Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Minimalism, Margaret Atwood and crazy mothers

 

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‘Books must pass from person to person in order to stay alive’ – Margaret Atwood (Photo: Dominic Ronzo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Pirsig’s Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

is not for the faint-hearted but complex, ambitious, moving and outstandingly original. Still groundbreaking decades after its publication, yes it actually has motorcycle maintenance in it and no that does not make it boring. It’s an impressive narrative device that both illuminates and speeds along this mind-opening mystery/travel memoir/work of modern philosophy.

Margaret Atwood’s On Writers and Writing

is actually a rounded-out version of a series of lectures Atwood gave on this subject, this is a must for anyone interested in Atwood, Canadian writing, or writing in general. Gives a rare and witty insight into the early life of one of the world’s most beloved writers, while musing deeply on the nature of books and the poor saps who write them. Packed to the gills with quotes – worth it alone just as a collection of quotes on writing. A fast, beautiful, inspiring and entertaining read. I got mine at Boffins. Was previously titled Negotiations with the Dead.

Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

I know, I am the last person in the universe to read everything and I should really just give up on back catalogues and read new stuff, especially since Winterson recently released a new work, a ‘cover’ of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. But I’m working my way slowly through the Winterson canon, one of the only bulk collections to survive the Curing of a Bibliomaniac. The most amazing thing was that I didn’t know until I’d heard this podcast interview with Winterson that the reason her books are crazy and awesome and unreal and Biblical in epic proportions, peopled with fantastically grotesque matriarchs, was because that was actually what her childhood was. And right down to the exorcisms, this book tells the story of her childhood and unbelievably crazy mother. If you’re a fan it’s required reading (and the podcast required listening). If you’re not, get out of my face.

Minimalism?

As you know, I’m always up for a new challenge and these books have just been given to my excellent friend Jess, who has just returned home bookless and footloose after time abroad, and who I thought of as I read every one of these recently. They’re right up her alley but the gifting was also part of the 30-Day Minimalism Challenge I’ve just embarked on with my brother and sister-in-law, to the general bemusement of everyone else, especially the poor Ministry, who guards like a dragon the few possessions he’s got left after I blitzed through his life leaving destruction and empty rooms in my wake.

Because I don’t know when to stop, I’m also doing Dry July with my awesomely supportive family. Donate to me (and thereby to support Solaris cancer support service in WA) here. Thank you! It’s a damned good cause.

 

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My most inspiring podcasts right now

Podcasts: for Type A individuals who enjoy learning in their downtime.

Podcasts: for Type A individuals who enjoy learning in their downtime.

I’ve decided I can’t stand blog posts that make you wade through a bunch of personal crap before they get to the reason you clicked, so without further ado:

The Tim Ferris Show
My favourite podcast. Usually the top-ranked business podcast on iTunes, and iTunes’ “Best of 2014” and “Best of 2015.” Tim Ferriss is the author of the Four-Hour Workweek, the Four-Hour Body and the Four-Hour Chef. Despite how gimmicky these sound, they are intensive. A long-form show usually in intimate interview format, with diverse and fascinating guests, sometimes famous and sometimes not, dissecting their high-achieving lifestyles along with Tim Ferriss, who they are usually as impressed by as he is with them. Listen to this if you take self-improvement and learning deadly seriously.
Recent favourites:
Conversations with Richard Fidler 
Lovely 45-minute interviews that are reliably wide-ranging, humorous and touching. Recent favourites:

Chat 10 Looks 3
How could you not already be charmed by a podcast whose title is a quote from A Chorus Line? Annabel Crabb (Kitchen Cabinet host, ABC political writer and author) and Leigh Sales (famously tenacious journalist, host of ABC’s flagship 7.30) get way less serious in this podcast in which they bake for each other, eat the things they bake, name-drop, review books and TV shows and movies, and generally crap on about things they like. They are hilarious when bouncing off each other. If I could get paid to make a show like this I would die happy. Has recently been made into an iView show called When I Get a Minute. It’s completely unstructured, so just dive in at any starting point you like.

The Minimalists Podcast
The Minimalists talk about ‘living a meaningful life with less stuff’. If this topic doesn’t interest you, probably don’t start. If it does, hop into it, because these two are pretty much the faces of modern minimalism.
Inspiring and encouraging for anyone who feels like life is a bit of a rat race at times, and provide a sense of community. They repeat their own stories a shade too often, but I kind of like this, I find it weirdly soothing. They are a good team and bounce off each other well – they’re not preachy or overly serious.
If you’re looking at this for the first time, I’d avoid their more recent guest podcasts and the ones done live from cities,as these are all kind of filler episodes while they’ve been touring their new documentary. Yes, I have preordered the documentary and the six hours of bonus footage. I’m a sad lady.

Enjoy!

 

The Curing of a Bibliomaniac: Aftermath

And now for the proof of my personal growth through this project.

When I first embarked upon this project, it was in recognition that I had always been a bibliophile, but quite without meaning to, I had slipped into madness and become a full-blown bibliomaniac.

 

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Space? Space is for filling with more books.

Space? Space is for filling with more books.

I began with hundreds of books across three different bookcases. They were also on top of the bookcases.

And stacked horizontally in the spaces between the top of the rows and the bottom of the shelf above.

And tesselated artfully into the little gaps that were left over.

This was rather less healthy than plain old bibliophilia, and I knew it had to end.

 

And it has.

 

I have gradually weeded out piles as I’ve gone through each letter of the alphabet with this project, on the justification that if I didn’t choose them for the project, they obviously didn’t excite me that much overall and probably wouldn’t next time I went searching for something to read.

photoNow I have ditched hundreds of books. Crateload after crateload. Many I had already read. Some I had not.

And you know what? I felt lighter and freer with each one. I realised that for some time I had no longer owned these books. They had owned me. All that they represented was my own guilt at not having the time to read them all, even though many had lost their relevance long ago.

They never matched anyhow!

They never matched anyhow!

In fact, it felt so good that like a woman possessed, I got rid of the shelves as well.

Now we have discarded three full size bookshelves that were overpowering tiny Shell Cottage.

We have space to hang pictures, to dance around, to place a cushy armchair for more comfortable reading spaces!

 

There is one more bookshelf to be emptied and sold. Soon I will curate my collection to fit into the one little bookshelf left, that will match The Ministry’s.

Then we will each just have one (apart from the bookshelf containing The Ministry’s complete Dragonlance book collection, which will outlive us all and probably the nuclear holocaust).

 

I will stay a bibliophile. I will hold, love, sniff and touch my own books (and others’…) in ways bordering on the creepy.

I will still buy books and support bookstores – probably more so than I have been able to justify doing in years. But I will avoid commitment and letting them move in with me forever. I will buy, enjoy and pass on. If one captures my heart and is allowed to stay, then another will have to gracefully vacate the premises.

This project has become something much more than it began as my friend Juji suggested when I was thinking of a way to revive my neglected blog. It has become an exercise in a personal journey inspired in part by minimalism, in part by the idea of vagabonding and most of all by a desire to embrace more than the past.

So as much as may have cursed you over the past, very challenging blogging year – thank you Juji! You’ve given me a precious gift – the space for new dreams.