"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Pandemic prose and poetry, part two

One way to help keep your sanity in these pandemic days is to travel on guided tours...in your mind and imagination at least, through the pages of books you've meant to read, that you discovered, that discovered you.

My fiction reading
This week, I finished the 19th book--Ray Bradbury's October Country eerie short stories-- in the 19 weeks since the end of June, bringing to 43 a total this year--all part of my do it yourself schooling, and art school.

You can tell I like essays and shorter works where I can skip around and choose which stories I want to read first--though I mark them off and eventually get them all--I know, attention deficit disorder. I also read by keeping track of the pages  and the amount read--I know, anal. But hey, it works.

I also like books where there are words I have to look up...it's part of learning and discovery. I circle them and come back, finding new words and meanings. 

You can also tell that I prefer non-fiction, and the vast majority of these were purchased at my local independent bookstore, Best of Books in Edmond. 

Art--I crave learning from other artists of all kinds, especially how they create, their ideas. I'm old, have so much to learn in a short time.

  • Living Color, Natalie Goldberg--about writing and art. I've had this book for a while, but never read it all. New Mexican, writing teacher whose books, especially Writing Down the Bones, I've used in teaching.
  • Watercolor with O'Hara, Elliot O'Hara--an old classic--part of my DIY art school curriculum.
  • Color Theory for Watercolor--Ditto.
  • Architect of Light, Thomas W. Schaller--The most influential art book so far, by a current master, who has answered my e-mail questions. Read three times, one to read, two to mark up, three to take chapter by chapter notes.
  • The View from the Studio Door, by Ted Orland--Inspiration by co-author of Art and Fear.
  • Keep Going, Creativity in Bad Times, Austin Kleon, of Austin--One of the most creative people I know. I  have all his books and read his weekly newsletter for ideas and inspiration.

Poetry--I'm fortunate to know local poets and then discover others, whose sparse language and fresh images open  my imagination and widen my world. When possible, I buy direct from the poets.

  • Sunlight & Cedar, Ken Hada of Ada--Oklahoma awakenings, and more.
  • Dunce, Mary Ruefle--Someone I'd never heard of, an "erasure" artist (I had to look that up), recommended by Kleon in his newsletter. Esoteric, mind opening
  • In the Days of Our Seclusion, Nathan Brown, formerly of Norman, daily surviving pandemic poems also broadcast on his Firepit sessions, from prompts sent by viewers.


  • Next to Last Stand, Craig Johnson's latest Longmire book...a quick, fun and educational novel about a relic of the Custer saga. Johnson gets better and better. A real Western.
  • October Country, Ray Bradbury, short stories read long ago and forgot about it, perfect for Halloween month. One so scary I almost couldn't finish it. Last book read so far.

--Obviously my preference, because again, there is so much to learn, so far to travel, so much of the craft of good writing to enjoy.

  • Say Yes to Life, Victor Frankle--Just published from his lectures post-concentration camp after the end of WWII. Author of Man's Search for Meaning which I reread earlier this year. Astounding new book!
  • The Word Pretty, by Elsa Gabbert--Essays by someone else I'd never heard about, recommended also by Kleon.. Interesting thoughts on writing and much more
  • Classic Krakauer, John Krakauer. Excellent journalism stories from 20 years ago about human drama around the world.
  • Bluebird Effect
    , Uncommon Stories about Common Birds, Julie Zickefoose. Narratives about the different birds she's helped in Ohio and northeast, with her great watercolors too.
  • Vesper Lights, Helen MacDonald of Cambridge, author of H is for Hawk and Falcon, essays about birds and nature, first person writing like a newspaper column. Lots of words to look up.
  •  Mentioned below  is the Art of Loading Brush, Leave It As It Is, and Roadside Geology of Oklahoma.
Unfinished--Four I didn't get through, for various reasons
  • Leave It as It Is
    , David Gessner--About Teddy Roosevelt and his conservation efforts. Read the biographical sections, some of the other  pro-environmental parts about the national parks under attack by Trump.
  • The Art of Loading Brush, Wendell Berry--Important, excellent writing of essays, fiction and poetry about agrarian issues for America. I skipped one longer academic piece. Second book of his I've read this year.
  • Moby Dick, Melville--One you're supposed to read, but long and wordy. First movie is much better. I got about half through it.
  • Roadside Geology of Oklahoma, Neil H. Suneson--didn't intend to read all of it, just the areas I've been on or want to travel. Didn't cover Beaver Creek area near Waurika.

  • The only book I bought that was a waste was a graphic (cartoon)  novel, part 2, of American Gods. My mistake. I thought it was a new book, but no, and I've already read Neil Gaiman's novel. It's out in the garage.
  • The only pre-pandemic book I'm getting back to is John Grisham's The Guardians. I started it, got bogged down, and now that I've finished all these, I'm about half way through it.
  • "Pandemic poetry and prose, part one" : http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2020/06/pandemic-poetry-and-prose.html

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