Archives for posts with tag: Essays

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“When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day, I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.” JOAN DIDION

Graphic: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live” is the opening line of Joan Didion‘s essay “The White Album,” featured in her collection of the same name.

Find The White Album (1979), a book of 20 essays by Joan Didion  at Amazon.com.

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LOS ANGELES NOTEBOOK (Excerpt)
by Joan Didion

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sandstorms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to the flashpoint. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night…It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself…Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and….the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

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When I visited Glendale, California, a few weeks ago for a meeting, I parked in front of the Mystery & Imagination Bookshop at 238 N. Brand Blvd. I was intrigued by the poster in the window for a book called Searching for Ray Bradbury by Steven Paul Leiva — and finally took the time today to check out the bookstore and Leiva’s Book. 

The first thing I ran across was an article in the Huffington Post (5/16/2013), where Steven Paul Leiva writes about the Mystery & Imagination Bookshop — and explains that Ray Bradbury called it, “one of the best bookstores ever.” (Read the article at huffingtonpost.com

The Mystery & Imagination Bookshop also operates an online bookstore that offers rare and used books in the detective, science fiction, and fantasy genres. For more information, visit mysteryandimagination.com.

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Searching for Ray Bradbury includes eight essays written by Steven Paul Leiva about his friend and inspiration, Ray Bradbury. In the book, Leiva also writes about his work to honor Bradbury on his 90th birthday with RAY BRADBURY WEEK in Los Angeles, a weeklong series of events in 2010 that were the great author’s last public appearances. Searching for Ray Bradbury also details Leiva’s successful effort to name the major Los Angeles downtown intersection of Fifth & Flower, adjacent to the Los Angeles Central Library, RAY BRADBURY SQUARE. Find Searching for Ray Bradbury at Amazon.com . Visit Steven Paul Leiva at his blog for more information about the author and his work.

Book Cover illustration: Lou Romano, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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On Monday, August 5, 2013, get a FREE Kindle version of the Silver Birch Press Silver Anthology —  a 240-page collection of poetry, short stories, essays, novel excerpts, and stage play scenes from over 60 established and up-and-coming writers in the United States and United Kingdom. The writing ranges in style and subject matter — but all the work touches on “silver” in a variety of creative, original, and compelling ways.

Get your free Kindle of the Silver Birch Press Silver Anthology at Amazon.com.

CONTRIBUTORS INCLUDE: Barbara Alfaro / Jena Ardell / Melissa Berry / Jane Buel Bradley / John Brantingham / Rachel Carey / Chiwan Choi / Billy Cook / Barbara Dahl / Walter de la Mare / Colleen Delegan / Gillian Eaton / Barbara Eknoian / Merrill Farnsworth / Syed Afzal Haider / Andrew Hilbert / Donna Hilbert / Gaia Holmes / Zack Hunter / Diane Eagle Kataoka / Ruth Moon Kempher / Linda King / Thom Kudla / Moriah LaChapell / LeeAnne McIlroy Langton / Vickie Lester / Ellaraine Lockie / Gerald Locklin / Amy Lowell / Sandylee Maccoby / Tamara Madison / Clint Margrave / Daniel McGinn / Marcia Meara / Ann Menebroker / Jack Micheline / Ben Myers / Jax NTP
 / Hank Perritt / Meghan Pinson / Jackie Pledger-Skwerski / Kathy Dahms Rogers / Conrad Romo / Luke Salazar / Joan Jobe Smith / Clifton Snider / Dale Sprowl / Kendall Steinle / Adelle Stripe / Paul Kareem Tayyar / Kati Thomson / Jeri Thompson / Winston Tong / Margaret Towner / Mary Umans / Dirk Velvet / Melanie Villines / Fred Voss / Mark Weber / Tim Wells / Steve Williams / Pamela Miller Wood

If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries — download free reading apps at this link.

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THE WHITE ALBUM (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea…We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience. Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself…this period began around 1966 and continued until 1971…

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Find The White Album (1979), a book of 20 essays by Joan Didion  at Amazon.com.

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THE SUMMER GAME (Excerpt)

by Roger Angell

Baseball’s time is seamless and invisible, a bubble within which players move at exactly the same pace and rhythms as all their predecessors. This is the way the game was played in our youth and in our father’s youth, and even back in the country days there must have been the same feeling that time could be stopped.

Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you I and have to do is succeed utterly — keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.

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Originally published in 1972, The Summer Game, a book of essays by Roger Angell is available at Amazon.com. The site describes the book this way: “The Summer Game, Roger Angell’s first book on the sport, changed baseball writing forever. Thoughtful, funny, appreciative of the elegance of the game and the passions invested by players and fans, it goes beyond the usual sports reporter’s beat to examine baseball’s complex place in our American psyche.”

PHOTO: Joe DiMaggio (New York Yankees) at bat, with Hank Erickson (Cincinnati Reds) catching (1936)

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MIRROR TALK

Memoir by Barbara Alfaro

I don’t have as much time for reading as I’d like – if it were up to me, I’d read as a full-time occupation, eight hours a day. Most of my reading these days is work related – material I’m editing, manuscripts I’m evaluating, or reference materials for writing projects. But once in a while I’m able to spend time with a book that’s so enjoyable the pages just breeze by – and, I’ll admit, books like these aren’t easy to find. I’m happy to report I recently encountered a book that succeeded on all fronts – beautiful prose, laugh-out-loud humor, as well as depth and introspection. The book is Mirror Talk, a memoir by Barbara Alfaro – winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award.

In the approximately 30,000-word book, available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions, Alfaro covers a lot of territory – from her Catholic girlhood in New York during the 1950s, her career as an actor and director during the 1960s and 1970s, and her eventual development as a poet, playwright, and writer.

The Mirror Talk chapter entitled “Make Mine Cognac” about an experimental play Alfaro appeared in was the funniest story I’ve read in years – and had me laughing, and laughing, and laughing out loud. Alfaro’s sharp, witty writing style is reminiscent of the wisecracking reporter Hildy Johnson in the Ben Hecht comedy His Girl Friday or even the ultimate wit – Dorothy Parker herself.

About the experimental play “smuggled from behind the Iron Curtain,” Alfaro writes: “After weeks of rehearsal, it became depressingly clear that no one in the cast had the slightest idea of what the play was about…the director said something about ‘symbolic juxtaposition.’ Finally, one of the symbols clanged. ‘What the hell is this play about?’ The director smiled that knowing, smug smile only directors and successful orthodontists seem able to accomplish…”

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read with a lot of heart and soul, check out Mirror Talk by Barbara Alfaro, available at Amazon.com. The Kindle version, available, here is just $1.99!

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“She’s afraid to tell me anything important, knowing I’ll only turn around and write about it. In my mind, I’m like a friendly junkman, building things from the little pieces of scrap I find here and there, but my family’s started to see things differently. Their personal lives are the so-called pieces of scrap I so casually pick up, and they’re sick of it. More and more often their stories begin with the line “You have to swear you’ll never repeat this.” I always promise, but it’s generally understood that my word means nothing.”  Excerpt from Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim by DAVID SEDARIS

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Published in 2004, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris includes 22 of the author’s autobiographical essays, many that originally appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, and Esquire.

Silver Birch Press will mail a free hardcover copy of the book (U.S. only due to postage rates) to the first person who leaves a comment about this post.

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LOS ANGELES NOTEBOOK (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sandstorms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to the flashpoint. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night…It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself…Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and….the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

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LOS ANGELES NOTEBOOK (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

It is three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and 105 degrees and the air so thick with smog that the dusty palm trees loom up with a sudden and rather attractive mystery. I have been playing in the sprinklers with the baby and I get in the car and go to Ralphs Market on the corner of Sunset and Fuller wearing an old bikini bathing suit. This is not a very good thing to wear to the market but neither is it, at Ralphs on the corner of Sunset and Fuller, an unusual costume. Nonetheless a large woman in a cotton muumuu jams her cart into mine at the butcher counter. “What a thing to wear to the market,” she says in a loud but strangled voice. Everyone looks the other way and I study a plastic package of rib lamb chops and she repeats it. She follows me all over the store, to the Junior Foods, to the Dairy Products, to the Mexican Delicacies, jamming my cart whenever she can. Her husband plucks at her sleeve. As I leave the checkout counter, she raises her voice one last time: “What a thing to wear to Ralphs,” she says.

“Los Angeles Notebook” by Joan Didion is found in her collection of essays Slouching Toward Bethlehem, available at Amazon.com.

Photo: Joan Didion and her daughter Quintana Roo Dunne photographed for Life Magazine in 1972 by Julian Wasser.