Tag Archives: Authors

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The latest book I need to praise is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The novel is told through the eyes of a dog (Enzo), who has come near the end of his life and is reflecting upon the time he spent with his human family. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not exactly an animal lover, so I was a bit skeptical when I heard the premise of the book, but Enzo was able to completely win me over. There were parts of the novel that were literally laugh out loud funny and others that brought me to tears.

At its core, the story is about being a witness to another person’s life. It’s about family, compassion and unconditional love. The Art of Racing in the Rain speaks to companionship and loyalty in only a way that a dog can explain it. It makes you wonder about how much our pets really understand us and how well they truly know the people we are.

Stein has a gift with words that left me wanting more. I’ll definitely be picking up his other  novels in the future and I hope you’ll try this one out for yourself. Here are a few quotes that may help convince you to grab a copy:

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of a conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another’s conversations constantly.”

“So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is comprised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.”

“To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to.”

“Many of us have convinced ourselves that compromise is necessary to achieve our goals, that all of our goals are not attainable so we should eliminate the extraneous, prioritize our desires, and accept less than the moon. But Denny refused to yield to that idea.”

“ ‘There is no dishonor in losing the race,’ Don said. ‘There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.’ ”

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Living Out Loud

Sue Monk Kidd is one of the greatest authors and people I have had the pleasure of meeting. She has written two of my absolute favorite books – The Mermaid Chair and The Secret Life of Bees (among others). It was my great fortune to get to hear her speak when she came to Loyola to tell her true life story and to talk about the obstacles she faced in finding her authentic self (during her twenties she worked as a nurse and a nursing instructor, not becoming a writer until later in life). I clung to every word that came out of her mouth and felt like she was speaking directly to me, with no one else in the room. Thank God the school recorded her for a podcast, so that I could later go back and listen to her again and write down some of the things she said that I never wanted to forget.

My nerdy self typed up around four pages of notes from the podcast, so I’m just going to randomly share some of the tidbits from her talk and comment on them when necessary. Hopefully, it’s not too chaotic and makes a little bit of sense.

Creativity, Writing and Soul – 3 things I think are very intertwined.

She quotes John Gardner who says, “You must find the necessary fire.”

A writer must find some kind of conviction in herself. That combustion in your own soul that allows you to finally plant feet and say, “this is my path,” and to know that because it comes from that necessary fire.

I became very restless, very homesick for my true self. For what we could call our place of belonging. I’m very big on that. On finding your place of belonging.

My plan was earnest, but highly unlikely. I lovingly refer to it now as my great absurdity. We should all have one or two of those in our lives, it seems. A hope so extravagant it seems completely foolish and implausible.

She takes a few lines from David Whyte’s poem, “Sweet Darkness” “You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in. Give up all other worlds except the one to which you belong.”

So we’re talking here about calling, really. So much of finding the room of your own is about listening to yourself. Taking time to listen to the voice of your own heart, of your own soul. I think the desire of your heart is important. I think that maybe, in fact, the most guiding thing in your soul is the desire of the heart.

She quotes Frederick Buechner saying, You are called to the place where you deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

There’s brilliance in that. The question becomes: What is your deep gladness? What is the desire of your heart? What do you love? And that isn’t a selfish question, actually, because I think that the fate of the world, in some way, depends on everyone finding the room of their own, the room of belonging where their necessary fire burns because that is where the genius is. That’s where the gift is. So it is what fascinates us. And we are incumbent, I felt incumbent, to find what fascinates me, what livens me. And really it’s more about the courage to actually do it.

Creativity is essentially a spiritual experience. A conversation between me and my soul. Inside the soul there is this place, and I only know it by my own experience, in which images are bread and myths congregate and dreams come and are choreographed and the soul talks. And it’s this place where we have a lot of memory and deep emotional content and wisdom and art typo patterns and all of this raw genius. And in that, I think, is this power to kind of reinvent things. Reinvent the world. Reinvent what it means to be human. Reinvent our myths and stories. That’s the kind of genius all that has. Not to mention transforming our lives.

Youm’s student comes to him and says:

-“Professor, can you tell me the shortest distance to my life goal?”

-“The detour.”

It’s possible, I think, that every true creative expression is an act of courage. Some assertion of courage.

She talks about Maya Angelou, who once said, “Writing required only three things – something to say, the ability to say it, and the courage to say it at all.” And the hardest one was the last one.

She quotes Cynthia Ozick who said, “Writing is an act of courage.”

There can really be something almost terrifying about making yourself visible in the world. It’s revealing oneself, one’s true self. I think that it has primarily to do with voicing truths from the room of your own. That’s what it’s about. And that is not for the feint hearted, honestly. It’s much safer, it’s much nicer, it’s very innocuous to just be silent and unseen. Much easier. But it’s possible that in that way, we close ourselves off from the world and maybe from our own depths.

She speaks about Emile Zola who said, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, as an artist, will answer you, ‘I came to live out loud.’ ”

Why does any person make them self audible and visible in the world?

Something beyond just filling my own need to do it, my own desire to do it, my own sort of settling down in my own room of belonging. Something beyond that. And the larger reason to write fiction, he was telling me, is because it creates empathy in the world. I like that. Most humans, including myself, go through life, more or less, preserving our separation from others. I don’t know what that recoil is in us, but it seems to be there. That preserving your separation. But when you read fiction, really good fiction, hopefully, and memoir, we participate in another person’s life. Their ecstasies, their yearnings, their sufferings, all the ways that their life has been shattered and put back together again. And if their experience is really different from your own, all the better. Because you empathize.

I began to understand that my living out loud through my writing had this potential to create empathy in the world.

So the question is: what does my out loudness serve? That’s really the question. The calling. What does it serve?

There comes a time in the maturation of a human being in which he or she feels a need to embrace the world, to love it. To say okay, now, I’m gonna allow my art, my calling to serve it, to serve the world.

I keep trying to inspire myself with this larger idea that my living out loud ultimately needs to come from the act of embracing the world. And creating empathy in the world and rewriting the world.

You write for yourself. You follow your calling for yourself. But you live out loud for something beyond yourself, that’s larger than yourself. You live out loud for the community.

Obviously, I can profoundly relate to her just in terms of what she has to say about writing. I love the idea of living out loud, and I think this blog has become my own way of living out loud at this moment.

I also really like her definition of a calling, and I think it’s something everyone can relate to. How she believes it comes from this fire within each of us, and sees it as a place of belonging. I love that. I love that it’s about finding your true self. It’s about listening to your heart (which I’m a huge proponent of, anyway). It’s about asking yourself, “what is my deep gladness?” It’s about soul, and courage and taking risks. It’s about connecting with other people and making your mark on the world. It’s about putting yourself out there. It’s about finding your authentic self.

I just think she says it all so well. She completely inspires me and I hope this little (well, maybe not so little) entry was able to do the same for you.

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The Alchemist

If you haven’t read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho you need to get on amazon.com right now and order it. Coelho is, by far, one of my favorite authors and The Alchemist is my favorite book of his. I’ve already read it three times and every time it means something a little different to me. I think it’s the perfect graduation gift and I would recommend opening it up after you graduate from high school, after you graduate from college and then any time you deem necessary after that. Basically, it’s a fantastic fairy tale about following your dreams.

Coelho writes in this whimsical, magical way that just puts me in awe of his imagination. I’ve read a few of his other novels as well, and the best word I can come up with to describe him is wise.

I don’t want to give too much about the story away, but The Alchemist follows the journey of a boy named Santiago, and it speaks to the importance of our dreams and how crucial it is to listen to our hearts.

There are so many thought-provoking themes throughout the novel that I can’t even begin to write about them all. I’ll depart by offering you a few quotes in hopes that they persuade you to get your hands on your own copy of the book. Only then will you truly understand Coelho’s extraordinary gift.

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.”

“…wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.”

“…we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.”

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

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