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Where realism and idealism meet Tony Brasunas, author of Double Happiness

Contemplation, Hiatus, and Burning Man

The maps, the design, and the many elements of the manuscript of Double Happiness continue to absorb me.

The possibilities and potential of managing publication of the book on my own — complete self-publishing — continue to unfold.

There has also been interesting recent communication on the agent front, keeping conventional publication on the front burner.

I have much to think about. The route Double Happiness ultimately takes to publication will become clear, as clear as flames against a midnight sky. Soon. After some contemplation, after a brief hiatus, after Burning Man.

Yes, I’m off once again to a world I love: The playa, Black Rock City, the temporary city that rises in the desert dust, hosts an art, music, and sculpture extravaganza of some 50,000 people, and then vanishes again into dust. I wrote about my first visit to the magical city in 2003, as well as, a year later, my second visit in 2004. This year I’m creating and installing a sculpture myself, one that I will live in: The Threshold of Heat and Light.

At the end of the week, after the Man burns, the Threshold too will burn.

The Threshold of Heat and Light is a temple to transitions. Not coincidentally, my life and my book are in the moment of their transition and transformation. The walls of the Threshold of Heat and Light will ask visitors and passersby to write messages about where they’ve been and where their lives are going, about desired — or feared — change now transforming their lives. With its construction, consecration, and final immolation, the Threshold will ritualize and advance all the transitions written on its walls, propelling them into the future, into the sudden present.

In that moment, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, as the Threshold burns against the midnight sky, Double Happiness will advance down its road towards publication, flying along its path from being a manuscript occupying my attention to becoming a book shared by the world.

In that light I will see how it is to be published.

That’s what I anticipate. The unpredictable universe and the gods of the harsh high desert may have plans of their own. But that is my intention. That is where I’ve been. That is where I’m going.

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by Tony Brasunas at 2:46 pm on August 26, 2010

Maps, and Why They’re Lovable

Images enrapture us with a speed words rarely match. Paintings and photographs, in particular, seize our attention with the specific focus and totality of their image.

Movies go further, animating images, colors, objects, and faces, bringing them to life with such power that sounds and words become secondary.

(How long after taking in the images above and at right, did you begin reading these words?)

Books have no images, no pictures, no colors.* Books are all about the words, and for good reason: The impact of words takes longer to penetrate the heart and mind but can ultimately go far deeper.

Novels, biographies, memoirs — these genres particularly feature almost no illustration. There are exceptions, and one of these exceptions, to me, for travel books like mine, adds the perfect palpable grounding to otherwise purely verbal narratives.

Maps. Maps illustrate the changing landscape behind a narrative to underscore the moments when the motion of the story accelerates or slows, changes direction, or launches into wholly new territory. Great maps not only illustrate this motion, but also serve the role they serve when one is off wandering oneself: They illustrate the possibility of endless new frontiers.

These are the maps I love and have loved all my life — those that push our journeys, whether armchair or actual, farther into the unfamiliar.

I’m ambitious and excited about the maps for Double Happiness. Maps will begin many of the chapters, and I’ve now begun working with a professional illustrator to create each one by hand. She’s reading the full manuscript, and she’s adding people, landmarks, and characters from the narrative to the maps themselves, so that they don’t simply demonstrate the direction of movement through the changing landscape of China, but also pull together diverse elements of the story. I love maps that do this — that subtly push the journey into the spatial awareness of the reader.

I think you’ll love the maps that she’s creating. A very rough first version of her work is above, at right.

Do you have a favorite book that featured a map or that included many maps? I would love to know, to look at other maps, to understand what works and what doesn’t. Do tell! Leave a comment below.

* Hundreds of excellent picture books and graphic novels are duly excepted, of course. And don’t get me wrong: The paucity of images in books is essential. Much of the fun of reading is using our own minds as readers to paint the mental picture — the mental movie — in the way we want to watch it, with the author’s descriptions as just the canvas and palette with which we paint. The best reading is a creative collaboration between the reader and the writer.

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by Tony Brasunas at 1:16 pm on August 15, 2010

We Have a Winner: A Photo is Chosen and The Book Rolls Forward on Intuition

Thank You!
My sincere gratitude to everyone who participated in the election to choose an author photo. The polls are now closed, and you can see the results. 212 votes came in from 103 distinct people. Feel free to read some of the many thoughtful comments others had to offer.

The clear winner was the photo now atop this page, at right. Second place was “Hey, get a professional photographer,” which I may yet do. Three other photos tied for third, certainly attracting enthusiastic proponents.

When switching the photo out, I slightly redesigned the top of this blog of mine. What do you think? Cleaner? Dirtier? It used to look more like this.

Thank you. This is teamwork in book production. There will be more to come, and I hope you’ll participate again!


Sex, Backpack, English Teacher
Why did I write this book? I was driven, compelled to write Double Happiness for reasons I’m only now beginning to understand. Primarily it is to share with the wide world the wonder and lessons and insights I gained while traveling, with the earnest hope that perhaps others can do as well as — or better than — I have with them. To incorporate them into a daily life. I’m driven by the hope that my writing can shed light on the powerful tools of perception and wisdom we carry inside ourselves in every moment, and the freedom that use of these tools can grant.

I am using these tools now in this new adventure: publishing the manuscript.

If you follow your instincts and intuition and let them take you into wild unexpected places, and then let your ego go, walls drop magically around you, the world embraces you, and you see who you really are.

That’s the point. It was a challenge to say it in one paragraph.

Sex, Backpack, English Teacher, Monsoon, Mass Wedding, Drunken Soldiers, Singing, Solitude, Companionship, Secret Waterfalls, Mouthwatering Rabbit — it’s easier just to list some of the threads in the tale.

Writing embroiders the one into the other.

I’ll be posting a sample passage or two in the near future. Please tell me any threads you’d particularly like to see.

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by Tony Brasunas at 11:18 am on August 3, 2010