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Inspiration from Fall 2023—and a reader survey!
Sophie Strand, Ben McGrath, John and Monica Chapman, Jessica Carew Kraft, Kendra Atleework, Paul Kingsnorth, Stewart Brand, Holly Payne, Bari Weiss, Scott Galloway, Richard V. Reeves, Scott Lyons
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These past several weeks have felt different for me. Mid-year I finished the first draft of a complete manuscript for the book-length memoir that I’ve been working on, and the result was a six- to eight week blast of feeling the best I’ve felt in years, mos def the opposite of depressed. In retrospect, and especially after reading Kay Jamison’s book (see below), it might also have been a verrrry minor manic episode, ‘cuz I did also start to feel a little closer to something ‘magic,’ and that’s usually a pretty good indicator of delusional euphoria, but let’s just say it was highly enjoyable—aside from the lack of sleep.
After that temporarily final THE END with the manuscript, I took a long road trip that culminated in two weeks of backpacking in the high Sierra. All that walking at high altitude was enough to reset my sleep cycle, which was awesome! but then I found myself on a very-gently-sloping downward trajectory which I recognize all too well as leading towards the dreaded pit of I don’t know what to do, and it feels bad here, although at this point I have a lot more confidence than I ever did in the past that I won’t really fall in. Even so, it’s no fun circling the bowl, waiting for the flush and the ride down the tube with the other turds.
I’m getting much more comfortable with just being me, and that that includes some ups and downs, and also with the fact that, as much as I like my time alone, it’s also a long-standing pattern of self-isolation, which, whatever the cause, probably isn’t all that great for the psyche. Another way to look at it is that I’ve had the feeling lately that I probably do spend too much time alone, and that that’s also kindof how I’m wired, and so… mostly I just keep doing what I tend to do, which is why I’m here writing, and creating groups like the group for men writing on Substack that I lead and the SF/Bay Area Substack writers meetup that I’m co-hosting on December 6.
In the meantime, I got my manuscript in front of a top-notch editor, who was impressed enough with the intro to agree to let me pay him to read it—yes, that’s how it works!—and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say when we meet tomorrow. Just to show you that my expectations are within the realm of sanity as opposed to first-time author fantasy, I imagine it’s going to be something like ‘nice work—now you just have to (re)write the book so that it lives up to what you’re promising in the intro’—and that will take at least another six months of hard work. But hey, that’s what I’m here to do!
The word wild has been showing up in my own work lately, as well as in the books I’m reading, and, I gotta say, it’s hard to feel like I’m getting more wild when I’ve gotten so good at working the keyboard, and even when I can go right up the local mountain here and get out on the trails—it’s still urban life, and as much as I want to spend more time in the mountains, and to live in the mountains, this is probably right where I’ll be for at least the near future… although hey, I’ll be in New York Nov 4-9, in part to see a film that a friend made—so, if you’re out there, drop me a line!
Books worth reading — An extraordinary, compelling—and practical—blueprint for the reflowering of masculinities, written with a poetic, visionary and mythic voice. Highly recommended!
📖 Riverman: An American Odyssey, Ben McGrath — a deeply reported chronicle of a man—Dick Conant—drawn to epic journeys not for the recognition or accomplishment, but for the simple freedom, the places, and the people along the way.
📖 Sierra Grand Traverse: An Epic Route Across the Range of Light, John Chapman & Monica Chapman — a new high route in the high Sierra that complements Roper’s Sierra High Route (SHR) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s beta scattered through his beautiful The High Sierra: A Love Story
📖 Why We Need to Be Wild: One Woman's Quest for Ancient Human Answers to 21st Century Problems, Jessica Carew Kraft’s deep dive into rewilding—or perhaps just into 'wilding' herself—is fascinating, honest, useful, and exciting.
📖 Miracle Country, Kendra Atleework — an outstanding memoir of growing up in Bishop, on the east side of California’s Sierra Nevada range.
📖 An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison — fascinating, terrifying, inspiring, and hopeful memoir by a Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry that also happens to have manic-depressive disorder.
📖 Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It, Richard V. Reeves — a deeply researched, personal, and hopeful investigation into the ‘problem with men’ these days.
Articles and essays
📚 Flaubert: Man of Artistry from
📚 Lost in Eden from
📚 The Scripts We Carry from— part of a recent series of six pieces on Fatherhood , ’s related piece on What Men Are For and on Scott Galloway’s “Prof G” podcast—all about the emerging concept of relational masculinity. to which I wrote an indirect response in No, It Is Not a Struggle to Find Good Male Role Models
📚 Rust Never Sleeps by, part of a fascinating project called Books in Progress, where I discovered another chapter discussing the 1968 Golden Globe around-the-world solo sailboat race as a “Maintenance Race”—and how Moitessier more than won the race because of his winning approach to maintenance.
🎧on How to resist the machine on the Unherd podcast, and also in his essay The Jellyfish Tribe.
🎧 "What Can A Man Do?" withand also How Foucault Led To Tumblr with on on the Life is a Festival podcast
🎧 Why We Need to Be Wild withon the Page One podcast with
🎧 Gad Saad: Postmodernism is Making you Miserable on the Unherd podcast
🎧 James Carville Says Wokeness “Is Over” on Honestly w/
🎧 The Roots of Addiction And How To Recover with Dr. Scott Lyons on The Evolving Man podcast w/ Ben Goresky
🎧 John Gray: Thoughts after Liberalism on the Unherd podcast
My own writing
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