Running for Your Life: Enter “The Gateway” Part Two

It’s summer – in Canada, the start (May 21) of the much-awaited season, Victoria Day (yes, Canada, still honours the crown, with some rising at dawn to watch royal weddings) – and past time to make your list for beach and lakeside reading.

Top of the list, I most humbly suggest, “Gateway to the Moon,” the latest novel by Mary Morris.

Set aside the disclaimer (I am married to the author).  This novel is killing it in reviews, lists, word of mouth. It’s the World Wide Web, they tell me, so here’s a trailer for you:


I’ve written about the book before in this space, so I'm not going to go on about character, plot, setting.

Rather, let me say that if there is one thing I think we can all use is a great read – that rejects the impulse to add your cry to the partisan sinkhole that now defines so much of American publishing.

Now’s the time to read important books. Not the latest screed, ripped-from-the-headlines political tract. But an honest to God work of art that will thrill you, make you cry and keep you amazed from the time you pick it up to the time you regretfully put it down.

That’s “Gateway to the Moon.” Buy the book and enter summer bliss reading space.

Next: Running for Your Life: Vegas, Baby !

Running for Your Life: World Without Mind by Franklin Foer

It’s akin to heresy during the time of Thomas Aquinas to rhapsodize over this title on the internet.

Religious heretics were burned at the stake or beheaded. (Hello, Sir Thomas More!)

For some, as martyrs to most noble causes. Belief. Besides for those faithful, the adorned heavens await in the afterlife.

Here, in what is quaintly called cyberspace, a solid two thumbs’ up for “World Without Mind” merits nothing of the kind. Just deafening silence. Because the tech powers that be will do everything in their power to direct traffic away from these remarks.

(Kind of gives “going viral” a whole new definition. As in, don’t read, or you’ll get sick, if not poisoned.)

But do your mind a favor and read the book. Foer, in the parlance of the day, unpacks the internet and its pernicious effect on originality and pre-internet creativity.

Remember books that sold at prices that could sustain all kinds of writers, not just the schlocky and familiar, but those who are willing (and able, yes!) to take a chance with something truly new? I’m thinking, say, Thomas Mann or, uh, Herman Melville.

Oh, and remember the old Apple slogan, “Think Different.” Ha! There’s a cruel joke for you. Don’t take my word for it, Google yourself the origins of that ad campaign. On your “smartphone.” Or ask the hive mind.

For heaven’s sake, don’t think on your own. Cause that unthinkable unthinking place is where we’re heading as described in the global warning that is a World Without Mind, a book of courageously conveyed conviction that stands as much chance of turning up as a recommended purchase on Amazon as Sir Thomas More currying favor with the Devil in Hades.

Next: Running for Your Life: Enter “The Gateway” Part Two  

Running for Your Life: Touches of Tennessee

The Morgan Library closed its Tennessee Williams “No Refuge but Writing” exhibit on Sunday (May 13).

Didn’t see it? A pity. Not to worry, here’s a taste.

Like so much of what the Morgan does best, the show narrows its focus on artist genius, on what served as inspiration to take that genius and make art.

In the front of a cherished book of Williams, the Collected Poems of Hart Crane, a young man of 22 who would later pave the way for daring work on the American stage, scribbled:

“Alas for the poet, the dreamer  . . . He fights a solitary battle against the world’s dullness.”

Elsewhere, we learn that Williams could not contain his wild and lyric impulses, and early in his life fled to Mexico, chased by his “Blue Angels” (what he called his dark moods of depression. Any coincidence that Tony Kushner would write of Angels during a modern period of mass depression, the American AIDS crisis?)

He writes of the duality of the single heart, and I’m moved to near-tears, then read that “A Streetcar Named Desire” would enjoy 855 performances, amazed that his words that elevate and sting, a timeless outlet of wild and lyric impulses, live on.

Next: Running for Your Life: World Without Mind by Franklin Foer

Running for Your Life: It’s the Core, Stupid

When it comes to, you know, running for your life, as in into your sixties, seventies, and dare I say it, eighties, you’ve one job.

Call it boring, pedantic, mind-numbingly sensible, it’s all the same to me.

But take care of your core.

I don’t know how many former runners I talk to who say they stopped running  because of joints: knee pain, ankle stress, hip injuries.

In the past ten years, as readers of this blog might know, I’ve had my setbacks, most significantly, a wicked knee injury and a massive hamstring tear. After the hamstring tear, one doctor said I could forget about running again.

That was seven years ago. And I continue to run at least three miles every other day.

The older you get the more attention you should spend on stretching, yes. Outside of daily Achilles tendon stretches and some basic calisthenics,  I’m not that person. But what I have done that seems to work is pay attention to core strength and, as important, running posture.

Be strong in your core, and you will put less strain on your joints. Next time you see runners look at their posture. Does their pace allow for their buttocks to vertically align with their foot strikes rather than chest-forward? The latter posture exposes knee joints to gravity and pavement-pounding stress in a way that the former does not.

What’s more, a strong core makes for lighter foot strikes, and less wear and tear on joints. I also run with patella bands and in compression socks, which mitigates the negative effects of pavement-pounding on joints.

So what do I do for core? Not much really. Since 2011, 60 nightly pushups, and tai chi, which is gentle way to build up core. Then when I run I move a lot slower than I used to, and more vertical in stride so that the strain on joints, etc., is minimized.

So far, so good. Try it, and you might like it!

Next: Running for Your Life: Touches of Tennessee

Running for Your Life: Open “The Door”

What stupefies in Magda Szabo’s “The Door” is how fresh and original is the imagined character, Emerence.

Crazy, contradictory, needlessly hurtful and harsh. Uncompromising to a fault.

How unconventional to choose to base a novel on an anti-hero upon whose first impressions we feel are so disjointed, let alone unsympathetic.

There you are: a cacophony of “un”s. By rights, she should be toxic to readers. Offer nothing.

Here, though, is the genius of “The Door.” Emerence proves that we are never free to judge what constitutes the human spirit.

What is one person’s toxicity is another’s purity. Emerence, like common humanity, is unknowable. She is someone we will never fully understand – nor forget.

Here’s the takeaway. Life is richer when we don’t rely on feeling superior to others for our sense of well-being. Emerence just is and that’s good enough.

Most fiction these days relies too often on the genius authorial, the post-modern wink, meism of one stripe or another.

Magic is in the point of view that shatters the self, that the reflection of the so-called superior other looms overlarge in the shards.

Next: Running for Your Life: It’s Core, Stupid