May 23 2019

Heard while walking

Rosemary Kirstein

Like apparently everyone else in the universe, I’m trying to walk more.

I prefer to walk in the woods, but when I do, I never listen to podcasts, or radio, or audiobooks.   I’m in the woods!  I want to either be there, present for the experience, or set my mind free to ramble, and possibly come up with tales or essays or explorations of ideas.

But that’s only when I’m able to walk alone.  If I’m on a trail where there are other people around —  I just can’t be that free.  There’s too much distraction.  Also, my face tends to mirror what I’m thinking — I just can’t help it.   So, I do prefer solitude for my walks.

Alas: with my beloved Sleeping Giant State Park still completely shut down a full year after the four surprise tornadoes that shredded it, all I’m left with are the smaller, more populated walking opportunities.

And that’s when I need something else to occupy my mind while walking.

There’s music, of course.  But also wonderful podcasts, great audiobooks, and even live radio.

I’ve kept up with Welcome to Night Vale, naturally — and I’m glad that it seems to be back on track after waffling around uncentered for most of the current season.

And lately I’ve been listening to Sam Harris’ Making Sense podcast, which really stretches my brain.  Currently, I’m in the middle of a two-hour episode where Harris interviews Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist and Nobel Prize winner, who wrote Thinking, Fast and Slow.  I have the book, but in many ways the interview is more interesting, a wide-ranging conversation between two pals who are also blazingly smart.

I’ve also been listening, for the second time, to Janis Ian’s autobiography Society’s Child. 

Society's Child: My Autobiography by [Ian, Janis]

As an old folkie myself, Ian’s autobiography is of particular interest to me.   She does the reading herself, and it’s so intimate, to hear her own voice, right in your ear, sharing her stories with you.   Also: each chapter begins with a quote from one of her songs, and in the print version, you just read the quoted lyrics; but in the audiobook, she picks up her guitar and sings and plays it for you.  Lovely.

And I’ve just finished listening to Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky which was excellent, and thoroughly involving.  It’s a story one can get lost in — and that’s not something everyone can pull off.

All the Birds in the Sky by [Anders, Charlie Jane]

Anders has  a very good hand with prose, too, and her characters are clear and multi-layered.  She’s a writer whose star seems to be rising, as well, and good for her!  This is the only thing of hers I’ve read so far, and  I do wish I’d read it sooner — it’s been on my radar for a while, but so have so many other things.

Another of my go-to guys when I’m walking is Colin McEnroe.  He has a local radio show on WNPR, but of course everything is also a podcast these days, so one can listen to any of the episodes, at any time, anywhere.  The other day he had a show about Sol LeWitt, a very famous conceptual artist of whom I was only tangentally aware before hearing the show.  But during the course of the show, McEnroe played a short clip of Benedict Cumberbatch reading a letter that LeWitt wrote to another artist, Eva Hesse — and that sent me off to YouTube when I got to my office, to track down the full version.

(WARNING: contains salty language.   So what!  Get over it.)

I’m always fascinated by artists who are supremely devoted to their art — even if it’s art I don’t particularly like.  In fact, it’s easier to clearly see the beauty of that devotion, when you’re not swept away by how much you like the artwork itself.  Am I making sense?  Makes sense to me.

And I’m going to take LeWitt’s admonition to “stop thinking” to mean stop overthinking, a failing to which we writers are particularly prone.  Stop obsessing on all the peripheral aspects — and just think of the work!

In other news:

Of course you’ve heard that the Nebula Awards were handed out recently.  In case you haven’t, Tor.com is always a good source for SF/F news.     So is File 770 — and they have pictures of the ceremony and the winners.   I actually have a copy of Best Novel winner Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars on my To Read Real Soon Now stack.

The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by [Kowal, Mary Robinette]

I’m definitely overloaded with Stuff to Read…

 


May 4 2019

What happens when someone you know seems to be able to write poems at the drop of a hat and you’re a little jealous, so you ask how they do it.

Rosemary

 

Oh, look.  I wrote a poem:

 

JO WALTON WRITES SONNETS

She tells me that it’s more or less a knack,
The pattern’s that familiar, and the pace.
She knows the beats, and how the rhymes will stack,
With every iamb solidly in place.

With that, she simply lives her life, with all
Its thoughts and feelings, plans and acts. Her days
Are given to her work — but should she call,
The words slip nimbly into their arrays.

But there’s a thing she doesn’t say. Perhaps
Forgotten, being learned so long ago
That years and dreams and decades that elapse
Have moved it from Surprise to Simply So.

It’s this: Delights, when loved and fully known
Will choose to serve — and name you as their own.

 

(You can subscribe to Jo Walton’s poetry Patreon right here.)