Harvard’s book depository, the biggest library you’ve not heard of?

Monday, 16 February, 2015

Some ten million books, records, films, tapes, and other such items, are kept in a depository that belongs to Harvard University. The collection is the subject of a documentary titled Cold Storage, that explores this vast library that relatively few people, up until now, knew about.

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I am a writer, but am I famous yet? This flowchart might know

Wednesday, 11 February, 2015

Am I a famous writer yet? You probably don’t need a flowchart to help you determine the answer, but I guess there’s no harm in double checking…

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The “To Kill a Mockingbird” sequel is also a prequel of sorts

Tuesday, 10 February, 2015

Well this is great news, maybe, Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which, somehow, I only read for the first time late last year, is to publish a sequel to her much loved 1960 work, titled “Go Set a Watchman”.

What’s interesting here though is that “Watchman” – that features Scout Finch as an adult – was written before “Mockingbird”, and includes flashbacks to her childhood, and it was these recollections that went on to form the basis of “To Kill a Mockingbird”:

Lee’s editor persuaded her to rework some of the story’s flashback sequences as a novel in their own right – and that book became To Kill a Mockingbird. “I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told,” the author revealed.

A prequel that ended up as a sequel, maybe?

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To remain with the day, you must be one with the day

Wednesday, 14 January, 2015

British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, while working on his 1989 book, The Remains of the Day, was bestowed with a luxury few writers would enjoy, he was, for about four weeks, with the help of wife Lorna, able to enter the world he was writing about, and complete the work in one sitting as it were:

So Lorna and I came up with a plan. I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.

I’ve not yet read the book, but if the James Ivory, Ismail Merchant, film adaptation is anything to go by, the strategy more than paid off.

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A book about the things that are found in a baby’s mouth

Wednesday, 3 December, 2014

Image by Lenka Clayton

What do these objects have in common? They were among sixty-three items that British artist Lenka Clayton retrieved from her son’s mouth during the time he was aged between eight to fifteen months.

Photos of which now feature in a book… maybe these could be given to babies in the hope they’ll look at the pictures of the things they put into their mouths rather than actually putting things in their mouths. Hope springs eternal, right?

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Has a book, or a number of books, ever changed your mind?

Friday, 21 November, 2014

I can’t say I can think of a book that changed my mind, or the way I thought, some movies for sure, but then it’s possible they were based on a book. Obviously though certain books have had an impact on some people, and a dozen academics speak about the titles that brought about changes in their perspectives:

Reading The Second Shift (1989), by Arlie Russell Hochschild, was a revelation. When I graduated from college, I had refined the tools of academic success, but I didn’t know where to aim them. It wasn’t until I read The Second Shift that I understood what nonfiction could do: reveal ourselves to ourselves, without pity or condescension, and with great stores of empathy. I do what I do today – write about the triumphs and struggles of everyday people, of how we pinch and squeeze and fit ourselves into the boxes created by broad social and economic trends – because of that book’s example.

These are the thoughts of Allison Pugh an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. I agree that non-fiction can force us to confront ourselves, but I also think that fiction can be as equally persuasive.

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“Life In Half A Second” by Matthew Michalewicz

Monday, 10 November, 2014

Adelaide based entrepreneur and author Matthew Michalewicz was good enough to send me a copy of his book, Life In Half A Second, late last year. I read it, finally, for the first time last month. Then I read it a second time, between, for – I guess – good measure, dual readings of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson.

First to the title. If the four or so million years that the Earth has existed were to be crunched down into a twenty-four hour time frame, then the average seventy year human life span would equate to just half of a second of that time. Half of one second. That might as well be all the time you have to do whatever it is in life that you want to.

With the time we have in such short supply therefore, you need to be clear about what you want from life, and how to go about achieving whatever that is. The good news is the formula, if you like, for achieving this, if you like, success, is, of itself, pretty straightforward. As in five main points, straightforward.

  • Define your goals. Precisely. Then visualise them. Constantly.
  • Align your goals with your desires. What you want must be in sync with your passions.
  • Evaluate, and if need be, change your environment. Hindrances must be eliminated.
  • Map out a path to reaching your goals. Lists and baby steps will be essential.
  • Act. Reassess, and alter if necessary, your plan, and the steps you are taking.

That’s just the merest outline of what is required. A whole lot of effort will be needed if you want to get anywhere though. And that’s why “Life In Half A Second” is my sort of thing. No adherence to a philosophy, dogma, or some dubious or doubtful guru is included. Just some thoughtful planning, and then loads of hard work.

In fact the hard work part is one reason people don’t prevail. It seems many of us simply don’t want to put in the hard yards. Or to take the requisite leap of faith in ourselves. It’s all too hard. How could it ever be possible, and the like. Of course it was once believed a mile couldn’t be run in less than four minutes. Oh really?

And so I’m going to give it a go. I already feel overwhelmed as I write this, but it is, after all, a case of do or do not. Sharing your goals with others is also part of the process, perhaps the only thing I’m not so sure of, however a modest financial objective, and the writing of a novel manuscript, possibly not for publication, are two I’ll mention.

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Some of the best film adaptations of books

Monday, 27 October, 2014

If you think that the hit rate for films that have been successfully adapted from books is low, then this list of features that are regarded as such, might change your line of thinking, offer some hope, what have you.

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How much fiction is in fact based on non-fiction, or actual events?

Monday, 27 October, 2014

It is widely assumed that the work of many fiction writers is in some way autobiographical, or based, in part at least, on their personal experience. Why then go to sometimes elaborate lengths to disguise their writing as fiction?

Eager to find a form of expression for ideas or feelings that would upset a status quo we are all heavily invested in, writers have often invented stories quite different from their own biographies or from the political situation in which they find themselves, but that nevertheless reconstitute the play of forces, the dilemmas and conundrums behind their own preoccupations.

So there’s some actual doubt, I’d say. You never know how useful that might be one day.

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The favourite books of the famous and influential

Wednesday, 15 October, 2014

It occurs to me I’m not reading enough books at the moment. Therefore I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” last week, and am about to start “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson, after I’ve read “Life in Half a Second”, by Matthew Michalewicz, a tome I think I need to read. And absorb.

I’ve had to cut back on the movies I watch to do achieve though, but I’ve probably been a little over-weight films these last few years anyway.

Long story short, I’m often on the look out for reading ideas, so this list of the favourite books of people such as Bill Murray, Michelle Obama, Robin Williams, Olivia Munn, Hillary Rodham Clinton, James Franco, and forty-four other “cultural icons”, might have come along at just the right time.

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