Surrounded By Ideas

Today’s guest post comes from tim.

I was in the bookstore waiting for my wife the other day. I still use it for a meeting place but have begun to think maybe a park is as good a spot now with the internet serving the purpose that the bookstore once did. The diference being that the book store has stuff to put your hands on and touch and suggest that your brain would never come up with on its own.

Or would it? That is the question.


If left to your own design you would be able to come up with all the cool stimulation of thought to send you surfing into infinitium and off into uncharted worlds like a book store can do. You don’t have to do anything other than pick up a copy of whatever is on the shelf to see if you care. How many times have you picked up a book at the bookstore read 10 words and put it back down. A look at a cover an author a theme that takes you off to somewhere else where you see a realted idea you would never have googled but as long as it is this easy you just pick it up and browse for a minute. It may be that I am more of the mile wide and an inch deep than the average person but I love the ability to walk through the bookstore and breathe in all the possibilities for avenues to cast my brain into.

I think of the time I waited in barnes and noble in galleria to get jimmy carters signature on my book. I got there an hour or so before the book signing was to begin and found the end of the line was already a good ways back through the lower level of the store. Jimmy being the overly conscientious man that he is has anticipated the demand and was there over an hour early signing a book in a little over one thousand one one thousand to one thousand three with a pair of assistants on either side one ot place the next book in front of him, one to take the signed copy form him and prepare for the next and the next and the next. The line in this scenario kind of inched alone even ½ a mile back which is about where i believe when I began.

As I wound my way through the bookshelves I recognized all the authors topics genres as the went by. The line organizers did me the favor of running it through the fiction section and the Margaret atwood kickoff followed by the brontes the and so on past faulkner, hesse, hemmingay twain, Vonnegut, wolfe and into the genre stuff of travel and poetry western and I realized how much I enjoy the process of seeing the title and author and the idea that comes to mind with the snap associaton.

Today I was looking at dc comics and marvel comic section across from manga that new form of picture books that are action stories where the pictures tell the stories and the words go along instead of the other way around. I was looking for the brother of a friend who is a gifted comic book artist. And I came across anne rice who I had been telling my daughter about and suggesting she look into as kind of the grandmother of the vampire flying death angel genre my daughter is very into these days. I thought it was in the wrong place then I discovered it was a picture book version of the story and it did a decent job of telling the story. I looked next to that and there was a copy of farenheit 451 by ray bradberry. He had writen a preface about how farenheiht 451 came to be with a 50 year hindsight viewer as an aide he hadn’t been able to use before. He talked about how he arrived at farenheit 451 from a little incident that happened to him a couple weeks earlier and that he had always attributed that to the origins of the story only years later did he ralize that the story came from deep down in his subconscious and he recommended that when you write you allow the ideas to flow and follow them rather than thinking you have an idea of what you are doing,

Ray bradberrys close on the preface was this: if you had to memorize one book like the people in farenheit 451 did for preservation and to contribute to the furthering of the world, which book would you chose and why?

49 thoughts on “Surrounded By Ideas”

  1. my son saw the great gadsby the other night wiht his sister and wasinspired enough to ask if i had the book for hime ot read. i told him i did but my challange is how to put my hands on it. i tld hi i would stop by half price books and before i did he texted me to tell me he found it online and had it on has kindle (thanks robin) he was surprised / how long is the book and i recalled it was like 175 pages and he said on kindle its only 128 pages. well they dont have to try to impres you with a fatter book on kindel. they can put the regular number of words on a page. i would guess the paperbacks i was reading felt a little gulty about being so short and used a bigger font and more pages to create a world of substance in the book they sold you. if thye had only considered what the book they were fluffing up was they would have realized it wasnt needed.
    my daughter got her readign list for the summer from her intense english class for next year and she is excited to get started. very different from her reaction to going for some math help this summer.
    something about reading, harry potter did wonders for the love of reading. the first two were wonderful little 200 page books before they got 900 pages and overly taken with themselves.
    the book i would pick would have to be something of substance but not too preachy. i love vonneguts man without a country. it has some wonderful parables and guidelines for us but it is a little over the top as the one work to be passed on. the bible would wear me out. i think romeo and juliet perhaps. the right amount of story interest with proper doses of wisdom wit poetry and insight. it makes the world a better place. king lear is so dark, and a midsummers night dream whilst it doth makest me laugh tells story different from that of romeo and juliet whose story line of stop the bs and love is exactly what we all need today. im going with it.


    1. Two households, both alike in dignity,
      In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
      From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
      Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
      From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
      A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
      Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
      Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
      The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
      And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
      Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
      Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
      The which if you with patient ears attend,
      What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.


      1. Nice choice…. this is from my favorite:

        The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
        Are of imagination all compact.
        One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
        That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
        Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
        The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
        Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
        And as imagination bodies forth
        The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
        Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
        A local habitation and a name.
        Such tricks hath strong imagination,
        That if it would but apprehend some joy,
        It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
        Or in the night, imagining some fear,
        How easy is a bush supposed a bear!


        1. Our favorite bard… Mr. Shakespeare. It’s from “Midsummer Night’s Dream” – in Act V when Theseus is talking about imagination.


  2. Great question tim (and Ray)!

    I’m going to buy a little time by agreeing that there is something lovely about having things/ideas presented to you for your consideration, rather that you having to take the total initiative and go looking for them in a “search”. Some of my favorite repeat reads came into my life because they looked interesting in some way or another, so I picked them up and gave them a try.

    I suppose all those things you get when you subscribe to a listserv are sort of like that, those still seem more directed than the egalitarian approach of a used bookstore or the public library, where product placement is based on either the Dewey decimal or Library of Congress number, not on the publishers ability to pay for favorable shelf life, or popularity based on clicks.

    I’m a series person and I also like to re-read, so I will take on Rebecca West’s Cousin Rosamund trilogy (I’m already on my way to having it memorized by dint of re-reading it almost every holiday season for the last 20 years-a random find in the reading room of the University of Wisconsin library) and I’ll also be happy to help out with Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, preferably the book in which Thursday meets Stig, the Neaderthal-I think that also has the entroposcope, that lets you know when there are just toooo many coincidences.

    I’m sure there are more “worthy” works (if I must choose a classic, I will go with Dickens’ Great Expectations-wot larks!), but I think I can safely assume those will be taken care of by those with loftier aspirations than mine.


    1. you are assuming there are more members than just you and me eh mig? we will see. it could be up to us to pass on all that there is to pass on.


        1. actually, I may have to put 451 into his hands this summer-he doesn’t have a summer reading list from school, but is doing Geometry on his own and some French (I know none of you is surprised). Wish you lived closer, would love to help your daughter out with the math with my not-yet patented M.I.G. (Math is Great!!!) program.


  3. I have a soft spot for children’s literature, so i will claim Winnie the Pooh, House at Pooh Corner, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Well, hmm. That’s four. That might be a challenge. But if it would preserve them, I’d give it a go. Unfortunately, the picture books I so love would be harder as they rely so much on the images…whither Max and his Wild Things who will eat him up they love him so?…


    1. I’ll bet you might have most of Pooh memorized already. The Alices, now there is a challenge! Good choices.

      and yes, what about all the wonderful picture books?????


  4. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    This feels like a HIGH STAKES answer. What if I choose the wrong book and some vital piece of culture is not passed along? Pressure.

    Therefore, I will choose the Dictionary. It should encompass everything we need.

    I am back from my trip to Ice Cream Days in LeMars, Iowa. I had my real ice cream float (no soft serve) and a dip of Bunny Tracks. Tonic Sol-Fa was there for a street concert–they are so good. Their harmonies are very tight and they hit pitches right on.

    I must admit, I am tired. Many people, lots of memories. My son and I took Lou to the Twins Game yesterday for Father’s Day and they had the nerve to lose.


    1. Good job on the ice cream consumption! A root beer float is part of a nutritious breakfast, right?

      Off to the gym I go, this is looking like a good day to get things done.


  5. I’ve blogged before about a book that was an obsession for me for much of my life. But I’ve read it about nine times now, and I virtually have it committed to memory. So that would be a poor choice, not to mention that I have already gained anything that I could from that old novel.

    There is another book I can read over and over, and it will be my choice. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, is a magical, disturbing, dense, layered sort of book. It reads more like poetry than prose. It is hard to read because the world of the novel is not safe and knowable. The characters seem vulnerable and not sure what to do. I’ve read a lot of books in my life. This one has a special grip on me. I fear it and love it.


      1. The book was By Love Possessed, by an author who has fallen into obscurity, James Gould Cozzens. I have analyzed myself about what this book has meant to me, and I’m a little ashamed now of finding it so important in my life. But it helped me understand many things about life and myself, especially the “interior monologue” that we all have going in our heads.


  6. LIke Anna I am hard-pressed to pick one, although Midsummer’s Night Dream would be way up on my list. I’ve read “Wrinkle in Time” more than any other book – maybe that should be the one. Oh dear, oh dear… this DOES seem like high stakes, Jacque. (And you all thought I would choose “Gone With the Wind”, didn’t you?)


  7. Two OT.

    First, BiR, in reply to your question yesterday, the concert was crowded by the time it started. I arrived about 35 minutes early and while there were still plenty of seats at that point, there was NOTHING in the shade. Everybody who had thought it through had brought their blankets and picnic lunches well in advance.

    Second, I’m typing for Robin this morning… she would love to celebrate with baboons on Saturday (1 p.m.). Reason? She does not have to have surgery on her wrist! She doesn’t need gardening help, thanks to Bill and the very very wet spring, but she would appreciate baboon company sitting in said garden! If you need the address, email me at shelikins @


  8. Good morning. There are many famous books that I like and I would have trouble picking just one of them. Thus, I will pick a book that is probably not considered to be a famous book by most people. I know about this book due to my training in entomology. The book is Life on a Little Known Planet by Howard Evans.

    In Life on a Little known Planet Evans does an excellent job of presenting very interesting information about insects. His book is sort of a modern day version of Jean-Henri Fabre’s classic writings about insects. It is the first book I would recommend to anyone who would like to know more about insects. I think Evans is correct when he implies that we don’t know much about many very fascinating and amazing living things that exist in our world, including the insects.


  9. I’m sitting in a seizure clinic room as I write, all hooked up to a 12-hour EEG machine. The best news of the day is that just two weeks ago, this clinic got WiFi so I’m able to communicate with the outside world, something I do hours every day anyway!

    Beyond a doubt, the book which has most impacted me is Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth: Finding Your Life’s Purpose”. I first read this about seven years ago and have reread it twice a year ever since. I imagine that not everyone would respond so deeply to this particular book – in fact, I didn’t care at all for Tolle’s most famous writing; “The Power of Now”. I’ve come to view “The New Earth” as my own personal “bible’ and always feel spiritually cleansed and uplifted by rereading it.

    I recall being gripped for weeks after my first reading with an undeniable awareness of “egos”. Everywhere I went, every human interaction, every talk show or movie all I could “see” was EGOS. It kinda drove me crazy for a while. Shortly after I first read the book, I encountered my own ego at play. I went to a Lifetime Fitness class called “Getting on Your Groove”, a dancing aerobic class. I got there early and my EGO made me approach the instructor to let her know that I was the Dancing Grandma! When the class started, everyone else was in perfectly-performed choreography while I couldn’t manage to do the moves at all. I quickly felt humiliated and embarrassed by this and left the class early. What a lesson this was for me!

    One of the most helpful lessons in Tolle’s book has to do with human suffering. It’s his belief that such suffering is, in fact, the only way to “burn off” excess ego – in other words, to be humbled whether that’s through a major loss, humiliation, guilt, or just not measuring up to one’s own standards. He views the ego as a “false self”. The other most important lesson I derive from his writing is that the only true purpose in this existence is to be present in each moment and that being present brings an abiding sense of acceptance and peace (even when the moment contains something painful).

    Forgive me for getting so carried away with this – as I said, I’m just sitting here for hours today wanting to communicate.


    1. CB – I have to agree with you about this book – it helped me more than any other after Joel died. If I had to memorize one non-fiction book, this would be it.


  10. I’ll do some of the picture books, like Where the Wild Things Are, that have great texts as well… And for the adult books, I’ll start with any collection of Mary Oliver’s poetry that includes this (I probably post this every year at this time…):


    This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
    to break my heart
    as the sun rises,
    as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

    and they open —
    pools of lace,
    white and pink–
    and all day the black ants climb over them,

    boring their deep and mysterious holes
    into the curls,
    craving the sweet sap,
    taking it away

    to their dark, underground cities —
    and all day
    under the shifty wind,
    as in a dance to the great wedding,

    the flowers bend their bright bodies,
    and tip their fragrance to the air,
    and rise,
    their red stems holding

    all that dampness and recklessness
    gladly and lightly,
    and there it is again —
    beauty the brave, the exemplary,

    blazing open.
    Do you love this world?
    Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
    Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

    Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
    and softly,
    and exclaiming of their dearness,
    fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

    with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
    their eagerness
    to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
    nothing, forever?


  11. I have such a lousy memory, I think the best I could manage would be a short poem or two. Children’s books would be the easiest, both because they are short and because multiple readings when one is young tends to imprint them in memory. Harriet the Spy might be doable. Or Little Women.

    If I could wave a magic wand and bestow a gift of perfect memory upon myself, perhaps I would choose something longer, and written for adults. The Once and Future King, or Catch-22 might be good places to start. Maybe the Hitchhikers trilogy just for fun.


  12. I am terrible at memorizing things (too bad I didn’t think of being able to memorize entire books as my super-power the other day). So I should memorize something short. A children’s picture book should do the trick. I will go with one or two of my favorites from my young childhood, both by Margaret Wise Brown: Home for a Bunny and The Friendly Book. There are dozens of children’s picture books I could have chosen, but the rhythmic, repeating style of Margaret Wise Brown will make it easier for me to memorize than other books.


  13. It would be a big effort for me to memorize the book I mentioned, Howard Evans fascinating book about insects. I realize that most people are not too interested in insects. I think the lack of interest in insects is a really good reason, from my point of view, for memorizing Howard’s book. The fascinating world of insects should not be ignored. I would hope that by memorizing that book I would be helping save an important resource that would be valued when it is better understood that insects are a significant part of the life on earth.


    1. ray bradberry was the replacement for kurt vonnegut when kurt had to cancel at the last moment after he got messed up with smoke inhalation when his apartment caught fire. ray came out in his wheel chair and told the story of how he came up with dandilion wine. it was wonderful. i have heard the recording of that talk on mpr a couple of times it may be available on a podcast somewhere. it is marvelous.
      found it
      3rd line upper left corner it says listen. try it. he is a wondereful speaker


  14. Oh, interesting: Birchbark Books just posted this sign on Facebook:
    “This is a BOOK-SHOP / Cross-roads of civilization / REFUGE OF ALL THE ARTS / Against the ravages of time / Armoury of fearless truth / Against whispering rumour/ Incessant trumpet of trade / From this place WORDS may fly abroad / not to perish as digital waves but fixed in time / not corrupted by the ________ hand but verified in proof.
    Friend, you stand on sacred ground: / THIS IS A BOOK-SHOP”


  15. not corrupted by the hurrying hand but verified in proof.
    Friend, you stand on sacred ground: / THIS IS A BOOK-SHOP”


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