Wednesday, July 23, 2014

closer to life's true sadness

“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”

- Alice Walker, from Living by the Word

If we were having tea together this morning, and maybe a little slice of cherry pie, what would we talk about?

Maybe we'd start with change and growth and uncertainty and the next phases of our lives. We'd talk about those moments in life, as Walker says, where it seems something inside of you is holding its breath. We'd talk about contingency and next steps. I'd bore you with my two year plan, various contingencies, and the ridiculous state of my nerves.

Once the heavy stuff was out of the way, we'd talk about movies and books we've been reading.

We just finished watching the first series of Broadchurch. Completely puts you on the edge of your seat, completely harrowing. We also watched a very good documentary called, Spinning Plates. Two very different viewing experiences, and yet, in common with them both is the study of how humans behave in times of adversity.

I've added both of them to my library list, here.

Okay, if we were having tea, I'd brag a little. My book Asking has been reviewed by a poet I very much respect, Catherine Owen. She reviews it along with another book by Amber Dawn. You can read the review here

Currently I'm very nearly finished reading Stoner by John Williams. This is what Julian Barnes had to say about the book in The Guardian:

The sadness of Stoner is of its own particular kind. It is not, say, the operatic sadness of The Good Soldier, or the grindingly sociological sadness of New Grub Street. It feels a purer, less literary kind, closer to life's true sadness. As a reader, you can see it coming in the way you can often see life's sadness coming, knowing there is little you can do about it. Except – since you are a reader – you can at least defer it. I found that when reading Stoner for the first time, I would limit myself most days to 30 or 40 pages, preferring to put off until the morrow knowledge of what Stoner might next have to bear. 

The story of the novel's 'rise' or re-emergence and reconsideration is interesting in itself and Barnes sets it out for the reader very well in the article.

I'm a little afraid to finish the last 25 or so pages I have left.

Well, after I tell you about all the depressing books and movies I've read and watched, you're going to say to me, dude! You must find something more uplifting. Geez, yes.

Here's a list of uplifting reads, I'll have to check some out. Another list here.

I'm not sure that any of the books on these lists exactly leap out to me, but I do firmly believe in bibliotherapy, so will be prescribing myself some lighter fare over the next few weeks. Or perhaps, I'll just reread all of Virginia Woolf....that could work as well.


  1. I think I need to steal that Alice Walker quote. I wish we could have tea together, I could really go for a piece of that amazing pie you so beautifully photographed and we could discuss all the uncertainty, something that I'm struggling with lately too. Thank you for the uplifting book selections, I will definitely be checking those out.

    1. I wish we could have tea together, too! Nice to know I"m not alone in the struggle :)

  2. I just realized I am leaving you a comment before checking out your book lists and you may already be familiar with this author - Peter Matthiessen. I am currently reading Snow Leopard and recently did a blog post on this book about sense of place. His writing is stunningly beautiful - either descriptive about his surroundings and people or deeply meditative about life and his personal demons with Zen woven in.

    1. Thank you! I think this is just what I need. I've been hearing his name a lot lately, I guess because he passed. Will definitely look up this book.


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