Feed Your Head

Overbaord

Now that everything is quiet and relatively stress free on the Day Job front and the DODO BIRD is located a football field length away from me, at lunchtime I am throughly comfortable sitting at my desk and catching up on my reading.

That is, until this sticky and disgusting heatwave grinds to a halt. With fall just around the corner (hurray!!), and today being the first day of September, I am so much looking forward to resuming reading in Central Park:

MorningGeese

Or at Lincoln Center Plaza, below (and partaking of the special seating seemingly designed for introverts and New Yorkers desperately in need of a little personal space):

SeatedIntrovertsSeats with Walls!

Currently, I’m reading 3 books at once, all on my iPhone with the Kindle app. Not unusual for me to read several books at once when the subject matter is non-fiction. The option of choosing to read what suits my present mood pleases me the most.

My head is always hungry. I try to feed it daily.

Novels hook me in a different and deeper way than non-fiction. Fiction reading for me is a one-book-at-at-a-time experience. And when a story is that good, I bury myself in it.

I’m finishing up Quiet — the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain.  I’m understanding quite a bit about myself from this book and from others who share a temperament similar to mine.  Introverts, it seems, have a heightened sensitivity to their environment. I’ve learned that introverts possess a more reactive, excitable amygdala — which is the  fight or flight response center of the brain. The emotions.

According to Cain, studies show that unfamiliar, new and stimulating experiences in the environment increase the introvert’s: 1) heart rate; 2) dilation of the eyes; 3) tightening of the vocal cords; and 4) the production of cortisol (stress hormone) in their saliva. Incredible stuff.

Franz Kafka, a purported introvert, had a temperament that couldn’t bear to be near even his adoring fiancee while he worked.”

These are Kafka’s words on the subject of solitude and its importance during the creative process (excerpted from the book):

“You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind.

That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.”

I can relate, Franz.

*

I’m also finishing up: “Why Birds Sing: A Journey Into the Mystery of Bird Song” by David Rothenberg. Admittedly, I’ve been skipping passages here and there that don’t interest me, but have gleaned a lot from this book. The following is from a section on songbirds:

“…the ability to create music happens on the same side of the brain that creates language, but the ability to listen to and love it is retained somewhere else.”

Which might suggest that the appreciation of music uses the right side of the brain while making music requires the left.

From my own personal experience, I’ve noticed that words do flow from me more easily if I have been keeping up with my fiddle practice. Words don’t flow as easily if I haven’t plinked the piano in a while.

Of course, words flow best of all if you write every day. But listening to music you love (which I do most days) has no real bearing on the creation of  language — but it does make me feel wonderful. And it’s good for my amygdala!

*

The third book I’m reading is “Joseph Anton: A Memoirby Salman Rushdie.

Joseph Anton is the pseudonym used by Rushdie when the Ayatollah Khomeini issued the fatwa on him after “The Satanic Verses” was published back in 1988 (I can’t believe it was that long ago). The fatwa forced him into hiding.

His ordeal of constantly having to move to different dwellings; threats on his life and the lives of his family;  the support vs. non-support of the writing community; bombing of bookstores by the zealots; abandonment of him by publishers; the courage of other publishers to persevere in spite of the threats; the pressure on Rushdie to “apologize” to the Ayatollah (he would not apologize for being innocent of trumped up charges).

The fact that his troubles began when an irresponsible media individual issued a manufactured, incendiary comment regarding his book, something to the effect of: “oh, there are certain people that are going to be very upset by this book” designed to rile up the fanatics (I wish I could remember who Rushdie cited, but I don’t) — based on nothing that was true. Based on probably not even reading the book. Those (with no minds of their own) who decreed the fatwa against Rushdie had latched onto that media person’s throwaway comment and everything snowballed from there.

Interwoven throughout the memoir is the backstory of Rushdie’s educational path (though not a religious person by any common standards, Rushdie is a religious scholar in his own right ). In The S.V. he explores the plight of his (Pakistani) countrymen, the disorientation of the immigrants, their Islamic faith and difficulty in assimilating themselves and it in Britain. He also writes about his own personal life, which I knew little of before reading this book.  How he struggled with his conscience over the ethics and integrity of his writing, which he puts forth succinctly by quoting Yeats:

“The intellect of man is forced to choose / Perfection of the life or of the work.”

That said, I confess that I tried reading his novel Midnight’s Children years ago but wound up abandoning it midway. For me, it was a style issue. I found the writing too dense. Too much like a fable. Excessively cluttered with details. To my taste, anyway. The book is 670+ pages. I knew I would never make it to the end, but not because of the length. Because of the style.

His non-fiction writing I’m finding more readable. Still, I detect an air of entitlement in Rushdie’s personality, which makes me uncomfortable. The British government, and, hence, the British police force, protected him for years, providing personal body guards; specially assigned cars to move him to new ground whenever danger threatened — which was quite often; transportation for his wife and child; picked his child up from school and more…all so he could remain living in London.

Rushdie could have hidden away safely in Scotland, for example, and relocated near the coast (residences were offered to him) — but, as he is a self-proclaimed urbanite, he declined the offers. He insisted on remaining in London. At the cost of the British people, which, eventually, caused resentment.

You can’t blame them. Doesn’t Britain has enough on their plate having to support the royal family?

Anyway, I’m about half way through the book. I’m beginning to doubt — perhaps because I already know Rushdie has made it through the fatwa alive and am questioning if I care to read about more of his real estate problems — if I will make through to the end of the book.

Besides, I am missing fiction. When (and if) I finish Joseph Anton, next on my list is: Orkney by Amy Sackville. I’ve read the first 57 pages for free on Amazon’s “LOOK INSIDE” feature. I’d like to read the rest of it.

I’m also curious about reading the memoir: Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill (a writer who is in her 90’s).

So many books. My head will never starve!

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