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May 25, 2018

Thoughts of the Week

A year ago this week, I was in Barcelona all on my own. It was the first time I had been outside of the United States. I got a cheap ticket through Scott's Cheap Flights (sounds like a scam, but I can't recommend them enough), got an AirBnB for about $100 for the week, and ran off. 

Three people were already living in the apartment I was staying in (all in separate rooms). One of them, Christian, only spoke a little English. I didn't speak Spanish well. But toward the end of my stay, we sat down together and "communicated" about his photography project and what I thought of it. We worked it out together and connected. I felt like I could have done this with anyone there.

I do miss the atmosphere of Barcelona. Even though I did a lot of things, what I look back on now is walking through the city on my own at night and seeing people live their lives. One thing I was struck by was how comfortable I was in the city by mid-week. I didn't feel like I was on an entirely different continent and felt at ease with the people.

I remember reminiscing about how people are the same everywhere, experiencing the same joy, fear, and sadness as I do. 

The view outside my window in Carrer D'Aragó, Barcelona.

The Five Senses
Milo Greene's single Move which was just release this month. They've got a nice 80's vibe. 
Seasonal themed scratch-and-sniff stamps are coming soon!!
V.E. Schwab's "In Search of Doors," a lecture she gave at the 2018 Pembroke Tolkein Lecture series. A beautiful speech connecting books to doors and discussing the fantasy genre and what it means to write it. 
I often go back to Catherynne Valente's descriptions of food in her novel Deathless. Here's an excerpt: 
"A thick wooden table sparkled with candles and a neat spread: bread and pickled peppers and smoked fish, dumplings and beets in vinegar and brown kasha, mushrooms and thick beef tongue, and blini topped with little black spoonfuls of caviar and cream. Cold vodka sweated in a crystal decanter. Goose stew boiled over the hearth.

Koschei cut a thick slice of bread from the loaf. The crust crackled under his knife, and the slice fell, moist and heavy, black as earth. He spread cold, salted butter over it with a sweep of the blade, and scooped caviar onto the butter, a smear of dark eggs against the pale gold cream. He held it out to her, and she shyly reached for it, but he admonished her. And so Marya Morevna sat, silently, as Koschei fed her the bread, and butter, and roe. The taste of it burst in her mouth, the salt and the sea. Tears sprang to her eyes. Her empty belly sang for the thickness of it, the plenty. Suddenly, it was a relief not to have to speak, to make conversation, while her body exhausted itself in poring over the delights of salt and heavy bread.

'Now the beets, volchitsa. And look at them first, how bloody they are, how crimson, how they leave trails behind them, like wounded things. Sip your vodka, and then bite one of the peppers—see how the vinegar and the vodka mix on your tongue? This is a very marvelous thing. A winter thing, when everything is pickled and preserved under glass. You can taste summer in this mixture, summer boiled down and soaked in brine, mummified, packed with spices to be born again on this table, in this place, in this snow. Now, a spoonful of kasha to smooth your excited palate.' He slipped the silver spoon into her mouth, his thumb grazing her chin. Marya felt as though she had never eaten before, never considered her food at all. She liked this better than Likho’s angular, hard magic. This magic filled her up, made her belly ache with fullness. 'As you swallow the cow’s tongue, think for a moment about how strange and holy that is, to devour the tongue of another. To steal from it all its power to speak, to low at the moon, to call to its calf. To be worthy of such food you must guard your own words carefully, speaking only the wise and clever ones, lest your tongue end up likewise, on the plate of a rich man.'"

A doctor who prescribes Charlie Chaplin to his patients.  
The physics of champagne and why the perfect champagne glass matters. Helen Czerski, who speaks on this in the video, has written Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life, which I've added to my reading list. 

What I'm Reading


The Man Who Knew Too Little: This article is from a while back, but it's fascinating. Since the presidential election, Erik Hagerman has entirely reshaped his life to avoid news and political information, going so far as to listen to white-noise tapes while he's in his favorite coffee shop. Sam Dolnick makes sure to address what kind of privilege it may take to be able to participate in such a protest of modern information. 

How I Became A Morning Person, Read More Books, And Learned A Language In A Year: I love learning about people's habits and how they became habitual to them. Belle Beth Cooper talks about starting small—reading a page a day, five minutes of language lessons with her morning coffee—and growing on that habit. The habit formation circle is familiar to me from reading The Power of Habit, a great book about how habits form and how to break them. 

Arshile Gorky’s Muse Recalls Their First Date: Agnes Magruder recalls meeting Arshile Gorky, known for his abstract expressionist paintings. Gorky led a disastrous life at times with a tragic end. But in this piece, it describes their innocent first meeting, walking around New York City late into the evening and another date when she first sees his art studio. 
What I'm Writing

I've been editing and giving feedback. It's challenging to try and read like a writer. It can be a burden when I'm reading for pleasure and difficult to use to its fullest potential when I'm editing. 

How powerful are words? In V.E. Schwab's talk, she mentions she was predicted to either become a "cult leader or author" because her use of words was so powerful. Schwab notes how distinct those two roles are and talks about how powerful writing can be in changing the world. So I'm considering becoming a cult leader. 

With my novel, I've been thinking about how my characters will transform and what I need to have in mind as I write them into the story. I should know who they are at the beginning and who they are by the end and what will change them to become that. Christopher Volger's character arc is a really nice breakdown that helps me pinpoint where my characters are at throughout the book. 

I will be publishing my next poetry chapbook Deep Gentle Blue on September 6th. Ghost City Press just came out with the poster design for this summer's chapbook series, designed by Nick Larson. You can even sign up to receive all these chapbooks throughout the summer for free, delivered right to your email

Poem of the Week
Alexandra Kesick is the author of I Knew You Once
Copyright © 2018 Alexandra Kesick, All rights reserved.

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Alexandra Kesick · Harvard Business School · Boston, Massachusetts 02163 · USA

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