Judge me, please!

Write reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and your book site!
Write reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and your book site!

While I’m a firm advocate of leaving judgement off the yoga mat, in the publishing world, reviews by readers are essential. If you happen to read one of my books, please do me the honor of commenting about it on the book’s page at Amazon.com, goodreads.com, or your favorite source for books.

It helps more people become aware of the books, so they can decide if it would be interesting for them to read.

Thank you!

And then there’s the trilby

I’ve been doing a little research on James Bond for a new book (no not a spy thriller), and learned the name of the hat everyone has been wearing for the last four years: the trilby. Here’s a fun blog post about them, and why everyone shouldn’t be wearing them. Except, by the author’s critique, me.

Here’s a photo from the awesome web site, thesuitsofjamesbond.com
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Hardwick: Tone vs. Plot

I love the Paris Review’s interviews. Their tweets pull such juicy quotes that I want to read them all, and then the interviews are so good that I want to read all the authors’ books (which I usually haven’t).

Here’s a great answer from the interview with Elizabeth Hardwick:

 I don’t have many plots and perhaps as a justification I sometimes think: If I want a plot I’ll watch Dallas. I think it’s mood. No, I mean tone. Tone arrived at by language. I can’t write a story or an essay until I can, by revision after revision, get the opening tone right. Sometimes it seems to take forever, but when I have it I can usually go on. It’s a matter of the voice, how you are going to approach the task at hand. It’s all language and rhythm and the establishment of the relation to the material, of who’s speaking, not speaking as a person exactly, but as a mind, a sensibility.

I can relate to that ‘revision after revision’ piece. It helps you recognize what’s there only because it’s precious to you and what’s their because it’s important.

You won’t believe what happened next: Contentment

The hardest part, for me, of participating in the din of social media, is listening to so much cheerleading about happiness, positive change, and improvement. This roar that you are just an improvement away from everything you always wanted points to an enthusiastic disconnection from what is.

Promises or suggestions or affirmations that you’ll always have joy, you’ll get what you want, you’ll be famous, students will love you, bloggers will quote you, money will pour in, you’ll accomplish a yoga posture, or your prose will be poetry are so much wishful thinking. Don’t get me wrong, the opposite — to be defeated, to be gloomy, to give up, to speak pessimistically — is, of course, just as bad. 

swansSo if affirming and giving up are both bad, is there a third way? In sanskrit, it’s called samtosha, which could be translated as ‘contentment.’ English translations of sanskrit often fall short, so let’s add some nuance to this idea of ‘contentment’ as samtosha by looking from its two extremes.

  • One extreme: Contentment could be seen as accepting that nothing’s going to change, so just resign yourself to what is. But that interpretation lets you off the hook from doing the hard work that is in front of you (there’s always hard work in front of everybody). To be content is to try to stay balanced while doing that. The hard work is sometimes physical, but more often, it’s emotional, like letting go of hurt feelings. Those might be feelings of not getting what you want or deserve; or being overlooked, under appreciated, or even misjudged. Contentment equals carrying on when you’d rather give up; and ultimately getting less worked up over everything.
  • The other extreme: Contentment could be seen as altering your perception of the way things are. My teacher, Alan Finger, caricatures someone in this mode with palms together, bowing to ducks and butterflies and peace and love  — in other words, living in a dream of a perfect world. When talking about people who imagine only blue skies, one of my favorite teachers, Mark Whitwell, once commented,” If you’re not mad [at what’s going on in the world], you’re not paying attention.” Contentment is accepting a world that contains both dark and light — the world as it actually is.

Putting it all together, then, rather than affirm, give up, or delude, practice staying balanced and gracefully work on what is in your realm of possibility to do. You won’t believe what happens next: contentment.

History Repeating

We must confess that we cannot provide an unequivocal definition of those products from which the age takes its name, the feuilletons. They seem to have formed an uncommonly popular section of the daily newspapers, were produced by the millions, and were a major source of mental pabulum for the reader in want of culture. They reported on, or rather “chatted” about, a thousand-and-one items of knowledge.

– from Magister Ludi: the Glass Bead Game, 1943, by Hermann Hesse

Magister LudiI started re-reading this Nobel Prize-winning novel, because the idea of the Glass Bead Game keeps coming up in my inner conversations about the nature of creation itself — why is there a universe; is it a great game? When I read the above introductory section of Hesse’s utopian novel, I was struck with how much his feuilletons, which can be translated as ‘serial writings,’ had gone from the newspaper articles of his time to the blogosphere of today, where they are going strong.

In this 1943 book, the author of Siddhartha and Steppenwolf contemplates a move away from the cult of personality toward greater rationality, no doubt in response to World War II in Europe, which raged between 1938 and 1945. The quote above is from his background history of the fictional glass bead game, and in it, Hesse struggles to find a reason why both the public and the writers and scholars of the time participated in the “pabulum,” of what would now be called ‘blogging’ and could include all other social media expressions.

As an intellectual, whose book ultimately affirms the value of individuality tempered by rationality, Hesse doesn’t criticize writing; instead he wonders why this writing. He provides a couple guesses. One is that there’s some kind of hidden “irony and self-mockery”* that his age (era) doesn’t have the key for, the irony including the superficial nature of the information shared and appreciated. An alternative reason, he postulates, is that the people are so traumatized by their modern lives, that they need to escape, “to close their eyes and flee from unsolved problems and anxious forebodings of doom into an imaginary world as innocuous as possible.”*

I find this food for thought on so many fronts:

  • why are we so content to have no quiet time;
  • why do we spend time looking at selfies and videos of people doing yoga instead of practicing;
  • why do we spend so many hours in front of non-fiction entertainment watching “all these grotesque things with credulous earnestness”;*
  • am I of an age (generationally) that doesn’t have the key to appreciate the irony of current expression;
  • will the cream of the blogs ultimately rise to the top or will they be buried under the sheer volume of well-marketed pabulum;
  • should one be complicit with the trend (shout among the din) or buck it (trust in an alternate platform)?

I know so many brilliant people striving in the midst of this situation for an experience that transcends it. Hesse points out a stumbling block to trying to participate: “…citizens of the age (who were still deeply attached to the notion of culture, although it had long since been robbed of its former meaning)…”*

I’m looking forward to reading on and following the utopians on their pendulum swing back toward some middle ground; I’m trusting it will give me hope for a quieter, creamier, less pabulum-esque social discourse.


*Quotes are all excerpts from pages 11-13 of the Bantam paperback edition, 1986


I am finally starting to see posts on Facebook that echo what I’ve been saying to the people around me, and I’m glad I’m seeing this approaching swell of sentiment: Enough!

There’s so much chatter, so much documenting, so many self-projections, so much self-marketing. I call it ‘looking at life with an exclamation point attached.’

Some is good, too much is too much. Continue reading “Sshhhhhh…”

Human Interaction

I just drove to Saratoga Springs for the day to talk with someone who had already e-mailed me comprehensive feedback on a project. I got a ton of information from the line edits of my new novel, and my friend, author Lâle Davidson, wrote a very clear summary of her overall impressions.

So why did I drive for seven hours with Mica in the back seat and the nagging feeling that I should be sitting in Brooklyn being productive? It’s because my in-person interactions with Lâle are so inspiring. There’s an energy about face-to-face dialog that provides nuance to information and the real-time interaction allows fine-tuning of understanding. Continue reading “Human Interaction”