In the comments below my COVID diaries, reader Helen noted that ours is one of the few comments sections she reads and that it’s “helpful and reassuring to read about other people's experiences.” I agree 100%. (We have the nicest bunch of people on the internet!)
Here are 10 things that made it through my brain fog this week:
The gift of obscurity. (See also: my message to graduates.)
Amazingly, I’ve been able to read a lot of (short) books this week. Nothing that completely blew my socks off, but the closest was cartoonist Kate Beaton’s (not short) memoir, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, which will get a lot of deserved acclaim when it comes out this fall. I really admire the way Beaton was able to tackle such serious subject matter while keeping the lightness and looseness of her line. Really fine cartooning. (And hats off to the folks at Drawn and Quarterly who continue to put out such beautiful books. You’ll want to check out their warehouse sale next week.)
I read all 3 of Robert D. Richardson’s great biographies, so I was well-primed to enjoy an advance copy of his posthumous book, Three Roads Back: How Emerson, Thoreau, and William James Responded to the Greatest Losses of Their Lives.
Ted Gioia shares 12 books that changed how he heard music. A few are old favorites of mine: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and Lewis Hyde’s The Gift. (I have Susan Sontag’s On Photography on my shelf, so I might read that next.)
I’d never read Jed Perl’s art criticism, but a sentence that someone posted out-of-context got me interested in his book, Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts. I wasn’t all that swayed by the defense, but I like the core idea: that art comes out of the tension between embracing the authority of what’s come before and the urge to break free from it with something new. (This is a good review.)
Speaking of creative tensions, in late August I am giving a new talk at the DIY Musician’s Conference here in Austin, Texas. It will be my first in-person appearance in several years. You can get tickets here and if you use the code KLEONDIY22 you can get $50 off.
Podcast: Song Exploder has long been one of my favorites, and now next month comes a new mini-series spinoff, Book Exploder, hosted by the great Susan Orlean. (If you haven’t read it yet, The Library Book is really good.)
Music: Sasha Frere-Jones gives a tour of Krautrock which pairs well with this playlist of “Motorik” grooves.
TV: if you’d like a light binge-watch, I recommend The Offer, a mini-series about producer Al Ruddy’s experiences making The Godfather.
RIP actor James Caan, who starred in at least two of my family’s very favorite movies: The Godfather and Elf. This weekend I plan to re-watch him in Michael Mann’s Thief. (It’s streaming on Kanopy — check your library card to see if you have access.)
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PS. Lifted my spirits to see this photo of Steal Like an Artist surrounded by one of my heroes, David Hockney, in Glasgow, Scotland:
I never experience it as 'boredom', but I do experience what I call 'fallow times', and actually treasure them for the 'emptiness' and the surprising things that my brain has space to encounter. Wrote recently about it, if interested, at: https://groggorg.blogspot.com/2022/01/writing-life-three-tips-for-and-in.html
Your diary notes mention boredom. If, growing up , the words ‘I’m bored ‘ ever passed my lips I was told ‘life is boring only to boring people!’ Once again mother was right.