Thin Slicing

03/03/2019 0 By BuddyCushman

Here, now, is a slice or two of my mind.

Back on October 17th of last year I published a post called “Risks and Other Things” in which I talked about a suggestion I had read – to begin each day by coming up with and writing down 10 Ideas. Every day. It would not be as hard as it sounded, I read, and in fact most of those ideas would end up being throwaways and/or look like a daily To Do list. But, either as the result of law of averages or something perhaps more mystical, there would be a rare “Wow” or “Aha”, some “no way” thought that would come strolling into the cerebellum from somewhere and fall out onto the “Idea” notebook. One of those for me – and I published another post 11 days later – “When 10 Becomes 50” – was to pull 50 books down from my scattered bookshelves, or already on order from Ebay, or coming from the public library and read them within one year. I published that post October 26th, and the next the day I began the first book from the list of 50 I’d created – Jack Kerouac’s ‘Desolation Angels’.

This post is an update. It will include lists and a few of my inner mental meanderings and my not be as powerfully engaging as eating a bowl of cereal or watching an ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ re-run. But I hope you will hang in there with me. So, ahead of time, thanks.

This morning, at approximately 6:15 a.m., I finished a book titled ‘Blink’ by the author Malcolm Gladwell. My 26th completed book.  Now, ‘Blink’ had not appeared on my original list of 50. Neither had others. Let me show you. Here, lifted from a previous post, is a listing of the 50 books I had selected – through a process which felt, at the time, at least slightly romantic – and promised to read:

‘Understanding Comics’ by Scott McCloud; ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith; ‘A Stained White Radiance’ by James Lee Burke; ‘First Things First’ by Stephen Covey; ‘Radio Free Boston – WBCN’ by Carter Alan; ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ by Joan Didion; ‘The Night Gardener’ by George Pelecanos; “Generation of Swine” by Hunter S. Thompson; ‘The Golden Compass’, ‘The Amber Spyglass’, ‘The Subtle Knife’ trilogy by Philip Pullman; ‘Go’ John Clellon Holmes; ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain; ‘Notes of a Native Son’ by James Baldwin; ‘Travels With Charley’ by John Steinbeck; ‘The Basketball Diaries’ by Jim Carroll; ‘The Onion Field’ by Joseph Wambaugh; ‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ by Walter Mosley; ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs; ‘River of Shadows’ by Rebecca Solnit; ‘The Lost Get-Back Boogie’ by James Lee Burke; ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ by A.A. Milne; ‘Running and Being’ by Dr. George Sheehan; ‘Soul on Ice’ by Eldridge Cleaver.

‘L.A. Requiem’ by Robert Crais; ‘The Subterraneans’ and ‘Desolation Angels’ by Jack Kerouac; ‘Childhood’s End’ by Arthur C. Clarke; ‘Joshua Dread’ by Lee Bacon; ‘The Dark Half’ by Stephen King; ‘When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes’ by Lawrence Block; ‘Even Cowgirls Get the Blues’ by Tom Robbins; ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger; ‘Cat’s Cradle’ by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ by Robert Heinlein; ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ by Tom Wolfe; ‘The Moviegoer’ by Walker Percy; ‘The Soul of a New Machine’ by Tracy Kidder; ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert Pirsig; ‘The Sun Also Rises’ by Ernest Hemingway; ‘Zen Guitar’ by Philip Toshio Sudo; ‘Thoughts Without a Thinker’ by Mark Epstein; ‘Song Man’ by Will Hodgkinson; ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg; ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; and coming from Ebay, ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell and ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman’ by Richard Philips Feynman.

You don’t find ‘Blink’ within that collection, though Gladwell did have a scheduled appearance with ‘Outliers’. I am happy to say I have read ‘Outliers too, finished it February 12th. Now – are you still here? – This is the list, current as of this morning, of the 26 books I have read thus far, crossing over the halfway point today. And the order in which I have read them:

‘Angels by Kerouac; ‘Childhood’s End’ by Arthur C. Clarke; ‘Kitchen Confidential’ by Anthony Bourdain. ‘Catcher In the Rye’, J.D. Salinger; ‘Lost Get-Back Boogie’, James Lee Burke; ‘The Places that Scare Us’ by Pema Chodron; ‘The Spanish Civil War – A Very Short Introduction’ by Helen Graham; ‘Sure;y You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman’ by Richard Feynman; ‘Even Cowgirls Get the Blues’, Tom Robbins; ‘Thoughts Without a Thinker’ by Mark Epstein; ‘Here, There, and Everywhere’ by Geoff Emerick; ‘Everything Is Combustible’ by Richard Lloyd; ‘Ending the Pursuit of Happiness’ by Barry Magid; ‘Indigo Slam’ by Robert Crais; ‘Radio Free Boston’ by Carter Allen; ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Ernest Hemingway; ‘A Path With Heart’ by Jack Kornfield; ‘The Wanted’ by Robert Crais; ‘Catching Big Fish’ by David Lynch; ‘Things That Make White People Uncomfortable’ by Michael Bennett; ‘The Night Gardener’, George Pelecanos; ‘River of Shadows’, Rebecca Solnit; ‘Outliers’, Gladwell; ‘Moonwalking With Einstein’ by Joshua Fore; ‘The Society of Six’ by Nancy Boas; and ‘Blink’, finished a few hours ago.

Please let me save you the time from noodling back and forth between the lists, and share these facts – Of the 26 books I have read to date, 13 were not on the original list. After I had substituted two books, the Chodron and Graham books, from the original list I had something like a sweep of guilt, maybe punking out or disloyalty, whatever, and vowed no more subs. And yet 11 of the next 19 books weaseling their way onto the arm rest of the early morning recliner, were substitutes. And, in another interesting tid bit – for me anyway – of the 13 books I have brought on board at the expense of the originals, an amazing 11 are non-fiction. I started noticing this as it was happening, and thought about it, but I didn’t then or don’t now have an explanation. I rarely watch or read the news anymore, and my life leans in a big way toward creativity and imagination. So I do not understand. In fact, of the 26 books I have read through today, only eight can be called fiction.

I do have three other books from the list in progress, including two fiction, but they have all stalled out. I Have started some five or six other books, including a couple with over 200 pages read, and have given up, put them away, returned to the library or the shelf. I never got grabbed by the stories. Another of the “10 Ideas” showing up one morning was to study the Spanish Civil War – where that one came from who knows – thus the inclusion of the Graham book and, for you discerning readers, the switch out of Hemingway’s ‘Sun Also Rises’ for ‘The Bell Tolls’.

I could add a small story for each of the new books that have arrived into my life, but won’t bore you anymore than I may have already. ‘Even Cowgirls Get the Blues’ is flat-out amazing and inspiring, ‘Catcher In the Rye’ is crap, I have no clue why that book is referenced as much as it is. ‘Thoughts Without a Thinker’ is powerful and engaging making the clear connection between Buddhism and psychoanalysis, and a chance to really look at yourself. ‘Society of Six’ is a book of artists, six painters who never have been household names but maybe oughta be. The Hemingway book was, by the last page, a disappointment, and I ordered the LLoyd memoir from the library after falling desperately in love via YouTube with the music group Television and their LP ‘Marquee Moon’. The book nowhere near the guitar work.

Math says I am ahead of schedule in my quest to read 50 in a year. Still, there are many long, slow reads waiting on the original list. No matter any of this, this little “Idea’d” exercise, I love to read and have shining gratitude daily that my eyes still work (reading glasses!!), I continue to rise way early in the day for coffee and books, as well as ideas and Morning Pages – even what with me being a member of the working class again after all this time. I have a place to live, enough coffee, and a 40 buck recliner I bought on Craigslist 10 years ago. It’s a wicked great place to read.

How do I love my life? Let me count the words.