Knit-Blogging: Sweater Vest in Progress

19 Mar

Random Monthly Book News: March Edition

8 Mar

Salon writer Laura Miller delves into “Literature’s Gender Gap” and uncovers (not for the first or even third time) a persistent good old boy bias in the literary world. Although information on the source of the gap is hard to come by, it is clear that it exists. Fewer women authors are published, reviewed, and read than their male counterparts. GoodReads blogger Patrick responds, with hardcore statistics from the internet savvy readers on Goodreads.

As I think (with heavy sighs) of the difficulty women experience in getting published, in getting reviews, in getting readers, I think of Virginia Woolf’s lament on the subject in A Room of One’s Own — and how her findings, in 1929, might be surprisingly relevant in 2011. A formidable literary woman, Woolf was.

Speaking of formidable literary women, one of my favorite authors (and mentors), Susan Taylor Chehak is now releasing some of her works in digital form. Get them fresh from the oven!

A few more literary women to read (not even the start of a full list):Kate Chopin, Sandra CisnerosEmma DonoghueGeorge Eliot, Sara Gruen, Zora Neale Hurston, Gish Jen, Audre LordeLorrie MooreToni Morrison, Azar Nafisi, Arundhati RoySapphire, Lisa SeeLionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Gertrude SteinDiane J. Wright, Nancy Zafris.

Just in case you thought we were creating our own gender gap right here, I have two visual links, featuring formidable literary men: Thomas Hardy in Colour and Shakespeare “Aged 14”

Book Talk: the Shallows

18 Feb

The information in this book is fascinating, even life-changing. Carr gives us a layout of our brain’s response to technology, along with details on how and why our brains change as we adopt digital lifestyles. He describes the plasticity of our brains and how, with constant use of digital technologies, we are training our brains to move quickly from task to task, without full immersion or sustained focus. He also shares the history of some major technological advances, from the clock to the book to the internet. He describes how each new technology affected us deeply, shifting not only the ease of our days but the fabric of our cultures.

The information here was enough to make me reconsider my own digital lifestyle — my increasing reliance on the internet (especially in the past ten years) and my own drifting sense of focus. Carr’s text has gotten to me. I’m writing my drafts by hand again and have moved my calendar and to do lists to paper. I’m seeking ways to immerse my mind — to hold sustained focus rather than constant movement.

At the same time, I have serious reservations about some of the conclusions Carr has reached here. Carr discusses deep thinking as nearly synonymous with linear thinking — and with this comes a stance that linear thought is often (or even always) best. Carr’s is an all-or-nothing view of deep thinking. Either we are linear, deep thinkers or we are distracted, non-linear machines, clicking on whatever suits our fancy. With this, I disagree.

I don’t believe deep thinking must be linear. If Modernist, Postmodernist, and contemporary writers are any measure, deep thinking can certainly come without linear thought. Writers (even Western writers) have been doing this in narrative for more than a century, as narrative includes photos and stream of conscious interior monologue, epiphany, multiple points of view, multiple plots. While Carr assumes that narrative works like a line (as we move from point A to point B in orderly fashion), I see narrative — and especially contemporary narrative — more as a bowl, holding, to use Carr’s words, a “self-contained literary work” that may or may not bring us from point A to B, linear-style.

In assuming that linear thought (and, by default, Western thought) is somehow superior to other kinds of thinking, I think Carr may have missed his own point. Knowing what we know about the brain, about deep thinking, and about the lure of the internet, I think we can make better choices about how we tune our focus — whether that focus follows a linear path or one that travels in circles, spirals, star shapes, or rings.

Car-Free Blogging: Sights I Would Have Missed

11 Feb

One of the things I least expected, when going car-free, was that a shift in transportation would change the way I see my city. It has, though — utterly and unmistakably. Below are just a few of th things I might not have witnessed, from a car:

  • Man in the street with his miniature pony.
  • The taco stand security guard, who always smiles.
  • Man in a nightgown and fluorescent orange oven mitts, walking down the center of the street.
  • The man with the festive mustache who sells fruit.
  • Police officers searching for fruit on the floor of a bus.
  • The young man on the bus who gives up his seat for a woman and her baby.
  • The Los Angeles River, swelled with rain.
  • Shouts around the city, as the Lakers win.
  • The friend I ran into.
  • Purple dresses in the window of the dress shop.
  • Tourists exiting their hotel, wearing shorts and sunny faces.
  • Discarded Christmas trees.
  • A discarded suitcase on the curb.
  • A llama.
  • A mariachi band, playing for nobody on a residential street.

Writing Through Life: Scrivener (like Bartleby, only different)

31 Jan

Scrivener

In December, I wrote about a great web app that can help writers beat procrastination and get writing. There’s another program I use to help keep the chaos in some kind of contained space as I write — especially while working on long, intricate, or complicated projects. Scrivener is a word processing program that, until very recently, was only available for mac users. I discovered it in November, after getting a netbook that didn’t come bundled with Microsoft Word. As I was tooling around looking for open source alternatives, I ran across the new Windows version of Scrivener (still in beta, available for free). Scrivener, I believe, is a game changer for writers.

There’s an assumption that novelists and other big-project writers should start at the beginning of whatever it is they’re writing and write, straight and steady, to the end. Not everyone thinks and works this way, though. When I write, I’ve got to make a big, old mess. I start in the middle or off to one side, and I jump around. If you write like this, it can be tough to keep all the scraps and thoughts in a place where you can find them. It’s clunky to copy and paste chapters or sections or to try to wrangle all the pieces into some folder somewhere, with ten different Word files. And when you want to see all the pieces at once, it can be hard to get a look at what you’ve got. Scrivener works with that kind of craziness, rather than against it.

S0 Scrivener is to word processing what gmail (especially gmail’s invention of “conversations”) was to email. Rather than giving you a document that can be filled in, linear-like, Scrivener gives you a “project.” The project can have sections, bits, bobbles, and pieces that you can move around at will, see on a corkboard as little index cards, and work on in or out of order. In short, Scrivener gives writers a way to work outside the box of beginning, middle, and end — and start anywhere.

I know. I sound like a commercial here. I really don’t know any of the awesome people who created this software (if I did, I’d send flowers).

Spin-Blogging: Spun Out

28 Jan

I finished this spinning in December, just in time for gifting. Unfortunately, my finished photos didn’t turn out as lovely as I wanted, so here’s one in progress, looking oh-so 2010. The fiber is made of silk and camel.

Random Monthly Book News, January Edition

24 Jan

Something to think about: Spread Your Broken Pens and Learn to Write

Libraries and eBooks: an important combination to consider.

Popular Words of 2010.

Smashwords predicts the future of eBooks.

Jonathan Safran Foer whittles a new book out of an old one.

Just for fun: palettes of famous painters.