Friday, July 23, 2010

Nonfiction Update

I finished listening to Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and I'm not quite sure how to describe it. Is it a book about how to live or how to write--or both? His framework centers on his working with two other filmmakers to turn his memoir into a movie, as he learns more about what comprises a good story.

He points out that if we saw a movie about a guy who really wanted a Volvo and at the end of the movie, he gets a Volvo, no one would leave the theater wiping away tears. That is not a good story. He repeatedly points out that just as one selects details to write a story--whether fictional or not--that people also have some choice in writing our own stories.

Along the way, while describing how to live a life would living--and sharing--he has a lot to say about story. The author reads his own book, which works most of the time, but someone needs to help him pronounce Proust. Publisher Thomas Nelson also needs someone to edit out the pronoun case errors. Me and I are used interchangeably only in country songs to achieve rhyme. Even then, the error makes my ears bleed.

The second book I mentioned earlier is Carr's The Shallows: This Is Your Brain Online. I am reading it during a week when I have consciously committed to turning off Facebook. He gives an explanation of the way our brain works that ordinary laymen can understand. The history of technology and how it has changed our lives starts far before computers. I had never thought of the impact of the map or the clock, although I certainly am aware of the impact of the printing press and the book on lives other than my own.

The chapter on Google--a big force in our community now--is especially enlightening and, in a way, disturbing. He doesn't reveal anything sinister so much as he sheds light on wha one of his sources called Google's belief in "its own goodness."

I am encouraged by what he reveals about the "plasticity" of the adult brain. I am relieved to know that you perhaps can teach an old dog new tricks--or new ways to do old ones. I certainly won't turn Luddite and abandon my laptop, my eBook, my Facebook friends, but I will try harder to be contemplative, to avoid the pressure to think of multi-tasking as a virtue rather than a hindrance.

I will also feel less guilty when I get lost in a good book. I am just nourishing those synapses in my plastic brain.

1 comment:

Jessie Carty said...

And writing poems has to be great for the plastic brain!