In Silence We Speak


 In silence we speak

not with our words but from our souls

Our broken and healed hearts

Our depths of memories

with grieving, gratitude, forgiveness,and more

In silence we hope....

for more silence

Like in the eye of a hurricane surrounded

By turbulent winds of change, of chaos, of loud thunderous sounds

That impose upon our inner silence, our peace of mind

In silence how many will shout, scream, howl, and weep

yell, and vent with anger, frustration, and pain

that has seeped into their souls and possibly also into the collective subconscious

of humanity, and then is hopefully released, healed, and reborn

In silence we hold fast to our spirit, our life, and our sanity

we speak not with words but with love

in those sublime moments of beautiful music, of nature, oceans

and waterfalls, that pour the living waters into our souls. 

In silence we speak to our self, and then we listen

to that still small voice that speaks to us

to our heart and our soul

that is connected to a Divine Spirit

who speaks to us in silence

and in love

Why I Love George Elliot's Middlemarch

 Middlemarch - George Elliot's Writing Style, Humor, Wisdom, and Storytelling

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."
- George Elliot


I love George Elliot's writing in her masterpiece novel Middlemarch as it reflects her timeless wisdom, subtle humor and satire, knowledge of human behavior with complex characters, and insights into historical events of her time and before in England. 

 George Elliot was Mary Ann Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880.) "Although female authors were published under their names during her lifetime, she wanted to escape the stereotype of women's writing being limited to lighthearted romances or other lighter fare not to be taken very seriously. She also wanted to have her fiction judged separately from her already extensive and widely known work as a translator, editor, and critic." - Wikipedia 

 


I had heard of Middlemarch, her masterpiece, before and dismissed it initially based on some comments in a Facebook group, as well as the length. Then after joining a book club that focuses on classics and with a deep dive analysis of the great books, I decided to start listening to Middlemarch as an audiobook, my preferred method of experiencing storytelling. 


There is an excellent introduction video on Middlemarch. Benjamin McEvoy is an expert in classics and he has ten tips in this video on how to enjoy this book, considered one of the best novels written in English. 


 

The prelude to Middlemarch is profound. It captured my attention as it refers to a Spanish mystic Saint Theresa who is well known, and whose life is relevant to the story as well as here and now. I knew from the prelude that I would enjoy this book.

 

Her writing is dense with the wisdom of human nature, humor, irony, history, and sublime storytelling. It is not only an enjoyable experience of the story, but a confirmation of her ability to engage me between the lines and have a deep effect on my soul. The audiobook of the famous classic Middlemarch is narrated masterfully by Juliet Stevenson.

 

  The prelude is quoted here in full:

 

"Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.  

 

That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights and tangled circumstances, they tried to shape their thought and deed in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes, their struggles seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later-born Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul. Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance, and the other condemned as a lapse. 

 

Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict aTs the ability to count three and no more, a social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile, the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are much wider than anyone would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure and the favorite love stories in prose and verse. Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings in the brown pond and never finds the living stream in fellowship with its oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa, foundress of nothing, whose loving heartbeats and sobs after an unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances, instead of centering in some long-recognizable deed."

 

At the time of this writing, I have completed 12 hours of this 35-hour, 38 minute audiobook. I have been so inspired by both the story and the narration by Juliet Stevenson that I needed to post this on this blog, and briefly describe why I love George Elliot for her gift of writing and inspiration for life, with all of its flaws. 

 

If you want to be inspired by great art in the form of this novel, and as recommended as an audiobook to experience the storytelling with Juliet Stevenson, then try a free trial with Audible and get the book as a free download. If you cancel you can keep the book. Link below. Enjoy.

Try Audible Plus

Shakespeare in Love Revisited

Remember the Movie? 1998 - Time Flies -

Shakespeare in Love - Is it Time to Revisit It? 
You might remember (24 years ago) the endearing movie  that included Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth and Judi Dench. The fictional story is a comedy about Shakespeare falling in love with Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) while he was writing the play Romeo and Juliet. There are many references to actual quotes from the play, historical events, and the movie has an authenticity of the times. The humor is exceptional. It won seven Oscars including best picture, best actress, best supporting actress, and best screenplay. It's a must see if you like good movies and have not seen it yet.

 The trailer on YouTube will bring it back to memory, or inspire you to watch it for the first time or maybe to view it again. The video is a deeper dive into another story about Shakepeare especially for those like myself, who have not been able to get into the actual plays (until this year), and like a good story. 

 


Hamnet - a Very Popular Modern Book About Shakepeare's Life

 from Amazon

"IONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Of all the stories that argue and speculate about Shakespeare’s life ... here is a novel ... so gorgeously written that it transports you." —The Boston Globe

England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on.

A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever." 

I recommend experiencing this story as an audiobook, and it can be downloaded free if you subscribe to Audible's free trial then cancel. The prose is beautifully written as describe in a review also on Amazon: "The reader of this novel will be challenged by the urge to press ahead and discover how the story unfolds, but resisting all the while to savor the stunningly gorgeous writing. In any time, but particularly during this time of the pandemic, grief and the yearning for some shred of consolation are treated with such graceful and sensitive measure. An unforgettable literary gift."
 


Blessings to the Beautiful Souls

 Blessings to the beautiful souls

Who are living today in every country, every family

Who have passed on, in recent years, in human history

Blessings to all other living things, animals and forests

Crops, whales, flowers, plants for food

A young woman just died from an overdose of heroin. She had been addicted for some years, and she is the daughter of my sister's husband's sister. Her name is Casey. Bless her beautiful soul.

So many families are grieving over so many things and for the past two years more intensively. There is a lot of soul searching going on. Many people are more willing to be silent about it than talk about it. Yet we all can feel it, the collective vibe.

Blessings to all the beautiful souls of every person in every culture, young and older.




Dead Poets Society Revisited

Join the Dead Poet's Society. Invitation below.  Wait for it.

You remember the movie. Robin Williams as professor John Keating at Welton - in 1959 - an exclusive academy for young men whose minds are opened with poetry in contrast to the strict teaching curriculum and atmosphere of the school.  

“Savor language and words because no matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas have the power to change the world.” – John Keating

 What words and ideas are we accepting and how are they changing our world? What words and ideas are we using to change the world? Certain movies as well as books can have powerful inspirational messages, explicit or implicit, that can change our world and inspire us to think and use words to inspire others. 

Then again, if we listen to the words in the news, how are they changing our world? Are they inspiring? Can we listen without being affected?  

For me, I have immense inspiration from "dead" poets and writers of the great classics, whose words have wisdom and can be life changing, increasing empathy for humanity.

What stands out in the movie? A character, a location, and a play.

1) Robin Williams
In one of his best performances, Robin Williams shines in this movie. He challenges his students to not play small with their lives, to let poetry inspire them, and to question rigid established structures that stifle free thinking and creativity. 

He is charismatic, and his name echoes the famous English romantic poet John Keats. He was a former student at Welton and a brilliant Rhodes scholar. His teaching included quotes from poems and student participation. 

In one scene he shows them the photos of prior students in the hallway, and whispers behind them "Carpe Diem" several times. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may".

Watching Robin Williams is like revisiting an old friend who makes you laugh, and in this movie, perhaps more. He was an extraordinary comedian and actor. I miss him.
YouYube video "Carpe Diem" >

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable of? Because you see, gentleman, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe. Hear it? Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

 Keating was once a member of a secret society at Welton - The Dead Poet's Society - and described the experience to his students who carried on the tradition.  

"We were romantics. We didn’t just read poetry; we let it drip from our tongues like honey. Spirits soared, women swooned, and gods were created, gentlemen. Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?” – John Keating “The Dead Poets were dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life. That’s a phrase from Thoreau that we’d invoke at the beginning of each meeting. You see, we’d gather at the old Indian cave and take turns reading from Thoreau, Whitman, Shelley—the biggies. Even some of our own verses. And in the enchantment of the moment, we’d let poetry work its magic.” - John Keating

 2) The Cave

The cave was an old Indian cave that was most likely also used by Keating when he was a student. The students would sneak out of their building in the middle of the night, running through the dark forest. Then lighting a candle with one of them smoking a pipe.

“I hereby reconvene the Dead Poets Society. Welton chapter. The meetings will be conducted by myself and the other new initiates now present. Todd Anderson, because he prefers not to read, will keep minutes of the meetings. I’ll now read the traditional opening message by society member Henry David Thoreau. ‘I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.'” – Neil Perry  

"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light"
 
Inspired by poetry they began to chant and run back through the woods

 "THEN I had religion, THEN I had a vision.
I could not turn from their revel in derision.
THEN I SAW THE CONGO, CREEPING THROUGH THE BLACK,
CUTTING THROUGH THE JUNGLE WITH A GOLDEN TRACK.  

3) Midsummer's Night Dream

Shakespeare was included in this movie to honor his status as a "dead poet" whose sublime writings still live with us today. Neil, who always wanted to act went against his father's orders, forging a letter from him allowing participation in the play. He shines, his life is full of enthusiasm and inspiration. He was chosen for the role of Puck.

"Puck as the most important character in the play. The mischievous, quick-witted sprite sets many of the play’s events in motion with his magic, by means of both deliberate pranks on the human characters (transforming Bottom’s head into that of an ass) and unfortunate mistakes (smearing the love potion on Lysander’s eyelids instead of Demetrius’s). More important, Puck’s capricious spirit, magical fancy, fun-loving humor, and lovely, evocative language permeate the atmosphere of the play."

“O captain, my captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now, in this class, you can either call me Mr. Keating or, if you’re slightly more daring, O captain, my captain.” – John Keating

“Savor language and words because no matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas have the power to change the world.” – John Keating

We have the invitation and opportunity to revisit this movie, as well as famous poets and authors whose writing may inspire us. And we are also students, regardless of our age, always learning, not accepting all rigid authoritarian control, being free thinkers, and savoring language and words that can continue to inspire us, now and for the rest of our lives. We can join our own Dead Poet's Society and choose which writers of poetry, classics and other books or movies can inspire us. Carpe Diem

 


 


 

 Further reading / references:

https://www.litcharts.com/lit/dead-poets-society/characters





 

The Inspiration of Bach Cello Suite # 2 in D Minor

 If there is one piece of classical music that has stirred my soul, taken me on a journey, and has been a favorite of mine for many years in my life, it is the Bach Cello Suite # 2 Prelude in D Minor. 

You don't need to be a fan of classical music to appreciate certain composers or creative works of music. The Cello Suite #1 is very well known and has been used in movies. #2 is in the key of D minor and more solemn, deep, and reflective than the Suite #1 which is more upbeat and like a dance.

For me there is something about the cello, especially the very low notes, that resonates with my mind and soul.  

The Bach Cello Suite # 2 is one of six cello suites for solo cello. This particular one has a powerful, almost haunting melody that includes the full range of notes from high to low which also seem to reflect the full range of human emotions. 

Starting off with a slow three note introduction with the deeper bass strings, it begins to ascend then step back and ascend again. The melody is like a journey, rising and falling like the waves in the sea, and if you listen to it with headphones and can focus on every note it is very moving and engaging. 

The experience is completely different than having it playing as background music. 

We are so bombarded with thoughts and content in daily life that trying to focus on these notes in this suite which is only 4 minutes long can be a challenge. 

If you want to have a unique and enjoyable experience that packs a lot within 4 minutes, then listen to this solo cello and feel every note as it vibrates within your mind, body, heart, and soul. 


 


 

The Inspiration of Historical Fiction


Why Historical Fiction Can Create a Time Travel Experience

The main inspiration of well written historical fiction is that it creates a virtual time travel experience into the times and culture of the period. 
 
Usually the author has done extensive research before creating the story around historical time periods, persons, locations and events.As a result you are taken there as if in a time travel capsule-story that allows for an enjoyable journey into the past.
 
In 2022 I have enjoyed many excellent novels as audiobooks and many were historical fiction. So far this year these have included The Name of the Rose, All the Light We Cannot See, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Hamnet, Lonesome Dove, Angle of Repose, Daisy Jones and the Six, and I just finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (a 40 hr audiobook). 
 
 Ken Follett is a masterful author of historical fiction. Over 181 million copies of the 36 books he has written have been sold in over 80 countries and in 40 languages.
  
Born on June 5th, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, the son of a tax inspector, Ken was educated at state schools and went on to graduate from University College, London, with an Honours degree in Philosophy – later to be made a Fellow of the College in 1995.
from his website:
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Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
1989 | Historical Fiction | 1104 pages
 
 "A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth is Ken Follett’s classic historical masterpiece. 
 
A Mason with a Dream
 1135 and civil war, famine and religious strife abound. With his family on the verge of starvation, mason Tom Builder dreams of the day that he can use his talents to create and build a cathedral like no other. 
 
A Monk with a Burning Mission
 Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, is resourceful, but with money scarce he knows that for his town to survive it must find a way to thrive, and so he makes the decision to build within it the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known. 
 
A World of High Ideals and Savage Cruelty 
 As Tom and Philip meet so begins an epic tale of ambition, anarchy and absolute power. In a world beset by strife and enemies that would thwart their plans, they will stop at nothing to achieve their ambitions in a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother" . . . 
 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Inspiration and the Strength of the Human Spirit 
 
The inspiration from historical fiction allows for deeper understanding of other historical time periods, cultures, living conditions, and major events. The Pillars of the Earth has some very violent scenes and lots of death. However, that is an authentic representation of the times, when corrupt civil and church authorities could use brutality and violence as a means to their ends. Yet when good triumphs over evil and overcomes the challenges it is also authentic and allows for the story to reflect the strength of the human spirit against all odds for survival. 
 
Ken Follett's writing style is inspiring. He never lets up. Each sentence is carefully worded and he uses characters experiences to drive the plot of the story. 
 
As an audiobook, the experience of the extraordinary storytelling comes alive with an excellent narration. It's almost like time traveling if you use your imagination. 
 
With audiobooks you can close your eyes and let the story become like a daydream, whisking you into far away places and with vicarious journeys of characters that come alive with descriptive depths of their inner life and external experiences. 
 
Empathy for the strength of the human spirit in other times and places can be a common experience with extraordinary historical fiction stories. 
 

Enjoy the adventure of time travel !
Carpe Diem ! 

Book Review - The Sea the Sea by Iris Murdoch

Winner Booker Prize 1978 

Extraordinary Storytelling and Narration!


This is an extraordinary combination of superb prose writing, storytelling, narration, and character depth. I first heard of this book from an excellent book reviewer "The Book Chemist" on YouTube. His review and the fact that Simon Vance was the narrator caused me to suddenly add it to my TBR list in front of the next book.

 The main character narrates the story in the first person. In the audiobook, the narrator Simon Vance is amazing in his performance. The character Charles is a former famous London playhouse director and actor, who has decided to retire to a small seaside village and buys a house on a cliff that overlooks the sea.

 Both the house and the sea are characters in the book similar to a Thomas Hardy novel. Just as the sea is always changing in colors and turbulence, the house is also changing by the dialogue and interaction of the characters within it.

 Charle's planned peaceful life is disrupted by his own and others' love obsessions and the story unfolds in more complexity as characters come into the story and become intertwined in complex relationships.

 The  "karmic past" comes back to haunt Charles and he holds his own as a strong controlling character. He tries to direct his own life in the new setting by the sea and in his home yet cannot control how life's events unfold.

 Food is also an important part of the narrative as shown in this quote:
 "I ate and drank slowly as one should (cook fast, eat slowly) and without distractions such as (thank heavens) conversation or reading. Indeed eating is so pleasant one should even try to suppress thought. Of course, reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too. How fortunate we are to be food-consuming animals. Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger." 


 My journey with this story was like a page-turner, and as an audiobook, with the excellent narration by Simon Vance, it was hard to stop. I became immersed and engaged with the story and characters.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The strengths of this book are its deep focus on character and love obsession, excellent prose, and a stellar audio narration. 

 A weakness in the story might be that there is too much emphasis on the love obsession to the point that it becomes redundant. Yet this might be intentional on the part of the author to show how mental illness can create excessive behaviors.

With most of the characters being actors, then the line between real and acting becomes thin. This becomes a theme in the book both in the characters and in their thoughts, and the challenge for the reader and the characters is to discern which is which in any given moment. The Shakespeare quote could easily be in the background of this story:

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts." - Shakespeare

 Conclusion
 This is a book that I plan to keep in my library and listen to again, as the writing style of Iris Murdoch resonates with my experience of listening to audiobooks. There is magic in her style of writing in this book, and I look forward to savoring more of her books like a favorite red wine. 

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GET THIS AUDIOBOOK AS A FREE  DOWNLOAD WITH A FREE TRIAL OF AUDIBLE >

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan is Now Available


 I just received notice that this pre-ordered audiobook is now ready in my Audible library. 

"Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Time, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Oprah Daily, Glamour, USA Today, Parade, Bustle, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, The Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, and many more!

From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a “sibling novel” to her Pulitzer Prize- and ​NBCC Award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad—an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private."


"In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of “Own Your Unconscious,” a fictional foray into the idea of a technology that allows us access to every memory we’ve ever had, and to share these memories in exchange for access to the memories of others. Through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades, this intellectually dazzling story is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter and a chapter of tweets. If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music’s more disjunctive approach. Join us as the two extraordinary literary voices of Jennifer Egan and Danzy Senna walk us through The Candy House and its bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away."

Enjoy this book as a free download with a free trial on Audible.
FREE AUDIBLE TRIAL >


Inspiration from A Visit From the Goon Squad

 A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan

- a novel by Jennifer Egan (2010)
Book Review and Reflections 

The "goon squad" visited me the other day when I finished this Pulitzer Prize winning book and after catching my breath immediately wanted to start it again. 

 The audiobook experience in particular was immersive, and narrated by Roxana Ortega with the subtle nuances and voice inflections that were uniquely performed in the narrative and in every character. 

 
The ground-breaking unique novel is connected to the following themes that cross over like threads and move back and forth in time. Time is a main theme along with the rise and dilution in the music industry, changes in life, friendship, relationships, digital culture on steroids, and redemption. 
 
Each chapter is like a track on an album and stands alone but is connected to the whole.  

Hemingway's quote about being immersed in the storytelling is relevant here, especially  with this extraordinary novel, as this is what happens with this page turner, or in the case of an audiobook, the difficulty of pressing the pause or stop button. 
 
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”  - - Ernest Hemingway  
 
When I listened to this audiobook I was right there with every character like it was a vicarious journey of a variety of experiences. A natural high - I think endorphins were being released ! :) 
 
 
Rave reviews by the NY Times and Wash. Post on Audible:
 

“Pitch perfect.... Is there anything Egan can’t do in this mash-up of forms? Write successfully in the second person? Check. Parody celebrity journalism and David Foster Wallace at the same time? Check. Make a moving narrative out of a PowerPoint presentation? Check.... Although shredded with loss, A Visit from the Goon Squad is often darkly, rippingly funny. Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.... No one is beyond the pale of her affection; no one is spared lampooning.... For a book so relentlessly savvy about the digital age and its effect on how we experience time (speeded up, herky-jerky, instantaneous, but also full of unbearable gaps and pauses), A Visit from the Goon Squad is remarkably old-fashioned in its obsession with time’s effects on characters, that preoccupation of those doorstop 19th-century novels.” (Will Blythe, The New York Times Book Review)

“If Jennifer Egan is our reward for living through the self-conscious gimmicks and ironic claptrap of postmodernism, then it was all worthwhile.... A deeply humane story about growing up and growing old in a culture corroded by technology and marketing.... [A] triumph of technical bravado and tender sympathy.... Here, in ways that surprise and delight again, she transcends slick boomer nostalgia and offers a testament to the redemptive power of raw emotion in an age of synthetic sound and glossy avatars. Turn up the music, skip the college reunion and curl up with The Goon Squad instead.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)

With the 7 day Audible free trial get a free audiobook download. Then you can still cancel and keep it. Life may never be the same after a visit from the goon squad.


 Free download of A Visit From the Goon Squad >

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The Inspiration of $15 for a Unique Travel Experience

Travel for $15 or Less?



 

Back in the day, (1971 to be back-enough), it was common to see books or articles describing seeing Europe for $5 a day. With a backpack and a Europass, it was not that difficult. 

As a student, I took a six week class on Italy's Economic Development in Bari, then had six weeks to travel in Europe with a Eurail pass. My travel companion and I enjoyed the art in Rome and Florence, and then she wanted to go to Paris and I to a remote unknown area of Europe to be determined. In retrospect, I wished I had stayed with her :)

I ended up going to Norway on the Eurail pass and stopped in Amsterdam and Copenhagen on the way. I had to see the Rembrandt museum, and also saw the Munch museum in Oslo before taking the train North above the Arctic circle to Trondheim. 

The train ride there was beautiful with verdant green valleys, tall waterfalls, and fjords. Yes, I escaped the typical Europe tour destinations and instead experienced some amazing country. Having Norwegian in my bloodline might have helped.

Fast forward to the New Normal in 2022 and travel is in everyone's bones after two years of lockdowns and mandates. Yet it is not the same. The world changed in 2020 and the change is still going on. 

Travel is a must for some, and a wish for many.
Then there is the cost. There is also the alternative - armchair traveling.

Real vs Armchair

Before covid I already had some experience as an armchair traveler, and now I have gained some skills and variety that is enjoyable on many levels. 

Of course real, physical travel is hands on fun and the experiences are direct. Yet for me, virtual travel and vicarious experience is also fun and very rewarding.

I might mention that I live in Mexico permanently and am married to a beautiful Mexican woman. Living here and sharing my life with her is beyond travel - maybe like a permanent vacation? We have traveled to two beautiful destinations here in Mexico in 2019. We are planning for more at some time in the near future.

Until then, my armchair travels are from here - a Mexican city on the Gulf coast 
with a beautiful beach, Gulf breezes every afternoon, a semi-tropical climate, and the magic of Mexico.

So What About the $15 Travel Experience?

Experiencing storytelling for the price of an audiobook will allow you to travel to other lands and cultures, see life through the eyes of unique characters, and the creative mind of the writer, and choose which adventure you want to have next. 

(ok, this is one of many types of armchair travel, and I am passionate about audiobooks, so some space is dedicated here for this idea.)

There is also a bonus - you can time travel if the stories are based in other times and in history. 

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”  - - Ernest Hemingway

I've enjoyed vicarious experience on a whaling ship, hanging out with Hemingway's characters in Spain, Steinbeck's in California, and being engaged with amazing stories based in England, France, historic U.S.Russia (yes, Tolstoy is not sanctioned), South America, and California in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

YouTube Travel

YouTube has virtual tours, historical videos, and a huge variety of  travel related content that can be enjoyed as an armchair traveler vicariously.

There is inspiration is adopting a mindset of possibilities with your imagination and creative choice of content that will be your next armchair travel adventure.  

Here's some examples of free downloads with a subscription from the Audible Plus Catalog:

1) Travel Paris

"This collection includes the story of 6 of Paris' most famous and beautiful destinations - The Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, The Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, The Champs Elysees and The Louvre.

An innovative travel series, transporting the armchair traveller or getting you in the mood for discover on route to your destination."

My Southern Journey - True Stories from the Heart of the South

"From celebrated New York Times best-selling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Rick Bragg comes a poignant and wryly funny collection of essays on life in the South. Keenly observed and written with his insightful and deadpan sense of humor, Bragg explores enduring Southern truths about home, place, spirit, table, and the regions' varied geographies, including his native Alabama, Cajun country, and the Gulf Coast. Everything is explored, from regional obsessions with college football and fishing to mayonnaise and spoonbread to the simple beauty of a fish on the hook. Collected from over a decade of his writing, with many never-before-published essays written specifically for this edition, My Southern Journey is an entertaining and engaging listen, especially for Southerners (or Southerners at heart) and anyone who appreciates great writing" 

3) The Count of Monte Cristo   

My favorite novel of all time and what a journey. Travel back in time to France with this celebrated 52 hr classic audiobook. Adventure, romance, suspense, historical fiction, and amazing storytelling. 

The Inspiration of $15 for a Unique Travel Experience might not cost a dime. There is inspiration for free armchair travel and here's one of many options below $15.
(Note: Audible has a "Plus Catalog" which has thousands of free audiobook downloads. There is a free 7 day trial with a free credit for an audiobook. Check it out:

Try Audible Plus

New Book - Amazing Stories by Famous Authors

 Just self-published a new book - the introduction is posted here.


I love amazing stories in classic novels. 

 
 Amazing stories allow you to experience the sweet sublime beauty of well crafted words and prose that can open your heart to a larger empathy and compassion for humanity, move your soul to new depths, and engage your mind in ways that only great art can do.  


 Imagine ...
 experiencing amazing stories in a different way as audiobooks that could lead you down new paths, and inspire you to explore new things (culture, language, historical context, etc), and become a new adventure in this journey of life. 

 
 This book is designed for anyone who has not read any classics or maybe only a few classics in their life, and wants to explore new possibilities of experiencing amazing stories.  
 
 It was the beginning of 2021  when I had a change occur in my life that caused a shift in my inspiration and reflections on humanity, history, culture, and literature. I became immersed in the depths of storytelling considered to be the best in history. By men and women who write with such depth and passion and creative genius that it is a humbling and rewarding experience.
 
 Collectively and individually we experienced the pandemic of 2020  as well as the most divisive election in American history. The content that I read and absorbed in text on Facebook, the internet, and in videos on YouTube during that year was mainly related to these two dominant themes, and mainly negative. However I still managed to continue to write inspirational blogs, but the writing was less frequent, as was the inspiration behind it.  


 By the end of 2020 I was burnt out from the overload of negative content in the media and elsewhere.  


 When 2021 started, I was ready for different content in my life. 

 Then something happened.
 
Amazing Stories suddenly appeared.


 The change occurred for me in January 2021 when I heard about a new documentary on the life of  Ernest Hemingway being produced by Ken Burns for PBS.   I read four Hemingway novels within the first few months of 2021 before the documentary was released in April. I have dedicated a chapter of this book to Hemingway. Hint: all four novels were amazing stories - Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bells Toll, A Farewell to Arms, and A Moveable Feast. Then there are his famous short stories.

 Around the same time I received an offer in an email from Audible for a free trial with a free credit for an audiobook. I chose Anna Karenina (which I had learned was one of the best novels ever written and a very long one) and that launched my love of reading or listening to classics every day in 2021, and as a commitment and joy for years to follow.

  Carpe diem - Seize the day!   

 After all these years, I wonder why I had not read Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, Dickens, or Hemingway. In my high school and college years I read a number of books and some are considered classics. Hesse, Huxley, Camus, and Tolkien to name a few. My degree was in Humanities and that included some literature, however, except for Camus, I forget what we studied or read in those classes. Then in later years there was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez who became my favorite author. 

 Yet there are so many classics that I have not read.

 I was not alone.  In 2020, many people turned to reading classics as an escape and therapy from lockdowns, the trauma of the pandemic, and as a new adventure in life.  

 The Guardian - Resurgence of Classical Novels  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/apr/25/tolstoy-steinbeck-defoe-why-are-so-many-turning-to-classic-novel
 
 A New Adventure at Age 70

In a way, as I turned age seventy in 2021,  it was a "blessing in disguise" that I started to enjoy classics (every day), many for the first time, and especially with audiobooks where I can listen to the book and the narration of characters and story.    
 This has been and is such a joy for me. It has changed my life. So much so that I was inspired to write this book!  

 The reading or listening of books varies with each individual.  Choices of what to read, what was the takeaway, level of enjoyment, insights into life, or pure enjoyment of a well written story are all different for each of us. 

 A common thread is the love of books - fiction or non-fiction, or classics and the experience of reading or listening to the stories in the novels or short stories.

 This book- Amazing Stories by Famous Writers   occurred to me as an idea on June 6, 2021, about a month before my 70th birthday on July 5th. Of course as this date approached I had many different reflections about life including memories as well as more awareness of future trends. The inspiration to start this book was such that on this date I created a title page and started writing this introduction with a “stream-of-consciousness” style – as the ideas of wording came to mind. 

 Joining Facebook groups  that focus on the love of classics is also a part of this new and exciting experience, and I will write more about this in a later chapter.  YouTube has many resources with searches for authors or book titles. 

 It was early on in 2021  that I viewed a YouTube video of a recent college grad who provides commentaries on classics and loves the novels of the Russian author Leon Tolstoy.  
 After finishing War and Peace from the same author she was saying in one video, titled  "Tolstoy Made Me Weep", with her mouth wide open in awe, "I don't know what to do with myself. My .....heart....is bursting....I can't believe I just read that....(repeated three times)....how am I supposed to recover?.....Oh my God.....I am actually speechless.....is the word... they are just fictional characters, Andre, Natasha,.....but they seem so real.....and they are so deep and so complex, and so lovable." 

 This goes on for forty five minutes. Thank you Caroline Marie for your describing the type of cathartic experience that can happen as a result of experiencing amazing stories that are timeless. 

 In addition to my own reviews of books in each chapter, this book contains curated content - public domain descriptions of books, editorial reviews, third party and retail reviews.

 The main purpose of this book is to inspire an interest  in reading or listening to extraordinary stories by famous authors also known as classics. Chapters will include experiencing them as audiobooks, Kindle, and digital content as well as the tradition of having a library of bookshelves, a love of visiting bookstores, and the physical experience of holding and reading a book. How one chooses to enjoy reading classics is a personal preference and may include all of the above. However my main focus in 2021 was audiobooks, so each chapter on a particular book will be in reference to the audiobook and will include information about the narrator.

  A second purpose of this book is to include actual examples of my own and other’s reflections and reviews of certain classics, and why they are considered classics and the best books ever written in history. Each chapter is a book title in the order that I listened to them in 2021. (with exception of The Odyssey, which I recommend to listen to as a foundation. It is a classic of classics, written from oral tradition in 800 B.C.).  It is an amazing story.

 A third purpose that comes to mind in the writing of this book is inspiration to write about something I love, as a part of my personal journey. As I move into the 7th decade of life, as on a clipper ship in full sail  I affirm in that I will enjoy writing about classics as well as the reading or listening of them for the rest of my life. May this be many years ! 

 If you are concerned about the costs of books, I suggest Project Gutenberg, an open source free download site for books that have become public domain. There is a section on this and other resources at the end of this book.

 Our ancestors - grandparents of our grandparents lived in the 19th century, when many classics were written that described life at that time.  

 When we read or listen to classics we are taken to another time, a different culture, and into the depths of characters and their challenges in life. 

 If past lives are a reality then we might have subtle deja vu experiences of having lived in those times. We might experience a bit of the "collective unconscious" of humanity in the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of fictional characters, heros, and villains.

  It is my hope that this book will inspire you to start or continue on the adventure of reading or listening to amazing stories, and that each one  will be inspiring as a part of your overall journey in life.   Amazon Book Listing >

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