Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Finished up a couple of books this week. One that was really, really good and one that was interesting but not my cup of tea.

The one I really liked is The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Roseamund Zander. Benjamin is a conductor of a number of symphony orchestras and his wife is a therapist. I came across this book on a Buddhist website and it sounded good. I've heard Zander speak and I've always thought he was a good conductor so it seemed like it had a high probability of being good.

The book is a number of practices designed to open yourself up to possibilities. Too often we feel limited in our lives. We don't have time or money or experience or friends or whatever it is that holds us back. The Zanders point out some things that may be holding you back and give you some ideas as to how to overcome those obstacles.

My favorite chapters were the following: It's All Invented - how we operate is based on a framework that our mind creates. Any limitations that we see are created from our minds. If we change our framework (thinking outside of the box, so to speak), we can find a different viewpoint that will let us avoid or overcome the obstacle we thought was keeping us back.

Giving an A - We're brought up in an environment where we're compared to people on a regular basis. Competitive sports, class rank, the bell curve, percentiles. Someone is always trying to fit us somewhere and telling us how good we are compared to everyone else. That's nonsense. Give everyone an A. Applaud the efforts and stop worrying about the results.

Rule Number 6 - Don't take yourself so damn seriously. What are rules 1 through 5? There are no rules 1 through 5.

I really recommend this book to anyone with even an iota of unhappiness about their lives. It's refreshing and inspiring. Here's a great speech that Zander did that incorporates some of the book:

The other book I finished this week was James Ellery's White Jazz. I picked it up because I read an interview with Toby Barlow where he said that he was inspired by the style of this book and another book which I will be reading in the future. As I've said many times in many places, Barlow's Sharp Teeth was my favorite book of 2008. I thought it would be fun to see where his inspiration came from.

Ellery has written many novels. L.A. Confidential was made into a pretty good movie which I actually saw (I'm always surprised that I see movies because I never feel like I watch a lot of them). White Jazz is the same genre. Hardboiled late-fifties cop. Law enforcement shadier than the criminal element. B-list movie star who captures the cop's eye, heart and loins.

The writing style is intense. Brief, curt descriptions. Dialogue with attributions. Cop:Feature this. The broad is dirty. Mickey: Feature she's got an in with Flynn. It just moves constantly and is very tense and high pressure. One of the things I liked about Barlow's book was the pacing. He would slow it down when he thought it was appropriate. Ellery just hammers you until the last page. No stopping EVER. Fifties dialogue and cop dialogue makes it difficult sometimes to understand. The ending is not happy. Plot twists just appear out of nowhere and keep you guessing. Plot twists are really out there. Complete lack of decent folk. The protagonist is far from being a good guy which maybe makes the lack of a happy ending a bit more tolerable. If you like the genre, good book. If not, can't recommend it even for the unusual stlye.

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