In an earlier (September 15, 2015) post, entitled “Traveling and Writing”, I touched on my disinclination to write when I travel. Which pretty much explains my being MIA from this blog for the past few weeks.
In place of the drought in writing is a bonanza of reading. Among the stuff which has been savoured as part of my summer reading list (hey, Obama is not the only person to have one) are:
• Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
• God Help the Child by Toni Morrison.
• Night by Elie Wiesel
• Aspects of the Novel by EM Foster
• Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.
• Hemingway In Love : In His Own Words by A.E Hotchner
• Bark by Lorrie Moore
• 50 Great Short Stories (Bantan Classics) edited by Milton Crane
• Granta 21 (The First 21 years) – Granta
• The Dangerous Summer by Ernest Hemingway
Some I’m reading for the first time, others are re-visits.
This reading-and-not-writing routine has worked remarkably well, up till now. Until I came across the fresh-off-the-press “The Accidental Life – An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers” by Terry McDonnel. Before I was even mid-way through the book, I knew I was in trouble, like a cold-turkey ex-smoker trying to resist second-hand smoke.
Reminiscing about his time working with various publishers and writers during his long career editing various magazines, such Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated, and the like, McDonnell writes with evident joy, passion and excitement about how he and others collaborated to conceive and produce publications of journalistic quality and literary renown. Working with only the raw materials of ideas, and words and punctuation marks, and sometimes some photos, he and a whole gallery of writers, many of whom have by now entered the literary hall of fame, crafted stories, forged lead-ins (known as ‘ledes’ in the business), and teased out apt and catchy captions.
Throughout the 350+ pages, the passion, joy and excitement of the collaborators were evident. Yes, there were some frustrations along the way, but these were regarded as coming with the territory, obstacles to be overcome. Over an impressively long career spanning the crème-ala-crème of journalistic magazines, the passion never seemed to fade and the enthusiasm never seemed to flag. It is no accident that a keen reader of “The Accidental Life’ could become vulnerable to contracting a bad case of writing fever.
My continued luxuriating under the gorgeous English summer sky, soaking up torrents of words, seemed quite incongruent with the industriousness of my – may I be so bold as to call them – “fellow craftsmen” ? Apart from a sense of guilt for my writerly indolence, I also started to feel an itch I needed to scratch. Much as I loath to break my age-old habit of not writing when I’m traveling, I allowed myself to be persuaded that a little scribbling wouldn’t hurt anybody. In fact, considering that I will be staying on here for another few weeks, it might be just what is needed to prevent this from evolving into – with apologies to Mr Hemingway – the languorous summer.