Quoting the Quill: Why Read?

 

I’m back with my weekly round-up of great quotes. I’ve changed the name, inspired by the art and the brilliance of Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic which I found this week. She’s invited people to participate so here I am, jumping on board in my own way.

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From Haruki Murakami

“Have books ‘happened’ to you? Unless your answer to that question is ‘yes’, I’m unsure how to talk to you.”

This is the first Quoting of the Quill I stumbled upon and what drew my attention. These words could form my life motto! It’s not as if I think everyone needs to read as voraciously as I do, but when I meet someone who doesn’t “get reading,” I know we can be friendly but never really friends. Sad but true.

From Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.

A follow-up to the first quote from one of my favorite writers, this is today’s Goodreads Quote of the Day. I’ve walked in so many other worlds and so many periods of history thanks to books. I can’t imagine living any other way. (If you haven’t yet read The Namesake, I highly recommend.)

From Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

“When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.”

I adore this distinction between print and audio books (as I adored the entire book). I’m relatively late to the audio game and confine my listening to my daily commute. I still prefer the printed word because I like to do some of the creative work, but the image of the “fuzzy knit cap” is one I can’t shake. That’s exactly what it’s like to listen to a really good audio book.

From Penelope Lively, Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir

“Reading fiction, I see through the prism if another person’s understanding; reading everything else, I am traveling…The one entirely benign mind-altering drug.”

Do you sense a theme in this week’s quotes. Yes, I love reading writers who love books as much as I do. Lively is an author I can always count on for great writing, so it’s no surprise that her memoir relishes her life in objects that include lots and lots of books. I want to be her friend.

From Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

And a departure from the reading theme, but I couldn’t help including this great paragraph from the brilliant Joan Didion. When I first read this collection of essays a couple of years ago, it blew me away for its precise, straight-to-the-heart observations on living. So much of what she writes about in terms of politics, sexuality and self-knowledge is timeless.

Looking for more great quotes?  Check out: More Quoting the Quill at Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic or Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies.

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention this week.

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines

So many quotes made me stop and think this week. Here are a few.

From Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

“And her joy would become a restless thing, flapping it’s wings inside her, as though looking for an opening to fly away.”

Restless joy is such a great image. So many great books involve characters afraid of their own joy. Ifemelu is no exception. This quote is the moment my heart opened up to her in this book. I am taking my time reading her story and enjoying the language Adichie uses to tell it.

 

From Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans

“I felt the way I often felt in this country — simultaneously conspicuous and invisible, like an oddity whom everyone noticed but chose to ignore.”

Henriquez is speaking specifically of the immigrant experience, but this quote resonated with me as some who always feels a little apart from the mainstream. I don’t think that’s a product of my Mexican heritage, but perhaps is roots are there. Se hit the nail on the head with the feeling of being “simultaneously conspicuous and invisible.” Maybe that’s a place we’ve all been?

 

From Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

“I don’t know what I’m doing. I never knew what I was doing. I just jumped in and tried, no manual, I tried as hard as I could, and for the second time in my son’s life, I missed the important cue.”

This one hit me like a punch in the gut. These are seriously true words about motherhood. There is not training or guidebook that can possibly prepare us for truly knowing what we are doing. Am I making mistake? Am I missing important cues? I only know that I’m trying as hard as I can.

 

From Pearl S. Buck

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”

My favorite Goodreads quote of the day this week. I hold these words as a reminder of how I choose to live my life. I don’t want to chase the big dream so hard that I lose sight of the everyday blessings. I really think the blogosphere celebrates this philosophy. So many of us are writing about the seemingly “small joy” moments of beauty and laughter and love that fills our days. I really enjoyed The Good Earth when I read it with my book club. I may have to add another Pearl Buck to my list.

 

From Kate Atkinson, interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on ‘The South Bank Show’ [Sky Arts]

“Fiction is about making the chaos in my head into objective external order.”

All credit for finding this quote goes to sandra danby, a blog I only recently discovered. I encourage you to read Sandra’s original thoughts on this quote. It resonates with me, not only because I’m a big fan of Atkinson’s work, but because I’m attracted to the idea that we can make sense of the chaos in our heads. I think it explains why I always journaled, now blog. When I can set my thoughts down, I can organize them, at least a bit.

 

Looking for more great quotes?

Check out: Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines Quotes, past and current.

From Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

“How can both worlds exist, the one where a life is meaningful and the one where it means nothing? Does not the presence of one negate the other? Emily is dead. Children are raped. Mothers have killed. Isn’t it obvious that what is happening to me does not matter?”

Fewer than 100 pages into reading this book, and already loving its tone and its characters. Avis is struggling with the breakup of her marriage after almost 30 years.  While I don’t share her struggle, I get the agony of living among evil sometimes. McBride is doing a great job of dealing with pretty meaty issues, while the focus stays on great storytelling.

From Dan Chaon, Among the Missing

As her husband held her close, she could feel the pulse of other choices, other lives, opening up beneath her. Her past crackled behind her like a terrible lightning, branches and branches, endless, and then nothing. ”

Who has not wondered about the path not taken? I can’t help but do it on occasion. But in Dan Chaon’s hands, that innocent wonder becomes something electrifying. The “what if” is really the concept that holds the entire collection together.

From Amy Bloom

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.

My favorite Goodreads Quote of the Day this week. I have not yet gotten around to reading Bloom’s newest book, Lucky Us, but I hope to get to it this summer. In a culture that places so much importance on image, it’s always nice to be reminded that it is our imperfections that give us character and true beauty.

From R.J. Palacio, Wonder

“She said soft words that I knew were meant to help me, but words can’t change my face.”

Another old Goodreads review that popped up this week. Wonder was the first children’s (even younger than YA) fiction that I had read in some years, but I loved it despite the manipulation of my heart-strings. This quote always reminds me of the flip-side of “words can hurt.” Of course words, especially the taunts of peers, can hurt. The sad truth is that words cannot fix the perception (or reality) of deformity or illness or even perceived ugliness. Such a simple truth from Auggie, a truly remarkable narrator.

Looking for more great quotes?

Check out: Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies or Every Day Has. You can also find bookish quotes on Book Quotes Hub.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

Best Book Quotes of the Week

Best Book Lines Quotes, past and current.

 

From Julian Barnes, The Lemon Table

“Geese would be beautiful if cranes did not exist.”

Julian Barnes would be the crane of literary fiction writers in this example. Not sure why my Goodreads review of this collection is suddenly getting some “likes” but I’m thrilled to be taken back this simple, but beautiful thought. I loved this collection of stories and I’m thinking I may need another Barnes fix.

From Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone

“The young can cut you with their unrounded edges…but they can also push you right up to the window of the future and push you through.”

Another old Goodreads review that popped up this week. I still haven’t figured out why this short review remains one of my most liked , but since I’ve been thinking a lot about how my sons are too quickly maturing from boys to men, this quote resonates with me. I give them much credit for pushing me right into the future.

From Ruth Ozeki,  “A Conversation with Ruth Ozeki” at the end of My Year of Meats

“I want to write novels that engage the emotions and the intellect, and that means going head to head with the chaos of evils and issues that threaten to overpower us all. And if they threaten to overpower the characters, then I have to make the characters stronger.”

No surprise that she perfectly describes why I love reading her books so much. Her books engage me on multiple levels with just the right amount of chaos, strength of character and story resolution.

From Lisa See, China Dolls

“Dreamers are born to be disappointed.”

This is such a melancholy thought and it’s the one that underlies most of the novel. It’s the flip side of my usual “dare to dream” approach to living. It just made me think.

From Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

“Let the wild rumpus start!”

My favorite Goodreads quote of the day this week. I read it and felt a whirlwind of emotional recall. I remember reading it repeatedly as a child and then sharing with my own sons. This book captured all our imaginations. (And, it’s a great quote to start the weekend!)

 

Looking for more great quotes?

Check out: Thursday Quotables at Bookshelf Fantasies or Every Day Has. You can also find bookish quotes on Book Quotes Hub.

 

I’d love to know what lines have caught your attention.

My 2012, A Year of Momentous Change

change aheadA year ago I could not have predicted the momentous changes in store for me in 2012, both personally and professionally. I was just kind of rolling along, balancing several jobs, taking care of our sons, finding time for family and reading. I had committed to reviewing all the books I read on Goodreads and was just dabbling in the wider world on blogging, via Tumblr.

For the past 13 years, I had always thought that I’d have time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life once my kids were “a little older.” I was so fortunate to have a built a good part-time job around my needs, working for Chicago Parent. But I was feeling restless, and seriously concerned about sending three boys into private high school in a few years.

Early in 2012, I met with a long-time friend in a more professional capacity. Patti is a former boss who years ago had made the decision to give up the 9-5 security and launch her own business, Go Girl Communications.  She connects mom-bloggers with businesses. And, seriously, I thought it was some kind of make-believe profession. Then we started to talk about this growing “social media” potential and I discovered how easy WordPress made it to combine words, books and pictures.

So in March 2012 I launched alenaslife, half-part a whim and half-part a plan to commit to writing as my professional future. I put myself “out there” and redoubled my efforts to pick up new assignments and make contacts outside my Chicago Parent world. I read other blogs, did research and talked to anyone who was willing to share their advice. I immersed myself in social media – WordPress, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest.  I could do this and still be a mom, I thought.

But 2012 had other designs.things will not stay

While searching for a summer camp for my sons, I happened upon a job opening in public relations at my alma mater. I had stayed only loosely connected to my high school, but the job description seemed so absolutely perfectly, that I took a chance and applied.

I got the job.

In July, I re-entered the world of full-time employment. The change to my life (my children’s and husband’s lives too) was immediate. I know I made the right choice, but it’s not easy to go from keeping my own schedule to having a starting and ending time to my job. We are all still adjusting.

On the positive side, I love the school for which I work and the people, now friends, I’ve come to know. But, timing is everything, and starting a new job meant I lost the traction I had with my blog and my writing. I quite simply do not have the time to read and write the way I would wish.

Meanwhile, I was still trying to spend as much time as possible with my father, who was suffering the debilitating effects of ALS. Since he lived almost an hour away, I couldn’t see him as much as I wanted, but I tried to be there for him, for his wife, for my brother, for me. He was so excited about my new job, about my growing sense of confidence in myself, in his grandsons.

Then, in September, too soon, he died. I am grateful he is no longer suffering; but I am still dealing with the knowledge that my dad is gone. Even if we went weeks without talking to each other, I always knew he was there. Now, he is not. It’s strange and sad.

things changeSo, here I am as 2012 draws to a close, wondering what changes I can expect in 2013. I know “change is good,” but I sincerely hope that 12 months from now I am not contemplating a life with a new job and a major personal loss.

I wish you all a peaceful and happy new year.

Love what you do

I frequently question why I do this. Why do I feel guilty when I don’t post “enough”? Should I schedule the post even though it could stand more editing? Is it OK to re-use copy from a previous post? Are there too many book reviews and not enough life? Really, is this a blog or a journal? What’s the difference?

These are the questions that run through my brain at the oddest hours. They steal moments when I should be folding laundry or vacuuming. They nag at me every time I ask my sons to wait a few minutes while I finish writing. They also motivate me to get up and write when I’m zoning out in front of the television.

My life was in a different place when I launched alenaslife. I had more flexibility and freedom in my schedule. My writing assignments for work were centered around my family and personal interests, allowing me some overlap between work and blogging. Now that I’m trying to fit alenaslife around a full-time job and schoolwork, three boys full fall schedules and some semblance of a personal life, blogging isn’t so easy.

But, I always return to my personal bottom line. I love to write and I love to share. When I publish something that strikes a chord with readers and elicits comments and feedback, I am thrilled. I don’t understand the magic formula — some mix of topic, style and timing I think — but each time it happens, it’s like Christmas Day.

So, in crisis, I look to the blogosphere, where I frequently find wisdom and inspiration. About a month ago, I bookmarked a post I knew I’d need at some point. Liz Gumbinner’s Mom-101 is one of my favorite sources of humor about life. When she wrote about the blog world’s “existential angst,” I could relate. You can read the full post here, but this is the excerpt which struck me:

You serve best by doing the things you love most.

It struck me that this is the key, isn’t it? For all of us? Whatever it is. If you’re writing for love, writing for money, writing for fame and glory. Writing to bear witness or make change in the world, writing to understand your place in the world. Writing as an escape from your life for a few moments out of every hectic, whirlwind of a day. Writing to connect, writing to feel connected.

It’s all good.

It’s all okay.

It’s all important.

It’s how you serve.

It’s easy to look at people doing so much and think, I could be doing more. It’s easy to look at bloggers making wholesale changes and question your own path.

Use them to inspire you. Don’t use them to beat yourself up.

I will use Liz’s words to remind myself that whatever I blog, however often I do it, and on whichever topic strikes me that day — it’s all okay.

I would love to know what motivates or inspires you to do what you love.

Shameless self-promotion. Please vote for me.

I just received notification that I am a FINALIST in the National Library Week 6-word Story Contest. I don’t think I’ve ever been a finalist in any contest, so I’m asking you if you can take a minute to vote for my story: “I came. I read. I’m happy.”

http://atyourlibrary.org/vote-your-favorite-6-word-library-story

I’m proud to support National Library Week no matter what the outcome, but reading the 15 finalists’ stories reminded me of all the ways people across the country love their libraries. The responses are inspiring and amusing.