All you can eat? What first? How much? And, how fast? (I’ve always feared getting stampeded by hungry diners behind me in line.)
For the last year, I’ve been overwhelmed, wanting to offer a positive review of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (Knopf, $24.95). Author Mason Currey has a tempting recipe: famed, creative people telling how they do it.
Currey is a victim of his own excellence. In 234 pages, he offers 163 amazing vignettes about writers, composers, painters, scientists, philosophers and related creatives. Add in 27 illustrations, and you can imagine how cramped for space this book is. Good luck finding more than one page about your literary or art-world hero.
In food terms, imagine going back to the buffet line a second time. Those yummy potatoes are gone. You’re not getting any more. No one will.
Transforming the “daily rituals” subject from a blog to a book shows a weakness in the longer, published form. How do you organize so many diverse creatives with a mere table of contents, instead of a cross-referenced blog? Alphabetically, by occupation or era? Novelist Anne Rice is followed by Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz!
Furthermore, the book attempts another balancing act. How much personality gets included, such as the types of favorite alcohol and other stimulants chosen, versus the work routines each creator employed?
I’m not surprised that the best-selling category on Amazon.com for this book is “trivia and fun facts.” Before the paperback of this worthy title appears, I’m hoping the publisher will take pity on readers. Offer an expanded index, noting themes like “deadlines.” Help the overwhelmed organize the heaping plates pilled with insights.
This hungry reader’s wish? Let Currey loose on just one creative career. Leave the smorgasboard approach. Tell us more about fewer people. It’s a unique theme ready to fill many bookshelves…not just mine.