Saturday, September 18, 2010

summer is nearly ok really over, what did you read?

It has been a month or two since I've been posting and I keep meaning to...but this summer totally sucked and I have been a little off in my own world. I did still manage to read a lot, here's a short list off the top of my head and maybe I'll get it together to write up some proper reviews in the next few weeks:

I started the summer out reading and re-reading a lot of feminist theory, which led me back to Simone de Beauvoir...I went back over The Second Sex but didn't read it straight through, then I re-visted her memoirs...I read the first volume, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter when I was 18 or 19 and The Prime of Life when I was in my mid-20's...I decided it was time to read Force of Circumstance and found that it has been split into two volumes. After The War covers the period 1944-1952 and Hard Times covers 1952-1962. It was really fun and easy to just pick up one of the books open it up and read for an hour or two, but it was sort of dull and laborious when I tried to start from the beginning. I figure I will get through them both eventually. I really enjoyed Toril Moi's introductions, which explains some of the themes and sets them in a broad historical context...Then I got drawn in to A Dangerous Liasion: A Revalatory New Biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Carole Seymour-Jones for about two days before deciding it was kind of crappy and unnecessarily reductionist and sensational...After that I found a copy of A Very Easy Death by Simone De Beauvoir. A friend died of cancer this summer and I found this book to be a really honest and existential take on dying and death. She wrote it about her mother and it documents the last few weeks of her life. Knowing that death was imminent, I put off reading the very end of the book. I think I will go back to it in a few weeks. Simone de Beauvoir is a favorite writer and thinker of mine. It is really nice to have someone like this to turn to when life becomes overwhelming. I always go back to her, like an old friend and teacher. She was courageous and brilliant and determined to explore all aspects of life as she saw it through her writing and ideas.

For about four weeks I was reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, which is a sort of new age self-help Oprah book club type book about "creative unblocking". Most people seem to have heard of this book. A writing teacher of mine used some of her tools in a class I took a few years ago. I don't really have problems being creative, but I do get into long periods of time when I stop writing or stop playing music because I get really overwhelmed and stressed out. Basically I've been trying to work on self-discipline and setting up a routine so that I'm always writing and playing music. So I was using this book to help me do that...until I got really overwhelmed and stressed out and quit doing the exercises, Ha! What's interesting about this book is that has really concrete, practical tools that can help you be more focused and disciplined creatively. It's broken down into 12 weeks, where you are supposed to do a chapter per week. I don't really believe in a lot of her ideas--she uses an AA approach of surrendering to "the higher power", explaining that creativity IS the higher power and as an artist all you need to do is tap into it and be open. Well, ok whatever! Like with AA (as I understand it?) I don't need to believe in god in order to get a lot of practical things out of this book as a tool, but maybe if I was a believer I wouldn't have quit when summer started to kick my ass...anyhow I am currently about to finish Julia Cameron's biography, Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir, which tells her own story of "creative unblocking" and is turning out to be one of the kookiest autobiographies I've read since Dave Davies' Kink. Whatever my reservations, her regimen has been useful to me as a writer, both in that class I took and in my creative work, so I'm gonna try to get back on that. I also like that she believes that being creative is a natural state that all humans can tap into. I agree with that, which helps me suspend my disbelief when she gets a little too spiritual for my atheist brain.

Then I read Role Models by John Waters followed by Lips Unsealed by Belinda Carlisle , which I got for my birthday. I also got a copy of Suzuki Beane by Sandra Scoppetone for my birthday from my dad and re-read it for the first time since I was a little kid and used to read it every day! I also read Girls To the Front: The True Story of The Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, which I had never read before, and A Friend of The Family by Laura Grodstein. I have sort of half-written reviews of all of those happening in my head right now and will probably finish at least a few so I will leave it at that for now...

Oh, in the past few weeks I've been reading Shelia Rowbotham, who wrote Women's Consciousness, Man's World a Women's Liberation classic text that I read in high school. I re-read the first half of that and then realized she became a historian and have been looking up some of her other work. I also finally got a copy of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War by Cynthia Enloe and read the first chapter. Today I read the first few essays in The Essental Nawal El Saadawi: A Reader, which is a recent release from Zed Books "Essential Feminism" series...other than that I've been reading a little Middle Eastern history, specifically focusing on Iran, but I don't have much to say about that yet.


de la Cruz, Cathy said...

Omg it makes me feel so much less cheesy to hear someone I respect talking about the Artists Way! It's totally one of those books on my shelf I'm always a little embarrassed to own, but it's helped. A therapist recommended it to me after college and I'm glad she did.


Tobi Vail said...

Hi Cathy, I know what you mean, it IS a little cheesy, but, hey if it works, it works! xoxoxo Tobi