Saturday, December 28, 2019



1) WRITING SOUNDTRACK writing, music 
2) NOBEL PRIZE FOR ART art, nobelprize 
3) DANDELION WINE  Bradbury, writing, writers, summer 
5) ROBOWRITERS  AI, algorithms, writing 
7) GENRE WRITING writing, genres, literarygenres, fiction 
8) ANIMATION OSCAR NOMINATIONS 2019 animation, Oscars


1) THERE THERE by Tommy Orange (Audio book) A stunning, rip-your-guts-out writer whose raging, long-suffering characters are not quite as resigned to the tragedy in their daily life as they seem to be. A stark, dark debut novel written with poetry and brutal objectivity. Beautifully interpreted by talented narrators. The audio version of a book is the most ethereal of all literary experiences and if not done well can diminish, even ruin it; the wrong tone can change the meaning of a serious, scholarly work or make characters unbearable. Whereas a good narrator can give a book additional facets and layers of life.

2) TOUS LES HOMMES N’HABITENT PAS LE MONDE DE LA MEME FAÇON by Jean-Paul Dubois, a French Goncourt-winning writer whose style is quite American in its crispness and clarity with an underlying French soulfulness. After growing up in France, the protagonist, the son of a preacher and a cinema-owning mother, visits Denmark then settles in Canada where he spends some time in jail and reviews his life. Sounds boring, is not. Full of humor, poetic connections and marvelous characters.

3) AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD by John Le Carré. I loved this not-quite-return-to-the-classic-spy-novel but a sort of modern cross between The Tailor of Panama and The Looking Glass War. A tad far-fetched but very enjoyable. He can create a character in one sentence, a mood with a word. The master. 

4) L’ETRANGER by Albert Camus. (Audio book, read by wonderfully bi-lingual actor Michel Lonsdale.) Listening to this famous book first read in Paris, I rediscovered the feelings evoked by Camus that had remained with me all these years: the protagonist’s islolation, loneliness, alienation and the Algerian beach. That a writer can rekindle the same feelings decades later is why he won the Nobel Prize, no doubt. 

5) EDUCATED by Tara Westover. Here is a natural-born writer who wrested herself from a dangerous and destructive family to get a Cambridge education and a new life with the help of a Bill Gates scholarship. Clear, objective writing devoid of sentimentality makes for smooth, easy reading of a hard subject. Good book by an exceptional and inspiring woman.

6) L’HERBE DES NUITS and SOUVENIRS DORMANTS Audio books written by Nobel Prize winning Patrick Modiano. The male protagonist meets a mysterious young woman, goes for long walks with her in Montparnasse or Montmarte or other quartiers of Paris. She shoots someone but is never arrested. Basically all three of his books I read are variations on this story. He is known for writing the same book over and over, satifying to him, perhaps, not so much to the reader. I did love the walks through familiar streets and mentions of real Parisian addresses.

7) PURPLE HIBISCUS by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Warm, thoughtful female characters living passionate, uneasy lives in Nigeria. Making writing look so easy, takes great talent.

8) L’ETE DES QUATRE ROIS by Camille Pascal. (Grand Prix de l’Académie Française  2018) History vividly brought to life with Kings Charles X, Louis XIX, Henri V and Louis-Philippe and additional characters like Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas sweating through the long, hot summer that culminates in the July revolution of 1830. 

9) WAITING by Ha Jin (Pulitzer). I love how different Chinese literature is from Western literature. This author makes you wait then slowly brings the point of his story into focus, like a fish rising from the deep. Very satisfying. 

10) L’AMIE PRODIGIEUSE (Tome 1) by Elena Ferrante (Translated from the Italian by Elsa Damien) Wonderful writer who describes her endearing characters in actions and arouses your emotions with words written and unwritten. A very talented writer, whatever her name is.

10) CIRCE by Madeline Miller who skillfully brings gods and goddesses to life and has cleverly made a franchise of mythology. (Audio book)

11) LE CONTE DE MONTE-CRISTO (6 hefty tomes), Alexandre Dumas. I read this in English as a kid and loved it but enoyed it so much more now that I know the cities, streets and places, I’ve  seen Marseille and lived in Paris and even been to his famous address on the Champs-Elysées and who doesn’t love a satisfying tale of revenge and living well?

12) MRS. DALLOWAY – Virginia Woolfe – formidable style, muscular prose, milquetoasty characters and practically no plot. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


I like writing to the sound of golf on TV.
The hushed commentary and quiet applause provide a presence without distracting. 

And there’s all that soothing green grass when you do look up.  

Tennis is good too; 
I like the soft “pocks” and the relatively gentle commentary 
in the background which let me think without feeling totally cut off from the world. 
Although tennis can be very distracting when Roger and Rafa play, not only for the 
excellence of their game but for the beauty of their extreme stretches and 
follow-through, too gorgeous for an artist to ignore.
Roger Federer In Action Against Tomas Berdych - Photo the Guardian

The BBC radio 4 on low volume is also a good accompanying drone.

Music is just too distracting; it always sweeps me up and makes me listen 

exclusively to it, drowning out the plot points and dialogue etc. I'm trying 
to focus on.

On the other hand, total silence freezes my brain. I just can't to write in 
the thundering quiet of the country. It's great to relax in and paint in,
but not to write in. Not for me, anyway. And a soundproof room makes me 
want to keep rushing out to see if the world is still there. I need to hear signs 
of life: children’s voicesducks quacking, dishwasher running, pots clattering, 
birds chirpingthe dull roar of city traffic with an occasional siren. 
Companionable, reassuring and soothing.
Inspiring, even.

First published July 20, 2009