Posts Tagged ‘ Books ’

Why I love Cormac McCarthy

Full disclosure: Cormac McCarthy is an author I put off reading for a very, very long time.

I first heard of him when I was, I don’t know, 15 or 16– high school aged. I never heard anything bad about him– indeed, he is one of the authors that one of my good friends has always recommended to me.

But it took me many years to actually get around to him.

I’m so incredibly glad that I finally did.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I bought The Road at the bookstore which adjoins one of my coffee shops.

When I buy a new book, I usually keep my expectations low. That way I’m rarely disappointed.

For the first few pages, McCarthy’s stylistic usage of punctuation (a.k.a. lack thereof) gave me a twitch. His disuse of punctuation is unorthodox, and since I’m kind of a grammar nerd it irked me.

But the story! The descriptions! The pictures he was painting with such brevity!

I soon got over the stylized punctuation, instead reading it like poetry.

And oh, how have I fallen in love.

I’m amazed at his mastery of the English language. Somehow, with so few words, he evokes such powerful emotion, and such vivid pictures.

When I’m reading one of Cormac McCarthy’s books, I feel like I’m a guest in his brain, following each thought from its birth to its conclusion, and tracking and understanding the entire journey. His books don’t feel like books normally do to me– they really do feel like a journey.

I’ve complained before about how I burn through books, and even though The Road was a 4 hour book for me, it was a very powerful 4 hours.

I love Cormac McCarthy because he somehow accomplishes everything I strive to accomplish as a writer while using fewer words than seem possible, but he never feels like he’s skimping words. I feel like if I were to sit and talk with him, he would speak exactly how he writes.

I love Cormac McCarthy because he’s better than I’ll ever be, but not in a way that discourages me.

I just love Cormac McCarthy, guys.


Inspiration vs. Discouragement.

Lately I’ve been re-reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I figured it’s about time, since I haven’t gone galavanting around the galaxy with Arthur and Ford since high school.

Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors. His way of looking at the world is so pessimistically original that it resonates with my very soul, and every carefully constructed concept is seasoned heavily with his very particular sense of humor.

I find his style very inspiring, and if I could be ten percent as brilliant, clever and funny as Douglas Adams I’d be totally happy with my life.

Whenever I’m exposing myself to something I find inspiring, however, whether it’s words or art or music or anything at all, I can only absorb and consume so much before I stop being inspired and start being discouraged.

It’s like I have a inspiration quota, and anything that overflows the inspiration tanks goes immediately into the discouragement tanks.

Through the first half of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I thought “Wow, this guy is brilliant, I should read all of his stuff.”

Slowly though as I’ve read more and more of his work, my thoughts have evolved from admiration and aspiration to that level of brilliance to “Douglas Adams is so much more awesome than I could ever hope to be. Why should I even try?”

That’s the point at which I put down the book and go do something else with my life.

Unfortunately though this is my relationship with so many things– Music and the Internet in particular. If I spend a short amount of time online looking at art and then get offline, I’m much more likely to then spend time creating things than if I stay and continue seeking inspiration. (Which is part of the reason I’ve been so bad about blogging regularly lately; I’ve been seeking inspiration on the internet which is almost always like chasing after the wind.)

The same thing also goes for my newly-renewed fitness goals. I have to very consciously set my goals small, because if I dream too big I’ll only end up being disappointed in myself. The story has to go “I’ll make it to the top of this hill,” or “I’ll just do a few more,” instead of “I’m going to run a marathon this summer,” or “I have to do fifty.”

I’m trying to learn how to recognize my inspiration quota so I spend more time creating and being and doing and less time wishing I were better at creating and being and doing.

That’s all.

My Understanding of Twilight.

I know it’s a pop culture thing or whatever, but I’ve never read or seen Twilight. It’s a point of pride with me.

However I’ve learned about its existence and something of the plot from the Internet.

So, without further ado, here is my entire understanding of the Twilight series. Enjoy.


My Strange Relationship with Books

As far as I can tell, I’ve never had a normal relationship with books.

Maybe it’s from being homeschooled. Maybe it’s strictly that I’m strange. Most likely it’s a combination of both.

Anyway, my observations have informed me that the way normal people interact with books is something like this.

They’ll have a book that they’re reading for a while; days, weeks, months even. It’s a nice way to spend free time, a companion for lonely lunch hours. A chapter here, a few pages there.

I cannot relate to books in this fashion.

Mostly, I don’t understand how people keep track of the plot. If something important happens that was referred to in chapter one, which you read two weeks ago, how can you remember it?

I mean, I’ve had this problem with the few books I’ve had a “normal” relationship with. (Mostly school books. Figures.)

The thought has crossed my mind that I suffer from memory problems, but that doesn’t affect my mode of interacting with literature, which usually goes something like this.

I acquire a book, read the back, flip through for maps, pictures, and snippets of dialogue. I let the book ferment for a few days, waiting for a day off. Then, when the glorious day of freedom finally arrives, I devour the book in as little time as possible.

This has some downsides– it’s made me late to work on more than one occasion, and when I’m in the middle of a story, I find it difficult to focus on anything else, causing me to stare off into space at random times.

Also, I’d really prefer not to run out of books so quickly, since it’s been a long time since I’ve found a book that took me more than a day or two to read.

However, I would never change my relationship with books. Despite its downsides, I love the total immersion feeling I get when I’m in the midst of a good book. It’s an adventure. Nothing quite like adventures in imagination!

So, how do you interact with books? Do you like it? Do you read like I think most people do or am I really not that weird?

Some Spiritual Blips

Every experience is one more step toward trading one’s youth for wisdom.

That was an epiphany I had while pondering some of Donald Miller’s thoughts.

I’m glad I didn’t start reading Miller’s books when people first started telling me to. If I had read Blue Like Jazz when I was 15 when I first heard about it, I wouldn’t have taken anything away from it. “Oh yay, goody,” I would have thought, but I wouldn’t really have been needled by his thoughts like I am now.

Needled in a good way.

The sequence in which I’ve been reading books about Jesus or Christianity or Church has been really beneficial. Each book I pick up, I’m glad that I read the other books before it.

I read unChristian  when I was finally coming to terms with my struggles with traditional, denominational church. I can’t do denominational, formulaic church– it severely handicaps my relationship with Jesus. Then God brought me to the Ragamuffin Gospel, which helped me recognize that my struggles are indeed with church, not Jesus. This one kept me from giving up on Jesus based on how poorly his followers represent him.

Then Summer gave me a copy of Sense and Sensibility, which helped me make sense of my relationships with my sisters, both of whom are more important than any church.

Just as I was reaching the low apex of my relationship with God– frustrated with myself and my lack of understanding and wisdom, discouraged about my relationship with God, and lacking social connections– God brought me Through Painted Deserts.

I put off reading it for like a week. “I need to finish The Shack,” I said, but finally I gave up and gave in. I admit I partially started reading it out of guilt– it was a gift from my dear friends Pat and Mandy, and I wanted to read it so I could talk with them about it.

Also, I think I knew in the back of my heart that it would challenge me and needle me.

Which it did.

At first I was like “Donald Miller’s writing style is so much like mine,” but then it switched to “Why didn’t I think of this first?” because one of my biggest fears (as a Hargrove) is unoriginality.

Then, finally, I just finished Blue Like Jazz yesterday morning. Miller’s candor and honesty are so, so refreshing. Most Jesus followers that I’ve met would not be able to air their doubts, share their journey, and chronicle their conclusions like Miller did/does, much less publish them.

However,  I can admit that I agree with Miller without having thought of these things first, because I’m realizing that learning from from people who are wiser than me doesn’t make me unoriginal– it helps make me wise.

And that’s when I imagined trading all my youth for wisdom in one shot, and that’s how I came to the conclusion that life is one long string of experiences which ultimately cause us to trade our youth for wisdom.

I never want to be so drunk on youth that I don’t consider the wisdom of people who know better than me, though.

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