Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Creativity

When life gets too crazy or stressful to allow for my usual creative outlets, the pressure builds.  All the creativity that typically gets unleashed while pondering the latest book I've read is left to erupt in bursts of imagination at odd intervals throughout the day and night.  I'll have full stories bloom in thin air: dreams that wake me up laughing, characters that start telling me their stories as I drive kids home from school.  Each stranger I see (and there are a lot in SoCal) inspires an elaborate story.  I'm not crazy, honest, I'm just a creative soul without an outlet.

This state cannot continue for long.  It's my brain's way of cluing me in that something has got to change.  The default accompaniment is a driving desire to get out of the city as soon as may be—also a signal that I need to slow down.  A change of pace is in order. Regardless of all the things that need doing, I need to make time for the basics.

Last weekend we finally got ourselves over to the Getty Museum.  It was a perfect day (other than the traffic on the 405 which is always horrid): blue skies, cool breeze, no crowds.  One of the feature exhibits right now is Jackson Pollack's Mural.  I've been wanting to see a Pollack painting in person for quite a while; I'd long ago decided this was the only way to have a proper opinion on his work.  Would it feel chaotic? elementary? inspired?

My 13yo daughter (the artist) and I walked into the room where it was hung and our breath was taken away.  Inspired.  No doubt about it. There is so much life in that painting that it kind of made me want to cry.  That is art.  That is the reaction I hope to find when I open a book.  It really doesn't look like much on screen, but when you get a little closer it is pretty incredible.

(want to know more about this painting? click here)
Also, I must say that the staff here was amazing.  They were always ready to smile and help, even approaching to compliment and engage in conversation with my kiddos. When my 13yo daughter asked one of them what it's like to stand in the same room all day, we ended up with an entertaining and informative lesson on tapestries, history, art, and people.  When we left, the lady at the exit saw my daughter and exclaimed, "Oh, I remember your beautiful blue eyes!" (Living in L.A. is often more isolated than life in a small town, and these personal interactions are not necessarily the norm. My daughter has a way of asking people questions that get them laughing and talking, but this was more than usual. Definitely a treat!)

So, I haven't been doing too much reading lately, and I've desperately wanted to escape to my beloved NorCal mountains, but I'm finding my way through.  I've been forcing myself to sleep more and reminding myself that school is almost out for summer break.  Before long, the craziness of rebuilding a huge house will be winding down, and I'll be able to breathe, to read, to write.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

For the Record: April 2014

I didn't read much this month, which surprised me since it didn't feel that way.  I suppose I was busy (our house rebuild still absorbs tons of time) and the month just disappeared. Plus, Willa Cather had me procrastinating.  There were no huge standouts, though Under the Overpass has stuck with me the longest.

4 Books Read in April: (25 year-to-date)

1 Classic:
  - Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather (3) It makes me sad to have to give three stars to a book by Willa Cather! But, as I said in my review, this was really much too slow and meandering for my taste.  It was more successful at filling in a gap in my history reading than being an enjoyable novel. This was the twelfth book of hers I've read (of twenty published works) and unfortunately, the least enjoyable so far.

1 for Book Club:
  - Me Before You, Jojo Moyes (3) Coming on the heels of such popular successes as The Rosie Project and Eleanor & Park in my recent reading, and being generally just as adored, I had high expectations for this book and ended up being majorly let down.  The characters were rather stereotypical, the plot rather predictable, and the writing and construction very unrefined.  It was enjoyable, but in an empty sort of way.  I won't be surprised, however, if I'm alone in that opinion at my book club meeting tomorrow.  For some reason it seems to be a tear-jerker for most girls, but not even close for me.

1 Nonfiction:
  - Under the Overpass, Mike Yankoski (3.5) This was loaned to me by a book club friend.  Homelessness is an obvious issue where I live, and I've always struggled with wanting to help without enabling.  This book really allowed me to give the issue some serious thought, and has stayed in my head...pops back in every day when I'm confronted with the homeless around me.

1 Other:
  - The Position, Meg Wolitzer (3.5) The Position had many similarities in style, though I didn't love it quite as much as the Interestings. I love Woltzer's talent for writing about mundane life in a way that is anything but boring.  She is also amazing at the pacing and structure of her storytelling.  She'll be an author I return to.


2 Current Reads:
  - Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks.  My 15yo son was horrified when he found out that this book had been a gift from my husband almost fifteen years ago, and yet still sat unread on my shelf.  Horrified.  All those years of rejection: he couldn't even fathom the depths of injustice I'd inflicted upon the earth.  He made me promise I would rectify the situation immediately.  (He has a very strong sense of justice.)  I'm at page 139 of 759 total, and thoroughly enjoying it so far.
  - Devil in the White City, Erik Larson.  I haven't had much available audiobook time lately, but I'm about a quarter through and it is wonderfully fascinating.  I wish I didn't have to concentrate so much when I'm homeschooling or house-designing...I want to listen to my book!


On My Nightstand:
There is so much I want to read, and I honestly don't know what will be next.  These are the two that I keep looking at on my nightstand:

  - Longbourn, Jo Baker (sounds like my kind of light reading!)
  - With or Without You, Domenica Ruta (a former Indiespensable pick that I'd like to move off the shelf.)