Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ken Baumann, On Reading

"I read in bouts. I haven't seen an end of all potential. There is too much to read, if you're looking. Better to stay blind, be irrational and impatient, and don't hold conditioning as essential to faith. Books have dictated my behavior more than I'd like to admit. Some are very beautiful."

Ken Baumann is. }

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Linda Olsson, On Reading

"I recently had an e-mail from a friend in Sweden. He told me he had been on his way to work that morning and had happened to be standing next to a young woman in the crowded subway train. She was reading a book and seemed to be completely lost to the world, with tears streaming down her face. As he bent over a little he could see that she was reading Astrid and Veronika, my first novel. The message moved me utterly, of course.

When I was a child living in Sweden we used to call grandmother every Christmas Eve. She lived in the US and it was expensive to make the toll call, so we had to line up prepared to use the short time allotted each one of us. When it was my turn I would press the receiver to my year and wait for the miracle. My grandmother’s voice. Her words in my ear sounding so close, as if she was there in the room with us. I couldn’t understand it. But it was a very short moment. Now, when my grandmother is long gone, I still have her letters. And in them I still hear her voice. See her face. Her words in her driven handwriting still bring out the feelings that we had for each other. I can see her, hear her. And it happens that I am moved to tears when I read them.

Writers are lonely people, I think. I am. My work, if you can call it that, takes place at odd hours, often very late at night, and in complete isolation. I have no colleagues to test ideas on, or discuss problem solutions with. Quality control happens only after the fact, when my manuscript leaves my computer. And I am rarely present when the miracle happens, when my words reach a reader. I do read reviews, of course (I have never believed writers who claim they don’t), but reviewers are not like regular readers. Their reading is work, while I hope that others will read for pleasure. I do get mail from readers and each message is wondrous. My readers, wherever in the world they happen to be, write to tell me that they have been moved by my words. The miracle has truly happened.

I still don’t understand how phones work, though I often rely on my mobile to connect me with those I love. But I am even more intrigued by how the written word works. How can it be that the symbols that I type on my keyboard can instil the feelings that I invest in them in a reader across the world? In many cases in translation, too. If I talk to a person on the phone, then he or she is at least partially present in our communication. But if I read a letter or text message we are communicating entirely in code. We can’t see each other, can’t hear each other. Yet, the other person is there, on my screen or in my hands as I read the words. I can see him, hear him and the letters in front of me have the capacity to move me in some way. Perhaps this fact contributes to the difficulty of making books into films. Readers have already seen the movie and any other version is likely to disappoint.

It is sad to consider that in spite of this extraordinary capacity to communicate that is imbued in the written word, it is so often used to mislead and deceive, and to communicate hateful or frightening messages. But abuse of power seems be present in all cultures, at all times. And the written word has enormous power."

{For more
information about Linda Olsson, please visit her website here.}

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adam P. Knave, On Reading

"If we don't read, we don't grow and learn. It's one of the most important things anyone can do with their time. It's a muscle, and one that needs flexing and building so that we can imagine, dream and aspire to greater and greater things."

Adam P. Knave is a writer who lives in New York with his cat and can be found here.}

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nik Korpon, On Reading

"I read because I write and I write because I read. They’re the same thing, though, so I never do one and I’m always doing another. When the words won’t come into focus, when they remain a nebulous cloud of frustration behind my sinuses, I hide in a book.

I take notes and diagram the structural scaffolding. I grab chunks of beautiful words so that I can steal them away, wedge them into my own work. Then I see a shiny object and forget what I was supposed to steal and the scaffolding implodes and collapses into a pile, the limbs of half-thoughts and shards of inspiration jutting out at grotesque angles. I toss aside the rebar and bricks, slice my fingers on shattered glass and, somewhere in there, lie the words I’ve been searching for. Mangled, ruined, pulsing and oh so lovely. This is how it begins and begins and begins."

{Nik Korpon is from Baltimore, MD. His novel Stay God (Otherworld Publications) will be released in Dec 2010, and his two novellas, Old Ghosts and By The Nails Of The Warpriest, will be forthcoming in 2011. He reviews books for the Outsider Writers Collective, co-hosts the monthly reading series Last Rites, and is a Fiction Editor for Rotten Leaves Magazine. Give him some skin, or danger, or just search and destroy at}

Monday, September 13, 2010

Michelle Blake, On Reading

"I am a lover of books, books as objects, books as solace, books as a mean of escape and empathy and education. I need to have, on my bedside table, at least two books I have not yet started reading. Otherwise, I feel a little panicky, afraid that I will reach out one night into a bookless void.

At the moment, I am doing something I haven’t done in a long time--rereading, very slowly, a novel I already know well, Coetzee’s Disgrace. I am doing this so that I can begin to understand how he accomplished what he did in that book—how he moved his character from monster to saint without one moment of sentimentality, and all within the context of one of the greatest power shifts in the 20th century, the dismantling of apartheid. The author never flinches or backs away from brutality. This is one of my weaknesses as a writer, the desire to smooth things over, and I hope to gain from this book an iota of the courage Coetzee has always seemed to exercise so effortlessly, but never before with such astonishing scope and generosity.

One more thought about escape, empathy, and education: It occurs to me that we think of escape as a cheap and easy thing. But with a novel like Disgrace, while I do get to leave my own irritating life behind, I do not move into an easier world. I move into an infinitely more complex world, if only because the complexities (which I for one tend to minimize in my own life) are illuminated. And, so, I become more educated."

Michelle Blake has published three novels in the acclaimed Lily Connor mystery series, The Tentmaker, Earth Has No Sorrow, and The Book of Light, about which the NY Times Book Reviewer Marilyn Stasio wrote, "Michelle Blake’s series about an Episcopal priest…stands out for a couple of reasons—besides the essential one of being written with intelligence and grace.” Blake’s fourth novel, Hill Country With Angels, is not part of the mystery series, though it does include an art heist, a psychic, and the promise of redemption. She is now at work on a collection of essays, Grown Children.}

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dennis McFarland, On Reading

"When I was a child in grammar school, we were regularly administered 'standardized tests,' and the part I always had the most trouble with was the reading section. You were given a big block of text to read, and then you had to answer questions about it. I never had adequate time to finish, because I read so slowly. Not much has changed. To me, the verb read means 'de-code and file.' The de-coding must be done slowly and sometimes the file cabinet is too full for further data. My entry into the text is always accompanied by reluctance. It’s like exploring a new friendship I feel shy about. And I pretty much require total silence. All this is to say, it’s work for me. Under these circumstances, when it’s good, it’s very good, and when it’s not-good it’s … well, usually aborted."

Dennis McFarland is the author of six novels. He lives in rural Vermont with his wife, writer Michelle Blake. For more information, visit his website here.}

Sunday, September 5, 2010

cle elum (the sun teaser)

Saturday, September 4, 2010