The Gems in ‘Thrive’: A Book Review

Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder is like a mine. Most of it is sort of there, in the abyss, waiting to be noticed. If you rifle through the book, you can find some nuggets, even gems. Huffington poses important things to think over and to realize about life in a fast paced society. It just takes a while to find them. 

Huffington’s book was a lot longer than I was expecting, and she hammered the points home, and then some. Her basic thesis is that there are two things that define success—money and power—and that there needs to be a third metric because we’re all slowly killing ourselves. It’s not unlike the many posts you see in one of the numerous living well sections of The Huffington Post. She outlines that focusing on the third metric means focusing on its four elements; well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. 

Throughout the book she dispenses personal wisdom, sprinkles in quotes, and slams down lots of facts. I sometimes felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again, she rephrased and quoted from another famous person. It was dragging at times, and some of the information I found anecdotal or irrelevant. 

Amongst the coal, you can find a golden nugget. Here are three that I took from Huffington’s book:

1. Disconnect 

It’s okay to turn off your phone or put it in the other room to charge when you go to bed. In fact, it might even be good for you. Vacations should be a time away from technology. And for god’s sake, don’t text when you’re out with someone. 

2. Sleep! 

Here Huffington spoke to my heart. She talked about the importance of sleep and winding down from a busy day. She’s a proponent of naps! Me too, Arianna! She also gives some tips about going to bed and sleeping better. One that I’ve already abided by is to stop sleeping in workout clothes. My subconscious thinks I am going for a run, when in reality I need to to the opposite and fall asleep. She encourages pajamas, so I may have to invest in a couple more! 

3. Giving 

Huffington encourages people to volunteer and think about the impact that they, even one small instrument as Mother Teresa would say, can have on the world. It gave me pause. I volunteered a lot in high school and college, but have I really since then? The answer is, sadly, no. But this has given me something to work on. 

The gems saved the book and I gave it a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It’s those little things that I keep coming back to that make Thrive memorable. 

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Advertisements

Turning off your brain in order to write

I recently came up with an idea for a new novel and I’ve been really wanting to write it. I’ve thought of a decent plot, some great characters, and a wonderful setting. Every time I start to write it though, my brain screams at me. 

“Emily, you’re not doing this right.”

“Emily, this is a terrible intro. Does in medias res mean ANYTHING to you?”

But then, there’s the other part of my brain that says in soothing, confident tones:

“Emily, just put words on the page.”

“Part of writing is revision, you’ll come back to this.”

It’s like the devil and the angel sitting on your shoulder. A classic dilemma. 

In reality, you have to tune out the one side. The part of your brain that tells you to fix it, to sit there with your blinking cursor, dwelling on how to make it better when you really have no idea how to do that needs to shut up. Ignore that part of your brain. Turn it off. 

I’m not good at this. I am a known planner. I anticipate things happening. I’m classically two steps ahead of everyone else. Life’s punched me in the throat a zillion of times and I still insist on looking to the future. 

That part of the brain that gets ahead of me, well, I need to flip the off switch on that, too. I have to be present. Focus on the draft at hand. Where am I in the story? If I’m scared of getting ahead of myself, I can always jot down a few notes. Hopefully those pages won’t run off and I’ll get there. Eventually. Eventually, the future always becomes the present. At least that is guaranteed. 

30 Before 30 Update: Take a Class on David Foster Wallace

I originally wanted to title this post “Reading Infinite Jest: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” but I didn’t for two reasons, one being that only like three people would get that joke and the other being that I did actually enjoy my class on DFW and Infinite Jest.  It WAS fun. Whenever I tell someone I took this class, they end up having a lot of questions and I have conveniently answered them below.

Q:Who is David Foster Wallace?

A: DFW was a writer famous for the aforementioned title, writing non-fiction, including a lengthy essay on TV criticism, and for giving one of the most famous commencement speeches ever at Kenyon College, “This Is Water.” Also, sadly, he committed suicide in 2008. He was famous for his innovative, post-modernist style, as well as his turbulent personal life which included mental health episodes, addiction, tumultuous relationships with women (Mary Karr being one of them), and family dilemas.

Q: Why take a class on him?

A: Even though I voraciously studied English lit in college, I completely missed the David Foster Wallace boat. I always saw it as a gap in my education, especially since he was hugely influential on many of my favorite modern day writers (John Green, Dave Eggers, Chuck Klosterman). I wanted to learn more about him as a writer by reading his stuff (instead of reading about his personal life on the internet), and I thought I would benefit most from doing it in a classroom setting. We all know I’m a huge nerd and love to learn, so tackling a big topic like Wallace and Infinite Jest would lend itself to a classroom setting with an instructor who knew a little more about that mammoth text than most and eleven other brains to opine on it.

Q: What is Infinite Jest about?

A: The book is a little over a thousand pages, with footnotes (which are definitely a part of the story) and a narrative that jumps between an elite tennis academy, a recovery house, and the geopolitical players in a North America where all the countries are united and the years are named after brands. Also, there’s a group of wheelchair assassins. Got all that?

It’s okay if you didn’t because, as DFW famously told his editor, Infinite Jest is meant to be read twice. Seriously. That book weighs three pounds and Wallace wanted people to read it twice. We took eight weeks to read this book and I feel like we covered a lot and a little all at once. So reading it twice? That doesn’t sound too appealing.

Awesome flowchart courtesy of brainpickings.org.

Q: What is Infinite Jest REALLY about?

A: Good question. At 1,080 pages, it about a lot of things. Consumerism, addiction, the American Dream, politics, tennis, family, entertainment…I could go on and on.

Q: How was the class?

A: Really great, actually. I enjoyed our instructor and, as always, my class was full of people who all approached the text differently than me. I was thankful to have my English major background so I knew a little bit about literary theory and post-modernism.

Q: How was reading Infinite Jest? 

A: Less great. The book is consuming and it took me FOREVER to read. This was a total change for me since I’m usually reading more than one book at a time and I read really fast. It was hard to focus on anything else and I had some pretty weird dreams while reading it, too. It was frustrating when I’d come to a footnote that was ten pages long and other times I would wrinkle my nose at what DFW was writing about—it was either gross or bizarre. Other things I simply didn’t care about, such as all the chemicals in the particular drugs. My eyes glazed over as I skimmed those parts. Other parts I was invested.

Wow, that was a lot of complaining. I actually really liked the book once I finished. I gave it a rare five-star rating on Goodreads. Certain characters (Don Gately, the Incandenza brothers) were fascinating to me. I laughed out loud at multiple parts in the book. Wallace is just plain funny at times. It annoyed and intrigued me that there were almost no women in the book and the few that did show up were empty femme fatales. I’m glad that I read it because it truly was an experience and I feel like so much of Wallace’s influence is everywhere I know a little more about it.

I gave the book five stars for lots of reason, mostly because DFW tries for something huge with this mega-novel and he pulls it off.

Q: What’s next?

A: Well, reading things that are NOT Infinite Jest. But seriously, I do want to read more of his books especially his nonfiction. And I downloaded Every Love Story is a Ghost Story and I’ll probably see the movie with Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg when it comes out. My fascination with David Foster Wallace won’t go away, but I can wait a few years before I crack open Infinite Jest again…or not at all. We’ll see.

Q: Would you recommend Infinite Jest?

A: Only if you have a serious love for literature and huge post-modern novels (think Ulysses and Gravity’s Rainbow). I think if you want to read David Foster Wallace, there are better entry points. If you love him, you’ll get around to this behemoth eventually, and it is important to understanding Wallace as a writer.

cool quote from typewrittenword.tumblr.com

I Finally Watched ‘The Godfather’: A 30 Before 30 Update*

As someone who loves movies, it just seemed wrong that I had never seen The Godfather. I felt out of the loop on some of the pop culture references. Plus, it’s continuously named one of those ‘best movies of all time.’ I figured I shouldn’t spend many more years on this earth having never seen these films, so I added it to my ’30 Before 30′ list.

I called up my friend and resident-movie expert Mike and borrowed his DVDs and sat myself down to watch these lengthy films. I had many observations (if you follow me on Twitter I’m sure you saw some of them), but now having finished them, these were the five thoughts that stuck with me.

1. To me, the main storyline is Michael Corleone’s descent into corruption, which he does for his family. It all goes back to the family. It is a stronger bond than marriage, than the love of country, or friendship. It sorta broke my heart because in the opening scenes Michael is so wide-eyed and lovingly sweet. As a viewer, you understand why Kay falls so hard for him.

2. The script in Part I, which was my personal favorite, is pretty close to perfect. Though it runs just a little over three hours, every scene, every exchange of dialogue, every beat is so essential to the story. For writing nerds like me, this is just plain beautiful.

(photo courtesy of gangsterbb.net)

3. I had no idea about the multiple timelines and settings in The Godfather series. I knew the movies were “old” (the first two came out in the ’70s), but I didn’t know that Michael’s story took place after WWII, and I had no idea we’d see scenes in Nevada or Sicily.

4. Of all the great performances in the films (Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall), Robert DeNiro was by far my favorite. He does not appear until the second film where he plays a young Vito Corleone, fresh to America and barely speaking English, and he’s technically a supporting character, but oh holy Jesus he is amazing. His performance is on a whole other level that most actors will never even reach. He’s young and handsome, but he’s something else, too. He’s not Robert DeNiro. Everything fades away and he’s purely Vito, a man who just wants to make things better for his family in his new country.

5. Look how young everyone was!

I couldn’t get over how young Pacino, Diane Keaton, and James Caan looked. See?!

On that note, I’ll wrap this up. Cross another goal off my list. Only 27 to go…

* I didn’t watch Part III because everyone told me to avoid it like the plague.