Reading has taken a hit lately since the new baby was born. Also, my writing has picked up a LOT over the past week, which has eaten further into my recreational reading.
Looking for balance, people. Trying to find the balance.
Nevertheless, I've been reading more than it seems like I have. I've got two books that are almost finished, one of which was pretty lengthy, and while I've been working on them I've finished three shorter books, none of which were amazing and two of which took a surprisingly long time to get through (mostly because they were boring and I was sleepy, so I could literally fall asleep while reading).
Here they are, then: The books that I done did finish in February 2011.
How To Run a Theater
A Witty, Practical, and Fun Guide to Arts Management
by Jim Volz
Backstage Books, New York, 2004
181 pages (because I'm not counting the index, seeing as how I didn't actually read it)
This was a good beginner's book in being a theater administrator. A lot of it had to do with managing your schedule, reducing stress, running an efficient meeting, representing your company well, treating your employees with respect, developing a healthy infrastructure for your theater company...it was a little depressing, actually, given current circumstances. Still, it's amazing to me how much "be a good person" seems to have the same checklist as "be a good manager."
Still, a good how-to book that was both concise and thorough. Not nearly as witty or fun as the subtitle would want you to believe, however.
The War of Art
Winning the Inner Creative Battle
by Steven Pressfield
(Forward by Robert McKee)
Rugged Land Publishing, New York, 2002
Way back when I was keeping track of a recommended reading list, this book was on it. And after reading it, I can see why the person who recommended it liked it. This is a book you're probably either going to love or hate. I tend to gravitate closer to the "hate" side, though I think Pressfield's point is valid and important. I liked the basic idea of what the book has to say, but I'm not too crazy about the way the author said it. I think you could probably have published the most important ideas in a pamphlet and it would have been equally impactful on my life. And it did have a definite impact, don't get me wrong. Basically, Pressfield says that there is this Resistance that tries to keep artists from creating. It comes in many different forms: excuses, conflicts, writer's block, fatigue, need for (and lack of) validation, et cetera. To truly be an artist, one has to overcome Resistance if one hopes to succeed and fulfill their fullest potential. (This is part one of the book) In order to overcome Resistance, the artist must learn to "Be a Pro." That basically means discipline. Treat your art with the same discipline you give your job. Get to it every day, whether you feel like it or not. Do your best work. Force yourself to stay in the habit of creating. Deny Resistance the opportunity to slow you down. (This is part two) When you commit yourself to your art, you will become better. Your imagination will sharpen. Your senses will hone. You will become a better artist. (This is part three) And I thought, "Yes, this is right. I will start writing every night again, because if I don't I will always find a reason to put it off, and I'll never be a writer." And that's more or less what I've done.
Two points the book loses me on: First, I always dislike a book that I feel is belaboring it's points. (This was part of my case against The Sacred Romance last month) I get what you're saying, let's move on. (To Pressfield's credit, this is a surprisingly quick read because a third of the pages are only half-full of words)
Second, and this is why you'll either love or hate this book, Pressfield goes into a lot of divine mysteries of the artist sort of things that I don't usually like. Part Three of the book is all about accessing a Higher Realm that sends emissaries (angels or muses) to whisper into artists' ears while they write, paint, sculpt, or whatever. A higher consciousness comes to us in our dreams because we are artists, and this other realm that exists just outside the physical realm really just wants to watch us make good art all the time. He justifies this approach by using a single line of poetry as evidence and then proceeds as if this necessarily makes it so. I tend to agree more with the writer of the forward of this book (odd when the guy who writes the forward disagreed with a book before you've even had a chance to read it) that such inspirations are more often born from within the artist though I don't discount the possibility of divine inspiration. But then, I've always bean leery of the "artists are holier than everybody else" school of thought. It's part of why I didn't want to consider myself an artist for a number of years. So again, you'll either love this idea, or you'll be more than willing to pass on it.
The Pig Did It
by Joseph Caldwell
Delphinium Books, New York, 2008
Hey, a book without a subtitle!
This was actually one of Kim's library books. She put it down after about page 10. I decided to give it more of a shot and wasn't ready to drop it until I was two-thirds of the way through, and by then I figured I'd just finish it up. It's not a bad book, and it had several scenes that were fantastic. It just never seemed to gain any significant momentum. The language was pretty witty, but even that grew a bit tiresome after awhile. It looked to be a romantic comedy with a whodunit type twist, but the book never really seemed to care much about either storyline. And I'm sure that's the style this particular novelist was going for. And, I know this novelist is good, because he's won the Rome Prize for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. So he's got far more pedigree than I have, this one just didn't suit my fancy.
Again, I have to point out that parts of the book were really very enjoyable, and I even caught myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. But the bizarre, wandering, disconnected nature of the narrative often left me flipping to the back to figure out how many pages away from 195 I was.