Chatting with the Books Spirits Again

I meant to put up a Halloween post this year, continuing the book-scrying theme that I started last year. Alas, the last couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy, and I missed the date. But today is All Saints’ Day, and tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, also known as Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos — a time to remember and honor those who have gone before us. So I can still put up a book-scrying post, as a way of honoring writers from the past and the wisdom of the words that they’ve left to us.

Besides, it’s fun.

Here’s the procedure: write down the question, close my eyes, open the book at random, and point. Read the sentence or paragraph at my fingertip.

This year I chose The Book of Fantasy, edited by Jorge Luis Borges, Silvina Ocampo, and A. Bioy Casares. It was a glorious mistake, this choice, because I really have just barely the time to squeeze out this post, but I haven’t read the book in a long time, and now I want to…

Skull book

So here we go.

What should I write about this year?

I began with a trip to Italy. The sunshine there did me good.

Oh, I like that advice. That’s good advice. The line is from “Who Knows?” by Guy de Maupassant.

Next, a slightly more involved question.

I started a Twitter account this year, to find a wider audience for Multo. It’s working okay, but not great — I just don’t tweet that much. Would a Facebook page suit me better? What’s the best style of publicity for me?

In more than one case, too, when volumes of applauded verse proved incapable of anything better than a stifling smoke, an unregarded ditty of some nameless bard — perchance in the corner of a newspaper — soared up among the stars with a flame as brilliant as their own.

That’s from “Earth’s Holocaust”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

This one can be read two ways. On the one hand, perhaps Mr. Hawthorne is telling me that I’m worried about the wrong thing; I should focus on just writing, and writing well. On the other hand, he could be telling me that even brilliant writing is as naught if no one reads it. I like the first interpretation better.

I had to reread “Earth’s Holocaust” after this quote popped up. Hawthorne can be a tad preachy, and this piece is also quite cynical, but it still feels timely, too. And his running commentary on how different volumes of the world’s Great Literature burns was amusing.

How will our upcoming data science book do?

‘Have you understood in full what I have said?’
‘I have, Your Highness,’ Macario said briefly, trembling slightly as he attempted to make an awkward bow.

One of our goals in writing this book was to make some challenging material more accessible to the novice. So I think this is a good portent, albeit slightly sinister. The quote is from “Macario”, by B. Traven, the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

I need to update my other blog more often. Once a month is enough; I’m not greedy. I could use some inspiration for a new post, though. Can you help?

Whenever Irene talked in her sleep, I woke up immediately and stayed awake. I never could get used to this voice from a statue or a parrot, a voice that came out of the dreams, not from a throat.

Is that an answer? It feels like an answer, though I’m not quite sure what it means. Also Julio Cortazar is awesome. This quote is from the short story “House Taken Over”.

What do the book spirits have to say to you?

4 thoughts on “Chatting with the Books Spirits Again

  1. You’ve inspired me to try this. If my answers aren’t ridiculous or irrelevant, I’ll post the results of my own bibliomancy at Bibliophilopolis. 🙂

    I’m impressed you got answers that all seemed at least somewhat relevant. Were those all your first attempts?


    1. They were my first attempts, but I had a much longer list of questions and I didn’t post the questions that got non-answers. And with some of those questions I admit I did try multiple times. Overall, I think the book I used last year (Joyce Carol Oates’ anthology American Gothic Tales) had a better first-time hit rate.

      It’s fun when the answer you get seems perfect, but I like best the ones that are *almost* an answer and you have to come up with a creative interpretation.

  2. Glad to see a new post! It definitely made me laugh, too.

    I have a FB & Twitter account for AFP but the Twitter account gets more action even though it is minimal. I’m just not very engaged with it.

    I hope you have more time for posts on your blog.

    1. Thanks! We are trying to have our book draft content complete by Dec 1 so we can get it published early 2014, so I’m looking at another month of madness. But after that things should slow down a little, so I should be able to post more often.

      I announce my blog posts on both Twitter and on FB (personal account) — like you, I get a bigger response from Twitter (bigger being relative, of course). It’s dangerous to get to engaged with Twitter. You keep clicking on everyone’s links, or caught up in a conversation — and then poof, whatever little spare time you had, now there’s less of it…

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