Marks in the Margin will be taking an indefinite break in order to devote myself to other projects waiting in the wings. I am most grateful to everyone who has read and commented on the blog during the past two years.
During that time I have come to think of blogging as much like a classroom. In the beginning there were only a few students but gradually the class grew larger and became more interesting, especially to me.
Like any new class, it became a learning experience for the teacher who learned far more about literature than he ever had before. And it was fun, as well as a bit of a test for me, an unschooled student of literature, to try to write a page or so each day about a book or article I had read or about an idea that for one reason or another was important to me.
I also came to know a few of my readers who, I hope, will continue to be my friends during the forthcoming hiatus. And I found other literary bloggers who I now regard as friends who gather together in this strange new place to talk about the books they’ve read and what the experience meant to them.
Throughout much of last year I was ensconced in Honolulu, where I had come for what I had hoped would be the rest of my life. At least, that was the plan, a plan soon discarded as the year went by. And I have wondered to what extent simply living in the benign climate of the tropics, where I felt so utterly relaxed, contributed to the outpouring of words that year.
I had worried that I would succumb to surf boarding and sun bathing. But like most of the worries I have, nothing came of it. Does it matter where a writer lives or what the weather is like there? The life that Dostoyevsky led in Russia gave him a subject matter that ultimately led to his masterpieces. But it did not guarantee he would write them.
Would he have written about something else if he had fled wintery Moscow for the tropics? While I not even close to qualifying for Dostoyevsky’s league or have the slightest idea how to write novels, at least I did not altogether loose my stuff among the waving palms and flowering bougainvillea of Oahu. Indeed, as Jonah Lehrer comments in his recent blog, Mood and Cognition, "sometimes being relaxed “promotes a more freewheeling kind of information processing which leads to more creative insights.”
Just the other day a Facebook Friend sent me a request to join the fray at Sticky Books. The rules of the game go like this: List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. And then I was supposed to tag 15 Friends who I thought might like to know my favorites. Tagging remains a mystery to me, but I very quickly came up with the following list arranged in no particular order.
Azar Nafisi Reading Lolita in Tehran
Brian Morton Starting Out in the Evening,
David Denby Great Books
Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls
Michael Cunningham The Hours
Elliot Perlman Seven Types of Ambiguity
Michael Ondaatje The English Patient
J. M. Coetzee Youth
Lawrence Durrell The Alexandrian Quartet
Kai Bird & Martin Sherwin American Prometheus
Pascal Mercier Night Train to Lisbon
Philip Roth Exit Ghost
Rachel Cusk Arlington Park
Ian McEwan Saturday
John Williams Stoner
I believe I have blogged about most of these books and in doing so I came to appreciate the extent to which reading and writing are inseparable. They always will be for me, but for now I am going to turn that undertaking in a slightly different direction.