Return to the beginning of wonder

For a former English major, it’s been way too long since I’ve read a novel. My work as a copy editor involves a lot of reading, but reading works-in-progress is a very different sort of reading altogether. It is reading with a mission and reading to take things apart and put them back together in a better way. It is reading for weakness and inconsistency and error, hunting and tweaking as you go along.

I came to this work out of a deep and joyful love of reading, and it always helps to be reminded of that precious mode of reading simply for the love of it. Not for the purpose of conducting research or answering questions. Not to critique, necessarily, or to improve upon what’s there—although those things can certainly be done with love. Just to read for the sheer delight of wandering around for a while in the realm of someone else’s imagination.

I read Aimee Bender’s novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, that way this weekend, in company with the 24-Hour Bookclub. Those first few pages felt like dipping a toe in cool water. I wondered if my suspension of disbelief was still in good working order. I found that it was, and by halfway through, I was swimming.

It’s hard sometimes to stand on the other side of a craft you’ve known and loved, in all of its complexity, and to stop yourself from peeking at the wizard behind the curtain—to be a dancer in the audience, a writer reading, or a photographer taking a turn in front of the lens. It’s worth it, though, I think, to take moments away from the how of it all and return to the beginning of wonder. — Lisa

Prompted

Last week's dispatch asked, What is one of your favorite games to play with friends? The replies were so much fun to read. Plus, I now have a fresh list of games to try. For the record, my current favorite two-person game is Battle Line.

Karen wrote:

We love Settlers of Catan here at my house. I love any card game, too. We play a lot of games. I've always enjoyed board gamers and card games, because it's really a chance to get to know people and connect more deeply; a framework for discussion and exchange. I think that is why everyone shines - the playing field is leveled, so to speak.

I had to laugh at "Victory at Any Cost" because we constantly have that discussion here. My husband lets the kids win. I never do. Consequently, they'd rather play with me. I love having children (mine are 22, 15 1/2, 15 1/2, and 6 1/2) who are not afraid to beat me at a game. My willingness to beat them helped model "gracious winner" behavior, and now I have 4 formidable opponents at the ready :)

Joel wrote:

Baseball. Even catch. Or taking some infield. Or shagging flies. Wiffleball can be a reasonable and fun substitute.

Baseball. Nothing comes close.

Danielle wrote:

Recently, we were talking about games- mostly in the board of board games, but there's many more games to consider beyond the cardboard and dice. Hands down, Hide 'n' go Seek is the BEST! There's so many dynamics to the game. How sneaky can you be? How well do you know the seeker and their favorite spots to look for you. There's insane amounts of anticipation… "29…30! Ready or Not, Here I come!" Your heart starts racing as you hear their foot steps and you await the moment to run. The victory of getting to home base without getting caught, yet wishing you did get caught, so you can be the seeker. As an adult, I haven't dabble in this sport much, perhaps this will be the summer of Hide 'n' Seek.

Ben wrote:

I cannot pick just one game. There are so many. But almost all of my favorite games are cooperative in some way. I never could get into death match multi-player video games or cut-throat monopoly bouts; I want to play with my friends, not against them. I want to build something together or put our heads together to solve a problem. I love Pandemic, where you all play CDC agents trying to stave off disease, or puzzle hunts, where a team of you solve a puzzle to get a clue to the location of the next puzzle, or roleplaying games, where you each make a character and then collaborate to tell a story to yourselves about them. At the end, I want everyone to feel like high-fiving everyone else and say, "That was awesome! We did that!"

Sasha wrote:

A few have risen to the top over the years. As a Euro-game aficionado and long-time book reader, the Game of Thrones board game has always been a favorite, combining innovative gameplay (no dice required!) with a large bevy of in-jokes from the source material to be shared among fellow fans while playing.

The college lifestyle is less conducive to committing five hours to a board game than one might hope, unfortunately, and so I've turned to shorter games that offer a simple depth and, once the rules are grasped, allow for conversation and connection between the two players. The two that come to mind are cribbage and nine-man's-morris. I feel there's something comforting about the smooth, plain woodgrain boards, but moreover, both have been central to building friendships. When a game requires strategy but can take ten minutes, you don't invest in one particular win or loss - you just want to keep playing, valuing the time spent with your friend regardless of the outcome.

Stephen wrote:

For me it's a toss-up between Fluxx and Cards Against Humanity. Both games introduce a level of spontaneous, raunchy complexity that quickly becomes intoxicating. As I've grown older I've come to appreciate group games so much more for being intrinsically and ineffably linked to the most enjoyable facets of existence. There's just something about making Hitler jokes with good friends in the wee hours of the morning that connects me to eternity.

Erin wrote:

Telephone dictionary. HANDS DOWN. I'm not talking about the prefab-think-within-the-lines game you can purchase at your local Walmart. With enthusiasm and zeal, a stack of paper is cut haphazardly into quarters and distributed to the players—the more, the merrier. Each player gets the same number of papers as there are players. The papers are numbered and the game commences. On the top sheet, write down a sentence. Any sentence. Pass the papers left. This player must draw the sentence on the next sheet. Then, with the ritualistic cry of "PASS!" at an arbitrary time, the next player must interpret the drawing with a sentence. These are often received with, "What the…"s and "Are you kidding me?"s. Uncontrollable laughter and tears of joy guaranteed. Alcohol may enhance your experience. Or make it weird and saucy.

Drew wrote:

I've been known to possess a slightly competitive streak. Which I find remarkable given that I was never really one for competitive sports growing up. I think it must be the genes. For example, for a big birthday of mine, a few years ago, my family came from Australia to visit. We spent a week in a rented house in the Poconos and had a wonderful time, but it was there I discovered that charades could be a blood sport. Oh, and that my family and I played it like we were in the arena in an episode of "Spartacus: War of the Damned". Needless to say, charades was quickly set aside in favor of games that were played on a more level field, i.e., games of chance. With less likelihood of things being said that could not be unsaid.

To that end, enter: Yahtzee! It has simple rules, people can control their own scoring and roll choices, and play is usually quite supportive. It's like it is the golf of the table games set. The great thing is, every time we have introduced this to friends we have had a great time because you can continue to have great conversation and drink and carry on without a significant impact to game play. And, it's fun dammit. Lots of fun.

Amanda wrote:

I LOVE playing Apples to Apples because it's so fun to see the unique ways my friends associate different words. It's always great for a laugh, and I usually end up learning something new about the people I'm playing with.

Kesha wrote:

Games! My family is a huge board/card game playing family and whenever we get together, we inevitably end up playing some type of game.

My favorite family game is Phase 10. It's just such a fun game that anyone can play - from kids to adults - and it's always a hoot.

My personal favorite individual player game is Word On. I love word games but my family never plays them with me as they say I always win. ;-)

Uncommon reads

I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet by Paul Miller. A fascinating piece. I hope you have a chance to read it.

My plan was to leave the internet and therefore find the "real" Paul and get in touch with the "real" world, but the real Paul and the real world are already inextricably linked to the internet. Not to say that my life wasn't different without the internet, just that it wasn't real life.

I'd read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I'd begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was "doing to me," so I could fight back. But the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.

The Power of 'I Don't Know' by Tim Kreider:

Unalloyed honesty is the iridium of the information economy — vanishingly rare, and therefore precious.

Simplify by Paul Stamatiou:

I was a digital hoarder. I had to check Hacker News and its ilk hourly. I had to open 10 tabs of articles to read or stash them away for later. Yet another task to complete. I had a revelation one day when I realized I didn't have to read everything I found on the Internet.

I've pushed everything else out of the way so I can focus on what I'm doing right now, living life.

Your turn

Which living author would you most like to meet?