Wednesday, October 11, 2017

You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone


If you still haven’t found your sea legs in this new reality
                                                                    You are not alone

If you check your privilege while wondering how
                                                                    You are not alone

If your empathy is worn down by 3pm each day
                                                                    You are not alone

If you’re terrified by normalizing this but desire stabilization
                                                                    You are not alone

If you haven’t figured out how to talk to your family about this new reality
                                                                    You are not alone

If you want to post something flippant to social media and feel guilty about it not being political enough
                                                                    You are not alone

If you can’t figure out how to talk about this morning’s tragedy and by the time you do everyone else is raging about the next thing
                                                                    You are not alone

If you are often paralyzed and enraged by your own paralysis
                                                                    You are not alone

If you wish you could go back to the good old days of 2015
                                                                    You are not alone

If you loathe being so lazy
                                                                    You are not alone

If you still have no idea how to be authentic and be part of the resistance
                                                                    You are not alone

If you are super resistant to having your emotions manipulated on an hourly basis
                                                                    You are not alone

If you self-medicate through TV shows with strong lead females
                                                                    You are not alone

If you hide inside books that have nothing to do with the present era
                                                                    You are not alone

If you truly question the possibility that this is the apocalypse
                                                                    You are not alone

If you long to escape and long to engage in the same moment
                                                                    You are not alone

If you wish you were as ignorant as your own housecat about the state of things
                                                                    You are not alone

If you fear saying these things will invoke the privilege police
                                                                    You are not alone

If you fear saying anything will trigger a Tweet storm
                                                                    You are not alone

If you fear Tweet storms will bring about the next world war
                                                                    You are not alone

If you fear big thumbs on small hands will literally Tweet away everything that is good about the world
                                                                    You are not alone

If your amygdala was hijacked along with your hope
                                                                    You are not alone

If you refuse to give up hope
                                                                    You are not alone

If deep down you hope it will all work out even when it seems nothing can
                                                                    You are not alone

If deep down you love stories that end with love destroying hate
                                                                    You are not alone

If deep down you refuse to be destroyed by hate
                                                                    You are not alone

If you wonder if there’s a place for you at all in this unwelcoming world
                                                                    You are not alone

If you wonder for a moment if you are the only one remember this irreversible truth:
                                                                    You Are Not Alone.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Review: Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

I inadvertently found myself in possession of an advance reader's edition of Elizabeth Strout's newest book, Anything is Possible. It's set to drop on April 25th.

Scrabble's response to the title:
Does this mean I can eat ten times a day?

It's a companion, a follow-up if you will (but not a sequel) to her last novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. Which was fantastic and spare and a perfect example of Strout's phenomenal carefulness in her writing. I loved it for all those reasons. I love Anything is Possible for completely different reasons.

It's a collection of linked stories, not unlike Strout's Olive Kitteredge. Each of the stories showcases a particular character referenced in My Name is Lucy Barton. In My Name, conversations with her mother over the span of a few days reference a host of do-you-remembers, and whatever-happened-tos involving offscreen characters that are delightfully interesting in their own right. Anything is Possible is full of these rich characters rendered fully alive in chapter after chapter of delicately connected stories.

The themes running throughout is one of the things I love about the book. Centering around Amgash, Illinois, many of the stories involve poverty--the overcoming of it, the experience of shame within it, as well as the experience of having no shame growing up in it. Strout looks at the issue of rural, very American-style poverty from a variety of angles through these stories, shedding fresh light from each angle on a complex issue. Veterans also make frequent appearances throughout the stories, and Strout explores the ways they return from war changed, and in turn changing those around them. Another theme running throughout is the tension (often only internal) between staying and leaving your small town roots, as well as how painful returning can be.

The other thing I love about this book is that it is not spare. In fact, it's luxuriously sprawling. I felt like I'd found a giant box of sentimental keepsakes. It was so dang satisfying to get to read into all these characters lives, enjoy the bird's eye view into a town's connections, and find each character living lives large with meaning even in the midst of harsh pain and loss. Perhaps the characters did not see or feel this meaning, certainly no one walked around their chapter in a blissed out state, but the reader can detect the depth.

The opportunity to see these characters play out their own destinies beyond their several sentences of introduction in My Name is Lucy Barton was a deep pleasure. It reminded me of the experience of reading L.M. Montgomery as a young impressionable reader. Of course I adored Anne of Green Gables, but I also found Montgomery's collections of spin off stories and novels fascinating--books like Rilla of Ingleside (based on Anne's daughter), Jane of Lantern Hill, and the Story Girl. They expanded the universe Anne lived in even when they had no direct connection to Anne's storyline. Prince Edward Island still looms high on my list of places to visit in this lifetime.

Super satisfying read all around. Quick note: I was glad to have had the chance to re-read My Name is Lucy Barton first; having these characters fresh in my easily distractible memory prior to reading Anything is Possible made the experience even more enjoyable. I think you could still enjoy Anything is Possible on it's own, but you'd miss out a bit, so I recommend starting with My Name is Lucy Barton if you haven't read it already. And it's a really great re-read, all the more so because it is so spare and you can devour the whole thing in one or two sittings really.

If you are in the bay area, join me at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park on May 11th for an Elizabeth Strout appearance, or find her near you here: http://www.elizabethstrout.com/appearances/ .

Happy reading!