Book Launch for The Skin Above My Knee – 2.21.17 – at Book Culture NYC
MARCIA’S BEST BOOKS AND MORE – 1.18.17
What I do every day just before I begin to write:
I spend ten minutes listening to music with specific attention to emotional connection. No phone, no computer, obviously. Sound waves dissipate but never end; they are infinite. With this in mind, my intention is to connect with something creative which never dies. This is my daily practice. Now that I’ve gotten that highfalutin stuff out of the way, here’s what I’ve got.
Books I just read:
Wesley Lowery: The Can’t Kill Us All – This book, scrupulously reported and beautifully written, is a vital and necessary accounting of our ongoing and most recent deplorable history of race relations. (Edited by the luminous Vanessa Mobley. I know her.)
Colson Whitehead: The Underground Railroad – A colossal heartbreaker of a novel. Every award so well deserved.
Richard Russo: Bridge of Sighs – Perhaps his most intimate look at marriage. He is just so crazy good.
Han Kang: The Vegetarian – A rigorous and lean exploration of human impulse and monstrous strength. Loved it.
Daniyal Mueenuddin: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – A fabulous lens into the various stations of life in Pakistan. Beautifully woven. Cooked with a slow simmer. Occasional burns. Okay. I’ll stop. Anyway, it’s really, really great.
Books everyone should read:
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Between the World and Me – Please? Every single person in the US (and the world) needs to read this book.
Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Destroyed me and woke me up simultaneously, which is what I love a novel to do. Then I read his volume of short stories, Drown. Part of my memoir is in second person, thanks to Diaz.
Joshua Ferris: And Then We Came to the End – Lynn Mason – My God, I actually had dreams about her for weeks. This book is so original in its concept and narrative. Who could think and then write this way? Mr. Ferris, apparently.
Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon – I’ve read this book at least four times. Enough said.
Philip Roth: American Pastoral – The best catastrophic family epic novel ever. IMHO.
A few authors I’ve binged on:
This means that I read one book and then had to read everything else they wrote, and in many cases, one right after the other. Full disclosure: I also stalked/you-tubed them, as available.
Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Alice Munroe, Raymond Carver, Jonathan Dee
Books on deck to read:
Everybody’s Fool: Richard Russo
High Dive: Jonathan Lee
Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov (I know, I know. Pathetic that I’ve not read this yet. I’m a literary mess – so many gaps, so little time.)
Authors to dine with:
Gloria Steinem – Because: she faked being a playboy bunny and then proceeded, throughout her life, to speak the truth for every woman, whether they liked her or not. Then and now. (PS: bunny ears have now turned into pussy ears. But that’s another rant.)
Stephen King – Because: Carrie and The Shining. I would happily drive to Maine where he lives for this dinner. While I was there, I’d hope to witness a moose crossing the road. Another unfulfilled dream.
Philip Roth – Because: he’s Philip Roth.
Patti Smith – Because: she’s not afraid to have her “office” in Queens, where I lived for 25 years and was always secretly embarrassed about. Plus, I saw her come out of the Chelsea Hotel back in the 70’s when I lived around the corner, and somehow I knew who she was even though I was a classical oboe player. Plus, Just Kids. Plus, filling in for Bob Dylan when he was a no-show at the Nobel’s.
This is off the beaten path, but Chuck Close. Can someone please put me in touch for a dinner (my treat) so I can talk to him about exploring and discovering identity through his art? Which I believe is similar to memoir.
What I do every night just before I go to sleep: I randomly select a DVD from the 14 seasons of the 1980’s TV series Dallas and spend about 20 minutes with JR, Sue Ellen, Bobby, Pamela, Miss Ellie, Jock (who has a best friend named Punk), and later Clayton Farlow who marries Miss Ellie after Jock dies in a plane crash in the interior of a South American jungle in an unspecified country. The Zen of Dallas. It puts me to sleep. And I dream of betrayal, malfeasance and shoulder pads.
“Art has a way of confronting us, of reminding us, of engaging us, in what it means to be human; and what it means to be human is to be flawed, is to be contradictory, is to be often weak. Yet despite all of these, what we would consider drawbacks, we’re also quite beautiful.”
— Junot Diaz
Time Warner at Columbus Circle, in the air and in the water.
“Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will not write to be outlaw heroes of some under culture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.”
— Jonathan Franzen
A written narrative arc is just like a melody, or a well-designed space; words or notes or objects are arranged to optimum advantage and ultimate beauty. I string words together and, like notes from an oboe or furniture in a room, they eventually tell a story for the listener or the observer or the reader. The pieces become the whole, and when the finished product literally resonates in the air, the oboe, the walls and the words can sing. The universality of this impulse gathers us together and reflects what is beautiful in us all. Marcia Butler
I was in Rome at the Villa Borghese a few years ago and was astounded at the Bernini sculptures. The fluidity of motion mesmerized me. These Hellenistic marble statues of hermaphrodites from about 170 AD are just as luscious. The Pergamon exhibit at the Met Museum – 2016. The Greeks started it all.
“A story is not like a road to follow…it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows.”
— Alice Munro
The East River at sunset never fails to thrill. Especially in black and white. These images show North and South views – and all the while The East River current is strong and contrary.