Be Ruthless

Lucy Barton’s lover in My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout tells her that to be an artist she must be ruthless. I have found myself going back to this statement over and over and thinking about the truth in this statement and how it translates to non-artists as well. Do you need to be ruthless to succeed?

Ruthless is defined as “having or showing no pity or compassion for others.” If ruthlessness is required for success in the arts or other life pursuits then I question the value of success. Are the artists that are today considered to have been or to be at the top of their craft ruthless. Does someone have to be without compassion to produce work that is perceived by others to be a ‘classic’ or worthwhile? Is the only way to gain fame to be ruthless?

I wonder if the better advice that Lucy’s lover could have given is that she must be selfish, fearless and able to use rejection as motivation. In Lucy’s case she [spoiler alert] did make a decision to leave her family to pursue her art – was this ruthless or selfish. Selfish is defined as “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” I do believe that Lucy felt she could not be the best writer she was meant to be within the confines of her marriage and family. She was certainly selfish in this decision but was she truly ruthless?

As I mom I can’t imagine completely choosing my personal pursuits – artistic, career, etc – over my family. I do see the need to compromise  There are times when family doesn’t have to come first but there are times when it must. In order to be successful in a pursuit there are times that you must be selfish but the success that is achieved through selfish acts must be measured and evaluated against the impact that selfishness causes  others. Leaving her family may have been the right choice for Lucy, but it would never be for me.

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Be Ruthless

My Name is Lucy Barton

I loved this book!  Elizabeth Strout did not disappoint me. I started listening yesterday morning and finished it while cooking dinner tonight. I need to order this one in traditional book format from the library and read it again. It was very enjoyable to listen to the audio – it felt like Lucy was sitting next to me and telling me her story. However, there was so much of the prose that I wanted to re-read because it was so beautifully written and thoughtful. Audio didn’t lend itself to this. Now I need to pick the next audio book before my work commute tomorrow!

My Name is Lucy Barton

This Weekend’s Reading

Typically I have more time to read over the weekend than I do during the week but this weekend we are having company for much of the weekend so I won’t fit in as much I would like but I will just have to make the best of it!

Until recently I read just one book at a time – not any more! Now I am pretty much always in the midst of three books at once – one audio book, one kindle book and one traditional paper book. I was worried when I started this practice that I would have trouble keeping the story lines straight but I have only had a problem once when I was reading (actually listening to) Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Historic fiction is a genre I enjoy and both of these were quite good but I did find myself getting the details of the two books confused at times. However, it was not a serious enough of a problem to stop the practice of concurrent reading. But I digress – today I was talking about my weekend reading plans.

I finished listening to the last in the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz this morning. There are six books in this series and they were all very enjoyable. I recommend this series if you are looking for something light with a detective slant. I read the first four in the traditional paper format but listened to the last two and the audio was really well done! This last book goes by two different names: The Last Word and The Next Generation. It continues the tales of Isabel Spellman and her family and their PI firm. Isabel or Izzy as she is typical called is certainly an imperfect but endearing character. I am a bit sad that there will be no new books in this series but I think Ms. Lutz made the right decision to end this while before they became monotonous and I am excited to see what books she writes in the future. I enjoyed How to Start a Fire and I am looking forward to her new book that coming out in March!

I finished The Last Word just before it was time to walk my dog Scout and I needed to pick another book quickly. I heard an interview with Elizabeth Strout earlier this week on Fresh Air and I decided to try her new book My Name is Lucy Barton. I am about an hour into this four hour book and so far it is great. I am not surprised as I have enjoyed all her books. I was surprised to hear that she was in her 40s when she published her first novel. My mom gave me Amy and Isabelle when it came out in paperback and I have read everything she has written since.

The kindle book I am reading now is Kitchens of the Great Midwest. This one combines some of my favorites – reading and food! A book with good food prominently featured along with some very accessible characters can’t go wrong. I expect to finish this one up by the end of the week.

The ‘paper’ book I am reading is for my book group – Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I am only about half way in. I am definitely not loving it but I will finish. At this point I am comparing it to looking at the sketches that a great artist used to help put together a Masterpiece. Perhaps it will get better….

This Weekend’s Reading

Audio Books

I gave myself several reading challenges in 2015. One was to read a graphic novel. I read Fun Home which I really did not enjoy. I may try another one in 2016 before I give up on the genre.

Another challenge was to try out audio books. My commute increased in 2015 so I had more time to listen to music, podcasts, etc. It seemed like an audio book was the next logical choice. I am now an addict!  On a typical workday I listen to one of my favorite podcasts (Books on the Nightstand, The Readers, NPR’s Fresh Air and of course Serial) on the commute into work and I listen to a book on my drive home. I bought myself some wireless headphones and now I listen to audio books when I am doing housework, walking my dog or any other time I can.

I tend to choose ‘lighter’ reading for my audio book selections. Some of my favorites are Lisa Scottoline, Elin Hilderbrand and Lisa Lutz. I am currently reading the 6th book in the Spellman series – The Next Generation. I just started so I can’t give much feedback on it yet.

The favorite book that I listened to in 2015 was Elizabeth Gilbert’s A Signature of All Things. I was not an Eat, Pray, Love fan but I really liked this new book. Historic fiction is one of my favorite genres (when it is well written). This book combined my love of historic fiction with my educational background in Biology. I think this was the first book I have read with a Botanist as the main protagonist! BTW – The podcast from the New York Public Library with Elizabeth Gilbert and Ann Patchett was one of my favorite podcasts of the year. I highly recommend it. (Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors to I am sure I will be writing about her soon.)

Audio Books

The Beginning

i haven’t been able to decide on a theme for my blog and it has kept me from getting started for months   My resolution for 2016 was to just do it, so here it is. I am a mom and professional project manager who loves to read, cook and eat. My plan it to blog about these aspects of my life randomly until I find the topics that give me the most pleasure to write about and hopefully interest anyone who happens to decide to read my ruminations. This should be fun!!

The Beginning