Endings

What are the options for authors finishing off and wrapping up their stories? Great Telegraph article on the ends of books, contrasted with the importance of beginings. Suggests that writers conceive of an ending when they begin writing, so they have a life raft they can swim towards as they write.

The Middle Mind

White has awoken my slumbering senses so far… I’m 65 pages in and feel more alive than before I began.
“… to make something that has the click of invention… is to feel that life has been pulled from the abyss called death of perception wherein one is dumbly pent by Stevens’ quotidian or Hegel’s ‘night,’ the night of the Middle Mind dead. Each day’s practice is the requirement of going once more to that abyss, where life’s failure is a real possibility, and plucking life out in the possibility (if not the realization) of its human capacity. This cannot be done in a context in which, as Stevens wrote, ‘the deer and the dachshund’ (or Eschenbach and Manilow) are one. It can be done only in a world in which the imagination rules supreme.”
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Later, finished the book. I love Curtis White’s crotchety, critical insights; he brutally rips apart contemporaries’ works without a care in the world. He demands that we THINK CHANGE. He demands that we delete our TVs. He begs us to read Wallace Stevens The Necessary Angel and trashes deconstructionism, and lambasts our politicians, and praises Marx Hegel and Chompsky. He likens Lycos CEO Bob Davis to Bizarro, Superman’s evil antithesis. He ridicules businessmen.
He urges us to give up Spielberg and embrace Radiohead.

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It Must’ve Been Something I Ate

After a couple of cross-country flights, finally finished this 500 pager. Steingarten writes well about food, tho’ nothing revolutionary. His endlessly deep pockets secures him $4k worth of caviar in a few months time, trips to and fro (France, Thailand, Baja California, New Orleans, Italy), and mounds of ingredients (pot a feu– roosters, pig’s blood, Turducken ingredients upwards of 90 spices). Probably the most inspiration I got out of this was the knowledge that he one day decided he had enough of being a lawyer and simply turned into the Vogue food editor.

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To the Power of Three

A half-step above beach reading, mildly interesting. High school girls involved in a triple shooting; Perri, Kat, Jodie the tight threesome since 3rd grade; Binnie & Eve the two farmgirls who don’t smell so good. The detectives. Peter Lasko the actor who lands a part in a Miramax movie but who ends up dead.
Probably the only redeeming feature was the mention of Television without Pity as something that could be on your computer screen when someone comes in to talk to you and you immediately minimize all windows before engaging in a conversation.
My advice: skip this one.

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A Crack in the Edge of the World

Early thoughts: I become less and less of a Simon fan, especially when he insists on inserting himself into the story. It turns into a “Simon says” narrative; Simon went to Iceland, Simon refers to his earlier work Krakatoa, Simon knows best b/c he’s a geologist cum author who went to Oxford damnit thus British accent portrays superiority to the plebians he lives amongst in the good old US of A.
But I am enjoying the basics as he sneaks them in. Check this info on creation of the seas.
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Now finished, I can’t say my opinion has improved much. The last section seemed a smattering of completely unrelated items; almost like Simon had index cards full of factoids he wanted to work into the book somehow, thus just tossed them all into the mix at the end (topics ranging from the Pentacostalists, Paper People, Burnham’s plan, Loma Prieta, loss of artistic soul from SF.)
I think there are better books on the SF earthquake… And Simon has lost his edge.

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Creation of the Seas

It was at this point in the planet’s history that the earth’s eggshell-like crust, which was slowly forming on the surface from this cooling scum, began to stop doing what up to that point it was prone to do, and that is to keep on remelting itself. For eons it kept sinking back into the mantle just a few millennia after it had formed, utterly wrecking itself in the process — and then it would pop up out of the molten ocean of lava and be reborn in a totally different guise. Instead, all of a sudden, large chunks of crust were staying afloat, more or less permanently. In cooling, the crust was forming itself into rocks that would themselves be permanent — if only the external forces permitted them to remain at the surface and did not try to drag them or push them down toward the heat again.
As they slowly cooled, some of these rocks-to-be separated themselves out, according to perfectly understandable laws of physics: The lighter materials of the scum rose to the surface, the heavier ones passed downward in one enormous fractionating column — a little like the Skaergaard, though over infinitely longer periods of time and under very different physical conditions. The lighter materials generally formed themselves into those rocks we now call granites – the coarse-grained rocks that tend to be prettily light in color as well as in consititution. The heavier fractions created layers of rocks like basalt and diorite and gabbro, which were darker and tended to sag downward under the force of gravity, forming sloughs, whereas the granites tended to form uplands. The darker and heavier slabs lay sluglike and low on the earth’s surface, and in time they began both to accumulate and to accommodate water that fell from the skies; over many millions of years, this resulted in the creation of oceans. Dark rocks underlay the seas; granites made up the new continents. And this law of basic igneous geology has remained a verifiable truth ever since.
From page 77 of A Crack in the Edge of the World

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Poet of the Appetites

Just finished the fantastic biography of M.F.K. Fisher, the author of Consider the Oyster, Gastronomical Me, etc. etc. This bio was a glorious journey along MFK’s life, detailing her first trip to France with new husband Al Fisher, whom she eventually left to join Dillwyn Parrish, all the way to life in Sonoma in Last House, a cottage built for MFK by David Bouverie on his ranch. Along the way she has her first pregnancy during her heady days as a Hollywood writer (pregnancy disguised as an adoption since was unmarried)–Anna, and in a fit of boredom moves to NYC where she marries Donald Friede after 5 days. Her daughter Kennedy is born of this marriage, which spirals into debt, stress, and discovery of Donald’s problems in the bedroom. MFK has various and several affairs over the ages, becomes good friends with Donald’s next wife Eleanor, and becomes increasingly distant from her daughters. One of her last affairs was with Arnold Gingrich, the magazine editor who would write her daily letters on his commute from Ridgewood, NJ into NYC. Prior to that she had an extended affair with Marietta Voorhees in St. Helena.
In the literary world, her best work is written pre-1950s, yet she is rediscovered in the 80s. North Point press comes out with a reprint of all her works, and she meets literary talents like Evan Connell, Walter Percy. In the gastronomical world, she’s pals with Julia Child, James Beard, Alice Waters.
Throughout the bio, Reardon manages to convey the same mouth-watering atmosphere that MFK creates. Definitely a complete look at MFK’s life- worth reading for any MFK fans.

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Grand Canyon

What could have been a truly riveting story of geology, erosion, and plate tectonics turned into a snooze-fest. I struggled mightily for 160 pages, then determined it was not worth the pain of continuing. I’m a huge geology buff when written in a way that conveys excitement and scientific progress. This seemed to be “book report”-ish, with several pages of direct quotes from Charles Dutton’s book on the Grand Canyon.
Basic premise: John Wesley Powell rafts down the Colorado twice and proves that the river cut the canyon, not the biblical flood. One interesting item was that the plateau was formed by the river pushing the land upwards over time.

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What the Dormouse Said

Exactly what it pretends to be– an intermixing of 60s era counterculture (LSD, pot, etc.) with the birth of the PC industry. Nothing that was terribly new to me, but perhaps I’m spoiled b/c I live in the Bay Area and know all the tales already. Not sure this would appeal to anyone outside the Bay Area, but give it a shot if you’re curious of the underpinnings beneath the rise of personal computing. Strange inclusion of Greek folk dancing, huh.

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Freddy and Fredericka

Another delicious book by Helprin. This pushed the limits of what I had seen previously from him– a fantasty of sorts putting the Prince/Princess of Wales in America to conquer the colony back for England (which Freddy did, almost getting elected President after Dewey Knott was assassinated). They worked at various tasks as regular people, cleaning, chopping, saving up money for their weekends where they visited museums and libraries. Eventually back to England where Craig-Vvyan the falcon soars to confirm Freddy as king.

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