I have apparently been waiting all my reading life for the publication of this book so I could tackle War and Peace properly. I knew I was going to like Andrew Kaufman's latest book from the start: I like how the 219-page book seems lighter than it looks (light=easy reading, right?), I love the cover, I love the clever title, I love the epigraph:
"To be able to affect others, an artist has to be an explorer, and his work of art has to be a quest. If he has discovered everything, knows everything, and is just preaching or entertaining, he makes no effect. Only if he keeps searching, then the viewer, or listener, or reader fuses with him in his search." (from Tolstoy's diary, December 1900)
And this from page xv:
'"There is nothing stable in life," Tolstoy said when he in his seventies. "It's the the same as adapting to flowing water. Everything--personalities, family, society, everything changes, disappears and re-forms, like so many clouds..."'
Ah, yes, the clouds. It's been a long while--almost a year now--since I abandoned full-time writing my book on clouds to take up the torch for the needy and deserving marbled murrelet after Rare Bird was reissued in paperback by Mountaineers Books. You would think giving book talks would be easy (I wrote the book after all!), but for a closet introvert not practiced in public speaking (for an hour without notes...and with fidgety technology) they took longer than I had planned to prepare. Plus, my talks this round were less a standard author talk and more a conservation talk that required plunging into the nitty-gritty of marbled murrelet management issues. Which is fascinating, complex, and not easy to sum up in the span of a 45-minute talk.
I was, as it turns out, searching for another story in my talks, the story of how an individual can make a meaningful contribution to saving the marbled murrelets from extinction and the story of what happens when you try. The lines from Tolstoy's diary made me feel good about that story and, I believe, my search contributed to a feeling of fusion with my readers and listeners during my talks.
So it is in the spirit of searching that I continue my work on the clouds, happy to be discovering what wisdom these unstable atmospheric wonders have to share with us.
This summer I'm reading Tolstoy and Kaufman side by side while I study the clouds from both sides. From my hammock.