If We Were Having Coffee // Hello Spring!

Hello dear readers and thank you again for stopping by for a chat and a cup of fresh, hot coffee. It is the first day of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere and I hope that wherever you are you can feel it in the air.

Here in colorful Colorado, we are looking at highs in the 50s for today but the week is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster they say. We’ll have temps in the 70s for a couple of days and then possibly some snow. That is how Spring is for us, one minute warm and beautiful, the next wet heavy snows that clog up the commute and melt by the next morning.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I am feeling my age and slowly recovering from a night out with friends. The other queer couple I mentioned last week invited us out to see a play one of them was staring in. It was a hilarious story titled An Evening with Mr. Johnson, in which a man argues with his penis (played by another actor) about the life choices that have been made by the appendage and have had detrimental effects on the man’s love life. It was really good!

Afterward, there were drinks and we all got a little carried away. That means this morning I feel tired and I am thanking my lucky stars the headache and the queasy stomach are already feeling better. The coffee is helping!

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that this week was a busy one and this next week will be too. They have been hiring more and more people trying to address the driver shortage which means I have to train more and more. I was able to get overtime out of it and I expect I will again by Friday, which will help make up for the money I won’t be making when I choose to take the entirety of Spring Break off.

I am going to try to set up a to-do list and a schedule for that week so that I do not get distracted. The goal is to go through my notes and set up themes and pull together ideas for my Zine. I have post-its, pocket notebooks, and legal pads of notes to sift through and I imagine 90% of it will be useless but maybe I can, at least, narrow the focus and get an idea of the direction I want to head.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that am very disappointed to have fallen behind on my reading goals this month. It happened for many reasons, the chief of which is that I have just been very busy. I am working more, trying to keep up with my posts here, and making better efforts to be more sociable online, not to mention learning a bit of a math, coding, and Spanish every day. Reading had to be put on the back burner for awhile but I am hoping to find a good half hour in another part of the day to get it done again.

The second reason I have slowed down is because I do not like the current book I am reading. Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein, has proven to be one of my least favorite books ever and I am only just over halfway through. I honestly don’t understand the appeal at all. It is just pages and pages of a privileged man whining about something that turned out to be entirely his own fault.I am reading the monster’s account now and it is only slightly better

Some people say you should not finish books that you do not like and part of me really wants to heed that advice but the other half says that this is a classic and it must be so for a reason so I have to finish it and gain what knowledge I can from the damned thing.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that staying a non-smoker this week was very hard. Now that the weather is nicer and I am hanging out with friends again I miss the outdoor conversations that were made easier with alcohol and cigarettes. The two go together so well and I am almost sad to have one and not the other.

Cigarettes meant finding new friends and bonding wherever you were. Cigarettes meant not being left behind when other smokers take their breaks. Cigarettes also meant not feeling bad that your friends either have to apologize for leaving you behind, or suffer the beginnings of withdrawal to stay with you because you cannot trust yourself to be out there without asking for just one drag, and then another, and another, until you’ve smoked one and might as well buy a pack…

Today I am 116 days smoke-free.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I hate to rush off but I want to get out of doors and enjoy a little sunshine while I can. I really hope you had a wonderful week and I hope you will tell me all about it in the comments. So go, witness the beginning of spring and enjoy the rest of the weekend while you can, Monday starts very soon.

See you next week :)

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Stephen King

Hello dear readers and welcome to the middle of the week. If you are feeling a little run down, if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. My contribution for the week is from the American novelist Stephen King.

3389Stephen Edwin King was born on September 21, 1947, in Portland, Maine. When King was two years old, his father left the family under the pretense of “going to buy a pack of cigarettes”, leaving his mother to raise King and his adopted older brother, David, by herself, sometimes under great financial strain. The family moved to De Pere, Wisconsin, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Stratford, Connecticut. When King was 11, the family returned to Durham, Maine, where his mother cared for her parents until their deaths. She then became a caregiver in a local residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level.

He met his wife Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies. In 1973, King’s first novel Carrie was accepted by publishing house Doubleday. King had thrown an early draft of the novel into the trash after becoming discouraged with his progress writing about a teenage girl with psychic powers. His wife retrieved the manuscript and encouraged him to finish it. His advance for Carrie was $2,500; King’s paperback rights later earned $400,000

King has published 54 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and six non-fiction books, and sold more than 350 million copies. He has written nearly 200 short stories, most of which have been collected in book collections.

Some of this book—perhaps too much—has been about how I learned to do it. Much of it has been about how you can do it better. The rest of it—and perhaps the best of it—is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.

// Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Last week I talked a bit about how hard it is to write. It is very hard and sometimes it even hurts. I’ve cried over writing, I’ve yelled over writing, I have felt wholly inadequate over writing, and I have even thought I hated writing, but I never wanted to give it up. On the contrary, I want to do more of it. I want to be completely immersed in writing.

I was talking with a friend, a creative type like myself, earlier this week about how unfulfilled we were with our day jobs and what we would want to do if we could in order to leave. I, of course, wanted to be a writer, he didn’t answer specifically, he only said he didn’t want to wake up one day and realize he was good enough all along and that the only thing that had ever been holding him back was himself.

I told him I was positive that was exactly the case.

His response to that is what interested me the most. He proceeded to lecture me about how I should just do it, I should just be a writer. He told me he believed in me and that I should believe in myself. The thing is, I never said I didn’t.

I told him that I would definitely be a writer one day but that it would take time. I told him that I was slowly making changes in my life to get me to where I wanted to be. I cannot be sure that I will write an amazing book, I cannot be sure I will be a millionaire author one day, but I do know I will write something. I will do my best and the chips will fall where they may afterward.

The thing was I think he meant to give that lecture to himself. He was the one who needed to believe in himself and I found it interesting that he appeared to be projecting what he needed on to me.

What was even more surprising though was the realization that I didn’t need to hear that other people believed in me anymore. It is nice to hear for sure but at this point, it is just a matter of finding the time, not finding the faith. What I mean is, I need solutions, not pep-talks.

I know that I can do this. I know that I should do this too. I believe I am brave enough, I am at least braver than I was a year or two ago. I want very much to start and I have a plan to make that happen.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing about a year and a half ago and it was one of the best things that I have ever done to myself. In this quote King gives us all permission to be writers, and I think the permission could extend to any creative endeavor, if you read his book you will see that the whole thing is one big permission slip and a wonderful glimpse behind the curtain to show that writing is not as much magic as it is plain hard work, even for someone like Stephen King.

It was one of the most encouraging books and after reading it I felt certain that this was something that was possible for me, if I really put my mind to it.

So go forth and be brave. You can do it and it would help to internalize that belief. We should be writers and we should begin as soon as possible.

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

Original image via Pixabay

Short and Sweet Reviews // To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

// Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to read such a wonderful book. To Kill a Mockingbird is considered one of America’s great classic novels and for good reason, it is a beautiful story and more than well written. I read it in four days because I couldn’t bear to put it down and I found myself on the brink of tears more than once in that time.

Published in 1960 the novel is loosely based on Harper Lee’s own family and neighbors and an event that happened near her hometown when she was very young. The story is a coming of age in the south during the depression. It deals with hard subjects, like racial inequality, rape, gender roles, and even education. This book tackles those hard ideas with humor and a sense of innocence which rather than dampening the delivery it somehow emphasizes the how morally bankrupt these people were.

The writing feels pure even when what is written makes you feel angry, and sad, and frustrated because even though you know that this is fiction you also know that it is telling a profound truth about the way things really were in this country.

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

// Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I think this is the kind of book you have to read more than once. I think it is the kind of book that can be viewed in so many ways and teach us so many things about who we were and who we are that it must be given more than one chance. For me, for this reading, I took away the horrific reality that so many people sat idly by while people were treated like they didn’t matter at all and I took away a feeling of  frustration at a population that could see what was wrong with Hitler in Germany and saw nothing wrong with its own social norms and routine injustice.

There is so much more I could say about the book but I think I need more time to truly process what it is Ms. Harper Lee was trying to tell us. I need to process the meaning and my own feelings about all of it.

In the meantime, I feel mostly grateful. I feel grateful for Atticus and his children. I am grateful to have seen this simple town through their eyes and felt what they felt as the navigated a very complicated time in American history.

If you have never read it you should. Go read it and see a tiny slice of American history for all the good and all the bad it was.

“They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only the children weep. Good night.”

// Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Short and Sweet Review // Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I have finally finished my three book set of Jane Austen novels, whew! I have read Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and now, Sense and Sensibility. Turns out this book was not only the most suffocating of the three but also, my favorite.

If you’ve been following along on my journey to discover what all the fuss surrounding Austen has been about you know that at first, I didn’t care much for her writing. I found the characters very either boring or incredibly irritating and all the time spent on explaining how everyone was acting to be very frustrating. That is until I realised that is the entire point of the books!

“Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?”

// Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Of course, each also contains a love story. Sense and Sensibility actually has two! The novel follows “the young Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, to their new home, a meagre cottage on a distant relative’s property, where they experience love, romance and heartbreak.”. Of the sisters, I will only say that I liked and identified with Elinor the most, but it was Marianne who made me laugh and kept things interesting.

“If I could but know his heart, everything would become easy.”

// Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

The hardest part about reading these has been that at a lot of the problems could have been avoided, and the happy ending achieved much faster, if only everyone could just say what they feel plainly to each other. It seems that people, especially women, could only ever engage in small talk and gossip and had to act at all times above any true or deep feelings. The inability to express even the most basic of emotions must have been so frustrating!

I probably would have put the book down, it being so stifling and all, if it weren’t for the fact that it was actually kind of funny. With the other two books, I wanted to slap all of the annoying characters. With this one, I found all the drama and over the top emotion highly amusing. I think Marianne and her mother reminded me a little of my own mother and one of my sisters. Their antics are both exhausting and a little laughable.

“Money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it.”

// Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

I recommend the book for sure. I recommend all three if you can manage to read them without getting to frustrated by the forced restraint in all social interactions, or the preoccupation with marrying well. With each book, I have walked away wondering how those women were able to survive in the conditions they did. Yeah they all had money and they had little to worry about but they also led shallow lives and nothing they did felt meaningful or important.

It is strange to feel both contempt and sympathy for such people all at once.

“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”

// Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Harper Lee

Hello and happy middle of the week dear readers, welcome to another Writer’s Quote Wednesday. Each week Colleen at Silver Threading invites bloggers to share their favorite quotes to motivate, encourage, and inspire one another to keep writing and working toward our goals. My contribution this week comes from the American novelist. Harper Lee.

nelle-harper-lee-xHarper Lee, known as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served in the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville, Lee enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, “Ramma-Jamma”. Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC.

Lee continued as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year’s wages with a note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

Within a year, she had the first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, the novel was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by the Library Journal.

From the time of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird until her death, Lee granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances and, with the exception of a few short essays, published nothing further. Another novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s and controversially published in July 2015 as a “sequel” though it was later confirmed to be To Kill a Mockingbird‘s first draft.

Lee died in her sleep of a stroke on the morning of February 19, 2016, aged 89.

“I never loved reading until I feared I would lose it. One does not love breathing.”

// Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I was very saddened to hear of Harper Lee’s passing. I haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird but I do know that she was a woman who contributed a lot to the literary world and greater society. I ordered a copy of her book this morning and I hope to start reading it this weekend.

I’ve talked about this a couple of times but one of my biggest goals this year is to read more. When I was younger, from the moment I learned to read and then into my early 20s, I was an avid reader. I don’t know what happened but one day I just stopped. It just didn’t seem to matter much anymore. I was too busy trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in this big world. I guess I just didn’t have time to indulge in other world and the struggles of the characters in them.

I stopped reading and I lost something very important in my life. The strange thing is I didn’t realize what I had left behind. Not until recently.

I started reading again and I have found that I love it more than ever. I mentioned before that I had started again because I wanted to become a writer and a writer has to read but there is a secondary reason. I am getting older and I am beginning to worry about losing some of my mental….sharpness.

I have alway considered myself an intelligent person and the people around me tend to agree that that is so. I am proud of that fact. Being “the smart one” has become a part of my identity and I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t. I have begun to fear the effect of aging on the human brain and I’m doing what I can to maintain what I have. I may even learn a few new tricks to keep the wheel turning as long as the heart keeps ticking.

It is an irrational fear. If my mind is going to suffer any sort of decline than I have many, many, many more years before that will happen, if at all. I just think that going stagnant, that not using the neurons I have, probably won’t help. Reading forces me to pay attention, it utilizes my memory, helps me think in different ways, and feel things I might not in my day-to-day life. I think reading every single day might just give me life, the way that breathing does.

We breathe because we have to, because we need to live. I read because there is more to living than breathing. There is a mind to keep stimulated and a heart to keep feeling. A life without those things is no life at all.

A need like that goes deeper than love.

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Original image by Minoru Nitta

Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

Short and Sweet Reviews // The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

Written in 1513 by Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince has been a book surrounded by controversy ever since it’s publication. Written as a sort of job application of sorts, an appeal to the current ruler to place him in an advisory role in the Florentine government such as the one he had under the previous ruler. He never would get back that power, not under any ruler of Italy. It seemed no matter what he did he would appear too closely associated with the previous ruler to be trusted fully under the new one.

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

// Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

The book and the man have a reputation for being immoral, evil, and wicked. I actually found the book refreshing. It did not sugar coat any of its points and sought to expose the worst of human natural behavior.

It is a book on political philosophy that outlines and illustrates how to take control of a nation, maintain that control, and how to conduct and protect yourself against those who mean to do you harm. It reads almost like a textbook, a series of maxims, or truths, with examples that agree with and sometimes contradict the lesson Machiavelli is trying to teach.

“A prudent man will always try to follow in the footsteps of great men and imitate those who have been truly outstanding, so that, if he is not quite as skillful as they, at least some of their ability may rub off on him.”

// Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

The book has been dubbed immoral because Machiavelli is no idealist and teaches not the way things ought to be, but the way things are. The world is a harsh place. Even back then the ones who were smart, who had the courage and the focus to do what needed to be done were the ones who obtained and maintained their power.

The whole time I read it I kept picturing Machiavelli standing behind me and every time I would scrunch up my face at a particularly nasty revelation he would shrug and remind me not to hate the player, but to hate the game.

The rulers of this world have been cutthroat, sleazy, cruel, lying liars since the beginning of humankind. Machiavelli didn’t invent these rules, all he did was study the history of what worked and what didn’t for the prominent princes of history and put down the best advice for those who with to play the game of kings.

“The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

// Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

I can’t blame the man, this book was a guaranteed way to make sure history would never forget you.

All in all, I highly recommend the you read it. It is, after all, a classic, and I can see that is for a reason. Even if you don’t plan on taking over a nation anytime soon it is a great history lesson. The book really isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Well, it isn’t if you remember that Machiavelli is only writing about what people were doing long before he put pen to paper.

This is the way people are, whether you will face it or not.

“Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.”

// Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Ray Bradbury

Hello dear readers and happy Wednesday. It’s time for another Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading where bloggers share their favorite quotes to help motivate and inspire each other to keep writing and working toward our goals. My contribution for the week is from American novelist Ray Bradbury.

Ron Galella Archive - File Photos 2010

Raymond Douglas “Ray” Bradbury was born August 22, 1920, Waukegan, Illinois. His mother was a Swedish immigrant, his father, a power and telephone lineman. Fun fact: He was descended from Mary Bradbury, who was tried at one of the Salem witch trials in 1692.

Bradbury was an avid reader and writer as a child. He began writing his own stories at the age of seven. This was during the time of the Great Depression so sometimes Bradbury had to write on butcher paper.

He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938 and although his formal education ended there, he became a “student of life”. He sold newspapers on L.A. street corners, spent his nights in the public library, and his days at the typewriter. He became a full-time writer in 1943.

He is best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953, and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950. In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum “recommended reading” anthologies. He was one of the most celebrated American writers and his reputation is that of courage and vision.

Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, after a lengthy illness.

“I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”

// Ray Bradbury

If you have been following along this year you might have noticed I keep mentioning how much I am reading and how proud I am of myself for keeping up with my Goodreads reading challenge. I have a goal of reading 30 books by December 31st ad I am already three, almost four, books in. This might not seem like a big deal but considering I failed the same goal miserably last year this is a big accomplishment, so far.

I honestly believe that the reason I failed so miserably last year was because I tried to read all of my books on my iPad through the iBooks app. I thought it would be so great, I would have all my books in one place and so many of them I could get for cheap, sometimes even free! No more bent up pages, no more heavy bags, no more scouring bookstore shelves hoping to find the book I want, and in the edition that I want. It was all going to be better now, right? No!

I had so many books I couldn’t help reading more than one at a time, and just like any part of our lives, multitasking usually means nothing at all gets done in the end. I read approximately 30% of five different books. Which meant nothing for my reading goal. I found I missed bending my pages, I missed the feel of the pages, I couldn’t retain what I was reading, and I couldn’t find a display setting that didn’t strain my eyes. I hated it but it took me awhile to realize I hated it.

It wasn’t until last November when I picked up an actual, real life book and I couldn’t put it back down. I liked the way the pages felt. I liked the smell too. I liked choosing a bookmark and carrying it around wherever I went like a little security blanket. I hadn’t looked at my iBooks app since then, but as I am working my way through the physical books I have I thought I might try again to read just one book on the iPad again.

I don’t foresee it going well.

I don’t know what it is about books and the paper they are made of that allows them to transport you to other worlds while the bright screens of tablets and readers deny us access. These screens have their purpose but I don’t think they will ever make us feel the way books do. The warm pages make us feel safe and warm, we know they will never leave us. The screens are cold and temporary, and can never love us back.

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Original image via Porsche Brosseau

Biographical information via my last Writer’s Quote Wednesday post on Ray Bradbury :)

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Robert Louis Stevenson

Hello and happy mid-week readers! Welcome to Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. Each week bloggers share their favorite quotes to motivate and inspire one another to keep think, writing, and working towards our goals. My contribution for the week is from the Scottish novelist and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson.

robert_louis_stevenson_knox_seriesRobert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13th, 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland. At about age 18, Stevenson was to change the spelling of “Lewis” to “Louis”, and in 1873, he dropped “Balfour.”

His father was a leading lighthouse engineer and lighthouse design was the family business. As a child, he was often sickly, which kept him frequently out of school and in the care of private tutors. He got especially sick in the winter months and throughout his life which left him extremely thin. It is thought that he suffered from tuberculosis, or bronchiectasis, or even sarcoidosis.

He was an only child, strange-looking and eccentric, and had a hard time fitting in with the other kids. He compulsively wrote stories throughout his childhood. His father was proud of this interest; he had also written stories in his spare time until his own father found them and told him to “give up such nonsense and mind your business.” He paid for the printing of Robert’s first publication at sixteen, The Pentland Rising: A Page of History, 1666.

In 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson saw the publication of his first volume of work, An Inland Voyage; the book provides an account of his trip from Antwerp to northern France, which he made in a canoe via the river Oise.

The 1880s were notable for both Stevenson’s declining health and his impressive literary output. He suffered from hemorrhaging lungs (likely caused by undiagnosed tuberculosis), and writing was one of the few activities he could do while confined to bed. While in this bedridden state, he wrote some of his most popular fiction, Treasure Island in 1883, Kidnapped in 1886, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886, and The Black Arrow in 1888.

He wrote many more books and was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov. Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics have begun to look beyond Stevenson’s popularity and allow him a place in the Western canon.

On December 3rd, 1894, he died of an apparent cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 44

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

// Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson

Every since I can remember I have loved books, both books that you read and books that you write in. I am a notorious collector of journals and a hoarder of books I have yet to read. I have taken breaks from both and always when I return I can never recall why I ever thought I could live without either.

I am sure to stick to both habits now that I wish writing to be my primary means of income one day. The professionals say a writer should always be writing, and if not, he ought to always be reading. I take that very seriously and make sure that no matter where I am or how inappropriate it may seem, carry around both my books and use them whenever the urge strikes.

I had tried after the break before last, to switch over to carrying around the digital equivalent of both. I used iBooks on my iPad to read and I used Evernote on my phone to write. I couldn’t find fault with either app and I certainly saw the merits of the method but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t feel the same passion I felt of the physical versions. I missed the smell of new and old books and I missed the feel of a good pen in my hand, and so I’ve switched back. I now carry three notebooks, a bullet journal, and personal journal, and a pocket notebook.

I carry around only one book at a time. I have realized that the problem I had with Ebooks is that there are too many options. I can’t get into any one book because I am always carrying around so many at once. I cannot fully immerse myself in the world of one author because I am wondering if there is a more interesting world in another. One book at a time forces you to really enjoy what you have because there will not be another story to occupy your mind until you finish this one.

So I have to agree with Stevenson and urge you to take up the advice if you aren’t already. Get you a good book and a clean notebook to jot your thoughts in. Read the one and write in the other as often as you can.

And if you ever get bored with either, switch it up. Try writing in your reading book, or reading over your writing book.

It will breathe life into both :)

*************

Biographical information via Wikipedia, Goodreads, and Biography.com

Original image via See-ming Lee

Short and Sweet Reviews // Persuasion by Jane Austen

“The one claim I shall make for my own sex is that we love longest, when all hope is gone.”

// Jane Austen, Persuasion

Obviously, this is a love story.

Anne Elliot, our central character, fell in love with Captain Frederick Wentworth when she was just 19 and he was just a poor sailor. Her family judged him a poor match for Anne because he had no money and no connections, he wasn’t good enough for her. She yields to her families wishes and for the next eight years, she is kind of sad and lonely. Then he shows back up again and now he has made his fortune and is an attractive catch but neither of them knows how the other feels now.

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.”

// Jane Austen, Persuasion

It was a quick read but I feel like I should have taken more time with it. This is honestly the first time I have read a book and I cannot decide whether or not I liked it. I almost want to read it again and see if a second run will put my mind at ease one way or the other. I say almost because the I thought it was actually kind of…boring.

There are approximately a million characters in this book and I wanted to slap most of them. God are they all so stupid and all they do is sit around talking about, or complaining about, their social connections. Just like with Pride and Prejudice I can’t tell if that is because Austin didn’t write them well or if she is trying to give me the feeling of how it must have been for women back then. Stuffy and depressing.

“Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”

// Jane Austen, Persuasion

So, once again, I am stuck wondering if this the genius of Austin? Is it that she sucks us in with beautiful writing, into a world that suffocates and frustrates us, and then lets our main character get her happy ending so that we can feel that we have gotten out of that world and can finally breathe with her? Or is it clever writing to cover up one-dimensional characters and a love that makes us swoon and think we’ve read a grand tale?

I hated it, but I liked it, and for some reason the more I think about it the more I like it. I am so confused! I recommend you read it so you can tell me what you think.

“…when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure.”

// Jane Austen, Persuasion

Writer’s Quote Wednesday // Oscar Wilde

Hello and happy mid-week! Welcome to Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen at Silver Threading. Each week bloggers share their favorite quotes to motivate and inspire one another to keep think, writing, and working towards our goals. My contribution for the week is from the infamous Irish author, poet, and playwright, Oscar Wilde.

3565Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. His father, William Wilde, was an eye and ear surgeon, as well as an author of significant works on medicine, archeology, and folklore. His mother, Jane Wilde, was an Irish poet who wrote under the pen name “Speranza”, meaning hope.

Wilde wrote numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.

Many people know of the one novel written by Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. First published complete in July of 1890 it has been called Wilde’s most popular work. The book caused quite a scandal when it was first published, offending many people’s morals. Wilde would defend his book aggressively against those who believed he should be imprisoned for ” violating the laws guarding the public morality”. The book would later be brought up to the trial that would lead to his imprisonment and lifelong hardship.

As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labor after being convicted of “gross indecency” with other men. The imprisonment was hard on him and his health declined during that time. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland.

In November of 1900, Wilde developed cerebral meningitis, a result of an injury he received to his ear drum while imprisoned. He died November 30th, 1900, exiled and poor.

“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

// Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

This week I began reading a The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli and because it is a little bit of a difficult read I have been doing research as I go. I don’t think I realized before what a negative connotation the name Machiavelli had. To be Machiavellian is to be associated with dishonesty, cunning, and bad faith. The book and the man have come to be known as heartless and evil.

I am only in the beginning still but so far I just don’t see this book, or the advice in it on how to rule nations in it, as evil. I read this as an honest and accurate observation on human nature. It’s a realist’s account of how to gain power and keep it, if that is what you want to do, and let’s face it, that is exactly what a lot of people throughout history have wanted to do. There is no sugar coating in this book and I find the frankness refreshing. I think the book only appears evil because we see ourselves in it. It shows us our own selfishness and cruelty.

I don’t think The Prince was ever hated enough to be banned, it only has an air of negativity and bad taste surrounding it. It is still a classic and considered by many to be a must read. But it is about war and power and people like that sort of thing.

I do wonder about other books people have disliked because they found it didn’t agree with their moral sensibilities. Books like A Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and even the Harry Potter series are books that are often challenged and called immoral or unfit to be read by anyone. Yet, each of these teaches us great lessons about human nature.

I have to wonder if the reason books are hated is because they show us too much of ourselves. Why would a book be of a bad influence if the urges in it weren’t a part of us already? And if the urges in it were present in us before the reading, might it not just be something that comes to people naturally and can never be eradicated? If so, calling books immoral would be to call ourselves them same, and to try to ban or hide theses books from the public would be to turn a blind eye to our nature.

I think people who read books and walk away feeling disgusted or overly angry are those who have looked at the reality of things and could not handle it. They are people who will never see that we are who we are, and the world is what it is. We can change, sure, but only very slowly and with many false starts and failures. It is better to accept that we are, at the core, just as much cruel as we are kind and go from there. Books will be our reminder again and again and keep us on the track to improving rather than perfecting, which is entirely impossible.

Books that show us who we are, are the most important kind, and I hope to read as many of that sort as I can.

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Original image: “The House of Leaves – Burning 4” by LearningLark