READS OF THE YEAR 2015: Naomi Richards
Eudora Welty, One writer’s Beginnings (Harvard University Press, 1983)
These meditative autobiographical essays are based on three lectures Welty gave at Harvard University in 1983. This book is full of warmth, humour and quirkiness, such as when Welty describes her mother as reading Dickens “in the spirit in which she would have eloped with him.” However, there is so much more than just detailed observations of a bibliophile family. The chapters, Listening, Learning to See and Finding a Voice reveal in a non-linear form the workings of a writer’s mind and how her creativity evolved from small things, such as listening to the striking of clocks in her childhood home in Mississippi. It is this observant inner world that you can listen to in this book and at the same time be entertained by Welty’s stories about her family. A generous amount of family photographs accompany the text, bringing this lost Southern world to life.
Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows (Vintage Classics, 2001)
This little book, just one essay, is a wonderful thing to read on a winter’s evening when shadows are gathering. Tanizaki is an elegant, thoughtful writer, whatever he is talking about. His mind wanders like brush strokes onto “glistening black lacquer” and how electric lights destroy the “spell of the day.” A book with a discursive style that allows the writer to move freely from describing the natural dark sheen of the floor of a traditional theatre, to giving us a recipe. Brilliant, sensuous, meditative writing, providing a smoky glimpse of Japanese culture. The wavering light of candles, the thick folds of a kimono, the blackened teeth of a geisha; it is heady stuff.
Guillaume Wolf, You Are a Circle: A Visual Meditation for the Creative Mind (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012)
This is a beautiful book, with poetic reflections on creativity on the left side and black and white circles on the right side. The circles are a cross between heavy woodcuts and ink blots, though I would have preferred some colour in them. It is a book to prop up at your writing table or computer desk and randomly open up for inspiration or courage. Each page provides a complete moment of peace, hope and encouragement as well as exploring the more adventurous and risk taking aspects of the creative mind. It begins with the thought that we all started off as a single circle (one cell) and expanded into everything we are today and ends with the idea that we are all a Tabula rasa. Using ideas drawn from Zen, haikus, Joseph Campbell, archetypes and creative processes, this is a gentle, thoughtful, feel- good guide to enhancing any form of creativity.