What I’m Reading Now
December 17, 2017
I need to write about this book, and I need to write about it now. For a couple of reasons.
First, if I don’t get to it PDQ, Walt is going to beat me to the punch. The last time the two of us were smitten with an idea or a book, he went and wrote this. Even though I’d been the one to make the connection between stupid French grapevines and our spoiled children. I’m telling you, he’s the reason writers keep their best ideas to themselves. Thievery.
Second, this beautiful thing captured my soul during a stressful week. (P.S. If you received 467 emails from us this last week or two, forgive me.)
Silence: In the Age of Noise is written by a Norwegian explorer, lawyer, art collector, and publisher. He’s the first person to have completed the Three Poles Challenge on foot—the North Pole, the South Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest—which is what I think must have caught Walt’s attention, why he bought the thing.
Silence. The topic had me at hello. I may live in rural Ireland amongst dairy cows and quiet-ish sheep, but I don’t get enough of the stuff because I’m usually locked in my head. It’s awfully noisy in there. An attic full of crazed squirrels is how I’d describe the space between my ears.
But also the spare, precise writing slowed me way down so I could take it all in. The way the book has been designed, both the cover and the interior.
Everything smacks of wide-open space, peace. Form serving function.
I overheard Walt talking with a friend about an expression he’d tripped over in the book, some reference to a passage in the Bible. The two of them went back and forth looking through the Old Testament for the original language like the priest and rabbi they really are. (Don’t let that lawyer shit fool you.) Me, I rolled my eyes, because I’ve got a wall full of religious treatises and mindfulness crap I can’t be bothered to look at. That’s Walt’s side of the bookshelf. My side has the interesting stuff.
Until I came upon the phrase myself.
In some religions the gods appear as a thundercrack or a storm. In the Bible God is often the silence. In the Book of Kings, we are told of the way in which God reveals himself to Elijah. First came the hurricane, then an earthquake and after that fire. God was not in any of them. God came later, in a small, quiet voice, or a “brittle silence” as some newer translations have it. I like that. God is in the silence.
God is in the silence. For me, peace and wholeness are in the silence.
I’m telling you, this Norwegian—the author, not me—knows how to load meaning into the fewest possible words. Last guy I saw do that was Andrew Boyd, author of Daily Afflictions. I wrote about that book here. Stunning.
If you think writing sparingly is easy, you ARE mistaken. The clarity of thought, the ability to choose the perfect word from the myriad options, that shit comes hard. These people do not buck the revision process, that I can guarantee.
Which is why the following quote gets tossed around all the time; why it’s been attributed to just about everyone but Attila the Hun.
If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.
By the way, another Blaise Pascal quote. Just saying.
There must be something in all that snow and dark and cold that makes for good writing. Last book I read by a Norwegian I must have gifted 50 times. Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson. Seriously good novel. Read that one when you’re done with this.
I’m on the fly here. I’ve got to wrap this up before Walt gets suspicious.