One of the very best things about Twitter – which I confess I engaged rather reluctantly – is my renewed connection to The Paris Review. There was a time when I used to read the quarterly magazine pretty regularly and somewhere in the mix of life it got away from me.
But just by hitting the little “follow” button on Twitter recently, I have been pulled back in like a pebble grazing the ocean floor. Every day there are quotes from writers. Not the cheesy quotes that all the – ahem – motivational folks post, but delicious musings from writers.
Like this one from Maya Angelou:
“When the language lends itself to me, when it comes and submits, when it says ‘I am yours darling,’ – that’s the best part.”
Or this gem from John Irving:
“I am compulsive about writing, I need to do it the way I need sleep and exercise and food and sex.”
I swear it feels like I Retweet @parisreview once a day.
This, my friends, is how to market your product in social media. Lure the people in. Be consistent. Be fascinating. Especially when your product backs it up. It is so much more effective than continually pounding followers with only your latest seminar, recycled quotes, et al.
My latest joyful discovery via The Paris Review blog is Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf art. In a Q&A there, Mount is asked what is on an ideal bookshelf.
“The books that made people who they are, that changed their lives,” she replies.
She paints them as if on a bookshelf, so each is tailor made to the individual. Immediately I began formulating what would be on mine. I have an entire wall of books in my home, so it would be no small task to narrow my choices. But I must take a crack at it.
First and foremost, Nancy Drew. Since I have about 40 beautiful old books from that series, I suppose it would make sense to just pick the first, The Secret of the Old Clock. And while I’m in my childhood, surely one of my Barbie books must make the cut; Barbie, What a Doll, a gorgeous coffee table book, would be a great choice.
Technically this might be a children’s book, but I found it in adulthood and it’s become a classic graduation gift for good reason – Oh, The Places You’ll Go by the one and only Dr. Seuss. My actual favorite Dr. Seuss book as a child was The Sneetches, which should surprise no one who knows me well now. That one is a must.
In a nod to the sports writing portion of my life, I’d add Beyond the Game, a collection of articles by Gary Smith from Sports Illustrated. His writing has influenced mine so much. My journalism shelf extends into human interest and political commentary as well and favorites include Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud by Anna Quindlen and Nothin’ But Good Times Ahead by Molly Ivins. These women helped pave the way for the kind of columns I like to write.
Also in the category of shoulders I stand on are feminist classics – The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and Revolution from Within by Gloria Steinem. For an apt reminder of the strides women have made since the 1920s, there is nothing quite like A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.
So much about my Italian-American heritage became all the more clear when I read The Dream Book, a collection of writing by Italian-American women edited by Helen Barolini. This carries over into fiction, as Barolini’s beautiful novel, Umbertina, transported me from Italy to America back to Italy again.
Spiritual books seem to be the toughest to whittle down. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a shoe-in, not just for the inspiring journey it chronicles but for the boost it gave to the memoir genre. Love it. Regular readers of Game Plan know there’s no way I’d leave Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way off the list, as it was a major influence in my decision to become a life coach. I was also very affected by The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
While Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice seems like a cliché fiction choice, for me it’s really not. I came so late to that book, reading it in my 40s despite countless tries. I couldn’t put it down and came to see why it holds its place among literary greats. During a journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan I had the opportunity to read James Joyce’s Ulysses in a classroom setting and see what all the fuss was about. Hello, can you say prolific? I fell in love with D.H. Lawrence in college and Lady Chatterley’s Lover remains my favorite of his. Simply irresistible.
Poetry in particular gives me pause, as my taste runs from disturbing Marge Piercy and Anne Sexton to lovely William Wordsworth and Octavio Paz. But if I’m putting just a few nods to poetry on my shelf, one would have to be On the Pulse of Morning, the poem Maya Angelou wrote and read so powerfully at President Bill Clinton’s 1992 inauguration. That would be joined by The Subject Tonight is Love, 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky because something different speaks to me every time I pick it up.
I’m sure I’m missing a few, but I will continue to ponder it. I cannot encourage my readers enough to take on this exercise. Teachers, do it with your students. Coaches, do it with your clients. Such a treat and exploration into the self.
Thank you, Twitter. Merci beaucoup, Paris Review.
Keep those Tweets coming.