Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ponder this Sunday: For the love of books

San gave me this award yesterday. Thank you San. You are so sweet. The award inspired this post on reading. I've loved reading since I was a tiny girl and Dad read to me every night at bedtime. As soon as I learned to read there was no stopping me. Except for a horrible period a few years back when I was distressed and unable to concentrate, barely a day goes by without my reading something from one, two or three books. Reading takes me to places I have never been, into worlds I would never have otherwise known.

I've had many favorite books through the years. From The Wind in the Willows to Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames Student Nurse to Katharine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, Allen Ginsburg, Dylan Thomas. Oh on and on. About 12 years ago I discovered the Norwegian writer, Cora Sandel. Since then, I've read many of her short stories, the Alberta trilogy and a few other novels. The trilogy I have read 4-5 times. I recorded myself reading it on tape so I could listen to it at night.

The books were republished in the USA by Ohio University Press. The novels are about Alberta, who grew up in Norway and left for Paris in the exciting early 1900's. The character parallels Sandel who also left Norway for Paris to become a painter. Sandel painted for twenty years before she began writing her Alberta novels. Sandel married a sculptor and had one son. As did Alberta, the fictional character who was a writer too. I myself went to San Francisco in 1967 and married a sculptor and had one son. I also painted, then wrote, then painted. Throughout the novel (and what I know of Sandel's life) there seem many parallels with myself. This is part of the appeal, but there is much more. The language, the flow of the writing. The apparent ease of depicting the character's lives. As I read, I fall completely into the world Sandel has created.

The novels depict, in part, the process of writing, the struggles, the crossed out pages.The writing is stream of consciousness style and beautifully descriptive. These books have given me heart and joy at times when I've felt sad. In reading them I resonate with people, especially artists, of another era. Paris is described in such detail, I feel as if I were there with Sandel. They are rich and multi-layered. Some have said of them that "nothing happens." True, they are not plot driven. They are soul driven. I believe that in Norway, Sandel is well-known. But elsewhere that is not so true. An overlooked writer.

Do you have a favorite book , fiction or non-fiction, that is special to you? Did it change your life or views on life. Was it the characters, the setting, the themes, the subject matter that got you in the book's clutches?

The pictures on the covers are of Cora Sandel. One of the three books, Alberta and Freedom, is not depicted.

PS The icon is here for the taking for whomever would like it. I think it's so cute. It was made by the talented Daryl of Out and About in New York City. I love the idea of making an icon, though have no idea of how one does it.



Interesting post, Suki,,and that trilogy of books sounds very interesting, especially for a writer/painter such as yourself)
I read "Girl With A Pearl Earring"
and enjoyed it thoroughly! It gave me a whole NEW respect for artists of that day,,,as in how they had to mix their own paints, etc. Reading about what one does, and finding the difficulties that artists in those days endured really is a trip!
I also love reading poetry.(Rod McKuen an old favorite)
I am drawn to mysteries,,of the adventure sort,(John Sandford) and also to forensics.(Patricia Cornwell)
I've read nearly everything Stephen King has written, not so much for the stories,(as often they are just too non-sensical)but for the WAY he writes.
I also read Dean Koontz,,,,one of my absolute all time favorite books was his: "Watchers".
SO, I am a book junkie,,,read some of almost everything,,,just re-read "To Kill A Mockingbird" not long ago.
I'll shut up now & leave room for others,,lol,,,suffice it to say I read a lot, from great literature I've not even mentioned,,, to pure junk.Enjoy it all!

sukipoet said...

Babs, reading is such a lovely way to "escape" the world around us. I loved "Girl With a Pearl Earring," too and I think it's a movie which I might have seen. I am reading a lot of mysteries right now too, I think because they are so "unreal" in a way and plus the puzzle to unravel.I've read a lot of Cornwell and i love British mysteries though they tend to be slower than American mysteries. thanks for sharing some of your favorites. Your enthusisasm is inspiring.

Annie said...

I must look into her books, thank you for sharing that. For me there are too many books to list as favorites, but one that stands out and made a lasting impression on me is "The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham. It showed me how to live and be true to myself. I too love books and I am always trying to make time to read.

Kim said...

Hi Suki,

Thank you for introducing me to this writer. I am going to be looking for them as it sounds like something I would also enjoy reading. I love stories of Women a lot!

I love to read and it is interesting how I go in cycles of what I enjoy. Like you, I often have several books going at a time. Right now I am into Jane Austen. I have loved many books written about the expats in Paris in the early 1900's and during WWII. I currently have a tall stack of books my daughter left me to read until she comes back and makes me another stack. :) I also have a book I am eager to read by a writer I call a friend - "Catching the Light" :)

Babs mentioned "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" which is an excellent read. I love Anita Shreve's work, Amy Tan, Joanne Harris (whom I love), and from time to time I also like reading Maeve Benchy. Of course there are many more, I adore and read works by unknowns, I love to read the work my children write.

As for non-fiction, I always seem to have something with art going and I like spirituality books, too. I also have several yoga reference books I keep hanging around to inspire me.

So reading is huge, but Julia Cameron talks about how it is a visual process and often artist find it difficult not to have lots of books around and not to read all the time. Apparently it is one of our non-zone activities. :)

Okay, I will stop for now! This is a lovely post, Suki! And thanks again for the intro to a new writer.

human being said...

you really deserve the award... i've never left your blog without a load of joy...
your writing is very impressive... no matter what you write about...

this post is a very good example... i was drawn into Alberta's world...

for me too reading was like breathing since early childhood... i've lived through and grown up with many of the books i read....

those i remember now are

*Crime and Punishment... really impressed my world view as a teen...

*The Miserables... unforgettable

*The Blind Owl(Sadegh Hedayat)... its analysis led to my love for psychology and mythology... and my long journey into my own psyche...

*The Sound and the Fury... oh god... for Benjy's part i used 13 different color pens to seperate the different happenings he spoke of in a free association... and Quentine's section... that journey from inocence to experience...
and that scene when he commits suicide... helped me to edure all the hardships one faces through the process of socialization.... when your innocence is raped by the society...

*Hamlet (helped me a lot to know myself) and Macbeth (to know people)

*The Tempest (a not very discussed work by Shakespeare that i found so deeeeeeeeeep)

*Awakening this really impressed me when i was a university student... in a strange way i really empathized with the heroine... though my life as a young girl was not a bit like hers...think that conflict is so inherent in our psyche... th war between common sense and passion...)

oh see Suki... you have tapped on my weak point... this list is very long...
thanks for asking and reminding me of these beautiful works once again...
you're marvelous...


I had to return to this, as I'm finding all the comments so interesting!
I have a question for you Suki, and for the group:
Do you ever remember NOT knowing how to read? I've thought of this so often,,,I remember sitting in a circle on the floor of the first grade classroom, and being amazed at those that were struggling to learn to read, feeling sorry for them, wanting to help them. I don't remember ever learning to read, or before I COULD read. Do any of you?
I find all this very fascinating!
(Oh, and please excuse me if I'm intruding on your post, Suki, not my intention)

San said...

Suki, thank you for introducing us to Sandel's writing. It sounds so interesting.

I too love to read. One book that moved me very much was Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. The protagonist is a painter. Maybe it was the timing of my reading it--many years ago in fact--but it made me cry a lot. And those good cries over good books are so curative and cleansing, don't you think?

sukipoet said...

Annie, I like Somerset Maugham quite a lot. But now I cant remember if I read "The Razor's Edge." I am pretty sure i saw the movie. Didn't he write the book based on Gaugin's life, "Moon and Sixpence"? My memory is so inexact lately. But i recall buying an old life magazine with an article about Maugham in it with a big picture of him. thanks Annie for tapping into these memories.

Kim, I never told you, but on your blog, your list of favorite books, I have read most of those and all that were abt Stein, women on the left bank etc. I do so love that era. I've read about Camille Claudel, Gwen John and Paula Modersohn-Becker all artists in Paris around that time. Cora Sandel was a contemporary of Colette though I believe they never met.

How neat Kim, to have a daughter to recommend and hand over to you books to read. That is cool.

I have read some Austen and find it so much more delicate and witty than the movies though often I miss her wit. IE I don't catch it. I too go in cycles of passions I think. I have read at least one book of almost all the authors you mention. Thanks for sharing your reading passions.

Human Being, oh yes, you have shown on your blog and in comments how much you love to read. You mention a book I have not heard of, will have to look it up--The Blind Owl. I went through a big shakespeare reading phase in college esp when I was in the theatre. He's great. And love Doestoyevsky (yikes, spelling) esp when younger. my son loves him too.

"the awakening," by Kate Chopin is a book I too enjoyed so much. Thanks for all these books, Human Being. I love hearing what you love.

sukipoet said...

Oh Babs, you could never intrude on my post. I welcome all ideas and conversations. Well, I've never thought about your question before, I cant either remember not being able to read nor do I remember just when I began to read. I can't imagine i had much trouble though as I read "together" with my dad so much I'm sure I must have learned some words even before school began. I could ask my mom actually and see what she says. The last living witness to my childhood.

San thanks for stopping by. Oh yes, those tears that come from reading, curative is the word. You express it so well. I love Margaret Atwood, esp the early works. "Surfacing" her first novel is still one of my favorites. Oddly, I don't recall the Cat's Eye. I should check it out if it was about a painter. thanks for sharing this book that moved you. And for putting out that darling icon from your friend. I meant to tell everyone that it was up for the taking for anyone who wanted it. Be well, Suki

Kim said...

Okay, I am having trouble staying away from this post, too. And I do have a story about learning to read.

When I was in first grade I was one of those children who had a hard time learning to read, at first. But I had a great teacher. She thought one of the issues for me was my brain needed balancing and that I couldn't learn to read phonetically. I needed to learn to read by shape (seeing the shape of words). She also recognized I would have trouble spelling (which I do) since I can't hear vowel sounds. I do read by learning words individually, not by sound.

Here is what she did...I spent time writing with both hands. That is right, I would sometimes make circles with both hands causing them (my hands and the circles) come together at a point. I would do all kinds of shapes. Then I would copy words, sentences, etc. with my left hand (I was right-handed, then). In just about 2 weeks or so of these things, I couldn't stop reading and always stayed at the top in reading and writing throughout school. But this did something else for me...I became ambidextrous in the process. I also feel as though this was one of the greatest gifts in helping me find my creative side. I have never heard of anyone else doing this before or going through it. But it worked like magic for me.

So after this long story, I can say, "Yes, I do remember when I couldn't read but just barely."

So is this more than you bargained for Babs? :)


Me again.I fully intend to paint today,,,but am loving this post so much!
Thanks Suki, for not feeling like your post has been hi-jacked.
My sisters and I discuss all things,,(deep and shallow alike, smile) and none of us have any memory of not knowing how to read. And we don't remember being read to as children. I find it so interesting, as I know I wasn't born knowing how. My Mom is gone, so can't ask her,,,she devoured books herself until her sight finally failed, poor thing,,and Daddy's memory is gone. I'd be most interested to know what your Mom says.
Kim! No! This is just what I wanted to hear.Aren't you just SO grateful that the teacher realized what you needed? And was able to guide you where you needed to go? I HOPE we have some teachers like that in public school today,,,,,! Fascinating process she taught you,,,so simple,,yet so HUGE!
Thanks again Suki!

Kim said...

Hi Again Suki and Babs! (Tee Hee)

I am ever so grateful to this teacher. She opened the world to me...that is what reading and art are, isn't it?

Mrs, Harouff still lives (although she seemed old to me 44 years ago) and my mother has the chance to visit with her from time to time. And do you know what she does in her retirement? She paints!

If only we had these kinds of teachers in public schools today...and the teachers had the opportunity to do this kind of work. I am truly blessed and grateful! I thought of something else...I was the only one she did this with that I knew about...this wasn't a group thing. We did this together one-on-one! She would draw the shapes, too! We used all kinds of writing and drawing tools. Sometimes we would make HUGE ones on the chalk board and sometimes we would make tiny ones inside the lines on that green first grade paper. She taught me that everyone doesn't learn the same way and that was a very good thing. She also helped me to understand how sometimes people just live in one side of their brain too much...and boy am I aware of that today! :)

I don't tell this story often, but it sure seemed right to tell it here!

Thanks for the opportunity!

Forever Young said...

i absolutely adore books, nothing in the whole world can compare with reading, not telly or cinemas or even magazines. and i pass this love of reading and books on to my little students each and every day.thank you for such a lovely post. haven't posted my work space yet, had an awful weekend...

Forever Young said...

I have just finished 'Sotah' by Naomi Ragan...highly now reading 'Tell it to the skies' by Erica James...also highly readable.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Kirstin Lavransdatter is my all time favorite book. I am of Norwegian heritage and was attracted to the title. I read it several times back in the sixties and felt in my twenties that I had lived a whole life with this character and at the end met my soul. I read fiction mostly but on an on and off basis. I haven't read novels now for a couple of years. Great reminded me of this book and how much I loved reading it all those years ago. Mary Ann

sukipoet said...

Wow, this discussion is so great. Sorry I took so long getting back here. Thunder storm again. I always turn everything off. We had a HUGE long thunderstorm last night and the bro lost his well. Well, another topic.

Kim, that is some incredible story and some incredible teacher. How miraculous for you, and for her, that you came together like that and that somehow she knew just what you needed. I'd say she was way ahead of her times. And lovely to have that individual attention. Really I think the whole story should be published somewhere. That she turned out to paint in her latter years. what a gift she gave you. How wonderful you remember all this. A unique beginning to a unique woman (yourself). thanks to Babs for asking the question too. You know I thank my stars that I didnt learn to spell phonetically, as people who did often have a terrible time spelling. Not that I dont myself, but then I use the dictionary a lot.

Mom is in bed already at 5 pm and I forgot to ask her about myself so I'll note it down.

Babs, I find it so interesting your sisters concur with you about feeling they always knew how to read. Your mom's example of someone who always has her nose in a book must have been influential, though not in the actual learning perhaps but in the desire to learn so you too could have your nose in a book. It's so exciting to me when I hear these stories.

Babs I have to say I am a bit envious or your and your sisters loving to sit around and discuss things all the time. I come from a family who DOES NOT TALK. It is hard to believe really, but that's the way it is. I'm not a huge talker but compared to them I am.

Have you ever been around people who kind of resent your sitting reading so much? I have a few, and I always don't quite understand. Even now, Mom reads about 5-6 books a week. She plows through them like the farmer does the field.

Kim, thanks for coming back again with more about Mrs Harouff. To learn to use both sides of the brain at such a young age. And to understand that not everyone learns the same way. (I didnt understand that in an objective way until I was an adult). You know I bet she had great fun drawing along with you. she sounds like such an important mentor and guide for you in your life. How lucky you met her at such a young age. thanks so much Kim for sharing this inspiring story.

Forever Young, how wonderful you are out there inspiring little ones to read. Such an important job. As reading Kim's story points out. I'm fascinated by the books you mention. I have heard of none of them. I'm jotting them down. Hope you can get in some good reading time on your vacation. I have made a link area in my sidebar for the workspace posts so if you do post one I'll put your link in there. Be well, Suki

Blue Sky Dreaming, I LOVE Kristen Lavrensdatter. Gorgeous trilogy. I read it about 30 years ago, so the details fade but the sense of the world she created is still with me, her writing was so powerful. thanks for reminding me of this book and for sharing your thoughts.

Hopper said...

I will look up Sandel... she sounds like a great writer...

Personally my favorite book is Ulysses by James Joyce... or anything that Kahil Gibran wrote...

Thanks for the post...

c ya later Suki...

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

wow. this was a great posting. I read it earlier and was going to ponder over it and didnt find time to get back here.
I have been influenced by lots of books. The Secret Garden as a youth introduced me to my love of Gardening. The Shell Seekers by Rosamond Pilcher. A wonderful read and more influence on Gardening and painting. and the details of a solarium that lead me to want a sunroom when we moved here. I loved To Kill a Mocking bird, and I am hooked on Mysteries also but American ones. But I think the book that has influenced me the most is the Bible. I have & do read it. I find it is a wonderful quide in living ones life.

Oh my I will be thinking more on this I think. You do get us thinking Suki. :):)

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

PS, I cant forget another wonderful book I read. by Irving Stone called the DEPTH OF GLORY.
All about the Impressionist painters. Sure answered a lot of questions of that time and era.

Britt-Arnhild said...

What would we do without books?????

I am packing for my trip to Mexico today, and the first thing I always pack is BOOKS.

sukipoet said...

Hopper, thanks for stopping by with your favorites of Ulysses and Kahlil Gibran. I have never read the first, but have read some of the second author. And also some biography I think about his relationship with an American woman I believe.

Cris, all great books. I loved the Shell Seekers too. Interesting how it even influenced your desire for a sunroom. I havent read that Irving Stone book, sounds good. I also havent read the bible in years but I remember so well many of the stories, so vivid and parts of it so poetic.

Britt-arnhild, have a great trip. Books on a trip, great. I hate it when I've forgotten to tuck a book in my purse and end up waiting somewhere in line with no book.

Anonymous said...

WATCHERS! oh, Babs... One of my all time favs too. I have turned on friends to that book.

Ben Bova writes sci-fi. He's in the process of writing a book for each planet in our solar system.

Honour said...

Suki - a great discussion on Sunday as usual. I just loved hearing what all of the blog community members are reading.

I have many books that I love ... but your posting, in particular, reminded me of a series of diaries written by Madelyn L'Engle. They were so engrossing - and as you said, about your novel of choice, had no plot -- but just reflections of how creativity fit into her flow of life. I find it quite inspirational for my own journeys.

Have a wonderful week!

sukipoet said...

Chewy, Sounds like you and my son would get along bookwise as he loves Sci Fi.

Honor, thanks for giving us Madelyn L'Engle's diaries. I don't think I've read them although I think I did read a book about growing older. So many wonderful books mentioned here. So many thirsty readers.

Lynn said...

This is all so made me want to explore these Norwiegen books.
Also of interest to me was learning that you had come to San Francisco in 1967. Married a sculptor had had one son. I returned from Israel to California in 1966 with my young son.
In 1960 right before I left for Israel I met a young man in SF who was a painter. He was very disappointed that I did not come back and marry him I do believe. I often wonder what he is doing today and if he made it with his painting.

Patti said...

Great post Suki!

It is incredible how books often parallel our own lives. This has happened to me before also.

I love Somerset Maugham too. 'The Razors Edge' had a big impact on me, re: what constitutes success for different people, following your own truth and the importance of spirituality.

I love 'magical realism' very much too and Amy Tan, Isabelle Allende, Alice Hoffman and many others are just great.

At the moment I am reading a book called 'The Historian' which is about searching for Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) who apparently still roams the earth :) It is a little like The Da Vinci Code with lots of historical references and is well written. Vampires are not my usual reading matter, but I'm enjoying this one!

I can't remember not being able to read, but I do recall my first year of school, being so proud that I could read the flash cards with words on them better than any one else in my class. It was a real buzz to 'get' the written language.

I come from an entire family of avid readers, but my children, despite encouragement do not read as much as I have always done. Computer/Gaming generation may be responsible for this?

sukipoet said...

Oh Lynn. That is such a good snippet of your life story. Well, with the internet, you can sometimes check out those people from the past. In SF I met a friend of my ex's called S. Clay Wilson. A biker kinda guy who also drew comics like R. Crumb and in fact ended up meeting R. Crumb. S. Clay stayed in SF whereas my ex and I left. I looked S. Clay up and he still lives there, still draws these comics (which I have to say I always thought rather disturbing) however I did NOT contact him. A little scared to. Who knows what he's like now.

As for the Norwegian books, The first book in the trilogy is about Alberta's childhood in NOrway. The second two books are about her adventures in Paris in the 20's.

Patti, Well I think i'll have to read The Razor's Edge now. Two people have mentioned it. And "The Historian" sounds good too. What a great memory of yourself in your first year of school reading the words so well. And I do find it kinda sad that younger generations seem to have less interest in books and reading. My son, now 39, did pick up the reading bug, primarily Sci Fi. So that's good. But he's maybe a little older than your kids. He didnt grow up with computers handy.