Taking Off

452257583My favorite part of flying is the take-off.  I like to close my eyes as the plane revs up its engines and begins the thrust down the runway.  Against all odds, the tons of metal carrying people in their seats, luggage above their heads and below in the cargo hold, pounds of water and fuel – all miraculously rise into the air.

I always know that moment; I can feel it as the plane rises up off the ground, and nothing during the rest of the flight offers the same exhilaration.   Recently, I zigzagged across the country, wondering if my checked luggage was following my erratic itinerary, but I enjoyed six take-offs in nine days, six ecstatic moments of floating.

As is my practice, I brought old New Yorker magazines to read during my flights – these were dated before the last Presidential election, so I ignored the predictions and focused on the articles.

shopping    Claudia Roth Pierpont’s amazing review The Secret Lives of Leonardo da Vinci convinced me to find Walter Isaacson’s biography Leonardo da Vinci when I landed.  A short piece by Jonathan Franzen – Hard Up in New York – about his life before he was as rich and famous as a writer can be,  inspired me to write this short piece.

When I finish reading, I usually offer the magazines to the flight crew, or drop them in the seatbacks as a surprise for the next traveler.  I’ve been tempted to leave them in the terminal with a code I’ve used for books in Bookcrossing, a website that allows you to assign unique numbers to your books, and use these numbers to track your books as they travel across the globe. I’ve released a few books “into the wild” – in designated public places for others to find.  Let me know if you try it.

And scroll down to see a picture of my travels on Instagram.

 

Maria Semple’s Favorite Books – A List to Check Out

UnknownIn the New York Times By the Book  interview, Maria Semple, author of  Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” mentions Barbara Trapido’s “Brother of the More Famous Jack” –  out of print but miraculously in my library system.

Her other go-to writers are favorites of mine too (click on the highlighted titles for my reviews):

  • Lorrie Moore – A Gate at the Stairs 
  • Alice Munro – Dear Life 
  • Yasmina Reza – author of the play “Art.”  I remember seeing it, starring Alan Alda, years ago at Ford Theater; available in audio – might be worth listening; more recently she wrote “God of Carnage.”
  • Penelope Lively – How It All Began 
  • Edward St. Aubyn – The Patrick Melrose novels – 5 part series; start with “Never Mind.”
  • Michael Frayn – Skios  
  • Brady Udall – The Lonely Polygamist  

Books to Find:

  • The Keep by Jennifer Egan
  • Glaciers by Alexis Smith
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • All That Is by James Salter

Office Girl is on that list, but after starting it on my Kindle, I decided it was one of those books “I was supposed to like, but didn’t,” and in Semple’s words – I bailed halfway through it.

New Books Published in April

Whenever I read a promising review – usually in the New York Times or Washington Post – I immediately log onto my library site to order the book.  Inevitably, the library system does not yet have the book catalogued – or maybe even purchased.  So, I add the book to my list and promptly forget about it.

I have a friend who places his list next to his computer and checks into the library every day until he captures a place – usually the first or second in the queue.  By the time I remember to check, I am usually 50 or 60 on the waiting list;  popular “hot picks” sometimes place me at 273.  Of course, I could always buy the book, but what fun is there in that?

April has 4 new books I want to read.  And the library has yet to list them.  Maybe this will help me remember to keep checking.  If you get there first, please read fast and return the book for me.

            

Do You Believe in Magic?

Rational decisions sometimes bow to unconscious habits. If knocking on wood makes you think the action might help affect your outcome, it might. In his article for the New York Times – In Defense of Superstition – Matt Hutson suggests psychological benefits to believing in magical thinking – despite the possibility that it may not really exist. What you believe to be true may be more powerful than reality.

Hutson cites the idea that “luck is in your hands.” Knocking on wood may not really add luck to your situation, but the action may “produce an illusion of control…enhance self-confidence…improving {your} performance…{thus} indirectly affecting {your} fate.” Participants who were given lucky charms actually performed better on tests. Believing in fate – “everything happens for a reason” – makes surviving life’s inadvertent traumas easier. And, if objects have the “essence” of its previous owner, could a pen once used by Jane Austen break your writer’s block?

Hutson has a new book with more possibilities for using magical thinking to get through life – The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. The unconscious is powerful, and what can it hurt to believe in magic? Hutson says…

on some deep level, we all do – {it} does not make you stupid, ignorant or crazy. It makes you human.”

Why not? I plan to read the book and, in the meantime, keep rubbing the Buddha’s belly, watering my bamboo plant, and looking for rainbows. Do you think Jonathan Franzen would let me sit in his “battered green office chair” for inspiration?

Would Jane Austen Tweet?

Aside from singer Roseanne Cash’s creation of the Twitter hashtag #JaneAustenAtTheSuperBowl, it’s unlikely that Jane herself would become addicted to the social media – but then, we’ll never know.  After enumerating the literary feuds famous writers verbally carry on, Jennifer Schuessler in her article for the New York Times, “In Book Circles, a Taming of the Feud,” dissects the Twitter campaigns that novelists wield against each other.

Can you be a fan of Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, if you know they have been carrying on a Twitter campaign against Jonathan Franzen under the hashtag #Franzenfreude?  Even when you know Franzen is the better writer, Weiner and Picoult books offer a different emotional release that readers need now and then – don’t they know this?  On the other hand, Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner, seems a little catty criticizing the chicklit genre in her tweets.   Even a healthy eater needs chocolate now and then.

Eleanor Lipman sent me an email asking me to follow her twitter feed, as she posts a poem a day:

Starting today, I’m tweeting one poem per day (140 characters, natch) of a (partisan) political nature, from now until the 2012 election. They will be rhyming couplets, and, I hope, entertaining.

I discovered I could google “Elinor Lipman twitter” and get to her tweets without joining the ubiquitous network.

Why tweet?  Is it the electronic version of the haiku that can have as many letters as you can fit into 26 words?  Could anyone compete with an Ogden Nash limerick?  In her article, Schuessler says today’s tweeters require that “you don’t think about what you’re saying.”

I have not yet succumbed to the power of the tweet.  For the most part, it’s too hard to limit my idea to 140 characters – does that include commas?  If I did, I might tweet:

 If U want 2 know whatever pops into my head – what I think about anything – and U want my  insights/suggestions, even if I don’t know what I’m talking about -here is my advice

Oops – no more characters left.   Do you tweet?

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