Saturday, October 16, 2010

Inspiring yourself...


I had an interesting day doing something I've never done before. Normally on Saturdays, I switch off TV, phone, Internet and I read... generally a whole book in one day. But today I read halves of two books, Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio, a wonderful book about the history of mathematics - an exploration of whether maths was invented by humans or "discovered" because it is actually an innate aspect of the universe -  and a fabulous (in both senses of the word) short story collection called A Life on Paper, stories by French writer Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud translated by Edward Gauvin, which I am reviewing for The Short Review. I literally (and literarily) alternated between the two books - a few chapters about maths and then a couple of short stories, then another chapter about maths, reading both books at the same time. And the juxtaposition of the two set my brain firing in all sorts of directions, it was an immensely creative act. I think I read each book differently because of the other, fact informing fiction and vice versa, and it has really inspired me. I wanted to highly recommend trying this - it would probably work with any two books, has anyone else tried something like this?

Talking of inspiration, I wanted to mention a new venture by one of the most creative, generous and inspirational people I know, Sarah Salway, poet, short story writer, novelist, who is always posting writing prompts on her blog. Together with poet and writer Catherine Smith, Sarah has just launched Speechbubble books. This is what they say about it: " Our experience of collaborating with other writers, musicians, photographers, actors, directors and textile, paint and digital artists has shown us that good writing can go beyond the confines of two hard covers. Speechbubble Books allows us to share some of this work, and to bring new work out into the world." 

I want to wish them enormous luck with the new venture, and I am off to order their first product, Pillow Book: "an ongoing collaboration between textile artist Anne Kelly and writer Sarah Salway.Each postcard replicates a piece of textile art designed by Anne Kelly and already exhibited throughout the UK." Doesn't that already sound wonderful? Welcome, Speechbubble!

12 comments:

Marisa Birns said...

Haven't tried reading two disparate books but you've convinced me that it is something intriguing to do. I definitely need to jolt the creative synapses!

And will go check out Speechbubble books.

Rachel Fenton said...

Yay, I do this - often more than two books. Currently it's three books of short Victorian ghost stories, the complete works of Italio Calvino and a collection of short fiction called "The Continuing Silence of a Poet" (Yehoshua) - all completely different and has my brain doing somersaults. I love it. Mixing it up.

Speechbubble books sounds excellent - fab idea - off to check it out now. Thanks.

Tania Hershman said...

marisa, have a go, let me know if it does anything for you.

Rachel - do you actually have them all there at the same time, pick up one, read a bit, then pick up the next? Wow... three, something for me to aim for!

Alex said...

I do this too! Generally it is when I have a massive book like Anna Karenina. At the moment I'm reading that, the complete collection of Caver stories (which I always have on me), a book to review and a non fiction book, I just finished a biography of Hemingway's time in Paris, now reading a book on Narrative theory. Unfortunately I only manage two or three a day, a chapter, a story and an essay or something. One day I'll get all four and then I'll have a headache.

Having lots of different topics and styles to read at the same time is really interesting and sparks loads of ideas for my own writing.

Tania Hershman said...

Hi Alex,
that's a lot! Do you actually read them at the same time, though, alternating from one to the other then back, or at different times of the day or week?

Alex said...

I read alternating between them all though not always back to back if that makes sense. I have only ever read two books back to back and that is generally because my brain hurts after reading most of the non-fiction stuff for uni.

Joe Melia said...

really great post, Tania! Read in this way most of the time and you're right, it tends to trigger more surprising responses to what's being read. Love reading short stories like this with something completely different.

Rachel Fenton said...

Yup - it's a habit I got into in Uni - never got out of it again! Occasionally I'll read a book all the way through exclusively but I like to get the connections sparking.

Tania Hershman said...

Alex, I bet your brain hurts"!

Joe - this is great, you actually hold two books at one time and alternate between them? Why am I the last to discover this??!

Rachel - seems like there's a whole secret club of us, doing simultaneous multi-reading.... hmm, not such a snappy term, eh?

Lauri said...

I usually am reading more than one book at a time but not at the same sitting. I'll change depending on my mood.

I found the idea about maths very interesting. Is it just there waiting to be discovered? And again do we see it the right way? I'm going to look for that book. I suppose the same can be said for physics.

SARAH SALWAY said...

Thanks so much for the Speechbubble shout out, Tania, and your kind words.Much appreciated - this is all very exciting.

And I'm interested in the reading the two books idea. I do this, but have always put it down to a low boredom threshold! I think it does help to make surprising connections though, and supports unique ways of seeing things. I wonder if it always works best with fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps there is something in the different ways information is presented in both genres that engages?

Matt Whyndham said...

Definitely the same for physics. Even though science is a social construct and embedded in the host culture blah blah, if ever something was Out There, it's that.

Never tried alternating mouthfuls of literature, but always have multiple books on the table, but with plenty of palate cleansers to hand. e.g. telly or sleep.