and as we left Jennifer said she would love for us to do a sort of blogger meetup over coffee. That will be super exciting to get to know her better and meet even more kindred spirits.

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After our brunch, Catherine and I popped into a new yarn shop, but it was a bit sparse. Then we went to my favorite indie bookstore: Avid Bookshop. I showed great restraint and purchased a Penguin journal and some notecards. I could have gone crazy.

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Then is was another bust of a thrift store and on to the Goodwill. I hit the motherload of books at the Goodwill. I tried looking for clothes for the kids as that was the entire reason for my thrifting in the first place, but the quality of the available clothes did not match what they were going for. So I bought books, like ya do; because the kids can wear books to school. You can see the awesome spoils from the Goodwill below:

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Score!!!

After a very busy day we had a chance to hangout at Catherine’s house for about a half-hour before I had to make the journey home. There never seems to be enough time when I spend time with the people I love!

I need to remember days like today and yesterday. I can get so wrapped up into my hermitude and focus only on books, work, and family. I need to remember that my friends fill me with such love, happiness, and inspiration. Cheers to kindred spirits!

Works in Progress: 23 July 2014

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I finally organized my yarn and embroidery projects. Up until this weekend everything was stashed in a closet.

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Most of my bookshelves are organized and dusted. I certainly don’t have room for more books. You know what this means. Time to buy more shelves!

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I am working on an index card meal planning system that my mom has used for decades. I hope to be ready to put it in motion by August and will blog more then.

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Finally started the last color on Persy Jane’s blanket. Soon, my friends, soon.

List Love: The A-Z Bookish Survey

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Author You’ve Read The Most Books From:

Charles Dickens. I’ve read ten of his novels, story collections, and plays. I should mention this survey applies to my adult reading habits. I’m sure I read upwards of 50 Babysitter’s Club books in the fifth grade.

Best Sequel Ever:

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. I found the second book in the His Dark Materials series a bit better than the first book and certainly better than this last book. I’m drawn to Will Parry’s character.

Currently Reading:

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope and A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin

Drink of Choice while Reading:

COFFEE!!!

E-Reader or Physical Book:

I love my physical books, but I will say that my e-reader is wonderful for lunch breaks, long trips, midnight nursing sessions, and when I have sick kids. It has enhanced my reading, but in no way replaced my love of “real” books.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated In High School:

Unfortunately I would have wanted to date Heathcliff. A terrible man, but in high school I thought he was hot.

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. It was almost so hyped I didn’t try it, but I’m glad I did.

Hidden Gem Book: 

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen. I feel that Bowen’s short stories don’t get the credit they deserve. Each story it masterfully constructed. Everyone must read this collection NOW.

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

This is a difficult question and I should probably write a separate post on influential moments in my life as a reader. I will go with my earliest reading memory of my mom reading the unabridged Alice in Wonderland to me when I was in 1st grade. I sat through an hour of her reading this to me each night and I begged for more.

Just Finished: 

Dear Life by Alice Munro

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: 

Erotica, Chick Lit, most Sci-Fi, vapid YA.

Longest Book You’ve Read:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That chunkster clocked in at over 1300+ pages.

Major Book Hangover Because Of:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling. I had a month long book hangover when that series wrapped.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Three full-sized in the study, one set of built-ins in the living room, and two small waist high shelves.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read this book every other year and I think I’m up to about 12 reads.

Preferred Place To Read: 

In a cozy, snug chair at a coffee shop.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read. 

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
– Atticus Finch” from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Reading Regret: 

Alias, Grace by Margaret Atwood

Series You Started and Need to Finish:

A Song of Fire and Ice by George R R Martin

Three of Your All Time Favourite Books: 

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. By the way, I went with the first three that popped into my head and I’ve since thought of a dozen more.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: 

 Harry Potter, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Bronte, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens

Very Excited For This Release More Than Others:

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters!

Worst Bookish Habit:

Dogearing the pages of my paperback books.

X Marks The Spot: start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

I’m using my TBR list for this year as I’m not near my shelves. The winner is: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (a re-read)

Your Latest Book Purchase:

A lovely Vintage Classics copy of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell for 50 cents at a thrift shop

ZZZ-Snatcher  book (last book that kept you up WAY Late)

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. I have a new rule that I am not allowed to read epic high fantasy novels before bed.

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Brought to you by The Perpetual Page Turner!

5 Things I Loved About This Week: 06/21/2014

Discover. Play. Build.
My sweet niece, Evie Rose

My sweet niece, Evie Rose

 

1) I finished The Game of Thrones this past week. It was so good!!! After I finished I vowed to take a break from epic fantasy for a few weeks. I picked up a classic, Charlotte Bronte’s The Professor, and I was worried I’d have issues getting into the book as there are no dragons, swords, or gnarly deaths. I shouldn’t have worried! I’m really enjoying The Professor and it is certainly making me long to re-read Villette and Jane Eyre.

2) Book Sale!  I picked up a lovely stack of books for less than $6. I brought home Barnaby Rudge and Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens, Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, The Claverings by Anthony Trollope, The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor, Poor Miss Finch by Wilkie Collins, and The Son Advenger by Sigrid Undset. Score!

3) Chocolate eclairs. They were delicious.

4) Sam is done with classes… until Monday. It isn’t much of a break, but I”ll take that 48-hours of Sam free of study and homework. Right now he is taking the kids to the spray ground so I can have some time to read and blog. He’s a peach.

5) Yesterday I went to Mom’s house to spend time with my sister, Becky, and my adorable niece, Evie Rose. I haven’t seen Becky and Evie since December of 2012 (when I was pregnant with Persy). Evie and Atticus played well together and even took turns riding the big wheel with no tantrums. They are only 4 months apart and I’m so glad they play well together. Becky had a grand time with Persy, although Becky has raging baby fever now. It was a wonderful day. We’re hoping that Becky’s husband, Jon, will get a law enforcement job in the North GA area so they can relocate. Becky is too far away in South GA!!!

It was a good week.