Issue 18: Picturing the Writing Life
Some scenes about words, Pachinko, listening to Grant Snider, and a little more.
Hello. Welcome, new subscribers. Oldies, hello to you, too. I hope you were all well during my time away, and I hope you’re ready to get back to it. Here we go, and here’s some of what I’m up to lately:
Living this writer’s routine (plus children);
Asking about IG; and
Reading Min Jin Lee and Kristi Coulter and Doug Pederson (by proxy).
1. Writerly people, look familiar?
If you follow my podcast as it comes out, you might remember my conversation with the frustratingly multi-talented Grant Snider. We talked about all the scheduling and discipline that goes into Grant’s routine of making work. And he kindly gave me permission to share this one with you:
And if you want to listen to our chat, it’s right here 👇
More on Grant: He’s on Instagram. His weekly work shows up at Incidental Comics. And you could barely spend your time better than laughing your way through one of his books. We’ve got his newer collection, The Art of Living, hanging around downstairs right now.
And speaking of my show, I plan to start season three of Writers and Writings in September and, again, run through May of next year. Go ahead and subscribe if you like.
2. 📵 but 💻 so 🤷🏻♀️
I need some insight. For a reason or two, I’m feeling the need to re-engage some form of social channel. I hate it, but what are you going to do? Of course, Twitter is out for similar reasons why I’m not joining ISIS. I assume I’m too young for regular Facebook. I’m fairly certain I’ve not said TikTok out loud, and on my first attempt at typing it, I came up with “Tick Tock” until Hannah intervened. That leaves, more or less, Instagram. I have an account, but I never use it except every once in a while to communicate with illustrators and designers. But now that you can post from a desktop, it seems like it may be possible to participate in that space without the same drawbacks as some of the other places. Is that true? For those of you on IG, have you found ways to post and interact that are healthy and don’t bleed into non-work life? If you’ve got a minute, let me know. You can reply to this email or shoot me a separate one at email@example.com. Thanks.
3. Here’s (some of) what I’ve been reading.
Pachinko. Funny story: I came into a particular moment in this novel while sitting in a room full of men from Hannah’s side of the family, tears loitering around my eyes and cheekbones. If anyone noticed, no one said anything. Mild awkwardness aside, the point is that for about a week I read Pachinko just about everywhere I was. You might think the 512 pages of Min Jin Lee’s novel would take a while to get through. But when I read Pachinko in the last spring, I finished it faster than I remember ever reading a novel of any substantial length. The story itself pulls you in, no doubt. Lee creates an engulfing and unsettling world, likely more reflective of others’ realities than I can grasp. There’s something else, too, and I want to think about it some more. Lee’s work here comes confoundingly readable, though the book isn’t all that USA Today even if it’s not intensely literary — not like the slogging read of, say, The Goldfinch. Pachinko includes plenty of foreign concepts and code switches, yet I kept turning pages and never felt the fatigue that normally comes along with immersive stories like this. There’s a magic in that, and I want to find it. If you find it first, let me know.
Yeah, I don’t know anything about the Amazon movie, but I’d probably set expectations low. Given, you know, Amazon.
Nothing Good Can Come from This. I haven’t read these essays in order, so I can’t exactly tell you how far along I am. We’ve talked about this before, I know, but essay writing is what I like best (even though I’m not the best at it) and Kristi Coulter’s collection gives a good showing why. Hers are linked around her giving up alcohol and the world she finds on the other side of it. She offers the variety of form you’d expect from an essay collection, but in hopping around the book like I’m doing, I’m seeing the book’s cohesion, too. Which means, so far, preferable artistry.
Fearless: How an Underdog Becomes a Champion. I did read a lot of YA sports biographies when I was young. But I don’t read campaign books by politicians. I don’t read books by “influencers” or non-writer celebrities. So this is my first foray into a whole genre. I’m reading Doug Pederson’s book — written by The Athletic’s Dan Pompei — to get a closer glimpse at the football life of my hometown’s new head coach.
I know I’ve talked about Cloud Cuckoo Land here a few times. It’s my summer thing. In fact, at the beginning of July, we at Common Good shared our summer reads, and I said this:
I know, it’s been the better part of a year since Doerr’s new novel came out. Other books needed attention, you see, and we moved into a new house, and I’m sure supply chains somehow disrupted something. But summer is here now, and my mildly looser schedule means much-awaited space for Cloud Cuckoo Land. Why awaited so? To describe the kaleidoscope of ways Doerr’s last novel, All the Light We Cannot See, affected me and the affection I hold for that story would take too much space. The character of Daniel LeBlanc incarnated both my fears and hopes as a father of daughters, and Doerr exposed them with exactly the kinds of sentences I would want to use were I a better writer. So, sure, the next several weeks will include some writing books to discuss with work friends, parts of the Scriptures, a couple of books you might call “research” — The Truth at the Heart of the Lie, for one; Love and Saint Augustine, for another — and occasional dips in and out of Nick Offerman’s Where the Deer and the Antelope Play. Mainly, though, Cloud Cuckoo Land.
See y’all soon.
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