Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"It's fun to do something dumb."

Those who know me well know that my recent Cormac McCarthy escapade was truly an anomaly.  I typically steer clear of fiction.  The outlandish makes me roll my eyes. "Inescapable hooks" often leave me making mental to-do and grocery lists.  Biting wit embedded in a reluctant love story absolutely has to be present if I am to make it past page 30.  I simply get bored with fiction.   (This is not where I insert a "but" and then proceed to talk about how the Fifty Shades of Grey series has changed my life. Don't worry...I haven't suddenly developed some wacko moral compass; I do plan to check it out).

Thus,  I've stuck to nonfiction for the past couple of months.  Here are some interesting selections from a few of my favorites. ...
From Natalie Goldberg's, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (a wonderful essay collection that anyone with an interest in writing will find useful)

"there is a fine line between precision and self-indulgence....Irving Howe wrote in his introduction to Jewish American Stories that the best art almost becomes sentimental but doesn't."

I love this line.  I appreciate art, whether written word or visual aesthetics, that seems to avoid the "Boy, I'm gonna make you feel something" trap.  86 adjectives are not necessary; catharsis does have limits; vacant hokeyness disguised as assumed eloquence makes me gag.  
From the Verlyn Klinkenborg article in the May 2012 Smithsonian Magazine

Thoughts and questions I plan to address in an upcoming post...
"When did 'home' become embedded in human consciousness? Is our sense of home instinctive?

"Not that you can't feel 'at home' in other places.  But there's a big psychological difference between feeling at home and being home."

"home is a place so profoundly familiar you don't even have to notice it.  It's everywhere else that takes noticing."

"one of the most basic meaning of home - a place we can never see with a stranger's eyes for more than a moment."
In this same issue, there was also a feature on the 10 Best Small Towns in America (in regard to culture). 

Here's a list of my own and the criteria I would use to determine...

Criteria: local shops, friendly, but not over-the-top "well, shucks, is this not the prettiest little place yall've ever been?!" people, pleasing aesthetics (landscaping, freshly-painted downtown buildings), artsy feel, unique food options, an element of laid-back, mixed with efficiency, inviting homes with front porches and mowed lawns

Kentucky - Bardstown, Danville (below), Frankfort
Elsewhere - Bennington, Vermont (below); Sparta, Tennessee; Cumberland, Maryland
What would your cities be?
I have enjoyed Lisa Scottoline's essay collection, Why My Third Husband Will be a Dog, so much that I just may break down and try one of her works of fiction (for which she is much more well known).  In this non-fiction selection she masters the "verging on sentimental" element praised above.

Most of the essays start something like this...
Dream Job
"It's fun to do something dumb.  Not something really dumb like my second marriage. That was really really dumb.

I mean, it's fun to perform a mindless task.  I realized this today, when I clipped my pony. Yes, even though I'm a grown-up, I have a pony named Buddy.  I bought him from a little girl who thought he was too old, too small, and too slow."
A woman after my own heart.
And the book I've been excited about for months finally arrives...
That's right, I did put on my favorite shirt and sit in my favorite chair.  

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