Saturday, December 24, 2011
--IT HELPS IF YOU LEAN INTO THE FALL
…I’m back after five days down south in Mexico.
For whatever reason, while I was gone I got quite a few responses from queries:
--one rejection on a story collection I’d sent a publisher
--two rejections on my novel from agents, both form letters
--and, one request for material (the first 50 pages) of the novel.
I’ll count that last one as a win. Just getting over the query hump is a feat in and of itself.
A body’s got to start somewhere, right?
…I didn’t read as much on vacation as is my habit. In the past I’d plough through a dozen or more books.
This time it was just two…
…One was about finding God in unexpected places.
In the book, I learned lots of random yet fascinating things.
--In it, I learned that half the world’s citizens still get by on less than two dollars a day.
--In it, I was reminded that there are more stars than grains of sand on earth i.e., there are over 100 billion galaxies, each containing in excess of 400 million stars.
--Polar bears aren’t really white, but there hairs are actually transparent, acting like fiber-optic tubes that trap in heat, making them seem white.
--On their trips south, some geese maintain a speed of 50 miles per hour and fly 1,000 miles before making their first stop for rest.
--In the book, I learned that 2 weeks after 9/11 only five percent of the missing bodies had been found. Rescue dogs got so discouraged that their handlers had to play games with them to keep their interest up. The dogs searched all day and found maybe a piece of clothing or an elbow or scrap of skin. They cut their paws on the sharp edges of steel and whine in frustration because, like the human rescuers, they had so little to show for their efforts…
--In the book was a wonderful excerpt from Phillip Roth’s, “The Ghost Writer”:
“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence, then I turn it around. Then I look at it and turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.”
…The other book I read a fantastic collection of non-fiction feature pieces written by two time Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten.
The book is called “The Fiddler in the Subway” and it has some terrific true life stories, many of which seem to entwine the impossible with reality.
The title story is about an experiment The Washington Post undertook by having Joshua Bell—who received The Avery Prize, recognizing him as the finest classical musician in the world—play violin at a busy bus station in affluent, erudite Washington D.C.
…Here are some excerpts:
--“The idea was to discover if in a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”
…It was January 12th, in the middle of rush hour. In the next forty-three minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Only three stopped to listen, while 27 gave money for a total of $32 and change.
Bell, a child prodigy, had the night before filled Boston’s stately Symphony Hall. His talent commands $1,000 an hour.
Bell, whom Interview magazine once said of his playing ‘does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live…’
So some of the obvious retorts are:
-- What was he doing in a busy bus station? People probably grouped him with other street musicians.
-- It was rush hour. People were on their way to work. Who has time to stop and listen?
…But some people did stop and listen, if only for a few minutes. They caught the magic. Art transcended the banal.
…What I wish for you this Christmas and Holiday Season is a childlike sense of wonder. I hope you can be entirely present in the moment.
…”What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.” W.H. Davies