The Inspiration of Bach Cello Suite # 2 in D Minor

 If there is one piece of classical music that has stirred my soul, taken me on a journey, and has been a favorite of mine for many years in my life, it is the Bach Cello Suite # 2 in D Minor. 

You don't need to be a fan of classical music to appreciate certain composers or creative works of music. The Cello Suite #1 is very well known and has been used in movies. #2 is in the key of D minor and more solemn, deep, and reflective than the Suite #1 which is more upbeat and like a dance.

For me there is something about the cello, especially the very low notes, that resonates with my mind and soul.  

The Bach Cello Suite # 2 is one of six cello suites for solo cello. This particular one has a powerful, almost haunting melody that includes the full range of notes from high to low which also seem to reflect the full range of human emotions. 

Starting off with a slow three note introduction with the deeper bass strings, it begins to ascend then step back and ascend again. The melody is like a journey, rising and falling like the waves in the sea, and if you listen to it with headphones and can focus on every note it is very moving and engaging. 

The experience is completely different than having it playing as background music. 

We are so bombarded with thoughts and content in daily life that trying to focus on these notes in this suite which is only 4 minutes long can be a challenge. 

If you want to have a unique and enjoyable experience that packs a lot within 4 minutes, then listen to this solo cello and feel every note as it vibrates within your mind, body, heart, and soul. 



The Inspiration of Historical Fiction

Why Historical Fiction Can Create a Time Travel Experience

The main inspiration of well written historical fiction is that it creates a virtual time travel experience into the times and culture of the period. 
Usually the author has done extensive research before creating the story around historical time periods, persons, locations and events.As a result you are taken there as if in a time travel capsule-story that allows for an enjoyable journey into the past.
In 2022 I have enjoyed many excellent novels as audiobooks and many were historical fiction. So far this year these have included The Name of the Rose, All the Light We Cannot See, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Hamnet, Lonesome Dove, Angle of Repose, Daisy Jones and the Six, and I just finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (a 40 hr audiobook). 
 Ken Follett is a masterful author of historical fiction. Over 181 million copies of the 36 books he has written have been sold in over 80 countries and in 40 languages.
Born on June 5th, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, the son of a tax inspector, Ken was educated at state schools and went on to graduate from University College, London, with an Honours degree in Philosophy – later to be made a Fellow of the College in 1995.
from his website:
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
1989 | Historical Fiction | 1104 pages
 "A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth is Ken Follett’s classic historical masterpiece. 
A Mason with a Dream
 1135 and civil war, famine and religious strife abound. With his family on the verge of starvation, mason Tom Builder dreams of the day that he can use his talents to create and build a cathedral like no other. 
A Monk with a Burning Mission
 Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, is resourceful, but with money scarce he knows that for his town to survive it must find a way to thrive, and so he makes the decision to build within it the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known. 
A World of High Ideals and Savage Cruelty 
 As Tom and Philip meet so begins an epic tale of ambition, anarchy and absolute power. In a world beset by strife and enemies that would thwart their plans, they will stop at nothing to achieve their ambitions in a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother" . . . 
Inspiration and the Strength of the Human Spirit 
The inspiration from historical fiction allows for deeper understanding of other historical time periods, cultures, living conditions, and major events. The Pillars of the Earth has some very violent scenes and lots of death. However, that is an authentic representation of the times, when corrupt civil and church authorities could use brutality and violence as a means to their ends. Yet when good triumphs over evil and overcomes the challenges it is also authentic and allows for the story to reflect the strength of the human spirit against all odds for survival. 
Ken Follett's writing style is inspiring. He never lets up. Each sentence is carefully worded and he uses characters experiences to drive the plot of the story. 
As an audiobook, the experience of the extraordinary storytelling comes alive with an excellent narration. It's almost like time traveling if you use your imagination. 
With audiobooks you can close your eyes and let the story become like a daydream, whisking you into far away places and with vicarious journeys of characters that come alive with descriptive depths of their inner life and external experiences. 
Empathy for the strength of the human spirit in other times and places can be a common experience with extraordinary historical fiction stories. 

Enjoy the adventure of time travel !
Carpe Diem ! 

Book Review - The Sea the Sea by Iris Murdoch

Winner Booker Prize 1978 

Extraordinary Storytelling and Narration!

This is an extraordinary combination of superb prose writing, storytelling, narration, and character depth. I first heard of this book from an excellent book reviewer "The Book Chemist" on YouTube. His review and the fact that Simon Vance was the narrator caused me to suddenly add it to my TBR list in front of the next book.

 The main character narrates the story in the first person. In the audiobook, the narrator Simon Vance is amazing in his performance. The character Charles is a former famous London playhouse director and actor, who has decided to retire to a small seaside village and buys a house on a cliff that overlooks the sea.

 Both the house and the sea are characters in the book similar to a Thomas Hardy novel. Just as the sea is always changing in colors and turbulence, the house is also changing by the dialogue and interaction of the characters within it.

 Charle's planned peaceful life is disrupted by his own and others' love obsessions and the story unfolds in more complexity as characters come into the story and become intertwined in complex relationships.

 The  "karmic past" comes back to haunt Charles and he holds his own as a strong controlling character. He tries to direct his own life in the new setting by the sea and in his home yet cannot control how life's events unfold.

 Food is also an important part of the narrative as shown in this quote:
 "I ate and drank slowly as one should (cook fast, eat slowly) and without distractions such as (thank heavens) conversation or reading. Indeed eating is so pleasant one should even try to suppress thought. Of course, reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too. How fortunate we are to be food-consuming animals. Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger." 

 My journey with this story was like a page-turner, and as an audiobook, with the excellent narration by Simon Vance, it was hard to stop. I became immersed and engaged with the story and characters.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The strengths of this book are its deep focus on character and love obsession, excellent prose, and a stellar audio narration. 

 A weakness in the story might be that there is too much emphasis on the love obsession to the point that it becomes redundant. Yet this might be intentional on the part of the author to show how mental illness can create excessive behaviors.

With most of the characters being actors, then the line between real and acting becomes thin. This becomes a theme in the book both in the characters and in their thoughts, and the challenge for the reader and the characters is to discern which is which in any given moment. The Shakespeare quote could easily be in the background of this story:

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts." - Shakespeare

 This is a book that I plan to keep in my library and listen to again, as the writing style of Iris Murdoch resonates with my experience of listening to audiobooks. There is magic in her style of writing in this book, and I look forward to savoring more of her books like a favorite red wine. 



The Candy House by Jennifer Egan is Now Available

 I just received notice that this pre-ordered audiobook is now ready in my Audible library. 

"Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Time, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Oprah Daily, Glamour, USA Today, Parade, Bustle, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, The Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, and many more!

From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a “sibling novel” to her Pulitzer Prize- and ​NBCC Award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad—an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private."

"In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of “Own Your Unconscious,” a fictional foray into the idea of a technology that allows us access to every memory we’ve ever had, and to share these memories in exchange for access to the memories of others. Through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades, this intellectually dazzling story is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter and a chapter of tweets. If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music’s more disjunctive approach. Join us as the two extraordinary literary voices of Jennifer Egan and Danzy Senna walk us through The Candy House and its bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away."

Enjoy this book as a free download with a free trial on Audible.

Inspiration from A Visit From the Goon Squad

 A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan

- a novel by Jennifer Egan (2010)
Book Review and Reflections 

The "goon squad" visited me the other day when I finished this Pulitzer Prize winning book and after catching my breath immediately wanted to start it again. 

 The audiobook experience in particular was immersive, and narrated by Roxana Ortega with the subtle nuances and voice inflections that were uniquely performed in the narrative and in every character. 

The ground-breaking unique novel is connected to the following themes that cross over like threads and move back and forth in time. Time is a main theme along with the rise and dilution in the music industry, changes in life, friendship, relationships, digital culture on steroids, and redemption. 
Each chapter is like a track on an album and stands alone but is connected to the whole.  

Hemingway's quote about being immersed in the storytelling is relevant here, especially  with this extraordinary novel, as this is what happens with this page turner, or in the case of an audiobook, the difficulty of pressing the pause or stop button. 
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”  - - Ernest Hemingway  
When I listened to this audiobook I was right there with every character like it was a vicarious journey of a variety of experiences. A natural high - I think endorphins were being released ! :) 
Rave reviews by the NY Times and Wash. Post on Audible:

“Pitch perfect.... Is there anything Egan can’t do in this mash-up of forms? Write successfully in the second person? Check. Parody celebrity journalism and David Foster Wallace at the same time? Check. Make a moving narrative out of a PowerPoint presentation? Check.... Although shredded with loss, A Visit from the Goon Squad is often darkly, rippingly funny. Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.... No one is beyond the pale of her affection; no one is spared lampooning.... For a book so relentlessly savvy about the digital age and its effect on how we experience time (speeded up, herky-jerky, instantaneous, but also full of unbearable gaps and pauses), A Visit from the Goon Squad is remarkably old-fashioned in its obsession with time’s effects on characters, that preoccupation of those doorstop 19th-century novels.” (Will Blythe, The New York Times Book Review)

“If Jennifer Egan is our reward for living through the self-conscious gimmicks and ironic claptrap of postmodernism, then it was all worthwhile.... A deeply humane story about growing up and growing old in a culture corroded by technology and marketing.... [A] triumph of technical bravado and tender sympathy.... Here, in ways that surprise and delight again, she transcends slick boomer nostalgia and offers a testament to the redemptive power of raw emotion in an age of synthetic sound and glossy avatars. Turn up the music, skip the college reunion and curl up with The Goon Squad instead.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)

With the 7 day Audible free trial get a free audiobook download. Then you can still cancel and keep it. Life may never be the same after a visit from the goon squad.

 Free download of A Visit From the Goon Squad >



The Inspiration of $15 for a Unique Travel Experience

Travel for $15 or Less?


Back in the day, (1971 to be back-enough), it was common to see books or articles describing seeing Europe for $5 a day. With a backpack and a Europass, it was not that difficult. 

As a student, I took a six week class on Italy's Economic Development in Bari, then had six weeks to travel in Europe with a Eurail pass. My travel companion and I enjoyed the art in Rome and Florence, and then she wanted to go to Paris and I to a remote unknown area of Europe to be determined. In retrospect, I wished I had stayed with her :)

I ended up going to Norway on the Eurail pass and stopped in Amsterdam and Copenhagen on the way. I had to see the Rembrandt museum, and also saw the Munch museum in Oslo before taking the train North above the Arctic circle to Trondheim. 

The train ride there was beautiful with verdant green valleys, tall waterfalls, and fjords. Yes, I escaped the typical Europe tour destinations and instead experienced some amazing country. Having Norwegian in my bloodline might have helped.

Fast forward to the New Normal in 2022 and travel is in everyone's bones after two years of lockdowns and mandates. Yet it is not the same. The world changed in 2020 and the change is still going on. 

Travel is a must for some, and a wish for many.
Then there is the cost. There is also the alternative - armchair traveling.

Real vs Armchair

Before covid I already had some experience as an armchair traveler, and now I have gained some skills and variety that is enjoyable on many levels. 

Of course real, physical travel is hands on fun and the experiences are direct. Yet for me, virtual travel and vicarious experience is also fun and very rewarding.

I might mention that I live in Mexico permanently and am married to a beautiful Mexican woman. Living here and sharing my life with her is beyond travel - maybe like a permanent vacation? We have traveled to two beautiful destinations here in Mexico in 2019. We are planning for more at some time in the near future.

Until then, my armchair travels are from here - a Mexican city on the Gulf coast 
with a beautiful beach, Gulf breezes every afternoon, a semi-tropical climate, and the magic of Mexico.

So What About the $15 Travel Experience?

Experiencing storytelling for the price of an audiobook will allow you to travel to other lands and cultures, see life through the eyes of unique characters, and the creative mind of the writer, and choose which adventure you want to have next. 

(ok, this is one of many types of armchair travel, and I am passionate about audiobooks, so some space is dedicated here for this idea.)

There is also a bonus - you can time travel if the stories are based in other times and in history. 

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”  - - Ernest Hemingway

I've enjoyed vicarious experience on a whaling ship, hanging out with Hemingway's characters in Spain, Steinbeck's in California, and being engaged with amazing stories based in England, France, historic U.S.Russia (yes, Tolstoy is not sanctioned), South America, and California in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

YouTube Travel

YouTube has virtual tours, historical videos, and a huge variety of  travel related content that can be enjoyed as an armchair traveler vicariously.

There is inspiration is adopting a mindset of possibilities with your imagination and creative choice of content that will be your next armchair travel adventure.  

Here's some examples of free downloads with a subscription from the Audible Plus Catalog:

1) Travel Paris

"This collection includes the story of 6 of Paris' most famous and beautiful destinations - The Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, The Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, The Champs Elysees and The Louvre.

An innovative travel series, transporting the armchair traveller or getting you in the mood for discover on route to your destination."

My Southern Journey - True Stories from the Heart of the South

"From celebrated New York Times best-selling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Rick Bragg comes a poignant and wryly funny collection of essays on life in the South. Keenly observed and written with his insightful and deadpan sense of humor, Bragg explores enduring Southern truths about home, place, spirit, table, and the regions' varied geographies, including his native Alabama, Cajun country, and the Gulf Coast. Everything is explored, from regional obsessions with college football and fishing to mayonnaise and spoonbread to the simple beauty of a fish on the hook. Collected from over a decade of his writing, with many never-before-published essays written specifically for this edition, My Southern Journey is an entertaining and engaging listen, especially for Southerners (or Southerners at heart) and anyone who appreciates great writing" 

3) The Count of Monte Cristo   

My favorite novel of all time and what a journey. Travel back in time to France with this celebrated 52 hr classic audiobook. Adventure, romance, suspense, historical fiction, and amazing storytelling. 

The Inspiration of $15 for a Unique Travel Experience might not cost a dime. There is inspiration for free armchair travel and here's one of many options below $15.
(Note: Audible has a "Plus Catalog" which has thousands of free audiobook downloads. There is a free 7 day trial with a free credit for an audiobook. Check it out:

Try Audible Plus

New Book - Amazing Stories by Famous Authors

 Just self-published a new book - the introduction is posted here.

I love amazing stories in classic novels. 

 Amazing stories allow you to experience the sweet sublime beauty of well crafted words and prose that can open your heart to a larger empathy and compassion for humanity, move your soul to new depths, and engage your mind in ways that only great art can do.  

 Imagine ...
 experiencing amazing stories in a different way as audiobooks that could lead you down new paths, and inspire you to explore new things (culture, language, historical context, etc), and become a new adventure in this journey of life. 

 This book is designed for anyone who has not read any classics or maybe only a few classics in their life, and wants to explore new possibilities of experiencing amazing stories.  
 It was the beginning of 2021  when I had a change occur in my life that caused a shift in my inspiration and reflections on humanity, history, culture, and literature. I became immersed in the depths of storytelling considered to be the best in history. By men and women who write with such depth and passion and creative genius that it is a humbling and rewarding experience.
 Collectively and individually we experienced the pandemic of 2020  as well as the most divisive election in American history. The content that I read and absorbed in text on Facebook, the internet, and in videos on YouTube during that year was mainly related to these two dominant themes, and mainly negative. However I still managed to continue to write inspirational blogs, but the writing was less frequent, as was the inspiration behind it.  

 By the end of 2020 I was burnt out from the overload of negative content in the media and elsewhere.  

 When 2021 started, I was ready for different content in my life. 

 Then something happened.
Amazing Stories suddenly appeared.

 The change occurred for me in January 2021 when I heard about a new documentary on the life of  Ernest Hemingway being produced by Ken Burns for PBS.   I read four Hemingway novels within the first few months of 2021 before the documentary was released in April. I have dedicated a chapter of this book to Hemingway. Hint: all four novels were amazing stories - Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bells Toll, A Farewell to Arms, and A Moveable Feast. Then there are his famous short stories.

 Around the same time I received an offer in an email from Audible for a free trial with a free credit for an audiobook. I chose Anna Karenina (which I had learned was one of the best novels ever written and a very long one) and that launched my love of reading or listening to classics every day in 2021, and as a commitment and joy for years to follow.

  Carpe diem - Seize the day!   

 After all these years, I wonder why I had not read Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, Dickens, or Hemingway. In my high school and college years I read a number of books and some are considered classics. Hesse, Huxley, Camus, and Tolkien to name a few. My degree was in Humanities and that included some literature, however, except for Camus, I forget what we studied or read in those classes. Then in later years there was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez who became my favorite author. 

 Yet there are so many classics that I have not read.

 I was not alone.  In 2020, many people turned to reading classics as an escape and therapy from lockdowns, the trauma of the pandemic, and as a new adventure in life.  

 The Guardian - Resurgence of Classical Novels
 A New Adventure at Age 70

In a way, as I turned age seventy in 2021,  it was a "blessing in disguise" that I started to enjoy classics (every day), many for the first time, and especially with audiobooks where I can listen to the book and the narration of characters and story.    
 This has been and is such a joy for me. It has changed my life. So much so that I was inspired to write this book!  

 The reading or listening of books varies with each individual.  Choices of what to read, what was the takeaway, level of enjoyment, insights into life, or pure enjoyment of a well written story are all different for each of us. 

 A common thread is the love of books - fiction or non-fiction, or classics and the experience of reading or listening to the stories in the novels or short stories.

 This book- Amazing Stories by Famous Writers   occurred to me as an idea on June 6, 2021, about a month before my 70th birthday on July 5th. Of course as this date approached I had many different reflections about life including memories as well as more awareness of future trends. The inspiration to start this book was such that on this date I created a title page and started writing this introduction with a “stream-of-consciousness” style – as the ideas of wording came to mind. 

 Joining Facebook groups  that focus on the love of classics is also a part of this new and exciting experience, and I will write more about this in a later chapter.  YouTube has many resources with searches for authors or book titles. 

 It was early on in 2021  that I viewed a YouTube video of a recent college grad who provides commentaries on classics and loves the novels of the Russian author Leon Tolstoy.  
 After finishing War and Peace from the same author she was saying in one video, titled  "Tolstoy Made Me Weep", with her mouth wide open in awe, "I don't know what to do with myself. My bursting....I can't believe I just read that....(repeated three times) am I supposed to recover?.....Oh my God.....I am actually the word... they are just fictional characters, Andre, Natasha,.....but they seem so real.....and they are so deep and so complex, and so lovable." 

 This goes on for forty five minutes. Thank you Caroline Marie for your describing the type of cathartic experience that can happen as a result of experiencing amazing stories that are timeless. 

 In addition to my own reviews of books in each chapter, this book contains curated content - public domain descriptions of books, editorial reviews, third party and retail reviews.

 The main purpose of this book is to inspire an interest  in reading or listening to extraordinary stories by famous authors also known as classics. Chapters will include experiencing them as audiobooks, Kindle, and digital content as well as the tradition of having a library of bookshelves, a love of visiting bookstores, and the physical experience of holding and reading a book. How one chooses to enjoy reading classics is a personal preference and may include all of the above. However my main focus in 2021 was audiobooks, so each chapter on a particular book will be in reference to the audiobook and will include information about the narrator.

  A second purpose of this book is to include actual examples of my own and other’s reflections and reviews of certain classics, and why they are considered classics and the best books ever written in history. Each chapter is a book title in the order that I listened to them in 2021. (with exception of The Odyssey, which I recommend to listen to as a foundation. It is a classic of classics, written from oral tradition in 800 B.C.).  It is an amazing story.

 A third purpose that comes to mind in the writing of this book is inspiration to write about something I love, as a part of my personal journey. As I move into the 7th decade of life, as on a clipper ship in full sail  I affirm in that I will enjoy writing about classics as well as the reading or listening of them for the rest of my life. May this be many years ! 

 If you are concerned about the costs of books, I suggest Project Gutenberg, an open source free download site for books that have become public domain. There is a section on this and other resources at the end of this book.

 Our ancestors - grandparents of our grandparents lived in the 19th century, when many classics were written that described life at that time.  

 When we read or listen to classics we are taken to another time, a different culture, and into the depths of characters and their challenges in life. 

 If past lives are a reality then we might have subtle deja vu experiences of having lived in those times. We might experience a bit of the "collective unconscious" of humanity in the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of fictional characters, heros, and villains.

  It is my hope that this book will inspire you to start or continue on the adventure of reading or listening to amazing stories, and that each one  will be inspiring as a part of your overall journey in life.   Amazon Book Listing >

Published books: