This diary is like a house salad: it's got some interesting tomatoes, carrots and peppers on top; once you've eaten those, all that's left is a bowl of lettuce. First I'll recommend some books; but once you pass the orange squiggle, there are just some personal ramblings. If you come back next week, I'll have a proper diary, about Michelangelo sculpting David and painting the Sistine Chapel.
I was led to that subject by Daniel Boorstin's The Creators, which is an immensely informative and colorful history of 3,000 years of art, architecture, music and literature. Boorstin tells the stories of more than 100 creators, half of whom are writers. He starts with Homer, Lao-Tzu, and Moses, with chapters on St. Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Whitman, Proust, Kafka, Woolf, and many others. Outside of literature, The Creators covers Stonehenge, skyscrapers, Japanese wood-carving, Picasso, Beethoven and everything in between.
The Creators is one of the most enjoyable books of non-fiction I've ever read. Boorstin has also written two companion volumes: The Discoverers (about explorers, scientists and inventors) and The Seekers (about prophets and philosophers). The Seekers is only half as long as the other two volumes. Personally, I found it less gripping. But the other two were great - I slightly preferred The Creators.
Well, we've reached the lettuce. Since I've long suspected that some of you are hungry rabbits, I'll continue.
I'm very happy to be writing Books Go Boom! It's just, I'm not all here yet. I've almost caught up with the 21st Century. I now have a spiffy new iMac. I've arranged for internet service. But they haven't turned it on yet.
This diary will publish at 3pm on Friday, California Time. And I'll be in the Santa Monica Public Library. They give me 1-2 hours of computer use per day. But on Fridays they close at 5:30PM, and the computers shut down before 5pm. Furthermore, they're so busy on Friday afternoons that I'll probably be booted off the computers after 1 hour, at 4pm.
This isn't an epic tragedy, I know. But, for me, half the point of writing a diary is the conversation it engenders. When I put up a diary, and have to leave after an hour, I feel like I invited a load of friends to a party, but an hour into it I have to leave on a beer run. And I won't make it back to the party until 10AM the next day. So I'm sorry for being a poor host.
Of course, having written all this, I just got an email from DSLextreme, saying they'll turn my internet on today (I mean your today, Friday), so perhaps I'll be responding to comments from home by the time this airs.
One the one hand, it may turn out that my whining was moot, and all I'm left with is an embarassingly shambolic diary. On the other hand, by the law of averages, it was inevitable that some of my diaries would be less impressive than others. I'd just as soon start with the shambolism, and improve from there. And someone had to feed the rabbits. In any case, I will soon be very happy with my new toy. And that's enough boring lettuce for now.
When I was eight, my world went Boom!
I'd had a pleasant enough childhood until then. I lived in a leafy suburb, and I had all a growing boy needed: an ivy-covered house, a clever siamese cat, a safe neighborhood to bike around, a creek to play in. We had a strawberry festival every spring and an apple festival in the fall.
OK, so it was a suburb of Cleveland. But I was too young to notice the sparsity of culture or nightlife. And if our river was so polluted it caught on fire, at eight that felt more like a funny cartoon than news to worry about. But that summer, everything turned upside-down.
My Mom had had two husbands and eight children, and she'd been a housewife for a couple of decades. Once she divorced my Dad, she decided she'd seen enough of those picket-fence dreams. So, with her three youngest children in tow, Mom moved to Florence.
It was as if, several scenes into the movie of my life, the whole world turned from black-and-white to technicolor, and I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore. We Americans, we're so antiseptic, while Italy was stuffed with sensual life like an overripe fruit.
All the noises, the cars always honking, the chattering from the cafes and the wine-bars, the never-ending passion of people living loudly. The rich smells of so many marvelous foods, the fresh bread aroma permeating Florence every morning. Headless naked sheep hanging in butchers' windows. The Mediterranean light on all the red-tiled roofs and winding streets full of cobblestones. All the fairy-tale buildings. The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno, crammed with tiny goldsmith shops. Coffe smells; spices, garlic, wine; a simple ham and cheese sandwich tasting divine, each fresh ingredient bursting with flavor; scrumptious chocolate, succulent gelato.
You walk around a corner, and there's another church, or a magical fountain, or Michelangelo's colossal and beautiful David. So, maybe we went to the Uffizi Gallery, and my brother and sister and I played tag. It doesn't mean we were too young to enjoy the art. We were children, human sponges, and suddenly our world was more alive.
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!