In  The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote,

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

On the first of each month, a guest writer shares how he or she spends the day.

thomas larson

October 1, 2013: Thomas Larson

Tom Larson was already a seasoned reviewer when I took on the job as Reviews Editor of Contrary Magazine back in the fall of 2010. That was scary. But in my first tentative forays as an editor, he did a terrific job of shoring up my confidence. I hope he won’t mind if I share his first response to my first edits:

[Y]ou’re not being brusque by being an editor. Goodness knows I’ve been edited like you wouldn’t believe, especially in journalism. Keep doing what you do, which is making me make sense.

Tom loves to write about music and his knowledge and love show in his writing. Take a look at these passages:

from What is the Sound of One Tone Droning? on Draw a Straight Line and Follow It: The Music and Mysticism of La Monte Young by Jeremy Grimshaw published by Oxford University Press (2012).

Minimalism. Art’s 50-year-old movement. A force of stasis. Of repetition. Of the barest materials. In writing. Ray Carver. Language eviscerated of ornament. The impact: disturbingly hollow. In painting. Frank Stella. Primary colors, perfect shapes. The response: purely dispassionate.

from I Am Large. I Contain Multitudes. on Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown by David Yaffe published by Yale University Press (2011).

Dylan is a shape-shifter, a premodern postmodernist. He’s legendary and real, the tightrope-walker still plying 100 concert dates a year. His long life lacks a singular narrative. Like Miles Davis, his genius has been to forge a new identity, frame it with a new sound, then abandon it for—or be called by—another turn.

I loved the books Tom chose to review, most of which I ended up buying. In addition to the ones above, here are a few of the others, with the links to Tom’s reviews.

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer

Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes

Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work by Carmen Gimenez Smith

The Guardians: An Elegy by Sarah Manguso

I’ve heard Tom speak on memoir at AWP in a huge and packed room. I’ve read bits and pieces from his well-respected book The Memoir and the Memoirist, reviewed by my friend Richard Gilbert back in September of 2008, the same month I started blogging and just a couple of months after Richard started blogging.

the saddest music ever writtenOver the last few months I’ve been reading from Tom’s book, The Saddest Music Ever Written, while listening to the that music. I recommend the book (also reviewed by Richard Gilbert). I’ve underlined throughout but want to leave you with an excerpt from the prelude, along with a clip of Samuel Barber’s music itself.

Anyone who loves music realizes that this piece expresses no single thing, no one truth, and yet there’s no mistaking its honesty. What’s more, the work taps into undiscovered feelings, feelings we may not know we have until the work unlocks them. If there’s one piece in the American classical canon that lends its voice to help us grieve losses of which we are conflicted or unaware–personal, national, universal–it’s Barber’s Adagio.

Come back on OCTOBER 1st to read how THOMAS LARSON spends his days.