How do you do?
(Just so you know, there's a mention of suicide in one of the quotes below)
I'm meant to be writing a book. And I'm due to hand it in at the end of March, so this is going to be short. One of the things I love about writing, though, is reading around the topic, so I have some choice bits to share.
(1) I think my favourite new read has been On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz. She points out how expertise changes your attention. For, I guess, both good and bad.
"There is a certain bias in everyone’s perspective that has been named, by the French, déformation professionnelle: the tendency to look at every context from the point of view of one’s profession."
"Expertise changes what you see and hear, and it even changes what you can attend to. Neuro-imagery shows us how expert and naive brains look when attending: fundamentally different. Watch the brains of dancers while they watch a dance performance, and you will see considerably more activity than you would find in the brains of nondancers. Expertise leads to the ability to acquire more expertise."
(2) Sasha Frere-Jones asked people to reflect on 2022 in his newsletter. Here's someone called Mary Kate O’Sullivan:
"I spent the year leaning into what I have been calling MELL: My Exact Little Life. MELL vibes are when the ordinary aspects of life that are unique to solely you feel sacred. It’s closely related to absolute acceptance of my ordinary life, but beyond acceptance, it’s celebration."
I love that.
(3) And here's someone's MELL. As described by Matthew De Abaitua in The Art of Camping:
"Lady Arthur Grosvenor, sister-in-law of the Duke of Westminster, spent the summer season travelling around the country disguised as a Gypsy. She assumed the name of ‘Sarah Lee’ and sold baskets out of the back of her van. In 1907, the New York Times caught up with her van as it clip-clopped through Oxfordshire on the way to Ascot: ‘She gets up at 5 o’clock every morning, cooks her own breakfast, and usually takes the road at 8 o’clock. She may possibly write a book on her experiences of gypsy life.’ Noting the second caravan of supplies trailing Lady Arthur Grosvenor, the reporter anoints her as the originator of the society trend for travelling by caravan, known as ‘land yachting’"
(4) I am reading Ronald Blythe's Next To Nature as each month he mentions rolls by. Here's Maggi Hambling in the intro to March.
"Apparently, there are more suicides in February than any other month. The colours of Christmas have been exterminated and New Year resolutions are seeping away in to grey and hopeless damp. No colour anywhere. Then to the sound of trumpets in thrusts March. Triumphant. Purple fields, the trees still black and naked, the green shoots of life piercing and rising-up through the earth. It is sexy, this surge of sap. Optimism is reborn. There is clear light and plenty of bracing air in which to walk. And mud to negotiate. Suffolk mud is a strange mixture of clod and water, making each step uncertain and exciting. The sky lowers darkly while clouds speed across. The sun suddenly appears. March contains the dark of winter and the light of summer almost simultaneously. After the hibernation of February, eyes closed, there is a shock awakening of all the senses, eyes open."
(5) More Annie Dillard, on creative work and sunk costs.
"Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles, bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length he turned to the young man: “You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it on the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?” The young photographer said, “Because I had to climb a mountain to get it.”
PROMOTIONAL NEWS: REPEAT
Interesting tickets still available. Wednesday May 17th. The Conway Hall. In the evening this time. Still only £30.
Well, I'll give you back your day.
(There are 865 of you. 865 is the area code for Knoxville, Tennesse because it spells out VOL, an abbreviation of Volunteers, which is the formal nickname of the sports teams at the University of Tennessee.)