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book notes 2020 - 2022

what I've been reading, notes and quotes.


Travels with Myself and Another:

A Memoir - Martha Gelhorn.

I started off reading this book out of envy for Martha Gelhorn's intriguingly successful travelog, her work with Colliers and then-emerging progressive movement, and her war correspondence, often the results of up-close interviews with anonymous stretcher bearers, German prisoners of war, Vietnamese mothers, female prisoners in El Salvador and more. In the 1986 introduction to “The Face of War," featuring a collection of her reporting, she wrote, “I always liked Tolstoi’s crusty remark that ‘governments are a collection of men who do violence to the rest of us, but now I think the old Russian was a prophet.” In 2011 she was featured in the documentary film No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII as one of the game-changing wartime journalists of the century.


I'm often drawn to women who challenge the people around them, and I could relate to Gellhorn's fierce independence and peripatetic nature. She traveled light and changed her residence over 19 times during her lifetime. Travels With Myself and Another, however turned out to be less biographical, and more a compilation of what she calls "horror journeys," reflections of her worst experiences. I have the newer 2001 printing of her original 1979 memoirs, with forward by Bill Buford and photographs of Gellhorn with Hemingway, Parker, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Gary Cooper, and many others. Reviewers have said Gelhorns writing was heavily influenced by Ernest Hemingway, whom she first admired at Bryn Mawr, met at Key West in Christmas of 1936, and again shortly after, while they were both covering Spanish Civil War. They were later married in 1940. My take is the opposite - that she was mesmerized by Hemingway's charismatic persona and also a determined individualist. Her writing is bold and declarative, out the gate with uncomfortable truths. Coupled with authenticity, her no-sentimentality journalistic style is refreshing, and the abundance of cutting humor irresistibly entertaining.

notes n quotes


“Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival.”


“I took only one suitcase, and a cosmetics case for medicines but I was worried about books. Solitude is all right with books, awful without.”


“I had a sudden notion of why history is such a mess: humans do not live long enough. We only learn from experience and have no time to use it in a continuous and sensible way.”


 

SIDDHARTHA

Herman Hesse / Lê Chu Cầu (Translator). A Christmas gift from my nephew, read on the flight home. The story of Siddhartha, who meets the Buddha and although deeply impressed, believes that truth is something every individual must discover for themselves. He sets out beyond his sheltered existence to immerse himself a world of injustice, suffering and dissatisfaction, the basic constructs around physical and psychological pain that ultimately define the human condition, our drives, motivations and identity. He discovers that psychological pain is of greater significance than physical. Though experience rather than avoidance, suffering becomes an aspect of life he learns to control. Humans trip and fall, feel the pain, eventual


ly stand up and become more awake and alert. Same is true with psychological pain - we can experience and grow from it while preventing ourselves from creating emotions and inner chaos that prolong our own suffering. #dreamersandwanderers #selfmastery

notes and quotes

"Gentleness is stronger than severity, water is stronger than rock, love is stronger than force.”


"I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us" ~Hermann Hesse

- - -

Education of a Wandering Man

Louis L'Amour

Beautifully written as expected, a memoir of L'Amour's lifelong love affair with learning--from the books he'd read, from wondering, and from some remarkable people he met along the way who shaped him as a storyteller and as a man. L'Amour left school at fifteen to roam the world and this book records his recollections of life as a hobo on the Southern Pacific Railroad, as a cattle skinner in Texas, as a merchant seaman in Singapore and the West Indies, and as an itinerant bare-knuckled prizefighter across small-town America, All in his own words, this is a story of a one-of-a-kind life lived to the fullest, inspired his tales of the West, and will forever bring our glorious frontier heritage to life. I was initially interested in this book as an autobiography, but by the end of the story I found myself tagging all the pages with book mentions - list after list, an astonishing number of books he had read that ultimately influenced his own writing. #dreamersandwanderers #selfmastery


notes 'n quotes

“Today you can buy the Dialogues of Plato for less than you would spend on a fifth of whiskey, or Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the price of a cheap shirt. You can buy a fair beginning of an education in any bookstore with a good stock of paperback books for less than you would spend on a week's supply of gasoline.” "We are, finally, all wanderers in search of knowledge. Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are, something larger, richer, in some way more important to the world and ourselves. Too often, the way taken is the wrong way, with too much emphasis on what we want to have, rather than what we wish to become."




Hazel Soan

Outstanding guidance on watercolor painting with a limited palette; simplifies color theory, takes us back to the basics of how to mix a variety of secondary and tertiary colors


from a modest selection of warm and cool primary colors. The color mixing charts and definitions plus easy exercises and examples all demonstrate that 'less is more'!






The Open Boat and Other Stories

Stephen Crane

I just returned from a new year holiday camping in Key West where I also toured Hemingway's house and fell in love with what remained of his book collection - stacks and bookshelves full in every room. The Open Boat is the first of ten in a collection I'm reading from Hemingway's "recommended reading list for young writers." Stephen Crane based the story on an actual incident aboard a ship to Cuba when it sank off the coast of Florida and he and other survivors were stranded at sea for thirty hours. For two days, the four survivors desperately attempt to stay awake and keep a dinghy afloat in rough seas. Eventually one of them attempts his strength in defeating nature by swimming ashore, while the others, on the edge of floundering, use logic and reason. Each character assumes an alternate perspective. The cook knows he's in over his head, but motivated, the oiler is rebellious and along with the correspondent's humility and the captain's practical acceptance of uncertainty, all faculties grouped together become their necessary means for survival. I was hooked and steady on from start to finish.



notes and quotes

"None of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. The waves were the hue of slate, save for the colors of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks."



 

The Frontiersmen: A Narrative

- Allan W. Eckert (Winning of America, Book 1)


Eckert's first in a series of recapturing history of the frontiers' greatest leaders: George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone. Arthur St. Clair, Anthony Wayne, Simon Girty, William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh, the brilliant Shawnee chief, charming and charismatic who strategically aligned the native American tribes into one nation against settlers in


the Kentucky and Ohio territories. The research poured into this book is impressive but when you add to it that this is just one in a series of six, I'm already overwhelmed. Very slow working my way through this one, but since it's a gift from a friend and fellow history buff in Ohio, I've promised to keep digging back into it. #eckert #thefrontiersmen #winningamerica






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2021


No Traveller Returns

Louis L'Amour, Beau L'Amour.

Louis L'Amour's long lost first novel "No Traveller Returns" was written between 1938 and 1942. I was compelled to reset my expectations of this one. It's the story of persistent, rough men aboard the Lichenfield, their working conditions, their reasons for shipping out, the grudges and feuds among them—all contrasted with the sometimes poetic descriptions of the sea. I expected a seafaring version of L'Amour's Education of a Wandering Man, but this book is so much more - raw, honest and well worth a first printing after 80 years and a part of history that should not be forgotten. #dreamersandwanders


- - -



The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh (Kindle version) Ronald de Leeuw (Editor), Arnold J. Pomerans (Translator)

A comprehensive selection of Vincent Van Gogh's letters, based on a new translation, revealing his religious struggles, his search for love, his excesses and obsessions and his painful creative journey. Exceptional, thought-provoking, painstakingly beautiful and soulful, encompassing the whole life of an artistic genius. I loved this book. #artists #dreamers #infp #vangoah #letters #biography

notes n quotes

" If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it, keep going, keep going come what may."


The night was a symphony of velvet darkness in which millions of stars swung their tiny lanterns overhead. Not a gleam was in sight that might have been another ship, but miles behind and to the north a Matson passenger liner was bound away from San Francisco to Tahiti.”

"What I find such a pleasant surprise about p


ainting is that you can, with the same effect you put into a drawing, take something home with you that conveys the impression much better and is much more pleasing to look at. And at the same time more accurate, too. In a word, it is more rewarding than drawing. But it is absolutely essential to be able to draw the proportions correctly and to position the objects fairly confidently before you start. If you make a mistake here, it will all come to nothing."

"What I’m trying for is the shortest means to that end - on the understanding that the work is of genuine and lasting merit, which I can only expect if I put something really good into it and make an honest study of nature, not if I work exclusively with an eye to sale-ability - for which one is bound to suffer later." "The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too." " And when I read, and really I do not read so much, only a few authors, - a few men that I discovered by accident - I do this because they look at things in a broader, milder and more affectionate way than I do, and because they know life better, so that I can learn from them."

" The lamps are burning and the starry sky is over it all."

- - -

That Untraveled World

That Untravelled World: An Autobiography

Eric Shipton. The story of adventurer Eric Shipton, a man who lived at a time when adventure meant traveling to places for which no maps existed, scaling mountains where heights had yet to be calculated; and encountering people and places where westerners had never experienced. Beautifully written near the end of Shipton's career, when the passing of time had deepened his reflections on his many accomplishments and companions. #mountaineering #explorers #peaks #shipton #biography #mountaineering #dreamersandwanderers #selfmastery



notes n quotes


“It was a perfect evening. As I lay on my little platform, the multi-colored afterglow of sunset spreading over the vast mountain world about me, I was filled with a deep content, untroubled either by the memory of the failures of that day, or by the prospect of further trials on the morrow. A vision of such beauty was worth a world of striving.”


"The whole northern horizon was filled with a gigantic cone of purple mist. The cone was capped by a band of cloud. Above this band, utterly detached from the Earth, appeared a pyramid of rock and ice, beautifully proportioned, hard and clear against the sky. The sun, not yet risen to my view, had already touched the peak, throwing ridge and corrie into sharp relief, lighting here and there, a sparkling gem of ice."


- - -

An American Childhood



Annie Dillard

Annie's poignant, vivid memoir of growing up in Pennsylvania in the 1950s. Her book rekindles childhood, calls to mind my own too. To remember all those things, especially relative to my parents, that I have pledged never to forget, especially of that immense sense of freedom to wander, watching only to the sun to know it was time to return home for supper. Exploring the woods, climbing trees, pouring all curiosities into my sketchbook, finding true happiness in being lost. Don't be fooled, our past is extremely powerful. With recollection comes the fruits that only can be forged as a child - through meadows on road tires; through curiosity of lies beyond horizons; skating the creeks alongside frozen trees that went on an on forever, and the freedom I discovered on a bicycle. I loved this book because it reminds us we are who we were, it cannot be undone. For many, it takes a lifetime to cultivate our gratitude for all those incarnations that lead us up to who we are now. Happy childhoods are so very rare. I'm eternally grateful for mine.


notes n quotes “And so in that faraway attic, among the boughs of buckeye trees, year after year, I drew. I drew formal, sustained studies of my left hand still on the card table, of my baseball mitt, a saddle shoe. I drew from memory the faces of the people I knew, my own family just downstairs in the great house—oh, but I hated these clumsy drawings, these beloved faces so rigid on the page and lacking in tenderness and irony. (Who could analyze a numb skull when all you cared about was a lively caught glance, the pleased rising of Mother’s cheek, the soft amused setting of Amy’s lip, Father’s imagining eye in its socket?) And I drew from memory the faces of people I saw in the streets. I formed sentences about them as I looked at

them, and repeated the sentences to myself as I wandered on.”


"We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if ever we wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break for home. There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times."


“I had small experience of the evil hopelessness, pain, starvation, and terror that the world spread about; I had barely seen people’s malice and greed. I believed that in civilized countries, torture had ended with the Enlightenment. Of nations’ cruel options I knew nothing. My optimism was endless; it grew sky-high within the narrow bounds of my isolationism. Because I was all untried courage, I could not allow that the loss of courage was a real factor to be reckoned in. I put my faith in willpower, that weak notion by which children seek to replace the loving devotion that comes from intimate and dedicated knowledge. I believed that I could resist aging by willpower. I believed then, too, that I would never harm anyone. I usually believed I would never meet a problem I could not solve. I would overcome any weakness, any despair, any fear. Hadn’t I overcome my fear of the ghosty oblong that coursed round my room, simply by thinking it through? Everything was simple. You found good work, learned all about it, and did it.”


- - -

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic

Darby Penney, Peter Stastny, Lisa Rinzler, Robert Whitaker (Foreword)

Format: Kindle


I was deeply moved by this book. Ten stories of people whose lives were tragically or unexpectedly interrupted by emotional trauma, unfortunate circumstances; grief and loss; abuse, poverty, and physical illness and as a result, were sent away to a place where "nobody cares


about anybody." Through the contents of their suitcases sent to the institution’s attic the authors attempt to piece together their journey into a caged, quiet hopelessness, never to return home.Humans are strange creatures. Strangest are the seemingly intelligent, most-informed humans, engaged in categorizing and handling the emotionally troubled or troublesome; lacking moral consciousness or understanding of cause and effect. As Arthur Frank puts it, "(we are) denying their chaotic stories, therefore denying their participation in empathetic relations of care." Most disturbing is the added stressor, pain and complete powerlessness these experienced despite their sincere desires to get back to the business of living - their work, responsibilities, and the people they trust. We're all made better with less judgment and more love in this crazy world.

notes n quotes

"By all evidence, she was smart, active, independent woman with a certain sense of the entitlement; she had an outgoing personality and made many friends. There are photographs from her years in New York showing her at parties, sailing with friends, sating in Central Park, and as a house guest at impressive homes in suburban Westchester County. Her date books show numerous lunches with women friends, dinner parties, and attendance at readings, lectures and concerts. Her romantic life remains a mystery." (pictured) "On the trail at Cobble Hill, White Face Mountain to the left. Gibraltar, 1921"


"Nobody cares about anybody. None of these programs here are at all beneficial or helpful. They're designed keep a patient hospitalized so they learn how to function within the facility. They don't orientate you into the community. This is supposed to be a temporary holding spot until you're ready to go back in the community, but yet, over half the population has been here five or more years. That is something that needs to change. It's inhuman to take a person who has a breakdown, bring him in, put him on medication and strip him of his dignity and hope and his self-respect for the rest of his life. Many cases like that in here. Being trapped in a system with now way out."


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2020



The Book of Five Rings

Miyamoto Mushashi, 1645, analyzes the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction. For Musashi, the way of the martial arts was a mastery of the mind rather than simply technical prowess—and it is this path to mastery that is the core teaching in this brilliant manifesto, written not only for martial artists but for anyone who wants to apply the timeless principles of this text to their life. #dreamersandwanderers #selfmastery


notes n quotes


Fear resides in all things, and the heart of fear is the unexpected. Do not be frightened by what is right before your eyes.

Do not turn your back on the various ways of this world

Do not scheme for physical pleasure.

Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.

Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.

Do not regret things about your personal life.

Do not envy another’s good or evil.

Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.

Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.

Do not have preferences.

Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.

Do not have a liking for delicious food for yourself.

Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.

Do not fast so that it affects you physically.

While it’s different with the military equipment, do not be fond of material things.

While on the Way, do not begrudge death.

Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.

Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.

Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.

Never depart from the Way.

--From the Chapter, 'The Way of Walking Alone'


- - -

Mastery

Robert Greene

I largely ignore these types of books, but this hit a nerve because I had recently reached the pivotal point in my career where I went a thousand miles from the only place I began to call home, because it seemed a time when I was able to wholly focus on simply doing my best work. To do that end I reasoned, I needed a place with all fresh projects, people and place. I also reasoned, I could never deal with the politics of innovation, and I had this vision all along that this big shift I was holding out for would finally end all those painful growth experiences. This book was hugely validating, because according to Greene, it's we who get to choose. We can work on 'the working relationship,' which in my work seemed like it was alway 80% of what the role requires, or we can keep moving, keep re-choosing to adjust the environment. If I were Leonardo d'Vinci or any of the others profiled for their astonishing mastery, I'd have been long gone pursuing other work when the alpha of the tribal culture started passing around the cookies. If you choose nothing else from my reading list, read this book. It's world-rocking, and if you're creative by any means, Greene is a must.#selfmastery


notes n quotes


“Become who you are by learning who you are.”


“The key then to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don't simply absorb information - we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use.”


“Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.”


“No one is really going to help you or give you direction. In fact, the odds are against you.”


“People around you, constantly under the pull of their emotions, change their ideas by the day or by the hour, depending on their mood. You must never assume that what people say or do in a particular moment is a statement of their permanent desires.”


- - -

The Laws of Human Nature

Robert Greene. I came away from this book wishing it had been written fifty years ago. I had plowed through Robert Greene's earlier masterpiece, Mastery within a week, so The Laws of Human Nature intrigued me; however it ended up being a denser, more structured volume. I read it at a snails pace because I wanted to retain as much of it as possible -- as a definitive source for "decoding the behavior of the people around us." Still, I find myself going back to it over and over. Greene is a the master for syncing ancient wisdom, historic personalities and philosophy with modern psychology to create greater depth of perception and understanding of our drives, motivations and guide us on how to detach ourselves from emotion to gain self-control, self-knowledge and self-mastery. The text is sectioned into eighteen components of our human nature - the self, empathy, the mask, strength of character, ego, desire, conformity, knowing our limits and truths, our attitudes and sense of purpose, keys to leadership; how to read hostility behind the friendly facade; strategy in our working life; seizing our moments, resisting group-think, and acknowledging what Carl Jung described as the "shadow self" as an opportunity for growth. This book helped me to understand my own drives and motivations as well as others, even at most times, when we are unconscious or in denial of these ourselves. I especially liked the chapters on Anton Chekov, Mary Shelley, Queen Elizabeth and Martin Luther King. The Law of Conformity: Resist the Downward Pull of the Group was a hugely awakening chapter as it describes the rise and fall of the over-ambitious leader Gao Yuan (author of Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution ) in a new light. Simply a marvelous book. #robertgreene #psychology #humannature #selfmastery


notes n quotes

“When people overtly display some trait, such as confidence or hyper-masculinity, they are most often concealing the contrary reality.”


"You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego. They make you look for evidence that confirms what you already want to believe. They make you see what you want to see, depending on your mood, and this disconnect from reality is the source of the bad decisions and negative patterns that haunt your life. Rationality is the ability to counteract these emotional effects, to think instead of react, to open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling. It does not come naturally; it is a power we must cultivate, but in doing so we realize our greatest potential.”


“Man will only become better when you make him see what he is like.”

― Robert Greene, quoting Anton Chekhov



NOTE: book notes for 2015-19 have moved to a separate page, to be re-posted at a later date.








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