I read Kim Kardashian West’s book Selfish, and can’t help but like her more. (I’ve never watched the TV shows, and only know the bare sketches of her bio and place in culture at the moment.) I think any book of portraits of just one subject would have a similar effect. Just another human gettin’ by.
I read Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack and had felt many feelings. Overall a bit dry and academic. If you were obsessed with games of the era (I’m guilty), you probably know too much industry history to find anything new here in the first half, and you’re already sold on the cultural import. The second half focuses more on the music itself, and digs into music theory a bit more… but if you know a good bit about music already, it also feels like… just not enough. It still made me very nostalgic, though, and for a while I convinced myself I need to buy a Wii U or something.
I read a quarter of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, and bailed. I’m pretty sure I won’t finish, anyway. Might grab it again later to make sure I’m not missing out. For now, on to the next.
Loved this essay from Clive Thompson. The part about exporting his marginalia into a little mini-book is very intriguing. And how compelling reading changes our habits:
The phone’s extreme portability allowed me to fit Tolstoy’s book into my life, and thus to get swept up in it. And it was being swept up that, ironically, made the phone’s distractions melt away. Once you’re genuinely hankering to get back to a book, to delve into the folds of its plot and the clockwork machinations of its characters, you stop needing so much mindfulness to screen out digital diversions. The book becomes the diversion itself, the thing your brain is needling you to engage with. Stop checking your email and Twitter! You’ve got a book to read!
I read Lily King’s Euphoria, and loved it. A love triangle among anthropologists on assignment in the jungles of New Guinea! Loosely based on/inspired by the life of Margaret Mead, who seems fascinating after doing a bit of side reading. Finding lovely turns of phrase like this is one of the reasons I read:
One woman had bright gold hair, the other eyelashes like black ferns.
I read Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and enjoyed it. Short and sharp. I like the “scenes from a life” method here. Hits some highlights, not strictly chronological, plenty of asides and characters that aren’t strictly relevant to any plot (such as it is), but add color and fragrance to the story. Parts of it based around the Pacific Northwest logging scene reminded me of The Golden Spruce.
I read Elmore Leonard’s Three-Ten to Yuma, and Other Stories because I really liked the old movie that was based on the title story. The others are similarly brisk and evocative of more than they say explicitly. This was a great fit with my current reading cycle. Some small tasty bits to shake things up between a couple longer ones.
I read Anne Garréta’s Sphinx, and there’s a crazy Oulipian experiment going on here. Once you realize the constraint that makes this book strange and different, you can’t help but be impressed that it was 1) written and 2) translated well (shout-out to Deep Vellum). It’s a story of the narrator’s obsession and romance, “caught up in a love that was always uncompleting itself”. I enjoyed it.
I read Timothy Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis, and really enjoyed it. It’s one of those “hub” books you come across every so often, where you realize there are spokes sticking out into a bunch of other stuff that’s been on your mind lately.
Gallwey’s working theory here is about the internal dichotomy between “Self 1” and “Self 2” in performance. Self 1 is that voice inside, that part of you that “knows” how to do things, that instructs, urges, reprimands, exhorts. Self 2 is the one that does things. Given that Self 1 is so eager to “try hard” and correct and evaluate, successful practice and performance is about building trust for Self 2 and learning through practice and simple observation.
Letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them.
Mindfulness! There’s a flip side of that, too – Self 1 can be too pleased with itself when things are going well. Self-congratulations also takes you out of the moment. I really like this section, about avoiding criticism as we learn:
When plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless”. We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential.
Another interesting bit:
If you think you are controlled by a habit, then you will feel you have to try to break it. […] There is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones.
And I thought this was nicely phrased…
Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested.
Focus isn’t something we do, it’s something that results.
I also like one final section on the games that people play aside from the actual game itself. We each tend to embrace different goals within the game: to be perfect, to be better than the other guy, to appear to be great, to bond, to learn, to be challenged, etc. Each of these motivations influence and contaminate and distract us from performance to some degree.
Very highly recommended!
Some other related posts around here: Never try to look cool and learn something at the same time. Nervous is good. Performance vs. editing. In order to have your best performance you have to be relaxed. That eye-on-the-object look. Reality not maybe is zen. Festina lente. Willing to be shit at things. Forever the 5-year-old of something. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you.
I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, but it took me a while. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s a wispy, ambiguous snoozer. Seems like a book you really have to just vacuum up in one fell swoop… or save it and nibble every now and then. I took the slow route.
I re-read Crucial Conversations, a book I’d read for a previous job years and years ago. It’s proven its worth many times over. It’s all about creating safety when you need to hold people accountable, or have other awkward conversations where your counterpart’s defenses (and your own!) are going to be on high alert.
I read John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, but only 1/3 or so. Onward!