Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Calligraphy update -- book reports

Every time I finish reading a book I find a representative sample passage to copy as my daily calligraphy.  Not only does this give me something new and different to write, it is serving as my reading diary for the year.  I've always sort of admired this practice in other people but never kept track of the bazillions of books I have read myself.  So this is a new and surprisingly satisfying side benefit of my daily art.

For the first nine months of the year I can report that I have read 60 books: 40 were fiction, 19 were non-fiction, one was poetry (and I cheated -- I calligraphed poems from that book on several days).  I am chagrined to report that for at least four of the fiction books, I had no recollection of the plot as I looked back to write this post, even after reading the copied passage.

Some of the book passages were almost illegible, as I was practicing a compressed italic hand that dispensed with spaces between words and line-ending hyphens (illegible, but they looked pretty).  Or letting the letters splay every which way across the page.

Some were quite readable, as I was practicing my channeling-Julia-Warhola handwriting with lots of curlicues.

At least one was deliberately atmospheric, with wispy brush-drawn letters echoing the fog described in the passage.

If you'd like some recommendations, in the fiction department I especially liked "Fake Like Me" by Barbara Bourland, the best fiction I've ever read about artists and how they work.

Many more to recommend on the non-fiction side of the aisle.  "Educated" by Tara Westover is a memoir that some of my friends found hard to read but I had no such qualms, looking forward to the happy ending.  "White Rage" by Carol Anderson is a dense, scholarly and eye-popping look at how Americans have discriminated against blacks throughout our history.  "American Dialogue: The Founders and Us" by Joseph Ellis examines several key concepts behind the Constitution and how they play out in today's political theater.  "How to Disappear" by Akiko Busch is a collection of essays about privacy, memory, identity and mystery.

I look forward to the next three months of my reading diary, because of the calligraphy and because of the books themselves.


  1. Sounds like a great way to keep track of your reading. I like how different each of these calligraphy pieces are from each other.

  2. This might be of interest

  3. What a great idea. I keep track of the new words I learn in books. Maybe I'll extrapolate from your idea and use that for calligraphy practice. :)

    I also liked Educated. Next up (I think) is Agent ZigZag.