What I Read This Week - 21st October

The last few weeks have been a little weird. I've read plenty, but mostly offline - below ground in a pool of artificial light at the Radcliffe Science Library, in the sleepy quiet of the early morning bus to London, for a few bright minutes at night before falling asleep. I started a PhD; my family came to visit; we went to Berlin for a week; I'm working with my publisher to make sure the book goes to print soon. And so, and so, those are my excuses. But here I am again. Things are getting back to normal, but slowly, and what's normal, anyway? - Put It in a Box and Wait: The Millions Interviews Cheryl Strayed (Robin Grearson at The Millions)

RG: I read an interview in which you mention living off of credit cards while finishing Torch, after grad school. CS: Yeah, and Wild. RG: It seems potentially irresponsible, but maybe the more responsible choice in being accountable to a bigger priority. How did you decide to take that kind of risk? CS: I know a lot of people would think that’s just incredibly irresponsible. And it can be irresponsible if you’re not actually writing. If you’re saying that you’re working on your novel and you’re not really working on your novel and you’re just living on your credit cards, that’s probably a really bad idea. I didn’t just do it once, I did it twice. RG: Wow. For how long? CS: In graduate school I got a modest fellowship that covered a portion of our expenses. And my husband is a documentary filmmaker. So I said, after graduate school, should I get a job? I feel like if I just keep pushing on this novel — I was about halfway done with it when I finished graduate school. I felt like I could crank out that next half over the next year, roughly. And my husband was like, absolutely. Let’s just go for it. We had three or four credit cards. We just said, okay, this is probably completely crazy, but we’re just gonna do this. He was making enough so he could make the minimum payments. We were running up credit card debt so I could write this book instead of doing the “responsible thing” and getting a job that would then prevent me from finishing my book. And it surely would have. Because it was all I could do to finish that damn book. I did, a little more than a year after grad school ended. I finished it, and Houghton Mifflin bought it. Actually the way it pays out, you get four checks. What you’re really getting is over the course of four years. So that first check, the agent takes a percentage, and then there’s taxes. That whole first check that I got, we paid off our credit card debt. It wasn’t like we got that check and then we could live off that money. We got that check and we paid off the past debt. RG: So you could get to zero. CS: So we could get to zero, and then we were just back to being broke again.

I haven't read Wild - maybe I'm the only one in the world who hasn't. I'd really like to, I just haven't yet: that's how it often is with books. Anyway, I think this is one of only a very few truly honest things I've ever read about writing (or whatever) and money. I'd like to write more about that, about how this is basically what I've been doing for the last year - not living off credit cards, specifically, but living off the the possibility of something, rather than the thing itself. But I don't have enough perspective yet to know what I would say about it other than, yes, I suppose my life might look irresponsible from the outside, and it certainly looks irresponsible from the inside, but that's just the way it has to be right now.

- Paris and the Data Mind (Craig Mod at The Morning News)

Each day I dutifully clipped on the Fitbit. Correspondingly, each day I felt my awareness grow. “How should I move through the city?” it continuously forced me to ask myself. And later, looking at the data, I was able to relive those decisions.

- Photographer Walks Across City Creating Map Using Memory

The photographer walks all across each city he visits, spending anywhere from one to six months at his destination, capturing thousands of shots per location. He proceeds to construct photomontages that reflect how he remembers the mapping of each place, based on the most notable sights of the area.

- A Lone Enraptured Male (Kathleen Jamie at the London Review of Books)

to give birth is to be in a wild place, so is to struggle with pneumonia. If you can look down a gryke, you can look down a microscope, and marvel at the wildness of the processes of our own bodies, the wildness of disease. There is Ben Nevis, there is smallpox. One wild worth protecting, one worth eradicating.

An oldish review of an oldish book (Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places), I know. But so what.