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16 January 2011 @ 02:13 pm
Three Journeys  

Originally published at todd-wheeler.com. You can comment here or there.

A few notes on books I've read recently.

The first is Common As Air by Lewis Hyde. The book examines the history of cultural commons, from 17th century England to the foundation of the United States to present times.
 

At stake is the historical idea of "art and ideas ... [belonging] by nature to a cultural commons, open to all" with limited grants of monopoly allowed by the government. The more recent attitude, particularly by media corporations, is that "creators have a natural, unending right to their work and that the property secured by this right does not differ in kind from property in land or houses."
 

Hyde makes a wonderful argument for defending the former against the enclosures of open ideas, art, and science. Those enclosures by way of patent law and copyright extension are doing much more harm than good.
 

To boil down one idea that Hyde mentions: everything that we create owes something by different degrees to what has come before. Or as Newton famously wrote (borrowing the quote from Bernard of Chartres) "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
 

Which brings us to the second book, Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places by Gustavo Bondoni. I don't know all of Bondoni's influences and can only relate what has come to mind while reading his work. The first story in the collection, "Twilight", combines the type of story idea Asimov was famous for with the humanism of a Vonnegut tale. In "Defending Fiordland", the term hunter-killer reminded me of the novel Dune (and who knows if Frank Herbert borrowed that the name from WWII terminology).
 

I don't mean to minimize Bondoni's writing. The title story, "Tenth Orbit", is my favorite. It brings to mind no one except the author, and it is one of the best short stories I've read in the past few years. It was Bondoni's first published story, and from there he began his own journey.
 

Last is a huge collection of five books by M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating. Describing Fisher's work presents a dilemma. Saying she writes about food doesn't do justice to how she describes the many travels she has had. Calling her a travel writer doesn't do justice to the culinary research she bestows to the reader. Journalist? Memoirist? Perhaps the sum of descriptions will suffice.
 

In her introduction, Fisher cites her own influences and the type of books she hopes to emulate (or avoid being like). I have only just started Fisher's book, and it is one of many I have read in the past few years. These food books have influenced my current work in progress which features a character who is a personal chef.
 

Best wishes for your own journeys in reading, writing, or wherever a notion takes you.
 

P.S. Regarding the photos above, two images came from the Flickr streams of elPadawan and Mike Licht through the creative commons license. The image art for Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places was created by Brad Foster. Not sure if the rights to that image are held by the artist, the publisher, or the writer. I have a feeling they won't mind me using it.

 
 
 
bondo_ba on January 17th, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed the title story - I definitely need to reread the book with an eye to spoting the influences in my writing. That's actually a way of looking at my work that never ocurred to me!
todd_wheeler on January 17th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
I have on occasion worried about having a book I'm reading influence what I'm writing. But, why not be influenced? We can't avoid having the world color our imagination; just the opposite.