As you may know Peter Gabriel titled his first handful of solo albums just Peter Gabriel. Later critics and fans would start to differentiate them names like Peter Gabriel/Car, Peter Gabriel/Scratch. I’ve always felt that Peter Gabriel was being cheeky in his choice of titles but simply say here is some music I did, here’s some more. In starting The Omnivores Dilemma it became quickly apparent to me that Michale Pollan is just telling one big long story. It just happens to be broken up into books you can read as stand-alone pieces should you choose. I choose not to.
I am choosing to go back and read the earlier books I have missed. I want to read them in order and then pick back up with In Defense of Food. I feel like I have stumbled onto this really great show, but it is already in its fifth season. So I owe it to myself and the show to start from the beginning.
You know those authors and books you are “familiar with” but have never really read? Pssst . . . .that is my relationship with Michael Pollan and most of his work. But thanks to the fine people at NPR and Book TV as well as his bookstore signings on YouTube I’ve always felt fairly conversant in “Pollanynesian.” But this week I am going native! Michael Pollan has a new book coming out and I want to feel reasonably versed in his major works so I am starting with The Botany of Desire.
My first impression is really structural. Remember how I said if I had to teach a course on the memoir I would use Wild as an instructive example. Well, this would be my instructive example of how to write a really compelling well structured tight nonfiction book. It’s a smart compelling read.
I have one quibble. I think he might be wrong about the term “hard cider” which he says is a 20th-century term. I offer this because I just finished that book on Louisa May Alcott which contains the following bit from her personal journals:
“Another turn at “ Moods,” which I remodelled. From the 2d to the 25th I sat writing, with a run at dusk; could not sleep, and for three days was so full of it I could not stop to get up. Mother made me a green silk cap with a red bow, to match the old green and red party wrap, which I wore as a “ glory cloak.” Thus arrayed I sat in groves of manuscripts, “ living for immortality,” as May said. Mother wandered in and out with cordial cups of tea, worried because I could n’t eat. Father thought it fine, and brought his reddest apples and hardest cider for my Pegasus to feed upon. All sorts of fun was going on; but I didn’t care if the world returned to chaos if I and my inkstand only “lit” in the same place.”
I felt the need to do one more book in my accidental chick-lit series. Many of these books have been in all or part memoir. And in that sense, they all owe a debt to the mighty LMA! I love Louisa May Alcott. Now some of you may be thinking that’s just because Winona Ryder played Jo March in Little Women.
But that is not true. OK, that’s not entirely true. Let’s just agree that it is only a factor and move on. I love her because she is amazing, brilliant, passionate, prolific and a saint. The woman is a freaking saint! Fun fact, since their initial publication all of Louisa May Alcott’s juvenile fiction, the March books, has ever been out of print. Walden was initially a failure. Moby Dick was initially a failure. Mark Twain only wrote Tom Sawyer after how well he saw how well Little Women sold. All and this and you can learn from this book.
I know it looks like I am on a “chic lit” binge at the moment, but I actually read this book a few years ago. At that time I was binging on books about people sojourning in the woods. This is the book that severed as dessert for that binge. If by some seriously strange turn of events, I ever found myself responsible for teaching a course on memoir writing I would use this book. I found it all powerfully staged. I have one major complaint about this book. It was published six years after Eat Pray Love, and I am personally convinced her editor or somebody had the chapter added. It’s a rather pointless chapter. But I really love this book. I also joke every time this book is discussed that a better subtitle would be “Cheryl Makes Questionable Choices.” Rock on oh Queen of the PCT.
Oh, after finishing Big Magic I had to read this. I have to confess that I preferred Big Magic. I think in part that is due to Big Magic being about ideas and ways of being and this more of sentimental a memoir. I want to go have a beverage with Richard from Texas. I could totally hang with that guy. I feel bad for Jose — though maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe he got the better end of the deal. Elizabeth — she’s complicated.
Every so often I get stuck on what to read next. I don’t want this. I don’t want that. This books too heavy for my next read. This book’s too light. When this happens for too many days I use this ideation tool. I go off to a torrent site and see what the people are sharing. I just skim for something usually a title, knowing the author helps for context but I am really trying to find something, actually a few somethings, I would normally never give a chance. My rule is to pick some titles and then go get them from the library and give them a chance. If I don’t like my first book in a few pages or chapters I can move on to my next pick.
Obviously, this is how I found Big Magic. I would have never ever read this book unless I forced myself to make the wild leap to read something outside my zone. I told everyone I know who reads and even more people who don’t painters, actors, dancers, entrepreneurs to check this out. You might want to check it out too!
It’s The Dalai Lama and Desoms Tutu. It’s wonderful.