01 July 2009

Morning Reading

Early morning. I sit at Dana Point harbor, following a long walk along the pier, among tourists or friends meeting post-yoga or breakfast meetings, and enjoy an iced-tea while I read. I prefer fiction to start the day. Others prefer the newspaper. I have never been one to devour the news first thing in the morning. Too dour. Too much fodder for introspection. Although, in the interest of full-disclosure, my mornings begin with NPR, which is a kinder gentler voice of news and often delivered as story.

I prefer stories. Enlightenment well beyond newsprint. I do keep an eye on breaking news via the internet, although prefer the fuller version via NPR or PBS. And I remain devoted to the hard copy of the Sunday New York Times, perhaps more tradition, or habit, providing context to my week – the opening moments of the day of rest which will close with 60 Minutes, another great storyteller. Every page is another story.

I read today a novel by an unknown but accomplished writer who tends too much to looking inward rather than description. What writing teachers decry as “show don’t tell.” What booksellers fondly refer to as “navel-gazing.” This particular writer, Charlotte Bacon, tells a great deal, but what she has to say is worth reading. Still, I find myself often longing for story. This look-at-me and listen-to-me style is a by-product of the Gen Next generation more than boomers, who observe the world only through their own lens. The writing is strong, many opportunities for notes in the margins or underlining, which I still do as a way of remembering what is otherwise lost moments after the reading. I have never been good at holding on to the words, only the essence. Fiction is the purview of essence.

Voyeurism seems to me pervasive these days, but not the sort of witness that gives rise to great literature. Rather the Facebook world where we share our lives moment by moment, thought by thought, as a way of defining ourselves. Look-at-me is slipping into fiction as well, a natural evolution of the late 20th century obsession with memoir and the new millennium madness for reality television. Everything laid bare. No nuance. No metaphor. Essence eclipsed by mirrors reflecting stark action and reaction. Feature writing dismissed to blurbs. Stories to Twitter. Personal essay to blogs.

And here I am, captive to blogging now as a means of self-expression. I write only for myself, expecting a mere handful of friends to join the journey, and these are already familiar with my own navel-gazing. Have all the best stories been told? Biblical, mythical, classical literature having examined every theme, so that all that remains is derivative? Jane Austen would have been a great blogger, but what might we have lost if she’d had the choice? Then again, it’s ever so much easier to be published these days, at least for a nano-second.

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