Friday Reads: The “It’s What Goats Do” Edition

From the “Fabrication and Impermanence” chapter of What Makes You Not a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse:

Consider cooking a hen’s egg. Without constant change, the cooking of an egg cannot occur. The cooked-egg result requires some fundamental causes and conditions. Obviously you need an egg, a pot of water, and some sort of heating element. And then there are some not-so-essential causes and conditions, such as a kitchen, lights, an egg timer, a hand to put the egg into the pot. Another important condition is absence of interruption, such as a power outage or a goat walking in and overturning the pot.

I love that last line. Freakin’ goats….

Awake in the World

Taking a break from the break I’ve taken from the online world to mention this: Awake in the World: Riverfeet Press Anthology, a “collection of stories, essays, and poems about wildlife, adventure, and the environment, from over forty authors, both U.S. and abroad.” I mention it because I am one of those authors, via an essay I wrote called “A Path to the Wild.”

A short excerpt:

Those summer days fading into nights outside didn’t always lead to bucolic campouts. These were the 70s; my ear for stories of UFOs and cattle mutilations would make me wake wide-eyed with fear should I hear an airplane or, even worse, a helicopter pass overhead in the darkness. With the 1975 release of Jaws, I was frightened to swim in nearby Frenchtown Pond, though I did it anyway, for fear of teeth from the deep. In the wake of that predator-as-villain film, there were a rash of copycats. One was a movie called Grizzly, which I didn’t see, whose ads featured copy describing the beast as “18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!” I asked my dad how tall 18 feet was, and he pointed high up on the side of the house and said, “About that high.” For nights after I lay in my sleeping bag staring at the side of the old place, dumbstruck that an animal could be so gigantic, waiting for it to come and drag me away.

The book has just come available for the pre-release sales price of $13. Support small independent presses and order one, if you are so inclined, HERE. And let me know what you think!

Wasn’t That Just Like Bill?

From the essay “The Short List” in A Fly Rod of Your Own, the new book from Fly Fishing Hall of Famer John Gierach:

Forty-eight hours later there was two feet of immaculate snow on the ground at the lower elevations and more than twice that amount in the high country to the west. And it was that dense, heavy, spring-like stuff that turns shrubs into moguls, builds precarious white hats on fence posts, and makes a snow shovel heavier than you care to lift too many times in a row. In Minnesota, where I grew up, they called this “heart-attack snow” because every winter it would spell the end for any number of elderly midwesterners. They’d trek out to shovel their driveways at age eighty-nine to avoid paying the neighbor kid a dollar and come back feetfirst. At the funerals people would say, “Wasn’t that just like Bill?”

Reviewing this one for the Indy next week. I’m halfway through, and I love it. Gierach is proof that the best fly fishing writing is barely even about fly fishing.

Another quote of his I love: “Fly-fishing is solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It’s not even clear if catching fish is actually the point.”

I took last year off from fishing. If I find my way back stream-side this year, Gierach’s book will be a big reason why.

The Spirit Embodied Herein

One of the downsides to working at a bookstore, even merely part-time, is that it has largely robbed me of my zest for wandering around in bookstores, looking at new books, etc. It isn’t as fun when you already know what is coming out and when. I get excited for new nonfiction but, with only a handful of exceptions, I can’t bring myself to care about new fiction. Especially from new writers, who all seem to be largely the same person. Thanks academia. I’ll be dead before I can get through all the books I already have anyway.

I do like poking around in used bookstores, though. I like watching for out-of-print editions from the writers I like. I particularly love old mass market paperbacks. Like this awesome old edition of Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road.

It’s another gem I scored for a measly $1. Inside the cover, which makes it even more of a score, is a quote and a dedication.

The book was clearly given as a gift or something, right? For clarification, it reads:

This book is the father of us all. Read it on planes, buses, & roadsides, for without the Spirit embodied herein, one can never really discover America. Love, Jenny   24 May 75

Forty-two years ago. Who was Jenny? Who was she giving this book to? Ah, the romance of the mystery. You’ll never get this kind of story of wonder from a stupid electronic book.

 

In Praise of Long Sentences

From “Shortest Route to the Mountains,” the opening line from the first essay in the collection Wild to the Heart by Rick Bass, circa 1987, a collection I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled across it for a measly $1. I love this:

The trouble with buying a strawberry milkshake from the Lake
Providence, Louisiana, Sonic Drive-In on the left side of Highway 65 going north through the Delta, north to Hot Springs, Arkansas, is that you have got to tag the bottom with your straw and then come up a good inch or so if you want to get anything, the reason being that the Lake Providence Sonic uses real strawberries and lots of them in their shakes.

I like to throw out the occasional long sentence just to mix things up. Sadly, most of the editors I work with don’t share my enthusiasm for them.

And this book? Easily one of the best dollars I ever spent.