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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Writer's Life 1/13 - Sense of Wonder

I doubt I've read more than handful of articles from The New Yorker, so I was completely unfamiliar with the work of Lawrence Weschler, a Californian who has contributed much to it pages through the decades. He has also written more than a dozen books, all non-fiction. Among a recent donation to the floating book shop was A Wanderer in the Perfect City, which I just finished. It contains eight profiles of people passionate about a particular pursuit, whether lucrative or not. Many are long, intensive, thorough. The men all share a sense of wonder, despite the age of some. I'd heard only of Art Spiegelman, who has done two highly regarded graphic novels (Maus). I was introduced to Harold Shapinsky, an abstract painter who languished in obscurity until a young man from India discovered his work and doggedly sought to bring it to a wider audience; to Ben Kotcher, a cartoonist whose Knipl strip was carried for years in several small press publications and even in the windows of a shop; to Nicolas Slonimsky, a composer and cataloger of music; to Jeff Miller, who invented a new way of playing chess; to Knud Jensen, the curator of an unique museum in Denmark; to Leonard Durso, who put his all into trying to make an alternative book store in L.A. fly; and to Gary Isaacs, an MIT grad who worked successfully in rocket science and bond trading, and then pursued his life's dream by going to the Ringling Brother's exhaustive clown college. Weschler's prose is as good as it gets. The subject matter is interesting, although at times too detailed, especially in the descriptions of the science and trading, which I glossed over. Here are two snippets that particularly caught my attention. In the piece on Slonimsky, he quotes Leibniz: "Music is a hidden arithmetical activity of a mind that does not know it is counting." I've experienced this while playing guitar. And here's Kotchor's observation of a decades-old sign warning about rat poison, and how it related to the protagonist of his comic strip: "... the rats are long gone, the people who posted the warning are gone, the people they were warning are gone. The sign's still there..." Only six users at Amazon have rated A Wanderer in the Perfect City, forging to a consensus of 4.7 of five. I wouldn't go that high, but it is damn fine work. Here are examples of the work of three of the subjects, starting with Shapinsky:

Kotchor, from Knipl:

Spiegelman, other than Maus:

And speaking of passionate pursuit that isn't lucrative, my eighth book is now available at Amazon. Here's a pic of the cover, front and back:

Golf pro Justin Thomas, 23, may burst into flames, he's that hot. After winning last week's first stop of 2017 in Hawaii, he shot a 59 at the Sony Open yesterday. It's only the seventh time there has been a sub-60 round in PGA history. He did it by making a 15-foot eagle putt on 18. The record low is 58 by Jim Furyk, the only man to have gone that low.

It was a beautiful day despite the cold wind. My thanks to Ira, who bought a book on Manhattan architecture, and to the woman who bought The Survivors Club by Lisa Gardner and Texas Sunrise by Fern Michaels.

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