Thursday, February 13, 2014

When reading turns to tears

As I have struggled for the past couple of months from the results of a concussion, my ability to read, especially non-fiction has evaporated or is imprisoned in solitary confinement at some undisclosed location. One of the few rays of sunshine was a note received from my friend, Scott Russell Sanders,

     who was announcing the birth of a new book, Divine Animal. Unlike many authors who would be encouraging buyers to hit the bookstore or Amazon, Scott has chosen a different approach. His note to me follows:

         I think of you frequently, as your mindfulness suggestions arrive, pointing me toward ethical and intellectual nourishment. I write to let you know that I'm publishing my new novel, Divine Animal, 


 first as an e-book, available now for free download from my website, and later this spring in a limited print edition. You'll find an image of the cover and a short description below.  I'm also attaching a flyer bearing the same information.  If you know anyone who reads e-books and might be interested in having a look, please pass the word.  I would be especially grateful if you see fit to share this news with your mindfulness list.
        In the "Author's Note" at the back of the book, I explain why I am publishing the book myself, and why I'm giving away the e-book version (and planning to sell the print version at cost). Here's the gist of it:
    After starting over from scratch time and again in the search for a publisher, I decided to produce this book myself, a decision made easier by the advent of digital technology.  During the four decades of my writing life the book as a physical artifact made of ink on paper has been gradually supplanted—some would say, doomed to extinction—by the book as a digital file readable on various electronic devices.  While I love books printed on paper, and will continue reading them by preference as long as I live, before publishing Divine Animal in that traditional form, I wanted to experiment first with an e-book version that I would be able to give away. 
    Why give it away?  The practical reason is that I earn my living by teaching, not by selling books.  In writing Divine Animal, I did not set out to produce a commodity for sale; I set out to tell a story, to inhabit the lives of characters who had captured my imagination, to reflect on how things fall apart and how they might be mended.  Of course it is perfectly honorable to earn one’s living by writing.  But that was never my ambition, nor would it have been a realistic one, given my subjects and concerns and style.  A deeper reason for giving away the e-book version is to make a small return to the cultural commons, that indispensable source for all creative work, including my own—the commons of language, literature, libraries, schools and colleges, the arts and sciences and all forms of knowledge, as well as countless conversations with fellow seekers and makers.

In Divine Animal, Scott truly does tell a story wherein we live with the characters and see how things fall apart and can sometimes be mended. I can vividly still recall the feeling before the book was even half finished that I wished I could read it as slowly as the author took to craft it. I didn't want it to end. Scott's prose is clean, never superfluous, yet rich in detail especially as he digs down to "inhabit the lives of characters". As I came to the end tears dribbled down my cheeks as he touches something very human in all of us. 

The gift of his gift is doubled by his choice share it without seeking a return, the true spirit of giving and akin to Charles Eisenstein's gift economy ideas discussed at length in his Sacred Economy. It has me reflect on what I might so offer as generously as he offered his beautifully crafted story that has made my world a better place to inhabit.

Blessings on the journey...