The beauty of the Beatles was that they refused to remain the pop-rock band that emerged in 1963-64 as the most popular entertainers in the world. Starting, I think, with “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby” and probably sooner, they went out of their way to make records that sounded like nothing they had done before.
There were a couple of times when, as a teenage boy alone in my room with the stereo, I was left absolutely stunned by what I was hearing for the first time. The first time, of course, was the finale of Sgt. Pepper, “A Day in the Life,” probably acknowledged as the best damn thing Lennon-McCartney ever built.
But then there is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the moment George Harrison announced to the world that he is not only equal to his bandmates as a songwriter buy capable of brilliance that surpass anything they can imagine. His are the best songs on the White Album and on Abbey Road, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is my favorite Beatles song of them all. The sweeping grandeur of the arrangement, the perfect weeping lead guitar by Eric Clapton, the evocative title and lyrics – this song had me staring at the speakers in shocked delight, soaking in the wall of sound. At that stage in the album, Lennon and McCartney had already dazzled with a half-dozen innovative tunes, but then, starting with a “Hey-oh” and guitar fanfare, George just blew me away.
When Poe wrote “The Raven” or Shakespeare “Hamlet,” did they stop at the end and say, “This. This is what I will be known for, in a space of time measured in generations” – or did they just pick up and write the next, forgotten words?
There are times when you say yes, these are good words, and times the words you never suspected have touched a soul. The words in combination march along, march away, and they are heard sometimes in ways that are more than you intended or realized.
That is the wonderful surprise of saying something – the miracle of being heard – the precious dance of speaker and listener, writer and reader, the creative mating that grows (at best) into a wondrous understanding, an insight rediscovered or newly found.
Speak and be heard; speak and listen for the echo; remember what was forgotten and tell about it; and find what was lost without realizing it was ever gone.
I’ve re-read Steven Pressfield’s indispensable book The War of Art twice this year, this time during the last leg of my East Coast trip. The book is indispensable for its sound advice on the difference between an amateur artist and a professional, and for its treatment of what Pressfield calls Resistance, the force within us all that keeps us from following through on our grandest plans and dreams – you know, “I don’t have time for writing the Great American Novel,” “Once I finish this class or have enough money I’ll work on that,” “I could be working on this but the game is on,” etc. etc. Continue reading →
After the news of Steve Ditko’s death, I went in search of his later works, after having drifted away from comic books in general during the 1990s or so. I landed, more or less at random, on a 1999 collection called Steve Ditko’s 160-Page Package, which presents a group of short stories on some of Ditko’s most familiar themes – good, evil, choices, irony …
Some of the stories are OK, some are meh, and the same with the art. I have seen Ditko’s work look much more compelling, and I have seen it look much less. That’s not the point I took away. Continue reading →
The second time through Harry Potter and The Sorceror’s Stone, eight years after my first experience with J.K. Rowling’s magnificent prose and Jim Dale’s equally magnificent narration, it’s still clear what a marvelous storyteller Rowling is, full of whimsy and love and imagination. And knowing how the story develops, from finishing the seven books and reliving them through eight films, it’s interesting to note how many seeds are dropped here and there that will bear fruit in later books.
The world can never have too much whimsy, says I, nor too much love or too much imagination. The world needs more like the three friends Harry, Hermione and Ron, who have the courage to step up and take action when the authorities are too blind to a problem or too corrupt to do anything.
The heroes of the Potter universe do not accept the world at face value — they do not do as they’re told when something is obviously wrong. It’s a good thing to stand for what’s right, especially when the evil is not so easy to see.
I waited too long to ask the library to hold a copy of the second Potter book, and so it will be a few weeks before I can explore the Chamber of Secrets again, so in the meantime I took a friend’s advice and checked out the first book by Rowling’s detective story-writing alter ego Robert Galbraith. Seven or eight chapters into The Cuckoo’s Calling, I am as enchanted as I was by Harry. Just as she brought whimsy and love and imagination to her tales of wizards and witches, she brings a literary elegance to the hard-boiled detective novel — and yes, perhaps a bit of whimsy.
J.K. Rowling is the greatest author of our era.
Photo ©2015 Mary McCartney
“I would write a book if I could find the time to write …”
“I love knitting/sewing/crafting and I wish I had time to do it.”
“I know I should exercise more, but I just don’t have time.”
The thing about time is it’s always available.
Time is not a thing that you “find.”
Time is a thing that you take.
I need to take the time to write.
I need to take the time to exercise.
I need to take the time to do the things that are important.
Maybe once I’ve done THOSE things, I can “find” the time to surf down rabbit holes or binge-watch TV shows.
Take time to do the important things first. Today.
Reading is one mind touching another and creating an explosion.
Where did your mind go after reading that sentence?
That was the explosion.
So. Steve Ditko.
I am privileged to have lived in those days before it got all big and corporate, when Marvel Comics was a secret shared by a relative handful of kids who had discovered there was more to comic books than Superman’s Pal getting turned into a giant sea turtle.
And in those days, there really was only one great debate: Continue reading →