The Monday Book – Books for Living: Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life by Will Schwalbe

Guest review by Janelle Bailey, retired Literature teacher.

I could write a book about this book, quite honestly, elaborating on any of these few angles and more:

1. The story of my meeting Will Schwalbe the first time and, as I recall it, giving the hook to the woman/my friend who was introducing him at our book festival session, as she’d just admitted that she had not yet read his book…but planned to. I very boldly (rude on my part!) interrupted her, as I recall/remember the situation, because I did not feel she was then so qualified to introduce him as I was, having read his book in preparation for the event AND having felt as fondly about the book (Schwalbe’s first, The End of Your Life Book Club as I did. She handled it very well…and allowed me to proceed with his introduction.

2. What Schwalbe says–and I feel to my core–about us somehow reading the right books at the right time and somehow–so magically, coincidentally, divinely, whatever–picking them from a shelf, stack, etc., exactly when we do. And even this one I could write at least a chapter, then, about. And I thought soooooooooooo much about how many times I told students, essentially, “Read this book right now. Here’s the reading schedule.” OH MY WORD! How wrong is that?! Thank goodness so many students have come back to me as reading adults and seek conversations now about reading and books…and we can revise our reading relationships and build them to be even better…about them, also, reading the right books at the right time. Honestly, can you even appreciate Kate Chopin’s The Awakening at 17?! I think not…actually, even if the College Board advocates its reading.

3. The fact that, though I did technically break my own self-imposed 2022 Book Buying Ban the last few weeks to purchase literature of Ukraine (and Ukrainian-American authors as well), Poland, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, etc., I ordered no fewer than six new books…all because they were referenced/touted here (and in at least one case had already been recommended previously by another treasure of a reading friend).

4. That which happens in the head and heart of an avid and devoted reader when she feels like an author is speaking DIRECTLY to her, though he most likely does not remember her at all, but references so many books and having valued them in the very same ways that she, too, has. And when he talks about something else that she is certain he may not also know as she does, she wishes this were a two-way conversation rather than her reading his book! Argh! (Wonder if he reads the Goodreads reviews of his books to see this…or no. 😉

5. The book smacking (positively in expression, not violently) which occurs when a reader reads an author dropping in something like, “Terry and I would talk about books from time to time,  when we weren’t talking about food. We both agreed that A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is one of the greatest books of all time,” and the reader knows that she was JUST required to “submit” to her godmother her five favorite books of ALL TIME, and that title is absolutely on that list of five, and without question, every single time she’s asked that question. Though she ALSO completely related to an earlier assertion of the author’s that the best book one has read is so often whatever they JUST finished when/if it was good.

6. There’s sooooooooo much more, even, that I could say about this book. But that’s all for right now.

If you have not yet, and you LOVE BOOKS at all like I do, I recommend reading this one asap.

Old Dogs, New Ticks

Recently I accepted the opportunity to produce stories for Inside Appalchia’s Folkways Project (Public Radio). While the idea of finding interesting people doing exciting things, interviewing them, and then writing it up is pretty familiar to me, this involves sound.

Learning a new skill after one has been teaching for 20some years, writing for 15, and generally living life recycling and upscaling existing abilities in more pontificating and visible ways, can be…. Well, what word shall we use? A challenge? Fun? Humbling? Time-consuming to the point of losing interest in the newest installment of Bridgerton? Throw-things frustrating?

Yes, those words will do nicely. And now, thanks to some help from our friends Dirk and Martha Wiley, I know how to cut them, splice them, make them more equal in sound, remove background tics and other noises from them, and mix them into a multitrack recording.

But it isn’t easy. Think learning cut and paste long long ago, back in Microsoft Word: control c, control v, control y and z. Except, in the sound software, when you push control V everything highlights and then some sound lines disappear. Have they just gone for a coffee; will they come back? Push control y, and watch this big gaping hole distort with upping decibels until you realize what’s happening and yank your finger off the control. Perhaps that’s what y stands for.

Worst of all, there is the razor tool. You don’t have to push control r, just r will do. And if you should press it accidentally, it will still do. Again and again and again, slicing not only the line of sound you are working on (aka a “track”) but the ones above and below it, because after all you are multitracking. Not to be confused with multitasking. Let your concentration slip for one second to take a slug of coffee, turn your head to see why the dog is barking, and your entire clip is gone. G-O-N-Error message gone.

We’re not going to talk about what a cat walking across the keyboard can do. That’s five minutes of tape I’ll never get back again. The cat has been rehomed.

Sound is not quite like print, except it kinda is. The squiggly lines get bigger when someone is talking louder, and you can just about tell when someone is starting a sentence. You just can’t read the sentence, you have to listen to it. To help with this there are j-k-l. J goes backwards, l goes forwards, and k stops. So don’t panic and leave your finger in j while trying to catch where you should cut the tape, because you will hear every backward masking message you were ever warned about by censors looking for problems. And if you SHOULD panic and forget to remove your finger from j, you can eventually make up for it by clicking l three or four times. Which speeds up the forward progression. A lot. K-stop, but you’ll be five minutes up the road. Sorry, track.

This too shall pass muster. I will learn. Dirk is a good teacher, my motivation is high. Roll tape – no wait, go back…..