I am reading two books that happened to be reviewed in this week’s New York Time’s Book Review. Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. The reviews are good and I feel glad for the authors for the attention they are getting — as if they are my friends. Isn’t this the kind of connection and loyalty a good book inspires?
Birds of a Lesser Paradise is a collection of exquisite short stories that I have been savoring for more than a month. Like expensive European chocolate I want to make last. Rather than race through, the book sits by my bed for times I am alert enough to fully indulge. The writing is gorgeous, full of sentences that demand to be re-read. Not to beat the food imagery to death, but lest you think I am talking about bon-bons, these stories are like salty-sweet concoctions. They are deep. Against the backdrop of fantastic landscapes of nature and animals, we glimpse lives of loss and loneliness. Thoughts of them linger long after the story is done, demanding time to fully resonate. Polly Rosenwaike ends her review of Birds by saying she “… wished it would send us deeper into the woods, and more fiercely stalk the mysteries that elude us, disturb us, tear us apart.” Of course readers’ experiences vary — but I disagree with Polly. For me, it is the subtle echoing quality to these stories that gives them their power. They don’t bash you in the head – they are not fierce. And need not be. And there is also the sheer joy of reading such fine writing.
Dani Shapiro‘s review of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, about a grief-driven, remarkable journey of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is an author’s dream. The review is thoughtful, quite moving — and makes me want to drop everything and just read. Forget the laundry, the rest of the Times and curl up with Wild for the rest of the day. I am not quite 20 pages into the book but am already struck by the honesty, the intelligent yet raw writing. And she certainly is fearless: would you head off alone on a 1,100 mile jaunt in the wilderness? The results are riveting. Dani Shapiro writes “”Wild” isn’t a concept-generated book, that is, one of those projects that began as a good, salable idea. Rather, it started out as an experience that was lived, digested and deeply understood. Only then was it fashioned into a book – one that is both a literary and human triumph.” When I read that I thought, “That’s what I want a reviewer to say about my book.”
Bravo to these writers — and thanks for the inspiration. I feel galvanized to go back to my revisions and more bravely bare my heart.